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 abortion, gay 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.