The Evangelical Vote

 

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: At a megachurch in Orlando, evangelical Christians gathered to pray for the nation. The meeting was organized by a group called The Response, which has been holding similar sessions in other early primary states. They say they’re praying because they are well aware of the importance of the upcoming election and of their own role in helping to choose the Republican nominee. According to exit polls, two-thirds of the GOP primary voters in South Carolina last week described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. Forty-four percent of them voted for Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum each got 21 percent of the evangelical vote. Here in Florida, conservative Christians make up about 40 percent of likely Republican primary voters.

STEVE STRANG (CEO, Charisma Media): It is important just because there are so many of us. But we don’t all think alike. We don’t all support the same person.

LAWTON: And that division among evangelicals has been a major factor this primary season. Although one-time presumed frontrunner Romney does have some support within the evangelical community, so far many rank-and-file conservative Christians haven’t rallied around him. Some believe it’s at least in part because of Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—the Mormons.

Warren Cole Smith, associate publisher for World MagazineWARREN COLE SMITH (Associate Publisher, World Magazine): Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is a concern of mine because I have a concern as an evangelical Christian that I should not promote what my faith teaches is a false religion.

LAWTON: Warren Cole Smith is associate publisher of the Christian news magazine World. He wrote a blog in which he said if Romney believes what the Mormon faith teaches, he is “unfit to serve” as president.

SMITH: You could start with the doctrine of the Trinity, what theologians would call their Christology, in other words their understanding of who Christ is. And you wouldn’t have to go any farther than that to identify very quickly some differences between orthodox Biblical Christianity and Mormon theology.

LAWTON: Mormons hold several views which set them apart from Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians. Not accepting the doctrine of the Trinity, Mormons believe that Jesus and God were separate physical beings. Founder Joseph Smith taught that traditional Christianity had fallen away from the teachings of Jesus, so additional and continuing revelations, like the Book of Mormon, were needed to restore the true faith. The LDS church may hold different views from the mainstream, but Mormons are deeply offended by the suggestion that they are not “real” Christians. Joanna Brooks is senior correspondent for ReligionDispatches.org, an interfaith online magazine.

Joanna Brooks, Senior Corresponden for ReligionDispatches.orgJOANNA BROOKS (Senior Correspondent, Religion Dispatches): The name of Jesus Christ is in the name of our church. So, you know, Mormons do tend to feel like we’re being profoundly misunderstood when we’re classified as not being Christian.

LAWTON: And does it matter in a presidential race?

SMITH: It is a position of such high visibility in the world that, yes, having a Mormon in that particular chair would have the effect of promoting Mormonism, of normalizing Mormonism culturally both here in the United States and around the world.

BROOKS: Mormons are actually pretty cautious about the scrutiny that might come to faith as Romney runs and if he were to win the presidency. At the same time, you know, perhaps over the course of a Romney presidency people would finally get used to the idea that Mormons are fairly normal members of American society.

LAWTON: The LDS church has not commented on Romney’s campaign because it doesn’t want to appear to be interfering in the election. However, the church has released a series of ads highlighting the variety of people who hold the Mormon faith. This primary season, Romney has avoided direct discussion of the faith issue. He has been doing a lot of outreach to evangelicals.

MITT ROMNEY: I am convinced that if we have a president who will tell the truth and live with integrity and who knows how to lead and rebuild an economy, who will then draw on the patriotism of the American people, we will be able to restore those values and keep America as it has always been, the hope of the earth.

LAWTON: In Florida, evangelical Republican Cathleen Kwas is supporting Romney largely because of his economic experience.

Cathleen Kwas, an evangelical voter in Florida who supports RomneyCATHLEEN KWAS (Evangelical Voter): I’m not electing him to be the pastor of my church or anything like that. I think he’s a moral man. I think he’s a strong husband, a good father, and I’m sure we share a lot of the same, you know, ethics and values. And you know, the Mormonism isn’t—I don’t even think about that.

LAWTON: Charisma Media CEO Steve Strong is among other evangelicals who say they are reluctant to support Romney because of his policies, not his faith.

STRANG: I have no criticism of Governor Romney personally other than the fact that you have to question how conservative he is by some of the things he did in Massachusetts. Thankfully his flip-flopping, in my opinion, was flip-flopping in the right direction. That is a factor, but for me that is more of a factor than what church he goes to.

LAWTON: If not Romney, who? In the South Carolina vote, many evangelicals appeared to accept Gingrich’s argument that he is the candidate with the best chance of winning.

NEWT GINGRICH: We must have somebody who knows what they believe, is prepared to defend what they believe, and will do what it takes to defeat Obama.

LAWTON: Evangelicals appear divided over whether Gingrich’s marital past will be a factor.

