Mormon for President

March 14, 2012

I saw Mitt Romney yesterday.

He was having a rally, right in my little suburb, on the college quad.  I didn’t go to the rally, but I was in the right place at the right time to see him driving up to the campus.  His jaw and hairline in the passenger window were unmistakable.

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while, but seeing the possible future President reminded me of this.

More and more, a President’s faith comes under scrutiny and doubt from the public.  I’m pretty sure half the country despised the fact that W. was a Christian.  Now, half the country believes Obama is a Muslim, so he has to try to combat that with periodic public displays of Christianity.  Despite our “post-religious” culture, we still take religion really seriously.

And the next election will possibly break new ground when it comes to religion in the White House, and I for one am torn on what the right choice is.

Super Happy Mormon-Land

It’s no secret that Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  I don’t know what kind of Mormon he is.  I don’t know if we have any Mormons in this audience.  Every Mormon I’ve met are completely wonderful people…but, I believe Mormonism is an American religion, separate from orthodox Christianity.

Outside of Utah, my own city is kind of like a Mormon capitol.  They own huge tracts of land here.  They just built a towering, white building by the highway where celestial weddings will happen.  It’s huge, imposing, and kind of creepy.  Jesus himself is supposed to make his return, right here in my home town.

Maybe you’ve put it out of your mind, but I’m a bit more sensitive to the Mormon thing.

Mormon Pope

A generation ago, Christians faced a dilemma.  JFK was the first Roman Catholic who was going to become President.  And all the WASPS were kind of creeped out by Catholics and were afraid that the Pope was going to be pulling the President’s strings.  Of course, we know now that the Pope had little to no influence on JFK, as he promised.  He preferred blondes.

Mormonism is one of the fastest growing faiths in our country, and we face a similar dilemma.  No, not the dilemma of the Mormon Pope controlling the President.  Outside of South Park, and The Book of Mormon on Broadway, Mitt Romney is the face of Mormonism.  Will electing a Mormon President somehow lend even more legitimacy to Mormonism, especially as mainstream Christianity is on the decline?

I don’t know.  Maybe Mormonism will suffer if Romney turns out to be a very unpopular President.  But probably not.  And Christianity hasn’t seemed to benefit from great Christian presidents, nor has it been hurt by terrible Christian presidents.  Still, it is uncharted territory.

Christian or Conservative

I guess my biggest question is this: do Christians have an obligation to try to elect Christian presidents?  It’s not in the Bible.  It’s unfathomable that Jesus himself would ever consider that his followers would ever be in such a situation.  But since the eighties, Christians have been a voting bloc, convinced they are obligated to elect “God’s” pick for President.

Like I said, maybe you’ve put this out of your mind.  It’s a non-issue to you.  But that’s my point, really.  A year or two ago, Liberty University (Jerry Falwell’s school) invited Glenn Beck to speak at their commencement exercises.  Beck is, of course, a Mormon (and a raving conservative).  The obvious implication is that Liberty is not emphasizing a Christian education, but a conservative education.

And that’s where I think a lot of conservative Christians are.  We’re not voting Christian, but conservative.  We’ve voting with our wallets.  We’re voting with our faith in economic policy instead of our faith in God.

One Heck of a Guy

To complicate the dilemma, Romney seems to be a hell of a guy.  He fits the Mormon mold to a T.  He’s an incredibly moral, upstanding man.  We could have a Roman Catholic, but Newt doesn’t have a fraction of the personal character that Romney has.  Is it better to elect a morally imperfect, more orthodox president, or a morally perfect, but unorthdox president?

So my question is: if a guy is so great, does it matter where his ethics come from?  Those of you who love Obama: would it matter if he really were a Muslim?  Are Christians obligated to elect Christians?  Or are we free to vote for lower taxes, and God will deal with the Mormons?

