In yet another sign that we have on our hands the weakest president in history, President Obama today claimed “executive privilege” in a effort to forestall his Attorney General from being recommended for contempt of Congress charges. Too bad it did not work. Gosh this all has a familiar ring to it.
Ok, this is a blog about religion and politics and I do not want to get too deep into what this all means in terms of legalities, branches of government, etc. What I do want to do is point out what this says about the necessity of a well developed character in public office. I don’t generally think much of political ads of the type you see here at left (“The Most Arrogant Man In The World”), but it did bring the whole character issue into focus for me. Religion, with its understanding of higher powers helps very much to fight against the tendency for people to think too much of themselves. That is, unless of course, the power of government and the power of religion combine – as they did when kings claimed their office by divine right. This is one of the wonders of the American revolution.
Which brings me to this Slate (yes, the Slate of Jacob Weisberg) about the effect that Romney’s faith will have on his presidency:
Romney’s faith would inform a Romney presidency in two important ways: his decision making process and his capacity to show empathy for those who don’t share his immediate experience. Both men described Mormon prayer not as a reason-free appeal for the divine thumbs-up or thumbs-down, but a process that calls a person to a special kind of rigor and engagement with life’s choices, before they ever seek God’s guidance. New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, who participated in the discussion and has written on Romney’s religion, pointed to the passage in the Doctrine and Covenants that she said was cited repeatedly by Romney’s friends when discussing his decision making process. Guidance from God won’t come unless you think it through first: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind.”
The second aspect of Romney’s faith that would inform his presidency is his time as a bishop in an LDS congregation in Massachusetts in the 1980s. In that role, the equivalent to a pastor, Romney counseled members of his ward about their most personal matters. ”The fact that Mitt was a Mormon bishop in a ward that had one of every conceivable type of human,” says Christensen, who has also served as a bishop. “He personally … met with them in their home and just had a very deep sense of what was going on in that family. That is another really important attribute. He feels it, whereas other people voted for legislation that took money from these people to give to those people. That’s not an understanding of humanity.”
That shows how faith shapes us, without being “theocratic.” “Theocracy” happens when someone simply thinks that whatever they think, regardless of how they have arrived at their conclusions or its affects on others, is in fact God’s will. Another way to describe that would be “above accountability” – which brings us back to “executive privilege.” The American experiment assumes God works in history – it must for all of history has shown that faith in God is really the only way to build a strong national character. As we have discussed here often, religious political influence is indirect.
I do not think our national character will stand for what we are seeing in the last few days. God may work in history, but that does not mean that He has ordained Barack Obama as above the dictates of our constitution. Whether it be the power grab of his immigration last Friday or this gross assertion of power that the presidency simply does not have, President Obama seems to apply his will to the nation as if his will was somehow divine.
One other brief comment. This assertion of executive power must be a cover-up of some sort. One of the other things religion does is help us come to terms with our shortcomings, because it offers us hope to overcome them and the strength to bear their consequences. Our national character admires people that face up to their mistakes and endeavors to make them right. This administration is not giving us much to admire right now.