12 October 2012

I CAN'T VOTE FOR MITT ROMNEY (3 of 6)

by Frank Turk 

1. I can't vote for Romney because he's a Mormon

Some have actually reasoned a saner version of this argument: they say electing Romney to President assists Mormonism in becoming a mainstream religious option.  The less-cogent versions of this range from claiming to shun idolaters to disbelief that a non-Christian can actually make reasonable judgments about justice and law.

Well, first of all, this sort of reasoning ignores the meat of Romans 13 almost as if it was never written.  There Paul says this:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
You know: the first thing this passage deals with is whether or not a non-Christian person is capable of being a sound ruler.  Paul, writing about the Roman Government under Caesar, says, "yes."  Yes: even Caesar and his functionaries were able to approve of good conduct and strike terror into those who have bad conduct.  In Paul's mind, being an unbeliever does not disqualify anyone from being a political ruler.

But it actually gets worse for those who are worrying about legitimizing any other theology or religion or way of life: in Paul's view, God has instituted the governments we find ourselves subject to, and he says they serve God.  Let's stipulate right away that they may serve God poorly, but in this case this is not Paul's point at all.  Paul's point is that the institution of government is actually God's ordinary means of looking out for justice and judgment -- and that one doesn't need to be a believer to make one into a decent magistrate.

Paul says that explicitly about the Roman government -- which, let's face it, is barbaric by our standards.  The kind of morality the average Roman would ascribe to would be absolutely wanton by our post-Christian standards.  Yet somehow the Mormon view of morality is not going to work for an American magistrate?  You know: it was the Mormons who were the major backers for the California initiative known as Prop 8 a few years ago.  And the official teaching of Mormonism on the 10 commandments is easily summed up: "Obedience to these commandments paves the way for obedience to other gospel principles."  That's pretty lousy Christian theology, but for a civil authority I think we would probably rather have someone who is a matter-of-fact works-righteousness guy than someone who thinks it ain't what you do but the way that you do it.

If a Roman could be someone about whom Paul could say what he said in Rom 13, don't you think a Mormon would be a more-likely minister to do what is right in the face of justice?

That deals with the question of whether or not an unbeliever is capable of being a sound ruler.  What about the question of assisting a cult in becoming more mainstream?  Listen: that sounds very high-minded and God-glorifying -- until we start to think about all the things we have to give up which, frankly, make things that are non-Christian into socially-acceptable practices.  We'd have to give up the internet, for starters; we'd have to give up our iPhones.  We'd have to give up books.  We'd have to give up Capitalism and Democracy.

Let's be as clear as possible here: maybe it wouldn't really be a loss to give up all the things which are not explicitly Christian for the sake of making sure we are not accidentally endorsing things that are false gospels.  Maybe that is what we are actually called to do as Christian.  That's what the Anabaptists believe, and that's not generally seen as a strike against them until we start talking about medicine or electricity.  Maybe that is what we're actually called to live like.

This, therefore, needs to be said: if that's what you mean by your objection, let's do that and not simply whip out this as a moral precept like a formidable doily to cover this part of our lives as Americans while we are, in every other way, utterly unconcerned about this matter.  But if we can rightly, theologically justify all the other ways we cooperate with non-believers on the secular stage, ignoring the means of doing so now to maintain your alleged holiness is, at best, evidence which ought to be used to convict you of greater transgressions.

That's two or three good theological reasons that this objection doesn't work out.  There is one "America" reason this doesn't work out, a reason from political philosophy.  Most of you reading this are baptists, and as baptists of some sort, you gladly, gratefully embrace the idea of freedom of religion.  You may or may not remember the history and results of the Half-Way Covenant among the Puritans, but you know that one of the reasons it was a flop is because it confused the necessity of the church to be filled with believers with the necessity of the civil government to act justly toward men.  The foundations of it didn't understand Rom 13 at all -- and it made church membership the necessary condition of civil rights (particularly voting).

Because that attempt to maintain the unity of church and state failed (as the prime example, but not the only one), our political heritage inherited the right to freedom of religion -- that a man can practice his free expression of religion without the Government telling him what he must or must not believe, and that the Church cannot dictate whether or not a man is rightly seen as a citizen.

Voting for any man does not affirm that you accept his religious expression, or his systematic theology: it affirms that you accept his right as a citizen to run for office.  If you forget that, you might need a refresher course on basic American civics.







