Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Today’s Reading List – July 31, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:35 am, July 31st 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Dems, in the form of Martin Frost, find a new way to play the religion card while appearing not to do so.

    The press, on the other hand, tended to dismiss Mitt Romney as a serious prospect given his Mormon faith and the unwillingness of the religious right to accept anyone of the Mormon religion as anything other than a member of a cult.

     

    [...]

     

    Romney has also excelled at fundraising. There are a number of financially successful Mormons and he has drawn heavily from that base, much the way Michael Dukakis drew from the Greek community nationally during his presidential run in 1988.

    "Look how amazing it is that Romney has "overcome" his faith handicap!"  Sheesh!

    In that same vein, WaPo PoliBlogger Chris Clizza says Romney is leading amongst the Republicans, and yet

    Hurdles remain for Romney, however. He is far weaker in South Carolina than in either New Hampshire or Iowa, a fact that could provide a nice opening for former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). And then there's the Mormon question.

    One, just once, I'd like to see a piece that does not bring it up!

    Elsewhere…

    Local SLC television looks at The Question and the LDS church.  People are asking a lot of questions, that's for sure.

    Here's an interesting, left-leaning debate about religion and politics – Jan G. Linn v Jim Wallis.

    Serious religious people keep lining up behind Romney. 

    K-Lo tries to make a Mormon joke.  Sadly, it's not funny, I expect some thing along the lines K-Lo finds absurd to show up in that YouTube madness pretty quickly.

    Lowell:  It's true– the candidate who has the most to fear from YouTube "debate" mischief is Gov. Romney.

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    Today’s Reading List – July 30, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:59 am, July 30th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Inanity Reigns! 

    People Magazine interviewed Ann Romney.  The interview features what has to be some of the most inane questions I have ever read.  I mean People is no bastion of deep intellectual inquiry, but consider:

    • What drew you to the Mormon Church?
    • What about the faith appealed to you?
    • Was your family okay with it?
    • What are some of the misunderstandings about the church?
    • Do you follow all of the Doctrine and Covenants, the sacred undergarments, no hot drinks or alcohol?
    • Have you seen Big Love?

    Talk about a slide downhill into silliness!  Mrs. Romney handles these questions with her typical grace, charm, and aplomb, but give me a break – I thought only Andrew Sullivan was dumb enough to dip into the sacred garments thing – and the "Big Love" question – particularly when she has already said polygamy is no longer practiced by the LDS.  And "no hot drinks"? – no, its no caffiene, and how come, I (Evangelcial, remember) know more about Mormonism than the people reporting it?  Can we really accept such a state of "journalism" in this country?

    I think Mrs. Romney should have answered that second to last question, "When was the last time you went to confession?" and left it at that, but then, having met her, she is far too gracious for such a response, unlike the press.

    Ah, but the Boston Herald sees People and raises with this headline:

    Mitt & Ann Romney: Modern-day Eisenhowers?

    Now that is "code."  Writing about the People interview (as an aside, should it not disqualify a major newspaper from serious consideration as such when they cite People as a source?) the Herald seizes upon the Romney's pride in their traditional and strong family, something indeed blessedly reminiscent of the 1950's, and uses it for a bit of vaguely disguised satirical ridilcule.  And, of course, they breathlessly report

    She’s never once watched “Big Love,” the HBO series about polygamists.

    Guess what, neither have I! – I am not even a "creepy, nostalgic, stuck-in-the-past" Mormon – just a standard issue, modern-day evangelical Presbyterian and I don't even have HBO on my cable!

    Is it necessary? 

     The NYTimes profiles Richard Bushman.

    And as news media outlets run stories about the current “Mormon moment,” his phone keeps ringing. He considered it a blessing that he was already on his way out of New York for his annual summerlong sojourn in Provo, Utah, when “Good Morning America” and “The Daily Show” started calling.

     

    “I’m still kind of a babe in the woods when it comes to TV,” Professor Bushman, 76, said from Provo, where he is joined by his wife, Claudia, who has also taught at Columbia and has written books on Mormonism with him.

