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Sober Cannibals & Drunken Christians

Mitt Romney announced last week that he was running for President of the United States. While Romney is currently considered the GOP front runner, he presents a problem for many Evangelical voters. Why? Because Mitt Romney is a Mormon.

Before I proceed, let me say that I have no stake in Romney’s success or failure. I have none of his swag, have not contributed to his campaign, and plan to do neither. However, if it came down to it, I’d have little problem voting for him. Which sets me at odds with many of my Christian brothers and sisters. (For example, see THIS ARTICLE in the Washington Times.)

But this post is not about politics, per se. Or Mormonism. It is about this “Evangelical hurdle” Romney faces. I’ve seen it time and time again: Evangelicals tend to be more idealistic than pragmatic. We would rather elect, appoint, or support someone who is a Christian and mildly proficient at their craft, rather than someone who is not a Christian and very proficient at their craft. Of course, finding both is the ideal. But it’s also rare. And when it comes to politics, finding a very strong, very proficient Christian politician is even more rare.

So how do we navigate this muddle? Must we sacrifice faith for pragmatism? Or should faith be a litmus test for everything we subscribe to, everyone we elect, and every service we seek?

Martin Luther illustrated it this way: “I’d rather be ruled by a competent turk than an incompetent Christian.” Or to put it another way, a capable Mormon president is better than an incapable Christian one. This principle has broad application.

  • A competent atheist CPA is better than an incompetent Christian CPA
  • A competent Hindu heart surgeon is better than an incompetent Christian heart surgeon
  • A competent Kabbalist mechanic is better than an incompetent Christian mechanic
  • A competent Wiccan carpenter is better than an incompetent Christian carpenter
  • A competent Darwinian police officer is better than an incompetent Christian police officer

This is not to suggest that it’s wrong to seek out Christians or desire God-fearing folk in positions of power. Nor is it intended to mean that a person’s faith has no bearing on their skills, values, or performance. After all, if I learned my butcher was a Satanist, I would probably begin to purchase my ground beef elsewhere.

Nevertheless, our faith cannot be a litmus test for everything. Sure, if we are selecting a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a worship leader, or a seminary professor, we should have a doctrinal checklist. But if we are looking for a good accountant, a competent mechanic, or a steady-handed neurosurgeon, what they believe about God or the afterlife shouldn’t really matter.

A person’s faith is not the measure of their proficiency. And unless we are talking about teaching theology or providing spiritual counseling, we should be careful to not be overly idealistic. Pragmatism has its advantages… especially when it comes to balancing budgets and international diplomacy.

Herman Melville suggested, “Better [to] sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.” I think we’ve had our share of “drunken Christians” in positions of power. So maybe it’s time for a “sober cannibal.”

I’m interested in your thoughts…

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