24 comments:

Unknown said...

Frank,

Just wanted to let you know this argument, along with the math argument, along with DJP's lesser of two evils argument (I think it was his), have all joined forces in my mind to sway me to vote for Romney.

I refrained from voting last election. I had my reasons, and actually, the main reason, to my knowledge, hasn't been addressed in this blog. And I think this is an area gray enough that there isn't a strictly Christian practice of voting or not or supporting candidates that can't mathematically win, but you have at least convinced me this year that the morally good dirty work that needs to be done this year is to support someone that I otherwise would not stand with on multiple issues in life for the overall betterment of our country and my fellow neighbor.

Thanks for addressing this. It has positively affected my thinking on the matter.

Jared Queue said...

Sorry, I thought I was signed in. That was my "Unknown" comment el numero uno.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I think you've made some great points here, Frank. I will admit that I struggle with Romans 13 when contemplating for example, the current government of Iran; hard for me to imagine it being used to reward good and punish evil; but the Bible says so and as such I know it is true.
However that is more of an academic struggle and admittedly, a far cry from supporting a Mormon in a constitutional, power-limited role such as the US Presidency.

One even more minor comment:
That's what the Anabaptists believe, and that's not generally seen as a strike against them until we start talking about medicine or electricity .
...or sloughing off onto others the responsibility of militarily protecting the innocent.

Frank Turk said...

Nash: Let's remember that my caveat on the Rom 13 argument is that those who are in power, though they serve as God's ministers of the sword, may be doing it poorly.

Let's also remember, if we can say it this way and not be too crude, that Iran is, at the end of the day, a nation of idolaters. If they have a government that treats them that way, maybe that's one way God is driving them to some other commitment.

Reagan Rose said...

I don't think it's simply the fact that he's an unbeliever that is disconcerting to some Christians. He is a member and former bishop and teacher in a "Christian" cult. Doesn't someone who claims to represent Christ but brings another gospel fall in the category of false teacher? That seems to go beyond being an unbeliever. Now I don't expect he will be giving radio addresses about the Mormon faith, but he still teaches a false Christ and a false gospel. Isn't that a big deal?

If we take part in their wicked works by giving them credence when we invite these types of people in our homes or even when we just say "Hey, Mitt" (2 John 1:9-11 ESV) it seems to me that trying to vote them into the highest office in the land goes even further beyond these warnings by giving them a platform and respectability than saying hi or even having them over for tea and crumpets.

I read all of your posts and searched the blog so if you addressed this already and I missed it somehow I do apologize. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this concern.

Keep up the good work, Frank.

LanternBright said...

Reagan,

Is Romney somehow running for election as the pastor of your local church? If so, that's certainly something to consider (probably after you consider the ecclesiology that lets you vote on a pastor in the first place).

Otherwise, I'm not sure how your argument really makes any sense about someone who's running for President.

Frank Turk said...

Reagan:

Who is your ISP provider -- how do you have access to the internet? Because it seems to me that if we use 2Jn 1 as an absolute measure of our social conduct, and we ever shop at a grocery store owned or operated by a cult member of a non-Christian, or we buy a car from them, or we accept a job from them, or we rent an apartment from them, we are doing the same thing you have raised as an issue here.

In my view of it, the 2Jn 1 argument applies to the close fellowship of the local church -- not the way we live in a town or city or country. We should not accept into church fellowship those who are, as John says, "not abiding in Christ." But we have to live in the world; we have to live among unbelievers. We have to, at some point, have a social philosophy that will allow us to preach the Gospel to them and demonstrate its power.

Part of that, it seems to me, is accepting the broader parameters of Rom 13.

Now, let me be honest: if you are going to start a closed community in which no unbelievers are allowed, and you have a solution which somehow overcomes the matter evident in the Halfway Covenant from Puritan New England, I applaud your consistency and your principles and even your obedience in faith to what you say you read in 2Jn 1. I will be sad to see you and yours leave our nation when we need faithful people in faithful churches the most.

But: if you are in fact not a mennonite-esque closed-community evangelical who will rather obey the command to seek the good of the city and nation in which you live, and seek to engage people in a way that causes evangelism, then you have to have a theology of secular engagement that doesn't leave you out of every conversation that matters to the secular state.

