Latter-Day Religious Tests
In the pre-Christmas frenzy, I missed Damon Linker's very interesting take on the religio-political implications of Mitt Romney's Mormonism, which will appear in the next print edition of The New Republic. Like everyone else, Linker noted polls showing hostility to the prospect of a Mormon president, especially among evangelical Christians. But like me, Linker suspects that the recent ecumenical movement towards a Christian Right united front could ultimately lead the most politically radicalized conservative Gentiles (to use the Mormon term for non-Mormons) to deem Romney kosher.
After all, the Mormons have built a righteous commonwealth in Utah that undoubtedly inspires admiration and envy among conservative Christians generally, not only in terms of godly personal morality, but as reflected in the large and generous LDS social welfare system. And at a time when the Christian Right appears far more interested in the wordly implications of theology than in its other-wordly claims, do qualms about eccentric Mormon doctrines really matter any more?
The polls say yes, but time will tell if Romney's candidacy does for Mormons what JFK's candidacy did for Catholics--detoxifying his faith even as he benefits from strong and avid support from his co-religionists.
Much of Linker's article actually focuses on a very different issue: should those of us who aren't members of the Christian Right worry about Romney's faith? Linker thinks we should, primarily because of peculiar LDS beliefs about American-based prophecy that could place pressure on a Mormon president to erect a theocracy. I'm not completely convinced by his arguments, but he does make an excellent case that Romney, like JFK, has to make up his mind whether he wants Americans to vote for him because, or in spite of, his religion. --