Debate: Who is the best choice for president, based on a Christian perspective?Written by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
Who is the best choice for president, based on a Christian perspective?
It all depends on the individual voter’s interpretation of the issues and arguments, according to a recent debate between two professors at the University of Toledo.
Speaking before a crowd of about 150 on Oct. 29 in UT’s newly remodeled Richard & Jane McQuade Law Auditorium, Strang led off by saying he would highlight three major issues that make Romney “the better choice” for president: right to life, religious freedom and economic vitality.
Feldmeier, speaking second, said Obama seeks to care for the nation’s poor and vulnerable, an important priority in Catholic social teaching. He also said Obama’s policies are aimed at protecting the common good while Romney’s policies promote individualism.
Strang said he is a Roman Catholic but would present his case for Romney from a broader Christian perspective.
He said flatly that abortion is murder, that human beings are made in the image of God and that respect for life can be found throughout the 2,000-year history of Christianity, from the first century Christian document The Didache to the writings of Tertullian, John Calvin and Pope John Paul II.
Romney embraces the right to life viewpoint and opposes taxpayer-funded abortions, Strang said. The Republican candidate has also promised to appoint judges who will support pro-life issues, he said.
Obama, in contrast, “is the most pro-abortion president we’ve ever had,” Strang said.
The president has received perfect scores for supporting pro-choice issues from Planned Parenthood and NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws), including his support for partial-birth abortions in which, Strang said, a doctor “sucks out the brains” of a baby part way through the birth process.
Strang said that on March 13, 2003, when Obama was an Illinois state senator, he voted against a law that would protect children who survived botched abortions.
Feldmeier said one major reason women resort to abortions is that they lack the resources to care for a child. If these vulnerable women had a social safety net there would be fewer abortions, he said.
He also questioned the consistency, and by implication the sincerity, of Romney’s pro-life stance since he was pro-choice while governor of Massachusetts but switched “instantly” to pro-life upon entering the presidential race.
The debaters also clashed on Christian perspectives on economic issues.
For Strang, Obama’s “big government” stifles the free market, brings economic stagnation, takes away “God-given” human freedoms and fosters a dependence on government that is harmful to human nature.
He asserted that Romney’s economic policies would bring prosperity and protect important freedoms.
Strang said the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate for health care coverage, which requires employers to provide free contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients to all employees, is “one part of a broader assault on our religious liberty.”
The mandate forces Catholic employers to violate their religious beliefs, Strang said, and the HHS provisions for religious exemptions are so narrow that “even the pope would not qualify.”
Feldmeier said Catholic social thought professes that the human person is social by nature and people are responsible for one another. He said Obama has consulted many religious leaders and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in setting his policies.
Howls rose from the audience when Feldmeier said that, according to some observers, Obama’s Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, “may be the most pro-life legislation ever passed by Congress.”
On economic policies, Obama “seeks budget fairness” while Romney’s budget plan would slash programs that provide care for the poorest and neediest Americans while boosting tax breaks to the wealthy, Feldmeier said.
During a question-and-answer session, a number of audience members voiced outrage over Obama’s abortion policies and a few tried to shout over Feldmeier during his responses.
In closing arguments, Strang brought up the candidates’ opposing views on same-sex, saying the Bible “clearly condemns homosexual marriage” and that Obama’s pro-gay stance “is clearly contrary to the Christian perspective of marriage.”
Feldmeier said the Catholic Church is clear in its opposition to gay marriage but that the issue is more complicated in the broader Christian world, citing Protestant denominations that support same-sex unions.
He said Romney backed same-sex unions when he was governor of Massachusetts, “so I don’t see a big moral difference” between the two candidates.
Strang responded that Romney supported same-gender unions as governor because Massachusetts is a “left-leaning state,” but has opposed it consistently on a national level.
Steven Vandercook, moderator and president of UT’s Christian Legal Society, halted the event after 90 minutes despite many still-raised hands in the audience, saying they had run out of time.
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of Toledo Faith & Values (ToledoFAVS.com), a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality.