Voting for Polytheists

Jimmy Akin must have had a bet with someone who dared him to write a post that got more comments than the Fr. Corapi stuff.  This may not beat the Corapi story, but this should get . . . interesting before all is said and done.

Jimmy’s post is titled “Should America Elect a Polytheist Who Claims to Be a Christian?”  If you’re not sure who he is referring to, I’ll let him explain:

In various races, we might be asked to vote for candidates who are Mormon.

While they may be very nice people and may even share many values with Christians, Mormons are not Christians. They do not have valid baptism because they are polytheists. That is, they believe in multiple gods. This so affects their understanding of the baptismal formula that it renders their administration of baptism invalid and prevents them from becoming Christians when they attempt to administer the sacrament.

Unlike other polytheists (e.g., Hindus, Shintoists), Mormons claim to be Christian.

Casting a vote for a Mormon candidate thus means casting one’s vote for a polytheist who present himself to the world as a Christian.

He goes on to argue that voting for a Mormon in a national election poses grave concerns.

It would not only spur Mormon recruitment efforts in numerous ways, it would mainstreamize the religion in a way that would deeply confuse the American public about the central doctrine of the Christian faith. It would give the public the idea that Mormons are Christian (an all-too-frequent misunderstanding as it is) and that polytheism is somehow compatible with Christianity.

In other words, it would deal a huge blow to the American public’s already shaky understanding of what Christianity is.

That means it would massively compromise a fundamental value on the scale of the abortion issue.

Jimmy writes that he’d sit out an election between a Mormon and a pro-abortion candidate.

Before stating my disagreement with Jimmy, let me point out where is he is right:

I am also aware that the U.S. Constitution says that there shall not be religious tests for public office. Specifically, Article VI:3 of the document says:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

This has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.

Indeed.  Private citizens can hold candidates to whatever standard they wish.  So using the “no religious test” argument to criticize Jimmy Akin’s argument is a non-starter.

But I think he is off the mark here.  I will concede that the Mormon religion is far outside the mainstream of Christianity.  We don’t accept Mormon baptisms, and their theology is almost completely at odds with orthodox Christianity.  So I won’t dispute that aspect of his commentary.

Granting all that, would a Mormon president really “do grave damage to the American public’s understanding of what Christianity is“?  That seems rather far-fetched to me.  First of all, I don’t think there will be a sudden uptick in Mormon recruitment efforts because there is a Mormon in the White House, nor do I think it will dramatically increase acceptance of Mormonism in the mainstream.  Those averse to Christianity to begin with won’t suddenly see Mormonism as a viable alternative.  Current Christians will not suddenly become persuaded to switch because there’s a Mormon in the White House.  People already are suspicious of Mormonism, and it’s  been an easy target of mockery in the popular culture.  Perhaps a Mormon presidency will make the religion seem a little less foreign to some, but that’s a far cry away from making it a popular choice for would-be converts.

I also doubt that it will confuse people’s understanding of Christianity any further.  Christians already do a good enough job confusing the masses, and a Mormon presidency won’t do much to alter that.  Also, the careful theological distinctions that Jimmy is making are going to go over most people’s heads regardless of whether there’s a Mormon in the White House.

Finally, I strongly disagree that this would “compromise a value on the scale of the abortion issue.”  With abortion, we have government sanctioning the killing of innocent human life.  Barring a sudden mass conversion, I can’t see a Mormon presidency having anywhere near the same impact on our culture as the terrible crime of abortion.

Also, while I understand the distinction that Jimmy is trying to make here between, say Hindus and Mormons, it falls a little flat.  Yes, some people might become more susceptible to embracing Mormonism because of its claim to be a Christian faith, in either event we’d be “mainstreaming” a religion by electing someone from that particular faith.

Ultimately it us up to each person to decide if people of certain faiths (or no faiths) are disqualified from getting their vote.  Personally, I would absolutely vote for an individual who shares my core political convictions, especially on social issues, regardless of their religion, and especially if his opponent is someone who has absolutely no business being President of the United States.

