Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN)–Why are evangelicals like Billy Graham and Ralph Reed stumping for Mitt Romney? And why are roughly three-quarters of white evangelicals inclined to vote for him?
Because politics matters more to them than religion.
Last year, in a talk at a conference on Mormonism and Islam at Utah Valley University, I asked my Mormon listeners why they had not rushed to the defense of Muslims in controversies such as the one that raged over the Park51 project near ground zero. After all, they have been the victims of religious prejudice. Their founder, Joseph Smith, was killed by a mob of vigilantes.
Given this history, I expected that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons, would feel the sting of anti-Muslim prejudice and speak out against it. But neither Mitt Romney of the GOP nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of the Democratic Party did anything of the sort. In fact, Romney issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic center.
Why? Because they were thinking and acting as Republicans or Democrats first and Mormons second.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
I see a parallel story playing out this election season with the religious right.
Until quite recently, many evangelicals saw Mormonism as a dangerous cult spreading false theology and dooming its followers to hell. In fact, only after Romney showed up for a meet and greet with Billy Graham in North Carolina earlier this month did the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association erase a reference to Mormonism as a “cult."
Did Mormons all of a sudden change their theology? Did Graham change his definition of a “cult”? Of course not. It just became politically expedient for Graham to declassify Mormonism, given the fact that Romney, a Mormon, was the presidential nominee of his beloved GOP.
Ralph Reed, too, is forsaking his theology for his politics, mobilizing his Atlanta-based Faith and Freedom Coalition to place voter guides in Ohio churches in the run-up to election day.
I am old enough to remember when the main purpose of Reed’s Christian Coalition and other groups on the religious right was to put born-again Christians in the Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. And for decades those who were running those groups saw Mormons as non-Christians.
And don't get me started on Mike Huckabee, who in a recent ad says that a vote for Obama is a vote for your own damnation.
Have LDS Church members repudiated the Book of Mormon as “another testament of Jesus Christ” or their view that the Bible is the word of God only “as far as it is correctly translated”? Have they accepted the Trinity? Rejected their teaching that there are many gods?
As Ben Witherington, Albert Mohler, and many other evangelical thinkers continue to insist: no, no, and no.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
I used to believe that the purpose of the religious right was to infuse American politics with Christian politicians and Christian politics. I no longer believe that. The purpose of the religious right is to use the Christian God for political purposes. Why any Christian, conservative or liberal, can say "Amen" to that is beyond me.
I am perfectly happy to see Reed stump for Romney in Ohio and Graham plump for Romney in an ad in The Wall Street Journal. Just don’t tell me they are doing so as Christians. They are doing so as shills for the GOP.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
I very much do agree with your conclusions here. It appears that religious leaders are very much more apt to "bend" previous beliefs when the "correct" political party is involved.
That should be extremely troubling to ALL religious people who feel that they should hold to something "absolute" only to be sold out by the heirarchy for political reasons!
So will YOU vote the way the turncoat wants?
There are a lot of people who believe in doing good and living a good life without the threat of being banished to a fiery furnace by a sky wizard.
The bible belt as a whole leads the country in crime, divorce, and general depravity. This is no coincidence.
No argument there!! A believe in a "sky wizard" who will "strike you down" or send your soul to a fiery hell upon death is GREAT mythology, but only that.
I will not argue that many who claim to be Christians are not. Satan has and army.
We also have an army, and when mold penetrates our walls and we take ill, we long for care and healing. That care, that healing is the Lord.
With His healing hands and sweet breath, he will spread wide your gaping hole and visit upon it the goodness that is knowing him.
Is God running a mold removal service? I'd like to get some stock in that.
Prayer changes things .
Another Christian who has never read his bible.
Would you agree that goats, pigs, and cows are "other living things"? Would you say their sacrifice demanded by God in the bible was healthy for them?
In the proper sauce, absolutely !
About the mountain. Yes mountain's are constantly moving. But that's going to happen with or without prayer. And I know you're going to say "but not without god".
I like you and enjoy your logic and reason. I would say to you that that very intelligence can be leveraged to penetrate the invisible wall that is holding you back from the Lord.
Yes God is in all things, but WE are the wind at His back. He holds up and lights the way, but we must still paddle.
Pray and seek Him in that one place only you know. Only you, and Him, have the key.
