[Note: The following are excerpts from my post today at Article VI Blog, which is devoted to exploring the intersection between faith and politics in the 2008 presidential election.]
This is just one Mormon's view. I want to write about the "damaged relations between Mormons and Evangelicals" to which John refers. . . . I'll look at this from three perspectives.
1. The surprised Mormon.
I am convinced that my own experience, as the Romney candidacy has unfolded, has been shared by most of my fellow Latter-day Saints. We have been genuinely surprised by the reactions to the Governor's run. We did not expect Al Mohler to agonize publicly over whether he could, as "a matter of Christian discipleship," justify voting for a Mormon. We did not see Huckabee's question, "Don't Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers?" coming, and we were stunned when it did. (The outrage came later.) The Iowa outcome caught most of us flat-footed too.
This group saw these developments "in sorrow more than anger." We received an e-mail from a reader that expresses that reaction well:
I am LDS and I wanted to chime in. I remember a time, maybe in the early summer, when the Mormon question was a bigger issue. Huckabee was asked a number of times when he was polling at 1% whether Romney's religion was relevant or not. This was a time, in my opinion, where he could have been a real leader and denounced bigotry in general. Instead he stayed mum and said things like 'of course religion influences me', and so forth. He had an opportunity to bring tolerance and acceptance.
What if he would have said: "We won't compromise our doctrines, but we need each other in this war for values, and we should be proud to work together." [Ed.: For Romney's part, that's what he was saying then and has always said.] Something like this would have strengthened the cause of social conservatism much more than what he chose to do instead: He chose to use religion as a weapon. He used religion and values voters to drive a wedge, and in my opinion set back the conservative values movement a long way.
George Bush won with evangelicals AND Mormons and others of faith and values, and even then only narrowly. Now, there is a divide. I still believe in conservative principles but I will never support a ticket with Huckabee anywhere close to it. I was hoping that this election could have brought about more acceptance and a greater desire to work together. Sadly it didn't happen. . . . Who is going to bring harmony to the values movement? Bush at least paid respect. I am not sad that Romney lost. I am sad that the movement of faith and values lost and it seems like our collective influence has been marginalized.
I can attest that our reader has a lot of company among LDS folk.
2. The offended Mormon.
A good friend of mine is a long-time Republican activist and was a presidential appointee during the current Bush administration. He and I were talking at the time of the "Jesus and Satan are brothers" brouhaha. In exasperation, he said something like this to me, referring to Evangelicals who were either critical of, or hesitant about, Romney based on his Mormonism:
I'm done with these people. Mormons have become the blacks of the Republican party. The religious right is happy to take our money, our volunteer time, and definitely our votes, but they don't want us to have a place at the table. Sure, we can serve in Congress, but we'd better not get uppity enough to run for president. Well, now that I know how they feel, they're getting nothing from me.
I don't share my friend's view, but I certainly understand it. I must say, it's tragic and totally unnecessary that this has occurred, but people are people.
Mormons (including Mitt Romney) did not come into this election looking for a fight. We have always voted for a candidate of another faith; that's just normal life to us. The idea of not voting for a presidential candidate because he's a Baptist or a Methodist or a Catholic is simply foreign to us. (Hence the "surprised Mormons" described above.). . .
In fairness to my friend, by "these people" he meant religious conservatives who make an issue of a politician's Mormon faith but still want the political help of the poiltician's co-religionists. He wasn't divorcing himself from Evangelicals.
3. The bridge-building Mormon.
I aspire to membership in this group. My sense is that I have a lot of company. We of this bunch are dismayed at what has happened but, consistent with our faith's general attitude, we seek out people of good will and high moral standards with whom we can make common cause in civic matters.
It's significant, in that regard, that the new president of our church, Thomas S. Monson, said this on the day his selection was announced:
Responding to a reporter’s question about the Church’s openness in working with other churches and groups, President Monson said: “We should not be sequestered in a little cage. We should eliminate the weakness of the one standing alone and substitute it with the strength of working together to make this a better world.”
That's a very, very familiar teaching to me, as a Mormon; I've been hearing it all my life.
There are far too few voters who care about families and marriage and protecting youth from the rot of our continually coarsening and secularizing society. We cannot afford to fragment ourselves.
It would help us all if the candidates would echo that theme. I think Romney has been doing that. John McCain does not care about social issues much, but he could do the Republican Party, and the base whose support he needs, a great service by:
- Denouncing religious bigotry and the abuse of identity politics.
- Picking up the phone and calling his ally Huckabee and insisting that Huck do the same thing.
- If McCain gets the nomination, pointedly involving Romney in his campaign and announcing, before the election, that he will invite both Romney and Huckabee to have a significant role in a McCain administration, and that he expects there to be no sectarian divisions in his team.
Now that would be leadership. Let's see if we get something close to it.