Ben Carson

The Fuzzy Politics of Religion: When Is It OK to Judge Candidates for Their Faith?

As Ben Carson rises in the polls, the quadrennial question is being posed again.


Donald Trump
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Changes are afoot in the Republican presidential primary campaign. With new poll numbers suggesting he may be losing his grip on the frontrunner slot, the bombastic business mogul Donald Trump resorted over the weekend to publicly ruminating on the religion of his top rival, Ben Carson. 

"I'm Presbyterian," Trump said during a rally on Saturday. "Boy, that's down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about."

Thus, the eternal election-year question has again been raised: Is it kosher, so to speak, to judge a person seeking public office for his faith?

In a country that prides itself on religious tolerance—one where a right to free exercise is codified in the first words of the First Amendment—the idea of holding someone's religion against him strikes many as untoward. Consider the reaction when Carson himself said in September that he wouldn't vote for a Muslim for president. The comment sparked outrage and claims of bigotry, and he was forced to walk it back.

In a 1960 speech to a room full of Protestant ministers, John F. Kennedy, then a candidate for president, famously made the case for why religion should have no bearing on the decisions and positions an officeholder makes and takes. "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," he said. "I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair….Whatever issue may come before me as president—on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject—I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates," he promised.

It's a rather sterile view—the notion that a person's religious beliefs should or even could be separated from his conception of what's in the "national interest." What is a conscience, if one's faith has no effect on it? What are religious beliefs, if not things that inform one's sense of right and wrong?

It's also, I think, at odds with reality. Whatever Kennedy and his contemporaries may have wished, Americans do take into account the religious persuasions of those who are asking for their vote. Gallup has asked for years whether people would cast a ballot for otherwise well-qualified candidates who also happen to be a member of various demographic groups. Just this June, the company found a quarter of respondents saying they would not support an evangelical Christian for president, and some 40 percent saying they would not support an atheist.

What's more, it seems right and just that voters would look to the moral bases on which an officeholder will make life-or-death decisions. Democracy places an awesome burden on the population to decide who should be entrusted with the awful power to approve laws and then enforce them, at gunpoint if necessary. A candidate's values are and should be an important factor in determining whether to support him, because they speak directly to the type of leader he would be.

And yet.

We humans haven't historically demonstrated a keen ability to give a fair hearing to people whose beliefs and traditions differ from our own. Though Kennedy may have genuinely believed the things he said in his Protestant ministers speech, the reason he felt compelled to lay them out so starkly was that, at the time, the possibility that a Roman Catholic might be elected to the presidency was, in the eyes of many Americans, a scandal.

Anti-Catholic sentiment can seem like a thing of the past. After all, today the vice president is Catholic, as are six of nine Supreme Court justices. We have a Catholic speaker of the House (John Boehner) who succeeded one Catholic (Nancy Pelosi) and will very likely soon be succeeded by another (Paul Ryan). And that same Gallup survey from June found more than 90 percent of Americans now saying they would vote for a well-qualified candidate who was Catholic. The Sistine ceiling has been shattered. But as a Catholic myself, I'm intensely aware that it wasn't always so.

In 1928 the Democratic Party made Al Smith the first Catholic presidential nominee only to see him bloodied by religiously motivated attacks. According to The New York Times:

The school board of Daytona Beach, Fla., sent a note home with every student. It read simply: "We must prevent the election of Alfred E. Smith to the Presidency. If he is elected President, you will not be allowed to have or read a Bible." Fliers informed voters that if Smith took the White House, all Protestant marriages would be annulled, their offspring rendered illegitimate on the spot.

He lost the election in a landslide, thanks in part to fears fomented by an active Ku Klux Klan.

Ben Carson
Marc Nozell / Flickr

Seventh-day Adventists hold some strange-seeming beliefs—among other things, they think God created all the earth's living beings over the course of six 24-hour days, and that all true disciples of Christ observe the sabbath on Saturdays, not Sundays. David Corn at Mother Jones drew on Adventist teachings about the "end times" to ask in a piece earlier this week if Carson believes, as Corn reads other members of that church as doing, that "almost all evangelical Christians will soon join with Satan to oppose Jesus Christ."

