WASHINGTON – The evangelical pro-Romney bandwagon recruited some vocal conservative heavyweights this past week, leaving behind only a few leaders willing to counter their peers and press the Mormon issue.
Concerned evangelicals oppose the belief that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's theological differences are less important than his seemingly shared conservative social values. They also emphasize Mormonism, by its own definition, is antithetical to historic orthodox Christianity despite its adherents' push for association amid Romney's bid for the White House.
"People have got to understand that the beliefs of the Mormon cult are totally inconsistent with biblical Christianity," Bill Keller of LivePrayer.com told The Christian Post on Monday.
Keller, arguably the most vocal evangelical opposed to Romney's quest for the presidency, said he has put in some 20 requests to Romney's press representatives for the presidential hopeful to appear on his show, "Live Prayer AM with Bill Keller," but has not received a response.
"If you are a true follower of the Bible and believe what God says, it basically says that those who follow other Gospels – false Gospels and false religions like Mormonism – are going to die, be lost in their sins and go to hell," said Keller, who describes his LivePrayer.com ministry as the most successful online faith ministry with over 2 million e-mail subscribers.
Keller said he was concerned that having someone like Romney in the "highest visibility, highest power" position in the country would cause non-Christians and unchurched people to search out the Mormon religion.
"In doing so it is going to lead people into these false beliefs and ultimately die in their sins," Keller warned.
The online evangelist was joined in his concern, though less blatantly, by the influential Rev. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Cizik, who only briefly met Romney once, refrained from making any direct political statements on the candidate or his Mormon faith. However, he challenged Christians to carefully examine Romney's Mormon faith and how his religion would influence his decisions in office.
"It is inescapable that one's religious views, or lack thereof, will shape one's personal integrity. There is no question about that," said Cizik.
He pointed out that a lawmaker's Mormon faith might cause his policy decision to be different than that of an evangelical in the same position.
"Values are shaped by religious beliefs, or lack thereof, and one's Mormon beliefs would surely in one sense or another shape one's values, priorities, conviction, etc.," said Cizik, who serves as the NAE's vice president for governmental affairs. He pointed out that thus far Romney has not been willing to address the connection between his religious faith and public duty.
Cizik also believes, like Keller and many other Christian leaders, that Mormons are not Christians.
He advised Christians to first make sure Romney clarifies his Mormon religion before they "jump on the Romney bandwagon."
"That's just good sense," added Cizik, who is arguably one of the most powerful leaders in the 30-million-member NAE.
Keller, meanwhile, emphasized that the god of Mormonism is not the God of the Bible and the Jesus of the Bible is different than the Jesus Mormons believe in. Jesus of Mormonism is a created being and not a deity, he is the brother of Lucifer, and will return not to the Mount of Olives as in the Bible but to Independence, Mo., pointed out the ministry leader.
"He (Romney) uses the name Jesus and people think he is talking about the Jesus in the Bible but the Jesus of Mormonism has nothing to do with the Jesus of the Bible," Keller argues.
Both Cizik's and Keller's comments were in response to a memorandum sent last week by Mark DeMoss, a well-known publicist for religious leaders and groups, to 150 of his colleagues in support of Romney.
DeMoss, whose clients include the Rev. Franklin Graham, is an unpaid adviser to the Romney campaign and a leading evangelical voice in support of Romney.
In his letter, DeMoss said he found more in common with most Mormons as a Southern Baptist than with liberals in his own denomination or in any other liberal Christian traditions.
He "fully recognize[s]," however, that some evangelicals will have problems with him supporting a Mormon for the position of U.S. president.
"But I concluded that I am more concerned that a candidate shares my values than he shares my theology," DeMoss stated in his letter.
His sentiments concerning the importance of similar social values over theology were shared by a number of conservative evangelical leaders including Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, American Values' Gary Bauer, Florida megachurch pastor Joel C. Hunter, the Institute on Religion & Democracy's James Tonkowich, and Southern Baptist leaders Dr. Richard Land and Dr. R. Albert Mohler.
Cizik, however, disagrees with his fellow evangelicals, saying he did not think it was possible for the "same individuals" who for "years and years" said religious beliefs and convictions matter to all of a sudden to say they don't matter because of a candidate like Mitt Romney.
"You can't simply say it doesn't matter or the only thing that matters is his stand on the issue," he added. "Well, it is a little more complicated than that."
As an explanation, LivePrayer.com's Keller claims that a significant number of influential Christian leaders – such as Dr. James Dobson and megachurch pastor John Hagee – refuse to denounce Romney because of their personal ties to Mormonism.
The online evangelist said Dobson's Focus on the Family, for example, is part of the World Congress of Families – an organization which the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church, is a major funder of. Keller also claims Dobson and other leaders remain silent on Romney because they don't want to upset the large number of Mormons who buy their books.
Focus on the Family was contacted in regards to Keller's claim but declined to respond as Dobson's personal opinions and actions are expressed or done as a private citizen and not on behalf of Focus on the Family or its registered trademarks.
Correction: Tuesday, October 16, 2007:
An article on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007, about the concerns of some evangelicals regarding the support of Mitt Romney for the U.S. presidency incorrectly reported that the World Congress of Families was founded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation. The Christian Post confirmed with Larry Jacobs, vice president of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society that World Congress of Families was not founded but is funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation among other groups.