Mitt Romney may not have fared well in his campaign for the presidency, but his candidacy was a step forward for Mormon-evangelical relations. The two groups have been hostile to each other for the past century and a half, with constant insults being traded back and forth.
When some of us in the scholarly community initiated an evangelical-Mormon dialogue a dozen years ago, we ran into some opposition, particularly on the evangelical side. As a leader in that dialogue, I have received many angry emails from fellow evangelicals who see me as a “compromiser” of the faith. But those expressions of protest have not been as numerous during the recent campaign season.
For many evangelicals, Mormonism has now been “de-demonized.” This may be “the Mormon Moment” many of us have been waiting for: a new willingness on the part of evangelicals and Mormons to engage in a careful, and mutually respectful, theological discussion about matters of eternal importance.
Dick Mouw is a good man and theologian, but I am not sure he is reading the political tea leaves very well. “De-demonized” is probably a good word choice, but that still does not get all the way to accepted. There is mounting evidence that Mitt Romney was shunned by a significant portion of the Christian community. A move from demonization to shunned is probably a good one on the theological level. Shunning is a common technique of theological corrective within a community of faith, and this may mark a move of Mormons into the community of faith.
However, the political stage is not an appropriate place for such a shunning to take place. The cost to the greater community is too dear. (see Nathaniel Hawthorne) As a measure consider, what Eric Metaxis had to say in the CNN belief Blog this weekend just past:
Later in my speech, I talked specifically about the idea of loving our enemies. I said this was the test of real faith. Speaking to my fellow pro-lifers, I said that those of us who believe the unborn to be human beings must love those on the other side of that issue. I also said that those of us with a traditionally biblical view of sexuality are sometimes demonized as bigots, but we must love even those who call us bigots. I cited Wilberforce and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as two men who took seriously God’s command to love their enemies in the midst of the most serious political battles of their day. They honored God in how they fought, and he honored them.
At the end of the breakfast the president told me he would read my book on Bonhoeffer, and Vice President Biden took my picture with the president. No kidding. It was an extraordinary day and I’m not telling the half of it.
But the reason I’m writing now is that during the past election I was disappointed to see the president’s campaign utterly abandoning these ideals of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated. Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as “enemies of women.” Americans who had worked hard to build businesses, and who had given millions to charity and to the government, were denounced as fat-cats who weren’t “paying their fair share” and whose wealth was ill-gotten gain.
These scorched-earth tactics were not presidential, much less Christian, and because the president openly professes a Christian faith, I feel I must speak about this.
HOW we do things often matters more than what we actually do. Metaxis is very right here and the reverberations throughout our nation, its culture and the community of faith can already be felt. It’s not good. The community of faith must keep a close eye on itself to make sure it does not fall into this trap.
And speaking of self-examination, Talking Points Memo is basically a Democrat tip sheet. I found this fascinating:
In perfect Buzzfeed fashion Andrew Kaczynski put together a list of “15 People Who Just Saw Mitt Romney” and reported it on Twitter. As the phenomenon has grown though it’s become clear that at least a decent number of these people couldn’t possibly have actually seen Romney. I saw Romney at a midnight 7/11 in Tampa. I saw him at a Hooters in Boise. I saw him working on a fishing boat outside of Delacroix. I saw him shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Part of what gets my attention about these photos — and perhaps others are the same way — is that Romney seems a lot more normal in his political afterlife than he did before November 7th.
Whoa! The press worked overtime to make Romney look “abnormal” during the campaign and now that they do not need to…. I don’t know what is more stunning – the fact that some parts of the media feel they can declare normalcy based on political desire or that so many people cannot see that the people that bring them information may have an agenda and that they need to receive the information accordingly.
I had a long conversation with friends last week in which they were busy telling me how unconnected Romney was. I asked them why they thought that and they started talking about CNN. To which I responded “there you go.” Their response was to tell me how belligerent Fox was. MY response was maybe they needed to work harder to get their info, that the truth might be between the two. That, of course, would take too much time and energy.