The neurosurgeon has thus far always stood by the views of his church. In a 2013 interview with the Adventist News Network, he said, "I'm proud of the fact that I believe what God has said, and I've said many times that I'll defend it before anyone. If they want to criticize the fact that I believe in a literal, six-day creation, let's have at it because I will poke all kinds of holes in what they believe."

As weird as that may seem to me, I recognize that the line between a curious religious view and a disturbing one is both blurry and overdetermined by familiarity. Growing up in Southern Baptist country, I was often (wrongly) accused of worshipping the virgin Mary and (rightly) accused of holding that bread and wine during Holy Communion are transformed into Jesus' body and blood. I can see how that might be alarming, especially to those who haven't spent much time with other Roman Catholics. Still, I'd prefer people not reflexively denounce me for my kooky-sounding belief system before getting to know the mostly reasonable person I like to think I am.

In keeping with a general "do unto others" philosophy, then, I'd say we shouldn't be in the habit of dismissing candidates as unqualified for public office simply because they affiliate with a religion we see as misguided. That response undercuts the value of pluralism that Americans love to pay lip service to but aren't always great at living out.

There are many reasons I think Ben Carson has no business being in this race, topmost being his apparent lack of mastery over basically any of the policy issues facing the country today. But the neurosurgeon's statements about his faith are, for me, among the least crazy things he's said. In that same 2013 interview, for example, he was asked how he handles being in the spotlight. "Prayerfully, humbly, recognizing that you always have to make sure you keep yourself in the background," he answered. "It's very easy when all the spotlights are on you to think, 'Oh, wow, I'm a great person.' You have to make sure to resist the urge to think that, and always remember that whatever you do, God is first."

It's both unrealistic and probably a mistake to say public figures' religious beliefs should be off-limits. A candidate's values are one of the most important things a voter can know about him. But if that's true then it's also important to understand what those values actually are, as opposed to just looking at the caricature of his faith group that's ascendant among the people you happen to know.

Of course Trump has the right to say whatever he wants about his opponents' faith. But free speech goes both ways. As a politician, if you traffic in stereotypes and ugly implications, be ready to be called out for it—and for the possibility that voters might be less than pleased by what it says about you, and your values, and the type of leader you would be.

NEXT: Justice Kennedy on Citizens United: 'The New York Times Was Incensed Their Little Monopoly to Affect Our Thinking Was Taken Away'

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  1. …the idea of holding someone’s religion against him strikes many as untoward.

    A great thing about our republic is that voters get to choose whatever criteria in deciding their vote. Best hair, best faith, best relationship with media gatekeepers. We can use any one of these things to help us pick.

    1. ^This. And statistical data suggest that women often choose (male) candidates based on physical attractiveness.

      1. That certainly explains Nixon’s meteoric rise to power.

        1. Yeah, I was going to say that poll probably doesn’t reflect our current reality, where the average politician looks like a chewed-up old sock

          1. I don’t know that our current president got elected on the strength of his governing prowess.

            1. true, we didn’t know about the mom jeans before he got elected

        2. Could chicks even vote when Nixon was elected?

          /Millennial OFF

      2. “statistical data suggest that women often choose (male) candidates based on physical attractiveness.”

        I’ve noticed that a lot of women support Bernie Sanders.

      3. Most women know subconsciously that what they real need is a man to give them a good hard, deep dicking.

      4. Which would explain the recent Canadian Federal election that gave us our first Snowboarder-in-Chief, Justin “Trulander” Trudeau, as the Prime Minister of Canada. “He’s dreamy.”

        My relatives in Europe couldn’t contain their mirth as they e-mailed me with messages like “What have you Canadians just done?” I’ll hang my head in shame next time I’m over there…

    2. How untward of you. You’re acting like a retward.

  2. …bread and wine during Holy Communion is transformed into Jesus’ body and blood.

    “I wish God was black, though. Cause instead of crackers we could have had brownies.”

  3. When Is It OK to Judge Candidates for Their Faith?


    1. Aren’t most of the candidates orthodox autodeists?

    2. When Is It OK to Judge Candidates for Their Faith?

      -When their faith is explicitly opposed to a free society.

