As a Christian, I feel the need to respond to Geisler's article in depth and this is as good a place as any to do so.
Before I get to Geisler's writing and my responses, let me set forth a few principles that guide me in my analysis and opinion regarding the upcoming presidential elections. First and foremost, religious beliefs of the candidate are just one of many considerations that I use in determining who to vote for. The most important thing to me is a demonstrated commitment to principles of limited government, free enterprise, individual free will, freedom of speech, press, and religion. After that, I want to see whether the candidate demonstrates a proven ability to lead and a commitment to a morality base that I can generally agree with. Finally, do I trust and respect the candidate -- an entirely subjective and intuitive rationale.
On this basis, I am going to generally lean more favorably towards a candidate that expresses Christian beliefs. However, I certainly have no interest in supporting a professing Christian who does not understand the necessity of being able to exercise his powers of office in a non-Sectarian way that does not advance his faith system over and above all others (Rick Santorum, I'm looking at you). On the other hand, I have no problem at all with a candidate like, say, Joe Lieberman who is of the Jewish faith but certainly has demonstrated a commitment to the governing principles that I need to see in a President. Given an all-things-being-equal contest between a Santorum and a Lieberman, I would choose Lieberman every time and never think twice about it.
Norman Geisler has a different way of looking at it, apparently. In fact, I would preface my response by stating outright that his article in total reads like a classic example of confirmation bias as a way of justifying a vote that is contrary to his belief system because otherwise the cognitive dissonance might actually shake his faith.
Geisler starts off nicely and intellectually by quoting the US Constitution (Article VI), "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." and setting up the point that being Mormon does not disqualify anyone from public office. So far as I know, nobody of any intelligence has made that assertion, but that's how he starts off his opinion piece.
There are 7 points to Geisler's argument. I will present them in his order and respond.
1 Evangelicals do not have a good choice religiously.
According to Geisler, Barack Obama is a "liberal professing Christian...with Muslim leanings" and Mitt Romney is "a cultist Mormon who claims to be Christian." He further claims that not voting on Election Day throws your vote away and that a "liberal Christian" and a Mormon are equal deniers of the essential truths of the Christian Faith.
I was really curious to know what "essential truths" of the Christian Faith that Obama denies. If one knows even a modicum of Mormon doctrine then I can't see how an intelligent Christian could make the claim that a professing Christian (even a liberal one) is denying as many "essential truths" as a Mormon. Thankfully, Geisler has written about what the "essential truths" are for the Christian Research Institute here:
The essential doctrines of the Christian faith that emerge from this historical approach are those contained in the Apostles Creed and unfolded in subsequent creeds of the first five centuries. These include (1)human depravity, (2)Christs virgin birth, (3)Christs sinlessness, (4)Christs deity, (5)Christs humanity, (6)Gods unity, (7)Gods triunity, (8)the necessity of Gods grace, (9)the necessity of faith, (10)Christs atoning death, (11)Christs bodily resurrection, (12)Christs bodily ascension, (13)Christs present High Priestly service, and (14)Christs second coming, final judgment, and reign. Heaven and hell are implied in the final judgment and are explicated in later creeds.Obama professes Christianity. He has never "leaned" nor professed to hold any other faith, including Muslim. He has a given name that evokes Islam, but we do not choose our own birth names do we? The Obamas were formerly members of the United Church of Christ but resigned membership when it became politically expedient to separate themselves from the obnoxious and racist ramblings of the pastor at their home church. Since then, as with many modern presidents, the Obamas visit various churches without setting down a permanent membership. A smart decision since the president's church could easily be perceived by our enemies as a source location for harm to him, his family, or others. As it is, he seems to mostly frequent Baptist churches. To my knowledge, most Baptist churches align themselves with the essential truths of Christianity and more particularly the Evangelical types.
The Mormon Church, on the other hand, while using language that sounds very Christian actually denies nearly every essential truth of Christianity or so greatly distorts the interpretation of it so as to make it unrecognizable. Not the least of these is the fundamental Mormon doctrine that God the Father was once a Man himself and that Jesus is the example to us that we may become Gods ourselves after we exit this plane of existence (die). If you need to be enlightened more as to the opposing truths of Mormonism versus Christianity I would suggest you visit the CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry) website here.
As to Geisler's assertion that not voting is throwing your vote away. I agree. Not voting certainly is throwing your vote away. However, it may also be a way of actively expressing your displeasure at the corrupt nominating system of the two parties that makes it practically impossible to position anyone not well-connected and well-funded within the party system. If nobody rebels against this broken system how many ways can a message be sent to the parties that the people are tired of it? Third party? Possibly. I'll say more about that at the end of this piece.
