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Who's afraid of a Mormon president in the United States?
October 23, 2006
By Russell D. Moore, Senior V.P. for Academic Administration, Southern Seminary
I recently finished another radio interview about the possibility of a Mitt Romney candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. The question among my fellow conservative Protestants is whether a Christian should vote for a Mormon for president of the United States. I'll have to admit I am wavering between two positions here.
On the one hand, I do not think personal regeneration is a necessary prerequisite to serve as president of the United States. Romans 13 responsibilities are given to those powers that wield the sword with justice. The Scrip-tures make clear that the church in this epoch does not rule the world (1 Cor 4:8; 6:1-2; Rev 2:26-27).
Imagine applying the 1 John tests of Christian spirituality in 1980 to a family man Sunday School teacher with a clear conversion testimony and an active church life and then to a divorced, non-churchgoing, Hollywood actor who was alienated from his own children. The choice is obvious, right? And yet, most conservative Christians (and everyone else) went with Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter.
My real fear in this vein is not that Romney is a Mormon but that he is not Mormon enough. After all, in all of his political races (including the last one 3 1/2 years ago) he took a "pro-choice" stance on abortion, a stance he has now changed. Is this genuine? Will he prove to govern like his fellow Mormon Orrin Hatch legislates, stem-cell research, IVF approval, and so forth? I doubt it. But do we yet know?
On the other hand, we shouldn't dismiss Mormonism as an issue, even if we concede that a Christian can vote for a Mormon candidate in good conscience. This is not another 1960, even for those who would equate Roman Catholicism with Mormonism (which I don't). Just to be frank, even if the Vatican had wanted to launch a conspiratorial New World Order through the Kennedy White House, they would have had to have found someone ... more accustomed to taking directives from the church on any subject. I expect that a President Romney would be informed by his Mormon beliefs, just as I would hope a President Sam Brownback would be informed by his Roman Catholic beliefs or a President Mike Huckabee by his Southern Baptist beliefs.
My fear though is not with Romney or with the LDS, but with American evangelicals. We tend to want a candidate we can identify as a "good Christian." Whether he is or not, we make him so in popular myth. My denomination's publishing house published Carter's 1976 campaign biography, "Why Not the Best?" There are books in Christian bookstores throughout the nation celebrating the faith of Reagan, though a track record such as his on church attendance and astrological dabblings would be cause for church discipline in a healthy congregation. We have Internet urban legends about President Bush leading a young man to pray to receive Christ in a receiving line. I fear, if Romney is the conservative alternative to John McCain and Hillary Clinton, we might do the same thing, baptizing Mormonism as just another expression of Christianity. It is not.
I suppose the possibility of a Romney presidency might be a test for American evangelical voters. Would we be able to go to the White House and ask for pro-life, pro-family legislation from a pro-life, pro-family president and then share the Gospel with him before we leave?