     

    And yet he says his stomach for so many media appearances, answering the same questions over and over, is born of duty to his faith. He believes Mormons can overcome prejudice only through vigorous dialogue with outsiders. For the nation’s nearly six million Mormons, a largely insulated community that is barred from discussing rituals outside of temple, it is not a natural posture.

    You know, when Lieberman was VP candidate, I don't recall phones ringing off the hook for Dennis Prager (well more than normal), just to cite one example.   And why the mention of Mormon Temple practice and "insulation"?  That mention in that way strikes me as a viewpoint in what is supposed to by unbiased journalism.

    Lowell:  Calling Mormons "insulated" is ironic, mainly because it betrays the writer's stereotypical view and provincial bias.  He does not know many Mormons and has not spent much time getting familiar with the culture.  My guess is he has spent a lot of time in densely Mormon Utah  (where about 15% of all Mormons live) and has decided that Utah Mormon culture represents the church generally.  And I don't even think he describes Utah Mormons accurately.

    The whole "Kennedy" speech thing… 

    …is being debated pro and con over at Evangelicals for Mitt.  There is more here.

    For the record my views, and I believe Lowell's, are not quite as stark as they keep getting painted.  Worldview matters and it derives from religion.  Thus, if there were  muslim candidate, one would have to ask of what type in order to determine their worldview.  Are the jihadists? – that matters, but it is derivative of religion, and not religion itself.

    Bigotry arises in a couple of ways.  The first is when one examines the theological (not the theological applications, but the theology itself) and determines a given religion to be worthy or unworthy.  Dennis Prager is fond of saying one cannot judge a religion by its sacred texts, but must in fact judge its practioners.  Bigotry exists when you judge the religion, and therefore the people in it, instead of judging the people, and therefore the religion.

    The second place bigotry arises is when, based on ritualistic practice, something that really is private, one decides a given religion is worthy or unworthy, and then again judges the religion, not the people.  Consider this analogy – "When he was in college, candidate X wore face paint and a wig to every football game his alma mater ever played – the guy is nuts, we can't elect him president." 

    As Mitchell puts it: "I don't think it's "bigotry" that many evangelicals want to think and pray their way through that issue" – I don't either, any person of faith should think and pray hard about their vote, any vote - it is the lack of thought and the mere labeling that constitutes bigotry.

    To date, all that has ever appeared in the press is somewhat breathless recounting of the "odder" ritualistic practices, and the unorthodox doctrines of the LDS.  A simple recitation of those things with the expectation that they should result in a "no" vote is bigotry.  What I have failed to see, and what would be valid, would some analysis that ties those things into a moral, ethical, and behavioural structure that would result in bad policy or inability to conduct the duties of the office.

    Of course, we have not seen those thing because as best as I can tell, with Romney, they do not exist.

    As to Mitchell's point that "flip-flop" has been established as "code" - He's right, but the way to fix that is not to talk about Morminism, it is to talk about code, once exposed, the naked bigotry will not stand.

    Some writer in New Hampshire managed to make a few unenlightening phone calls about a speech.

    Meanwhile, from abroad…

    Australia -  The usual yawner of an "overview" story, but Lowell, I have to ask how you feel about this sentence:

    Mormonism is still seen by some as a cult rather than a mainstream creed [emphasis added]

    I'm thinking that sentence proves the ignorance of the MSM, even the foreign MSM, when it comes to writing about religion.

    Lowell:  We Mormons don't, um, believe in any creeds.  In fact, we reject them all.  It takes about five minutes of reading about the Church to know that.

    The Beeb chimes in to help the left claim the religion label.

    And the IHT feeds the beast with a AP story likely to be everywhere today.

    While here at home…

    From Alabama….I wonder if these local reporters ever look at the Internet and actually know how unoriginal and therefore uninformative these pieces really are?