2 Since Both Options Appear to Have Significant Evil, We Ought to Vote For the One Which Has the Greater Good.
This statement made me laugh out loud. Geisler jumps through semantical hurdles to avoid the cliche of "voting for the lesser of two evils" and attempts to transplant it into an optimistic garden of unicorns and rainbows by spinning it as voting for the evil "which has the greater good."
A duck is a duck regardless of what you call it.
Geisler tries to sound fair by pointing out "there is both good and evil in each choice." That's true. However, that's true with any human candidate. Further, he argues "even if one were faced with a dilemma between voting for a known Devil or for a suspected witch...[he] should vote for the suspected witch!"
By Geisler's own admission here he declares "For me, Romney wins on this criterion."
Do you see the flaw here? Geisler has painted Obama as the "known Devil" and Romney the "suspected witch." Following his own moralistic analogy, I think this would be the opposite because Romney's record as governor is practically indistinguishable from Obama in terms of social politics and both appear to be basically decent and moral people with strong family units. So, I have to assume once again (given the subject of his article) that Geisler is falling back on their religious beliefs. In this case, wouldn't it be Romney who is the "known Devil" since we know that his belief system is contrary to the essential truths of Christianity? The worst we know about Obama in this area is that Geisler believes he "leans" toward being a Muslim.
Geisler, of course, never defines what he means by that term and leaves it up to his audience to infer what they want to.
Personally, I hate that sort of passive-aggressive writing.
3 It Would Be Better to Vote for a Pro-Life Mormon Than For a Pro-Abortion Liberal Christian
Geisler says "Martin Luther once said that he would rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian. Likewise, on the issue of life, it would be better to vote for a Pro-Life Mormon than for a Pro-Abortion Liberal Christian... Abortion has already taken some 50 million American lives and Romney is certainly a better bet to stop this continuing holocaust than Obama who favors even partial birth abortions."
I hate abortion. I really do. However, it is legal. That is not going to change in our lifetime regardless of who sits on the Supreme Court and regardless of who sits in the White House. The President has no real power on this issue and it is a distraction from the issues that a president can actually have impact on for any candidate to speak about changing it. It is purely pandering to people who vote from emotion alone. To spin a choice for president in 2012 as a choice that has any impact at all on stopping or continuing abortions is delusional or intentionally blind to reality. Again, there are unicorns and rainbows waiting on the road to the voting booth for anyone who believes the president has any power or influence in this area in 2012.
4 Character Counts
Sure, character counts, but how does Geisler define "character?" He lapses into ad hominems here by insinuating that Obama is an untrustworthy crook by calling him "an all-too-typical Chicago politician" and citing his "leftist leaning appointees and his questionable political tactics." Color me shocked. A liberal Democrat president appoints people to office who lean left? Excuse me, but isn't that the perk of...oh...y'know...getting elected? The president appoints people who align with his political perspective. That's not a character defect. It's a political disagreement twisted by Geisler into a moral failing.
His assertion that "Romney wins on personal moral character" is stated as an absolute without one iota of support. As I said above, both candidates demonstrate commitment to family and are, by all accounts, fairly decent people trying to do the right thing according to their personal moral and political beliefs.
I'll tell you what, though, watching the slimy and shifty dealings that went on during the Republican nominating battle in which we watched the other candidates get taken down in ways (in my opinion) that indicated some behind the scenes shenanigans, I am a bit nervous about assigning moral superiority to Romney who rose to the top of a very smelly mess.
5 It's the Economy, Stupid
Geisler writes "Both candidates have considerable public records to review on these matters. Having done that, I believe hands down that Romney would fit the presidential bill best." I would sure like to see what he looked at because from what I have seen of the public records to review, about the only thing that really distinguishes Romney from Obama is that he has a better smile.
6 It's ROE v. WADE, Stupid!
Yes. That's right. He already made Point 3 about the Pro-Life issue and now he makes the claim that the next president will be nominating justices to the Supreme Court and Romney would appoint Pro-Life justices and blah-blah-blah-blah.