58 responses to Mormon for President

  1. Wellll…..as a Christian from Australia, I can’t say what I would do in America. But, I do tend to be more conservative, and vote more for policies of the party rather than who would be Prime Minister. I probably vote more Liberal than Labor (Libs are like the Republicans, Labor more like the Dems). But our system is a lot different to yours. We vote for an electorate, so we vote for the person who is representing where we live, and the side with the most electorates is the one in power. Except for now, because it was such a tie at the last election, the side that made the better deal with the Independents (those who won their electorate, but are not Lib or Labor), is the one in power. (And it isn’t the one I would like to have in power, whole other story)

  2. I’m definitely voting for Obama again in 2012. The thing that most influenced me was his “Call to renewal” speech way back in 2006. (Transcript: http://www.asksam.com/ebooks/releases.asp?file=Obama-Speeches.ask&dn=Call%20to%20Renewal%20Keynote%20Address ) He would be a different person with a different outlook on religion in the U.S. if he were Muslim – he wouldn’t have been able to give this speech, in my opinion.

    • Are you saying Muslims are bad actors? 😉 Interesting that you’d cite a speech from before he was even President as reason to re-elect him. What do you think he has done in three years to deserve it? (Honest question – not snide.)

    • Me too, Tim. Obama has done nothing but attack just about everything I believe in as a Christian. He is not a muslim, he is not a Christian, he is a politician. A politician is whatever he needs to be to get elected. I have been highly disappointed / disturbed / at his incompetence. A likeable guy who is in over his head.

      • He’s not a muslim.. He’s not a Christian.. He’s an idiot.

        • Oh, please.

          Look, I’m no fan of Obama. You can call him an idiot all you like if that’s what you think.

          But “He’s no Christian and he’s no Muslim”–seriously?

          Who are YOU to say who’s a Christian, Muslim, Rastafarian, Quaker, or whatever? What exactly gives YOU (a mere human) that authority? Can you read minds? Can you tell me what’s going on in anyone’s heart at this particular moment?

          If you want to say that someone’s actions are not consistent with something a Christian would do, fine.

          But in the end, there is only one Being in this universe who is going to know who can truly be called a Christian.

          And that Being is NOT YOU. This sort of judgement call strikes me as nothing but profoundly arrogant and it’s NOT YOUR PLACE to make it.

  3. Personally, I think if Christians hold too hard and fast to the “Christians must elect Christians” rule, we end up being FAR to easy to dupe.

    I’ve developed the tendency to view any politician’s views on religion with a very jaundiced eye. All of these guys are in the business of doing whatever they can to get into power, and in our current social climate that includes throwing around the right spiritual buzzwords, appearing to belong to the right church, and kissing up to the right megachurch pastors.

    In the end, a candidate’s religious beliefs are between him and God. I can’t read minds, and I wouldn’t dare to pretend to know what God does.

    The only thing we really have to go on is what a candidate does. So why not use the brains God gave us? If a candidate’s previous actions indicate that he’d probably have your best interests at heart, I say vote for him regardless of whatever religion he professes to be.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of Christianity’s status as a “voting bloc”. It used to be a lot more than that.

  4. I don’t think we need to rely on a political system to bring about the Kingdom of God.

    With that being said, I’d have to question Romney’s decision-making in general, as he seems to be so committed to a faith which is questionable to most of us.

    • It’s probably not “questionable” to Mormons. Just sayin’.

      • Abby’s right on this. Anyone’s religious beliefs sound questionable to people who don’t subscribe to the same religion. However, I do agree that if a candidate believes wacky things, we should be hesitant to put him or her in charge of our nation. (We want a top executive decision-maker who’s as grounded in reality as possible, so that he or she can make the best decisions possible.) Mormonism happens to teach things that are more immediately, demonstrably false than what mainstream Christianity teaches — mostly because its unique claims are about more recent events.

    • I know what you’re saying, and I’ve thought the same thing, but I just don’t know about that. Wouldn’t you want an atheist to judge you by your character, instead of just labeling you crazy because of your faith?

      And if we’re really going deep and you’re a Calvinist, then you believe that Romney is simply not part of the elect (ha!) and his faith has nothing to do with a decision on his part, any more than our faith is based on our decisions. Besides, he was born into Mormonism, the way many of us were born into the church – so the groundwork for our faith was not laid by our decisions.