Whether or not there is any particular Mormon currently running worthy of my vote is a different matter altogether.

42 Responses to Voting for Polytheists

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “I don’t think there will be a sudden uptick in Mormon recruitment efforts because there is a Mormon in the White House”

    Well, was there a sudden uptick in conversions to Catholicism during the JFK Administration? I suppose that would be difficult to determine since the “Camelot” years also coincided with the papacy of the very popular Pope John XXIII, not to mention the start of the Second Vatican Council. Sorting out which event had the greatest impact on attracting non-Catholics to the faith might be impossible at this late date.

    Also, given that the influence of JFK and family upon the Catholic Church in America was NOT all good, for reasons discussed numerous times on this blog, it’s possible that the election of a popular Mormon president might prove to be a bad thing for Mormonism in the long run. It might encourage them to go more “mainstream” and lose some of their distinctiveness.

  • Jasper says:

    “With abortion, we have government sanctioning the killing of innocent human life. Barring a sudden mass conversion, I can’t see a Mormon presidency having anywhere near the same impact on our culture as the terrible crime of abortion.”

    That’s right Paul….

  • Dale Price says:

    In strict point of fact, are Mormons really polytheists, though? Yes, there is that divine progression idea, but it was my understanding that Mormons only worship God the Father. They don’t pray directly to Jesus, as I understand it, either–offering prayers in Jesus’ name. I’ve read LDS theology described as “monolatry”–acknowledging other gods’ existence, but worshiping only one.

    But I freely acknowledge my knowledge of the topic is very limited.

  • Joe,

    I have several Mormon friends in the industry where I work. Not a one of them is a moron. In fact, I have had theological discussions with them. true, when I start getting too deep into unique aspects of their religion (e.g., Jesus is brother of Satan, God the Father had sex with the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can all ascend to become gods of our own worldfs, etc.), the conversation gets cut off with some remark about my unpreparedness to understand the sacred mysteries and I should open my mind to the Holy Spirit (which in their view is simply another god). But never has any Mormon treated me with the disrespect of saying that all Catholics are morons (though one may make a case that many liberal Catholics seem to act that way).

  • Brett Adams says:

    @Elaine:
    There is a difference between JFK and Mitt Romney. You should check out both of their speeches, where they speak about how their religion influences their politics. (both are rather famous, and from experience they make great college papers to write on). JFK didn’t combine the two, and was a staunch Separationist. Mitt Romney is much less so.

    I think it would be a mistake to simply say there wouldn’t be a large effect. My best friend in high school was Mormon, and when Mitt Romney was running for President, it did embolden him! I think a Mormon president WOULD increase the evangilization efforts of the Mormon ecclesial community. Maybe my experience is tainted because of exposure to a small group of Mormons, but I’m not so sure. If you’ve ever met an ‘on fire’ Mormon, you know how a symbolic victory like a Mormon president would effect them (at least in my experience).

  • Joe Green says:

    Paul, if you’re using the ‘some of my best friends are Mormons argument,’ fine, but as religions go it’s flat-out weird. All the founders including head honcho Joe Smith were into group sex, a.k.a, polygamy, still practiced by some.

    Jesus in America? The Book of Mormon? Pearl at Great Price? Pre-mortal existence? Joe Smith having face-to-face meetings with the Apostles and the Angel Moroni, who gave him the ‘golden plates’? Cue in the Twilight Zone music.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    I’ll grant the possibility that I downplayed a potential small uptick in Mormon evangelization efforts, but I just don’t see it is as being as big of a concern as Jimmy Akin is making out. Conversely, will a Mormon president actually water down Mormonism, as some are speculating? That’s also doubtful. Of course those living in compounds with multiple wives already think the religion is watered down, but that’s probably best left for another discussion.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Also, one thing I didn’t really address sufficiently in the post was the degree to which a Mormon president would further legitimize Mormonism in the mainstream population’s eyes as a Christian faith. If you ask most people they probably already view Mormonism as basically a Christian denomination, and those that don’t really aren’t going to be persuaded with a Mormon in the White House, or at least not to the degree that Jimmy is speculating.

