November 1st, 2012
01:43 PM ET
My Take: Billy Graham and Ralph Reed are putting politics before God
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.
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You are wrong. The reason that the evangelical Christians are backing Romney is because he is a man of character who has a firm belief in God. The alternative is a "pretend" Christian whose beliefs are anything but, and whose policies are a direct contravention to religious freedom.
Nonsense. Religious freedom is not under attack. Feel free to disagree with his policies all you wish, but there is no war on religion.
I am a Mormon, and I can assure you, we are Christian. We have Articles of Faith, our very first Article of faith is,
"We Believe in God the Eternal Father and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."
If you want to know more about Mormons, visit Mormon.org. We are good, kind, loving, Christlike people. We strive to be honest, true, chaste, and moral in all aspects of our lives. Please research a little bit about Mitt's faith before you decide that he is not Christian. Because, that is simply not true.
I do not know how deep you are in Mormonism, and I say this with respect, but there are definite differences between Christianity and Mormonism. One of the largest is that Mormonism claims Jesus is not eternal, rather that he is a created being, that he used to be human but worked his way up to being a god (same for God the Father). Mormonism would have you believe that you, too, can one day work your way up to become a god. However, according to the Bible, there is only one eternal God.
I believe the Bible is accurate, that there is one God who created you, a God who was not created but instead existed eternally (for if he was created, then he isn't the Creator). No, you cannot become a god, but you can be with the God who created you out of love forever. And you don't have to work for it nor earn it. There is no litmus test. He offers you a place in His family (as an adopted child) forever if you believe He is who He says He is. I was adopted and did not deserve the family that adopted me. Yet I am theirs.
I know... I'll probably get beat down for what I've just written. 🙂
Do you truly want t return to the days before 1960, when protestants would not vote for a Catholic because the Pope would rule American?
Do you want to tell every Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist that they can never be President - or hold any office, for that matter, because they are of the wrong faith?
May I suggest that your position is every bit as unAmerican as arguing that whites should not vote for a black man because of the color of his skin?
I think that it has been said many times in the past. Once you give religion political power or politics religious power you could very well see the eventual demise of both.
Maybe they are more afraid of Obama than the Mormons!!
Just because you have some sort of degree in religion, does not make you a Christian. Just because you say you are Christian, and even go to church faithfully does not make you one. Jesus was about doing good and visiting the sick, the widows, the orphans.. not about playing golf somewhere.
Using your logic, you are basically saying christians should vote for someone who claims to be christian, just on christian terms. That is no different from those who have said blacks should vote for Obama because he is black. That is a very slanted look no matter who you are for. Of course it is not surprising given that you are on CNN. Everyone knows they come with a bias built in.
The thing no one who believes this seems to get is that Jesus kept Christianity and Politics separate. Your very premise is the reason the priesthood and the government crucified Christ, because they were afraid of just such a thing.
Irregardless, we have a man who professes Christianity, but doesn't support it and truthfully seems more amenable to supporting Muslim beliefs. Or a man, who acts Christian while not going against his own personal faith. Not a hard choice.
The right wing/conservative Christians crucify Jesus Christ over and over again every day with their actions. Are these people anymore Christians than those who do not follow their lunacy??
After all Christian religion comes from Asia and is tempered by their culture and corrupted by the West.
Prothero is showing his lack of knowledge and ignorance on the subject of religjon, politics and the Bible. My Mother used to call people like him an "educated fool". Obama is a muslim, out of his own mouth. Check out videos of him on Youtube when he was out of America on his trips!!! Wake up America, your vote does matter. I will vote my morals not a false hope of my wallet. God can use a morman whose heart is in the right place over a wolf in sheeps clothing. May God bless America, whether we deserve it or not, and forgive our nation's sins. Shame on those christians that don't vote, you may get what you deserve as a leader. You do err not knowing the Word.
If you believe in the bible than you are also a Muslim. The Quran and Torah have the same books that are in the Bible.
Christians in America are not the Old World Christians of centuries ago that killed each other over differing tenants. The author sure are trying to make the case for that. Not very Christian of the author to drive a wedge between peoples that have the same foundation for their belief system.
If the author wants to see CURRENT religions that kill each other over differing tenants look at the Sunni and Shia Musilms. They kill each other all the time.
But this is a CNN reporter what else do you expect.
Mormons are not Christians
Mormons fear God, unlike Obama and his promotion of abortion and gay marriage.
