by John Mark Reynolds, Director, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University (Excerpt)
…A Republican pastor says evangelicals should not vote for Mitt Romney, because he is Mormon. By itself, this might be acceptable, if unwise rhetoric, assuming this pastor has good reasons for his position. After all religious choices allow voters one way of guessing what a leader will be like.
Those most resistant to voting for a Mormon are on the left. Since most Mormons hold to traditional moral positions on abortion and marriage, and Romney agrees with those positions, this is relevant to contemporary politics. This might not be an example of bigotry, though it often veers there when mockery is deployed about private religious practices not relevant to fitness to hold office.
This evangelical pastor did not suggest that he disagreed with Romney’s views on life and marriage or any other religious issue with political implications. Instead, he attacked Mormonism for not being evangelical, Romney for not being born again, and Mormonism as a cult.
This is bigotry buttressed by irrelevance fortified with invincible ignorance.
First, being evangelical is not a relevant criteria for being president. It never has been in evangelical history. Lincoln appealed for our votes and got them without being (necessarily) one of us. Evangelicals have voted for Unitarians for president, because they rightly recognized that Trinitarian theology might be relevant in a pastor, but not in a president.
Give conservative Christians a small government atheist rather than a tyrannical evangelical!
Second, our civil leaders need not be born again. As a man I hope Mitt Romney goes to heaven, but as president I do not care. The man qualified for the life to come can rule there, but I am looking for a person fit leadership in the world now.
Rick Perry may be born again, but his incompetent tolerance of a bigot to introduce him suggests bad things about his competence in the here and now. As a result, I will look forward to seeing him at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, but if he does not repudiate the comments, will pass on him for the Inaugural Ball.
He can retire to the theological life where he has such sterling qualifications.
To add insult to bigotry, the pastor decided to name call by saying Mormonism is a cult. The use of cult to describe the Mormon faith is foolish and offensive in a political context.
The word cult has many meanings, including a technical religious one. The Mormon Church is not “standard” historic Christianity as Mormons point out in their witness. They think they have something new and valuable to say religiously.
Most of the public does not think doctrine, but danger when they hear the term cult. He imagines scary folk living in compounds drinking Kool-aid, not Harry Reid or Mitt Romney.
In that popular sense, Mormonism is not a cult and should scare no American. Mormons have been faithful citizens, dying in our wars for republican values. Does Rick Perry’s pastor friend acknowledge this truth? Can a Mormon die for the Republic in battle, but still not serve as commander in the White House?
For mainstream evangelicals such bigoted attacks on Romney are an embarrassment. They often seem to rely on fear of difference, a sense that other groups are “weird.” Everybody seems weird to somebody some time, but loving people get past such feelings. If the Mormon who dies for my freedom doesn’t seem weird, neither should the Mormon politician.
Most evangelicals are horrified by lies told about Mormons in mainstream media, because we love our Mormon neighbor. They are friends, relatives, and allies in many fights. We disagree on vital theological issues, but those are not relevant to our vote for president.
Evangelical Christianity does not place all power in the state and so rejects messianic leaders. We want a president, not a prophet in office. A Mormon cannot be my priest, but he can be my political leader….
read … Why evangelicals must stand up to anti-Mormon bigotry