I was no great fan of Mitt Romney’s, as I think I’ve already made quite clear. I didn’t like him. I didn’t vote for him. I’m glad he lost.
However, as much fun as it has been to watch people dance around the post-election bonfire of Sheldon Adelson’s money, I actually have something good to say about Romney’s abortive attempt at the White House. There was something about his candidacy specifically that gives me a little hope that America is getting a little bit better. (Full disclosure: this post started out as a kernel of thought when I considered what nice thing I might have to say in the event of an actual Romney win.)
I have written before about being brought up in a fundamentalist evangelical church. While I have no enmity toward the individual people I knew in that church (who, almost to a man or woman, were generous, goodhearted and kind), I have little good to say about it and its ilk as a whole. I reject the vast majority of its theology, and consider its influence in American politics corrosive and pernicious. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It wasn’t just the gays that I was taught to despise and fear. Those people saw Satan everywhere. I mean everywhere. I was taught that the national forest near my hometown was crawling with satanists ready to murder me in gruesome ritual sacrifice. (Really.) I was taught that the New Age movement was merely repackaged devil-worship. (Makes you listen to Enya in a whole new way, I’ll bet.) I was taught to see the handiwork of Beelzebub in movies and books and toys.
Satan was everywhere.
Among the malign forces arrayed against God’s kingdom were the various false religious and cults. (I’m sad to say that Catholicism was ranked among them according to many people I heard growing up.) And right at the top of the list was Mormonism (along with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists). The Book of Mormon was clearly a violation of Revelation 22:18, and Joseph Smith was clearly a false prophet. And let’s not even start on their doctrines about the origin of God. (I was trying to find a link to embed there, but everything I can turn up is so overtly anti-Mormon as to be unworthy of any additional traffic.) Mormons were cultists, plain and simple.
Given that deep antipathy toward his religion felt by a substantial proportion of his base, you might suspect that Romney’s loss was attributable to evangelicals sitting this election out. But that seems not to be the case, with no less a figure than Ralph Reed reporting that evangelical turnout was greater this year than in 2008. (One should probably verify those figures, however, given that it was Reed’s job to deliver those voters, and so he has a vested interest in making it look like he succeeded. But isn’t it pretty that even he is admitting that Republicans can’t rely on this base to win elections any longer? Dare we hope this means Republicans will stop pandering to them?) Assuming those numbers are accurate, being Mormon didn’t cost Romney support among fundamentalists.
I doubt it’s because they’ve revised their beliefs about Mormonism per se. Billy Graham may have conveniently scrubbed it from his website’s list of cults shortly before the election, but one gathers it was there until very recently. And it’s a lot easier to redact a website than it is to change people’s long-held views.
No, it looks like evangelicals turned out to vote for Romney despite believing he belongs to a dangerous cult. And I think that’s a truly wonderful thing. (That they did this because of their unmitigated loathing for a man a distressing number still believe is Muslim does temper my happiness just a wee bit.) Anything that dismantles the de facto religious requirement for political candidates, even slightly, is a good thing for our country. Evangelicals putting Romney’s politics ahead of his religion as a reason to vote for him put a tiny crack in that requirement’s foundation. And that’s something I think we should all celebrate.