It is still better to be a nominal Christian than to be an anti American, anti- Christ
I guess it was the Sunni Irish and the Shia Irish that were killing each other just a few years ago. Right wing Christians are just as blood thirsty as anyone else.
By the Way " Jesus Christ " was an Asian by birth not "American".
Havildar - the Provisional Irish Republican Army (which was banned in the majority Catholic Irish Republic as a terrorist group) may have been nominally Catholic but was in practice a Marxist revolutionary group. Try again.
Truthbetold, how ironic that you choose that handle and all you spew is lies and distortions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It isn't your place to say who has accepted Christ in their heart and who has not. You are just a cheap anti-Mormon bigot, negating the worth of anything you post. You are a single-issue crusader, and that makes your posts hilariously impertinent and inaccurate. You are just making a fool of yourself, and one day will be held accountable for your repeated false witness bearing.
Stephen Prothero is obviously not an authentic Christian himself. This election has nothing to do with "politics" for Christians. It has everything to do with moral values. Obama claims he is a Christian but everything he does is anti-Christianity. He's pro-murder (abortion). The man pushes Socialist ideals (socialism is intrinsically evil by the way). He supports gay unions (sometimes mistakenly called marriage).
Romney, though he is Mormon (which many Christians say is not Christianity), is against each of these things. Because his professed beliefs are much more closely in tune with the beliefs of Christians Romney will get the vote of Evangelicals, Catholics, and many others.
This isn't about politics. It's about morality. It's about God's commands. Any good Christian knows this.
Another trite opinion from a useless, insignificant professional student who has never accomplished anything in life. Steve purposely avoids mentioning the fact that two of his favorite politicians, Harry Reid (Mormon) and Nancy Polosi (Catholic) are completely blinded by their faith to politics in place of their faith to religion. Harry and Nancy fully support murdering the unborn and forget the simple fact that marriage is to be between a man and a women, as dictated by religion, not governments.
It was Obama who mocked Christians about believing the Bible was the literal Word of God – not Romney. Born-again Christians don't mock the Bible, quote from it, then laugh. Only a foolish man, who has no fear of God, would do so.
It was Obama who stood up for Muslims when some Americans mocked the Koran – not Romney.
It was Obama – Not Romney – who apologized to Muslims about a video that we all know by now had nothing to do with the death of four Americans. Yet Obama sent Pakistan $100,000 of our taxpayer money to air an apology TV ad to Muslims because of this video.
Christian or not, it is foolish to believe that Obama's loyalties lie with any faith other than the one faith he not only vehemently defends but also quotes in perfect Arabic.
Why does Obama think it's okay to openly mock Christians and the Bible (even laughing at it), but it's not okay to openly mock Muslims and the Koran?
If Christians aren't threatening to kill others and riot, I guess Obama and the left truly believe it's okay to bully others and persecute Christians for sport.
Obama skipped the National Day of Prayer, but enjoys taking part in Muslim holiday celebrations.
That's how I know that Obama is not a Christian. We know him by his words and actions, and he's been a big bully towards Christians while at the same time being and advocate for Muslims.
Obama is a bully and a very angry man.
Better a nominal Christian than an anti -Christ.
Exactly, he's angry... I don't think people realize how angry Obama is until they really take a deeper look, especially at his past. It really sheds light on his reactions to things as a man (who happens to be president).
You were wrong the first time you claimed Romney was an antichrist, and you're one this time too. Didn't I already tell you that those who are unschooled about the Bible shouldn't claim to know it or you end up looking foolish? You're a typical leftist who enjoys bullying other by name-calling just like Obama.
Obama is a bully towards men who fear God and apparently you are too.
My second message about the antichrist was for "truth be told" who should really change his name to "lies be told."
truth by told, you assume Obama truly has a heart to follow Jesus. That's quite an assumption based on his actions AND words.
So let's put it another way: pretend there are two men running for president and both say they aren't Christians. So would you say 2 "anti Christs" are running? And would you, then, abstain from voting at all?
Mormons are not Christians, Mormonism was founded as an alternate to Christianity.
All Mormons are an anti – Christ
Romney is a Mormon
Romney is an anti – Christ, simple fact
It is what it is.
@truth be told, you didn't answer my question... what if 2 men who didn't profess faith in Christ were running for president? What would you do? I'm asking you straight up.
TruthBeTold - You really think that Obama is the anti-Christ?
