Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Accidental Pluralists or: How Evangelicals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mitt Romney

by Ben Howard

"The enemy may come individually, or in strength. He may even appear in the form of our own troops. But however we must stop him. We must not allow him to gain entrance to this base. Now, I'm going to give you THREE SIMPLE rules: First, trust NO one, whatever his uniform or rank, unless he is known to you personally; Second, anyone or anything that approaches within 200 yards of the perimeter is to be FIRED UPON; Third, if in doubt, shoot first then ask questions later." - General Jack D. Ripper, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Let me start with the most confusing and controversial thing first and then we can move on from there. I don't know whether Mormons are Christians or not. I don't really have an opinion either way and I haven't studied Mormonism enough to give you a concise answer. If pressed, I would probably follow Doug Pagitt's lead and say that Christianity is a self-confessing group so if Mormons call themselves Christians then they can be Christians. There is no high court for nomenclature in this country and if there was they would probably rather spend their time deciphering between hip-hop, R&B and rap.

I'm far more interested in Mitt Romney's acceptance by the evangelical right. In case you didn't hear about it, Billy Graham's website recently removed mentions of the Mormon church as a cult after meeting with Mitt Romney at Graham's home. Now Billy Graham is not King of the Evangelicals, but this still seems like an interesting move from a part of the Republican party that has been adamant about the need for strong Christian faith in the White House.

This is the same wing of the Republican party that got George W. Bush elected twice as a "compassionate conservative." The same wing that has published numerous biographies of Ronald Reagan in which it tries to highlight his Christianity, which may or may not be an interesting piece of revisionist history. The same wing that once advocated a Pat Robertson candidacy for President. What happened to the Religious Right of my youth?

Politics happened. And hate.

Apparently blind, irrational hatred is the key to evangelical pluralism. Ironically, it's not just blind hatred, it's blind hatred of the only traditionally Protestant Christian on either of the two major party tickets, Barack Obama. Never has the phrase, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," seemed so appropriate.

Let me emphasize here that I don't think that the Mormon church is a cult. Also, I want to make it clear that I don't think people should vote for Barack Obama because he's Christian or for Joe Biden or Paul Ryan because they're Catholic. This election is not about voting for a monarch who will serve as the head of the church.

However, should it not be a warning to evangelical Republicans that they have given up theological ground in order to score political points? Even if that theological ground was dubious to begin with? My greatest fear is that Christians will become so encumbered and captured by politics that they no longer know what they actually believe.

I applaud the accidental pluralism of the evangelical right, but how did you get here? I agree with you that Mormonism is not a cult, but is that a believe born out of love or expediency and a thirst for power?

I'm afraid that the evangelical right, my brothers even though we disagree, trust no one and, if in doubt, will shoot first and ask questions later. In the movies, when they can't stop in time, it leads to our mutually assured destruction. Think about it.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at] gmail.com.

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1 comment:

  1. The religious right, just by entering into the political realm, lost theological ground for political points a long time ago. Nevertheless, great article!