Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bob Novak jumps the shark? (On Mitt Romney and "religious test")

Should evangelicals -- a word I always have to use with a puzzled expression, anymore -- have reservations about a Mormon President? I expressed some, and then expressed some more.

According to Robert Novak, it was baaaaad of me to do so.

Novak doesn't name me, and I guess I'm glad, because I've always liked him. I used to watch him on Crossfire on CNN, first opposite the mind-numbing Tom Braden, then opposite the mind-shredding Michael Kinsley (who always looked like he was on a brief break from sniggering at the back of some junior-highschool classroom, and was probably never spanked). I didn't always agree with Novak, but he was fun to watch. Never dispassionate, very aggressive, a little corny sometimes. My kind of guy.

He made for some moments of "real" TV. I remember Braden had just introduced a subject with the most biased, acid, loaded dumpsterfull of inanity I'd heard to that date. Novak was then supposed to get the conversation going.

Instead, Novak just gaped, speechless. Finally, he said something like, "I can't believe you said that." Then he got going.

Last month, in Romney's Religious Test, Novak very fiercely scolds anyone who would dare hold, let alone express, let alone be influenced by, any religiously-based reservations about Romney.

Quoth the Bobster:
The U.S. Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office, but that is precisely what is being posed now. Prominent, respectable Evangelical Christians have told me, not for quotation, that millions of their co-religionists cannot and will not vote for Romney for president solely because he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Uh-huh, well... what?! Did Bob Novak actually just accuse "Evangelical Christians" of violating the Constitution? No... no, he must have misspoken, or we misunderstood, or something. Right?

Evidently not, because he immediately says again, "Romney is well aware that an unconstitutional religious test is being applied to him...."

Okay, now that Novak's got that out of his system, is he ready to be a little mellower, a little more rational?

Not so much:
...relatively few fanatics ...highly emotional collision of religious faith and religious bias with American politics ...The Republican whispering campaign against Mormons ...ridicule of the church's doctrine. ......amateur theologians ...mixed up....
Um... "unconstitutional"? What is he talking about? Closest I can even guess is this, from Article VI:
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.
Okay, so there can be no federally-imposed religious test. Got it. What does that have to do with how I, a free and private citizen, decide as to how to cast my vote? Nothing. It means that, if a witch doctor is elected, the government can't bar him from serving due to his refusal to affirm the Trinity. But does that mean that if a witch doctor runs for President, I can't let that fact figure into my considerations? Not even close.

I am free not to vote for someone because he affirms an irrational religion, or for any other reason I choose. Nothing un-Constitutional about it. Novak isn't serving the Constitution well with this spoutoff.

Nor does he drape himself in glory with this gem:
These amateur theologians occasionally get mixed up, with some Republicans asserting that Mormons do not believe in the divinity of Christ. The first of Mormon founder Joseph Smith's 13 Articles of Faith reads: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." It is true that the Mormon understanding of the Trinity is not what is taught by Catholic and most Protestant faiths. But nobody today seeks to disqualify Jews and non-Trinitarian Protestants from high office.
If I didn't like Novak so much, I'd find delicious irony in such a dismally, abysmally, multi-facetedly ignorant paragraph opening with a barrage against "mixed up" "amateur theologians." Ohh, Bob, Bob... I hear Yoda saying, "How embarrassing! How embarrassing!"

That shark in your rear-view mirror, Bob -- it's not a good thing.

ENDNOTE: to be painfully clear, I'm not advocating any particular attitude towards Romney. My main point is that it is neither un-Constitutional nor un-American to take into consideration a candidate's worldview. And if his religion doesn't affect his worldview, then he's a hypocrite -- which, itself, is worth consideration.


Dan B. said...

Dan--well said. Every part of my lawyer body starts cringing when someone starts throwing around the Constitution like that, and you explained the difference between being barred from office by a religious "yardstick" of sorts, versus using information in casting one's vote.

You mentioned that the term "evangelical" is puzzling--I'm starting to think that "conservative" has started to lose its meaning as well (I don't listen to him much, because sometimes he's kind of out there--but Michael Savage made an interesting point on the radio last night--when Republicans start talking and acting like democrats, the term "liberal" loses its meaning).

Again, well done.

Highland Host said...

Why shouldn't we take a candidate's religious views into account when voting? After all, if he's serious, they ought to affect how he votes (or whatever) in his public post. I expect an evangelical candiate to vote according to the Bible, so I would expect a Mormon candidate to vote according to his beliefs.

DJP said...

You'd hope so, wouldn't you? But I remember Kerry trying to play both sides -- surprise! -- by painting himself as (A) a deeply religious person with a very vital faith (B) who never let that faith influence his politics.

Again, "hypocrite."

DJP said...

Hey, Highland Host -- drop me an email, will you? I want to chat about something.

Kim said...


