What is the first thing that pops into the mind of an evangelical when they think of Mitt Romney?
“He’s a Mormon.”
Whether they like him or not, that’s probably the first thing that comes to mind. He’s one of those people that thinks he can become a god. You know, those folks that wear the weird underwear and practice polygamy. Well, for the record, the LDS church hasn’t practiced polygamy in over 100 years, but I think you see my point. Romney is a member of one of the largest yet strangest religions in the United States.
Now, I’m not here to defend Mormonism by any means. I’m a Christian, and I guess you could even call me an evangelical (though the connotation seems a bit deceptive). I would readily agree with most evangelical Christians in thinking that Mormonism is a cult. I’d also say that Mormonism is not a form of traditional Christianity because of some of its peculiar beliefs about Jesus Christ, among other things.
So I suppose I can sympathize with the reservation that evangelicals have concerning a Mormon president. Electing a Mormon to the White House will give that “cult” some form of “validation.” At least, that’s the logic that certain evangelicals have.
However, I take an alternate perspective. I have not and will not vote for a candidate on the basis of religion. I’m not voting for a religion, I’m voting for a candidate. If I was voting for the religion of a candidate, I never would have voted in my life. Not a single candidate I’ve voted for has a had a religion just like mine. Have I compromised my own beliefs or values in doing that? I hardly think so!
What is ironic in all of this is that no one is really discussing the religion of other candidates. Rudy Giuliani is a Catholic. Fred Thompson is a non-churchgoing member of the Church of Christ, which is by far the closest to my own religious affiliation. John McCain was an Episcopal and converted to Baptist (couldn’t that be considered flip-flopping?). Mike Huckabee is a Baptist. Ron Paul is some form of Protestant. Yet, their religious beliefs are not nearly as scrutinized as Mitt Romney’s.
While Romney may be the main candidate in this race scrutinized on the basis of his religion, he is certainly not the first. John F. Kennedy was also criticized for being a Catholic. The sentiment was that a Catholic would not serve the needs of Americans, but instead, he would yield to the authority of the papacy in Rome. However, as Kennedy’s presidency would show, this was not the case.
Believe it or not, a founding father of this nation would not be considered worthy by evangelicals today. This individual held beliefs like the idea that Christ was not divine, the Bible needed to be “corrected,” and that Christ was simply nothing but a great moral teacher. Besides the idea of “errors” in the Bible, these beliefs extended to an even further extreme past traditional Christianity than that of Mormonism. What kind of ghastly infidel such as this could dare make his way to the office of Commander-in-Chief? None other than Thomas Jefferson.
I certainly wouldn’t say that Jefferson’s religious beliefs were validated by his election to office.
On the flip-side, let’s look at a few evangelical Presidents. What about Bill Clinton? He’s a Southern Baptist, so he’s got the right credentials, doesn’t he? What about Jimmy Carter? He was also a Southern Baptist, even a Sunday School teacher as I recall. Would these men be better for our country than a Mormon? Are these men what we would call “evangelical standard-bearers?”
Personally, when people say they won’t vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, I can’t see it as anything but a form of bigotry.
Look at the top four candidates: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Fred Thompson. Which one of those has been married to the same woman for the past 30 or so years? Mitt Romney. Doesn’t that count for something? Shouldn’t that speak volumes for his personal convictions?
Mormons are known for their moral lifestyles. Their values are generally on par with that of evangelicals. Why can’t we put aside specific religious beliefs to support a candidate that shares our values?
How many Baptists voted for Bush, a Methodist? How many Catholics? Mormons? How many people in the realm of Christendom have voted for a candidate that doesn’t share their exact religious beliefs? Most people vote for the politicians that share their values, not their personal religious beliefs.
And all this talk of Romney flip-flopping on abortion also grinds my gears. Whenever an evangelical says they can’t vote for Romney because he “used to be pro-choice,” it’s as if they are admitting that the pro-life movement is unable to change the hearts and minds of Americans: “The very idea of that Mitt Romney thinking he can be pro-life! You must be born pro-life! No one can become pro-life!”
Such reasoning is lost on me. If anything, as a fellow pro-life voter, I appreciate that Romney has embraced our values.
The sadly ironic thing about all of this is that there are actually evangelicals out there that would sacrifice their pro-life convictions and vote for Giuliani instead of Romney because Giuliani isn’t a Mormon and because he’s the “only candidate” can beat Hillary Clinton. And to those people, I say shame on you.
If you don’t like Mitt Romney, that’s fine. Disagree with his stances on healthcare, taxes, the economy, the war in Iraq, the federal government, or whatever. Just don’t be ignorant enough to not vote for him on the basis of his religion. And if you’re an evangelical, don’t be naive enough to think that his morals and values are all that different than your own.