The Mormon issue is rearing its head again in this campaign.
An online article in the latest issue of US News (9/27/2012) notes that some political phone calls have raised the Mormon issue. The article refers to Deal Hudson, "the president of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network and an expert on Catholic outreach," and says that he is alarmed after finding out "that a group calling itself Catholics for Obama had been making push poll phone calls in support of the president's re-election bid. Among the questions being asked, he said, was 'How can you support a "Mormon" who does not believe in Jesus Christ?'"
The article mentions that this type of thing (bringing up Romney's Mormonism) is "something the Obama campaign has repeatedly promised it would not do."
Furthermore, I've been talking to a few conservatives lately who claim they will vote for a third party candidate for president. They would be inclined to vote for a conservative, but because the most conservative majority party candidate is a Mormon, they say they will opt out and vote instead for Joe Shmoe of the True Blue Conservative Party or someone like that.
Some have even said they will sit out this election, rather than vote for a Mormon. And yet this election could truly be the most important one of our lifetime. There is so much at stake.
Note that the Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing a religious test for candidates. But, of course, we the people are free to choose the government leaders we wish.
Without a doubt, there are real and substantial differences between historic Christianity and Mormonism. I have heard some people refer to Mormons (members of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints") as if they are simply members of another Christian denomination. That's a mistake. By their own admission, Mormonism and historic, creedal Christianity differ on some key doctrines, many of which I enumerated in a previous column. There are huge differences between them in theology, even down to the very understanding of who God is. These differences should not be papered over.
But to vote for a member of a particular religious group (whether for a Mormon, a Christian, or something else) does not mean one supports that group per se.
Sure, it would be great to vote for Jesus Christ, but He's not on the ballot.
In a bill that he wrote in 1777, (which was later passed in 1786), Thomas Jefferson alluded to Jesus as the model of our liberties for Jesus gave us a choice, even though He could have imposed His way on us. Jefferson wrote: "Almighty God hath created the mind free…all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments…are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet choose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to exalt it by its influence on reason alone…."
Jefferson later wrote that he intended this bill to have universal application-so that "within the mantle of its protection [would be] the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
The Bible records that Cyrus, the great leader of the Persians, was a friend to the ancient Hebrews. Also, the great Christian reformer Martin Luther said famously that he would rather be governed by a competent Turk than a dumb Christian.
On this point, noted evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem, author of the massive, Politics According to the Bible, recently wrote, "Can evangelicals support a candidate who is politically conservative but not an evangelical Christian? Yes, certainly. In fact, it would demonstrate the falsehood of the liberal accusation that evangelicals are just trying to make this a 'Christian nation' and only want evangelical Christians in office."
What a great country we live in, where people of all faiths or no faith are free to practice their religion, within reasonable bounds.
No doubt some people object to the religions represented by the two frontrunners. But neither candidate is running for bishop. They're running for president. One of the two will win.
From my perspective, what counts is this: Which of the two candidates stands overall for biblical positions? Where do they stand on issues of critical importance to us as Christians, like abortion, traditional marriage, religious freedom, and the threat of radical Islam?
Thus, the question gets back to this: Regardless of church affiliation, which candidate is most likely to govern according to biblical standards? That's the question to be decided by the conscientious Christian and by all people of good will in this election.