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My Take: Billy Graham and Ralph Reed are putting politics before God
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.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (2,430 Responses)
  1. Ameri2010

    Listen to the truth as Paul Ryan calls out Obama on his Health Care lies back in 2010....

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPxMZ1WdINs&w=640&h=360]

    “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future.”
    (Remarks by President Obama to a Joint Session of Congress, September 9, 2009)

    November 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  2. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Mormons know that Jesus is best used with proper lubrication. An unctuous swain like Romney knows to grease up his Jesus with bland and banal language before he slips it into naive Evangelicals. "Of course it's the Jesus you know. We all love Jesus. Don't you want to play hide the Jesus?"

    November 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Ameri2010

      Exactly why nobody takes you seriously. You are a leftist immature pig.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      And they say, "Not really, but how about we just agree to look the other way?"

      November 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      The fact that we're having this conversation at all about the principle people in the article is proof that Tom Tom's points is accurate. He's just being succinct.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  3. Ameri2010

    If you build it...

    Obama will come and take credit for it.

    November 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Ameri2010 – let me guess, you self-identify as Christian ?

      November 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  4. Moby Schtick

    I would tend to agree that Mormons are not Christians but I hold more to the idea that they're both stupid as all fvck.

    November 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Harrison

      nice...

      November 3, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  5. Mormons are Christians?

    Mormons believe that God created multiple worlds and each world has people living on it. They also believe that multiple Gods exist but each has their own universe. We are only subject to our God and if we obtain the highest level of heaven we can become gods ourselves.

    In LDS theology you can be forgiven for any sin, save two. First, denying the Holy Spirit, and second, murder. Also, God is infinitely forgiving, until the second coming. After that, you end up where you end up, no matter what. There are no second chances. Period.

    In LDS doctrine there are three heavens: the Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, and Telestial Kingdom. The Celestial is the highest, where God and the ones who followed his law reside. The Terrestrial is the middle, where people who followed the Law of Moses reside. The Telestial is the lowest, where the ones who followed carnal law reside.

    While most religions believe in God, the LDS religion believes in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as separate beings. They also believe that God, Jesus and resurrected beings have bodies of “flesh and bone.”

    The Book of Mormon is a book of LDS scripture that takes place during the same time as the Bible and takes place on the American continent. It follows the stories of two tribes who descended from the family of Lehi. After Jesus’ resurrection LDS people believe he visited the peoples of the Americas.

    This one is very unique to the LDS faith. Basically, everyone on earth now was a spirit in the pre-existence. When we die, our spirits are separated from our bodies and if we were good they go to “spirit paradise.” If we were bad they go to “spirit prison.” The spirit world exists as a place for spirits to go while awaiting the second coming.

    All of these beliefs are in total contradiction to the bible.

    And their God is from planet kolob!

    November 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  6. Peter

    Obama's childhood & School is important! what molded him? like Frank Marshall Davis who took Obama under his wing at the age of 10 years old after his father left back to Indonesia & Frank was mentioned a bunch of times "In DREAMS OF MY FATHER" Frank is admitted card carrying member of the Soviet Backed U.S. Communist party & influenced Barak....thats why we see him hand out an has hired all sorts of Socialist party members an communist members like VAN JONES....an then theres why we are FIGHTING A 3rd war/intervention in Libya his BLACK LIBERATION THEOLOGY that hes steeped in from Reverend Jeremiahs Wrights TRINITY church...who doctrine this part of it that was taken off their website after they got BUSTED by the National Media "Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community … Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love." DO YOU LIKE IT? was written by James Cone http://vox-nova.com/2008/03/17/black-nationalism-is-still-nationalism/

    November 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • MCR

      Obama's father went back to Kenya, not Indonesia. Obama's stepfather lived in Indonesia and never left. I didn't read the rest of your post; get your facts straight or please stop posting misinformation in public forums.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Harrison

      Peter, this is garbage. All Black people don't want to come and get you! How old are you?

      November 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  7. Mormons are Christians?

    Mormons believe that God created multiple worlds and each world has people living on it. They also believe that multiple Gods exist but each has their own universe. We are only subject to our God and if we obtain the highest level of heaven we can become gods ourselves.

    In LDS theology you can be forgiven for any sin, save two. First, denying the Holy Spirit, and second, murder. Also, God is infinitely forgiving, until the second coming. After that, you end up where you end up, no matter what. There are no second chances. Period.

    In LDS doctrine there are three heavens: the Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, and Telestial Kingdom. The Celestial is the highest, where God and the ones who followed his law reside. The Terrestrial is the middle, where people who followed the Law of Moses reside. The Telestial is the lowest, where the ones who followed carnal law reside.

    While most religions believe in God, the LDS religion believes in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as separate beings. They also believe that God, Jesus and resurrected beings have bodies of “flesh and bone.”

    The Book of Mormon is a book of LDS scripture that takes place during the same time as the Bible and takes place on the American continent. It follows the stories of two tribes who descended from the family of Lehi. After Jesus’ resurrection LDS people believe he visited the peoples of the Americas.

    This one is very unique to the LDS faith. Basically, everyone on earth now was a spirit in the pre-existence. When we die, our spirits are separated from our bodies and if we were good they go to “spirit paradise.” If we were bad they go to “spirit prison.” The spirit world exists as a place for spirits to go while awaiting the second coming.

    All of these beliefs are in total contradiction to the bible.

    November 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  8. Ameri2010

    OBAMA AND HIS BELIEFS – SCARIER

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDBuLa9Jz7w&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  9. Alex

    That's because given the choice Christians will vote for the Candidate that most closely aligns with biblical truth. I haven't read all your Blogs, but am pretty sure you didn't ask Black evangelicals why they threw God under bus by electing Barack Obama. He is no Christian, he has never accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour. I have only heard him say that His Pastor, Rev Wright introduced him to a man called Jesus. Well, Satan has also been introduced to Christ, but he "ain't" no Christian. His stance on issues regarded highly by Christians is evident of his heart...and his Faith. I was comforted to see that many Black evangelicals have pulled God out from under that bus, and asked for forgiveness. As we all should

    November 3, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Mormons are Christians?

      Evangelicals follow the devil now.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Harrison

      Biblical Truth? Have you read the Book of Mormon? Do you know what Mitt Romney actually believes? It is nothing short of Preposterous! Jesus and Satan were brothers, the special underwear, they believe they all get thier own Planets that they Rule over for Eternity! Then the Polygamy for heaven's sakes! If this is all OK with you and your Romneyites then fine but do your Homework before election day because Romneys beliefs are so outside of Normal, accepted Christian theology,and downright Kooky, that it disqualifies him ever from being taken seriously , especially as Leader of the Free Wold.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Mormons are Christians?

      How could Billy change his mind so easily? He's in with Satan and he's bringing all his followers with him.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  10. Rummy Pirate Times-Dispatch

    "In Greed We Trust"

    In 1994, Bain invested $27 million as part of a deal with other firms to acquire Dade International, a medical-diagnostics-equipment firm, from its parent company, Baxter International. Bain ultimately made nearly 10 times its money, getting back $230 million. But Dade wound up laying off more than 1,600 people and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002, amid crushing debt and rising interest rates. The company, with Bain in charge, had borrowed heavily to do acquisitions, accumulating $1.6 billion in debt by 2000. The company cut benefits for some workers at the acquired firms and laid off others. When it merged with Behring Diagnostics, a German company, Dade shut down three U.S. plants. At the same time, Dade paid out $421 million to Bain Capital’s investors and investing partners.

    For 15 years, Romney had been in the business of creative destruction and wealth creation. But what about his claims of job creation? Though Bain Capital surely helped expand some companies that had created jobs, the layoffs and closures at other firms would lead Romney’s political opponents to say that he had amassed a fortune in part by putting people out of work. The lucrative deals that made Romney wealthy could exact a cost. Maximizing financial return to investors could mean slashing jobs, closing plants, and moving production overseas. It could also mean clashing with union workers, serving on the board of a company that ran afoul of federal laws, and loading up already struggling companies with debt.

    Marc Wolpow, a former Bain partner who worked with Romney on many deals, said the discussion at buyout companies typically does not focus on whether jobs will be created. “It’s the opposite—what jobs we can cut,” Wolpow said. “Because you had to document how you were going to create value. Eliminating redundancy, or the elimination of people, is a very valid way."

    A couple of examples (it's pretty easy to find more):

    Bain closed GST Steel plant in 2001 laying off 750 workers.

    Controlling share owner Bain Capital closes BRP plant (Southern Illinois) so the 340 jobs there could be outsourced to Mexico.

    Also, this is disconcerting:

    http://www.examiner.com/article/mitt-romney-implicated-perjury-and-stock-fraud-made-millions-process
    http://globalgrind.com/news/mitt-romney-lied-perjury-under-oath-divorce-court-case-tom-stemberg-details

    DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND LEARN THE TRUTH ABOUT THE LYING RUMMY PIRATE
    BAIN'S INVESTOR "SUCCESSES" WERE PRIMARILY CONTINGENT ON MASS LAY-OFFS OF WORKERS

    November 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  11. Ameri2010

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ouvmwpx4OY&w=640&h=360]

    Seniors Making less than 50,000 will not have to pay taxes – LIAR

    November 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  12. Mormons are Not Christians - SCARY!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2yR-DrHy-g&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  13. Ameri2010

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF3MC-TkpRQ&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  14. Ameri2010

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SA9KC8SMu3o&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  15. Ameri2010

    LIAR IN CHIEF

    “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.”

    “Mitt Romney raised nursing home fees eight times.”

    “Mitt Romney called the Arizona law a model for the nation.”

    “Planned Parenthood provides mammograms”

    “We got back every dime we used to rescue the financial system”

    Benghazi violence was caused by an internet video & demonstrations

    “Mitt Romney Plans to fire Big Bird”
    “Under Gov. Romney’s definition … Donald Trump is a small business.”

    Because of Obamacare, “over the last two years, health care premiums have gone up — it’s true — but they’ve gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years.”

    “I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration”

    Romney and Ryan will gut pell grants for low-income college students.

    My budget will cut the deficit by $4 Trillion over 10 years.

    “I am told that Governor Romney’s new running mate, Paul Ryan, might be around Iowa the next few days,” he said while in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “He is one of the leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities.”
    House passed bill on August 2, 2012 (Paul Ryan voted yes)

    The American automobile industry has come roaring back…So now I want to say what we did with the auto industry, we can do it in manufacturing across America. Let’s make sure advanced, high-tech manufacturing jobs take root here, not in China. And that means supporting investment here. Governor Romney … invested in companies that were called ‘pioneers’ of outsourcing. I don’t want to outsource. I want to insource.

    “You Didn’t Build that”

    November 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  16. Mormons are Not Christians

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3BqLZ8UoZk&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  17. Mormons are Not Christians

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2hN9pgpyao&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  18. Valorie Dana

    I think someone missed the real reason Billy Graham and others are pushing for Mitt. You seem to have stepped across the fact that Obama and the majority of the left are against those of us that are Christians. We will support the candidate that doesn't attack our rights and beliefs. It has nothing to do with Mitts, and everything to do with our need to protect our religious rights...including Mitts.

    November 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Good grief. There is no war on religion. No one's religious liberty is being threatened. Only contemporary Christians grasp at any slight or disagreement as an excuse to wrap themselves in the mantle of victim-hood. Grow up.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Harrison

      So let me understand, Heresey is OK now as long as we still oppose Gays and abortion? Are you all serious? The New Testament says nothing about these issues that seem to be the obsession of Evangelicals. Heresy in very seriously warned against in Revelation in particular but I guess you're OK with that now?

      November 3, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  19. Mormons are Not Christians

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnbbqgTusnw&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  20. Ameri2010

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxHdDQDgxQ0&w=640&h=360]

    November 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, good. Christian p0rn.

      I don't care if he's a Christian or not. In fact, from what I've seen of Christians like Ameriturd, I'd just as soon not have one anywhere near my rights.

      November 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
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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.