      • Well if your really going deep into Calvinism, still births, aborted fetuses, and very young children who die go to hell because of innate depravity(correct me if i am wrong) Not knocking you for your belief if that is it, but you might understand how that would seem a strange belief to some other groups of Christians
        Be careful calling those who follow Christ and produce good fruit non-Christians

  5. I’m looking for change… change from Obama.

    Romney seems like he has good character. I don’t agree with all his views but he’s better than Obama.

    Doesn’t take much though.. I’ll tell ya.

  6. Great questions, Matt. I don’t think there is an easy answer. Personally, I vote for whoever is the better man, regardless of religious or political affiliation. I think it’s important how you called out that Jesus doesn’t address politics (except for the “give unto Cesaer” incident).

    As you pointed out, just because someone is a Christian doesn’t mean they have upstanding morals.

  7. I’m pretty sure half the country despised the fact that W. was a Christian. Now, half the country believes Obama is a Muslim, so he has to try to combat that with periodic public displays of Christianity. Despite our “post-religious” culture, we still take religion really seriously.

    I have never heard anyone say that America’s is a “post-religious” culture. Far from it. What I hear over and over is that “America is a Christian nation,” that we are “one nation under God” and ought to act like it, etc. etc. I’m curious where you’ve heard this sentiment before.

    I also have no idea what you mean when you say that you think half the country despised the fact that George W. Bush is a Christian. Around 75-80% of the US is Christian. Republican politicians campaign on the strength of their faith in the Christian god. Could you elaborate on this too please?

    • My quick & dirty take on it–

      If one is a right-wing-leaning evangelical, the mere existance of anyone that doesn’t belong to one’s particular “brand” of Christianity is sufficient evidence that our society is a “post-religious” one that is heading toward total godlessness.

      If one is a left-leaning nonreligious person, the mere existence of religious people might be proof enough that our country is heading toward being a backwards, dark-ages theocracy.

      Everyone wants to be the persecuted victim, and no one wants to be seen as the oppressor.

      Whatever you think the “truth” actually is just depends on what tribe you happen to belong to.

  8. These are great questions to be asking. I don’t know why, but when it comes to politics we tend to through our Christianity out the window and vote as Americans. Sure, we like the candidate to say he’s a Christian, but it’s really more about identifying what they’re not. Not a Muslim, check. Not an atheist, check. One thing I credit to Romney is that he’s sticking to his faith. He certainly could’ve ditched the controversial religion and aligned with something more acceptable.

    In the end, there’s no way to know what’s going on in the hearts of these men. We have to realize that there won’t always be a Christian candidate in the mix. What then? The lesser evil? Seriously, I hate that expression. Pray through it, do some research (not just reading ridiculously biased email forwards), and trust in God’s sovereignty. That’s all we can do.

  9. While Romney is not my first choice, if he’s the the republican candidate, I will vote for him. Or rather, I will vote against Obama. Against big government, and for states rights.

  10. You are opening the hornets nest…we’re not supposed to talk about religion and politics and you break both of those rules in 1 blog!!
    I am uncomfortable with mormon theology; they believe america will have an insurmountable financial crisis and the the mormon church will save the country (among other strange beliefs). That is why the mormon church accumulates wealth. My problem is how any thinking man can take mormonism seriously.
    The bottom line is that I have to vote for someone who best represents my moral values even if they are flawed in other ways. Right now that would be Romney if he wins the nomination.
    Just because someone is a Christian does not automatically make them the best candidate. There are a lot a “dumb” Christians around who can’t run anything but they love God!

  11. There os a very good reason why there is separation of church and state… (the British monarchies claimed God ruled through them)… I happen to live a very conservative lifestyle… Yet vote liberal… Because I don’t have the right to impose Christianity on anyone… And have to respect people’s – God given – freedom of choice…
    My responsibility is to love others as myself… Therefore I don’t want rights ot taxbreaks that my gay neighbors can’t get… They want to tax them … But not represent them…
    In politics everything revolves around money… Yet I’ve never heard or read a conservative talk about greed being the root of all evil…( W anyone?)… Most conservative politicians a not in real life… And a lot of Christians are only cultural Christians… In the Kinkgdom of Heaven everything revolves around Love

  12. Good blog, Matt.

    I am an independent. I think both parties need a wake up call. I am tried of the overspending. I hope I am voting fiscal conservatism. Social issues are important to me, and Romney and I agree on many of those.

