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Playing the Religious Pluralism Card Helps Team Romney

I have several Christian friends who refuse to vote for Mitt Romney simply because he’s a Mormon. Their line of reasoning: “Anyone who is so deceived as to believe that God was once a man who lived on the planet Kolob, is not qualified to be President.”

The last time I checked, these particular individuals still believed in a talking serpent, chariots of fire, a Man who walked on water, and a City with pearly gates awaiting their pleasure.

Just sayin’.

I subscribe to Martin Luther’s maxim: I’d rather be ruled by a competent turk than an incompetent Christian. But for some reason, evangelicals seem more worried over ones turkishness than their competence. As a result, when choosing presidents we most often ask ‘Are they Christian?’ not ‘Are they competent?’ Which is why the typical reaction of evangelicals to Mitt Romney is ‘He’s NOT Christian!’ rather than ‘He’s NOT competent!’

Confusing Christianity with competence is another story.

Romney’s initial response to this charge of “non-Christian-ness” was not helpful. In fact, it inflamed the divide. In his recent essay, What Happened to Romney’s Evangelical Problem?,  John-Charles Duffy writes:

When Romney began his presidential run in 2007, he seemed to think that he needed to convince evangelical voters he was a Christian. He spoke of Jesus as his “personal savior,” an expression more characteristically evangelical than Mormon. He professed his faith in the Bible as “the word of God” without mentioning other Mormon scriptures.

This strategy was deeply misguided. …Romney’s message of “I’m Christian, just like you” backfired: it blurred religious boundaries that evangelicals needed to keep bright. (emphasis mine)

The evangelical response to Romney’s Mormon faith isn’t all bad. For one, it tells me evangelicals are still awake enough to give a rip about theology. Secondly, it reveals something that many Americans are sorely, willfully ignorant of: “religious boundaries” and religious differences.

And apparently, acknowledging these religious boundaries and theological differences is paying off for Mitt. In fact, it’s been Romney’s distancing himself from evangelicals that is winning them over. Duffy continues:

Evangelicals weighed in on Romney’s errant strategy. In 2007, the dean of Bob Jones University, Robert Taylor, told Salon that he was prepared to endorse Romney for “his values.” But, he cautioned, if Romney used his campaign to promote Mormonism as a legitimate Christian denomination, “that would make it very different.” In October of 2007, Bloomberg News quoted two sympathetic evangelical politicos, Congressional Representative Bob Inglis and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land, who warned Romney that if he wanted to avoid alienating evangelical voters, he needed to stop passing Mormonism off as equivalent to evangelical Christianity. “When he goes around and says Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, he ticks off at least half the evangelicals,” Land observed. “He’s picking a fight he’s going to lose.”

Romney appeared to have gotten the message by December of 2007, when he delivered his “Faith in America” speech from the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas. That speech transmitted three points crucial for winning support from conservative evangelicals who were open to backing a Mormon. First, Romney was a social conservative who deplored secularism in public life. Second, while he considered himself a Christian, he acknowledged that his “church’s beliefs about Christ” differ “from those of other faiths.” Third, notwithstanding their theological differences, people of different faiths could work together around common values. (emphasis mine)

On all three of these points evangelicals should agree. Especially about Romney’s admission that his “church’s beliefs about Christ” differs “from those of other faiths.” This admission is changing the tone of our conversation. At Liberty University’s commencement address (transcript HERE), Duffy notes that Romney “managed to extol conservative Christian values without ever explicitly identifying himself as Christian.”

It’s no coincidence, then, that Romney is making inroads with Christian voters.

Playing the religious pluralism, Christian values card, is helping Mitt Romney. Apparently, evangelicals will join your cause… as long as you don’t pretend to be one.

Either way, evangelical suspicion of Mitt Romney has illuminated an important, but often obscured fact: All religions ARE NOT the same. It’s beyond me how anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of world religions can believe that all faiths are equal. There’s a reason why world religions cannot COEXIST. They are intrinsically different. Nevertheless, our multicultural mindframe has duped us into believing that Christians and Mormons and Buddhists and Urantians are one big happy family. The backlash against Mitt Romney is illustrating an essential conviction of evangelical Christians — some beliefs are just plain false.

This is a good reaction.

Whether or not Mormonism makes one an “incompetent turk” is another story.

