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How Would Jesus Vote? Christian Politics in the State Of Lost Causes

Christianity and many other religions are sometimes described by category, rather than by denomination, as conservative, liberal or cultural. To that, I would add a fourth category: political Christian, i.e. a candidate for public office who feels the need to profess deeply held Christian beliefs.

In my home state of South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley was raised as a Sikh, and became a Christian prior to running for public office. When she first became a gubernatorial candidate, her website said, "I believe in the power and grace of Almighty God." She later felt the need to change it to "My faith in Christ has a profound impact on my daily life. Being a Christian is not about words, but about living for Christ every day."

A cynic might say, "Maybe it's also about winning elections."

Her predecessor, former governor Mark Sanford, had sex with his "soul mate" in Argentina, which he mistook for the Appalachian Trail. After being caught, he held a press conference in which he apologized to his spiritual advisor and to people of faith across South Carolina. Implicit in his apology is that people of faith are expected to be more moral than people without faith. What seems clear to me is that politicians who continually proclaim their faith are likely to be more hypocritical than those who don't.

I watched with some sympathy when Mitt Romney, a Mormon, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008. My sympathy was not for his political positions, but because surveys showed the main thing atheists like me and Mormons have in common is that a significant number of Americans wouldn't vote for either of us, no matter how qualified the candidate.

In trying to explain how reasonable Mormonism is, Romney said on the June 5, 2006 Charlie Rose show, "The most unusual thing in my church is that we believe there was once a flood upon the earth, and that a man took a boat and put two of each animal inside the boat, and saved humanity by doing that." Romney essentially said that his holy book is no more preposterous than the holy books of other candidates. I think he has a point.

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TAGGED: US POLITICS


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Silverman is Founder and President of the Secular Coalition for America, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston.

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