Of Polls, Presbyterians, and Seventh-Day Adventists

At this point in an election cycle the presidential opinion polls are about as meaningful as a first quarter score in a National Basketball Association game, and we really ought to be paying more attention to that awful budget deal President Barack Obama is cooking up with whatever Republicans are still purportedly in charge of Congress, but for the first time in too long we recently saw a couple of polls that didn’t have Donald Trump in the lead, so we can’t help reveling in the numbers.
The latest frontrunner, according to no less but no more an authority than the combined efforts of The New York Times and The Columbia Broadcasting System, is Dr. Ben Carson. If true, this is fine by us, as the Republicans seem intent on nominating someone who has never held any elective office, and of the three candidates who meet that criterion Carson strikes us as much preferable to Trump. It’s not just the stylistic differences between the blustery and bragging billionaire real estate mogul Trump and the soft-spoken and humble physician, although that does matter and obviously favors Carson, but also that Carson has been more consistently conservative in his policy views and seems to have a superior character, which of course matters even more. We’re still inclined to look at the broad field for someone has held elective office, and leaning toward Texas Sen. Ted Cruz because of his steadfast conservatism and otherwise impeccable anti-establishment credentials, but we can see the party doing a lot worse than Carson.
Trump has also lately found himself trailing Carson in the crucial early state of Iowa, where the conventional wisdom has long that evangelical Christian voters are the most important Republican constituency, and he seemed annoyed by the turn of events. In one speech he repeatedly mentioned that he was a Presbyterian, adding that people don’t believe it, and bragging that “boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness.” In an apparent reference to Carson’s denominational affiliation, Trump added, “I mean, Seventh Day-Adventist, I just don’t know about. I just don’t know about.” Being heartland evangelical Christian Republicans ourselves, and thus more familiar with the type than Trump, we can’t see it as an effective strategy.
We also know little about Seventh-Day Adventism, except that its day of worship and rest is on Saturday, which we have to admit makes a certain amount of Old Testament sense, we also have to admit that none of our many Sunday morning sermons have ever explained any New Testament reason they’re wrong, and we figure that we don’t know much more probably speaks well of the church. By now we know all about Sunnis and Shiites and the Koran and the Hadith and taqqiya and hudna and dhimmitude and jizya and all sorts of other Islamic concepts, but that’s only because it’s been more necessary than reading up on relatively placid Seventh-Day Adventism. We also understand that the denomination sprang from the fervent Millerite movement that predicted the end of Earth on a certain date in 1843, which is still known as “The Great Disappointment,” and that it retains a certain fascination with the eschatological scriptures, but this does not seem so incompatible with a constitutional republic as jizya or dhimmitude or Twelfth Imams or certain other religious concepts, and we note that most enlightened of the secularist humanists have their own fervently-blieved end-of-times theories that involve all sorts of onerous carbon taxes and pie-in-the-sky light-rail systems.
We’re more familiar with Presbyterians, and count several of them among our good friends, and the general impression we’ve gleaned from their infrequent talk about their faith is that it is indeed down the middle of the road. John the Revelator might have even called it diocletian, which is an obscure word and even more obscure Biblical reference, but a lot of heartland evangelical Christian Republicans will and they’ll probably be less impressed by Trump’s Presbyterianism than Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism. We can’t look into a man’s heart and have no right to render a final judgment on his everlasting soul, but we can look at Trump’s three marriages and his public boasts of buying off politicians and using the bankruptcy laws to skirt his debts, and one can’t help noticing the haughty spirit and pride, as well as the unmistakable love of filthy lucre, so for the earthly purposes of casting our vote we will adjudge that he’s even less Presbyterian than the most fallen of our Presbyterian friends. Carson certainly seems more steadfastly Seventh-Day Adventist, and for those who are still clinging to their suddenly idiosyncratic religious beliefs, which are suddenly more perilously right-of-the-middle as the culture has lurched so far the irreligious left, that will likely trump Trump’s Presbyterianism. The peculiarities of the Seventh-Day Adventists has earned them a reputation for being litigiously devoted to religious liberty, and at this moment when Catholic nuns are being forced to purchase contraceptive coverage and Baptist bakers are being forced to provide same-sex wedding cakes, and when any fervently held religious beliefs other than jizya and dhimmitude are considered slightly crazy, and astrology and anthropogenic global warming are not, so at this point we’re impressed that the Seventh-Day Adventists have produced such a soft-spoken and humble physician and relatively sane person as Carson.
There’s still plenty of politics left, and that awful budget deal that’s being cooked up will surely figure in it, and somebody who has actually won an election before might wind up winning this election after all, but if it comes down to Trump’s Presbyterian and Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism we expect the heartland evangelical Christian Republican vote will start trending away from Trump.

— Bud Norman