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{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Robin Steege August 22, 2012, 6:26 AM

    Super interesting…I liked what you had to say.

  • Jessica Thomas August 22, 2012, 6:51 AM

    I’m glad to hear he’s not trying to blur the lines anymore. I hope his Mormonism becomes a non-issue. I’m all for the competent turk idea, although I won’t comment on whether or not I think Romney is competent.

    Christians appear confused when they hold up the country’s founding documents as if they are sacred and then the next moment, say they won’t vote for a Mormon. Do they want equal rights, freedom of speech, freedom of regligion, etc., or don’t they?

    • Mike Duran August 22, 2012, 7:35 AM

      Jessica, I’ve never been big on the” Christian Nation” thing. Yes, it’s pretty clear that Christian principles, a Christian worldview, informs our Constitution. But many of the founders clearly were not “Christian” as evangelicals define it.

      • Jessica Thomas August 23, 2012, 10:21 AM

        Researched Mormonism a bit more yesterday. It’s stranger than I thought and…well, yeah… Romney definitely needs to stay focused on the issues and not on Joseph Smith who dabbled in the occult and translated an Egyptian scroll by peering at a rock inside a dark hat thereby creating the foundation of a new religion that borrows “sacred” rituals from Freemasonry. Yep, let’s just stay focused on the issues. Granted, Christians believe God talked to Moses from a burning bush, but God spoke while Moses was minding his own business (versus looking for buried treasure with a shiny rock and a divining rod).

  • Kessie August 22, 2012, 7:21 AM

    I think picking up Paul Ryan has helped his chances. I just hope they put their money where their mouths are.

  • Nicole August 22, 2012, 7:26 AM

    Then there’s voting for Obama because he said he was a Christian but has done nothing at all to give evidence to that. Nothing. The truth is we can’t really know the spiritual heart of a man, but we can ascertain his competence to function in a leadership role which apparently few discerned of the current president. Pagan kings and leaders did both right and wrong in God’s sight, and He changed some dramatically.

    • Mike Duran August 22, 2012, 7:49 AM

      Nicole, Obama’s claim to faith is equally fascinating. I particularly found his interview w/ this journalist enlightening. http://cathleenfalsani.com/obama-on-faith-the-exclusive-interview/

      • Jessica Thomas August 22, 2012, 10:14 AM

        I’m not going to say Obama isn’t saved, what do I know, but he seems to be on some slippery sand here. (Putting it lightly)

        “I believe that there are many paths to the same place…”

        I honestly think the man is…I guess “confused” is the word. It doesn’t seem he’s been able to draw distinct lines around his various religious influences. Me personally, I don’t consider him a “Christian” president. But ultimately God knows his soul. I don’t.

  • Nicole August 22, 2012, 8:07 AM

    It is an interesting and very telling interview. His Christianity, like many progressives, has his own definition/slant. Much like his politics.

  • Nikole Hahn August 22, 2012, 8:30 AM

    The question is: who would you rather have in office? Obama or Romney? A vote for a third party or writing in Mickey Mouse helps Obama. Not voting helps Obama. Look up the stats for how many Republicans compared to Democrats who did not vote last presidential election. I blame them for helping Obama get in the office. While ideally I would love a strong Christian in the oval office, our choices are between Freedom or a total change in how America looks. I’d vote for the turk if the turk is more competent than the other person running.

    Mormonism is not Christianity. We know this, but Mormons do not. From the very top of their organization, they have tried this new PR movement to convince everyone that Mormonism is Christianity. We can pray for Romney and meanwhile let’s focus on the other issues.

    • Nikole Hahn August 22, 2012, 8:33 AM

      “Either way, evangelical suspicion of Mitt Romney has illuminated an important, but often obscured fact: All religions ARE NOT the same. It’s beyond me how anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of world religions can believe that all faiths are equal. There’s a reason why world religions cannot COEXIST. They are intrinsically different. Nevertheless, our multicultural mindframe has duped us into believing that Christians and Mormons and Buddhists and Urantians are one big happy family. The backlash against Mitt Romney is illustrating an essential conviction of evangelical Christians — some beliefs are just plain false.” Amen!

    • Jill August 22, 2012, 12:14 PM

      A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for a third party candidate, not a vote for Obama. This kind of manipulation keeps the two-party system intact. No, thanks.