Is is not also true that the Mormon church is quite wealthy? Would that make a difference to a Presidency, i.e. that he was backed by such an organization?

I spent a lot of time with Mormons when I was teen (came close to being one, too) and I remember being told that the richest Mormons were the "most faithful" as attested to by their wealth.

Rick Potter said...

This is not entirely relevant to the post Dan, but if you have time to answer a question that has occured to me.

If a Mormon were to be elected to the presidency what would our duties as Christians be - in the form of support, I mean. I've been told that "since God is the one who ultimately appoints our leaders" we shouldn't speak out against that person once he becomes president because we are actually speaking against God. I have always answered this by asking what should this be telling us about our condition when God appoints a man who is clearly against things we hold dear as Christians. As a Christian I have a duty to obey God rather than men. So what does a person do if such a situation occurs. Of course I know that God has the ability to protect his own while still allowing the walls to fall down around the unbeliever. I hope you can see where I coming from with my question.


Rick Potter said...

Well, I wish I'd read you post on voting for Arnold for Governor before making that last comment. It pretty much spells out the answers to my question.


DJP said...

Well, Rick, I wouldn't quite agree with what you've heard. We're not serfs nor servants in our system of government, and the president is not a king. He's a leader -- but so are we. Our responsibility is therefore the greater to speak out as needed.

With Schwarzenegger, it was the actual election, and we had two choices. At the time I argued that the situation would be totally different if it were a primary; I would not likely have supported him had that been the case. Nor am I likely to support Romney, personally, in the primary.

But if he's elected, then I would expect to support him as far as I could. Where he's in line with what I, as a free citizen, think needs to be done, I'll support him. Where it's a gray area, I'll give him grace, still be as supportive as I can.

But when he's wrong, I've no obligation to fall in line.

To say the least.

Solameanie said...

I don't think Novak has ever been really friendly to conservative evangelicals. He isn't beyond a four-letter dust-up, and that's what got him canned at CNN.

As to the issue of voting for a Mormon president, I would certainly be uncomfortable doing so. The sad thing is that we even have to be put in the position of making a choice like that. I can't think of anyone potentially running that gets me very excited. I'm that soured. No matter who seems to get in under conservative principles, as soon AS they get in office they begin running from conservative principles as hard as if the devil and Tom Collins were after them.

Robert said...

I noticed when "Klintoon" was president, Christians seemed to have trouble "praying for their leaders" as the Bible commands, and conservatives (and Christians)had no trouble criticizing the govermnent's policies. Now that "W" is president, Christians have practically made him God's prophet for America, and now conservatives equate criticizing the government with TREASON. ("You hate Ah-mehr-cah, and want th' tehr-rists to win!")
Politics sume is funny.
(Now I'm almost late for church!!)

Vaughn said...

In response to what Highland Host said:

I would absolutely expect a Mormon candidate to vote according to his/her beliefs, just as you stated. There is however, something very important that you left off the end, and that is that Mormons absolutely believe in the bible, so I would assume that a Mormon candidate would base his policy and decisions off his beliefs which are derived from the bible and the life of Jesus Christ.

Also, while the Mormon church is very wealthy, it in no way supports any political candidate. There are many reasons that this is true, but I would believe one of the biggest reasons is that they would lose their tax exempt status if they were to support any candidate officially. The Mormon church encourages it members to be involved in the political processes individually, but does not endorse any candidate or party. One must look no further that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is a very devout Mormon, to understand that the Mormon church is not beholden to the Republican party, or any candidate for that matter.

DJP said...

...Mormons absolutely believe in the

Mormons absolutely do not believe the Bible, since they contradict the Biblical teaching on the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of Christ, and the meaning and terms of the Gospel.

These are not peripheral. They are absolutely fundamental.

Mormons might at least start with being fundamentally honest.

Vaughn said...

It strikes me as odd that one person could speak for another. DJP, are you mormon? I don't think you are, please correct me if I am wrong. Do you know the heart of any person that is Mormon? How can you say that they do not believe in the bible when you are not one yourself?

Some of the core Mormon beliefs are defined in their "Articles of Faith" Their 8th Aricle of faith states very clearly "We Believe the Bible to be the word of God" Does it get any clearer than that?

DJP said...

Did I say something about anyone's heart?

Is Mormonism a secret religion? Do I have to climb into someone's heart to assess it?

Vaughn said...

Of course you don't have to climb into someone's heart to assess it. The point I was trying to make is that far to often I hear or read of other people professing to speak for another person's belief. It is a very broad blanket statement to say "Mormons don't believe in the bible". I find this particularly perpexing becuase I am Mormon, and I beleive in the Bible, so I have just proven you wrong. No matter what you try and say, no matter how much you try and twist facts two facts will always remain.