Obama is a nominal Christian, i disagree with him on several issues but at the end of the day Obama is a Christian. A Mormon is not a Christian, at the end of the day a Mormon is an anti – Christ.
Lets stick with what is. There is not now or ever has been opponents for the American Presidency who have been without belief.
@truth be told
I understand, what is and hypothetical are two very different things. So as it stands, then yes, I will take the man who represents the higher moral standard over the man who claim to be a Christian. I am sorry if you feel that is "anti" Christian. Tell me, then, you'll be voting for the man who supports abortion, gay marriage, and removing references to Jesus from all public place (won't even say "In God We Trust"), yes? So be it. We will have to end this in disagreement.
Truth br told is the anti-Christ...simple fact...see? 2 can play this silly game...
By the way, two quotes can sum it up...
Obama says to vote for revenge. Romney counters by saying vote for love of country.
Obama is an angry man. Study his past and READ HIS BOOK and you'll see why. We don't need angry men like that leading our nation.
I'll be voting for love of country. Not revenge.
Good quotes. All this "Coming from his loins" according to Axelrod.
You will be voting anti – Christ which is the moral equivalent of anti American.
Truth Be Told, read my original post (about 10 posts down)... you may need to rethink your reply to me once you do.
You have one vote if it is for a Mormon it is an anti American, anti- Christ vote, simple fact.
It might come as a shock to you people " Jesus Christ " was never an American but he is an Asian. All 3 religions of Jews, Christian and Muslims are Asian like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, etc. etc.
@Paul – good post... about ten messages down.
Yes, if they want a truly made-in-America religion they can always try Scientology! Pastafarianism too, although there is a bit of Italian cookin' involved there...
Truth br told is the anti-Christ...simple fact...see? 2 can play this silly game...
Your logic, Mr. Prothero, is faulty because your premise is faulty. You're assuming that religion should matter here but it's politics that matter. Your thinking is that Christians should vote for Christians and that since Romney is a Mormon and Obama is a Christian, therefore Christians should vote Obama. But you're forgetting the core of what Christians *believe.*
So, the correct position is what you disagree with. If a Christian votes according to what they believe, and if Romney represent more what the Christian believes than Obama does, therefore the Christian should vote for Romney and not Obama.
It's about belief and not name-tags. That's why you've failed miserably with this article.
Obama's a Christian? He has barely darken the door of a church in the past 4 years. As far as I can tell the only church he worships at is the church of Obama. Being a Christian requires humbling yourself before God and humble is one word I would never use to describe Obama. Calling yourself a Christian does not make you one.....
Only for the new members of this blog:
Again "Professor" P misses the real evangelical/Christian right issue but that is not unusual as his only concern is that we love all the gods.
Now to the issue at hand and why Obama (and Axelrod) are running pro-choice/pro-abortion/pro-Roe vs Wade ads non- stop this week:
Why the Christian Right/evangelicals no longer matter in presidential elections:
Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?
The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.
2008 Presidential popular vote results:
69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.
And the irony:
And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)
The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.
i.e. IF THE PILL AND MALE CONDOMS WERE USED PROPERLY, ABORTION WOULD NOT BE AN ISSUE AND OBAMA WOULD NOT BE PRESIDENT.
From the Guttmacher Insti-tute- August 2011
"In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred."
i.e. making the number of Immoral Majority members more like 100 million in 2012.
More from Guttmacher:
"• Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.["
And if half of these aborting "mothers and fathers" have had two abortions, the Immoral Majority would still be a huge voting bloc i.e. ~75 million, enough votes to give any presidential candidate the differential votes needed considering many voters vote straight Democratic or Republican tickets no matter what the issues are.
It is amazing that so many Christians forget that, from the beginning, liberty and life are inseperable. In Genesis, Adam and Eve were free to eat the apple, though God asked them not to. Jesus asked the Rich Young Ruler to give away all his belongings, but did not force him to do so. It is the ultimate expression of Christian theology to vote for the candidate who values individual freedom, instead of voting for a candidate who wants to control our every behavior.
Even worse our president supports infanticide. Many pro-choice supporters use the "we don't know when life begins" argument to support their pro-choice position but our president believes (as he made clear in the Illinois Senate) in the killing of live, unwanted babies for sole reason that their mothers tried to abort them and failed. I think given the choice between someone who barely darkens the door of a church and fully supports the killing unwanted children versus a clean living Mormon – I will take the Mormon any day.