    I know a lot of folks get news from various sources from MSNBC to Fox, but I lived in MA under Romney. He did a lot of good things here in Tax-a-chusetts.

    You need to frame this by knowing that a 3 bedroom house with no garage averages between $250K-$450K depending in where in the state yo live.

    I think one of the big things the media has against him is the health care plan. Here (at the time), you could go into an emergency room and not pay. You could be anyone from anywhere, in any income bracket and the state picked up the tab. In order to cut this dependency on the government they came up with a plan that worked for this state. What most folks don’t know is that the poor get free health care here, and the working can get it from work. Many of us here pay 50% of our health benefits, the rest is by the company we work for.

    The MA HC law made affordable HC available to those that wanted it. It discounted HC for those that were not poor, but were living paycheck-to-paycheck. For the strict constitutionalists, you don’t have to have it. We get a $350 tax deduction on our state taxes (some call that a fine for the uninsured) for having insurance. (Is their a difference in getting a tax break on insulated windows?) It cut the spending for one-time ER visits, and allowed folks to have basic preventative HC. How much is it? For a family of 3 that makes $60K/year it is a few hundred bucks a month.

    It is nothing like forced Obama Care.

    I would also like to say that our state was fiscally sound under Romney. Since he left, sales taxes have gone up, the deficit has gone up, and social issues have gone way left, jobs have left for cheaper states and overseas and we have a wind farm going up that is going to cost billions and save nothing.

    In the end, I would like a better choice. I am very disappointed with the current president and I want to see some change moving in the other direction.

    • This is all very interesting and informative. Can I quote your MA experiences to my friends?

      • Sure. You also need to remember that this is the land of liberals like Barney Frank, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Romney worked with state legislators that were very liberal and still he was able to get things done. His compromises need to be seen in that light. If he went far to the right here, he never would have been elected in the first place. It is the same with Senator Scott Brown.

    • You just reminded me…gotta bring my receipts for the new windows to the tax man. Great insights, David! Thanks a lot.

    • Good information to mull over, but I’m still left wondering about what might happen if something changes?

      I consider myself socially liberal but fiscally conservative (meaning I’ll probably never come across someone I feel really great about voting for). I’m intrigued by Romney for the reasons you mentioned–he strikes me as fairly level-headed and pragmatic. The more whackjob element of the Republican party has been criticizing him for being a “moderate” (since when is being “moderate” a bad thing?)–which I actually find encouraging, too.

      However, I thought the same things about GWB, originally, and I feel like it turned out to be a big bait-and-switch. I actually decided to vote for him based on a Frontline special about the candidates–it seemed like he did good stuff for Texas and did a good job working “across the aisle” in order to get things done. And, during the debates he said he was pretty firmly against “nation building” (or basically, getting involved in foreign entanglements that didn’t concern us.)

      So, in 2000, W looked like a pretty good prospect to me. Then, somehow, we ended up with him running roughshod over any dissenters, getting our country involved in the biggest “nation-building” project since Vietnam, and packing his cabinet (and attempting to pack the Supreme Court) with barely-qualified yes-men.

      What happened to the reasonable-sounding, practical guy that I voted for? There were times during the GWB administration that I felt like the “real” Bush was lying comatose in a bunker somewhere and had been replaced by his evil twin. Or did I just not do enough homework?

      So, I am seriously considering Romney, but I’m also worried about him taking a hard right turn toward Crazyville once he gets in office. The Republican party as a whole (based on what the ones in Congress are doing) seem to be more concerned with playing to their base than with accomplishing things.

