Evangelicals and Mitt Romney

My friend Pete, who’s been reporting on politics for decades, can’t understand why evangelicals don’t like Romney. I’ve explained to him the deep antipathy evangelicals feel toward Mormons, but to him the groups seem more similar than different. How on earth could evangelicals support Gingrich, a serial adulterer and hypocrite, over Romney, a solid God-and-family man?

I’m not sure I understand it myself. I do know, however, that feelings about Mormons go deep. I predict that if Romney is the Republican nominee, a lot of evangelicals will stay home in November, and very few will campaign enthusiastically for him. As evangelicals comprise much if not most of the Republican base, that’s a major problem. Republicans know it; that’s why they keep flocking to the latest anybody-but-Romney candidate.

But why do evangelicals dislike Mormons so much? It has something to do with envy. Mormons violate all the rules of orthodox Christian theology, and yet they outperform evangelicals on practically every point.

–They are not only pro-marriage and pro-family, they actually have a record of staying married.

–They are squeaky clean on drugs and alcohol, while evangelicals broadcast their concern about addictive substances but have skeletons in every family closet.

–They witness to their faith. Every time evangelicals see those boys with white shirts and ties walking in pairs through their neighborhood, they feel guilty that they aren’t witnessing themselves.

Those are the main point, but there are other reasons for jealousy:

— Mormons don’t have professional clergy. (Evangelicals profess the priesthood of all believers, but in reality are ruled by preachers.)

-Mormons boast an actual tourist magnet in the Salt Lake City temple complex. (Evangelicals love Disney World and have tried unsuccessfully to launch a Christian theme park to match it.)

Add it all up, and the short-haired, clean-cut Mormon boy who goes on a two-year mission trip to Guatemala and comes home to marry his sweetheart, produce babies, and join his dad’s construction company, is the son every evangelical dreams of. They’re living our dream, despite their heretical beliefs.  Most aggravating of all, they are nice.

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13 Responses to “Evangelicals and Mitt Romney”

  1. Dana Ames Says:

    Well, nice folks have problems, too, usually because it’s hard for them/us to tell the real truth about their/our woundedness and emotional reality. This is something some Mormons and some Evangelicals have in common, though some Ev’s seem to be getting better at this, from my own limited and anecdotal perspective. But yes, I think some part of it is envy.

    It just highlights for me that the ultimate end of our life is not Morality…

    Thanks for the blog, Tim. I appreciate all your writing. Hope you & your family have a good 2012.

    Dana
    in Ukiah

  2. Gary Moline Says:

    So true, Tim! Very clearly stated. A friend of my read this and sent back the comment:

    “That was a beautifully done piece by your eloquent friend.
    p.s. also needless to say, that doesn’t mean I will vote for
    the former President of the Mass. Mormons if and when he
    goes against our Kenyan!

  3. chosenrebel Says:

    Tim,

    I disagree. While most of what you write about the difference between Mormon ethical practice and Evangelical practice is true, to our great shame, I don’t think the reason Evangelicals have a hard time embracing Mormons as leaders is NOT envy. I think for most, and by most I mean the vast majority of Evangelicals have difficulty with Romney is doctrinal. They simply don’t want more prominence given to a Mormon figure who might use their position to influence people toward the false doctrine of Mormonism.

    Envy would be a serious issue if it were true but I doubt your thesis on this one. It’s not envy but a desire for the gospel to held up as the Good News for the world.

    Aside: The lack of consistency in evangelicals is evidence that many in evangelical churches remain unconverted. They are just as lost as the Mormon’s who believe the false gospel of Joseph Smith and Mormonism

  4. Bill Reichert Says:

    I must concur with chosenrebel too, Tim. I grew up in Mormon country (western Wyoming), and many of my friends (guys and gals) were Mormon. I dated Mormon girls, and had a few Mormons try to convert me. We all got along. There was absolutely no envy involved. In all my years of hanging around Mormons, it never occurred to me that perhaps I should become a Mormon in order to become a better person. But I do support Mitt Romney for President.
    Many faiths produce rather moral people, at least so far as we can judge from the outside. I found burnt-out and marginal Mormons throughout my teen years. Mormons may have a good “image machine,” but they have many of the same problems evangelicals have–they just aren’t as widely recognized because there are so few Mormons relative to evangelicals, and Mormons tend to hang around their own.
    For me the key to the truth faith is forgiveness, not moral betterment. From the removal of sin good works should grow. But outward righteousness is not something that should stir up envy in those who understand the meaning of the Gospel.