  • John Robinson August 22, 2012, 12:10 PM

    While voting for a cultist is unpleasant, voting for futher unchecked socialistic drift is unthinkable.

    We might (operative word “might”) be able to begin to turn the ship away from the economic shoals with Romney, but another four years of that wealth distributin’, abortion lovin’, preverted sex pushin’ jackanape occupying the throne at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will push us past the point of no return.

    Then it’ll simply be a matter of cigars, brandy, and a final chorus of Nearer my God to Thee.

    • jed August 26, 2012, 11:55 AM

      John, Romney was staunchly pro-choice before he became pro-life. He was for full equality for gays and lesbians before he was against gay marriage. He supported the banker bailouts, the hugest single ‘wealth-redistribution’ scheme ever. For every Mitt, there is an equal and opposite Mitt; and that Mitt looks exactly like Obama.

  • Jill August 22, 2012, 12:19 PM

    Romney is perfectly competent at furthering the current agenda. Who could think differently? As far as Romney being a Mormon–I wouldn’t vote for a candidate who is a part of the Vatican, but I would vote for a Catholic. I apply the same rule to Mormon candidates.

  • Nicole August 22, 2012, 12:26 PM

    Jill, you can’t truly believe Romney will give us more of the same. You can vote for whomever you like, but don’t kid yourself that a third, fourth, fifth, or so on candidate is a worthwhile vote. You don’t have to like the two-party system, but that’s what we have right now. And it isn’t “manipulation” to suggest a vote for any other candidate besides the Dem or Repub in this election is a meaningful vote. It will subtract from one or the other, and Obama has proven he can’t lead anywhere but to desolation. The facts of his presidency speak for themselves. Romney’s whole concept of this country is determinedly different from the incumbent. And anyone who still thinks Obama “inherited” this mess? Then he’s unequivocally proven he cannot fix it.

    • Katherine Coble August 23, 2012, 6:25 AM

      My vote is my voice. My tacit assent for the values and ideals displayed by the candidate for whom I’m voting.

      I do not cast my vote lightly. I do not cast my vote out of fear or a sense of gamesmanship. I do not stand up as a free woman, in front of my God and my countryman and say “yes, I support this person as my choice to serve us and lead us” unless I actually think and feel that the name on the ballot I cast is worthy of my approval.

      That is not a worthless vote, because I am not a worthless person and my values and ideals are not worthless either.

      No, my vote for a third party candidate will not “subtract” from Obama or Romney because my vote does not de facto belong to Obama or Romney. My vote belongs to ME.

      • Nicole August 23, 2012, 7:25 AM

        Katherine, it’s not a matter of your value as a person whatsoever. It’s a matter of your participation as a citizen, your ability to decide if you want the casting of your vote to actually help the direction of your town, city, country. Your vote matters and your vote makes a statement. And, yes, whether or not you accept that your vote will or won’t “subtract” from the Democrat or Republican candidate, if it’s cast for another candidate on the ballot, it will in fact do so. It might make a powerful statement to you for the values you think are the most important or salient, but in this particular election there are two extremely distinct choices the people of this country have been given. Your vote lies in your ability to discount just you and vote as member of this country. And while no candidate ever has presented us with perfection in an election, this time it’s a matter of voting for one or the other ideologies, and the present one has demonstrated the kind of destruction he intends to continue.

        • jed August 25, 2012, 6:38 PM

          ^”Blah blah blah blah…Your vote lies in your ability to discount just you and vote as member of this country. blah blah blah blah…”

          This sounds an awful lot like the Borg saying “Resistance is futile”. Resistance is most assuredly NOT futile.

          Stop buying in to the Collective. Start living life as an individual and not as a member of some dubious group.

          We are the System only as long as we participate in it. When we stop participating the system ceases to exist, because we are the system.

          Mass peaceful non-compliance will bring the system to a grinding halt, because our participation gives it life.

          Liberty: an idea whose time has come.

          • Nicole August 25, 2012, 8:48 PM

            There’s such a thing as liberty, and there’s such a thing as fantasy, jed. You’re living in a non-compliant utopian surreality if you honestly think your definition of “liberty” will work.

            This country’s version of liberty works when properly exercised according to the law of the land, which for you pseudo-peace types, is known as the Constitution, much of which has been ignored and overruled by the current administration.

