A Letter to Iowa Evangelicals

 

To my Iowa Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I get it.  You have people like Bob Vander Plaats who are trying to get you to vote for Rick Santorum, even though you know he has no chance to beat Obama.  (Though he’s a great Catholic guy, he was so intimidated by the Virginia ballot process that he simply slunk away without even trying to give Virginians the option of voting for him.)  You love Michele Bachmann’s personal story, her faith, and her great conservative ideas.  Yet, she too doesn’t seem up for the job.  You briefly flirted with Newt — that’s okay.   Who hasn’t?But after the news of all of his affairs, his ethical violations, and his incompetence, you can’t bring yourself to voting for the guy either.

The most competent candidate, by far, is Mitt Romney.  He’s more conservative than George W. Bush, he is a champion of traditional marriage, pro-life issues, and — oh yeah — he can turn an economy around.

There’s that one nagging little thing…

I’ll never forget the day when my husband David told me about the exciting Presidental candidate named Mitt.  “He’s a Mormon.”

“Oh,” I said.  “Too bad we can’t vote for him.”

“Why?” David asked innocently, though I was incredulous.   Wasn’t the answer obvious?

“I’ll never vote for a Mormon,” I said, flabbergasted he’d even consider it.  After all, I was raised in the Church of Christ, had attended the charismatic Times Square Church in New York City, and – at the time – went to the conservative Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.  I tithed, had been baptized in a summer camp swimming pool when I was twelve, knew all the verses of How Great Thou Art, and had Pyrex dishes with my name written on the bottom in Sharpie specifically for benevolence casseroles.

Though I didn’t know many Mormons well, I was sure I wouldn’t like them.  After all, their commercials on television were ridiculously earnest.  Who runs in the back yard with their family while blowing bubbles in slow motion?  Please.

However, in a matter of days, I went from objecting to his candidacy to unabashedly supporting it, so I thought I would share how I went from being completely opposed to unabashedly supportive of this particular Presidential candidate.  Here’s what helped me:

1. In spite of our theological differences, evangelicals and Mormons are already political allies. In fact, if Mormons weren’t consistently more conservative than their evangelical neighbors, Al Gore would be America’s president now and California Proposition 8, which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling that permitted gay marriage, would’ve failed. In fact, we owe them a great deal for their steadfast consistency on moral issues The sometimes squishy evangelical church, tossed by every trend, is responsible for electing Barack Obama.

2. Romney’s faith doesn’t indicate that he’s gullible. Let’s face it.  All religions require a leap of faith that appears silly to outsiders. If a reporter questioned me about my religion, he’d raise an eyebrow over my belief that Noah was a floating zookeeper, that Jesus was the best sommelier in Galilee, and that he paid taxes with coins from a fish’s mouth.  No one belongs to the Church of the Scientific Method, so religion falls outside normal reasoning. Gov. Romney’s beliefs certainly require faith – including his quite miraculous notion that Jesus is his personal Savior. In my experience, evangelicals loathe religious litmus tests.  That’s what Democrats do, when they try to disqualify Christian and Catholic judges because of their beliefs.  The same people who would disqualify a Mormon would disqualify me, citing the same list of “this person can’t be a serious thinker if she believes this miraculous stuff.”  And as far as gullible goes, don’t forget that Mitt Romney has two Harvard degrees.

3. Baptists don’t have the best track record, either.  John Mark Reynolds once wrote that “my faith in the holiness standards of Baptists survived Clinton and my belief in their sanity survived Carter, though that was a closer call.” In fact, should we taint all Baptist Presidential candidates with the legacy of recent Baptist leaders – i.e. Clinton’s moral failure, Carter’s weak foreign policy, Johnson’s social programs, and Gore’s use of the word “lock box.” Of course not.  Evangelicals should evaluate candidates on their own political merits.

4.  Evangelicals do not historically vote for the “most Christian” person on the ballot. When Jimmy Carter (a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher) ran against Ronald Reagan, evangelicals correctly voted for the divorced Hollywood actor.  After all, he was the one who would best represent their values.  Similarly, in 2012, we should look for the candidate who will most effectively represent our values by beating Obama and being a good advocate for our social positions.  Gov. Romney is that candidate.

5. Electing a Mormon will not create a surge of support for that religion.  My husband David put it best when he wrote:

I think it’s fair to say that Barack Obama hasn’t done much for Jeremiah Wright’s now-famous “black liberation theology,” and George Bush’s well-known evangelical beliefs likely repelled as many people as they attracted. In fact, I can’t think of a single president that had a discernible impact on the theological beliefs of our citizens. And that makes sense. Presidents aren’t pastors. We don’t look to presidents for pastoral guidance but instead for national leadership. We don’t think, “I like those Bush tax cuts. I think I’ll check out the Methodist church.