  5. Doug Webb Says:

    Hi Tim, Is it possible your premise is in error? Maybe evangelicals don’t like Romney because they consider him a moderate and they want a conservative as their candidate. I suspect evangelical opposition to Romney has almost nothing to do with him being a Mormon. That is certainly true in my case. Doug Webb

  6. R K S Says:

    Would the Morman church allow a group of evangelicals to enter, attend services and tour all of the church to learn about it?

    • Jack Says:

      Look at any Mormon church and the sign on the outside says, “Visitors welcome.” As for their temples, they are open to visitors prior to their dedication and anyone can attend. Once dedicated they’re not even open to all members.

  7. Bob Says:

    It strikes me that one with their religion so outside the mainstream be given power over the lives of the entire country. I do not know if Gingrich’s faith is real. However, I can see a forgiven Gingrich in the White House before Romney. I think of King David, and Gingrich is closer to him. He is also speaking more truthfully and plainly and is not scared of our enemies. Bachman and Santorum also seem upstanding. Romney is not my primary choice, not because of hatred, but because of concern for the country and my president’s faith and adherence to it while making decisions which affect others.

  8. dmoore Says:

    There have been three clearly evangelical republican candidates that had their day in the sun only to slide dismally in the polls. For Romney, and what I know of LDS theology, despite the moral credential you listed, I and others would never vote for him. I won’t compromise on this decision. It is a sad commentary when the evangelical arm within the Republican party cannot place and solidly stand behind a capable, Christian candidate; perhaps it is due to the early split of vote among seven candidates. Equally, it is sad the moral standards of evangelicals that have grown nominal in their orthodox faith. Romney despite his religion and merits, clearly is not a Christian. There are no crosses on Mormon steeples.

    To date, Romney has won in Iowa and New Hampshire; I believe South Carolina and the soon pending primaries will provide compelling evidence of where evangelical influence is today in this country. Thanks for your blog.

    • Jack Says:

      Mormons don’t use crosses because they celebrate Christ’s resurrection, not his death. If your son were killed by someone with a gun, would you hang a gun on your wall as a remembrance of him?

  9. Jack Says:

    I don’t know if it’s coincidence or providence, but I have watched with interest over the past few months the attacks on Christmas, Tim Tebow, and religion in general and wondered what is going on in this country. In the 1600s Pilgrims and Puritans came to this land to escape religious persecution and tyranny. Freedom of religion was so important to our founding fathers that it made its way into the Bill of Rights. Yet, as we watch Christianity being attacked on all sides, there are those in the Evangelical movement who have no problem turning around and attacking Mitt Romney for his religious beliefs. Religious bigotry is just that and shouldn’t be tolerated by any First Amendment loving American. It strikes me as an affront to the Constitution.

    What difference does it make what discrepancies might exist in doctrine? What does matter is what Mormons practice socially. They are opposed to gay marriage, which was evidenced in a big way during the Prop 8 fight in California. They are very pro-family. They are against abortion. They are against legalized gambling. They are opposed to the use of illicit drugs – heck, they don’t even approve of smoking and drinking, which means lower health care costs. They believe in helping others, which they demonstrate in the wake of natural disasters by donating food, water, and clothing as well as volunteering in the clean up process regardless of the victim. They have amazing welfare and emergency preparedness plans. Nothing they do in the public arena harms society in any way, shape, or form.

    A 2010 Gallup poll showed that 59% of Mormons identify themselves as conservatives, 31% moderates, and only 8% liberal. Look at the wide range of stances taken by such Mormons as Harry Reid, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake and Jason Chaffetz – they’re all over the political spectrum, which should alleviate fears that their church leaders tell them what to do and think.

    Who cares what kind of underwear they don, where they believe the Garden of Eden is, or any of that kind of stuff? What matters is the kind of lives they live. With the battle against religion intensifying we should all be coming together, not fighting amongst ourselves.

  10. natewoodwardmusic Says:

    My own emotional distaste for Mormons really has to do with their co-opting of Christianity for some hair-brained, absurd fiction about Jesus in the Americas. I think it makes Christianity–historic, orthodox Christianity–look stupid, because it uses our scriptures and purports to be “the full story” when it is not at all. I would have a harder time voting for a Mormon because, well, how could someone reasonable really believe that? I know atheists think that about us, and it’s probably not fair, but honestly, that’s it: Mormon dogma is just too goofy for me to take seriously.

    • D. Moore Says:

      It’s interesting to see the strategy of silence as Romney’s presidential campaign gets under way. While he has remained mute on his faith, different parts of the Republican part are naively content and support thinking that they have seen the totality of Romney views. The underlying question will be whether he continues to maintain this posture if elected.

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