Steve Strang, CEO of Charisma MediaSTRANG: I think Newt Gingrich’s past is a huge issue, and it isn’t so much that he could be forgiven. Forgiveness is the essence of Christianity, and we’ve all been forgiven. But it shows his character, and not once, but a couple times. I have no doubt he’s changed. No doubt. But it is troubling.

KWAS: I don’t hold Newt Gingrich’s past against him. I do believe he made mistakes in the past, and that’s not influencing me now. I think he has had a change of heart, but I just believe he’s not steady and calm, and I think he’s fairly progressive, and so the moral thing isn’t what’s going to sway my opinion.

LAWTON: Earlier this month, a group of conservative Christian leaders urged unified support for Santorum. Strang decided to join them.

STRANG: Because I want to make a statement that character is important and not think that we have to give it to somebody just because all the pundits say that they have the election wrapped up and they are the ones that can beat president Obama. I think that it is unknown.

LAWTON: But given his low standing in the polls, many evangelicals do wonder about Santorum’s electability. Susan Berdet says she wrestled a lot before finally casting her absentee ballot for Santorum.

Senator Rick Santorum speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conferenceSUSAN BERDET (Evangelical Voter): I do want someone to beat our present president. Badly. But I want it to be the right person. I just felt that Rick Santorum represented my beliefs.

LAWTON: Santorum has been urging other evangelicals to also vote their values.

RICK SANTORUM: It’s not about winning or not winning, it’s about how you want to win. Do you want to win by being just a little better, or do you want to win with a mandate?

LAWTON: Polls show that despite any misgivings in the primary, in a race between Romney and Obama the majority of evangelicals across the country would vote for Romney. But they may not be enthusiastic about it.

SMITH: The real question is will evangelicals both turn out in large numbers and be energized as volunteers and financial supporters of Mitt Romney? It doesn’t take a majority of evangelicals to stay home. It just takes a few million evangelicals to stay home or to choose to not get as actively involved in this race, to cost Mitt Romney the presidency, should he become the Republican nominee.

LAWTON: With all the decisions looming, many evangelicals say they will continue to pray for wisdom.

I’m Kim Lawton in Orlando.

  • Stephen Buck

    I wonder how the Evangelical community will react if I take a shot at the Nicene Creed which seems to be a major consideration and test to declare someone a Christian or not.
    I have noticed that some of them do not mind expressing their profound loathing when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views of the Godhead is considered.
    Let me remind our critics that the actual wording of the Creed has been reworked many times. The Creed accepted by Catholics is not the same as Baptists, nor does the Methodist agree the way the Baptists reworked it.
    I guess my question is why if it is a doctrine that defines a true believer and makes a person a Christian was it rendered over and over again and again.
    For Baptists the acceptance of the NC is problematic. They teach sola scriptura (the Bible is the only source of truth) but the creed is not really found in the Bible at all. Concepts such as “homousious”, meaning Christ and God are of the same substance becomes awfully hard to establish biblically when Christ comes to earth and prayers to his Father as a Son. So then NC is extra biblical and should not be a part of their doctrinal beliefs.
    The Creed was written 300 years after the death of Christ. All Apostles; the body who determined doctrine for the Church were dead. The Emperor Constantine (a pagan murderer) interfered with the formulation and ultimately acceptance of the Creed. Many of the writers were students of Greek philosophy and threaded pagan beliefs throughout the writing of it.
    While the bible was not fully assembled at the time what they had at hand should not have been ignored: Matt. 3 where Christ is baptized by John… when Christ comes out of the water a voice from heaven says “This is my beloved son…. Did the Father really come down to tell us he loves himself? Consider Matt. 26 where Christ is praying to the Father and pleads with Him to let this cup pass from him. (Believe me there are many, many more).
    If they are of the same matter less substance why would he have to ask himself for help? Does it make any sense to you? The creed is not a mystery it is nonsense.
    The bible does not give us all the information to correctly know how the universe came into existence. Nor does it explain a fully what it means to be from everlasting to everlasting. Mormons beliefs add to the subject but by no means tell all about our Father in Heaven and his existence. But acceptance of the NC should not be a deciding factor when one is considered a Christian or not.

  • Darci Asche

    I am so confused on what evangelicals base their support. I can’t see how any of the candidates for the Republican nomination would appeal to people who claim to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ. I absolutely do not see it. What is the reason that someone must “…beat the current president. Badly”?