Applying these same lessons to Mormons, does watching Harry Reid make you want to talk to a Mormon missionary? How about when you fly JetBlue? During a smooth, comfortable flight do you use the in-flight Wi-Fi to surf LDS.org? Does a particularly elegant turndown service at a high-end Marriottput you in the mood to download the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s greatest hits? If you’re a sports fan, did watching Steve Young connect with Jerry Rice make you complete an application to BYU?

6.  You don’t have to agree with the LDS faith to support Gov. Romney.  If the Romneys agreed with my religion, they would be conservative Presbyterians.  If we believed theirs, we’d be Mormons.  There’s nothing wrong with definitively saying that there are religious differences between the two.  There obviously are, and you don’t have to defend Mormonism to pull the lever for Gov. Romney.

Reports show that Rick Santorum — the only candidate not to have experienced a surge so far — might be earning the evangelical votes in Iowa.

So, to all of my evangelical friends in Iowa, I know where you’re coming from. I understand that your hesitation comes from a well-meaning desire to protect the gospel and to honor God in all aspects of your life.  However, God has something to do with salvation, can safeguard the integrity of the gospel without our feeble, frequently self-righteous help, and wouldn’t hang the validity of Christianity on whether or not we voted for Mitt Romney for President.

If you still have questions, or are concerned about his track record on abortiongay marriage, or Romneycare, please visit www.EvangelicalsforMitt.org, where we have sorted through the issues so you can make an informed decision in 2012.

Please, Iowa Evangelicals, let Bob Vander Plaats know that you can think for yourselves and that you aren’t going to let Iowa select a person who’ll guarantee another four years of Obama.

About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.

  • Mark

    Very well stated, thank you!

  • Bernadette Walker

    excellently stated!! I agree, Mark! This letter is the best I’ve read and thanks for standing up for what is right!! God Bless You and yours!

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    Yes, I hope my “next door” neighbors in Iowa listen to you. Too many Christian voters are looking for a ‘savior’ when they vote rather than for the one who is best qualified to solve major problems with a conservative view. Luther is reported to have said that he would rather be governed by a competent Turk rather than by an incompetent Christian.

  • http://lifeafterministry.wordpress.com/ Melissa

    Sorry I still can’t and won’t vote for Romney. And Mitt, like his religion isn’t pro-life but pro-choice.

    “Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer. ”

    http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=63c139b439c98010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=bbd508f54922d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    Can’t have it both ways, either you don’t make allowances for abortion making you pro-life or you do make allowances making you pro-abortion.

    • ccr

      I am a very active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I’ve heard abortion statement a number of times since it was released. I’ve written numerous letters against abortion and supported anti abortion groups otherwise. I am very much PRO-LIFE. You, obviously, have a different opinion. I’m not going to split hairs with you or others, but I don’t appreciate your condemnation of us as Pro-Choice…..or believing in abortion.

      A decision prayerfully made, where a life was created through an act of violence that already creates an enormous psychological scar, could be what is best for the young girl or woman. A prayerful decision for a couple when the mother’s life is in danger is between them and the Lord. The Lord KNOWS the intents and the needs of each of his children that would face that decision.

      Mitt is NOT pro-choice. Neither am I.

      • http://lifeafterministry.wordpress.com/ Melissa

        But if allowances are being made for abortion, how can the Mormon Church or Romney be pro-life?

        Like rape, abortion is a violation of the woman’s body. No woman can have an abortion and remain unscathed. When it comes to a child being conceived through rape we have to remember who created that life. The rapist didn’t create that life inside the woman’s body, God did.

        Saving “life of the mother” can’t be put in the same category as rape, and can’t be called an abortion.

        • Bookworm

          Since Ronald Regan when has anyone done anything to change the laws regarding abortion? When Bush was in office he had a R majority in Congress and they did nothing to change the abortion laws to stop life. Not choosing to vote for Romney because of this issue is giving your vote to Obama. The choice is yours, but you should know that when serving as a Bishop Romney visited a lady in his ward while she was in the hospital. The doctors were telling her to abort her child for medical reasons. He was there to talk her out of the abortion. Research this information before you decide to not consider the best candidate for us in 2012, Mitt Romney.