  4. I draw the line at Snake Handlers. Well, Orthodox Snake Handlers. The Reformers aren’t so bad.

    1. Oh, c’mon. The Orthodos use real rattlers. The Reformers pussed out and just use garden snakes.

      Either handles a real snake or GTFO.

      1. This country could use a few good holy rollers to get it back on track.

  5. I vote against anyone whose faith, belief, ideology or following of World Health Organization recommendations bad mouths the eating of bacon.

    1. Ditto. I can’t trust someone who won’t eat pig or drink beer.

      1. Or eat beer drinking pigs.

    2. so you hate Muslims????

      1. The world would be a much more peaceful place without them, wouldn’t it?

      2. I did not say I hated them, I said I would not vote for them.

    3. wait, eating bacon is bad for you??

  6. My church rents out an SDA church since they dont use it on Sundays. They are good landlords.

  7. Bernie Sanders faith in government means he won’t get quite a few votes.

    1. Yep, because if there’s one thing that defines the American voter, it’s their skepticism in government and unwillingness to send people to Washington based on empty promises of free ponies.

      1. I didn’t say a majority…

  8. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to judge a candidate by their religion, same as I would judge them by any other philosophy they espouse. Why the hell would I not do that?

  9. Tossing virgins in the volcano gets my vote.

    1. Seems a waste of a good virgin, if you ask me.

      1. Eh, it’s mostly just the ugly ones.

        1. Why else would they still be virgins?

          1. See? It’s a virtuous circle.

            1. See, now I’m wondering about the age. Would an aborted fetus qualify? How many months of gestation must be completed?

              1. You start doing volcano math you go mad.

      2. Maybe I like “tossing” virgins “in” a volcano. Everyone’s got a fetish.

  10. They can have any religion they want, as long as it doesn’t infringe on my right to get free shit

    1. Oh, I thought it was going to be, “…as long as it’s black.”

      1. “As long as it is black”? Are you saying this is why women voted for Obama?

  11. Shouldn’t the avowed philosophical foundation of a candidate, the sort of thing that informs and maybe even overrides their secular duties, be foremost on the minds of voters?

    Not that it actually matters, since religion is just window dressing in politics. I’ll be judging candidates on their religion as actually practiced vis-a-vis their devotion to the State rather than whatever hokey spiritual crap they avow.

    1. religion is just window dressing in politics

      Half of them are probably just winging it to get votes anyway.

    2. JFK put to rest the fears of a Catholic president by making it clear “yeah, I’m a Catholic – but it’s not like I’m a good Catholic.” Just like the other Catholics mentioned, as long as you make it clear that your religious beliefs don’t affect your behavior in any way nobody cares what religion you profess. Some cynical people might suggest that if your religious beliefs don’t affect your behavior in any way then your religious beliefs – and your religion – are no more than a kind of fetishistic ritual akin to rubbing a lucky rabbit’s foot or something and who the hell would vote for somebody who openly admits that he regularly engages in such bizarre behavior?

      1. But that’s ho we gel long now w/o much religion-based strife. If other Jehovists still took their religion as seriously as they used to, it’d be as in so many Moslem countries these days.

        1. Not necessarily – there’s a reasonable interpretation of religion as a set of dictates for the religious to live by, not to force others to live by.

          1. Some religions work that way, others don’t.

  12. I would rather someone use a religious faith a means of drawing guiding principles for how to live his/her life than someone whose religion – churchy or secular – becomes the cudgel forcing everyone else to live that way. In other words, the preachy folks scare me less than the ones who see govt as god.

  13. I would actually *hope* that Dr. Carson follows the political teachings of his denomination:

    “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is mindful of the long history of the involvement of the people of God in civil affairs. Joseph wielded civil power in Egypt. Similarly, Daniel rose to the heights of civil power in Babylon and the nation was benefited as a result. In our own church history, Adventists have joined with other religious and secular organizations to exert influence over civil authorities to cease slavery and to advance the cause of religious freedom. Religious influence has not always resulted in the betterment of society, however. Religious persecution, religious wars, and the numerous examples of social and political suppression perpetrated at the behest of religious people, confirms the dangers that exist when the means of the state are used to advance religious objectives….