  • Yes, Joe, you’re correct.

    Joseph Smith’s Mormonism is as weird and heretical as Charles Taze Russell’s Jehovah Witness or Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science.

    I have a friend born and raised as a Jehovah Witness (non-practicing right now, but she is a believer) who works at a company that is involved in supplying engineering expertise for digital instrumentation and controls equipment to a nuclear steam supplier company (that will remain nameless). She is about the smartest engineer (woman or man) with whom I have ever worked.

    As for Christian Scientists, I have met none, but a brief observation of their organization indicates that they are left wing liberals, so it’s likely that I would have little use for them. But I may be wrong, so I shouldn’t judge without first hand facts.

    I will say this: I have far more in common with a conservative Mormon who believes in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman than I do with any liberal Democrat “Catholic” who thinks it’s OK to vote for abortionist Obama because he says he supports social justice and the common good.

  • Brett Adams says:

    I think that we’re forgetting that Jimmy Akin NEVER suggested voting for a liberal politicians instead of a Mormon. INSTEAD, he was suggesting not voting at all. So it’s not really an issue of voting for a “conservative Mormon who believes in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman” or a liberal Democrat. It’s about whether voting for a Mormon would be more detrimental than voting for a liberal Democrat.

    It must be remembered that there are more than two options.

  • Joe Green says:

    Setting religion aside, which is impossible to do since one’s beliefs shape one’s politics to a degree, for the sake or argument, keeping things on a secular plane, Mitt’s track record is uninspiring. Yeah, he made tons of money (so does George Soros), but consider his sorry reign over the People’s Republic of Massachusetts and enactment of RomneyCare, which is Obamacare, writ small. Mitt’s father, George, admitted he was “brainwashed” and one wonders whether the bad genes got passed down.

    As an agnostic who keeps an open mind about all things, secular or spiritual, I’d prefer a thinking man in the White House rather than one who subscribes to the bizarre LDS beliefs, rigid as they are (now we’re back to religion).

  • Of course it wouldn’t, Brett. But it is my vote. And at least by casting it that way I would be able to say that I voted AGAINST Barack Hussein Obama. Maybe my vote doesn’t count for much in the great scheme of things, but if we all feel that way, then what’s the sense anyways?

    Obama has got to be defeated. There is no other option. He must be removed from the White House. If that means a Mormon, then so be it.

  • Brett Adams says:

    I agree with you that Obama should be voted out of office. The two issues you raised:
    1. It is pretty interesting what the worth is of one vote. One vote rarely matters, but many ‘one votes’ does matter. My reaction to your one vote was from the fact that you said “If I HAVE to vote for Mormon Romney in order to defeat Barack Hussein Obama, then I shall do that” (emphasis mine). I was just stating that I doubt you will HAVE to vote for Romney in order to vote out Obama.

    2. Not voting at all means that you sort of voted for NEITHER candidate (have your cake and eat it too). There is, of course, always a write in. Because one vote probably won’t matter, you could write in a candidate! Then you voted against Obama while at the same time did not vote for Romney.

    Of course, all of that is relevant ONLY if you think Mr. Akin is right. If you think he’s wrong then the entire issue of you voting for Romney is irrelevant.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    “Jimmy writes that he’d sit out an election between a Mormon and a pro-abortion candidate.”

    If that Mormon happens to be Mitt Romney, then I’ll be sitting out the election along with Jimmy. I won’t vote for Romney under any circumstances. He’s a fraud.

    And it has nothing to do with his religion. I could probably bring myself to vote for Romney’s co-religionist, Jon Huntsman, despite the fact that Huntsman is allegedly the one who is the “moderate” stalking horse. Huntsman, unlike Romney, has at least governed as a conservative before deciding to seek the GOP presidential nomination.