        • Tiffany

          You can of course vote for Obama who you know does not defend life at all and who will continue to nominate judges who will expand the so-called right to abortion.

    • Bill Bell

      You just don’t have the right to get between the woman, her family, and her doctor, and you won’t have to answer for it.

    • Guy Briggs
  • http://msn.com Richard Evans

    Thank you for your statement. Being a member of the LDS faith I was rather happy to see this letter. I have been having this view lately the rep. party wants the LDS vote and money, but not for us to run for any offices. I know that are things that divide us in the area of religion and faith, but there is much that we do have in common and agree with on social issues. We should work together in the public area of our country to correct some of the lacking morals in our country.

  • ccr

    Excellent letter, Nancy!! How does it get to Iowa pulpits before tomorrow?

    (Seriously, I don’t get how churches “preach” politics from the pulpit…….OR in the church building……..OR with the “mantle” of preacher/pastor.)

  • Kellye Lee

    I am LDS and I am pro-life, however there are other issues to be considered – not just abortion. People who choose not to vote for Mitt Romney because some religious bias are really just “cutting off their nose to spite their face” as my late mother used to say. Would you rather have Obama for four more years? Is your religious intolerance so strong that you would rather have this happen? Do you think Obama is pro-life? We need to work together to defeat him. I do not judge others by their religion, but by their actions. The Lord did not put me on this earth to judge another person or his religion.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for this excellent, well thought out letter. I was raised a Southern Baptist, right in the heart of the Bible belt, but my family never raised us with a bigoted view of other religions and taught us to respect other people and their choices. As a matter of fact, I am apalled by what I hear from so many Christian people as far as their comments about the LDS faith and it’s members. I hate to say it’s ignorance, but that is about what it amounts to. I don’t vote for the leader of the country the same as I would choose a religious leader. I look to my church for that, not a government position. This is where people are making their mistake. The president respresents many diverse people of all religions, they cannot possibly be all things to all people. We should vote for who we think can do the best job of getting this country back on track and keeping it there, but also we need to get behind the candidate that has the best chance of winning, because no matter how righteous they are, if they lose…we all lose! Mitt Romney is that candidate!

  • Todd

    I’m not a Romney supporter personally (Huntsman is my favorite Mormon in the race, actually), but I agree that his religion should be of no consequence, and so I applaud your fine reasoning. One pet peeve though is when you refer to “Catholics and Christians.” Catholics are Christians (in fact — the oldest and largest branch of Christianity).

  • Lynn

    Nancy French has written an excellent open letter to all Evangelical voters. Had I the capacity to print it in every newspaper in the country, I would. What a tragedy it would be if conservative Christians allowed religious bias to prevent us from electing the man “who has come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” There will be some repenting to do if Obama is re-elected! Lets do what we can to circulate this well written letter.

  • Paulette Kirkham

    Thank you for your well thought out dialogue. It is refreshing to hear a non-emotive, well reasoned explanation of thought in the public square. Whether I agree or disagree with your conclusion is of little consequence, I simply appreciate the diplomatic way in which you presented your position.
    Well done.

  • Andy

    Thank you for this excellent letter. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS); I believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and I strive (though I’m not perfect) every day to follow the principles he taught. I am strongly pro-life, as is my Church, and I agree wholeheartedly that all Christians need to work together, despite their theological differences, to advance good causes; defeating Obama in 2012 is one of the best causes I can imagine.

  • Becca

    first off, I’m not an Iowan…just observing!! second, I’m a Catholic and have never taken issue with mitten’s faith. after reading these comments though, i couldn’t just leave this alone. my heart sank after seeing the willingness to support this guy when you can take away the life issue and say he’s definitely pro-life which he very well may be but if I say that he’s pro-life and a social conservative, what other than that makes everyone so confident that he can fix the economy? him working on wall st?? we already know that obama got support from the most wall streeters out of any of them!! health care? a free-market conservative would NEVER get anywhere close to what he did in Mass. and Reagan tried to warn against socialized medicine decades ago…just because this may be constitutional does not mean that it’s good policy!! and there’s always the fact that he thinks we should keep the so-called “good parts” of obamacare but I’m not sure what they are when the entire thing is horrible and that also would mean a big NO on repeal, regardless of what he’s said!! also, he doesn’t plan on making any changes to the oppressive tax code….not even the rates!! we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to beat a weakened obama….we don’t have to compromise and you don’t have to listen to the media that’s making the argument FOR HIM!! I know ya’ll have been inundated with everything having to do with this election and I will keep you in my prayers but I really hope that what I’ve said makes at least one person look at the big picture here and not vote out of fear that romney is the only one that can beat obama because I know that’s not true and I think a lot of you do too!! good luck from virginia and God bless!!
    ~Becca

