Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is not going to get a free ride, and even opportunities to kiss-up to the Christian Right look to rebound against him, such as his rite of passage moment – really, more of a conjugal visit – the commencement address he is due to give students at obsessively anti-gay Liberty University this weekend.
It seems fitting somehow that Romney should be so roundly condemned; after all, as Dana Milbank writes in a Washington Post opinion piece, this is the guy who won’t defend anyone else from the scurrilous attacks of right-wing demagogues: not to protect President Obama from charges of treason, not to defend his own aide, Richard Grenell, not to defend Sandra Fluke when called a slut by Rush Limbaugh. Mitt Romney has embraced the slime; it is fitting that he be covered in it.
And of course, the religious extremists are beside themselves. They hardly know what to do now that a despised Mormon is their candidate. I looked yesterday at one response: James Robison’s plea for “unity” addressed to the faculty and students of Liberty University – a unity disrupted by Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. James Robison wants to push Mormonism under the rug for the sake of “shared values” – meaning hatred of gays, lesbians, and women – a shrug and a wink to dispose of decades of Christian hatred of Mormonism as a non-Christian cult.
But Robison does not speak for all fundamentalists by any means. We have seen Bryan Fischer first castigate Romney for hiring a gay man and we have seen Romney “fire” the gay man, followed by Fischer castigating Romney for doing what he told him to do: “if Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, coopted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin? How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me?”
While it’s great fun to see Romney punched around in his “I’m a good Indian” routine – his efforts to be seen as acceptable by men who hate him – we can’t take any of this lightly. Fischer is a powerful voice on the right and many attend to his words, however warped, as is Robison. And Romney, however much he is hated, is still the GOP front runner and the man who will be running against Obama on Election Day. And all those conflicted conservatives are the people who will be voting for Romney in an effort to unseat a man they hate with a man they hate are the key.
Which brings us to the opposition outside of Bryan Fischer: a letter entitled “Mitt Romney, Mormonism and the Christian Vote“, subtitled “A Biblical call to Christian Ministers and Leaders” signed by a slew of fundamentalist pastors, including (prominently indicated) several former Mormons.
For the sake of the Gospel, we, the undersigned, call upon Christian leaders and their respective ministries and organizations, if you plan on endorsing Governor Mitt Romney for the office of President of the United States, do so by clearly and unequivocally distancing yourself and Biblical Christianity from his Mormon beliefs.
While Robison seems to want to overlook the theological differences, these people want the distinction to be made clear. As this letter says, “The doctrines espoused by this sect are not only unbiblical, but clearly anti-Christian” and while they give a nod to “shared values” they point out that “it would be a serious theological error to equate Christianity with Mormonism simply based upon some common values.”
For this reason, Christianity must take steps to protect itself:
The purpose of this call to evangelical Christians and leaders is two-fold:
- To protect the purity and integrity of the Biblical Gospel.
- To seize the opportunity to educate the America Public and Christians to the fundamental differences between historic Christian faith and that of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
While social and political causes are a vital and important part of the Church’s responsibilities, we believe that our primary function as Christians, both collectively and individually, is to preach and defend the Lord Jesus and His Gospel, as He is defined in the Bible, and has been affirmed in the historic Christian Church, its Councils and Creeds.
As I said yesterday, the acrobatics involved in supporting Mitt Romney is amusing to watch and we are seeing more of that here. It’s okay to support a guy who violates your every belief: just be clear that his theology doesn’t reflect on your own. Here is the fly in the buttermilk for these pastors:
In our postmodern era, Christians are taught to believe that truth is relative and sincerity is more important than accuracy. However, we believe that the good news of the gospel - justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone - could be compromised if Mr. Romney receives unqualified public endorsements from Christian leaders, their ministries or organizations, thereby potentially confusing the evangelical Gospel with the soteriology (false gospel) of the Mormon Religion.
You see where the problem is for these guys? They don’t want to water down the idea of what being a Christian means. The problem is that they are making the same complaint about Obama – that he isn’t the right kind of Christian, but a heretic. Romney is a heretic too, of course, but because he is a heretic who hates gays and wants to subjugate women, they are willing to overlook his sins as long as it is made clear to everyone that he is a heretic and doesn’t speak for real Christians.
You almost get the idea that fundamentalists are less for Romney than willing to endure him – willing to take one for the team. They just can’t agree on what exactly they are taking from Romney: a punch on the jaw or a sharp poke up the backside with a kerosene-soaked corncob. It’s almost as if they fear that corncob is going to stake their immortal souls, so they grant Romney his conjugal visit but force onto him a sort of metaphorical condom, a condom created by verbal acrobatics such as those seen by Robison and now this collection of Evangelical pastors. I guess it turns out conservatives believe in contraception after all.
Image from the Rachel Maddow Show