The Friday Dallas Morning News reports that during the Sunday sermon on September 30, pastor Robert Jeffress of the powerful and influential First Baptist Church said this:
"Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult."
The story states that "some in the large crowd began to applaud as Dr. Jeffress continued with his remarks."
That's interesting. In 1960, JFK had to convince Protestant voters he wouldn't be too beholden to the Pope in Rome. Today it's the opposite, and most conservative candidates for public office can't be beholden enough to their faith. They wear it on their sleeve. George W. Bush even declared Jesus Christ his favorite philosopher in a Republican primary debate in 2000. Now there's a new fight among people of faith.
As for Mitt, the good news is that a new CNN poll shows that 77% of Americans claim his Mormonism isn't a deal breaker. (People obviously don't like to sound intolerant to pollsters!) On the other hand, the poll also shows that 4 in 10 agree with that preacher from Big D that Mormons are not Christians. Beyond that, most Baptists are located in southern states that comprise what is now "the base" of the Republican Party. Mitt and the Republican Party need that base to be energized next year.
This Baptist-Mormon schism reminds that all religions require a belief in things unproven. That's why it's called faith. As humans we often "take things on faith" that we don't absolutely, positively know for a fact.
I don't begrudge anybody their faith, so I certainly wouldn't get in the middle of a fight between the Grand Poobahs of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Latter-Day Saints of Salt Lake City. I'm no theologian.
But there are issues that affect us all, whether or not we share a candidate's particular faith. The teaching of evolutionary biology, the funding of stem cell research, the belief in biblical Armageddon, to name three. If a candidate's religious faith dictates their thinking on such matters, the voters deserve to know in advance because public policy is at stake. World War lll in the Middle East is also apparently now on the table, at least to "make a point" by scaring the citizenry, according to the White House.
The Founders wisely insisted on no religious litmus test for public office, and religious freedom is a birthright. Still, it doesn't mean voters shouldn't consider the views of candidates and where they get those views, whether Baptist, Mormon or Wiccan. This is just common sense, doing one's civic homework.
It sure beats choosing the president based on who might be more enjoyable to drink beer with at an imaginary backyard barbecue. That technique didn't work so well last time.
Can I get an Amen?