Yesterday I was listening to a segment on NPR about how evangelical Republicans are unenthusiastically coming to support Mitt Romney for president. One interviewee said that while Mr Romney was not his first choice, “a Mormon is better than a Muslim”, referring to Mr Obama. Later, I was tuned in to Al Kresta’s conservative Catholic talk show on EWTN. His listeners, who had been overwhelmingly for Rick Santorum, were also coming around. One reasoned, again, that a Mormon was better than a man with Muslim connections.
Disregard, if you will, the foolishness of calling the President a Muslim, or even of referring to his “Muslim connections”, which consist of having had an apostate Muslim for a father, a father he barely knew.
Look, rather, to the confusion that sees Mormonism as closer to orthodox Christianity than Islam. The confusion is understandable: Mormonism has its roots in the Protestant revivalism of the 19th century and claims to worship the Trinity. Mormons use all the familiar Christian terminology. Mitt Romney, no doubt, can look you in the eye without mental reservation and tell you that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Saviour.
The problem is that when a Mormon says such things he means something entirely different from what the broadest Christian orthodoxy means. His “Trinity” consists of three separate physical beings, who are highly evolved men. There is no Supreme Being, no Creator who made all things out of nothing. What are eternal in Mormonism are matter and intelligences (souls), which are uncreated.
While using familiar Christian language, Mormonism teaches an entirely different worldview. It worships a different god, or rather, gods. This materialist gnosticism is so foreign to historic Christianity that no Christian church or ecclesial body recognizes Mormon baptism as valid.
Islam, on the other hand, preaches the God of Abraham, Who exists from all eternity, a perfect Spirit, Who created the world from nothing, Who will judge all humanity at the end of the age, Who spoke through the familiar Jewish prophets. It teaches, further, that Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin, that He was the greatest prophet and will return at the end of the world. Of course, Islam denies His divinity, but only the ignorant deny that Muslims worship the One God. Indeed, when you consider the traditional Jewish hostility to Christ and His Mother, and the blasphemies that have been uttered through the ages by Jews, it is apparent that Islam has far more in common with Christianity than does Judaism. (I do understand that many modern Jewish scholars approach Christ with a far more benign attitude).
I know that Common Wisdom dictates that we pay no attention to Romney’s Mormonism, that a candidate’s religion is of no consequence when we are considering for whom we will cast our vote.
The Common Wisdom is wrong; what one believes and values dictates how one will govern. What’s more, even those who would affirm this broad acceptance of religion would probably not vote for, say, a Scientologist, or a Satanist, or someone who affirms the deity of Elvis. For that matter, I highly doubt that a professed Muslim would stand a chance at being elected president.
What they really mean when they say that Romney’s Mormonism is irrelevant is that Mormonism has become, in the last century or so, less foreign, less threatening. There is no longer a Mormon army, like there once was. They no longer practice polygamy, at least not in the official church. They have a reputation for honesty and family values (though Utah’s divorce rate is 23rd in the nation, right in the middle). Most of us know Mormons who are nearly uniformly “nice”. They seem normal, American, not like those foreign Muslims.
When conservative voters argue that “a Mormon is better than a Muslim” they are exhibiting one more symptom of their true religion, which is Americanism.