|Not presidential material?|
Gallup posed this question to more than a thousand adults earlier this month. The results are surprising.
Twenty-two percent of those questioned admitted that if their party's nominee were a Mormon, they would not vote for that candidate.
Democrats are a little more uptight about voting for a Mormon than other ideological groups, with 27% saying that they wouldn't - not that it matters for the Democrats this election cycle anyway. But 18% of Republicans and 19% of independents expressed the same sentiment, which could spell trouble for GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, both of whom are Mormon.
When the polling data is broken down by religious affiliation, Protestants are the group most likely to say they won't vote for a Mormon. Which completely befuddles me. I understand the desire many evangelicals have for a strong, Christian president. But is it legitimate to discriminate against someone's candidacy because that person is a Mormon?
Let me set up a scenario for you. There is an avowed Southern Baptist facing off against a Mormon for the office of the presidency. Whom would you vote for?
Most evangelicals would support the Southern Baptist over the Mormon. But what if that Southern Baptist supported partial birth abortion like former Southern Baptist president, Bill Clinton? And what if the Mormon was Mitt Romney who, while not having a perfect track record on social issues, holds the right position on abortion?
I would have no problem voting for a Mormon Mitt Romney over a Southern Baptist Bill Clinton. Actually, the decision would be really easy.
There's no question that a candidate's religion, or lack thereof, is an important issue. But it's one of many different factors we have to consider when evaluating whether or not to support a candidate. If we make blanket statements like, "I would never vote for a Mormon," we're not doing a potential candidate justice.
Mormons and evangelical Christians differ on a number of important theological issues, but are matters of theology enough to disqualify someone from the Oval Office, in your mind?
Most evangelicals would affirm that the current occupant of the White House, while professing to be a Christian, has taken quite a few stances that are in direct opposition to the teaching of the Bible. And before the amens die out, let me go on to say that our previous president, George W. Bush, held beliefs that didn't mesh theologically with orthodox Christianity.
In a 2004 interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson, the then-president said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and that we just have "different routes of getting to the Almighty." Which is about as wrongheaded theologically as you can get.
But most of us would take Bush at his word that he is a "Christian." Well, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman would say that they're Christians too, and while the theological views of their religious background are in opposition to those of orthodox Christianity, so were Bush's.
We had just as much of a reason, theologically, to vote against Bush as we do to vote against Romney or Huntsman.
We need to get off our theological high horse and, while taking religious views into account, look at the broader picture of a candidate - his or her background, stances, accomplishments, and skeletons in the closet.
When it comes to voting for a president, I care far more about the candidate's stances on economic and social issues than his stances on Christology and salvatation. Because a brilliant theologian could make a horrible president, and a horrible theologian could do wonderfully as president.
What I'm more concerned about in a presidential candidate is a, a Judeo-Christian stance on social issues, a strong and smart strategy on foreign policy, and a conservative, free-market view of the economy. If a candidate possesses those attributes, or at least adheres to more of them than his opponent, I will likely support that candidate, regardless of whether or not he's a Mormon.
The 22% of Americans who refuse to support a Mormon candidate are doing a disservice to this nation by choosing a characteristic that won't negatively affect how a president governs, and turning it into the sole factor deciding whom they will, or won't, support.
There is nothing good that can come from such an arbitrary standard for choosing our next president.