The ties that bind, as the old hymn goes, are blessed. This year though, they’re bigoted. And they’ve put Values Voters in a bind they need to escape. Of the announced candidates, only Governor Mitt Romney has voiced any strong professions of faith, but unfortunately for him, it may be the wrong one.
The subject of religion failed to surface during Tuesday night’s GOP debate in Colombia, South Carolina. In fact, the only time religious beliefs came up at all was when the candidates particulars (name, age, religion, state, vocation, in that order) were simply flashed on the screen at the beginning of the debate.
Mitt Romney’s candidacy, on the other hand, can hardly be mentioned without citing his Mormon faith. So, why the perpetual interest? Its because of the evangelical vote. He needs it, and he may not get it, but not because of him, because of their own blinding bigotry.
The evangelical vote is, for the most part, a reliable one for the GOP. As a voting bloc they rose to public notoriety in 2000 and 2004 when the Values Voters voted their values and ushered George W. Bush into the White House. Evangelicals have always maintained a demanding, yet adulating, relationship with President Bush. While the nominations of Roberts and Alito seemed inexplicably insignificant to them, his failed attempt at a Federal Marriage Amendment earned devout praises. Still, he remains in their steadfast embrace–albeit grip–because of his claim to be “born-again.” In short, prejudice abounds with the God-fearing Texan, not so much with the Mormon-practicing Mitt.
While one would expect the average unbeliever to be skeptical of a religion that at best seems unconventional, it’s a bit hypocritical, and bigoted for evangelicals to be so, well, bigoted. After all, polygamy notwithstanding, Mormons have a solid, and compared to some denominations of Protestants, extremely high code of moral ethics.
Yet evangelicals have been slow, if reluctant, to embrace a fellow believer in Jesus Christ. A few weeks ago, the Washington Times reported that “leading religious conservatives are expressing dissatisfaction with the party’s current crop of presidential candidates.” Likewise, a recent article in the Boston Globe said a gulf lies “between Mormonism and mainline Christianity for many evangelicals” and proved it by citing several polls that “have indicated that a significant portion of the electorate might be unlikely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president.”
Theological differences between Mormons and evangelicals could fill Bryce Canyon in Utah but it need not produce the disdain, the disapproval, the downright bigotry that is rampant. It’s not only a bit unChristian, it’s unnecessary. Many evangelicals frown upon Mormonism for its secret religious rituals, the enigma of Joseph Smith, and reverence of books other than the Bible. While they need not embrace Mormonism, evangelicals should at least shake hands with Mitt: he’s well-educated, well-informed, well-experienced and well-suited for the Presidency. He’s also a man of strong moral conviction and family values, which leads us back to those fastidious Values Voters.
Why is it so important that a person of faith — particularly theirs — take residence in the White House? Many evangelicals behave as though only a person who embraces their particular belief system can be an outstanding President. That their job during an election year is to vote for a “Christian President,” or at least a person of socially acceptable, or “Christian” faith. This is a problem. And not because of separation of church and state. It’s a problem because it’s extraneous. An evangelical president does not produce a prospering America.
As the Apostle Paul said, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” so, one could argue, does faith. Faith-filled voters embraced George W. Bush because of his faith but may not have been evaluated for little else since he was a “fellow believer.” Likewise, the same could occur with Romney; he could either be embraced or shunned because of his faith alone, regardless of any of his other qualities. Every voter should evaluate Mitt based on his record, his decisions, his character and his values, not his particular theological leanings, even if they do differ from the mainstream. Though he never mentioned his Mormon religion in last night’s debate, Romney instead said in the “blue-black” state of Massachusetts, he stood strong for conservative values. Keep in mind, it’s Mitt the man, not the Mormon church, who is running for office and asking for a vote.
The evangelical bigotry toward Mitt Romney for his Mormon faith needs to stop. It hinders conservatism, misrepresents Christianity, and even confuses potential converts. It’s time those petulant Values Voters walk their talk and prepare to leave their own bigoted ties at the altar, as a pastor would say, or perhaps, the voting booth.
Nicole Russell is a writer in Washington, D.C.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire