Trusting Mormons

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My proposed linkage between anti-Mormon prejudice among evangelicals and the persistent flip-flop charge against Romney has drawn some interest, and raised the question of how one might go about demonstrating it. In a comment, Lowell Brown, who posts over at Article6, expressed the wish for some empirical evidence: “Now, did Romney make some Christians distrust him because he claimed to have very similar beliefs? Maybe, but I sure haven’t seen any data to support that hypothesis.” While I don’t know of any survey of the subject, there is some anecdotage that points strongly in that direction, and in mine.
To wit: Late last year, the Corner’s Jonah Goldberg quoted a number of responses to his thoughts about evangelical anti-Mormonism. One evangelical respondent wrote:

The sharper the contrast between Mormon and orthodox Christian doctrine, the better….To address one obvious objection, voting for a Jewish, Muslim, or even atheist candidate does not carry the same set of concerns. Unlike Mormonism, none of these other belief systems attempt to position themselves within the Christian faith.

It’s hardly a stretch to see this person as becoming even less likely to vote for Romney the more he made himself out to be like evangelicals. Then there’s this comment, along whose lines Goldberg said he received “piles”:

Speaking for myself, there is no policy that I think a Mormon would pursue that I find objectionable. I will not vote for a Mormon because they claim to be Christian, when they are not Christians. Electing, or even nominating, a Mormon continues to send the message to Americans that Mormons are fine and dandy, Christians like everyone else. Thousands of Christians are converted to Mormonism each year, and it is done under false pretenses. From what I have read, Mormons are very good at appearing to be orthodox Christians with new recruits. It’s only later that the blatantly non-orthodox views come out. So, I rule out voting for a Mormon not because of actual policies they might pursue, but because of the message their election would send to Americans.
Let me make a couple more quick comments. I would vote for a Jew. I would vote for a Hindu, an atheist, etc.

This, it seems to me, is pretty direct evidence in support of my proposition. The justification for voting against Mormons is not that they belong to some non-evangelical faith but that their faith misrepresents itself, and so is not to be trusted. Electing a Mormon would somehow sanction this way of doing business, and therefore send the wrong message to Americans. Under the circumstances, it is plain how the flip-flop charge reinforces the prejudice. What’s wrong with Romney the politician is what’s wrong with his faith: Both sail under false pretenses. Q.E.D.

  • Mark, I find your point intriguing although I remain unconvinced. Maybe I simply hope you are wrong. For now, I’d be interested in knowing what you think. Are you also saying that both Romney and his faith “sail under false pretenses,” and that a creedal Christian is therefore justified in not voting for him for that reason alone? Or are you saying only that some evangelicals think so?

  • Phil

    As a Mormon, I see it from the opposite viewpoint: Those who misrepresent and malign our faith (like Huckabee has in the past) are not to be trusted. Also, I don’t see the Mormon faith as “sailing under false pretenses”, but do see a great deal of willful misrepresentation of my faith by others who are either innocently misinformed or are willfully and purposefully overlooking facts and twisting things around to find fault and criticize, making good appear bad. These latter are the people I cannot trust.

  • Mark Silk

    To Lowell: About evangelicals themselves, I’m inclined to think that some of the reaction to Romney’s flip-flopping is at most semi-conscious. The point there is that to the extent he has moved in their direction on certain social issues, he may only have confirmed their suspicion of Mormons. As for me, I don’t, as a Jew, really have a dog in that fight. I think generally people should get to call themselves what they want to, and if they believe in Jesus as God and Savior, that’s Christian enough for me. If I ran the nomenclature world, though, I might prefer a different word for both Mormons and those who call themselves Messianic Jews (or Jews for Jesus); namely, Judeo-Christians. For one thing, the LDS Church understands itself (or used to) as restoring ancient Israel as well as early Christianity. For another, Mormons do not profess the historic creeds. So Judeo-Christian might be a helpful way of identifying certain churches and sects. But of course that’s not going to happen. So, as far as I’m concerned, Christian it is. As for the false pretenses part, well, there’s always a risk of that charge when at issue is a religion that has some esoteric component, and Mormonism has always had that. But Mormon missionaries never make any bones about the fact that they do represent the LDS Church, so I fail to see how the pretenses are false, except from the standpoint who refuse to allow Mormons the name Christian.
    To Phil: You’re entitled.