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.
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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.
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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.
One thing these Evangelists don't seem to understand is its my own life and if there even is a heaven or hell its up to decide where to go not them, not any religion. Frankly I'm getting fairly sick and tired of these deep right wing religions trying to convert everyone.
Meanwhile the ones trying to convert you are molesting your boys
As Followers of Christ, we are suppose to present you with the truth but if you don't want everlasting life God said don't cast your pearls before Swine. If you are willing to listen to sound doctrine we are hear to provide you sound counsel. We won't force you to live forever with God.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Quoted bible verse: "Keep it to yourself, period."
Your interpretation: "Try to convert people. If they refuse and suggest you need psychological help, call them pigs and dogs."
1word well leave me the hell alone I never asked for your fricken advice.
Are you and the Bible calling non-believers "swine". Yes or no?
If he isn't someone should.
What would people who believe in talking animals and unicorns actually know about real animals?
I take issue with the scripture comparing atheists to dogs and swine as i believe this to be an insult to our canine and porcine friends....
How Christian of you!
The hypocrisy never ends.
Ah, but alas they are not "pearls", but those sweet-smelling globular bath beads that dissolve in water.
I agree, these pastors say a Vote for Obama is condoning the things Obama stands for. If you are religious, both candidates have issues. The Jesus I know was for poor people, a lot of these people who stump about Abortion is the main ones with Guns in their homes and if someone breaks in they would not think twice to taking the life of someone. Just because someone say someone has the right to make a choice it does not mean you are pushing Abortion.
King James Version (KJV)
30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;
We left England to find a new world to escape the monarchy to have freedom of religion, now certain religious groups are trying to bring us back to one state under religious control. Is that you what really want?
elimnate hinduism, racism to see fruit of peace, Islam among humanity.
Word hindu is based on Latin word hindered, negative, Hun, great, Han, to be in greatness, hin, to be negative to both of them, hindu, a noun in negativity, hinduism, way of negativity,
Religions are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, secular's, of Egyptian and Persian origin, by subordination and corruption of truth absolute to justify hinduism, racism, according to hindu racist fundamentals. to learn truth about foundation of hinduism, racism, please visit, limitisthetruth.com.
"elimnate hinduism, racism to see fruit of peace, Islam among humanity"
If you compare the number of incent people killed in the last year by both groups, you can see how Hinduism ranks a bit higher on the peace meter than Islam. Believe me we have seen Islam's "fruit of peace" and it looks like a road apple
They don't believe your religion is the real deal so what are you going to do, go fight them and kill them over something that cannot be proven?
Keep your fairy tale religion to yourselves, it is truly the cause of all evil on Earth.
Handy work of hindu Jew's, criminal secular s, deniers of truth absolute GOD, followers of hindu filthy Lucifer, atheist.
You have absolutely no idea what Hinduism is, do you?
In many ways your probably right, evil didn't exist until Christianity came along.
You're welcome to have religion in your life. But keep YOUR religion out of MY life.
Hey "nope" - you miss your calling for the post below. Do your job properly.
Well here we are again . Did you overcome your fear enough to be able to say who you'll be voting for?
Don't care if you go on all night with your 12 year antics.. poll til you die for all I care.
If you do not have the courage of your convictions while anonymous what value is your opinion? Who will you be voting for?
Ask me yet again.. do this 1 million times. XD
It appears answer can't answer.
@nope – Wow, that was really clever. Way to display the mental debilitation that comes from exposure to religion.
Jesus has already come back, as he promised,
in the beginning of this Third and Last DAY (=MILLENNIUM) now, (=John 6/27, 40)
and has a MESSAGE for all of you
right here now:
***UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!
Here is where we need that "nope" troll to do his bit.
Do tell answer who will you be voting for?
What does that have to do with any of the posts you've trolled that question on?
It's topical hawaii who will you be voting for?
Undecided, though I can say that I would have most likely voted for Huntsman if he got the nomination, depending on how he ran his compaign.
So again, what's your fucking point?
Straw poll wondering where the looney vote will go. if Obama can't carry the losers on these blogs it might spell trouble for him.
So not only do you lie, but you also throw out random insults about everyone. My aren't you the "witty" one.
Good night all. I'm off to brainwash my son with stories of cats that talk of hats and dinosaurs that love their dogs. With any luck he grows up and realizes cats can't talk and dinosaurs and dogs existed at different times in our earth's history.
Try to be good humans. Peace!
I can't believe 2000 years ago, me and my goat herding budies, went off into the desert and came up with abunch of rules to control our many wives, and you guys still believe this &h!t. Normally we spend our day out in the desert looking at the beautiful asses of our sheep, and figuring how to get our women to be as accomodating. And 2000 years later you haven't changed one bit.