  • Pete

    There is no religious test for public office. It says as much in the constitution. Eisenhower was a Jehovah’s Witness; Kennedy was a Catholic; there were no issues with either of them. If evangelicals don’t support Romney because of his faith, be ready for four more years of Obama. If you ask me, I’d rather have a leader who is a Mormon, than a man who cannot lead. It’s time evangelicals put aside their bias against Mormon’s and step up and do what’s right for our country.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    If you accept the standard of Warren Cole Smith, you are saying that any Mormon and any Jew is unqualified to be a first class citizen in the US. Mormons and Jews can pay taxes and serve in the military and even vote, but no one whose religion does not please Warren Cole Smith gets to be elected to any government office orbappointed to a cabinet pist or to a Federal or state judgeship, because giving Mormons and Jews full citizenshipsbwould “help advance a false religion.” Whatever else Mr.Smith is, he is not a conservative because he is rejecting the express words of the US Constitution, which states in Article VI that no religious test will be used to keep anyone from holding a government office, and the First Amendment which prohibits government from giving favored status to any religion, including the one Mr. Smith belongs to. Real American conservatives who support the Constitution believe in pure religious equality, and that every person, including Jews and Mormons, have the right to be elected to government office the same as any Catholic.

    Warren Cole Smithnshould be recognized as carrying on the legavy of the Ku Klux Klan, which lynched not only blacks, but also Jews and Mormons.

  • Terry

    From my own studies of the New Testament, in my own humble opinion, Mormons have it more right in regards to the nature of God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. The Trinity doctrine came about as a result of the Council of Nicea, in 325 AD. by the early Catholic Church, and not by eyewitnesses to Jesus. The first Christians, in the time of the Apostles, didn’t appear to believe in the Trinity. They seem to believe as Mormons, that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate beings. The Apostle Paul never spoke of them as the same person.

    Mark 13:32
    “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels, which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

  • JDE

    “WARREN COLE SMITH (Associate Publisher, World Magazine): Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is a concern of mine because I have a concern as an evangelical Christian that I should not promote what my faith teaches is a false religion.”

    Yes, God forbid someone might disagree with you. [...]

  • Jed

    i can’t think of anyone better to represent the country than Mitt Romney. He’s not perfect, but if anything, I think his church helps him be the kind of person who ought to be leading this nation.

    Mitt knows we are all children of God, so he’s not going to be divisive as Obama has been. He really wants to serve all 300 million plus Americans and future generations by fixing the economy and restoring us to the principles that made us great. It’s not just a desire, it is something he has a record of doing. He has been faithful both to his God and to his country, and there is no place we see this more than in his family.

    If you don’t know what to think about Mitt Romney, read Turnaround, the book he wrote before the 2008 election about his experience with the Olympics, turning around companies, and turning around Massachusetts. Then read No Apology, his more recent book. This is a VERY good man and a very good family that is worthy of being called our First Family.

    I can’t say that about Gingrich, and Santorum lacks Mitt’s private sector experience and electability vs Obama.

    Mitt 2012! No question.

  • radelster

    Rick Santorum is NOT on the ballot in all 50 states, meaning he cannot win enough delegates for the nomination. so WHY are ‘leaders’… MISLEADING people into voting for someone who CANNOT win?

  • MEL

    Terry, I believe you will find a complete description of the Trinity in the Book of John, Chapter 1.

  • George Neudeck

    I couldn’t agree with Warren more that “A vote for Romney is a vote for the LDS Church”. For the sake of our Country, it’s citizens, and our youth, it’s time Christians put their beliefs ahead of politics, the economy, the Nationaal Dept, etc. The Bible teaches the Way to eternal salvation not the Book of Mormon which was written over 1800 years later in the USA. We should not directly or indirectly support its teachings.

  • M Law

    My question is: what are the evangelicals really going to do if Santorum is not nominated? Will the evangelicals then change–and vote for Mitt Romney—becauses its ‘politically correct’ –disregarding his Mormanism faith–which would no longer be an issue–so that he could win over President Obama (who confesses to be a Christian–and I believe he is)? Four years ago, as I recall, “faith” was an issue for the evangelicals–now there appears to be a ‘flip-flop!” I think what we (as Chritians) ALL need to do–in whatever prayer gathering we have or our individual pray time is to ask the Lord WHO should be in this office. I believe it was God’s will for President Obama to be put in office–and that we should be and should have been praying for him–(the Democrate) and surrounding him with prayer for the last 4 years that God would grant whatever wisdom he needed in the office he has been holding.

  • MAR

    Article VI paragraph 3 of The Constitution of the United States reads as follows ” The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall be required as a Quailification to to any Office or Public Trust under the Unjted States “

  • Channah

    ”WARREN COLE SMITH (Associate Publisher, World Magazine): Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is a concern of mine because I have a concern as an evangelical Christian that I should not promote what my faith teaches is a false religion.”

    Evangelical Christians are a big concern of mine——they scare me. They have been on a campaign to change our laws and Constitution to suit thier beliefs. There are so many religons and beliefs that we cannot run things by the rule of just one of them.