  • Whatever~! says:

    That is pretty poor rationale Akin gives for his decision to vote against Romney:

    “I could see, for example, voting for a pro-life Hindu over a pro-abortion monotheist. But a Hindu does not claim to be a Christian and thus does not risk confusing people about the core doctrine of Christianity the way Mormonism does.”

    The connection betweeen a sitting president’s religion and increased confusion about Christian beliefs is very tenuous and would never make my list of top items to consider when selecting a candidate.

    I, on the hand, am determined to vote against Romney because of one very specific lapse in judgment:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&biw=1003&bih=537&q=romney+dog+roof&oq=romney+dog+&aq=0&aqi=g4g-m2&aql=&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=2359l5250l0l8078l11l11l0l1l1l0l281l2014l0.4.6l10l0

  • Joe Green says:

    I’m just curious as to whether Catholics would vote for a Jewish president, given that Jews flatly reject Christ as the Messiah. Seems to me this would be the biggest ‘deal-breaker’ of all. At least Obama pays lip service to Christianity. What say you all? I ask this question strictly as a neutral, objective observer. Thank you for your comments. As always, TAC provides a forum for intelligent discourse, which this troll truly appreciates.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    I certainly would have no problem voting for a Jewish candidate. If Eric Cantor ran for President, I’d vote for him in a heartbeat.

    As far as this is connected to Jimmy Akin’s post, remember that his issue is that Mormons present themselves as Christian when they are not (at least in his reckoning). There would be no similar issue with a Jewish presidential candidate.

  • Hi, Joe! The reference of not being unequally yoked was to marriage.

    In today’s environment, however, to be yoked with a liberal Democrat “Catholic” is to be unequally yoked. I suppose I could do what the Jehovah Witnesses do and eschew all secular contact.

    ;-)

  • Robert says:

    Isn’t there similar doctrines in Mormon ideology as in Islamic fundamentalism? Ie. The take over of the Government system to install a theocratic regime? In the Islamic doctrine there is in place Taqita (Spelling is incorrect for sure) but that allows the individual to outright lie during DAWA to get whatever advantage they will need. With that thought being transferred to Mormonism – is it smart to elect a Mormon president. Well I am skeptical for sure…

  • Anzlyne says:

    I am with Jimmy– Mormonism is so incoherent and a grownup thinker who professes it is not who I want to be thinking about how to govern us… thankfully I don’t think we will be reduced to the choice of Romney. I am still hoping Rick Santorum will catch the attention of the good citizens of this country.

  • Pinky says:

    A Mormon president would be catastrophic for Mormonism. The hard left is still smarting from the Proposition 8 victory in California, and they blame the Mormons. They’re taking out their anger on the religion, and it’s going to get worse. Both Romney and Huntsman have distanced themselves from the doctrines of Mormonism. How quickly will Mormonism crumble when its ‘doctrines and covenants’ become water-cooler talk?

    Remember that the American religious ideal is to believe something you really don’t believe in, keep it to yourself, and be a nice person. That’s what most people consider to be good morality. Most people don’t think like most TAC regulars. They’ll be perfectly happy with a Mormon who doesn’t believe in Mormonism, but has a good family life and likes apple pie. So American pragmatism will kick in. “Who cares if the church he goes to teaches some weird things? Religion is a thing you are, not a thing you believe.” That kind of thinking undermines Catholicism, and we’re protected by the Holy Spirit. Protestantism is less protected, and suffers from that kind of thinking moreso. Think about how it’s got to be undermining Mormonism.

    A good shake-up and Mormonism could become like Freemasonry: weird anti-Catholicism in old Europe, but an excuse for charity bake-sales and business networking in the US.

