by Stephen Foster
What if a theologically conservative, third or fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist was to seek a major party nomination for President of the United States; and/or eventually become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major party?
What questions or hurdles about his/her beliefs might they have to answer or address? What theological gauntlet might he/she be expected to be able to run, and survive?
To what extent would the general public become familiarized with the doctrines, history and the blemishes of Adventism and how the candidate has related him or herself to—and/or is in alignment with—the doctrines, history, and the blemishes of Seventh-day Adventism?
Constitutionally speaking, I know that there is to be no religious test for holding public office in the United States. Of course that is as much a theoretical concept as it is a constitutional one. It is more a reality de jure than it is a reality de facto.
(I am also fully cognizant that the U.S. Senate chaplain is a Seventh-day Adventist.)
It is no accident that it took 171 years before America elected its only Roman Catholic President; nor is it accidental that we have not come close to electing a Jewish President, or a Muslim President, or as yet, an avowed atheist.
The United States has politically (thus practically) demanded that its Presidents be religiously viable. That is to say, that if a belief, or a belief system—or a faith, or faith community—with which a candidate was associated (or held by a candidate) was too far out of the mainstream to most voters, he or she could not be a viable presidential candidate.
Prior to his election, President Kennedy had to assure influential Protestant clergy that, should he be elected POTUS, he would not take his marching orders from the Pope.
Prior to his election, President Obama had to disavow, deny, distance—and disfellowship—himself from his former pastor’s occasional incendiary sermonic rhetorical forays; and subsequently from his church.
An Adventist candidate would certainly be asked how Sabbath observance might be handled in the 24/7 office that is the presidency. An Adventist running for President would possibly have to answer questions about eschatology and SDA doctrinal exegesis of Daniel and Revelation. An Adventist might have to address their personal relationship or beliefs relative to Ellen White’s writings on that topic. An Adventist might have to take a stand on six-day creation or young earth life. An Adventist would likely have to explain the organizational segregation within the North American Division.
Given the gauntlet that members of historically provocative churches have had to run in previous election cycles, what things should a Mormon be expected or prepared to address? Are there things about the strictness of their Sunday observance, or their historical stances on marriage, or their various previous doctrines on race, or their blood atonement doctrine—to name a few—of any interest? Are these of any curiosity to Adventists?
Or if this election cycle is somehow anomalous, why should it be different—since it certainly wouldn’t be for an Adventist?