Moses dates back around 4000 years ago and he was originally a prince of Egypt. Nice to see you are accurately informed. God bless
I see you haven't figured out irony
I see you have not figured out error. God bless
I think the 12th commandment that I got up on the mountain from that talking bush was... don't post on a message board if you are a drunk single loser.... but I was tripping my brains out at the time, and trying to invent the world's greatest religion
Doncha know, Moses's years are different than our years!?
4000 years is the part you don't believe?....lolololol
Odd that you pick on Moses's year count, but plants growing without the sun for X? "years" doesn't cause you any concern.
And he was ony a prince of Egypt in the movie you cave man
Moses was not Egyptian. He was a Jew. He received over 600 laws directly from God and also the "Ten Commandments".
Jesus was a Jew. His lineage was from the ruthless King David. Jesus came to fulfill the Laws of Moses. Jesus believed and taught the separation of church and state. He said :"Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" . Somehow , the pretenders ..Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Romney and Ryan never quite understood what Jesus taught .and Romney is not a Christian by any extent . He is a Mormon. Read the Mormon bible.. The Mormon's want you to think that they are Christian but they are not. They have a statue of Moroni, their God on the top of the temple in Salt Lake City.
just sayin "Moses dates back around 4000 years ago and he was originally a prince of Egypt."
He was also a war criminal
And Moses said unto them “Have ye saved all the women alive?... Now therefore Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him, but all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” Num 31:1-2, 9-11, 14-18
@justsayin- can you offer a historical reference as support for your prince of Egypt crap?
Dear Mr. Prothero: Thank you very, very much for wrting this article! These are my thoughts, exactly. I thought maybe the Mormons had denounced Joseph Smith and that's why these Christians leaders were supporting a mormon candidate. Several months ago,before the GOP nomination, I read an article from a Chistian leader denouncing mormonism as a Christian relgion, but now he is very silent about this. With all the problems and the distrust of Chrsitians, they are not helping the matter. I pray that I will obey Jesus Christ and Spread the Gospel not politics.
Of course you don't like Billy Graham supporting Romney, and you bash his motives. On the other hand, I don't hear you saying one word about all of the churches and preachers involved in the "Souls to the Polls" initiative in support of Obama. Of course you won't condemn them because they are supporting your candidate of choice. If you truly believe that Billy Graham is putting politics before religion, that is fine to state, but at least be fair in your reporting and condemnation and say the same thing (and name names) of those religious leaders who are being shills for the Democratic party.
I doubt the preachers in the "souls to the polls" effort are tapping into SuperPAC money.
How is the BGEA funding the newspaper ads they are running?
"The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said the new ads were paid for by "friends who support the ministry" and that no general ministry funds were used."
I'd say they've sold out to a Mitt SuperPAC – unless you can find a better explanation. The ads started right after Mitt visited with Franklin and Billy Graham.
Exactly, Amen to what John said.
John, the point is that BG has denounced Mormonism as a cult and has now removed that fstatement from his website and endorsed Romney for political reasons. We're not comparing recommendations from the pulpit, we're talking hypocrisy.
Rev. Graham is not really being a hypocrite – he has the right to change his opinion just like you or I. The reality is that between the two candidates, Gov.Romney mirrors Rev. Grahams beliefs the closest even though the position of the Church stands that the Mormon religion is more on the side of being 'Christian-ish' rather than bona fide Christian. I like Rev. Graham – he's helped a lot of people over the years. But sometimes, you gotta take what you get and he-gets-Mitt (no rhyme intended).
Mormonism is NOT Christian. Romney and Ryan believe in Objectivism. , the Ayn Rand philosophy of selfishness. She was an atheist. Read the Mormon "bible". They believe in white male supremacy. If it were not for the fear of loss of tax exempt status and illegality of it, polygamy would be still be practiced for the Mormons. Romney's great grandfather had three wives and 35 children.
I am amazed at the level of stupidity from CNN blog readers. Comments are either from atheists who know nothing about scripture trying to pass their opinions off as facts, or ignorant Christians who don't know their own bible and seem to have gotten their Saturday morning cartoons mixed up with their Sunday morning church lessons. Social laws that govern our lives work WITH, not against, moral laws that govern our actions. That's what the Ten Commandments were all about: 5 were moral and 5 were social. Truly moral people should be able to create laws that add value to society. So moral law (not necessarily religion) and social law should work together.
A recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know more about religion than the average Christian.
Many atheists know scripture quite well. I am one of those atheists. I also disagree that the ten commandments have practical value. Some of them 'work' socially, but most of them are stupid. See George Carlin's analysis for further information. Youtube it.
Read your quirp EveryoneIsNotSoBad and now read mine,,,,,
Can it be said and also inferred that all of Life here upon these celestial shorelines of life forms resonate from a single celled life form all the ways to massive cellularized life formations? Is it 'not' written within the Gospels that mankind is but buildings that are husbanded by the Godly? Do we not labour together with God in our tasks? Who among us can deny our being as God-Heads?
