Last week, just a week before the election, two candidates for an open Utah congressional seat got into a “contest” of sorts in which each claimed to hold the most “Mormon/LDS” views, although the assertions weren’t quite that boldly stated… but enough so that the headline from the Salt Lake Tribune played it that way. The idea of claiming “values superiority” isn’t something unique to Utah, unhappily. I’ve seen more than a few elections over the years in which candidates vied to prove who held the more “Christian values.” And for that matter, isn’t the primary cause of ISIS in the Middle East to create a land governed by the most “Islamic” values? Didn’t England suffer through centuries of internal conflict over which church’s values would be predominant? Not to mention the bloody conflicts that wracked Europe immediately after the Reformation?
Just what do people really mean by such assertions? Let’s see. “Most Christian” — today is that code for right-to-life, anti-feminist, pro-gun rights, anti-minority, and thoroughly patriarchal? If it is, that’s rather at variance with the doctrines of that carpenter on whose name and deeds Christianity is theoretically based. On the other hand, Joseph Smith was a patriarchal polygamist who was definitely a right-to-life type, but is that what those two candidates meant?
Or were they just trying to claim, “I’m just like most of you.” But… if most of their constituents want a supremacy of religious values in government, where does that leave all those who don’t share those values?
Like the Founding Fathers, I’m rather skeptical of putting religious values ahead of everything because one immediate question arises – whose religious values? And the second question is of even greater concern – to what degree will a candidate or incumbent attempt to use government to strengthen or impose those values on those who do not share them? All of which brings up a third question – if a candidate doesn’t intend to strengthen or impose those religious values he or she is trumpeting, exactly why bring them up except to gain an advantage. And if that’s the case, what does that reveal about how far the politician or candidate will go to obtain or maintain power.
As for me, I tend to vote against candidates who trumpet religious values – unless their opponents have even greater flaws, which, these days, is more often the case than I can ever recall… and that’s a sad commentary as well.