    Has Warren Cole Smith really studied the Council of Nicene? This was over 300 years after Jesus died and it is when members of the Council decided Jesus was part of a group they’d call a Trinity. This was not taught before. It was all made up at this time and if you preach something long enough, and hard enough, you will get people who will believe it. I, myself, cannot imagine how anyone could think that G-d would come to earth in human form. To me, this is blasphemy.

  • Jon Trott

    As a “born again” Christian since the days of the Jesus movement of the early 70s, and also an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, I have had to stop using the term “Evangelical” to describe myself. It isn’t about belief. It isn’t about core of Christian faith. It is about politics, and especially the politics of the Christian Right / Tea Party / Republican candidates.

    I’m sure Rick Santorum is a nice guy, and I would worship with him and talk Bible with him happily. I wish to demonize no one.

    History tells us that the 1800s in this nation featured one party (the Democrats) as the pro-segregation party, the Southerners’ only choice. In 1948, things began to change, which in reaction fomented the Dixiecrat party (with Strom Thurmond as its candidate). That party took four deep south states (plus one electoral vote from another).

    In 1960, Republican Richard Nixon remembered the Dixiecrats’ rebellion and built on that fact to try and win the South for the Republicans (though it did not work out for him that year). In 1964, for the first time, A Republican anti-busing, anti-civil rights candidate (Barry Goldwater) did take the South… six states. He took no other state except one, his home state of Arizona, and lost to Lyndon Baines Johnson. And so no one paid much attention.

    In 1968, Richard Nixon ran again, and again tried for those states — the same states Strom Thurmond won in 1948. Unfortunately for Nixon, George Wallace, the infamous segregationist Gov. of Alabama, ran on a third party platform (again, shades of the Dixiecrats) and took the deep south. Nixon didn’t need them anyway that year in his win over Hubert Humphrey.

    In 1972, Nixon did take all those states. And from that point on, the South increasingly became a Republican strong hold.

    The current election has featured much race-baiting, esp. from Newt Gingrich but also from Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. All three have used the term “food stamp President” repeatedly in reference to Barack Obama, and two of the candidates coupled lazy poor and blackness in comments they made during the Iowa primary.

    Lee Atwater admitted that Reagan’s campaign also did this, as did the one he was instrumental in running, that of George H. Bush (in 1988 against Dukakis). Atwater said that abstract code words and phrases replaced overtly racial overtones of early Republican efforts. (Nixon’s own racism is infamously recorded forever on the White House tapes that helped bring down his Presidency.)

    And Michael Steele, current Republican National Committee Chairman, admitted just months ago that “The Southern Strategy” had been used by Republicans for over forty years.

    I give you this exhaustive list of facts about race and politics because I believe there is something very very odd going on right now. We have a President who is a self-confessed born again believer, and attended church faithfully for over 20 years. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor during that entire time, is known for two or three twenty second sound bites of a decades-long career. And in that career Wright preached sermons that I have heard where he urged those hearing him to give their lives to Christ, to be born again.

    I don’t vote on whether a candidate says they are born again or not. George “Dubya” Bush, the most overtly Evangelical President we’ve had, was also the worst, starting a horrendously expensive and lethal war for no defensible reason and nearly destroying the nation’s economy.

    But if you are a Christian, and vote for other Christians (not Mormons), why aren’t you voting for President Obama?

    I clearly see the historic reason. I hope you do, too, and don’t let any “Southern Strategy 2012″ suck you in.

  • JDE

    R&E editors – if you haven’t the integrity to publish my comments in their entirety, then please don’t publish them at all.

  • Bruce Wilson

    Charisma founder Steve Strang was for years listed as a member of C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles. The failure to identify Strang’s religious association – with Wagner’s ICA and the broader New Apostolic Reformation – is a serious omission.

    Indeed, as Wagner described in an August 2008 Charisma magazine column, on the Lakeland, Florida apostolic commissioning of faith healer and evangelist Todd Bentley (who claimed to miraculously heal people by violently assaulting them, onstage), and the subsequent controversy concerning the Lakeland event, Strang and also longtime Charisma editor Lee Grady were on the apostolic team Wagner gathered to address the growing Bentley controversy:

    “I felt that I needed a team of apostles who were willing to work with me in order to identify the concerns that had been brought up, define them as carefully as possible, and come to an opinion that could be issued to the public. Ten other apostles have agreed to work with me in this project: Ché Ahn, Bill Johnson, John Arnott, Chuck Pierce, Stephen Strader, Lee Grady, David Cannistraci, Steve Strang, Jeff Beacham, and Joe Askins.”

  • john Iowa

    I believe there will be a very large split of the republican party if Romney is chosen as the republican nominee. If the lord jesus were to stand in front of you now and ask you who you are to vote for, i would say not a member of a cult Lord, But someone who acknowledges you as Lord and God.