Oct 10, 2008

President Of The United States: Called Of God?

I'm fascinated by the relationship between politics and religion. Particularly interesting is the political culture of Mormons and how they view their political leaders. I'm speaking specifically about America because I think in a way, it's an American phenomenon. Religion is not usually a hot topic in Canadian politics and in Europe the discussion of religion in the political sphere is very limited and generally discouraged. I still haven't decided what I think is best, but there's certainly no question of which one makes for the most interesting politics.

I'm currently reading a book about faith and politics in the US. I'll tell you at the end of this post what book and who said this quote. But first, read it and consider its significance since it was said by someone who decided that he was going to run for president.

"I feel like God wants me to run for president... I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen and, at that time, my country is going to need me. I know it won't be easy, on me or my family, but God wants me to do it... I know the price... I know what it will mean... My life will never be the same. But I know God wants me to do this and I must do it."

What would you think if I told you that it was said by Barack Obama? Would it sound surprising that God would be leading someone who is liberal and pro-choice? Some of you would be skeptical, wouldn't you? But perhaps to some of you, his world vision fits yours.

What would you think if I told you that it was said by Bill Clinton? You're probably thinking, "yeah right, like God would want a skirt-chaser to be president!" But some of you would recognize that he had the gift of diplomacy and is regarded as one of the best presidents in recent times.

What would you think if I told you that it was said by Abraham Lincoln? Hmmm... sounds a bit more right, doesn't it? The president who fought slavery, "Honest Abe" was a good guy and must have been called of God.

What would you think if I told you that it was said by George H. W. Bush? Perhaps God was able to foresee the role he would play as the Iron Curtain collapsed and the values of democracy and capitalism were spread throughout eastern Europe.

What would you think if I told you that it was said by Mitt Romney? Would you doubt a fellow upstanding Mormon?

I've gotten the impression from most Mormons that they would only vote for a candidate who is, in a way, "called of God." Not in the same sense as a prophet, but as a political leader who would carry out what they regard as God's will in America, whatever they believe that to be. And in the eyes of most Mormons, that means it's a job for a conservative Republican. (My husband likes to say that G.O.P. stands for "God's Own Party.")

The person who uttered that quote was none other than George W. Bush. It was included in a chapter summarizing the different approaches to faith by some of America's politicians in the book, "The Faith Of Barack Obama" by Stephen Mansfield. It's a fascinating, insightful, and well-written book that I recommend, most of all, for the thought-provoking chapter about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a man that most of us regard as a flaming lunatic. I still think he's a flaming something, but I'm not sure that lunatic quite cuts it.

So, in light of the change that has occurred in America and in the world the past eight years:
  • Do you believe that God was speaking to George W. Bush, telling him to run for president?
  • Do you think he has fulfilled the role that God intended him to do as president?
  • And how will it impact your feelings in the future about any politician who claims to be inspired by God in any degree?
And last but not least, maybe you can help me make up my mind. God and religion in politics: good thing or bad thing?

14 comments:

Gay LDS Actor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gay LDS Actor said...

I had to rewrite parts of my post because of grammatical errors I overlooked before submitting.

I don't think a politician believing in God or feeling he's been called of God is necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself. However, there are many cases of people who feel they're called by God to do certain things and then proceed to do things that aren't very "God-like," in my opinion.

Adolph Hitler was a Christian and said in his book, Mein Kampf, "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.." and we all know where that led.

I'm sure the terrorists who flew into those buildings on that terrible day in September, 2001 thought they were doing the will of their God.

Pat Robertson has run for president before, and he has claimed on more than one occasion to know the mind of God; yet I find his ideology a bit frightening.

There are many, many people in this world who claim to know what God's will is, including members and leaders of our own church, and yet many of those people have opposing ideas of what God's will is. Of course, as members of the LDS Church, we assume we're right, but there are many people out there who think we're dead wrong; and some believe we're completely godless. So I think it can be dangerous, politician or not, for anyone to claim he knows with absolute certitude what God's absolute will is.