  13. I am leery of anyone who tries to marry politics and faith too closely. Not that Christians shouldn’t be involved in political matters, or that politicians shouldn’t talk about their personal convictions, but when they’re too closely intertwined, I don’t think it’s good for anyone. I find it especially damaging to the church. It’s unfortunate that Christians are viewed as a “voting bloc”–intelligent, loving, kind, thoughtful, sincere Christians can (and do) vote on both sides of every issue.

    When I vote for president, I am not voting for a pastor or a theologian–I’m voting for a president. I’m looking for somebody who will be a solid leader for the country, who has the background, knowledge, and sound morals to make good decisions (or at least what I view as good decisions).

    There have been good, solid Christian men who were very ineffective presidents, and there have been outstanding leaders who have not shared my faith.

    So I guess my answer is no–I don’t see being a Christian as a requirement for a Presidential candidate. Romney shares more of my moral and social values than many candidates who have claimed to be Christians. And so I would not hesitate to vote for him.

    (And as a side note, I find it somewhat arrogant when people state that they can’t trust the intelligence or decision-making abilities of somebody because of their religious beliefs. As it turns out, most of us believe some really irrational things–orthodox Christianity is very irrational when you stop and think about it, and I say that as somebody who believes in Christ.)

  14. I have a couple of thoughts on this, please keep in mind that I’m very conservative.

    1. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to face a mormon candidate. So it’s been on my mind. I’ve just been putting it off.

    2. I know alot of Christians that are Democrats. All of them bible believing, God fearing, Jesus loving Christians from different demoninations. They are morally against abortion, but they believe in social programs and despise rich white men.

    3. I think alot of conservative Christians and evangelicals really believe that we live in a Christian nation. Regardless of how it was founded, this is not a Christian nation as it stands today. So, it begs the question, when we vote, are we voting as a result of supporting “Christian” politicians or are we voting for the best man for the job?

    I will pray before I vote, but the label “Democrat” or “Republican” doesn’t move me, nor does the label “Christian”. That being said, I will probably NEVER vote for someone that supports abortion. I also tend to prefer alot less federal government involvement. So, technically, I’m a republican.

  15. When looking at it objectively, religion should have no bearing on a person’s electability. We are a country which was (theoretically) founded on a freedom of religion – all kinds of people are welcome to come, all are welcome to pursue happiness, all (citizens) are welcome to run for office. This is the glory of America.

    However, we have a representative government, so my job as the voter is to elect someone whose views and positions most accurately represent my own. The views and positions of a politician are muddied, given the current “politically-correct” climate. Politicians kiss up to various voting blocs by saying things that will make those people happy (e.g., when in FL, talk about the glorious space program you will revive). Some are more blatant about it than others. As a result, I tend to take what most of them say (including what they say about their faith) with a grain of salt.

    Having said that, I wish there were a candidate who was more like me…but since there’s not, I will cringe when voting for Romney due to his Mormon-ness (but I don’t expect that he will make “Mormon” the new “cool”), or I will cringe when I vote for Gingrich because of his ethical failings. I think I would cringe less for either if Ron Paul were their VP choice.

    • But if we’re just voting for the guy most like ourselves, isn’t that pretty selfish! I think that’s what most people do – which guy can best represent MY interests, rather than the guy who best represents the interests of the nation as a whole.

  16. I tend to believe that if he seems like the right guy who can run this country, no matter what his religion is as long as it doesn’t involve satanic rituals, then I’ll support him. I acknowledge that there are gifted people in this world who aren’t Christian, and that God will sometimes use them for his will just as much or even more than he would use a Christian in the same place. America is not exclusively a Christian country. America had a set of beliefs and morals, but those don’t neccessarily have to point to one religion. If a president believes in those ideals and will fight for them and lead this country down the right path, I don’t care what religion he is.

    • So why, for the sake of speculation, would that exclude a satanist? If a satanist loved his wife, paid his taxes, and volunteered at the soup kitchen because he felt led by his love for Satan to do those things, does it matter where his morals come from?

