Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Evangelicals and Mormons - Bridging the Gap

I was en route to something else this morning, and stumbled over a wonderful analogy that caught my eye. This has been a political season of Mormons vs. Evangelicals, it seems, during the Republican presidential primary sweepstakes, but I found one writer this morning who seems willing to try to close the gap politically if not all the way on the differences in religious interpretation.

Stephen H. Webb
Others are also closing ranks behind Romney. Jeb Bush announced his endorsement of Romney this morning on the 43rd anniversary of Mitt's and Ann's marriage. He might be late, but better late than never.

Not only does Stephen H. Webb contend the Mormons believe in Christ, he avers they are obsessed with Christ. Here's the rarest of the breed among Evangelicals - he has actually read The Book of Mormon, unlike so many who engage in piling on the ad hominem attacks with which most Mormons are so familiar. Webb says he is not moved by The Book of Mormon stories, but admits there is nothing in the book to diminish the traditional views of Christ, only that it adds stories about Christ with which he is unfamiliar.

Webb offers this insight:

"Every page of the book prepares the way for its stunning climax, which is a literal appearance of Jesus to the ancient peoples of America. For Joseph Smith, the ascension of Christ after the resurrection makes possible his descent into the Americas.

"Non-Mormons, of course, do not believe that Jesus visited the Americas, but why should they be troubled if Mormons tell stories about Jesus that seem far-fetched? Imagine the following scenario. Your family gathers at the funeral of your dearly beloved grandfather, a world traveler. Your relatives begin telling the familiar stories about his great adventures. Soon, however, you notice another group of mourners at the other end of the room. As you eavesdrop on them, you realize they are talking about your grandfather as if they knew him well, yet you have never heard some of the stories they are telling. These new stories are not insulting to his memory, though some ring more true than others. Indeed, this group seems to have as high an opinion of your grandfather as you do. What do you do?

"Do you invite them over to meet your family? That is a tough call. Many of your relatives will dispute the credibility of these stories, and some might make a scene. Others who think the stories are true will feel left out — why didn’t Grandfather tell us? The funny thing is, though, that this other group knows all of the stories your family likes to tell about the deceased, and the stories they add to the mix sound more like mythic embellishments of his character than outright lies. Clearly, the two groups have a lot to talk about!

"However you decide to handle the situation, there is no need for you to change your love for your grandfather. There is also no need for you to react to this other group’s love for your grandfather as if they are intentionally threatening or dishonest. Whether or not you decide to expand your family to include this group, you can still welcome them as promoters of your grandfather’s memory. And the more you love your grandfather, the more you will be drawn to discover for yourself whether these new stories make any sense.

"Of course, Jesus Christ is not your grandfather, and the stories we tell about him are grounded in Scripture, not family lore. Still, the Book of Mormon raises a question for Christians. Can you believe too much about Jesus? Can you go too far in conceiving his glory? Let me answer that question by posing another. Isn’t the whole point of affirming his divinity the idea that one can never say enough about him? And if Smith’s stories are not true, aren’t they more like exaggerations or embellishments than outright slander and deceit?"

David French
As I read the article, the logic was inescapable. I asked myself if we had an Evangelical Christian in the presidential sweepstakes with a chance to win the nomination and beat Barack Hussein Obama in the fall, what would Mormons do, all things being equal? My bet is they would unite behind the candidate who had the political clout and will to win. David French is suggesting after last night's Illinois victory that Evangelicals need to unite behind the eventual winner, suggesting the big numbers don't lie, all other considerations aside.

I was troubled by a cable news network interview last month with a prominent Evangelical who proudly boasted that by his estimate over 30 million Evangelicals stayed home in the election of 2008 as a protest against the eventual nominee, John McCain, who went on to lose badly to Obama. If that statement is true, then we have the Evangelical Christians to thank for the failed presidency of Obama. That said, after the economic meltdown we witnessed at the end of the Bush administration and its bungled attempt to right the ship with TARP, there appeared to be no chance of rescuing John McCain, so let's be honest about that.

But this campaign cycle one thing is clear - Mitt Romney has made no attempt to do two things: Court the voters from the Tea Party, and court the Evangelical vote. Rather, this cycle he has moved ahead without making a concerted effort to round them all up. Because Gingrich and Santorum have continued to split their votes, Romney has outdistanced both of them in the delegate count.

After last night in Illinois, Romney is about halfway in the delegate count needed to secure the nomination. Assuming he is successful in securing the nomination, as Webb points out, the Evangelicals and the Tea Party will then have a very clear choice to make. They can put aside their ideological purity requirement of the nominee and come join the party, or they can sit it out in protest and hand another four years to Obama.

One would be foolish to think all can be forgiven in that coalesced constituency, but time and chance will have worked its magic for Romney in much the same way events worked in favor of the Obama candidacy.

We sometimes forget how nasty and contentious the primary battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton became. They found a way to work together, nonetheless, and making her Secretary of State was a master stroke of coalescing two very bitter rivals into a common agenda.

The so-called "Mormon Moment" is now becoming much more than a contest of competing religious traditions. Before this campaign is over there will be a full and no-holds-barred frontal attack on Mormonism, the fury of which we can scarcely imagine today. All the calls for civility aside, there will be no stone left unturned in attempting to marginalize Mitt Romney because of his Mormon tradition.

It seems the Obama campaign strategy will relish the opportunity to take on Romney and Mormonism. I think we are going to see an ideological battle of gargantuan proportions. The ideology of Marxist government where the state controls and taxes everything that moves so the redistribution of wealth is complete and comprehensive, or the Mormon view that the Constitution is divinely inspired and must be re-enthroned to ensure individual liberty and self-actualization. We are staring down the barrel of what portends to be the most interesting presidential debate this country has ever witnessed, and political pundits and junkies are now poised to have that battle play out.

In recent weeks, Obama's campaign has already attempted to deflect the conversation from his administration's abysmal record on its policies. How they can go on ignoring the Constitutional requirement to at least take up the House's budget proposal in the Democratic-controlled Senate is baffling. It's more than baffling, it's unconstitutional. I predict that will also be the fate of the Obamacare law, and Romneycare right along with it. The constitutional issue over the individual mandate will be settled by summer in the SCOTUS, and many of us believe it will go down in a 5-4 vote.

We have heard in recent weeks about the Obamacare requirement for free contraception, a Republican war on women, a Democratic sympathetic response to a woman who turned out to be nothing more than their hired shill in a Congressional hearing, and boastful misleading rhetoric like, "Osama bin Laden's dead and General Motors is alive." The American public deserves a better debate than one centralized around such trivial pursuits. Let's bring on the debate about what we want America to be - another socialist nation or one that is free from tyrannical government interventions.

If the Evangelicals and the Tea Party continue to wait for the perfect candidate to satisfy all their ideological requirements for purity, they will be left standing on the platform as the train pulls away from the station. Time to get aboard and focus on what matters most. . .

And that would be defeating Barack Hussein Obama.

Religion needs to become the interesting footnote in this story, as Article Six of the Constitution mandates, rather than the headline to every primary race in every state. Don't underestimate Romney's conservative creds - he's the real deal who will win the hearts and souls of conservatives everywhere, not just in Utah.

Webb concluded his article with these words, acknowledging the differences still exist in religious traditions: "If you had to choose between a Jesus whose body is eternal and a Jesus whose divinity is trivial (as in many modern theological portraits), I hope it would be an easy choice."

I would say in conclusion, if your choice about who you put into the Oval Office this November is between an avowed Mormon or an avowed Marxist, I hope it would be an easy choice.

Choose well, America.

No comments:

Post a Comment