Why Evangelicals Are Supporting Romney

Why Evangelicals Are Supporting Romney August 28, 2012

Does evangelical support for Mitt Romney require evangelicals to elevate political partisanship over theological integrity?  Does this show that evangelicals are willing to compromise their core theological beliefs in service to their political agenda?

I don’t think so — but some have suggested it does.  As the Republican national convention is underway, it’s worth revisiting this issue:

Jonathan Merritt wrote back in early June:

What’s surprising in 2012 is the relative lack of anxiety on the other [non-Mormon] side, among evangelicals who for years considered Mormonism a “cult” that was to be feared, not embraced.

In fact, the relative ambivalence among prominent evangelicals about this new “Mormon moment” — and the fact that Romney’s campaign could mainstream Mormonism right into the Oval Office – could radically shift the dynamics on America’s political and religious landscape.

My friend and Patheos blogger Scot McKnight said that Merritt “nails it.”  He goes on: “the evangelical voice has grown strangely silent on Romney’s Mormon faith, and it is for one reason: politics too often matters more.”

I disagree.  Conservative evangelicals (progressive evangelicals are another matter, of course) are supporting Romney because they’re showing a measure of political maturity.

First of all, evangelicals like myself who supported Romney throughout the primary know that other evangelicals were hardly holding their fire when it comes to Mitt’s Mormonism.  I can’t tell you how many emails and messages I received informing me that Mormonism is a cult and that supporting Romney for the GOP candidacy was doing the devil’s work.  Robert Jeffress is commonly cited as the voice of the evangelical extreme on this issue, but while I stringently disagreed with labeling Mormonism a “cult,” what Jeffress articulated at the Values Voters Summit in 2011 was a reasonable position: Given two equally qualified conservatives candidates, one Mormon and the other evangelical, he would prefer an evangelical.  But Jeffress made clear even then that, were Romney to win the nomination, he would have Jeffress’ full support over against Barack Obama.

Let’s not forget that some Christian conservatives were so concerned by what looked like the increasingly likely prospect of a Romney presidency that they rallied in a Texas conclave in order to come to a consensus on an alternative to support.  While Romney’s representatives were invited, the conclave was a microcosm of the primary, where social conservatives lurched from one bad candidate to another, in search of a Not-Mitt to support.

Once he won the primary, however, was it hypocritical of conservative evangelicals then to support Romney?  Are they showing that they care more about the election of a conservative than the salvation of souls?

Of course not.  There’s no compelling reason to believe that Mitt’s election would lead more people to convert to Mormonism.  George W. Bush did not make Methodism more popular, and Barack Obama has not made the United Church of Christ more popular.  There’s no evidence that John F. Kennedy swelled the ranks of the Catholic church, and no one seemed terribly concerned that Joseph Lieberman as Vice President would lead more people to become Jewish.

Granted, you might say, but Mormonism is on the fringe in a way that Methodism and Catholicism are/were not.  This would “mainstream” Mormonism, and thus would lead more people to take Mormonism seriously as a religious option.  To which I say: So what?  Let them learn about Mormonism and make a decision.  I’m not afraid of people learning more about Mormonism and its distinctives from historic Christianity.  And if Americans learn that Mormons are by and large ordinary and honorable people, that’s a good thing, in my book.  Besides, a Mitt Romney presidency is just as likely to turn people off from Mormonism as it is to turn them on to it.

Perhaps evangelicals are supporting Romney because they understand that they’re voting for a President and not a Pontiff.  Perhaps they’re supporting Mitt for the Presidency because, you know, they actually think he’d be a better President than Obama.  Seems perfectly reasonable to me.  While I would be uncomfortable with a satanist in the White House because I do fear that his fundamental values and beliefs would lead him to make decisions I would regard as morally objectionable, I have no reason to believe that the distinctive Mormon christology would lead Romney to make the wrong executive decisions.

Evangelicals are supporting Romney because they’re grownups.  Many wanted someone else to win the primary, but evangelicals are not merely mashing their sour grapes.  They’re supporting the man who is, by a hundred miles, a far better man for the White House than Barack Obama.  We recognize the importance of evicting Obama from the White House; we understand that we’re not endorsing a theologian but electing an executive; and we’re prioritizing issues like protecting the unborn and rebuilding a flourishing economy and culture over having someone in the White House who thinks about the Trinity in the same way we do.

That’s not hypocrisy.  It’s maturity.

Romney’s speeches at places like Liberty University have made a difference, as Romney has begun to project the kind of full-orbed vision of American renewal, from its moral and cultural roots to its families and communities and businesses and economy, that conservative evangelicals are eager to support.  Obama’s decisions and statements with regard to the HHS mandate and same-sex marriage have only strengthened evangelical support for Romney as well.

In the last analysis, evangelicals find themselves facing in this election just as they have for two generations an inexorable logic: (a) Abortion is the supreme moral issue of our time.  (b) The Democratic Party is unequivocally the party of abortion.  (c) Electing a Democrat (even a pro-life one, which Obama is not) is strengthening the party of abortion and prolonging the abortion regime in America.  (d) Ergo, the only hope for serious progress on the abortion issue is in electing Republicans.

But it’s not only the abortion issue.  On many issues, Romney gives conservative evangelicals the best chance for progress.  When you consider the fact that he is also a man of extraordinary personal integrity, even more remarkable intelligence and competency, and an extremely successful business leader with precisely the kind of economic experience this country needs, there’s no question why conservative evangelicals would support Romney: because they’re not stupid.

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  • Charles slakan

    Mormons can not be equated to Christianity.
    According to their prophet Smith on which their cult bases its beliefs, Christ’s blood alone is not enough for Salvation; in fact, murder and adultery are not covered by Christ’s blood. Joseph Smith said that a believers’ own blood is necessary as well.
    Christians believe Christ’s conception was Immaculate, via the Holy Ghost.
    It’s in the Bible, but Mormons don’t see the Bible as the first source when it comes to spiritual matters, they refer to the Book of Mormon which hardly resembles the Bible.
    Smith wrote that the Christian doctrine of Immaculate Conception was a lie and that God became a man, flesh like any man and went into Mary.
    Mary would have been an adulterer via the very Law God had given Moses in the Old Testament.
    Smith said blacks the descendants of canaan? were cursed forever. He also said that any Mormon, man that did not embrace plural marriage was damned and could not go to their planet and became a god.
    Mormons claim God was once a man and Jesus is the brother of Satan.
    There are so many fundamental reasons Mormonism is not Christian that I find it hard to believe so many so called Christians would cast their lots with Romney.
    In conclusion is that there should be no religious test, but when an intelligent man that was a bishop in his church for years misrepresents his beliefs as Christian, a closer examination needs to happen.
    We are not voting for a pope, but Christians live in the world and are not of it. Being a Christian is not a scheduled event, it’s a way of life, a comittment to the Truth.
    Jesus told the rich man to sell everything and follow him,another man, he told forget burying your relative, let the dead bury their own. Daniel was willing to do anything but he refused to worship an idol.
    Mitt Romney who actually was a bishop of that Cult for years has said more than once that his false religion is the basis for everything he does.
    I hardly think that God will accept an excuse from anyone that lends this anti-christ a hand much less elect him to represent what has always been called a Christian Nation unless he repents and accepts Christ as his Saviour, confesses that Jesus’es birth was Immaculate, and that God was not once a man.
    He can always forswear the goddess they believe in and the plural wives God supposedly has.
    You can not serve God and Memnon. too.
    To aid a blasphemer is to take part of his sins.

  • Tim

    As Luther may have said, I’d rather be governed by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.

  • Richard Cannon

    Tim, Your blog makes some rational arguments but I disagree about your perspective about political maturity. Evangelicals like most voters are often faced with the reality of voting for candidates that take some positions we don’t support, have serious character flaws or don’t share all our values. For me and many other conservatives I know, Romney’s Mormonism is not the primary issue; it’s his inconsistent policy record and unwillingness to explain it that make him appear insincere. Many of my family live in Utah and they are accustomed to having no choise but vote for LDS candidates or not vote.