1) I am Mormon
2) I believe in the Bible

I don't pretend to speak for your beliefs. I don't try and read into one thing you say and twist it to mean something different, so why do you do that to Mormons and in turn me?

While there may be Mormon beliefs that you believe contradict teachings in the Bible, that does not mean that Mormons do not believe in the Bible.

Vaughn said...

I must say that while I disagree with your assesment of The Chrurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I do agree with your assesment of what Robert Novak's column.

DJP said...

What I said was "Mormons absolutely do not believe the Bible, since they contradict the Biblical teaching on the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of Christ, and the meaning and terms of the Gospel."

Can Mormons believe in the Bible, and disbelieve what it teaches?

The Bible teaches, emphatically and beyond rational question, that there is but one true God, and none is like him.

Do you believe that, as we are, God once was, and as God is, we may become?

If so, you do not believe the Bible.

That's for starters.

(And this is an honesty-test.)

Vaughn said...

1) You can not believe in the bible and disbelieve what it teaches.

2) Mormons do believe in the bible and what it teaches.

3) I believe that what Joseph Smith taught in the King Follet discourse is true.

4) I do not agree your fifth statement.

Now let me ask you.

Have you been baptized?
Who baptized you?
Did the person that baptized you have the authority to do it?
Where did they get that authority?

If you can't answer all of those then you aren't following Christ's teachings in John and you don't believe in the Bible. You can't get the authority to Baptize people by studying. It has to come from another that has the authority. You can't conjure it up out of thin air.

Can you see how absurd this is? From what I read about you on your blog you seem like a very decent person and a fine Christian. Why then do you try and hurt other people by tearing down there beliefs. That isn't the way Christ taught and that isn't the way that anyone should try and share their religous beliefs.

What I would really like to get at is why you wouldn't vote for Mitt Romney just becuase he is Mormon. Would you not vote for Rudy Guilani just becuase he is Catholic?

I would like to get to what Highland Host stated earlier (which is what I was originally commenting on), "I would expect a Mormon candidate to vote according to his beliefs." What scary Mormon belief is there that would lead Mitt Romney as president to do something that you don't agree with. If anyone can think of something please let me know. I think that is the real question here based on the title of the blog and the original article.

Do some of you think he will push for polygamy to be legalized, try and establish Mormonism as the national religion. I am really curious what scary think Mitt Romney will do becuase he is Mormon that makes you not want to vote for him.

I really haven't made up my mind yet. There are some issues that I have with Mitt Romney, and to be honest I am less than thrilled with the cast of candidates we have running for president.

DJP said...

Thanks for such direct responses. However, you skipped this: The Bible teaches, emphatically and beyond rational question, that there is but one true God, and none is like him.

Given what you affirm, you disbelieve the Bible's teachings, and are not a Christian. It's a categorical issue, not a personal attack.

Now, you go for the usual Mormon dodges. This isn't about whether you are a nice person, a devoted husband and father, or a wonderful nature. It isn't about feelings or experiences you think you've had. It is about simple facts. The Bible insists on one, you embrace its contradictory.

Except that you Mormons are programmed to do so, I don't see the rationale for insisting that you are what you are not—except that it gives your cult a false veneer of respectability by illegitimate association.

To reach out to Mormons, I don't try to convince them that I'm a Mormon. Nor do I try to convince Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindu's, Moslem's, or atheists that I am one of them. I am not. It isn't helpful to blur sharp lines.

You should not insist that you are a Bible-believing Christian. To the degree that you are a faithful Mormon, you cannot be a Bible-believing Christian. But you could at least be honest about it.

As to Romney, I agree. His being a Mormon gives me reason to doubt his judgment. His primary-conversion flip-flopping loses my confidence that he would lead from conviction.

But then again, given our discussion, perhaps it isn't so surprising that a Mormon would insist that he is something he really isn't?

Amz said...

You are mistaken if you think the Bible teaches there is only one God. It teaches that we are to worship God the father, who is our one true God. Psalm 82 clearly mentions other gods, and Christ himself quoted it to the jews. If your will let the Holy Ghost wisper to your heart you will know that there is a foreshadowing in nature. The acorn has the potential to become the oak. The the fawn like the stag, the cub like the bear. What then is the potential of a child of God?

DJP said...

You're quite mistaken, and about a very serious and fundamental issue.

Deuteronomy 6:4 — Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

2 Kings 19:19 — "So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone."

Isaiah 45:21 — Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.


As to Psalm 82, that's a favorite of cultists. I, too, misused Jesus' quotation of it, when I was in a cult.

But did you ever read the whole psalm? Including this the next verse?

Psalm 82:6-7 — I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince."

It doesn't even come close to saying what you have been told to think.

The real Holy Spirit exalts Jesus Christ — "He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:14).

Ihere are other spirits (1 John 4:1) — like the spirit Mormons listen to.

But they're not the Spirit of God.