Nothing is a Foreverness and Matter, in its' infinitesimally established finiteness, is a materialized foreverness unobtainable by us, human-like megaliths called mankind. We are all giants too huge and too vast for us to ever re-enter in wholeness back into the Kingdoms of God which are inside or within our bodies. So many damningly dumb buildings of evolution's ascension into the spatial voids of outward motions sanctioned by the Godly! Too little are our intellectual abaters
1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Ergo. does that mean dumbness is genetical or is it societal hierarchies being the dumbness from which socialisms are currently adorned and auspisciously bequeathed?
Read the 615 Laws of Moses, handed down directly from God.
Read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Legend has it that it was handed down directly from the Prophet Harry himself, though modern academics suggest that it was actually penned by Hermione.
Using religion to solidify the historical position of wealthy white men does not make it Christian nor moral. Greed and power, inside and outside the Church, are the basis for the 'decisions' being made by both. There is only one test, do you love God, and do you love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else is being used as a tool to solidify those above mentioned privileges.
Prayer changes things .
God told me that yours doesn't.
I just prayed that you would stop posting this same comment every other page, but you're still doing it. So prayer didn't change anything this time.
Praying or Trolling?
If there is a God well fine but otherwise I never asked to be save and especially not by you. So ya wanna worry about saving only your life. What does it matter to you if I end up in heaven or hell why not leave it up to me, its my own life for only me to worry about not you.
The only prayer God will hear from you is the sinners prayer of repentance. After you are accepted by God and born again you will have many conversations with God, opposition to prayer will not be among the topics you'll choose. God bless
Christian's prayers aren't answered more often than nonchristian's prayers. Proven.
"Creationism is not appropriate for children"
– Bill Nye
If people put God before politics, Jimmy Carter would have been re-elected.
Dear Mr.Prothero: Thank you very, very much for this article! These were my thoughts exactly. I was wondering if maybe the Mormons had denounced Joseph Smith and that's why the Christian leaders were supporting a Mormon candidate. Just last year I was reading an article from a prominent Chrstian leader denouncing the Mormon religion and now he is very hush about it. This is really sad. There are so many problems in the world that we need to be fighting and leading people towards Christ, instead, these leaders are helping politicians. I will try my best to obey Jesus Christ and Spread the Gospel not politics!
AND GOD SAID ' KILL EVERYONEWHO DOESN'T AGREE WITH YOU"
Don't forget all the stories where God ruined people's lives to test their faith.
Well, there's the time God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac. Then at the last second God says, "Oh sh-! You were actually going to do it! Okay, you can let him go now that I know you love me."
Or the time Satan was so enamored with Job's devotion to God that he decides to test him to see if it's all an act. So God allows Satan to reduce Job to poverty while killing his family and almost killing Job himself. All this just to see if Job will finally curse God for allowing all this to happen to him. But Job never does of course, and God gets to bring it up every time he bumps into Satan at afterlife parties.
@ Stephen Prothero: you are right that all too often the religious right lets politics wag the dog
(and so does the left for that matter).
But you have left out an obvious option here as well...
For the religious right, Obama is viewed as equally un-Christian as Romney –
making it a choice between the lesser of two evils and not a betrayal of their convictions.
You are 100% correct on that. Well stated Russ. Obama's positions are pro gay marriage, pro abortion, attacking religious liberties, and believing in Liberation Theology and Collective Salvation. This is hardly a Biblical Worldview. Likewise, Mormonism is also not Biblical Christianity.
Given that both men are incorrect from a theological perspective, we need to look at their policies. From my perspective, Romney wins that by a mile. And if Obama is reelected, 2013 will be mired in an emerging Benghazi scandal.
I disagree. I think that if Obama were white and running as a repub, the christards would be promoting him like crazy and bashing Mitt as a dirty cultist.
Oh yes, pro equal rights under the law, not forcing everyone to abide by christian doctrine, and caring about the poor? How dare Obama do that!
@ Moby: sadly, in some cases you are right.
But the litmus test for most is abortion & g.ay marriage.
Obama's positions on those are the primary reason most theological conservatives cannot vote for him.
30 years ago, conservative evangilicas had no problem with abortion. gay marriage is a made up of issue for conservatives; they are in no way affected whether the State hands out a marriage certificate or not and gays are a this point not altering their behaivor based on conservative opposition except for a handful of closeted holdouts.
Conservatives might actually try and do the often hard tasks of God's work: caring for the sick, helping those in need, showing compassion over judgement, you know, the kinds of things that Jesus did.
Ergo. does that mean dumbness is genetical or is it societal hierarchies being the dumbness from which socialisms are bequeathed?
WOW! Still nothing but wishful thinking though.
I'm sure you have a point.
Yes, your prayer may be answered by your preferred god. Now try praying to a lamppost or fire hydrant, and you'll get the
same result! Religion is delusion. It was designed to control you. We are in a New Age, and religion is part of the old.
That might be true and their way might be true. There is no way to really prove either.
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.