    Forgive me a few wisecracks…

    Read this, do you still really want to make religion an issue in the election?  By the way, all the people involved in this story actually consider each other "Christian."

    Why isn't Al Mohler worried about this?

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    Today’s Reading List – July 27, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:46 am, July 27th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Tread Lightly Governor… 

    Earlier this month, Romney floated a bit of a trial balloon concerning giving a "Kennedy speech."  Well, the balloon went quite a bit higher yesterday with this AP piece that went all over everywhere.  It is very difficult to tell from the piece if Romney made the balloon go higher, or his thinking is still where it was and the AP just decided to blow it up itself.

    I still think it's a bad idea, but I have no additional argument to what I said in the first link above.  If he does do it, it will probably have to be the most carefully crafted speech in American political history.  Talk about walking through a minefield – everyone will line up to pick it apart – in detail, at levels, and from arenas that even an experienced public servant like Romney has never encountered.

    When wise men speak…

    Men like Ravi Zacharias, wisdom is usually what one hears. 

    Would we rather have someone who is a total secularist? Is that what people are asking for? Are we looking for someone who would run this the way he would run a bishoprick or something? I think we should ask the hard questions of everybody, be it Mitt Romney or anyone else and see if the framework of the value of human life and the moral framework of the Judeo-Christian world view (which is the only moral framework under which this country could have been framed. It was not framed under a Hindu framework. It was not framed under a Muslim framework, not framed under a Buddhist or a naturalistic framework) that we are all created equal, that liberty and justice and all of those terms that I’ve given only make sense within the Judeo-Christian world view.

    HT: Hugh Hewitt

    When Pastors Speak… 

    We spent a little time last spring (herehereherehere) dealing with the inappropriate insistence by Frank Pastore of defining Mormonism as a cult.   We did so, even though it was purely a religious, not political, discussion because we considered Pastore a person of good repute and good thinking.  There is an old adage, "When arguing with fools, make sure they are not similarly occupied."  Well, the jury is still out on the "fool" word, but Pastore's credibility is blown.  He has recently contended that a movement within the creedal Christian community known as the "Emergent Church" is indirectly supporting Al Queda.  Look, I am no fan of the Emergent Church movement (don't worry about what it is, it's unimportant) but give me a break.  This kind of hyperbolic "reasoning" may gain attention through sensationalism, but it does so at the expense of credibility.

    Speaking of which, Al Mohler concludes his debate with Orson Scott Card.  As theology, I see where Mohler is coming from, but his "apology" just smacks of insincerity.

    The debate has never been about whether Mormons are good Americans or would make good neighbors. I dare say that most American Evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics would find more in common with Mormons in terms of child-rearing, sexual morality, the protection of marriage and family, and a host of other issues, than they would with liberal Catholics or liberal Protestants. No argument there.

     

    The debate is not over Mitt Romney or his right to run for President of the United States. That is a settled constitutional fact – and a fact for which we should all be thankful. Nor is it about whether Evangelicals should vote for Mitt Romney. There is so much to admire in the man's marriage and family and leadership ability. This question is very complicated – as is the case with almost all political questions.

     

    The debate is not over the right of Mormons to hold their faith, promote their faith, and spread their faith. That, too, is a constitutional right – the same right that protects the religious liberty of all persons of all faiths and no faith.

     

    [...]

     

    And thus I must end where I began. Mormonism is not just another form of Christianity – it is incompatible with "traditional Christian orthodoxy."

    What Doctor Mohler fails to realize is that many, in fact most, "traditional Orthodox Christians" lack sufficient theological understanding to hear anything of his argument other than "not like you and me."  He may very well have clarified theology, but he has done nothing but muddy the political waters.  Sometimes we just have to hold our theology close to our chest – not our action mind you, just our ideas.  We should always act in accordance with our theological understandings and the worldviews they create.

