Friday, April 27, 2012

Repost | Here We Go Again: Mormonism and Presidential Politics

One of the interesting things about the Presidential race of 2007-2008 was the role that religion played in determining the candidates for both major parties.  You may recall the number of slanderous and outrageous comments made in sermons by then-Senator Barack Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright.  Obama was a member of Wright's church for 20 years and eventually disavowed himself from the controversial pastor all the while claiming that he never heard such language from the man who baptized his children and he named his second book after ("The Audacity of Hope" was a sermon preached by Wright).

The second religious issue that arose was regarding Republican candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.  Though Obama became his party's nominee and eventually was elected President in 2008, Romney lost to Arizona Senator John McCain.  One of the main reasons Romney lost, pundits argue, is because of Romney's unapologetic faith.  Romney is a Mormon and Christians (and Republicans) aren't ready to elect a Mormon.

Just as Obama was forced to give a speech on religion in light of the Wright problem, so did Romney. Much of the speech reflects the legacy started by President John F. Kennedy who famously said that he is not a Catholic President, but a President who happens to be Catholic. Here is Romney's speech:

Well, we're back to where we started.  Romney is running for President again and following the comments of the pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX (after endorsing Texas Governor Rick Perry) calling Mormonism a cult has media has offered a barrage of attacks against the Baptist minister all the while raising the issue against of Mormonism and the Presidency.

Fox News gives us the report:

Expect this issue to only increase. I have been waiting for it to rise and there have been pockets of it.  Many have noted that the Republican Presidential primary has two Mormons (one a former governor of Utah), but nothing has been made of it.

My concern here is how our culture views these issues. Listen to the pundits and to the journalists and you don't here a theological debate about theology (a point rightly made by the Dallas minister), but a political debate about a theology.  The debate ought to be over the theology of Mormonism, not the politics of Mormonism, but media elites are so theologically illiterate and view everything through political lenses that the minister is looked at as an intolerant bigot lost in a pluralistic age.

As Christians, our concern must be theological.  I am not concerned here on whether or not an Evangelical ought to vote for a Mormon Mitt Romney over a social justice/black liberation theology/secularist Barack Obama.  My concern here is that now when Christians discuss Mormonism, like the cultural elites, we discuss it through political lenses.  What matters is what they believe about Christ, the world, God, salvation, the cross, sin, and the afterlife.  Not necessarily tax policy and health care.

Mormonism is not orthodox Christianity.  Joseph Smith admitted as much.  He argued that Christianity had turned apostate shortly after the apostles and has returned to its orthodox roots at the coming of Smith and the discovery of the Book of Mormon.  They have a different God (Elohim who used to be like us), a different Christ, a different cosmology, a different view of the afterlife, a different soteriology (works righteousness), and a different view of Scripture.  They're not Christians and to deny that truth is disingenuous.  Just because Mormonism have tried to brand themselves as Christians in recent years, they have not historically done so.  They proclaim a different gospel and thus cannot be considered Christian.

That is a theological truth that is undeniable.  When the essentials and distinctives of Christianity are all redefined or openly denied then you cease to be Christian.  Mormonism has historically rejected monotheism, the Trinity, salvation by faith alone, the eternality of God and Jesus, etc.  Whether or not this means a Christian can vote for a Mormon or anyone else of a different faith is a different issue.  Luther is attributed as saying that he would rather be ruled by a competent Muslim than a foolish Christian and many are beginning to suggest that that is wise counsel.  That is not my concern here.

Here is a case of why pundits should stick to punditry and leave theology behind.  The one good point made by former President George W. Bush adviser, Karl Rove, is that right now Mormonism looks like the victim in light of what was said by the Baptist minister.  But if Romney gets the nomination (which is very possible), the media (and the Obama campaign) will come out swinging against Mormonism. They will portray Mormonism is idiotic picking on some of its very strange beliefs.

Expect this issue to not go away especially if Romney wins the nomination. It will be interesting if this becomes more of an issue in the upcoming debates and the Republican primaries.  In the meantime, I recommend Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.'s article on the subject.  He offers both a theological and a political response to the "Mormon Question."

For more:
Blogizomai - "The last three years have held a lot of change, but they haven’t offered much hope.": Romney's New Hampshire Victory Speech (Video & Text)
Blogizomai - (President) Mitt Romney's Florida Victory Speech
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Awkward Romney Interview
Blogizomai - Dick Morris: Obama Will Lose 
Blogozimai - Romney Will Burn In Hell: Bashir, MSNBC, and the Current Climate of Progressive Punditry
Blogizomai - Going to the Dogs: The 2012 Campaign, Manufactored Controversies, and the Unborn
Blogizomai - It Takes One to Know One: Large Families and Smug Fecundity
Blogizomai - An Important Read: Is Mormonism "Having a Moment?"
Blogizomai - The Remarriage of Faith and Public Policy: Why Kennedy's Legacy Is a Farce
Theology - "Those Are Biblical Principles...?": Jeremiah Wright's Theology Misapplied  
Reviews - "The Audacity of Hope"  
Blogizomai - Prophet, Priest, and President:  Is Obama the Messiah? 
Blogizomai - Politics is Thicker Than Promises:  Lessons Learned From Obama and the Gay Community
Blogizomai - It Ain't Easy Being the Messiah:  Is Reality Finally Hitting America About the Messianism of Politicians?
Blogizomai - We Are All Theologians:  The Root of All We Are and Do  
Blogizomai - What's In a Word?  A Subtle Shift From Freedom of Religion to Freedom of Worship and Why It Matters 
Blogizomai - The Ongoing Conversation on Religious Liberty
Blogizomai - The Lion of the Senate and the Lamb of God:  The Pope, the Politician, and the Plea for Grace 
Blogizomai - Why I (Hesitantly) Signed the Manhattan Declaration   
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