I, of course, would like to believe that the prophet of the LDS is completely in tune with God's will since I believe the Church is true. But I don't know if he always knows God's will at all times.

I would like to believe that my own personal revelations are divinely inspired and absolutely God's will, but I can't say with 100% certitude that they are even though I feel they have led to my being happier.

Many people claim to be called of some version of God. But depending on who you choose to put your faith in, you may end up following anyone from Jesus, Thomas S. Monson, Gandhi, and Mohammed to Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones.

As for President Bush, if he was indeed called of God, as he believes, I have problems with it. The philosophies our president has do not mesh with what I believe God stands for, and even if they did, I think President Bush bungled them. I never voted for George W. Bush, and there have been many instances in his presidency when his blind devotion to specific causes has frightened me. I believe I was frightened with good reason.

There are many people in this world who claim to speak for God, and many of them scare me because I don't believe they represent the God I know. I feel many of them will be surprised at the last day when He tells them, "I never knew thee." But then, perhaps it is I who will be surprised. But then, I don't claim to know the mind of God.

Jim Cobabe said...

I would be surprised if such thoughts had not occurred to all the men you list, and many others who go unnamed. Charismatic leadership requires an element of ego, it is an essential ingredient.

What distinguishes certain leaders is the degree of hubris they also seem to internalize. Some men seem to have a proper wit and disposition to deal with authority -- others do not. The outcome, due to their particular degree of fitness in this regard, is usually quite obvious.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Agreed.

The Faithful Dissident said...

"I, of course, would like to believe that the prophet of the LDS is completely in tune with God's will since I believe the Church is true. But I don't know if he always knows God's will at all times."

I feel the same way.

"I would like to believe that my own personal revelations are divinely inspired and absolutely God's will, but I can't say with 100% certitude that they are even though I feel they have led to my being happier."

Ditto. I think I'm often a big skeptic towards those who claim to know the truth or are 100% certain about something. However, I think I'm even more skeptical about myself sometimes. Perhaps I have a hard time believing that we can be humble and certain at the same time. It's certainly very hard to do and I don't claim to do it well.

After reading this book about the faith of Obama, I could really relate to his approach. He has a strong faith and yet doesn't claim to know much or have the answers. He has said clearly that his questions haven't all been answered, but that he still believes. I remember when he took a lot of flack from conservatives for saying that it was "above (his) pay grade" to know when human life began, referring to the abortion debate. Even though I don't really agree with his abortion stance, I understand the reasoning behind it and I admire the fact that he can say "I don't know," even when conservatives can claim to know everything about the moment when human life begins. The truth is, none of us really "knows."

This is where I feel torn:

I think that a good leader should do all he/she can to try to know and understand the will of God. Ironically, Bush has probably been the most openly-religious president in history. He's been open about his conversion, his faith, and he claims to read from the Bible and pray regularly. That's something that should be looked at as a positive thing, right? But the problem is that as soon as any person claims to be following God, doing His will, etc, it can backfire big time. Or worse yet, it can lead to committing attrocities in the name of God.

The Iraq war is an interesting example of how even Mormons can be divided on whether something that a political leader does is OK with God or not. I find it interesting to read comments from various LDS forums and how some members are 100% certain that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, and even have scriptural "proof" or teachings from prophets to back up their claim. I've even seen a few express a belief that entering Iraq was a part of God's plan to help the missionaries enter that part of the world someday. On the other side, those who feel that it was unjustified also present their own scriptures and prophetic teachings to back up their own claims. Some interpret the Church's silence on the issue as condoning the war, while others interpret it as a condemnation of it.

Pallas Athena said...

"Do you believe that God was speaking to George W. Bush, telling him to run for president?"

Absolutely not.

"Do you think he has fulfilled the role that God intended him to do as president?"

I do not think God had a role for him to fulfill as president.

