Does evangelical support of Romney steer US toward a more secular nation?
Luminaries of the Religious Right such as Pat Robertson and Robert Jefress are lining up to support Mormon Mitt Romney, with just one caveat: He needs to keep religion out of the White House.
After decades of demanding that the President speak fluently and frequently about their particular god, they are now slamming the engines in full reverse before they collide with the LDS iceberg. But it may already be too late.
Conservative Christians are starting to line up behind Mormon Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But they’re not doing so comfortably, and not without clinging to a last, non-negotiable condition that, ironically, makes the conservative Christian voting bloc the force most responsible these days for the secularization of America.
This is the condition that evangelical voters set for their grudging support of a non-(traditionally) Christian, but politically conservative, candidate. And it’s the condition that implicates evangelical Christianity as a significant force in the secularization of the country. Romney can be the Christian right’s candidate, but only if he becomes entirely a-religious. The religious voters that Romney is now courting won’t allow him to be religious about anything, not even about issues on which he and they agree.
Proving that he’s as sensitive to political winds as any candidate, Romney has tuned his message and his identity. In a 20 minute commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University two days following Obama’s public, and avowedly Christian, support for same-sex marriage, Romney offered a single sentence to the hottest political issue of the week: ”Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman,” he said. To justify his position, Romney cited neither God nor Christianity, neither self-sacrifice nor the Golden Rule. The safest, most effective reason Romney could find to justify his agreement with a football stadium full of deliberate Christians was “American culture.”
Unable to field a viable traditional Christian candidate—who would be welcome to inject his religion into the way he governs—the Republicans are about to be the first of the two major parties to give the United States a non-’Christian’ nominee for president. The demand that this nominee eschew his own, genuine faith in favor of the rhetoric of an “American culture” characterized by what Romney now calls “shared moral convictions” rather than by an evangelical understanding of biblical salvation marks a new age in American politics.
What will come of the Religious Right’s decision to support Romney? At present, they have nominal Christian Obama in the White House; with Romney, they would be openly electing someone they consider member of a cult. A cult which declares, for example, that their savior is brothers with their devil.
Would a Romney presidency truly lead to a more secular United States? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a sure bet that many of the evangelical Christian Right’s issues would get promoted; we’d likely see an increase in contraception restrictions, and a President openly fighting marriage equality. But what of religious liberty?
As a Mormon, Romney could argue as the “outsider” being oppressed by government . . . but would have a hard time gaining sympathy from evangelicals when they realized his push for school prayer, for example, could lead to the open promotion of Mormonism in schools. In fact, it might help many evangelicals to realize that true religious liberty means keeping government and religion away from one another.
What about spending of public money to promote religion?
Romney’s answer to the difficulties our public educational system faces is vouchers. Evangelicals and Catholics both like vouchers, because this way, they can direct taxpayer funds to private, religious indoctrination centers. What if that money started going to Mormon indoctrination centers? Surely Romney wouldn’t oppose that, and would be seen as supporting it. How would evangelicals and Catholics respond to their tax dollars being spent to promote Mormonism?
A Romney presidency could well spur the Religious Right to reconsider some of their ideas about church-state separation. Or it could spur them to be sure to turn out in greater force, and pick a Christian candidate who isn’t insane (Bachmann), doped up (Perry), an adulterer (Cain, Gingrich), or an unelectable, roundly despised bigot (Sanatorium) . . . swinging the pendulum farther to the right as the result.