    1. “When Adventists become leaders or exert influence in their wider society, this should be done in a manner consistent with the golden rule. We should therefore work to establish robust religious liberty for all and should not use our influence with political and civil leaders to either advance our faith or inhibit the faith of others. Adventists should take civic responsibilities seriously. We should participate in the voting process available to us when it is possible to do so in good conscience and should share the responsibility of building our communities. Adventists should not, however, become preoccupied with politics, or utilize the pulpit or our publications to advance political theories.

      “Adventists who are civic leaders must endeavor to adhere to the highest standards of Christian behavior. As modern-day Daniels, God will lead them and their fidelity to Him will inspire their community.”

  14. I guess I’m supposed to be polite and say faith doesn’t matter.

    1. Your recent actions, I viewed them.

  15. “I’m Presbyterian,” Trump said during a rally on Saturday. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness.”

    Boy, I have no idea what “down the middle of the road” means in this context.

    1. Yeah, Presbyterianism may or may not be middle of the road *now,* but go back far enough in history…or even in the modern era

      1. People who drive in the middle of the road get pulled over and arrested, or cause head on collisions. Trump should stick with his helicopter.

    2. The “Frozen Chosen” are middle-of-the-road? My Episcopalian family would like to have a word with Mr. Trump, once they finish this putt.

    3. “Middle of the road” Christianity means you’re open-minded enough to not take a position on whether or not there is a God. It can be differentiated from agnosticism by the fact that agnostics don’t preach what they don’t practice.

    4. It means he’s just like one of us!

  16. I hate people that want to base laws on moral grounds instead of harm.Carson and the drug war is a good example.I also hate preople that see the free market as a zero some game,I win you lose.Sanders and Trump are great examples of that mind set. All of the people running fall in to these two groups,with the exeption on Rand Paul ,mostly.

    1. Harm is a moral ground.

    2. All law is based on moral ground. I’d rather have law based on a basic morality that says ‘treat others as you would have others treat you’ than any other I can conceive off the top of my head.

  17. What fantastically nebulous argument you’ve made here, Stephanie. It’s perfectly reasonable to hold someone to account for their beliefs, but holding them to account for their beliefs is unpluralistic and undemocratic (i.e. unAmerican). But we can and should judge someone based on those values they hold dear, thats democracy! But we shouldn’t punish someone because of the values they hold dear. Or something.

    1. She’s saying we do, & should, judge by religion, but not too much, & not too little. Seems reasonable to me.

  18. That’s an easy one, it comes down to a very few critical points.

    1) Is it crazier than the majority of religions? (Scientology, etc.)

    2) Is it used as a justification for criminal behavior that is against cultural norms (murder, mutilation, child/spousal abuse, etc)?

    3) Are you a door-knocking asshole, or support those that are?

    4) Does it expect the rest of the world to follow along in a particular version of the “end times” without question?

    5) Does it get a lot of mileage out of hate?

    1. In other worlds – all religions.

  19. I love the fact that most of the people who made Carson walk back his comment on the muslims become apoplectic at the mention of any evangelical who gets elected.

    1. I think this is endemic of the left – its primary motivation is its opponents losing. Therefore, anything anyone on the right says must be reflexively opposed, no matter how nonsensical or logical it may be. It’s how the left justifies support for SSM and the womynz, but sides with Islam at every turn. It’s how the left things no one but cops should have guns, then thinks cops are goons if some incident occurs.

      1. The left would not vote for a pure Saint if that Saint had Republican/Independent/Third Party next to his/her name-Ooops! I stand corrected, they voted for Sanders!

  20. All I know is I wouldn’t vote for a Muslim.

    1. Nor should you. Islam is a bloodthirsty cult that threatens to bring a nuclear war at this point in history. The world is better off without it.

      1. What if you agreed 100% with the policy proposals of someone who identified as Muslim. Would you refuse to vote for them?

        1. If they were devout and followed Sharia over the constitution, absolutely. If they were some kind of secularist Jack-Muslim who kind of went along with Islam because he was raised in an Islamic family, I would carefully consider it.

      2. There goes your engorged war boner again, Suicidy.
        Love the jerry curls, by the way.
        Say hello to Woody when you see him.

