What are we to make of Romney’s lack of support among so-called “evangelicals”?
Sean Trende is the senior elections analyst at RealClearPolitics. He has written an article titled A Demographic Divide: Could Evangelicals Block Romney?
After explaining the number crunching that he engaged in, Trende describes what he learned:
. . . we see that a large portion of the GOP fight can be explained very well using only demographic variables. This is what I believe Cost picked up on when he found that northern conservatives voted for Romney, while southern conservatives voted against him. In the north, the conservatives tend to be non-evangelical. In the south, they tend to be evangelical (in Florida, they’re split).
Why this is the case is open to interpretation. The simplest answer is anti-Mormon bias, but that seems a bit too easy. After all, the alternatives are a pair of Catholics. The other possibility — and this is a problem with regression — is that religion could be a stand-in for ideology, and that, regardless of self-identification, a self-described conservative evangelical Republican is significantly to the right of a self-described conservative who is non-evangelical. Or it could be some third possibility: Perhaps evangelicals and non-evangelicals alike in heavily evangelical counties vote against Romney for an additional reason.
Now, let’s consider the possible reason for the evangelical opposition to Romney.
The simplest answer is anti-Mormon bias, but that seems a bit too easy. After all, the alternatives are a pair of Catholics.
Here Trende demonstrates his lack of knowledge about the theological differences between self-described evangelicals and Romney.
Evangelicals and Catholics share a common theology, in which there is only one God who exists, only one God who has ever existed, and only one God who will ever exist. According to this shared theology, the one and only God is identified in the Bible by several names, such as El Elyon and Yahweh. According to this shared theology, the one and only God has revealed Himself in three forms – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – with all three being the same God in essence. According to the theology shared by evangelicals and Catholics, there has never been a time when the one and only God wasn’t God.
Now, compare the above-described theology to that taught by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the LDS Church. In Volume 6 of The Journal of Discourses, Smith states the following:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. . . for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the vail, so that you may see.
These are incomprehensible ideas to some; but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did . . .
. . . and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, – namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one, – from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. . .
. . . In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.
The above-quoted teachings of Smith reveal that LDS theology is polytheistic, in contrast to the theology of evangelicals and Catholics. The pro-Mormon website fairlds.org explains that in Mormon theology, Jesus is not the only son of his Father.
In a commentary titled “The fourth Abrahamic religion” Standard-Examiner editor Neal Humphrey states the following:
Mormons routinely avoid public discourse about essential tenets of their faith. On one hand, Mormons describe themselves as Christians just like everybody else. On the other, they prefer to keep private such core beliefs as the sibling relationship between Jesus and Satan, the plurality of gods, how they believe a god named Elohim instructed two demi-gods named Jehovah and Michael to organize (not create) our planet from existing matter, etc.
This style of religion is called a “mystery religion.” We haven’t seen a fully functional mystery religion since Mithraism evaporated 1,500 years ago. Mystery religions have a public and private side. The public or exoteric face of the religion looks culturally normal. The private and esoteric side is the reality.
This is not a negative judgment of Mormonism, just a description. It also explains why when Mormons declare “We believe in the Savior too,” it is insufficient. By contrast, the late President Gordon B. Hinkley was always refreshingly candid in affirming the truth that Mormons do not believe in same Jesus as traditional Christianity.
In short, the LDS faith is a polytheistic faith in which Jesus is one of several deities, in which Jesus and Satan are brothers.
So, whenever Mitt Romney mentions God, he should . . .
In contrast, the theology shared by evangelicals and Catholics is a theology that is monotheistic. Nowhere in evangelical and Catholic theology do Jesus and Satan have a sibling relationship.
If evangelicals factor in theological differences when deciding who to vote for, then they are inclined to favor candidates who are monotheistic, such as Gingrich and Santorum, as opposed to a candidate who is silently polytheistic, such as Romney.
Yet, as Sean Trende points out, evangelicals could have a non-theological reason for favoring Gingrich and Santorum over Romney. The reason could simply be that evangelicals consider Romney to be less conservative than the other candidates.
I, for one, do not think that Romney’s theology should held against him when deciding who should be the GOP nominee. Better a Mormon who can defeat Obama than a Catholic who can’t. After all, Romney, Gingrich and Santorum are running for President of the USA, not president of the National Association of Evangelicals.