Reagan Rose said...

LanternBright,

I don't follow. The passage I alluded to says nothing about pastors. It says not to greet a false teacher or let them into your home.

If by simply greeting a false teacher you take part in their wicked works (v. 11) wouldn't helping to secure them a position of power and influence be even worse?

Eric said...

Reagan,

You're adding things to the Bible that aren't there. The passage you are quoting is not referring to engaging in civic life.

Unless you are welcoming Mitt Romney into your house and church, you needn't worry that you are violating that passage.

semijohn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nash Equilibrium said...

I find it disturbing that Christians feel worse about voting for a cult member than they do voting for agnostics, the latter of which is what it seems most Presidents have been in recent years.

Rational νεόφυτος said...

Although regarding Romney there is a flavor of "assisting a cult in becoming more mainstream", the more I consider it, the man in office now has all the flavor of being a Moleck-follower with his vicious abortion stance, so functionally how is the DNC any different than a cult?

On your Anabaptist comment, though, there is some truth to the idea that yes, we as Christians are endorsing a dude following a "false gospel", and I'm going to ponder that one today, Maybe the Anabaptists have the right idea, and we should shun the carnal sword and electricity.... I'd waste a lot less time on "Avengers Alliance" and could build a butter churn....

semijohn said...

Given the right circumstances I might vote for an honest agnostic (I mean, about his/her agnosticism). Obama claims to be a Christian, and at best he seems to be deluded. But I will pull back a little from the false teacher comment about Obama. I don't know of Obama ever serving in a position of leadership in a church. Voting is not the same thing as inviting someone into your house, I don't think. I think its best to take that literally.

Zorro! said...

Your argument applies to this thought process too:

An objection that I have had is that Mitt Romney cannot objectively evaluate his own religion and beliefs in light of the great amount of historical evidence and arguments that show Mormonism to be a false religion.
I find it hard to believe his rationale for being a Mormon can be effectively divorced from his ability for rational thought in general. I would think that calls into question his judgment.
What if he can be convinced about other things that, when the evidence is weighed, show him to be completely wrong? What if he refuses to submit to the facts and arguments about a situation and instead decides to subjectively interpret the situation, as with Mormonism?
After reading through your arguments I see that the judgment issue is really something all humans suffer with – to a degree – and that no religion or denomination has cornered the market on subjectively-led decision making. Your second and third reasons for not voting for Romney seem to cover this line of thinking pretty well.

If we think of it as a greater and a lesser evil scenario – where not voting for the lesser evil is allowing the greater evil to be in power – then the answer is clear.
Put into the context of Romney’s past success in the government and business worlds, obviously he has divorced his religious beliefs (along with however he justifies them) from his secular life to a far enough degree that one does not inform or interfere with the other.

David Carlson said...

Irony = protestant fundamentalist arguing we should elect the Mormon/AynRandCatholic tag team.

One's head spins.

Now I agree with Franks argument 100%, but hey, I am an apostate who doesn't actually read the posts.

CCinTn said...

Great set of posts Frank though you miss my qualm. Roman's 13 obviously instructs Christians to show honor to and submit to their government even if that authority is despicably evil. Scripture teaches that we do that up to the extent that when it comes to obeying a government's edict/law or obeying God's law, we then obey God. I do not believe that voting for/against Romney or Obama doesn't reach that level however.

Voting is not scripturally mandated or prohibited, but as citizens I do think that a Christian living in a country where the citizens elect their leaders should view their ability to help form the type of governing authority as both a privilege and a responsibility.

I understand the argument of how this individual may shape things for the near and far future and that in this election at least, we have a clearer choice in the direction the country heads by whom we elect as President and congressional leaders.

However how would you address my thought process, which is: do I vote for someone who in their heart of hearts believes that they will one day be God the Father? When I go in to pull the lever I am essentially saying “I want this man to be king over me”. So as a believer, where do I draw a line?

In a hypothetical example (hopefully not a straw man), what if we had a choice between Hitler or Stalin. Do I base my vote on a certain political ideology such as Socialism or Fascism the person embraces? Do I base my decision how many people this leader will murder as in the guy who will kill 6-10 million versus the one who will murder 30-60 million? Or when faced with the choice of two evils, do I choose neither?

I’m seasoned enough to know that most choices we get are not ideal and that most come with a lot of baggage. I can vote for a former or current horse thief rather than the out and out socialist. I can vote for the womanizing, atheistic conservative rather than the guy who wants to promote abortion and abolish Christianity. What I have a problem with is the idea of CHOOSING to put a king over me who believes himself to be (or will be) God. That for me is a huge difference. Will I vote for Obama, absolutely not. And yes, I’ve read your post on the math of it all which was really great. But, will I ask that someone who aspires to Godhood be my leader? No.

One day I’ll stand before the throne and one thing I don’t want to give an account for is making the choice to put someone who believes that he will one day be God the Father in a position that I must submit to, as in Romans 13.

Reagan Rose said...

Frank,

Thank you for the response. I see where you are coming from with your view of 2 John. It obviously would be absurd to apply this teaching to all unbelievers, but that's not what I'm suggesting. I think it would be a fair to say that, in as far as we can know, we should not buy from or support people who preach a false Christ. We wouldn't want to in any way support that. So I don't think my application of Second John is really all that outrageous.

Perhaps this is where I could use some clarity. You quickly slipped into equating false teachers and unbelievers. Which was my concern with the original post. The passage seems to me to be referring to a false teacher, not merely an unbeliever. "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching" Implying that they are bringing some teaching, because obviously he's not saying to oust an honest inquirer. I understand Him to be saying that we shouldn't do something that would give a platform to false teaching.

Allow me to me ask a more pointed clarifying question. Are unbelievers and false teachers to be treated in the same way?

Look, I'm certainly concerned with seeking the good of the country (and I do that, as Jeremiah 29 suggests, through prayer), but I couldn't imagine electing even the most moral Pharisee on the planet for the sake of the moral good of the nation at the potential expense of the spiritual good of unbelievers and weak Christians alike who may give more credit now to a false Christ. It would be preposterous for Paul to encourage the Galatians to vote for a member of the circumcision party because, "hey, at least they follow Mosaic Law." How is this different?

I'm not trying to be difficult or pietistic. I just want to do the right thing before God.

Thanks for your reply and patience.

Zorro! said...

I wonder if we can apply 1 Corinthians 8 to this situation a little...
If you equate eating meat sacrificed to idols with supporting idol worship (at least financially) - then you could equate voting for a leader of our country who is Mormon with supporting Mormonism.
But I do not think Paul would have endorsed Christians eating meat sacrificed to idols if that would have given the impression that Christians were supporting idol worship.

Frank Turk said...

CCinTN and Reagan:

You're not voting for a pastor. You are voting for a magistrate.

busdriver4jesus said...

Yes, a Christian could vote for a Mormon in good conscience (for more, go here: http://www.busdriver4jesus.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-post-my-wife-wants-to-see.html) but if there is a Christian option, who has a better record on conservative issues, shouldn't we vote for Virgil Goode?

Eric said...

busdriver,

Who is Virgil Goode, and what real-world chance does he have of becoming President?

If he has zero chance of actually becoming President, what would a vote for him actually accomplish?

CCinTn said...

Sorry Frank, I've been in and out all day...I don't understand your reply of voting for a magistrate not a pastor.
I certainly wasn't speaking of voting for a pastor and as much stated that I can and have voted for morally deficient leaders as they were a better choice from a political viewpoint.
Again, my stance is that when it comes to voting for, asking for, choosing to have someone in authority over me who believes himself to be a God the Father in waiting is a choice I will not make. I'm not asking him to be my pastor. I'm not asking him to hold to the 5 solas. I'm not even asking him to believe in God.
If Romney becomes president, I agree that the moral decline will slow some and future aborted babies may have chance at life. Whether he or Obama is the next president, as a believer, Scripture's command to me is to submit, honor and obey. Up to the point of coarse that I must choose between obeying God or Man.
I'll do the submitting but I will not say, via my vote, "give this man to be king over us".

Frank Turk said...

Zorro:

It's too bad that's not how Paul reasoned in Romans 13.

Frank Turk said...

CCinTN:

I respect your willingness to think about this with a lot of consideration for complexity. I think your complexity is getting in the way of your fidelity to the Bible.

You are not voting for a pastor -- a position in which you would be endorsing all of a man's religious beliefs. You are voting for a President. Making him president in our system of government doesn't endorse his religious beliefs: it endorses his political plans.