"And how will it impact your feelings in the future about any politician who claims to be inspired by God in any degree?"

I do not think, in our society, one could get to a position in the political system of that stature and remain in tune with God

"And last but not least, maybe you can help me make up my mind. God and religion in politics: good thing or bad thing?"

In Book of Mormon times, when the people were righteous, thier prophets were their politicians. That is definitely a good thing. When the people were wicked, their prophets spoke out against their politicians, even when thier politicians had "priests" and "gods" of their own. That is definitely a bad thing. I think we are in a state similar to King Noah, therefore, God and religion in politics = very bad thing.

The Faithful Dissident said...

What if a Mormon were president? With Mitt Romney's run for president, it was something that I thought a lot about. Although I didn't agree with most of his policies and question some of his political motives due to his flip-flopping on certain issues, I do think that he's generally a trustworthy person. I would only assume that if he were president, he would be seeking God's guidance every day, even if he wasn't vocal about it, but I'm not sure whether I would be able to trust it. And the scary part about a Mormon being president is that if Mormons didn't believe that Republican policy was God-given before, then they definitely would with a Mormon Republican president. :)

"I do not think, in our society, one could get to a position in the political system of that stature and remain in tune with God."

It would certainly be very hard, but would it be impossible? Or maybe God wants to stay out of politics. :)

Pallas Athena said...

I do not think religion matters much. God looks upon the heart, He loves the Catholics as much as He loves the Mormons. We all know mormons who are incredibly spiritual and "in tune", we probably all know mormons that are vile and corrupt. (See this comment by Mormon Heretic.) I have a hard time believing a spiritually in tune person of any faith would want to enter into politics. The fact that Mitt Romney was running for president tells me enough about him for me to form an opinion. He may be a stand up mormon, following every commandment, but he is a politician, therefore I do not trust him.

BHodges said...

How many sermons by Rev. Wright have you personally read or viewed in full? How familiar are you with black liberation theology and its history? How do you reconcile the statements by early LDS leaders that seem very racist and can shock those unfamiliar with Mormonism?

The Faithful Dissident said...

BHodges, I'm not exactly sure what you mean by your question, "How do you reconcile the statements by early LDS leaders that seem very racist and can shock those unfamiliar with Mormonism?" But I'll try to answer as best as I can.

Actually, I can't really reconcile them, which is why I think that Mormons who accuse Obama of being a racist for associating with Wright are being a bit hypocritical. I wrote about this before.

My knowledge about black liberation history and theology is definitely scant. Reading this book was very interesting and although I can't imagine agreeing with Wright's views, I now think that some of them may be worth looking into a little deeper than most think it's worth. I'd like to learn more about the history, actually.

I was talking about this the other day with my sister-in-law, who is African American and LDS. Her extended family is not LDS. When we were talking about Wright and some of the stuff he has said, she said that the older members of her family have talked about the same things for years. My suspicion is that there may be some partial truths to some of the things that Wright has talked about, even though most are turned off by his fiery rhetoric.

BHodges said...

Like you, I don't think Wright is a "flaming lunatic," and I have been interested enough to read several sermons he has delivered, in addition to looking further into his theological underpinnings.

The Faithful Dissident said...

The guy is very well-respected by many and has a huge number of followers. I figure there must be a reason for that. I can't imagine that such a large part of the US population are simply crazy, flaming radical, racist lunatics and that there's nothing more to the story. I guess that's why he's so controversial.

BHodges said...

Very interesting blog, by the way.

Pallas Athena said...

Many of the ideas set forth by Rev. Wright are not uncommon. Searching on the internet usually brings up many sites by people (most not affiliated with him) who passionately believe principles and ideas that he teaches. I think he just gets a bad rap because a lot of the ideas are not "main stream", some even go so far as to be considered "conspiracy theories". People who believe those type things are bad enough, but someone who teaches them, well, they are a perfect target for smear campaigns.