Lions, tigers, and Mormons, oh my!

The cover story of the current issue of The New Republic is titled “A Mormon in the White House?” The article is a detailed and, as is usual for TNR, an in-depth review of the history of the Latter Day Saints and key elements of Mormon Theology.

All of this, of course, is in service of showing how presidential aspirations of Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts, might be problematical for serious Christians. TNR’s problems with Romney appear to have more to do with his conservative approach to public policy, but they also throw in what I would call the “Dread Pirate Theocrat” warning.

TNR is, usually, a bellwether of what passes for wisdom on the center-left. And this article in the January 1-15, 2007 TNR is nothing less than an attempt to smear a faithful Mormon candidate. Please do not misunderstand. I don’t view Mormonism as a Christian faith. But I do view Mormons, and I’ve met quite a few during my extensive travels in the American Mountain West, as some of the best citizens this nation has ever produced.

Mormons as a group come close to meeting all of the points in the Boy Scout law. You know, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, and…reverent. Which is what gives the TNR writer, and more than a few evangelicals, pause.

Let me be blunt about it: Mormon theology is just plain nuts; it is a cult, and substitutes the wisdom of their latter-day prophets for the truths we find in Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian tradition. On the other hand, Mitt Romney isn’t running for Pope, or to be head of a seminary. He (may be) running for a secular office, president of the United States.

But the immediate fear from the left? This, from TNR:

Romney intends to run for president as the candidate of the religious right, which believes in blurring the distinction between politics and religion.

One must wonder as to how many of us on the “religious right” believe in “blurring the distinction between politics and religion.” At least in the way implied by TNR. And that way, make no mistake, is their way of shouting, “Beware the Dread Pirate Theocons.”

Let me state this differently. I am a Baptist. We are, collectively, the largest single Protestant denomination in the United States. It is safe to assume, that given our history of suffering persecution at the hands of state-sponsored religions, we’d be the last to assent to a theocratic government. Baptists, if nothing else, must agree on the strict separation of church and state.

I’d like to think that my brethren in other denominations also agree that freedom of conscience must trump all other political virtues. Which means, among other things, that no leader’s vision of God will be imposed on our citizens. What about having a president whose beliefs are starkly different than ours, as Mitt Romney’s appear to be?

This is an extremely difficult question to answer in the abstract. The best answer I can give is, “it depends.” It depends on the specific views of the candidate, and how likely that candidate is to attempt to impose all or any of those views on others.

For example, I would probably never vote for a Muslim. For any office. Why? Because their theology requires them to place us non-Muslims in a state of submission to Islam. This would extend to any candidate whose theology required them to forcibly convert or subdue the rest of us.

So far, I don’t believe that this includes Mormons.

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