Evangelicals and the GOP: Who’s Driving Whom?

According to the Citizen-Times of Ashville, NC:

A Billy Graham Evangelistic Association article labeling Mormonism a cult has been removed from the group’s website following the 93-year-old televangelist’s meeting with the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last week.

Graham pledged to do “all I can” to help Romney get elected during the meeting

The Citizen-Times at 4:56 p.m. on Thursday captured the article, which said cults are “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others.”

Graham met with Romney at his Montreat home just hours before. The article is not on the association’s Website today.

So, apparently, now that a Mormon is making a serious bid for the White House on the GOP ticket, The Latter Day Saints are totally kosher for evangelicalism. Funny how that works.

Look, I don’t care if Mitt Romney’s a Mormon. I don’t care if Barak Obama is a Muslim (like he was early in the 2008 campaign), or a Black Liberation Theologian (like he was later in that campaign). I don’t care if you’re a Hare Krishna, a Scientologist, an Atheist or a Baptimergent—if you’ll care for the poor and not drop as many bombs as the other guys would, then I’ll vote for you.

But I’m not the one saying that the POTUS should be an evangelical Christian and that Mormonism is a cult. It’s evangelicals who used to say that. Remember?

I like Billy Graham, I really do. And to be frank, the man is 93-years-old, has Parkinson’s and, as I understand it, has to have fluid drained off his brain every day. So he probably can’t be held responsible for most of the decisions made by the association. The fact that Graham’s association is literally willing to delete articles that constitue their doctrinal statement in order to relieve the cognitive dissonance of evangelicals considering voting for Romney is symptomatic of a much larger problem: Evangelicals have nuzzled up to the GOP for so long that it’s no longer their theological commitments driving them to support particular candidates, as I think it really was at the inception of the Moral Majority. Now, it seems, their unquestioned commitment to the GOP can actually drive an evangelical’s theological commitments.

Am I wrong?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Evangelicals and the GOP: Who’s Driving Whom?

  1. As I’m sure you won’t disagree, this really isn’t surprising. I attended a very fundamental church [for 14 months that I have since left] that would boldly proclaim the LDS Church was a cult to now see parishioners and even the pastor virtually using their social media accounts to “campaign” for Mr. Romney. This brings me back to a comment made by Brian McLaren last week while speaking with Deborah Arca and Nadia Bolz-Webe. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but here it is:

    Brian: Can I say something positively about the election? I was reecntly reading what American Protestants used to say about the rising Catholic tide, and the kinds of books written about Catholics and the stories we told about how Catholics were going to take over the country…it was pure bigotry. It was shocking. So then to think that 100 years later, Evangelicals would line up behind Rick Santorum … wow, we’ve made some progress maybe! And now they’ve lined up behind a Mormon. So in the midst of all the ugliness and vitriol and venom of the election, you watch people abandon some of their old prejudices.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2012/10/rediscovering-the-beauty-a-conversation-with-brian-mclaren-and-nadia-bolz-weber/

    So through the unexplainable political paradoxes of our fundamentalists friends, could we be seeing progression from the generally most intolerable group of them all?

    Perhaps a positive nugget in a sea of negativity.

  2. Joe

    Thanks for sharing, Rich! I hadn’t seen this. McLaren can always be counted on for a refreshingly hopeful outlook. Though, to be honest, I’m not sure that I buy it. Frankly, I have been a bit surprised by the way this thing has gone. I don’t know why, but I expected Romney’s nomination to stir up a debate amongst evangelicals about (a) whether the POTUS really needs to be a Christian, or (b) whether Mormonism really is a cult. An honest debate may have engendered the kind of mutual respect that McLaren is hopeful for. But instead, evangelical leaders seem to have opted just to ignore their previous convictions on these matters–in this case even going so far as to delete statements from their website. I, for one, don’t think that the “tolerance” that comes from this head-in-the-sand approach really constitutes a step forward for religious dialogue.

  3. I have no problem with Mormons, as I believe I’ve shared with you in the past. I’ve lived with them. I’ve broken bread with them. I’ve prayed with them. I’ve worshiped with them. I’ve cried with them. However, it’s disappointing to see the evangelical reaction change for politics and not humanity. Are they a cult? I don’t know, but I know they’re good people. I suppose they’re as much of a cult as the Sov Grace folks.

    That being said, I do think it’s a scary slope for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be grouped with other evangelical groups, like the GOP is doing. How should they feel about having a President who has a higher power — other than God — who says he communes with God and offers direction to his people and the whole world? That’s the better question.

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