    Lowell adds:  I find it interesting that Dr. Mohler refers to the subject, and his treatment of it, as a "political question." Under the circumstances, it is anything but that.  No knowledgeable Mormon would claim theological compatibility with "traditional Christian orthodoxy."  That we are incompatible with such beliefs is basic to our faith and goes back to the very moment our religion began.  We are not orthodox Christians, but heterodox, use a term John has enjoyed using in the past. 

    So what is the debate really about?  It's about whether Romney's religious beliefs should be an issue in voting for him.  Mohler thinks they should be.  I wish he would just come right out and say that instead of prattling on about how Mormons are different theologically from orthodox Christians.  That's not the question; it's whether the differences matter politically.

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    Today’s Reading List – July 26, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:01 am, July 26th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Polling Analysis:  What to Make of It?

    Lowell starts us off:  Mark Mellman writes in Roll Call about "Romney and the Mormon question."  It is a thoughtful and  provocative piece, but keep in mind that Mellman "has worked for Democratic candidates and causes since 1982. Current clients include the majority leaders of both the House and Senate."  Call me a cynic, but consultants like Mellman never put anything into print without an agenda.

    Mellman's thesis:

    Anti-Mormon prejudice clearly infects this country, leading many to ask whether Mitt Romney’s religion will be an insurmountable barrier to his presidential prospects.

    He supports that assertion with both anecdotal and statistical evidence:

    Evidence of this insidious disease comes in part from its very social acceptability. Americans no longer feel free to give voice to negative feelings about blacks, Jews or Catholics. Yet the rules of polite discourse seem to be different when Mormons are the topic — and many freely express their bigotry.

     

    Even so-called intellectuals are free and easy with such invective, making statements about Mormons they would shudder to hear about any other group. Witness Father Richard John Neuhaus, a Protestant-turned-Catholic theologian, dubbed by Time as one of the 25 most influential evangelists in America. “Anti-Catholicism is, in my judgment,” he wrote, “an unreasonable prejudice … Anxiety about the strengthening of Mormonism by virtue of there being a Mormon president is not unreasonable.”

     

    Could anyone substitute Judaism or Catholicism for Mormonism in that last sentence without being called a bigot? 

    Mellman then cites "seven polls over the last couple of years" that "have asked in somewhat different ways about public willingness to support a Mormon candidate for president."

    The responses are remarkable for both their magnitude and their range. On the high side, Rasmussen found 43 percent willing to push an anonymous button on their telephone signaling they would never vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. Gallup brings up the low end, with 24 percent telling live interviewers they would not vote for “a generally qualified person for president who happened to be a Mormon.”

    Well, okay, there are lots of data out there suggesting an anti-Mormon prejudice exists, and Mellman's column is persuasive and reasonable in detailing it.  But why is a Democratic consultant who works for both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid putting out information about a bias problem he perceives on the Republican side of the race?

    Because that helps his side to portray religious conservatives (mainly Evangelicals) as a bunch of bigots.  What better way to marginalize that demographic group?  And how benign! Mellman need not attack anyone; all he has to do is aggregate the polling data and quote some of the more unfortunate statements of those who, like Fr. Neuhaus, stubbornly insist that anti-Mormon prejudice is acceptable.  )Sadly, Neuhaus has lots of company.) 

    John has warned about this trap much more often, and more strenuously, than I have.  If, as Mellman probably hopes, the "Evangelicals are religious bigots" meme is picked up by the MSM, one of two things will occur:  Either religious conservatives will be weakened– perhaps greatly– as a political force, or there will be a robust national conversation about a religion and under what circumstances, if any, a candidate's faith is a legitimate subject of political debate and a basis for voting. 

    We hope it's the latter.  As Mellman himself notes:

    In July of 1958, 24 percent of respondents told Gallup they would not vote for a Catholic for president, almost identical to Gallup’s reading on Mormons today. Two years later, John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to assume the oath of office.

    Back to John . . . . 

    William Schnieder in the Atlantic Online stirkes a similar, if less pointed, note in this piece.

    The strongest trend in American politics for the past 25 years has been a growing division between religious and secular voters.

