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.