As a former evangelical Christian who was taught that Mormonism is a cult, I wonder how faithful God- and Obama-fearing evangelicals will be this November when it comes time to cast their votes. In order to rid themselves of our funky President, they will have to validate the funky religion of Mitt Romney.
And I will enjoy watching them wrestle with their biblical angst, as the election nears.
Mike Huckabee, at one-time a Romney rival, gave us a peek at this theological anxiety when he famously asked in 2007, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Claiming the question was a “traditional smear” of the Mormon faith, Romney accepted Huckabee’s subsequent apology. Except what Huckabee suggested wasn’t a smear. Mormonism does consider Jesus and Satan brothers, but scholars assure us that long ago God had the good sense to give the rebellious bro a celestial ass-kicking and send him packing.
All of which goes to illustrate how strange is Mormonism, the 19th-century religious concoction that conservative evangelicals have always regarded as an ungodly cult. And it also shows how eager Mormons are to get the theological blessing of their fellow political conservatives.
According to a Pew Forum poll last November, 75% of U.S. Mormons support the Republican Party and 66% call themselves conservative. And while about half of all Americans consider Mormonism to be Christian, I have never met an evangelical who does. So, this November can conservative evangelicals really come to peaceful theological terms with an LDS church that considers itself the only true church?
Will they authenticate, via their votes, a religion that believes God actually bonked Mary to produce Jesus? Can they accept the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead by proxy? Or that Romney actually baptized some (hopefully grateful) dead folks himself from time to time? Or can they accept the contention that Jesus made a pit stop in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection? Or that all of us eternally existed as some kind of intelligence?
How about the Mormon idea that God has a body? And a wife? In fact, wives. Can right-wing evangelicals actually pull the lever for a man who is by all accounts fiercely dedicated to a church that believes that? Or that believes The Book of Mormon is also the Word of God? Or that humans can become gods?
It may startle some local conservatives when they consider that the Mormon writer Cleon Skousen—whose book, The 5,000 Year Leap, has been heavily promoted by Jasper County Republican honcho John Putnam during local Tea Party rallies—says that our earth was actually created near a star-planet called Kolob and then sort of U-Hauled to our solar system. I’d hate to see the size of that trailer hitch.
And Missouri evangelicals may cringe at the Mormon contention that the New Jerusalem, where allegedly Jesus will one day rule, will be built right here in our state. Which is perfect, since Mormon founder Joseph Smith believed that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in western Missouri, a place only those in the know regard as the real home of the Talking Snake.
For his part, Romney, a former Mormon bishop, has mostly shied away from talking about his faith, mainly for the reasons above. But he said in 2007,
I’ve made it very clear, I do not try and distance myself from my faith in any way, shape, or form. I’ve been asked time and again, “will you distance yourself from your church, will you disavow this practice?” and the answer is “no.”
But there are plenty of evangelicals who are eager to tell us why Mormonism is a no-no. One of them is the Reverend R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, a stone’s throw (for God, anyway) from what will be the New Jerusalem. The Southern Baptist leader believes that Mormons worship a false god, believe in a false Jesus, and preach a false gospel, a heresy trifecta.
Roberts told The New York Times that he doesn’t much worry about Romney “using his position as either a candidate or as president of the United States to push Mormonism.” His worry is much more important for a conservative Christian theologian:
The concern among evangelicals is that the Mormon Church will use his position around the world as a calling card for legitimizing their church and proselytizing people.
You see, it is the legitimization of Mormonism as a Christian religion that the election of Mitt Romney will most certainly guarantee. If this severely devoted Mormon makes it to the White’s House—and he can’t without the help of evangelicals—it will be impossible for conservative Christians, who fervently believe this is a “Christian nation,” to claim ever again that Mormonism is a cult.
Is that a price Bible-believing evangelicals are willing to pay?
[photo from: http://westsiderepublicans.com/?p=6195]