Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck** reporting:

The question I’m asked most these days goes something like, “So whad’ya think of that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism?” More times than not, they mean, “I like some things about him, but I’m afraid of his religion.”

The first thing I tell people who ask me this is when it comes to political candidates—especially for president—religious affiliations mean nothing. Just remember the two Southern Baptists we’ve had in office: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton! (If that doesn’t surprise you, George Bush is a United Methodist that attends a liberal Episcopal Church!)

What matters is not the religious label people wear. Barack Obama is a member of the same denomination as that of the great 19th-century revivalist and abolitionist Charles Finney. (This week on Faith and Action Live! I’ll talk about Obama’s recent comments at Redemption World Outreach Center in South Carolina.) What really matters is the “fruit” of a person’s whole life. In fact, it’s not accurate to look only to the past because people do change while in public office, often drastically. If we looked back on Bill and Hillary Clinton, at one point in their careers they were actually pro-life; Ronald Reagan was pro-abortion; and Barry Goldwater, whose campaign reignited both the Republican Party and political conservatism, arranged for his own daughter, who was pregnant out of wedlock, to have an illegal abortion in 1955.

What matters is what a candidate credibly stands for now, is willing to be held accountable for in the future, and whether he or she has a realistic program for achieving those outcomes during his or her presidency. For me, the litmus test is easy: Does the candidate credibly stand for the three great pillars of morality and culture, especially the sanctity of life (which includes security for all Americans from the womb on) the sanctity of marriage and the family and the public acknowledgment of God?

I’m not suggesting we look for the perfect candidate because you’ll never find one. (Ronald Reagan was married twice and First Lady Nancy consulted the Zodiac.) But on the whole, does this person’s life, values, platform, the company he or she keeps, suggest this candidate can strengthen the moral and cultural foundations of American civilization? And if so, does he or she have a credible plan and an apparent capacity to actually get it done while in office? These are the operative questions.

Whether it’s Rudy Giuliani’s or Sam Brownback’s Roman Catholicism, Hillary Clinton’s or John Edwards’ Methodism, Barack Obama’s United Church of Christ membership (and I’ve actually preached in some good United Churches of Christ!), Fred Thompson’s church of Christ background (the one with the small “c” in “church”), Mike Huckabee’s Baptist ordination, or so on and so forth, it’s the core principles and credibility that count—not the labels.

There are good Christians and bad; good conservatives and bad; good "others" and bad. Mitt Romney’s church label means nothing as far as his fitness for president, just as is true with all the rest. When it comes to a person’s convictions, capacities and credibility, church labels can mean everything and they can mean nothing at all. In fact, in many cases they mean the exact opposite of what we might think. Church labels may even mean two different things at once: Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic Senator Harry Reid are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but they espouse very different political views.

The Founders made it quite clear in the Constitution: There would be no religious test for public office: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI) That was supremely wise.

I’ll make a confession to you: I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 because he was the “born again” candidate who taught the Bible in his Baptist Sunday school. That was the last time I let a church label mean anything, one way or the other.

My best advice is to judge Mitt Romney and the rest of the candidates on the factors that matter; but don’t judge him or anyone else on church affiliation. That would be a mistake.

Have you got your tickets yet? My brother Paul and I hope to see you at our 25th ministry anniversary on November 17! This will be more than a Washington gala; it will be a show of strength as we approach the ’08 election season, what will surely prove the most intense moral struggle of modern times. We really need you here! Get your tickets online now! You’ll find helpful travel advice at our website: http://www.faithandaction.org/!

Rev. Rob Schenck
Faith and Action
109 2nd St., NE
Washington, DC 20002
202-546-8329, ext 104

**For those who don’t know me, I am a minister to elected and appointed officials on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I hold dual ministerial affiliation with the Evangelical Church Alliance and the old-line conservative Methodist Episcopal Church. I also serve as chairman of the Committee on Church and Society for the Evangelical Church Alliance, America’s oldest association of Evangelical clergy. I hold degrees in Bible and theology, Christian ministry and divinity, all from Evangelical institutions.