A couple of the paragraphs from the article by my friend Laurie Goodstein and a colleague are worth a quote:
Governor Romney says:"People have interest early on in your religion and any similar element of your background,” he said. “But as soon as they begin to watch you on TV and see the debates and hear you talking about issues, they are overwhelmingly concerned with your vision of the future and the leadership skills that you can bring to bear.”
The writers of the article go on to add:
"Still, Mr. Romney is taking no chances. He has set up a meeting this month in Florida with 100 ministers and religious broadcasters. That gathering follows what was by all accounts a successful meeting at his home last fall with evangelical leaders, including the Rev. Jerry Falwell; the Rev. Franklin Graham, who is a son of the Rev. Billy Graham; and Paula White, a popular preacher."Well I am not sure Governor Romney is at all right about what he says. We are a profoundly religious country, and when you look at our last batch of Presidents since Nixon--- Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush they all have claimed to be committed Christians who were not part of any sectarian group like the Mormons. They all claimed to be mainstream Christians, however we may evaluate some of those claims (and I have questions about one or two in that list). On top of which all these men claimed to be Protestants of some stripe. There all W.A.S.Ps of some sort. So I am unconvinced about Romney and his remark.
The question this raises for me is this--- Whom would you rather have for President? An apparently devout but inept Evangelical President who keeps making bad political decisions that get us in hot water in both foreign and domestic affairs operating in an adversarial way, or a President who does not meet the conservative Christian scratch and sniff test but nonetheless is excellent at making good political decisions and works in conciliatory fashion as a team player? No fair asking for a third choice. This is a two horse race-- so which do you pick from these two?
For me the answer is clear--- you will know the tree by the fruit that it bears, not by professions of faith, however Christian, or bold rhetoric meant to stir our patriotic or conservative juices. I want somebody of personal and ethical integrity who knows how to govern. If he is also a devout Christian, this is a huge plus, but if that is all he is, he ought not to be President just for that reason.
Being President of the U.S. is not a job for the faint of heart, the weak of brain, or the wishy washy of character. We may like our TV stars seriously flawed, but we can't afford that luxury with a President, especially not now. And if you know a person by the company he or she keeps then we had better look carefully at who the friends of these various candidates for the '08 race are.
The other big religious story of the week is about Ted Haggard who has surfaced after a number of weeks (three to be precise) in intense counseling in Phoenix. He pronounced himself absolutely heterosexual after these weeks of intensive sessions, and declared that he and his wife intend to take some course in psychology giving new meaning to the phrase "Physician heal thyself."
Here is the link so you can read the story in the NY Times--
There are a large number of things that are disturbing about Haggard's recent remarks. First of all, any one who knows anything about serious counseling knows that you don't know anything for sure after only three weeks of counseling, however intensive. This is just bravado, or wish projection desiring to be well and done with the therapy.
Secondly, the idea that you could be objective enough, if you just take a few psychology courses, to be able to counsel yourself and heal yourself is problematic in the extreme, however popular this sort of approach may be. The human capacity for self-justification is large, especially with large egos, and all the more so when one's spirituality gets thrown into the mix with one's sexuality. Those two factors in a person's life often get confused or fused, and then it becomes impossible to self-analyze or self correct.
But as for the claim that a person cannot change their sexual orientation, this is something no real Christian can easily accept-- we do believe in something called conversion and in grace as well, at least grace strong enough to help us overcome our sinful inclinations and stifle them, whatever they may be. You may not be able to change your 'inclinations' but you can most certainly change your 'orientation' if by 'orientation' one means the conscious pattern of behavioral response to inclinations, involving various choices. In short, you can certainly change how you respond to your inclinations if you draw on God's grace.
And this brings up a major factor I have encountered a good deal with modern secular psychiatry-- it does not believe in real change or healing! It simply believes one can, through therapy, change the train or chain of thought and feelings so that one recognizes the early warning signs and aborts the behavior before things go too far in a self-destructive direction. Now this of course is very helpful. Its good to recognize the signs of danger, and we are indebted to therapists to help us with that, but you need to know going in that you don't go to a therapist, at least a non-religious or non-Christian, if you expect to be cured or healed. Not only will they not guarantee such a thing, most of them don't believe in that sort of radical change or healing.
I want to say here, that I greatly value therapists and Christian counselors. They have helped many folks along the way including members of my family, and they are often unsung heroes helping people put their lives back together. There used to be a stigma when I was young about going to a counselor and there still is in some conservative quarters, but that should never be the case with a Christian, who knows personally that we have all sinned and fallen short of God's glory and can use some help from time to time.
To my brother Ted Haggard I would say-- be aware that you may have begun the journey of healing, but there is only a one in a million chance you can really come to know yourself after only three weeks of counseling. So, making that sort of claim about your sexuality after only three weeks is a red flag that you still have miles to go before you really know yourself, and thereafter know what to do with yourself. We are praying that you will continue on the path towards healing and not prematurely abort the process.