  17. —COMPLETELY UNRELATED COMMENT—
    how come you wrote “One Heck of a Guy” in your subtitle and then said “a hell of a guy” in your text?

    ps – in 2012, chuck norris is going to be president (http://youtu.be/4A4PlXD560w)

  18. er, i meant 2021

  19. In terms of who we elect, we should render unto Ceasar’s what is Ceasar’s and not necessarily look to a candidates’ religious beliefs as much as how willing they are to stick to a stricter interpretation of the Constitution AND do a character check. If a man’s wife cannot trust him to uphold their vows (or a woman’s husband), can a nation trust them? I know some people would disagree with me on this one because so many politicians have so many opportunities to interact with people who adore them and want to have a piece of them in so many ways. However, if they are caught cheating on their taxes or doing drugs, or absconding with funds, how is that different in terms of violating trust than adultery? Someone is getting cheated, right?

    I have been horribly negligent in keeping up with candidates. I watched part of one debate and my impression is that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both gave political answers to questions, i.e., they used a lot of words but didn’t say a lot. I don’t think that people giving political answers is what this country needs. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich both gave clearer answers, but I am old enough to remember Newt’s rule as Speaker of the House with less than fondness and have difficulty picturing him as a good president. My other concern about Mitt Romney is how little experience he has in national affairs. We have now had almost twelve years of presidents with little national experience and look where we are as a result. I don’t think running the Olympics necessarily counts as national experience. Of course, my experience with President Obama means that I will most likely vote for a more conservative candidate.

  20. I’d vote for him. It doesn’t matter if he’s a Christian…or not.

    It matters how he will govern. I wish he were more conservative (politically), but we often have to settle for the guy/gal who will do the least damage.

  21. Good post.

    Politics… Blech. It’s become a bizzare reality show of freaks at this point.

    Would I vote for a non-Christian. Yeah. But after the last few years of DC crap, I think I’ll be exercising my right to not vote.

    And yes, I’m totally a bitter cynic now. But I do enjoy to keep up with the latest scores.

  22. 2 words, Ron Paul!

  23. This question bleeds into every area of life.
    Who would you go to: a Christian doctor/dentist/chiropractor/counselor/hair-dresser/store owner/(fill in the blank) OR a non-christian doctor etc. etc. etc….
    Me? I go to the most talented person. If they’re Christian; bonus! If the playing field is level, I will chose the Christian over the non-christian. But skill and expertise is more important to me than faith. Unless I’m in church. Then I definately choose a Christian pastor.

  24. As I look at it, God is in charge of His Kingdom. Our president is a political figure, and so yes, I vote according to the candidates political slate and who I think will do the best job.

    Curious why you think conservatives are voting with their pocket book. I find conservatives (in general, not always) to be much more generous than liberals (especially outside the church), who often expect the gov’t. to do all the giving. Both desire to help the poor, but just have different approaches.

  25. Remember that God used a pagan, Cyrus, his ‘anointed, to deliver his people.
    There is a quote, attributed to Luther thought I’ve never seen a citation for it, but it makes good sense> “I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than by an incompetent Christian.”

    I would say Romney is the most competent Republican running, though you would never know it by his campaign. As one article said, Republicans deserve to loose.

    But whoever is elected, it seems we are presently under judgment. Given the unstoppable national debt, we may not survive.

  26. I would not vote for Romney not based off him being a Mormon but based off the fact that he seems too much like a flip flopper. He keeps changing his views to increase his electability or so it seems. That strictly based off all his political history.

  27. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

    That scripture is fulfilled in the spirit-world regularly in many countries – either for positive or negative. The nation whose God is the Lord will choose a godly leader. A nation whose God is the Lord will have a god-fearing person in authority over it.

    I do not believe Romney is that person. He is a member of a false religion.

    “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

  28. Just to mention on Romney’s ‘good character’ – he amassed a large personal fortune by buying up American companies, laying off thousands of American workers and shipping the jobs to the Far East. And keeping the profits.

    Is that REALLY the man you want running your economy?

    That’s not the mark of a good or noble or wise leader. It’s the mark of a ruthlessly ambitious money-lover.