  21. They made a big deal about Dan Halloran’s rare religion (New Normanni Theod), but he got elected to the NYC council anyway. AFAIK, he was the only elected office holder in NYC in all time who was nominated by the Libertarian Party. He was cross-endorsed by the Republican, Conservative, and Independence parties, so it’s not like he was elected on the LP line alone.

  22. There are many reasons I think Ben Carson has no business being in this race, topmost being his apparent lack of mastery over basically any of the policy issues facing the country today.

    Well, yeah, that really sets him apart from most of the other candidates, doesn’t it?

    1. He’s also black.

      1. He’s also a neurosurgeon. For babies. The democrats like to murder babies. Carson saves them. Not necessarily presidential material, but a good guy. And still better than any democrat.

        1. Suicidy,
          Tell me you’re not half as retarded as your comments make you appear to be.
          YOu’re like a cliche of a retarded backwood, gun-loving, war-boning Republican.
          You can’t be for real, can you?

    2. OTOH most of the other candidates have “mastered policy issues” in ways I disagree with.

  23. Jeremiah Wright.

  24. “Seventh-day Adventists hold some strange-seeming beliefs… that all true disciples of Christ observe the sabbath on Saturdays, not Sundays.”

    Why would that be strange? Christianity started off as a sect of Judaism. Sure, Sunday is when Christ was resurrected, but Saturday is still when God took a break, one doesn’t logically cancel the other out. Seems like Christians should avoid working on Saturday, and go to church on Sunday.

    1. I think the stranger thing about Seventh Day Adventists is that they don’t celebrate Christmas or other religious holidays. But, in my limited experience, they’re extremely non-pushy and accomodating about it.

      1. You’re confusing Adventists with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

        Adventists celebrate Christmas just like the heathen–with Christmas trees and everything.

    2. I’m surprised it’s such a big deal that SDA celebrates the Sabbath on Saturday. Even though Jesus triggered his regeneration into his next body(Known later as Ben Franklin) on Sunday.

  25. A person’s likely actions on policy is the only thing that counts. Sure, there are philosophical, religious, scientific, personal, etc. motivations for actions on policy, but all that really matters is what they would actually do policy-wise. That’s why I would vote for a person who identified as Scientologist or anything else if he/she was 100% in line with what I would agree to on policy.

    But you can’t vote for an atheist because they’re ipso facto dishonest and untrustworthy. /s

  26. I don’t care who finally gets elected, nor do I care what the Fed does/does not do, nor whether, according to Mr or Ms. “investment advisor with a claimed “near perfect prediction record” [insert advisor name of choice] , we are supposedly in for recession, depression, deflation, hyper inflation, a stock market boom, or whatever .

    Why don’t I care?

    Because whatever happens, my entirely self-managed, fully diversified, once per year adjusted long term savings plan will be safely protected and will , 9 times out of 10, grow at an average of 8% per annum over and above the prevailing inflation [or deflation], rate, year in, year out, as it has since 1986 when I started using it.

    Savings plan results 1972-2011:



    1. Go away. You’re a spammer. No one will give you their money.

  27. “In a country that prides itself on religious tolerance?one where a right to free exercise is codified in the first words of the First Amendment?the idea of holding someone’s religion against him strikes many as untoward. Consider the reaction when Carson himself said in September that he wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for president.”

    It should be noted, once again, that the reason Carson wouldn’t vote for a Muslim for President is because he questions Muslims’ commitment to the separation of church and state (our First Amendment conception of which is a Protestant creation).

    The people who got upset about that statement (and the people who supported it) were upset or supporting for exactly the wrong reasons. It was not a pronouncement supporting Christian preeminence over sharia, and it wasn’t an attack on the separation of church and state. Both sides had no idea what they were talking about.

  28. We elected the living incarnation of God on earth in 2008 and 12 according to many liberals.

    1. America did NOT elect me in 2008, or 2012!

  29. “Seventh-day Adventists hold some strange-seeming beliefs?among other things, they think God created all the earth’s living beings over the course of six 24-hour days, and that all true disciples of Christ observe the sabbath on Saturdays, not Sundays.”

