Tuesday, June 2, 2009

12-16-2007: 3rd Advent (A)

Isaiah 35:1-6,10/Psalm 146/James 5:7-10/Matthew 11:2-11
Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another? So ask John the Baptist’s disciples of Jesus in today’s gospel. A question which you well might hear repeated these days in places like Iowa and New Hampshire as those wanna-be presidents present themselves as nothing less than mini-messiahs.

Religion has become one of those amorphous but important issues in the presidential campaign as demonstrated last week by Mitt Romney as he offered an apologetic for Mormonism and the American presidency. Arguing at first that it was not his place, as a presidential candidate, to explain or defend the tenets of Mormonism, Romney then felt the need to declare that he believes “Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the human race.” The skeptical among us may judge that need to have surfaced more by Mike Huckabee’s rise in the polls (he’s a Baptist preacher after all) than by Mitt’s genuine belief. It was, no doubt, a premeditated political risk: Romney must play to Christian evangelicals and so declare the standard kerygma. But, here’s the catch: if Mormonism actually held that view, Romney would not have had to declare it. When John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus who he was, Jesus did not feel the need to declare: I am the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the human race. His response, more clever by far, implied that they should judge for themselves by what they see Jesus doing rather than what they hear him saying: the sick are made well and the poor attended to… (not a bad domestic policy – then or now).

Apart from the expectations of ardent evangelicals, is it really important what theological doctrines a presidential candidate holds? What the candidate proposes to do is more in line with the pragmatism that has comprised the greatness of America – whether that candidate is Christian or not, whether he believes or doesn’t. The separation of church and state, despite the views of either a Mitt Romney or the Conference of American Catholic Bishops, has been demonstrably a great blessing for both church and state in the American experience.
That being said, Romney’s shameless pandering to bible-belt evangelicalism may be a sign of his solid presidential credentials after all. Because, whatever Governor Romney may really believe, his speech suggests that he’s willing to sell anything, including his faith, for a vote or two – and, in presidential politics, you can’t get more American than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment