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A Secret Group of Evangelicals Picks Santorum

A Secret Group of Evangelicals Picks Santorum January 16, 2012

Police officers checking guests on Friday on the road to a ranch near Houston where conservative Christian leaders met for talks. (Michael Stravato for The New York Times)

So, it turns out that I was only partially right when I posted that evangelicals wouldn’t vote for a woman, a Mormon, or a Catholic. At least their leaders will vote for a Catholic.

At a secret meeting, an unidentified group of evangelical leaders, they took a vote, and Rick Santorum won. The New York Times reports,

The extent to which those attending the meeting will be able to mobilize their followers behind Mr. Santorum remains unclear. The group’s vote is not binding on participants and the leaders did not directly ask Mr. Gingrich or Mr. Perry to drop out of the race.

“There is a hope and an expectation that this will have an impact on South Carolina,” Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council and a spokesman for the group, said in a telephone news conference after the private meeting concluded.

The decision here in Texas came on the eve of the final Sunday church services before the South Carolina primary on Saturday. Mr. Santorum said that he raised $3 million in the last week and expected that the support would likely help him raise even more money and strengthen his campaign organization in the state.

But that’s not all.

Laurie Goodstein, the New York Times religion reporter, filed a thorough report on why they won’t. It’s not because they think that Romney is unelectable. It’s because he’s a Mormon. I find this story especially compelling because Goodstein got a prominent liberal Christian leader — Serene Jones, the president of Union Seminary — to go on the record saying that Mormonism is not Christianity (something I’ve said, but found very few progressives who would join me):

On the most fundamental issue, traditional Christians believe in the Trinity: that God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all rolled into one.

Mormons reject this as a non-biblical creed that emerged in the fourth and fifth centuries. They believe that God the Father and Jesus are separate physical beings, and that God has a wife whom they call Heavenly Mother.

It is not only evangelical Christians who object to these ideas.

“That’s just not Christian,” said the Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, a liberal Protestant seminary in New York City. “God and Jesus are not separate physical beings. That would be anathema. At the end of the day, all the other stuff doesn’t matter except the divinity of Jesus.”

I still hold that any of these candidates lacks the true, evangelical credentials that will motivate evangelical voters. Evangelicals will simply stay home at the general election (even the IA caucus and NH primary had relatively low turnouts).

And finally, evangelical pollster George Barna has endorsed Newt Gingrich. Will this finally be enough to get people to stop trusting Barna’s research?


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