  • Jesse Brown

    Thank you for this excellent article. President Ronald Reagan’s administration was full of members of the LDS Church. Three served on his personal White House staff – David Fischer, Gregory Newell, and Stephen M. Studdert (Special Assistant to President Reagan). Ted Bell served as Secretary of Education, Angela Buchanan was Treasurer. Rex Lee was Solicitor General. His White House included Roger Porter, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Beal, Blake Parish, Jon Huntsman Jr., Dodie Borup and Rocky Kuonen, and there were many other Latter-day Saints throughout his Administration. President Thomas S. Monson served on a Presidential Commission on Volunteerism. Others were ambassadors. LDS senators and representatives were held in special regard, and the Tabernacle Choir was his special inaugural guest.

    I wonder how President Reagan would feel about Republicans who don’t want to support Romney because he is a Mormon. How do these people justify their opposition to Romney’s Mormonism when the most respected Republican in decades seemed to have no problem at all with Mormons.

    • June Bessey

      That’s awesome, Great point!

  • Bill

    Never compromise our Christian faith for the lesser evil. Loose with dignity, if necessary. Let God sort it out. Afterall, He places leaders in authority- “…For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Romans 13:1-2 The Church in America is reaping what it deserves for it’s absence from the political arena.

    • Suzanne

      Lose with dignity? Let God sort it out? If we lose this race to Obama there will be do dignity to lose. God will sort everything out in the end, of course that is true. Things will get worse before they get better. But in all due respect, Obama just passed NDAA which just sealed the deal for the essential elimination of our 5th and 6th Amendment rights. Are you willing to let a misinformed bias give ground to Obama style politics? We must do what we can. Sitting by and doing nothing will bring God’s justice upon us all.
      Mitt Romney is clearly the best candidate to choose at this time. The abortion issue is safe with him. He has respect for life and for agency and for liberty. Please don’t let your bias against his religion put you in a position of inadvertently supporting Obama.

    • Philip

      “Let God sort it out” is nothing short of a dereliction of your duty as a citizen. It is a hyper-Calvinist position that presumes we have no responsibility as humans to act as God’s ambassadors in the world to which he has called us to be salt and light. To call Romney “evil,” only less so, is simply grotesque. By all accounts, he is a good and decent individual who has taken pro-life actions in the face of enormous criticism in a very liberal state. There is nothing dignified at all about withholding a vote for Romney if he is the nominee.

    • Ken

      You mean like when Jesus opposed the authority of the Sanhedrin? Wasn’t John’s role to tear down the authority of the existing “Babylon” in order to make way for the Kingdom of God? Your logic (theological one too) is terribly flawed.

  • Larry

    Nancy, I quite agree that Mitt’s faith simply does not disqualify him … nor do most evangelicals that I know. Nor did it ever, unlike you, give me pause.

    His record, his speeches and his unethical and dishonorable approach to campaigning does trouble me deeply though. I read the attempts to qualify his record and speeches and justify his campaign methods … they all enjoy the same facile and frankly, unbelievable arguments.

    Worse, you offer the same approach in characterizing his opponents. That Mitt continues to attract less than 25% of the Republican vote ought to be cause for real concern … unless you’re willing to write us all off as boobs.

    Worse, now, just as he did in Massachusetts against his Democratic opponent when, after a long campaign, he was likewise unable to attract a majority, Mitt has gone negative.

    The absence of substance left the electorate unenthused, Mitt went negative. Consider the implications of such actions. This is a man who when rejected by potential voters simply gamed the system. He considers his own judgement superior to his fellow citizens. “Don’t want me?” he seems to say … “Well, I’m simply going to remove your other choices … to hell with principles … I want that office”. And he’s at it again. Nice.

    Never-the-less, we are treated to the worn narrative … “Mitt is an honorable, principled man”. Hmm, by whose measure? Certainly not mine. Serial flip flopping is hardly representative of principle. Negative and dishonest campaigning is hardly honorable … heck, its not even manly.

    The dismal record he left behind during his single term as governor of Massachusetts is evidence enough that a man who lacks conviction is almost certainly incapable of successful leadership. Again, his record … his actual record is a losing scorecard. Only through the extraordinary efforts of his apologists does his record offer anything but a warning to potential supporters.

    Mitt would be an unacceptable nominee in the best of times … in times such as these, however, his brand of conservatism would prove disastrous.