            However, the beauty of your “ideal” is that you are free to attempt to practice it in the USA. But don’t forget by your own philosophy, you create your own collective.

            • jed August 26, 2012, 11:10 AM

              I gave you no definition of Liberty! That is outlined for us in federal government being restricted to the to the “enumerated powers” listed Constitution and not violating the Bill of Rights! Both major parties do not acknowledge this, but we are lending it our tacit support. No utopia here! Sorry!

    • Jill August 23, 2012, 8:45 AM

      Wow, this comment is both manipulative and highly insulting. My vote is worthless? Wow, seriously, that’s some cheek on your part. “Romney’s whole concept of this country is determinedly different from the incumbent.” ROFL!!!

      • Nicole August 23, 2012, 8:49 AM

        Jill, you’re misreading my words. And you can ROFL all you want, but there are two distinct ideologies here. Is Romney a great candidate? Not my first choice by far. But is he a better candidate than Obama? Who could be worse?

        • Jill August 23, 2012, 5:41 PM

          And what are these distinct ideologies?

        • jed August 25, 2012, 6:42 PM

          Okay, here’s the challenge: Post just one point of Romney’s so-called ‘distinct ideology’.

          • Nicole August 25, 2012, 8:51 PM

            That you can “build it” here. You don’t need the government’s daily intrusion, sustenance, regulation, and disarmament to live a decent life in the USA. This is “distinctly” different from Obama’s. And if you’re Ron Paul types, there’s no way his foreign policy/isolationism will work in this world.

            • jed August 26, 2012, 11:23 AM

              Wai..wai..wait! we said ‘distinct ideology’, NOT campaign slogans!

              For example, they both support: gay marriage, being pro-choice, gun control, individual mandate socialized medicine, NDAA, Patriot Act, TARP Bailouts, continued wars, etc. — And that is just off the top of my head! If I did some more research I am sure I could uncover more. And this is not even commenting on whether I agre/disagree with any of these positions; no, it is simply to show how deeply they align on an ideological level which is mostly progressive.

              • Nicole August 27, 2012, 6:49 AM

                Jed, they are not “both” for the same things you listed here. And if this is what your research came up with, don’t bother doing any more.

            • Jill August 26, 2012, 1:05 PM

              What is a “Ron Paul” type, exactly?

              • Nicole August 27, 2012, 6:54 AM

                The Ron Paul types I know are primarily intellectuals, don’t believe in war, think if we isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and don’t defend anyone else in trouble, we’ll be good here. Some are pro-choice which he “used” to be. And, generally speaking, the consensus is that their “solutions” are far more intelligent than anyone else’s. That’s strictly speaking from the people I know who support(ed) him.

  • Bob Avey August 22, 2012, 3:36 PM

    Mitt Romney is closer to being a Christian than Barack Obama ever thought about being.

  • Jennifer Major @Jjumping August 23, 2012, 9:15 AM

    Phewff. I am so glad I’m Canadian. Our Prime Minister is sort of bland, kind of dull but has held our economy together. Very few voters in my country worry about our leader’s faith.. To us, it’s about keeping us on a solid ecomic path and being a presence on the world stage. BTW, our Prime Minister is Wesleyan.

    • jed August 25, 2012, 6:44 PM

      Canada: Presence on the World Stage? (I hope you are referring to the Olympics!) Let me know when y’all decide to invade sovereign nations, kill civilians, and put military bases everywhere to advance “Democracy”!

      • Jessica Thomas August 26, 2012, 4:47 AM

        Rude. Many Canadians have died in the name of freedom. I’m offended on behalf of my northern neighbors.

        • jed August 26, 2012, 11:12 AM

          I’m sure you are! But my point raises a valid question: how are we defining “Presence on the World Stage”? America has achieved it through the activities that I mentioned. Hopefully Canada is not trying to emulate this model or follow in our path.

  • DD August 23, 2012, 5:29 PM

    I can’t remember any recent president who really made his religious beliefs center stage. That’s not why they are there or the way the office is set up. Now that Romney has been honest about his beliefs and not trying to obscure them, I don’t think being Mormon is an issue. The issue is how will his beliefs/worldview inform his decisions? In that respect, his morals are very similar and compatible. The bigger issue may be are the Christians who think Mormonism is just another denomination.

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