     

    [...]

     

    These days, Democratic officials worry that their party has a religion problem.

     

    [...]

     

    Actually, both parties have a religion problem. It's not just that Democrats have less appeal to religious voters. It's also that Republicans are seen as bringing too much religion into politics.

     

    [...]

     

    Which candidates are viewed as the least religious? As it happens, the two front-runners, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani. Clinton said at the Sojourners forum, "I come from a tradition that is perhaps a little too suspicious of people who wear their faith on their sleeves, so a lot of the talk and advertising about faith doesn't come naturally to me. " Meanwhile, Giuliani, in explaining his support for abortion rights during a Republican debate, said, "We have to respect the fact that there are people who are equally religious, equally moral, who make a different decision about this. Should the government put them in jail?"

     

    Many Americans see a downside to mixing religion and politics. In 2004, according to the Time poll, 49 percent of Americans said that President Bush's religious faith made him "a strong leader," as opposed to 36 percent who thought it made him "too close-minded." Those numbers have reversed. Now 50 percent say Bush's faith has made him too close-minded, while 34 percent believe it has made him a strong leader. The number of Americans who think that Bush has used religion more to divide the country than to unite it has grown from 27 percent in 2004 to 43 percent now.

    If one reads carefully here, the problem is not the religious influence in politics per se, but the labelling of people into religious interest groups.  What this nation struggles with is "us v them" whether it is based on race, gender, religion….  We allow "thems" in the case of groups that are perceived as oppressed, but we are increasingly rejecting that for those groups now as they have entered the mainstream of American life.

    This is why Evangelicals have to tread so lightly here.  We have to be very smart or we risk the influence we have worked so hard to build over the last decades.  We cannot allow even the appearance of this sort of labelling and dividing – in this day and age it does far more to discredit the labeler than the labelee.

    Bush's negatives are also quite instructive in this matter – being perceived as the Evangelicals' candidate, those negatives reflect on us.  If we do not do whatever we can to appear open-minded, those negatives are going to stick.  Objecting to Romney on anything that even remotely smells of religion will attract those negatives to us like a magnet to a refrigerator.

    Note Brownback, who being clearly identified as one of the "religious" candidates, even among the minors, is getting nowhere with this kind of garbage.  It is not a direct religious attack, but between breaking Reagan's 11th commandment and playing off the labels, creating a perception of religious attack, it is hurting Brownback far more than it is helping.

    Still More Polling Confusion

    WaPo/ABC finds:

    Overall, 63 percent of all Americans and 63 percent of Republicans said they would be comfortable with a Mormon as president.

    But because their cherished narrative is at risk, they cannot stop there, no:

    But only about a third of each group said they would be "entirely comfortable."

    Friends, I have not been entirely comfortable with any occupant of the White House, ever – let's get serious here.  Who comes up with a standard like that?

    But there is more, in a bit of circular, "code establishing," logic we read:

    "Do Americans have a bias against Mormons? Should they? I know any American in the 1800's would have been freaked out if you told them that a member of the LDS would be running for president in 2008. Perhaps some of that lingers. On paper Romney looks like a near perfect candidate who should be doing better than he is. Perhaps the mormonism explains it, but i'd prefer to think that the perception of electability is more to blame. Romney will not flip Massachusetts or any of the NE states over to the Republicans. He will have to fight just as hard in the other states. Compared to Rudy, he's just not as electable.

    But on what to people base a judgment of "electability?"  I have had some quite prominent Democrats tell me Romney is not "electable," followed in a private whisper by, "You know, the Mormon thing."  Besides, I know very few voters that do that kind of electoral math.  Again, let's get real here.

    Is It Really Surprising…

    That Hugh Hewitt agrees with us?

    The reality is that each of the big three have a pretty good bench of social conservatives, though Romney's is, at this point, deeper and more committed. That doesn't make great copy, but it is the true assessment of the state of the campaign among "values voters."

