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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Politicians' faith matters: My USA Today commentary

USA Today published my commentary today under the headline, "Presidential candidate's faith matters." I've included below both the published (after their editing) version and the original text I submitted.
Mitt Romney
Assailing a pastor who impoliticly contrasted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs with orthodox Christianity, law professor Rodney Smith suggests that considering a candidate's beliefs is the equivalent of declaring "a religious test for political purposes" and that the Christian faith is merely a personal "brand" ("Column: Founders wouldn't have targeted Mormons").
The latter assertion ignores the fact that two millennia of Christian consensus, reflected both in Scripture and historical creeds, unite both Catholics and Protestants around core truths that include the Trinity, the unique deity of Christ and more. The fact that Mormon leaders do not share this orthodox Christian consensus calls for discernment rather than discrimination.
As to "declaring a religious test for political purposes," even typically pragmatic Americans consider a presidential candidate's personal faith relevant, for we recognize that a worldview can guide decisions. Americans have learned much about faith and politics by observing the policies of many faith-professing presidents from Washington to Lincoln to Bush and Obama.
Each of these presidents professed to support, along with the Founders, the rights to life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence. Yet how and whether each president implemented those truths in public policy — consider slavery and abortion, for example — has varied greatly.
What matters in politics is the same thing that matters in the Christian faith: It's not just what you say you believe, but what you prove you believe by your actions.
Jonathan Imbody
Vice President for Government Relations
Christian Medical Association; Ashburn, Va.

(To give you an idea of what gets edited, the original version submitted is below; text deleted by the editors is in italics)
Assailing a pastor who perhaps impoliticly contrasted GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs with orthodox Christianity, law professor Rodney K. Smith suggests that considering a candidate's beliefs is the equivalent of "declaring a religious test for political purposes" and that the Christian faith is merely a personal "brand" ("Founders wouldn't have targeted Mormons, Monday).
The latter assertion ignores the fact that two millennia of Christian consensus, reflected both in Scripture and historical creeds, unite both Catholics and Protestants around core truths that include the Trinity, the unique deity of Christ, and the opportunity for new and eternal life with God through Christ's redemptive love and sacrificial death. The fact that Mormon leaders do not share this orthodox Christian consensus calls for discernment rather than discrimination.
As to "declaring a religious test for political purposes," even typically pragmatic Americans consider a presidential candidate's personal faith relevant, for we recognize that a worldview can guide decisions. Americans have learned much about faith and politics by observing the policies of many faith-professing presidents from Washington to Lincoln to Bush and Obama.
Each of these presidents professed, along with the founders, the self-evident truths "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Yet how and whether each president actually implemented those truths in public policy--consider slavery and abortion, for example--has varied greatly.
What matters in politics is the same thing that matters in the Christian faith--it's not just what you say you believe, but what you prove you believe by your actions.

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