Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Faith and Politics, again

To no Lutheran's surprise, the Billy Graham evangelical machine has rolled over for the Mitt Romney political machine. The two Grahams, Billy and Franklin, met with Mr. Romney and, voila, Mormonism is no longer a non-Christian religion on the Graham website.

The facts here are well known: Mormons are not Christians. They don't believe in anything resembling orthodox Christianity as it has been known since the days of the apostles. If, as Lewis said, Mohammedism is the greatest Christian heresy ever inspired by the devil, then Mormonism is the greatest lampoon of Christianity ever inspired by the devil. Mormonism is an SNL skit on Christianity perhaps, but that's about the extent of the relationship.

But what is most fascinating to me is that the American Evangelical world gives a hoot that a non-Christian may be elected president. This is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics, you can roughly put a date to it, in fact: 1975. Jimmy Carter was the nation's first actively Evangelical president and 1976 was TIME's Year of the Evangelical. A good case can be made that Carter is one of only a handful of presidents who were actively Christian in any true sense.

George Washington, for example, stipulated on his deathbed that he should not be buried until he was dead two full days. He had a terrible fear of being buried alive, which was how many Deists explained the resurrection of Jesus: accidental premature burial. The whole episode of Washington's death and burial, all devoid of "Christian ritual" is aptly summed up by Ellis: "He died a Roman Stoic, not a Christian saint." (His Excellency George Washington. by J. Ellis, page 269).

In their old age, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were able to set side the grudges of their active political lives and exchange a fascinating set of letters where their friendship chiefly revolves around their shared religious convictions which are perhaps best described as mystical-impersonal-deism. I suppose that as lovers of the classics, theirs was just Cicero's religion: a vague sense of thankfulness to Whatever might be out there for the order that is down here.

Lincoln and Reagan shared a love for mediums (both led to it by their less-than-stable wives), although for those who like sliding scales, one can certainly call Reagan more of a Christian than Lincoln.

The most open and striking example in the 20th century was Taft, who turned down the presidency of Yale because he was not a Christian, "I am a Unitarian. I believe in God. I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe." He wrote that a full decade before he was elected to 1600 Penn. Ave. 

So, whatever. Mitt Romney is not a Christian. He is headed for hell where he would join Taft, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and many other presidents - assuming they did not repent upon their death beds, of course. I hope Romney repents and comes to faith. But there is no sense playing this silly game of trying to make Mormonism more palatable: it's bonkers. Can you trust someone who would believe something so bonkers to run the free world? Should somebody who can't see that Joseph Smith is a charlatan have his finger on the nuclear trigger? That's your call. Father Berg and I have better things to do on Nov 6 (although I do admit to running in to the polling booth if there is a tax I can vote against. . . ).


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