An Addendum to “Why I Couldn’t Vote for a Mormon Presidential Candidate”
This post is an addendum to “A Thoughtful Explanation of Why I Couldn’t Vote for a Mormon Presidential Candidate.” Though most of the feedback was little more than buttkissing or inane ideological ranting which I deemed only worthy of deletion, there were a few truly excellent criticisms. I’d like to thank those persons for exemplifying the civility amidst rigorous thought that our culture so desperately needs. That having been said, I need to eat some crow on two fronts. First, as presently constituted the post does evidence a number of significant problems and weaknesses.11.Not least of which is the historic tendency of Christians to use political power as a means of doctrinal coercion. After writing it I seriously considered sitting on it a few days to let my thoughts congeal, but since this topic had already been rattling around in my brain for a half decade I impatiently decided to be done with it.22.I’ve already got something like 500 unfinished blog posts sitting in my drafts because I did exactly this and never got back to ’em. My intention was to avoid adding yet another post to that digital pile. This was unwise. Second, I knew there were holes in the post’s content but didn’t expect them to be identified by anyone but trained scholars. In this way, I dumbed down the content for popular consumption. Despite the fact it worked like a charm, that’s a decision I now regret. Long ago I pledged on this blog not to sacrifice substance for popularity. That’s a commitment I failure to lived up to. For that I apologize. With those confessions out of the way, rather than quietly pull the post down or edit it I thought the most honest approach would be to clarify some of the things I meant to say but failed to clearly communicate. Here goes:
- I didn’t meant to implicitly suggest that voting for a Mormon presidential candidate is akin to Mormon evangelism. That’s a far greater sense of direct causation than I had in mind. What I was trying to get at was the law of unintended consequences.33.I’ve been startled by Christians’ lack of reflection on the long-term consequences of our political actions. People may disagree with my assessment of what might happen if Mitt were to be elected. That’s cool. But at least give some thought to the probable spiritual consequences as pertains the popularity of Mormonism.
- Some of those who were able to read between the lines and already caught my meaning in the above point have suggested that such a political approach would necessitate something approaching divine omniscience. To be clear, I’m not talking about perfect foreknowledge but sheer probability. It doesn’t take omniscience to know that if you build a major coastal city at or below sea level in a hurricane prone region it’s probably going to be devastated at least once a century.44.Sorry residents of New Orleans, but you know it’s true. Likewise, if you elect a president from a religious fringe group that is exploding numerically it’s likely going to have a legitimizing role in its public perception, which in turn will likely further its growth. All I’m saying is that’s a factor needing consideration.
- One facebook friend expressed concern about what he called my “pure consequentialist approach.” Without getting into the technicalities of his philosophical argument–which was stellar–his basic points were that we need to a) care about public policy and b) live in the moment without obsessing about the unknown variables of the future. I have three thoughts in reply, but can’t do any of them justice in this concise form. First, I’m not apathetic about policy.55.Clearly I can’t claim expertise in this area, but as one outside the academic and political realms I think I’ve done about as good of a job as anyone keeping up on policy issues. I care about that stuff. Second, I think it’s possible to discerningly keep an eye on likely future consequences while keeping oneself firmly grounded in the present. Third, my outlook here reflects a larger life philosophy of striving to be an idealistic realist.
- My chief concern is the rampant conflation of historically orthodox, biblical Christianity with political ideologism.66.Be it conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, socialism, or the like. With the politicization of virtually everything in this country, it seems to me that Christians have largely blurred or even exchanged their eternal, heavenly identities with/for their temporal, political identities. In our present context this is most clearly seen in the utter dearth of critical consideration about Christians voting for a Mormon candidate.77.I’ve repeatedly had my salvation questioned because I’m not voting for the Mormon candidate by conservative evangelicals who I otherwise wouldn’t have described as fundamentalists. Something has gone terribly askew at that point! Regardless of whether or not a person ultimately concludes this is the best possible decision, this should at least be on the radar.
- In my opinion, American Christians need to think long and hard about the difference between one’s faith and one’s government. More specifically, we need to consider that perhaps the best path forward for this expression of the Kingdom of Man isn’t necessarily one in the same as the best path forward for the Kingdom of God. They have different purposes and different agendas. This whole train of thought seems unfathomable to too many these days, and that’s a disconcerting reality.88.As I implied previously, I think we seriously need to untangle our noun-adjective confusion so we can live as American Christians rather than Christian Americans. There is a difference. At the end of the day, my identity is found not in my national citizenship but in my heavenly citizenship.
- Though I’m going to the ballot box to fulfill my civic responsibility, I’ll be abstaining from casting a presidential vote this year. James Davison Hunter, an evangelical sociologist, has a whole section about this strategy in his ridiculously insightful book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. In short, he believes Christians need to temporarily pull back from voting in order to help the American Church decouple its confused identities. I wish more people considered this a viable option.