  • June Bessey

    It’s so nice to read an article that is sensical and intelligent! Thank you!

  • Suzanne

    Well put! Thank you for the article.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    If it is wrong for a candidate to “go negative”, isn’t that criticism an example of going negative?
    Romney took a stand during his term as governor of Massachusetts against stem cell research using human embryos, and the potential for commercial production and commodufication of human embryos which would result. That made him unpopular among many people in his state, but he has not gone back on that position. If the Pro-Life community can embrace a former abortion doctor and a former abortion clinic director who repudiated their prior views, why can’t it accept a man who made a similar (though far less drastic) change, and has been consistent in his position ever since?

    Romney was not responsible for the Massachusetts Supreme Court requiring gay marriage, nor for the Democrstic controlled legislature refusing to take up legislation that would overrule that ruling. He did jeep hus state from allowing gay marriage of peopke from out of state, and thus prevented lawsuits inother states trying to use gay marriages contracted in Massachusetts as a wedge in other states.

    No one has found any basis ti attack Romney’s integrity in all the years since he begam running for president in 2007. Those making accusations against him have nothing but naked gossip.

    Romney was not a denizen of Wall Street, making money from making stock change hands. Instead, he was involved in making real business succeed. He was not forcing sales if companies whose assets were worth more than their share price, then selling off the assets. Instead, he acquired companies not being well managed, and turned them into profitabke enterprises so tney could continue in operation, make a profit for their investors, and conrinue as employers. When he managed the 2002 Olympics, he did not kill it and sell irs assets, but turned it into a profitable enterprise that endowed the public venues with funds to pay opwtating costs for years, withput taxpayer subsudies. Romney saved and created jobs directly, using his smarts and leadership skills.

    • Larry

      To “going negative” criticisms with going negative is precisely the sort of circular reasoning Team Romney and its booster have become comfortable with. That’s rather like suggesting that identifying deception is deceptive. Pretty goofy. Obtuse at best … rhetorical sleight of hand at worst.

      Going negative as a last ditch effort to avoid loss (by removing all other options), to game the system and worse through sheer deception is the stock in trade of the worst sort of political insiders and power mongers.

      You offer a fictional narrative of Mitt’s qualifications that may earn him the nomination, and the presidency … and regret … over the following four years for a nation desperate for real conservative leadership. Unthinking boosterism gave us Obama … it may provide a very similar sort of leader in the form of Mitt Romney.

  • Solomon Kane

    Great article; I wish there was more of this attitude out there. United we stand, divided we get more of the Obama administration. Mitt is the only serious contender that can pull off an administration change.

  • Tex

    If the LA Times is to be believed, Romney counseled a woman against having an abortion even though she had a life-threatening clot while he was serving as a leader in the LDS Church. She said in the article that he pressed the issue so hard he was “kind of annoying” about it.

    So for everyone who claims Romney is pro-choice, when push came to shove he came firmly down on the side of life, even though his counsel wasn’t popular. How many of the other candidates have actually been in Romney’s shoes and had to give spiritual counsel to a woman considering an abortion?

    • Larry

      So I guess then that rather than pro-choice, he pro lying then … after all, he insisted that he felt preserving a women’s right to choose was paramount. Can’t have it both ways you know …

  • Dionne

    “Who am I to judge another” Are we forgetting in our “prior life” God said “You have learned from my teachings here in heaven. Now, I am sending you to earth – with a body and a brain – to gain knowledge and decide for yourself the difference between right and wrong What you do with this opportunity is up to you. You alone will determine the differences and which path you are going to take – and you alone will be judged on your decisions. No one can do it for you – nor will anyone else be responsible for the steps you take – or if you will be worthy to return to my presence. I am a loving and forgiving Father – If you come to me with a sincere and contrite heart – I will forgive you because I love you. ”

    Why should anyone else be made to make your decisions for you – else they be damned by your wrong decisions????

  • http://therightofthepeople.wordpress.com Rob

    I’m a Mormon who supported Romney in 2008. After he ignored the Tea Party movement, I soured on him and decided to look elsewhere for a candidate. But with Ron Paul going all nutty on foreign policy and defense spending, now I’m taking a second look. I like Santorum, but Romney is (currently) the likelier candidate to send Obama packing.

    That’s the ultimate goal here. Not eviscerating a candidate over his religion to score some sort of “God points” for smacking down an uppity Mormon. We HAVE to get Obama out of the White House THIS YEAR or there won’t BE another election.


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