Jewish Journal


September 18, 2007

The president’s own personal Jesus


I’ve kvetched quite a bit about the insincerity of presidential candidates playing the God card. I don’t want to hear about it, I said. But in this week’s Time magazine, Michael Kinsley writes that he wants to know more.

These days presidential candidates are required to wear their religion on their sleeve. God is a personal adviser and inspiration to all of them. They all pray relentlessly. Or so they say. If that’s not true, I want to know it. And if it is true, I want to know more about it. I want to know what God is telling them—just as I would want to know what Karl Rove was telling them if they claimed him for an adviser. If religion is central to their lives and moral systems, then it cannot be the candidates’ “own private affair.” To evaluate them, we need to know in some detail the doctrines of their faith and the extent to which they accept these doctrines. “Worry about whether I’m going to reform health care, not whether I’m going to hell” is not sufficient.

What exactly should we worry about? Most important, we need to know what forms of conduct a candidate’s religion forbids or requires and how the candidate interprets that injunction. Is it a universal moral imperative or just a personal lifestyle choice? Every religion has its list of no-nos. Mormonism’s is very long and includes alcohol, coffee, tea and such forms of sexual behavior as “passionate kissing” outside wedlock. If Romney‘s church doctrines require efforts to impose these restrictions on others, Romney has a Cuomo problem: he cannot be a good Mormon and a good President. ...

It will be amusing if Romney is done in by a fear of his religious values because, as near as we can tell, he has no values of any sort that he wouldn’t happily abandon if they became a burden. But in politics, you are who you pretend to be.

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