    There isn’t anything strange-seeming about Christians being creationists. What may be strange-seeming to a lot of devout Christians is someone like Obama who claims to be Christian and yet doesn’t seem to believe in the Bible.

    I should also pipe up with my standard quip–what Barack Obama says every day about how the economy works is dumber than creationism. And it’s more dangerous, too. If Carson really believes that life on this earth was created in six days by God, that isn’t anywhere near as dangerous or destructive as what Barack Obama believes about how the economy works. I’d take Carson with all his warts over Obama’s economic stupidity any day.

  30. Also, there isn’t anything strange-seeming about fundamentalists who actually believe in the Ten Commandments, and it’s the Fourth Commandment, specifically, that says the Sabbath is on the seventh day of the week rather than the first. Yeah, Adventists believe in the Ten Commandments–oh noes!

    Incidentally, Adventists also notoriously reverence the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”. When Adventists have been drafted in the past, they typically go in as conscientious objectors and refuse to carry a gun. See the case of Desmond Doss on wiki; he was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. The questions people should be asking Carson about his Adventism are, thus, being ignored–because people don’t know what they’re talking about.

    How would Carson square his religious beliefs with duties as President and Commander in Chief? As an Adventist, would he have been a conscientious objector? As an Adventist, could he declare war?

    These are the kinds of questions Adventists are asking themselves about Carson.

    1. But Trump doesn’t know anything about Adventists! He said so himself.

    2. Wasn’t the Julian Calendar devised long after the 10 Commandments? The Jews surely did not change their day of worship to conform to any calendar change. They had been celebrating the Sabbath for centuries by this time.

    3. Incidentally, Adventists also notoriously reverence the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”

      True, though in an ignorant way. The words in Hebrew for “kill” and “murder” are different. The word used in the commandment is “murder”, though some still insist on interpreting it as “kill”.

      Also, it’s a logical absurdity that God would command them not to kill and then tell them to kill chronically disobedient kids, murderers, adulterers, etc.

  31. It’s always OK to judge a candidate by any criteria at all. I won’t vote for a Scientologit, I won’t vote for any of those Westboro Baptist Church assholes, and I won’t vote for anyone who says it’s ok to chop heads off of their detractors.


  32. In a country that prides itself on religious tolerance?one where a right to free exercise is codified in the first words of the First Amendment…

    Does anyone remember it’s also part of Article VI?

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    1. I believe that means that the government can’t say “NO Catholics” or “No Muslims” on the ballot.

      A qualification is a prerequisite to running for office, such as being natural born or of a certain age. There is no restriction on how people may choose to vote.

  33. “When Is It OK to Judge Candidates for Their Faith?”

    When their faith affects the decisions they make in office. Then it’s a clue as to how they will govern, which is all that really matters.

  34. The most powerful and the most awful, destructive religion, is Leftism. Those that attend the mosque of Leftism are the enemies of free, decent people.

    Destroy Leftism whenever you can.

  35. What’s more, it seems right and just that voters would look to the moral bases on which an officeholder will make life-or-death decisions.

    “moral bases“? That would make more sense as basis, but what do I know? I’m not a jernalitz.

    1. Bases, as in the plural of basis. Presumably candidates are allowed to have more than one.

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  38. It’s always fair.
    If a person believes in fairy tales, he’s not fit for government.

  39. Thank you, Stephanie, for going to all this trouble to let me know when it’s “OK” to form an opinion about another person.

  40. Saturday is the Sabbath, ask any Jew. Sunday was used by early Christian so that they could attend Sabbath as well.
    According to Revelations, almost all people, nominally Christian or not will join Satan during the last days. The points mentioned are not really outside Christian beliefs. There as some beliefs that put them outside the normal stream of Christian belief but the ones mentioned are not it.

  41. I’m a little disappointed in Trump for even bringing up religion. I thought he was better than that. Although he is a master of one liner slander, I think he missed the mark on this one and hurt himself more than or just as much as Carson. Still, I guess that is one way to beat a competitor who can’t hold on for much longer.

    Its like saying “Hey, I’m just a *(insert Christian branch), not one of those crazy *(insert a different Christian branch).”

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