Mormons and Evangelicals

I bet if Mitt Romney is the Republican candidate for President most evangelicals will swallow the lump in their throat and vote for him. It doesn’t surprise me that evangelicals would vote for a Mormon any more than that they’d vote for a divorced man (Reagan) or a Catholic (Santorum) or an adulterer (Gingrich). Christians have always been able to vote for non-Christians (or bad Christians) for political office.

Indeed it is only a recent phenomenon to even have a “real” evangelical running for President. Until recently evangelicals had to choose the best from among the non-evangelicals. I remember when Jimmy Carter testified that he was a “Born Again Christian” the media scurried around to figure out what that meant. The next night, a New York newscaster reporting something like, “We have researched this term and we have found that it is not an uncommon experience for people in the south to have an emotional encounter with God that changes their life.” Really?

Maybe Romney won’t get the nomination, but if he does I’m thinking this week about what that might mean for the Mormons and evangelicals There are maybe 12 million Mormons in the world with about 6 million living in the USA. This is a big “denomination” (or cult or religion, whatever you wish to call it). The Methodists are only about a million larger. And Mormons are growing fast, Methodists are declining. Mitt Romney is a “good Mormon” too. He hasn’t taken the country-before-religion pledge like John Kennedy did when people questioned if he would obey the Pope over the people. Romney is a faithful Mormon.

But what is there to fear in that?  That he will banish alcohol from the While House like Carter did? Banish coffee, Coke and Pepsi and all other caffeine drinks too?  Would he tell youth they shouldn’t have sex before marriage and they should dress modestly?  Would the Mormons channel millions of dollars to fight for traditional marriage like they did with Jim Garlow’s California Proposition 8? Gee, are these things evangelicals would worry about. I bet most evangelicals will eventually become supporters of Romney if he is the Republican nominee. In fact, I think the more evangelicals find out about Mormonism’s practices the more they’ll like them.  The practices, that is. Sure, they won’t like Mormonism’s theology, but face it, most evangelicals have long ago concluded “Theology doesn’t matter” or “we’re all really saying the same thing anyway.”  I bet evangelicals will conclude that Mormon’s “have extra beliefs” like they eventually concluded about Roman Catholics’ veneration of Mary or Purgatory. I think evangelicals will swallow their (theological) objections and admire the practices.

So here is what I’m thinking about this week:

1. When the current furor dies down, will most evangelicals quit using the word “cult” for Mormons? Maybe even in two weeks?
2. What other changes will a Mormon candidate for president trigger for evangelicals?
3. How will the Mormons change if Romney is a candidate? Will they become more mainstream and downplay their fringe doctrines?

That’s what I’m thinking about this week.
So, what do you think?

The discussion of this column is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633
Keith Drury October 11, 2011

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