    • DougH

      True, for most of Utah non-Mormons are going to be voting for Mormons, and the opposite is just as true for Mormons living outside of Utah. That’s a fact of life for any minority sect or religion. When Jesus preached his parable of the Sheep and the Goats he didn’t mention race or religion among his list of qualities, and I don’t see why we should include them when casting our votes.

  • Bobby B.

    Mr. Obama’s narcissism makes it extraordinarily difficult to discern what his true religious beliefs are. Don’t see any reason to support him politically because he is a “believer,” a “Christian,” or a “man of faith.”

  • I want a good leader and someone who will hold to American ideals.

    I don’t care if they are Hindu, or Mormon, or Catholic, or atheist.

    Leftist ideas are tried and failed ideas and it’s time to dump them (and the current President).


    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You’re welcome, Steve Martin.

  • utexashorns

    I absolutely just sit there and shake my head every time Mormonism is completely and TOTALLY misrepresented. I AM A MORMON, AND I AM A CONVERT SO I KNOW OF WHAT I SPEAK. Obviously, some participants here have not actually READ the BOM (Book of Mormon), if you did, you would realize that it actually speaks of Jesus MORE than the OT and NT combined. We are absolutely positively christians. However, we believe that you can not just act badly or like a “lukewarm” Christian and just going around saying “I am saved, covered in the blood,etc”- you have to actually be true to God and honor him by actually behaving properly and not offending God by just taking his grace for granted. You need true repentence, not just continued bad behavior or less than your best and just think, oh well- I am saved, praise God. So if we expect our members to actually rise to the next level, then feel free to call it a cult because we strive for more. I am proud to live by a higher bar.
    As far as Satan , Jesus and the rest of us? Let me help you with some critical analysis and reflective thinking. Where did Lucifer come from? Who created him? Where did Jesus come from? Where did we come from? God is the creator of EVERYTHING. We are all brothers and sisters- Satan and his minions fell from Heaven. So we are all connected. That simple.
    Let me clarify for you that we believe in the atonement. We are Christians. The church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We believe in the OT and the NT. We believe in baptism, sacrament. We believe that we are the offspring of God and that we are divine in nature. We believe that we have a mother in heaven because as on eart as it is in heaven. Where do children come from but a male and a female? God created and designed these patterns and truths to show us and prepare us for the eternal life when we return home to him.
    I could go on about all the ways that Charles slakan was completely misinformed. We are not polygamists, and in fact polygamy is a very loooooong explanation as to how and why. But remember, David, Solomon and many others in the Old Testament- don’t come at us with such a weak argument. It is not God’s best- but there are things in man’s history and worldly condition that warrants things in permissable will so that greater objectives can be accomplished for God. Trust me, I will not be in some crazy polygamist colony in heaven! lol!

    • dakpeter

      Christains believe that Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are all one person. Mormons do not.

  • Volzi

    I find it funny there is NO mention of his and Ryan outright LIES in the past week and at the RNC. It’s all over the web ATM. Hell even FOX NEWS criticized the lies in Ryan’s Speech….

    Yet the religious support them?

    You shall NOT bear false witness against your Neighbor!!

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I haven’t had a chance to watch Ryan’s speech yet, but the responses to the “fact-checkers” have been pretty persuasive.

      • Bob Wiley

        Those who are fact-checking the self-appointed fact-checkers usually find either a slanted reading of the evidence or a failure to read all the evidence. “Fact-checking” is now merely another tool in the campaign tool box.

