The EFM Feature

Over at First Things, Joe Carter — who worked for the Huckabee campaign — has posted some interesting thoughts on the clemency controversy. For me, the most notable part is where Carter says that the “experiences and intuitions that served [Huckabee] well as a minister of the gospel were not always applicable” when it came to governing.
Here Carter hits upon one of the main issues of recent presidential campaigns — namely, that there’s a difference between what you look for in a pastor and a president. You may be wondering why I say that’s one of the main issues, since I’m sure you’ve never seen a Hannity feature on it. My answer: Because this is a distinction many (most?) politically engaged evangelicals do not fully grasp. And we miss it at our peril.
If you ask me, we spent the 2008 campaign fighting over at least a couple of things, way out of proportion to their actual importance. The first was theology — because the simple truth is evangelicals get uncomfortable voting for a president they would not let teach their Sunday school. I say this because I get uncomfortable too, not because I’m better than the rest. But the truth is, the president won’t be teaching your kids about the Trinity, the virgin birth, or heaven. He’ll be making decisions that will impact whether your kids live in freedom, sure. And if you’re fortunate, he’ll be teaching your kids (mainly by example) about public service and having an intact family. But that’s it.
The second has nothing to do with the present fracas, but I’ll mention it anyway. And it’s (get ready) policy positions. Yes, I said it. I don’t think policy positions are as important as the 2008 campaign might have led you to believe. Why? Because there are lots of politicians who agree with me on anything, but they can’t argue — much less govern — their way out of a paper bag. They are ideologues, but not leaders. They are people of conviction, but unable to produce in others a conversion.
What’s my point? Basically that we evangelicals basically think, whether we admit it or not, that if we elect someone who agrees with us on everything (including theology), that’s what matters most. Or, to really drill down on what’s at issue here, that someone we’d choose to be our pastor would also make a good president.
I’m not saying that’s why Carter supported Gov. Huckabee last time around. But I am saying that he’s hit on something critical here. He seems largely to be talking about Huckabee’s compassion, which is laudable, not to mention something I lack; I think there’s a lot more there, regardless of this specific candidate or that specific virtue. The more comfortable I get with that, the more convinced I get (and as you can tell from the name of this website, I’m pretty convinced!) that I made the right choice for 2008, and now for 2012.
Why? Because Mitt Romney is not just a man whose governing I think would make it more likely that my kids will live in a peaceful, prosperous world (although he is that, in spades); he’s also a man whose family I’d like my kids to watch. And you know what? I think he’ll keep his mouth shut about the Trinity.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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