Thursday, November 5, 2015

Randall Balmer on Ben Carson's Faith

Here is the latest piece on Ben Carson's Seventh-Day Adventist faith.  It comes from Dartmouth religion professor Randall Balmer in the Concord (NH) Monitor.

Balmer argues something similar to what I did last week in response to statements from David Corn of Mother Jones and Donald Trump. Voters should treat Carson in the same way that they treat all the GOP candidates who apply their faith to their vision for the United States.

Here is a taste:

Do voters have anything to fear from Ben Carson’s affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventists? On balance, the answer is no. Carson’s practice of comparing everything he doesn’t like – health care, abortion, gun control – to slavery or the Holocaust may be annoying and ahistorical, but it doesn’t derive from his religious beliefs.
Seventh-day Adventists may not be part of the mainstream of religion in America, or even evangelicalism (evangelicals remain somewhat suspicious of the seventh-day worship), but this nation has a long and noble tradition of living up to the principles of its charter documents and enlarging the bounds of acceptability, albeit belatedly.
John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, was deemed by many unfit for the White House because of his faith, but he won the presidency. Americans elected a divorced man in 1980, an African-American in 2008 and Mitt Romney, a Mormon, probably would have fared better in 2012 had he been willing to talk about his faith.
Carson, moreover, has indicated that he sometimes wears his faith lightly, especially some of the lifestyle expectations. He told the Des Moines Register that he veers occasionally from a vegetarian diet, although he feels sick afterward (an odd concession from a physician; as a longtime vegetarian, even I know the body loses the enzymes needed to digest meat after a time). Carson would not be the first teetotaler in the Oval Office; the most recently example is George W. Bush, who foreswore alcohol after a Colorado ski trip bender in 1986.
Although there is nothing inimical about Seventh-day Adventism, voters may want to ask a couple of questions, both relating to Carson’s claim to literal interpretation.
Read the rest here.