President Pete III (Following a Faith)

In her recent book, Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family, Sara Georgini explores “how pivotal” to the family was Christianity. It shaped their political decisions for three centuries, beginning with John Adams and his wife, Abigail. Though it sounds quite quaint – the last president to wear his Christianity on his sleeve was Jimmy Carter – there is one candidate now running for the White House, Pete Buttigieg, to whom Christianity is similarly central.

In a recent speech that garnered a lot of attention, Buttigieg framed his being gay in the context of his faith. Though Vice President Mike Pence was not present for the occasion, Buttigieg addressed his former colleague from Indiana directly. To Pence, a conservative, who is well known for, for example, opposing gay marriage, Buttigieg said that his own recent marriage to a man had, “yes, Mr. Vice President, moved me closer to God.”

Presumably neither Christianity nor sexuality is relevant to who should be the next president. However, Americans generally equate being a person of faith with being a person who has a moral framework. This is not, of course, to make a general statement. It is certainly not to suggest that those who do not follow a faith have no moral framework. Or that those with a moral framework have one with which I, say, agree. Nevertheless it is to suggest something specific about a specific candidate, Buttigieg, who clearly has thought extensively about many moral issues and who, in consequence, has reached certain conclusions, some of them quite recently. (An example: he reached the decision to be openly gay only in thirties.)

The president we have now is amoral. He lacks a sense of rightness, and of wrongness, or maybe it’s that he just doesn’t care. He does in any case, in his capacity as president, violate some of the most fundamental standards of decency and integrity. Which should, but likely will not, evict him from the Oval Office.

I cannot opine with any certainty about what Pete Buttigieg would be like as president of the United States. But I can opine with some certainty about his approach to the nation’s highest office – which would differ in nearly every aspect from that of his predecessor. At the top of the list would be prioritizing good character and moral rectitude – in the present tragically absent, in the future unambiguously evident.        

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