Thursday, November 01, 2007

Open Note to Christian Conservatives

There was a time when I thought that Evangelical Christians and Mormons were in a position to work together. That was in the mutual respect for shared moral views as upheld in the majority Republican Party voters. Both fought for a less secular society and more respect for traditional families, personal property, the sanctity of the unborn, and other similar issues. For at least ten years things were looking promising. Currently there is a need to band together to fight for those values as they are in danger of getting lost after a liberal Democrat take over of Washington. However, the regrouping that should be happening has been stopped by theological arguments that should not be part of a political discussion.

I used to believe that the warnings by the left that the Religious Right wanted to create a Theocracy in the United States similar to Islamic states was unfounded. When there was talk of a "Christian Nation" it was always my assumption that simply meant a nation that respected the "Judeo-Christian" past and values of its founding citizens and ideals. Never did I believe it meant making laws or only accepting for citizenship those that support a specific religious creed or dogma. That is totally against the founding principles of the Constitution.

Recently I have wondered if the left was not horribly correct. Now, I still believe that a liberal is as much against Mormonism as any Evangelical Christian who holds to their Jesus doctrines. The difference is that the liberal would not vote for the Mormon for political reasons and not purely theological ones. They might say that Mormons have stranger beliefs than any other religion, but at least they are usually consistant in saying all religions are suspect.

However, the Evangelical Christian is very picky with who they show displeasure against. Many would not vote for a Mormon no matter what. Although there are some instances when Mormons have been equally as questionable in voting by association when they are the majority, it would be unthinkable from a national perspective. They would not only lose, but have no one to vote for in national elections. There are those who point to the fact that Romney is getting support from some high profile Evangelical Christian leaders as an argument for Religious Right pragmatism. That is nice for him. However, the support is so back handed and laced with so many theological strings that it pretty much disqualifies the support. It reaks of opportunistic theocratic aspirations and self-justifications.

One example includes the following:

"I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, `I am a Christian just like you,' said Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, which is scheduled to hold the first primary among the Southern states. `If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences.''

Another comment tries to be far less direct, but still misunderstands or doesn't care about the Mormon feelings on the matter:

Richard Land said he sees Mormonism "as another faith in the same sense that I would look upon Islam as another faith. I think the fairest and most charitable way to define Mormonism would be to call it the fourth Abrahamic religion — Judaism being the first, Christianity being the second, Islam being the third, and Mormonism being the fourth. And Joseph Smith would play the same character in Mormonism that Muhammad plays in Islam."

I have heard often times by Romney Evangelical Christian supporters the reasoning that they can support him, because God can just as easily lead nations with unbelievers. The examples they use would obviously make a Mormon cringe:

"Or have we come to the point where evangelicals will only vote for people they consider Christians? I hope not, for nothing in the Bible says that people have to be born again Christians before they can be governmental authorities who are used greatly by God to advance his purposes. God used Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to raise Joseph to a position of authority over the whole country, so he could save his people from famine (Genesis 41:37-57). God used Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to protect and raise up Daniel and his Jewish friends to positions of high authority over Babylon (Daniel 2:46-49). God used Cyrus, King of Persia, to restore the Jewish exiles to their homeland (Isaiah 45:16; Ezra 1:1-4), and used Darius, King of Persia, to protect the Jewish people as they rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 6:1-12). God used Ahashuerus, King of Persia, to raise up Esther as Queen and to give Mordecai high authority and honor in his kingdom (Esther 6:10-11; 8:1-2, 7-15). In the New Testament age, God used the peace enforced by the secular Roman Empire, the Pax Romana, to enable the early Christians to travel freely and spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean world.

Here in the United States, God used not only Founding Fathers who were strong Christians, but also Deists such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, to build the foundation of our nation."

Romney may not respond because he is not, as he has said many times before, runnning as the Mormon President. However, most Mormons would agree with the statement made by Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, "The fact that we are Christians is non-negotiable." There are those who question why allowing for more inclusiveness and less theological "purity" is important. Some would even say it benefits the Mormons with too much "legitamacy" as if they don't already have that in the United States. The question and the statement says it all. Evangelical Christians must decide if they want a theocratic nation or democratic one; they can't have both.

No matter how much support a Mormon gets from Evangelical Christians politically, if they don't stop publically spouting theological disagreements then they will lose all political influence. When these statements are made outside of a Church then it no longer is a theological consideration. It becomes a political statement with very specific consiquences for both groups. The Mormons are a strong force in the Republican Party, as the consistantly conservative Utah and Idaho members of Congress and Senate illustrate. As much as the "religious war" is a product of liberal media looking for a wedge between conservatives, it is not entirely without fuel.

