I love Michael Horton. He writes articles so I don’t have to (as if I could write as well as him). If you’re at all interested in the question of what role the faith of a presidential candidate should play in our voting, I strongly encourage you to read Horton’s post entitled “On Electing a Shepherd of the National Soul.”
Horton’s central argument is that the candidate’s faith (or lack thereof) should not be our primary criterion for evaluating him or her:
“Even where a candidate’s confession differs from our own, we have to ask what we’re looking for in our political leaders. Are we seeking an icon who will reassure us that even in a wildly pluralistic and relativistic society we are the ones in the right, safely ensconced in the walls of absolute truth? Or do we have the more modest goal of electing presidents who will eschew any messianic mantle and pursue policies that we believe are more likely to do more good than harm to the republic’s common good and the Constitution that they swear to uphold? ”
There’s a lot to be said for Horton’s position here. It strikes me that because presidential candidates are expected to be Christian, we have encouraged the candidates to adopt Christian language and practice in order to appeal to voters. Is it any wonder that we see so much disparity between their confessions and their actions? Of course, some are probably sincere, but I wonder how many.
What is even more significant is this idea of supporting an “icon who will reassure us,” the converse of which is that the Other guy’s icon disturbs us and therefore must evil. This dynamic creates for strange bedfellows.
Just today, I witnessed a Christian mocking Michelle Obama for the hypocrisy of preaching healthy eating to our nation when she has a big butt. Why would a Christian be opposed to promoting healthy living (as opposed to the dominate, indulge-yourself-you-deserve-it/gluttony ideology of eating in our nation)? Why would a Christian believe it is appropriate to publicly mock any woman’s butt? I believe that he saw her as the Other side politically, and therefore felt justified. In Horton’s language, this man did not consider whether or not the First Lady’s public efforts were “more likely to do more good than harm to the republic’s common good,” but instead opposed her good efforts because she and her husband were not the correct messiahs, or party.
Today I also witnessed a girl announce that she supported Santorum because he was a Christian. Since I believe she was a fairly conservative protestant, I found this comment to be interesting; in almost any other situation, I suspect that this girl might not have considered Santorum to be a Christian at all, since he is Catholic.
We can treat Michelle Obama unchristianly and mock her butt since she and her husband are dangerous democrats. But Santorum can now be considered a Christian since he fits our political ideals.
Forgive me for getting away from Horton’s excellent post, but the way Christians so often refuse to see the good in the Other Party and the bad in Our Party troubles me (I’m sure I’m guilty of this myself).