    There goes Hugh, spoiling the MSM narrative about Romney again.

    Finally….

    In the UK, they compare the "Five Brothers" (Romney's sons) to the Osmonds.  Tagg Romney handles the comparision quite graciously in the piece, but you know, there was a time in this nation that if you compared say Shirley Chisolm to J.J. Walker, you were considered a racist simply on the basis of stereotyping – even if the stereotypes were not negative.

    Lowell:  And I'll bet the Five Brothers can't even sing.

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    Today’s Reading List – July 25, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:28 am, July 25th 2007     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Noted evangelical blogger and BlogsforFred founder Joe Carter posts at his "home" site, Evangelical Outpost, on David Gushee's "Rules for Evangelical Politics."  I really like what Joe has to say in this post, but find his opening paragraphs extremely interesting:

    Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical advisor to the DNC, often reminds anyone who will listen that, "God is not a Republican…or a Democrat." This is almost certainly true, for as Biola professor John Mark Reynolds notes, "He's probably a monarchist."

     

    From this truism, though, some people derive the false assumption that since God does not provide his imprimatur for a particular party platform that the choice between voting for a Democrat or a Republican is morally neutral. This is almost certainly false. Political choices are almost always moral choices. Such decisions are fraught with moral danger and each Christian, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, must determine for themselves how best to follow their conscience.

     

    Obviously some decisions are easier than others. Despite the excuses we may make for our historical-cultural setting, no Biblically oriented evangelical should ever support a candidate who condones such evils as "outrages against human dignity" (i.e., slavery, racial segregation, torture, abortion). Other times the options may force a choice among the lesser of two or more evils (pro-abortion candidate Hillary Clinton, pro-abortion candidate Rudy Giuliani, or a pro-life third party candidate?). In each case, though, the choice should be to follow one's conscience in applying Biblical principles to political decisions. [Emphasis added.]

    What I find fascinating here is that Joe seemingly uses "morality" in a fashion that makes it appear inseparable from religion.  Joe is a friend, and I doubt that is really what he thinks, but it is interesting how when we talk about these things we can get stuck in a linguistic trap.

    Different religions can, and often do, arrive at similar and sometimes even identical moralities.  This is in fact how a religiously diverse society can exist at all – in the public square morality is what matters – religion, from a societal viewpoint grants authority to that morality and certainly should be the primary enforcer of morality.

    This raises one of the more interesting "chicken-and-egg" questions.  One of the reasons we have seen the rise of the religious right in recent decades is in counterforce to the left's propensity for legislating morality, especially under the guise of moral neutrality, which is, in fact, a form of morality unto itself.  Of course, the left charges that there was religious and moral oppression, and so it goes.

    All of this arises from a very immature understanding of religion – while morality flows from religion - they are distinct.  Morality is a code of behavior; religion encompasses morality, spirituality, ecclesiology, and a number of other things that really don't much enter into the public square.

    My point is that it is morality, and only morality, that matters in the public square.  No religion monopolizes morality.  It is also interesting to note that some of the most despicable souls I have ever met operated under the public guise of being my creedal Christian brethren.  In other words, not only can no religion claim to have a monopoly on decent morality, no religion can claim that all its adherents operate under its specified morality.  Put another way, because religion is larger than just morality, persons truthfully claiming a religion, may not adhere entirely to that religion's stated moral code.

    When it comes to picking leadership, Joe is right, it is morality, regardless of its origin, that matters.  I think Martin Luther King may have said it best:

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    Within the boundaries of diverse religions that share similar moralities, one could substitute "religion" for "color of their skin" in that quote and remain right on target.

    Lowell adds:  I guess I could say "amen," but then John's creedal credentials would be suspect in the eyes of some.  So I'll let you all guess at what I think. 