Sorry for my handle snafu Mighty Paw. Message goes unchanged.
I just want to know why god is playing hide and seek with humanity.
still think Rmoney pad Franklin enough money to change the website of his father Billy. Mormonism is and always has been a cult.
Romney will beg, borrow, steal, or buy the presidency any way he can. Read the White Horse Prophesy. Mormons want to take over the entire world.
Who is the author of this to speak on putting politics first? He's notoriously wrong on every single thing he writes, on a daily basis. Joker.
i agree. i think he missed the part where there is suppose to be a separation of church and state.
The answer to your question is that our country is founded on religious freedom and both Reed and Graham recognize that the Republican party is fighting to preserve that freedom. When that freedom is threatened good people of faith band together.
Wow. Graham in favor of freedom? Here's a tip: Imposing one brand of Christianity of everyone isn't religious freedom, it's theocracy, and that's what Graham promotes.
Ellen. You need to change freedom to indoctrination in you post above.
LOL! The Republican party has been hijaked by a bunch of fanatical christian freaks is what is going on. They're trying to imose their beliefs on the world and their wierd moralty on other people. Sorry. LAME.
And what religious freedom is being threatened? I have heard no mention of curtailing the rights of the religious to worship as they choose.
What religious freedoms are being threatened?
You have the right to religious freedom, your religious freedom should be involved in politics.
Which of your religious freedoms has been taken away? Were you able to go to the church of your choice this last week? Is there anything preventing you from having a bible in your home? Were you able to pray at your dinner table today? So tell us, which of your freedoms has been taken away?
Some people say that they want a Christian nation, but that would pose a problem. Which denomination of Christianity would it be? It can't be all of them, as they differ in their doctrines. Would it be a Roman Catholic nation?Eastern Orthodox? Baptist (which one)? Lutheran (which one)? Presbyterian? Unitarian? Methodist? Anglican?Apostolic? Assembly of God? Charismatic? Christian Science? Episcopal? Mormon? Non-denominational? Inter-denominational? Nazarene? Pentecostal? Seventh-Day Adventist? Did I miss any? Some believe in the trinity, some don't. Some take the bible literally, some don't. Some believe in a literal heaven and hell, some don't. So which one should it be?
Evangelical Christians are the biggest, dumbest, most duplicitous group of of people on earth. They're liars, cheaters, powerhungry war mongering bigoted pigs. Sorry those of you who are actually nice people, the one's who represent your awful religion are HORRIBLE people. SHAME.
Undoubtedly there are many evangelical christians who are fine and admirable people; the ones who are the loudest and most visible are not.
Excellent article. Where are all the people who think that putting a crazy Mormon in the White House is a bad idea? No one is speaking against the Mormon for that reason! It is mindlessly ridiculous. Rmoney is getting all the money for all people backing him.
Given that there is not a single bit of evidence for any god, all religios leaders (aka charlatans) are lars, delusional or both. What sorts of behaviour do you expect from Lars and the mentally ill? I expect exactly what is being reported here.
How could anyone who believes in god and an after life choose to back romney and a party that puts money before all else
Sparky. I could not agree with you more. I am stunned. I am a Christian, but I do not understand how a Christian could vote for a man who could care less for this nations poor and as the Bible says, we are to take care of those of us who have less. And a Christian voting for a MORMON? Who believes JESUS was just normal MAN?
They are delusional. He who lies to others is a villain; he who lies to himself, a fool.
Easy on the caps there, Steven. People might think that you're a blurter, or worse.
I enjoy it anytime someone points out the blatant hypocrisy of the religious right. In America, we have this thing called separation of church and state and so very, very few on the right want to acknowledge it. Mormonism is a cult. So while the right spent 4 years looking for Obama's birth certificate and then accusing him of being a 'muslim,' the christians were MORE than happy to coddle up to a mormon leader, despite the contradiction of the religious messages that come from that cult.
I have absolutely nothing against christians or religious folks UNTIL they bring in the hypocrisy that so many of them are known for. At that point, I dismiss them not as religious people but as being irrational and illogical. You can't have a legitimate debate with someone like a republican who keeps changing the rules and keeps shifting their ideals.
What do you get when you mix religion and politics?
You get politics.
...and corrupt religion.
corrupt religion is redundant redundancy.