Look...let's face reality. If the recent Supreme Court legal gymnastics in which Conservative Republican Christian George W. Bush appointee Chief Justice John Roberts mangled jurisprudence to make sure that Obama's healthcare mandate would stand as Constitutional was not enough to drive this point home, then I don't know what else I could say to someone like Geisler. ROE v. WADE is not going to be overturned. There might be some slight modifications here and there on the jurisprudential down-line but it is not going to get overturned. It has been upheld ad nauseum and the Supreme Court is plain sick of entertaining the issue if we want to be brutally honest. If George Bush appointees can't push the Court in any consistently Right-Wing direction, what makes anyone think that the moderately Conservative Romney appointees would be any better. Not to mention that ever since the Bork affair, the Congress has had ever-increasing power in these decisions. If any President nominates a hard-core partisan, then Congress will not affirm it. So, every President has to nominate weak candidates who never take strong positions one way or the other and just hope that they will lean the direction the president wants them to lean. But as it is an appointment for life, there's no reason to expect that they will anyway.
Let's get real about this and use some common sense before we go spouting the ROE v. WADE pablum.
7 I Am Proud to be an American!
Geisler basically says he's embarrassed by Obama as his president. As he puts it "when I think of an American president, I think of someone who is 100% American. I think of someone who makes me want to rise and sing, “I am proud to be an American!” I would be less than honest if I said that I get this feeling when Barak Obama speaks for our country."
Well, I guess I can file this in my category of whether I trust and respect the candidate. I don't understand Geisler's feelings here at all. I think Obama makes a splendid public face for America. He is attractive, smart, and well-spoken. He has the added visual as part African-American that immediately demonstrates that America as a whole has really put aside the racial divide to the point that he could be elected by a very healthy margin. Obama has done nothing in office to indicate anything other than an attempt to do what he was elected to do. He appears to be trying his best to do the right thing as he sees it and he has the mandate to try because he won the election.
Geisler is Wrong and Here's My Solution for the Christian Conundrum Here
While I respect Obama and believe he is doing his best, I think he is an ineffectual leader. I think his abilities are more like a manager than a president and as a result the government has slid off the scales a bit because of lack of vision and leadership. In fact, the few things that he has actually accomplished (on the domestic side) have exacerbated the economic harm started by Bush rather than healed it. I also disagree with his liberal political philosophy nearly on whole.
As a result, there is no way I'm voting for Obama.
As for Romney, I think he is basically decent guy who also has a desire to do good and is largely driven by a conservative political philosophy that I am mostly comfortable with. However, Romney is so caught up in the corrupt partisan system and demonstrated a willingness to compromise on principles when pressed, that I cannot trust him to really lead the country if he takes the oath. I feel Romney is in the position that he is in not because the people find him to be the best man for the job so much as the Republican Party leadership propped him up as who they perceived as the best chance at beating Obama.
I never vote for a negative like that and it makes me immediately trust him less when I consider how many promises and corporate/political power-brokers he has got be beholden to for the position he now finds himself in. It makes me very uneasy.
His Mormon beliefs come in dead last as a reason for why I would not vote for Romney. But I would be lying if I didn't say that it would make me uneasy, as a Christian, to see my President occasionally give public prayers to a "God" who I knew outright was not my "God" -- actually one of many reasons why, in my opinion, the president shouldn't be doing that anyway but that's for another day.
So, what's a Conservative Christian to do? My solution is simple. Neither candidate deserves your vote.
The Republican Party has become a perverted shadow of what it used to be and shallow candidates like Romney are indicative of the corrupted system in which status quo loyalists who are willing to pander with abandon to get votes are all we get now. Anyone who brings a true commitment to the Constitution, Free Enterprise principles and Individualism are thrown under the bus.
The best way to send a message and hopefully start getting the American train back on the right track is to cast your vote for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.
I don't know what his religious faith is and I don't care. He never answers those questions because they are irrelevant to the job and he recognizes that any answer he gives is simply pandering to those who agree with him. So, he just doesn't bother. I do know he is committed to the Constitutional principle of Religious Freedom and that's how a president should be. He has a solid record of commitment to Constitutional principles, true Conservatism, and practical governance.
But doesn't that mean Obama gets reelected?
It probably means that. But that problem is easily rectified. I say pull that lever for Johnson as President but then pull the Republican lever for every Senate and House seat up for grabs. This would basically guarantee Obama a completely neutered lame-duck second term. He would be able to accomplish practically nothing and the Republican party system would be sent a very strong message regarding the corrupt nominating process if Johnson could pull a substantial national percentage. Then 4 years from now, both parties would have a free-for-all with everything up for grabs and maybe some real effective leaders jumping into the pool.
That might be the year when someone like Johnson might actually pull an electoral coup and get swept into office on a grassroots wave while the modern Republican party can disappear into the wisps of history like the Whigs before them.
That's my take.
You can take it or leave it.
Based on recent voting history....most people will choose to leave it.
Enjoy the government you deserve.