The Mormon Question
Pondering American Tackles the Mormon Question and will without a Doubt offend Countless others.
A little poll by the LA Times and Bloomburg ,set the blogs and politicos talking this week. In that poll 37 percent said they would not vote for a Mormon to be President. Well you can just imagine the reaction of the Romney camp to this poll. Full attack mode. I have noticed that beside how organized the Romney camp is on the internet , it is also quite ferocious when angered. Well more on that in a bit. Romney needless to say is a pretty active Mormon and comes from a pretty big political tradition From the above article:
The governor is from a family that is almost as political as it is Mormon. His late father, George Romney, was a three-term governor of Michigan who also made a brief, unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination. Lenore Romney, the Massachusetts governor's late mother, lost a Republican bid for the U.S. Senate.Mitt Romney, who made a fortune as a venture capitalist, suffered defeat in his maiden political outing in 1994 when he ran against Democrat Edward M. Kennedy for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts.As a young man, Romney was a Mormon missionary in France. He graduated from LDS-sponsored Brigham Young University in Utah. Romney was president of an LDS stake — a group of local congregations, comparable to a Catholic diocese — in Belmont, Mass., where his family settled more than 30 years ago. He has also overseen a local Mormon congregation as a bishop.A great-grandfather had five wives, but the church now opposes polygamy, as does Romney. The Mormon Church has about 12.5 million members worldwide, according to the church website; a little under half are in the U.S.Romney is reticent about his religion, citing privacy and contending that candidates should not be judged on their "brand of faith." But he regularly describes himself as a Christian, saying, "Jesus Christ is my savior."
So what to make of all this. The big question that the media and some campaigns are trying to bring up is , will Americans and in particular the Evangelical community vote for a Mormon?
First a little bit on this poll. Besides the 37 percent that said they would not vote for an Mormon , 10 percent said they would not vote for a Catholic and a whopping 21 percent would not vote for a evangelical for President. So it appears that many of these people just don't want anyone very religious at all and are pretty much bigoted and believe all these fanciful sterotypes about Christians of a certain mindset. A couple of Romney blogs commented on this poll including this analysis. I would say that besides for a few minor points, I would agree with this guy's conclusions. It should be point out further that this poll is sampling the whole Univerise. It is not sampling likely voters for the most part.
At some point this whole "Are Mormons Christians question " is going to explode full fury on the scene. I expect some well known Republican or perhaps a Conservative Religious Leader is going to say something about this and there will be quite a firestorm for a couple of weeks. Romney and their folks are preparing for this and will in my view come out the winner in that saga. If you asked me if the Mormon religion was Christian ,I would have no problem without hesitation saying NO. I expect many Christians such as myself have a idea that if a group calls its Christian it needs to look something like Early Christianity and be something similar to the Nicene Creed. In reality, what is the deal breaker historically is how a group calling itself Christian views the Trinity. The Trinitarian GOD and allegiance to it, is often the major point in deciding if something can be classifyed as connected to Historic Christianity or not. Needless to say that is one of many doctrines where the Mormons differ. I expect Mormons would not be to offended by what I just said because according to them what I call Historic Christianity went off the rails just as soon as Jesus left this planet. However, is that going to matter to the average "Christian Voter"?
I think not. First, we have cases where we have seen things like this. For instance, Pentecostals in my State are a very active group in the political scene. I have been to more Pentecostal Church services with political hopefuls than I can count. In Louisiana, Pentecostals often vote in bloc and getting their vote is a must. Now, if you hang in Pentecostal churches very much you will notice that in certain branches of that faith something is a tad off if your not Pentecostal. In most Pentecostal churches down here, such as the UPC, it becomes quite apparent that their view of the Trinity is quite nonexistance. As I told one campaign staffer after a event at a rural UPC Church in North Louisiana, I felt I had been transported back in time and was listening to a congregation of Arians led by Bishop Arius in 340 AD. By the way, again is this offensive? I think not because Pentecostals are quite open about their disapproval of this Polytheism as they call it. Do we go around calling Pentecostal Arians or non Christians? Of course not. That would be improper but the issue is still there in the background. So here we have a group that like the Mormon's cannot be classifyed as Historical Christianity as defined by over a billion Christians. It also by the way , is often accused of being a cult similar to some charges against the Mormons. It also has some practices that are outside the mainstream Baptist church just down the road. However, everyone goes and ask for their votes ,and people from the Pentecostal faith run for public office all the time and get elected. In other words , do folks on the whole keep the issues of ,"is the UPC Pentecostal Church really Christian" and who they vote for in the voting booth pretty separate. I am pretty sure they do. I know I do in that and similar situations. There are similar examples I guess with people that practice the Christian Science Faith and certain Branches of the 7th Day Adventist Church. Again, I am living in the middle of the Bible Belt as it is called and I just use this as example of something similar to a Mormon situation. Another example are folks that think the Catholic Church is pretty much the whore portrayed in the Book of Revelation , but they keep voting Catholics into office.
