Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Romney and the political maturation of conservative evangelicals

Liberal evangelical Melissa Rogers thinks that this LAT article, written from a city just down the road from Chez Knippenberg pere, provides evidence that some conservative evangelicals are maturing politically. The leadership, she says, is surely willing to overlook theological differences in order to make common cause with allies in practical political conflicts. An increasing number of folks in the pews are as well, though, all things being equal on the policy (and electability?) front (are they ever really equal?), they’ll choose an evangelical over a Mormon.

I’m not troubled by this; indeed, I’m encouraged. First, it shows that the charges of "theocracy" hurled at religious conservatives are overblown (and probably not seriously believed by many of those who make them). Indeed, they’re probably just a way of objecting to moral conservatism, attempting to make illegitimate (or unconstitutional) what really isn’t. Second, the development of people’s views is an encouraging sign, not of increasing secularism, but rather of the capacity to distinguish between matters immediately relevant to politics and matters that belong in the sanctuary, confessional, fellowship hall, or small group.

This is not a hard-and-fast distinction, however. A person’s character and credulity are legitimate considerations when it comes to voting. What he or she believes, how he or she behaves in "private," and whether and to what extent he or she thinks that human reason and human power are self-sufficient are certainly matters about which voters might rightly want to know.

Update: This isn’t the right way to raise these questions.

Discussions - 6 Comments

A person’s character and credulity are legitimate considerations when it comes to voting. What he or she believes, how he or she behaves in "private," and whether and to what extent he or she thinks that human reason and human power are self-sufficient are certainly matters about which voters might rightly want to know.



And with CNN hosting a Democratic Candidate discussion on Faith and Values, who needs a religious right to point such things out? Geez . . . what happened to candidates like this?



I don't get it. If the candidate's proven themselves to be a capable, ideologically sound candidate, what does it matter how they act in private (away from the tele-vision cameras) or what they believe, personally? If they're making good decisions, decisions made according to even a conservative ideology, why even bring their religion or their thoughts on "human reason and . . . power" into it at all? Again . . . I don't get it.

Matt,

Wouldn't you prefer to vote for a "capable, ideologically sound" candidate who has integrity rather than one who doesn't, who keeps solemn promises rather than beaking them? I'm not claiming that these differences always line up with religiosity, only that they're relevant considerations in voting.

The reason I mentioned the final consideration--the self-sufficiency of human power and reason--has to do with humility, both about one's own capacities and about those of humanity altogether. Whether or not a candidate thinks that he or she is, or we are, capable of playing God, so to speak, is a relevant consideration.

A person is whole entity. What we believe, personally (and how do you believe impersonally?) effects our decisions. JFK may not have been a thorough Catholic, tied back by his religion, enough to have let that direct his politics. To whatever degree his religion influenced his thought and politics, well, it just did.


I am still trying to figure out how Jimmy Carter's evangelical belief works through his politics. If there is anything conservative there, I am simply not seeing it.

Good decisions, ideologically sound decisions, are made by any person out of something in their thought. "Private" becomes public when the person moves into the public sphere.

Joe -



Integrity and humility don't necessarily entail religiosity or submission to a God. I would almost guarantee there are candidates out there right now who have to pretend to love God a lot more than they do so that they can get elected . . . and I think that's silly. It really shouldn't matter. Morality can exist without God to a lot of people . . . and many people think we can solve a lot of problems without appealing to God (and that appealing to God may just make more problems). I'm not sure that by thinking that way, a person loses all integrity and humility. I don't see that as a necessary correlation.

Matt,

I agree that there are admirable secular bases for integrity and humility. Typically, and historically, they have been connected with respect for revealed religion, even without belief in it. If I'm humble, to state it most simply, I can't be so doggone sure that there isn't something to this religion thing. And I can also humbly see the good that religion does in the lives of some (if not all) of its adherents.

Had I only known that Rock Hill, SC would evoke so much debate, I might not have moved here. I do know, however, that the political landscape down here is a lot more complicated than up North.

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