It can be argued that a candidate’s character, and world view is just as important as where they stand on fiscal and social issues. Maybe even more so. As Christians, we are supposed to see, speak and act in accordance to our relationship with God. We seek future leaders who live in that same accordance, and who do not bare false witness against their neighbor. That’s a biggie if you watch any of the debates!
This particular election cycle has brought on discussions of individual faith, and for some, a deep concern about what a candidate’s faith might mean to their Presidency.
When John Kennedy ran for the Presidency against Richard Nixon in 1960, there was a deep anxiety in the country about his Roman Catholic heritage and the potential for clerical intrusion into presidential decision making. What did Kennedy do during the closing weeks of the campaign to allay the fears of Christian and other voters who were not Roman Catholic?
On September 12, 1960, Kennedy addressed 300 Protestant ministers of the Houston Ministerial Association. He made three major points: he believed in an America where separation of church and state is absolute; no religious body should impose its beliefs on the general populace or the public acts of its officials; his decisions as president would be based on good public policy, not sectarian doctrine. The key sentence was:
“I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters - and the Church does not speak for me.”
Some 50 years after that address, President Kennedy’s words are still being debated among church leaders and political candidates. A big question that’s still being debated is, did Kennedy separate himself from his Christian/Catholic faith so much, that it made it clear that whatever decisions he would face as President would not be influenced by that faith?
Many feel that Kennedy, in his speech, did not necessarily divorce faith or the Christian frame of reference from the public square; rather, he rejected claims of church authority upon his conscience and the public interest. He said:
“But if the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible -- when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.”
Just how important is it to you that the President’s character and all decisions once in office be shaped by their world view? Please take a moment to think about this one: Can an honest, fair, person of integrity, without a personal faith in God successfully hold the office of President of the United States?