Chris Matthews has been on a tear about the Perry campaign’s attack on Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Bill Bennett called it religious bigotry.
I agree that Romney’s Mormonism should not be a disqualifying factor formally or practically. After all, even Martin Luther expressed that “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.” However, I think Chris Matthews proves too much and too far.
Abraham Kuyper wrote in 1879:
. . . every developed and maturing people ought to have its politics derived from its firm principles which do not float in the air as so many abstractions but which have deep roots in the soil of national life. Our thinking mind, after all, is not some kind of hutch with drawers and cubbyholes in which we have a separate compartment for politics and another for social affairs and a third for spiritual questions. Everything in our minds is interconnected, and our deepest life-principle is nothing but the root from which the fullness of our thoughts shoot up, to spread themselves over the many areas of life. Your political ideas are connected with your social insights; your social insights with your thoughts on marriage and family; those thoughts with your views about the church; your views about the church with your spiritual convictions; and your spiritual convictions with the relation of your heart to God.
This is why the modern presidential “debates” are not very helpful. Rarely do we delve into a candidate’s core principles and presuppositions; we are content with conclusory sound-bites. Perry disclosed many of his basic principles in Fed Up; knowledge of those presuppositions powerfully overwhelmed his campaign’s talking-points.
Richard Weaver wrote Ideas have Consequences in 1948. Certainly, religious ideas have consequences as much as philosophical ones. Also, Thomas Kuhn proved that presuppositions matter even at the scientific research table; the color of one’s world-view “goggles” affects what the scientist observes. How much more do a politician’s world-view “goggles” matter for development of public policy?
Theology matters no matter how much Chris Matthews wants to hold his nose. Take the popular support for US foreign policy relating to Israel. As shown from an older article of the Baptist Standard entitled “Evangelical Theology drives American support for Isreal,” theology has consequences:
“No one in the U.S. outdoes fundamentalists in their support of Israel, not even American Jews,” said Tim Weber, a Christian historian and dean at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Illinois. “Since Menachem Begin, all Israeli leaders have seen American fundamentalists as important shapers of American foreign policy toward Israel. What many people do not understand is that most fundamentalists support Israel because they believe it will play a key role in events leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
While this theological view of the end-times–known as premillennial dispensationalism–is not the majority view among Christians worldwide or even nationwide, it strongly shapes Americans’ views of Israel, Weber said. “The influence of such ideas extends way beyond the tight community that nurtures and studies them. The dispensationalist scenario is imbedded in the fundamentalist subculture, has much greater influence in the more expansive world of American evangelicalism and even reaches into the larger secular population. These ideas matter, and not just for those who believe and understand them.”
For a quite express example see this, read this article entitled “Why stand with Isreal Today?” by Pastor Jack Hayford. I am not making an opinion on the policy, only showing that theology matters and has public consequences.
Romney’s Mormonism may or may not be a source of his basic presuppositions; I don’t know, but we need to explore all the soil, his deepest life-principles, from which his thinking grows. And this is true of each and every candidate.