As the Religous Right gave advice to Mitt Romney about his religion, I think they should get some advice for themselves. If they want to continue to be politically relevant they should become more tolerant of other's religion. They should stop theologically attacking those who hold political and moral allegiances. If they don't then they could find themselves standing alone. The Mormons have changed political affiliations in the past because of how they were viewed and treated by those who should have been with them, and grumblings have already started to do it again. Not only that, but there are other groups who have expressed concerns about what the Religious Right have done to the Republican Party and conservatism in general. You don't have to agree to be agreeable. A qualified endorsement can come across as no endorsement at all even if the person endorsed has graciously accepted.


Anonymous said...

You silly, silly boy. There have been some who have been warning for years not to buy into the religious right mentality of mixing the politics of exclusion with the philosophies of men sprinkled with a Biblical verse or two to make it appear legit.

But don't feel bad, you can still repent and come back to the true gospel of true charity, correct faith, and the establishment of Zion.

Oh, by the way, now that you have seen the light, you may want to convince those poor souls over at Meridian Magazine to do the same.

Jettboy said...

The problem, michael, is that this is not a "new" thing for me. As a conservative I have been aware of this problem for as many years as the warnings. This isn't the first post of mine to touch on the issue either. The problem is that the Religious Right is currently the only "organized" group of conservatives with any power to influence political policy. You have to work with what you got if you want to accomplish anything. By the way, that has been a problem with Party politics period.

I just wish I could think of a way to form a more inclusive conservative coalition. One that that is more theist than religious dogmatist. By the way, the souls at Meridian Magazine are equally aware of the problem (if you know any personally), but there isn't any alternatives beyond irrelavancy. I must admit that should make the Religious Right very happy. But, as I have warned here, they can be ruined as easily as supported if they don't tone the exclusions down.

Anonymous said...

Amen, buddy, amen. I used to dismiss accusations of theocracy in this country, but the simultaneous rise of evangelical momentum and the hoopla over Romney's religion has caused a recent 180. The Religious Right is starting to scare me, and I think Mormons are going to regret getting into the same bed with them. If they have their way politically, once they're done with the hippies and the gays, they'll start gunning for us.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the disconnect between Mormons and traditional protestantism is deep.

Last night I had the chance to view on C-SPAN a focus group of GOP primary voters held in Virginia by Peter Hart.

Mr. Hart asked the participants what they thought of the various Republican candidates.

On Romney, a substantial number voiced concern about his religion. Mr. Hart probed.

One man articulated the point that the U.S. needs a moral leader and, since he was a Mormon, he could not be that because of the lack of Christian influence.

Another expressed the viewpoint that you couldn't trust Romney on social issues because he was a Mormon.

Others talked about the sheer discomfort they had with Mormonism.

One individual pointed out the Mormons she knew were pretty conservative. Many acknowledged that point but still went back to their uneasiness with LDS theology.

It was some of the most discouraging tv I've ever seen. These folks saw Mormons as bizzare, odd people with whom they couldn't trust in public office.

I think I had a much sense of what racial minorities, women and other s have felt when confronted with bigotry.

If you have a chance to see this program, take the chance.

Sad. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

Steve in Idaho,

I couldn't find that clip on CSPAN's site, but from what you say, I'm disappointed. Not only as a Mormon, but as a Virginian. Some of those folks could be my neighbors!

Titus Todd said...

One man articulated the point that the U.S. needs a moral leader and, since he was a Mormon, he could not be that because of the lack of Christian influence.

Then this man does not know Mormons. It seems despite the Church's best effort to education the public on who we are, it is still not getting through to many.

Jettboy said...

In case anyone thought I was just blowing hot air with the idea that Mormons are having second thoughts about the Religious Right, let me point you to a link.

He states, "I never really had issue with the so-called "Christian Right". Hell, I thought I was one of the Christian Right. We basically voted the same way so it never really occured to me. However, if what I am reading and hearing lately from this group is an accurate representation, than I think I would rather side with the secularists (of course that is an exageration).

I know I am not winning any friends writing this nor am I garnering any support for Romney but this has got to stop. If some Evangelicals are willing to risk everything they are fighting for and hand over the Federal Government to Hillary Clinton or John Edwards rather than vote for Mitt Romney because he is Momron than you really are dangerous."

What is interesting is that the Evengelicals even at the site dedicated to Romney seem to be ignoring these developments. They blissfully pretend they have an upper hand on both Democrats and Mormons.