Nope. You just get religion. I do not understand why any religious person would want to mix their religion with politics if they actually cared about their religion.
Ooops, It should say, "You just get politics."
if Jesus appeared today, Christians and the GOP would denounce him as a liberal and crucify him. I mean, for all we know, they already have, probably have. Any Christian should be ashamed of their religion and turn their back on it – you can still believe in God, but don't empower the Church, it is nothing but evil and politics, and does not represent the Peace and Love of Jesus, it represents HATE. They think only about those they hate, which is many groups of people, and politics is their main way of attacking those they hate. Don't support this, loving people!
I wasn't aware they were voting for Preacher of the United States. Why wouldn't you put your politics first? A vote for Romney isn't a vote for Mormonism. It never was.
Ummm, the GOP candidates main party plank is religion. they kiss priests and pastors on stage while dressed in holy garb of priests and pastors. they kiss the hand of billy graham every Presidential election. Voting GOP IS a vote for Preacher of the United States.
No, a vote for Romney is a vote for 8 more years of W...........................
Did you have a chance to poo yet. If so did it get rid of that knot in your stomach?
@The Mighty Paw of Dog
You would do well to stroke the mighty paw of the Lord. I know you are most likely a college educated person and a good person, but you took the wrong turn on the road to spiritual enlightenment.
I know this because each of us is part of the same whole, and a brother or sister that strays is painful to a Christian who loves He who knits the sweater.
Be there for all of us Mighty Paw. Be mighty and hold our sweater together so that we might all find warmth in the Lord.
Atheists and confused souls, you are lost, but as I pray to the heavens tonight you will be in my thoughts and my prayers will be as a stitch in the fabric of God's life.
You would say, "prayer does not help" "prayer cannot be proven" "prayer is a waste of time" but I would say to you, thoughts have mass and mass can move mountains.
Pray, and as you do God will gently hold you in His arms and feel the passion of your soul. He would heal you and love you. He would offer you the greatest gift he can offer. He would be risen for you and penetrate you with His passion.
These gifts are not given lightly however. If you want a happy ending, you must pay first.
@be ready. Move a mountain then. All talk?
Measure the great Rocky Mountains today, and then measure them again tomorrow. Would you then say mountains cannot be moved?
I don't have to be an atheist to stand opposed to organized religion. As soon as Jesus died, the Devil worked to present itself as the Church, that is why the Church is always involved in war and HATE. The Church doesn't line up to help out at Food Kitchens, but it lines up to by chicken sandwiches in support of HATRED. The Church is evil, Period. I still believe in JC but vow to defeat The Christian Religion.
Are you claiming that your faith is manifested as plate tectonics?
Wait, you are claiming you moved the Rocky Mountains? You are insane. I guess that explains your belief in Christianity.
@Moby Schtick and spockmonster
Naturally that is the reaction I expected from you. If said to you "faith is moving those tectonic plates" "I wished for beauty and it was done" "fresh water is needed and delivered", you would scoff and rebuke me.
But I say to you, God is in all of these things, and in all of these things is prayer. Prayer moves mountains.
You're delusional. Illogical. Have no common sense. There is no afterlife. You don't get wings and a cloud to float on. There is NO heaven or hell, no god or devil. A white man with a white beard in the sky? A red man with a pointy tail and you suffer in fire for all time? Are u insane? Do you see how crazy that is? You've all been brainwashed by your churches for the last 2000+ years. Think for yourselves, don't blindly follow what any man in robes tells you to do.
Also, your original post is so full of self-serving, condescending ridiculousness it's hard to accept you may actually be serious.
Prayer is the ultimate blasphemy; it presumes that god is not competent to run his own universe without your advice.
You would say, "prayer does not help" "prayer cannot be proven" "prayer is a waste of time" but I would say to you, thoughs have mass and mass can move mountains.
Awesome! Thanks! That saves me quite a bit of time and effort.
Bless and I hope you get your Happy Ending.
" penetrate you with His passion" ... ? That's just sick
You are delusional. Science will tell u everything u need to know about mountains or anything on this planet. Prayer does not and can not physically move anything in this world.
It's 'showboating GodHeads' like this where taxation should be wielded upon,,, or be disbanded for their works' sakedness for crying out loud!
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.