Now , I am not naive. Mormons are not Pentecostals or Catholics or for that matter Jehovah Witnesses. Mormons have needless to say some different views. I am sure by January 2008 we will know more than we want to know about "Baptism for the Dead", Special Clothes for rituals, and secret ceremonies(all available on the internet by ex Mormon's which by the way nothing too shocking is going on), this kinda of UTAH Pope like figure in Salt Lake City and a good bit of stuff that Mormons don't believe but will passed off as fact by anti Mormons. But is it going to be a factor with the non mormon population in voting? Well ,unless there is some verse in the Book of Mormon that indicates the end of World will happen when a Mormon is elected President I think not, especially in the South. I have a secret suspicion that the Romney campaign might be wanting this whole debate to go on for a while. First off most people have visions of Mormons as all being great upstanding folks that are all Moral and Family loving . I used to think this sterotype was correct till I saw Senator Reid lol. That provides some cover to positions that Romney's opponents will call Liberal. Second, it keeps Romney in the news and at least makes him interesting and something different. Third , this could very well backfire on the person that is perceived to make a issue of it. From what I observe, most folk's view as to religion qualifications as too elected officials, is they don't want them to be a raving Atheist or into something extremely weird. Weird like Wicca for instance or snake handling. If Romney gets up there and says the famous phrase ,as he has , that "Jesus is my Savior" and is viewed as sincere , I think that will be fine with the majority of the folks in the pews. Romney has much bigger concerns over the issue of Gun Rights with the person in the typical Southern Church than any doctrinal stance of the Latter Day Saints.
However, again groups have to be careful here. If Romney is attacked on his religion down here I predict it will backfire big time. Why? Because in the Bible Belt despite what the media and Hollywood portrays, religion is not some monolithic Creature with a few Catholics, such as myself, sprinkled in. In the small town I live in there are numerous churches. Many of them in direct quite spirited opposition to each others views. It has been like that forever. The key is that outside these deep held Religious beliefs there is also a another cherished view. That is to make a issue of someone's religion as to politics, business, friendship, in one's family or moral standing is rude, uncalled for and uncouth. People are quite comfortable down here beliving that your Church's teaching might be the work of Satan but that in no way means you are not a good and responsible person and also would you please babysit the kids tomorrow night. That's what has always made the very religious south work. It is respect for ones neighbor despite religious differences. Convert people all you want , but just keep all the religious controversy out of business and social life. That is one reason why Catholics and Jews have since the 1800's thrived here both in social and political life for the most part. Most of my friends think , that I am endangering my soul and blaspheming because I pray to the Virgin Mary. However that doesn't stop us from having a good time working together and having fun at the hunting camp. It is an unoffical social contract. Woe to the person that violates that. So all this talk of problems I believe in the Southern primaries is overblown. Romney will deal with more thornier issue than religion down here
So I have pontificated. Lets take a glimpse at how he is doing. I am quite frankly surprised how well Romney is being received by Evangelicals and conservative Christians. Especially since one of his competitor is a ordained Southern Baptist minister. Early indications show that people are impressed enought to want to hear him out. The big Southern Republican Event in Memphis was quite a success with Romney coming in second to homestate boy Bill Frist. Even though reports of events like this is from perhaps a biased source, I have read the same reports from other sources. I suspect that events are planned in the South. His wife by the way may be a big asset on the trail. I found it interesting as this poll was being conducted that this site appears. Evangelicals For Mitt. This blog like the others one is quite aggresive for this stage in the campaign. In fact, they are on the whole not holding back as to attacking(not all in a bad way) the early perceived leaders in the race. Also, he is going after the Mass going Catholic Vote in a effective way.
Of course the Internet can be deceiving as to true strength. I am sure that many have questions over Romney political stance as well as the Mormon issue. I am convinced that most will come to terms with the religious issue the politics is another issue. I am not quite convinced yet that Romney y is Pro-Life like George W Bush for instance. When I see people being quoted that Romney is the only true viable social conservative , I find that a little hard to believe at this point. IF the Huckabee or BrownBack campaign catches on then Romney might have problems. In the Southern Primaries, Huckabee I think would do quite well. IS this why I see early signs of trying to portray Huckabee, BrownBack, and McCain as perhaps too liberal on certain issues? That is of course laughable but the image and perception is important not the reality. What is his position on the 2nd amendment? On what issues has he had to make compromises on in Massachusetts that would not be considered conservative? Did he have to make those compromises to ensure re- election in Mass? Does that matter? I have other concerns. I like Huckabee and Brownback's view on the illegal alien problem better. I know that puts me in the minority- oh well. And of course one of the most important questions-What kind of War leader will he make? I am still open to Romney and he still has a shot at my support. I must say putting States into play that Republican have not had a chance at since 1984 is very tempting.
I am having fun already and can't wait till it really starts to heat up. It is becoming apparent to me that this Primary campaign could go far longer than we are used too because each man has cetrain strengths with Demographics and Geographical areas. OF course there will be no fire wall set up in States like South Carolina now for the Establishment guy. Because Cheney is not running and thus there is no GOP establishment hopeful in the mix..
Update- I thought I would clarify my comments about the Mormon Religion and Pentecostals Religion not being Christian. First the above is not met to be an Exhaustive post on such issues as possible non valid Baptisms, invincible ignorance, Baptism of Desire or other complicated issues. The above is just what I view as the political reality that will play out. As a Catholic even though we are taught we are the Church, we are also taught that God's Grace cannot be bounded by his Sacraments alone. Therefore, nothing above should be taken that it is my view or the Catholic Churches view that Christ cannot be at work in individual believers of those traditions.