  • Gail Finke says:

    Mormonism is nutty. That said, despite believing they can be gods of other planets, Mormons seem to be just as good at running companies, organizations, and governments as everyone else — moreso, at times. Moreover, they claim to be Christians but I don’t know of any Christians who agree with them. If a Mormon candidate was qualified and I agreed with him/her on the issues, I would vote for him or her.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Gail nailed it.
    I would only add that I would look to any candidate’s record as to judgment, intelligence and morality before I would examine his religion. Regarding morality, the many Mormons I know live exemplary lives when measured by natural law. While I agree that their religious beliefs may strike an informed Christian as eccentric, not much less really than the belief in a virgin birth, transubstantiation, purgatory, miracles, three persons composing one God, etc. would strike an informed agnostic. Reason alone, without faith, renders us all agnostics. Faith makes all things possible, and as long as internally consistent all religions are leaps of faith rather than reason.

  • Jonathan Sadow says:

    Pinky wrote

    Remember that the American religious ideal is to believe something you really don’t believe in, keep it to yourself, and be a nice person. That’s what most people consider to be good morality. Most people don’t think like most TAC regulars. They’ll be perfectly happy with a Mormon who doesn’t believe in Mormonism, but has a good family life and likes apple pie. So American pragmatism will kick in. “Who cares if the church he goes to teaches some weird things? Religion is a thing you are, not a thing you believe.” That kind of thinking undermines Catholicism, and we’re protected by the Holy Spirit. Protestantism is less protected, and suffers from that kind of thinking moreso. Think about how it’s got to be undermining Mormonism.

    It’s my understanding that this is already happening to some extent, especially in areas where the majority of people are Mormon. Not a small number of these Mormons don’t particularly believe in Mormon theology but enjoy the family and social atmospheres that Church membership brings, so they stay in it, kind of like “cultural Catholics” (sigh…).

    It’s perfectly within the right of a Catholic voter to abstain from voting for a particular office because he or she finds all candidates to be morally objectionable. Having said that, I’ve always found arguments like Akin’s to be fairly unpersuasive. No matter who votes or doesn’t vote in 2012, the next president is either going to be Obama or his Republican opponent. No other outcome is reasonable. Given how awful Obama has been as president, both morally and otherwise, I’ll apply the principle of double-effect and vote for the Republican, holding my nose if necessary.

  • I am no fan of Romney, but Akin’s post strikes me as silliness on stilts. The religion of Romney, a religion he was born into, says nothing about his ability to do the job of being President. The idea that having a President who was a Mormon would foster conversions to Mormonism are as ridiculous as a claim in 1960 that electing JFK would foster conversions to Catholicism. Certainly the election of Obama has not led to a groundswell of conversions to the United Church of Christ, just as the election of Reagan did not lead to conversions to the Disciples of Christ. Akin’s post sails too close to religious bigotry for my taste as he seems to be stating that he would never vote for a Mormon for President, and would indeed sit out an election between a Mormon and a pro-abort. That is rubbish, and precisely the type of attitude that anti-Catholic bigots have used against Catholics down through the centuries. Personally I regard Mormon theology as hogwash, just as I would assume that a believing Mormon would regard Catholic theology as hogwash. That fact does not cause me to therefore refuse to vote for a Mormon candidate if I agree with his or her position. In regard to Romney I regard him as an oportunistic weathervane, and I will be working next year to deny him the nomination, but his religion will have nothing to do with my opposition.

  • T. Shaw says:

    We know far more dirt about Romney than we do about Obama.

    Can someone explain to me why Akin, et al go to such lengths to detract guys like Bush, Perry, Romney, but give Obama and 20,000 uber abortionists/gay privileges fanatics/class hatred merchants “passes”?

    Is it publish or perish?

    Are they feverishly contorting themselves to ease their consciences for advancing for abortion and hatred?

  • Brett Adams says:

    @McClarey:

    There is a HUGE difference between Mormonism and Catholicism that makes your comparisons between the two problematic. Specifically, Mormonism is in a position that having a Mormon president WOULD bolster evangilization efforts and embolden Mormons even more. Neither the Catholic Church, the United Church of Christ, or the Disciples of Christ were in a position from which having a president of the same religion would embolden them. Mormonism is a much different story.

    So, the fact that Mormon and Catholic evangilization is so different allows for the good posibility that a Mormon president would lead to conversions whereas a Catholic president would not. The difference in evangilization, as well as the general attitude and history of both groups, leads to this.

    I think people have become so angry and set against Obama that they idea of ANYTHING BUT voting against him seems ridiculous and impossible. Heck, even if the Republican nominee came out saying that he was more pro-choice than Obama and was totally anti-Catholic, there would still be people defending the Republican nominee.

  • Brett this raising of a Mormon bogeyman is ludicrous. The problem for Catholics in this country regarding religion and politics is not Mormonism, but the vast number of Catholic politicians who embrace causes directly antithetical to the teachings of the Church. Akin’s article, to be quite blunt about it, is one of the stupidest things I have seen written by any Catholic blogger not a member in good standing at Vox Nova.

  • Brett Adams says:

    Neither I nor Mr. Akin is proposing any Mormon bogeyman. All that he proposed is that if a Mormon is elected, it would strongly embolden and encourage Mormon evangilization efforts. A read of Mormon history and current evanglization efforts would show that, in fact, it WOULD provide legitamacy to Mormonism.

    Mr. Akin is not saying that a Mormon president is THE problem facing Catholics in regards to religion and politics, but rather it is A (not THE) problem facing America in general.

  • Disagree Brett. Akin views the Mormon bogeyman with such alarm that he is willing to sit out an election between a pro-life Morman and a pro-abort opponent. That indicates to me that he views that to be more important than fighting for the pro-life cause. This whole attempt by Akin to rouse anti-Mormon hysteria reminds me of the election of 1800 where Thomas Jefferson’s opponents charged, correctly, that he was not a believer in Christianity. The election of Jefferson did not lead to a growth in atheism and agnosticism, and neither would the election of a Mormon lead to a surge in conversions to the Mormon faith. The whole idea is complete rubbish as even a cursory examination of American history would demonstrate.

  • Brett Adams says:

    If you want to talk about ‘cursory examinations’, then I suggest a cursory examination of Mormonism, specifically Mormon evangelization efforts. If you notice, whenever a significant event happens that helps legitimize Mormonism, it is greeted by an uptick in Mormon converts and evangelization efforts.

    Furthermore, you give bad examples when you try and show that other presidents have not led to converts to their respective religions. A cursory examination of Mormon evangelization history would show you that it is MUCH different than Catholic. The same would be said for atheist and agnoticism (the fact that you would even compare the two shows a lack of such a cursory examination).

    I do, however, see that this is quickly becoming a simple repeat, with nothing being added by either of us in regards to the issue at hand. So, if you want, I can give you the last word.

  • Actually Brett I am quite familiar with Mormon history. If you care to, go to my American history blog, Almost Chosen People, and you can read several posts that I have written about the Mormons. The Mormons are not a threat in any way to Catholics in this country. Electing a Mormon as President would do no damage to the Faith or cause great numbers of Catholics to be pounding on the doors of Mormon Temples seeking admission. What truly does damage to the Faith in this country is that too many Catholics in positions of power in this country, inside and outside of politics, give every indication of not really believing in what Catholicism teaches.

  • Whatever~! says:

    Akin’s article, to be quite blunt about it, is one of the stupidest things I have seen written by any Catholic blogger not a member in good standing at Vox Nova.

    Ow~! I just quit reading that blog last month (not so much because I thought it was stupid, but because for other reasons). Just a coincidence, I suppose.

  • Dale Price says:

    What truly does damage to the Faith in this country is that too many Catholics in positions of power in this country, inside and outside of politics, give every indication of not really believing in what Catholicism teaches.

    AMEN.

    I think the biggest problem with Romney is not LDS theology about the Godhead, but his record of going against the usually-laudable moral teachings of his church on social issues.

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