  • Jay Saldana

    Tim, I am surprised at your choice and your reasoning. Mr. Romney’s faith should not be an issue period. What disturbs me is the “allowing” of LDS to join the family of Christians even though as a faith they are clearly heretical on many, if not most, essential Christian beliefs. They are a good people, intelligent, hard working with good moral values but so are committed followers of Mohammed. When we conflate theology, even by implication, with out clear explanations on where we divide we invite serious problems, the least of which is that some will think we are the same.
    Second, Mr. Romney’s integrity is one of pure political opportunism. He is in many way worse than the ordinary professional exceptional politician (excuse the tortured way I put that please). He is second only to Newt Gingrich in taking dogmatic twists and turns to suit his expected audience. Integrity is not his strong suit. Third, the Republicans have been running us like stampeding cattle on the issue of abortion. The republicans will not do much of anything about that issue -just as they have in the past except to take our money – becasue it is a political game to them not a moral issue. The best way we have of really changing that is to take the lead in both parties by participation in both parties. Fourth, do you really think if we continue to take the side of the Romans, I mean the elite, we will n0t be “called to task” spiritually for our Sanhedrin -like, Pharisaical stance against the poor and people of color? We “fight” for the unborn while we allow millions to suffer, children and families to go without necessary medical support, stay silent while we support others who do covert raciest dialogue, while families fail as we support those who think the wealthy needs more. While we support them as they encourage the cult of rugged individualism even though that is anathema of what Jesus asked of us? I am sorry, I do not see this as bearing spiritual fruit as it seems that some in the fight for the unborn have forgotten the living.
    This is not to excuse the Democrats or find them free of error, but you are inviting a division where we blank out half of the values we think are important, so we can say we are “conservative” and say we support “the premier moral issue of our day”. Even though that support and the party that is the object of that support has accomplished almost nothing for our “premier issue” except to demand we give up more and more of values.
    Frankly, in my opinion we need to grow a pair. We need to withhold our support till we see some results. We should do it to both parties. Nothing like losing an election big to open the eyes and bring out the spirit of movement to the side that has the votes ;or are we afraid that our conservative “friends” will spit in our collective eye?
    Last, I think you should know that as of today there is a 76% chance that Mr Obama will be re-elected ( I promise you that is good data). What then? When you put all your eggs in one basket with no involvement with the other side what happens to the premier issue then? I sincerely think we need to re-think this strategy and maybe why we vote. After all, if I were the devil what a great way to destroy the church, just get the Church to side undemanding with the power group and forget about the rich man’s table.
    I pray you have a safe and God filled weekend and holiday,

  • jerry lynch

    This election seems to come dow to the lesser of two evils, and if that is the case, Obama is the clear choice. Bane Capital was a company where saving an industry or outsourcing it or closing it were determined purely by profit. People were completely overlooked for the Bottom Line. As a nation that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, I want a president that puts us first.
    Romney holds up what he did to save the Olympics, and it was a great success were ruin seemed close at hand, but there were many questions about the deals he made, so he had all the records destroyed.
    Romney lied, and was caught in this lie, about filing his taxes with Maine as his primary residence. He tried to stonewall questions about it by saying “Trust me.” He “retroactively” (as with his “retirement” from Bane) adjusted his taxes.
    Romney took the thriving economy of MA as governor and brought it down to 47th in the nation.
    Name any issue and Romney has flip-flopped on it. He has claimed to be a “progressive” in his run for governor and now “severely conservative” in his run for president. As someone said, the man’s faith is really Opportunism.
    His staff of advisors are made up mostly of ex-Bush people: you want to return to that ruinous path?
    Nearly every ad either by him or a superpac has held a lie or gross distortion about the president.
    But you won’t fact-check any of this now because facts are just a trick of the media to undermine Romney, right?
    And he wants the nation to get straight economically by saddling the full burden on “the least of these” while favoring the wealthy with more benefits. How we treat “the least of these” is the measure of how we will be judged. You want a Christian Nation when it comes to ending abortion, keeping marriage as between a man and a woman, and putting prayer back in the schools, but will support cutting off aid to the needy. How do you sleep at night?

  • dakpeter

    Evangelicals must also realize that Republicans are moving away from supporting social issues. Their only concern is changing to creating a smaller government. As a Christian, I am concerned that people would rather vote for a non-Christian — who would profess that he does not believe in the Trinity than someone -whether you believe him or not — who professes to believe in the Trinity. The most important issue is not abortion — although I think it is extremely important — but knowing who God is — and serving him. Once you come to that understanding, then you have an oopportunity to educate people on the importance of life issues and not changing the definition of marriage.

  • rjdesq


    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You really need to get out of the fever swamp a bit more, Robert. You have a cartoonish view of those whose religious and political views differ from yours.