    Late update from Lowell:

    Reader Randy Zernzach offers these comments:

    I applaud John's posting on 25 July. After the first Republican debate, I recall one of the other contenders in the post-debate spin claiming a certain "high ground" because he contended that "religion impacts decision making," thus Gov Romney's religion is "fair game." One flaw (and there is more than one) in this statement's logic is simply this-he missed the middle step: Religion informs the values one holds (eg. life, liberty, choice, accountability, family, rule of law, fairness, etc). Values then are what inform policy and decision making. This debate should be about values and morality, not about how one gets there. There are many religious traditions, as John states, that arrive at congruent moral positions.

    We agree.

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    Today’s Reading List – July 24, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:40 am, July 24th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The news service of the seminary over which Al Mohler presides as President has published a story recounting the rather politically useless "debate" between Mohler and Orson Scott Card on whether Mormons are Christians.  I have not followed the debate closely because for purposes of a presidential election, I simply do not believe the question really matters.  This story serves to confirm my suspicions.  It is seminary talk, not political talk.

    And yet, as we have chronicled on this blog, that debate has received far more MSM attention than any seminary debate I know of for a very long time, even the ones surrounding The Da Vinci Code. 

    This makes me wonder if the Evangelical move to Fred is as significant as the press would have us believe.  I know too many Evangelicals throwing behind Fred, to deny that there is any movement, but its size and significance is something I am beginning to wonder about.

    The press has wanted, or at least believed there was going to be, a "religious showdown" of some sort at least since Amy Sullivan's Washington Monthly piece in September of '05.  Until this "debate" and the Thompson wave, they had nothing but speculation.  I cannot help but wonder if they are not over-reporting what is happening for the sake of the story line that have thought should happen so much that they will make it real even if it is not.

    Only time will tell, but there is going to have to be some substance to the whole Thompson thing pretty soon or press is going to make this the story whether true or not, and once that happens, the Evangelical voice in politics is going to suffer, and suffer greatly.

    Lowell adds:  I agree that no one has any idea just how statistically significant the Evangelical move to Thompson is.  Whether it is significant or not, There are two things that assure that move continued press attention:  First, as John says, the news media loves the idea of Evangelicals disdaining Romney because of his Mormon faith; and second, there are plenty of relatively visible Evangelicals who are very up front about the real reason they prefer Thompson over Romney: Fred's a Protestant.  Some of that group have a long and public track record of tweaking Romney over his faith, and now– big surprise– they've joined Blogs for FredI call these folks the "Anybody But A Mormon" crowd.  Still, as John has said before, those Evangelicals are the "hard core near-fundamentalist types." It remains to be seen how much influence they will have on mainstream Evangelicals. 

    Polls and Confusion

    Christian Post reports on a poll released in the latest edition of Time

    The latest poll featured in Time magazine's July 23 issue found that if a presidential candidate was Catholic, Jewish or Mormon, it wouldn't affect the support of 66 percent, 68 percent and 56 percent of adult Americans, respectively.

    It is going to be very interesting to see how that result is reported.  It says that a majority of Americans do not think Romney's faith matters, but because that majority is ten points less than other minority faiths, I'm betting the story line will be portrayed quite differently.

    The story also points out how very confusing polling can be:

    At the same time, Americans were more likely to say a Catholic of Jewish candidate would make them more supportive than less supportive. When it came to a Mormon candidate, however, Americans were more likely to say they would be less supportive (30 percent) than more supportive (11 percent).

    A very different result depending on how and what question is asked, even if you are exploring the same territory.  It is also quite likely that this result will be reported far more than the one above.

    Historical Note from Lowell:  One of our readers notes that today is July 24, celebrated as Pioneer Day in Utah.  It's the date when Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley.  The first wave of emigrants amounted to about 13,000 people– almost the entire population of Nauvoo, Illinois at that time.  The total westward migration, prior to the completion of the transcontinental railroad, rose to 70,000 people.

    Something tells me Mitt Romney won't be mentioning this holiday in any speeches today.  It's both funny and sad that he can't afford to do so.  That a man who is running for president of the United States needs to be cautious about calling attention to his religious faith, in 2007, should give us all pause for reflection.

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