A Letter to Iowa Evangelicals

A Letter to Iowa Evangelicals December 30, 2011


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.

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  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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. ”


    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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.