Yes, funny how the Dems want to control every part of our life by increasing the size of govt. Just look at what NY City is doing with the large soda ban.
This article is written in an attempt to sway Christians to vote for Obama; trying to make them feel like they're going against their Christian beliefs. Of course he leaves out that if Christians really voted on the bible, not 1 vote would go towards a liberal democrat and especially Obama because abortion is murder "THOU SHALL NOT KILL". If Mr. Prothero is going to attack the faith and measure by voting choices, then include this issue as well. Then for sure, he would be swaying Christians to never vote for a President who believes in abortion. Of course, he would NEVER DO 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." The Christian God? "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus," There is NO God but One. I suspect HE is quite unconcerned with the politics of His Creation but most concerned with our obedience to His Purpose. Read His Word to know His will Mr. Prothero as I can assure you, our present governmental officials do not concern themselves with His Truth. Do not speak for me. I am a christian.
I was baptized as Mormon and attended a very wide variety of Christian churches. When I was a child we also often attended the Methodist church. I got to celebrate Mass with Pope John Paul 2 and 500,000 other people at Cherry Creek State Park in Denver. Now, I'm a Baha'i. I believe all true religion comes from the same one and only Almighty God. As far as the American cultural scene goes. Like it or not America was founded by Christians. It was Christians who established freedom of religion in the first place. Jesus Christ Himself revealed the separation of church and state when He said "give to Me what belongs to Me, give to Ceasor what belongs to Ceasor," God is sovereign in every human heart who voluntarily surrenders to Him. Islam, submission, is the inner essence of every religion. Jihad is our inner struggle to love and obey God, instead of following our own selfish ambition, our own animal passion. The superficial stories that we use to teach that spiritual reality are the divine education in every language and culture. Peace be with you all.
I understand the point you are trying to make, but I must disagree with you. As a man who was adopted at birth, I could easily have been another abortion statistic. Thankfully my birth mother chose to protect my life, and chose adoption. I thank God for her all the time. I have also had the opportunity to live in Utah, where most of my neighbors were Mormons. While I believe they are misguided and do not know the true Christ, I did come to realize that they had a very high moral standard, much of it Biblically based.
Flash forward to today, and I am faced with a choice between Mitt Romney, a professed Mormon, and Barack Obama, supposedly a man of Christian faith. Yet when I look at actions, I see my current president as a man who has a moral compass that is completely off kilter. Obama's support of abortion, lack of support of God's chosen people (Israel), support of gay marriage (I know, it's a powder keg, but God's standards are clear on that issue– why does everyone think that hating the sin is hating and judging the sinner?), his seeming disdain for references to Jesus in any public forum, and overall dishonesty make him anything but favorable in my eyes. And then when you throw in his horrible economic record (I do NOT believe in big government, nor Obama's propensity to lean toward socialistic policies), his support of the U.N. (a monster that grows more and more frightening), his suspect foreign policy (apologize and bow to everyone, lie about Libya, etc.), and his above-the-law czars, I have no propensity whatsoever to support the man. Nor do I respect him, as much as I respect the office he holds– and I love my country dearly.
Throughout history, God has raised up men who did not necessarily know Him to lead nations. Today I am faced with voting for two men who I do not, from what I have witnessed, know the true Christ. So what is a man in my position to do? Recently I received an email from some Christian organization saying not to vote at all. I totally disagree with that! I have a responsibility as a citizen of the most amazing country in the world, and I am honored to have a vote in this election. I need to vote for the man who I believe has the best economic, foreign and MORAL plan for our nation.
You can probably guess from my post who I believe him to be.
So like I said, I understand the point you are trying to make, but as a God-fearing, proud citizen of the United States of America I thoroughly disagree with you.
Couldn't agree more. As a Christian, and especially as a Catholic Christian (whose church has been directly attacked by the actions of this President), I feel the choice to vote for Mitt Romney couldn't be clearer. Who cares that Mr. Romney is a Mormon? The fact of the matter is that his positions and record are FAR more consistent with my values than those of the current President.
My faith comes first and it guides my decisions as a public citizen. Mr. Prothero, and too many others like him, just don't get it.
Why weren't you so concerned about Christians voting for a Muslim 4 years ago????
b/c they weren't voting for a muslim and were voting for a christian
But liar prefails did not vote for anyone in America because liar prefails is not an American therefore liar prefails has nothing to say about US that is not bull sh it. There's your sign