“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, (Article 6 of the Constitution).
“Politics are totally directed by worldview. That’s why when people say, ‘We ought to separate politics from religion,’ I say to separate the two is absolutely impossible, (Mike Huckabee, from his 1997 book Character is the Issue: How People with Integrity Can Revolutionize America).
“Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate’s religion that are appropriate. I believe there are.
“I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution – and of course, I would not do so as president. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law,” (Mitt Romney’s Faith Speech, December 6, 2007).
I believe a political candidate’s positions on issues are a reflection of his religious beliefs, whether he attends church regularly or not. The press intimates that only candidates “on the right” are influenced by their religion. Thus, we have the term “religious right” (you will get almost 7 million Google hits for the term). But there is a religious left (though you will only get about 400,000 hits on Google for that one).
The religious left are generally influenced by churches that bear the name Christian, but are “liberal”. That is, they reject the Biblical doctrines of the bodily resurrection of Christ, the virgin birth, Christ’s miracles, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and the Incarnation. Politically, they often interpret the Constitution the same way they do the Bible, without concern for its original intent.
To deny the relationship between religious views and politics, is to deny the obvious. These churches (and by extension, many of their adherents) oppose the death penalty and restrictions on the murder of unborn children, while supporting assisted suicide . They are often pacifists, and are opponents of the nation of Israel. Religion is an expression of what we believe to be most important. We get our morals from our religious views. It is natural that politics flows from our worldview, which comes from our views of God, the Bible, the nature of man, our destiny, the Kingdom of God, the source of morality, our definitions of justice, even the role of God in raising up and tearing down kings.
There is a reason the politics of Barack Obama could have been predicted (and was by so many) by evaluating the preaching of Reverend Wright. Obama’s acceptance of that theology over a period of years tells us something about Obama’s worldview.
I would suggest that on any given Sunday you will be much more likely to hear a sermon on politics in a liberal church than a conservative one. Because modernists reject the notion of a literal heaven, and often reject the Ten Commandments, all they are left with is politics. If you believe in an afterlife and focus on the spiritual and unseen aspects of faith, politics will end up in the periphery. This is not to deny that some Conservative local congregations have found themselves focusing on abortion and other public issues, but they are probably a small minority within conservative churches. Most fundamentalists and conservative Evangelical churches only mention these issues near elections, and then only briefly.
There is another practical reason why attention has been focused on the right, however. The prominence of televangelists from the late 1970s to the early 1990s no doubt focused the press attention on the religious right. But I hold that this was an awakening of political clout on the right that had already existed on the left.
In the light of the ban on the religious test for holding office, is it right for voters to consider the religion or religious views of the candidates? Of course it is. The ban only applies to legislators, not voters. Some have argued that keeping the spirit of the injunction requires that individuals block religion from their evaluations. But that is like saying that in keeping with the spirit of the First Amendment parents must allow their children to swear or those who believe in the 2nd Amendment must allow guns on their premises of their businesses.
The religious views of the candidate may bear on the candidates approach or viewpoint on a host of issues. If Governor Huckabee has a view of the imminent return of Christ, or evolution or Israel that bears on his foreign policy, can that be fodder for discussion? If a scientologist has strange religious views, shouldn’t we know about it? If you argue that you can only delve into it if it effects their policy, then you have missed the point. Religious views direct ones political views or they are not really religious at all. That is, they don’t get to the heart of what is right and what is wrong.
The Natural Law Party originated in a religion. Can we not discuss the religious views of the candidates who run for higher office from that party?