Sunday, November 27, 2011

Richard Mouw: Evangelicals Can Vote For A Mormon President

Richard J. Mouw,  President of Fuller Theological Seminary, has written some some articles to the Evangelical community about their reluctance to elect a Mormon for President. He explains that while he has theological differences with the LDS faith, he doesn't share the views of some evangelicals who believe Romney's religion is a cult and as a result, he has no problem with having a Mormon in the White House:
The fact that I'm not worried about the possibility of a Mormon in the White House does not mean that I think religious affiliation has no relevance to the question of fitness for office. Religious convictions have political implications. I would have a difficult time voting for candidates with certain religious perspectives that might preclude them from open and self-examining conversations, or from a commitment to scholarship and the pursuit of truth, working alongside those of other traditions.
Most scholars who study religious movements have long abandoned the use of the "cult" label with reference to Mormonism. With about 14 million adherents around the world, the church has moved into the religious mainstream. Mormons are outstanding business leaders, world-class academicians, novelists, authors of bestselling leadership manuals, influential members of Congress and much more. Not the kind of community we ordinarily associate with a cult.
This is not convincing, though, to some of my fellow evangelicals who are writing critical emails to me. Yes, they say, Mormonism has become quite sophisticated. But a sophisticated cult is still a cult. I am naive to think otherwise, they tell me. I am urged to read books that will provide me with the truth about Mormonism.
I have read most of those books, and I have studied and taught about cults for many years. I have also spent the last dozen years meeting with Mormons — scholars and church leaders — to engage in lengthy theological discussions. These dialogues have included several other prominent evangelical Christian leaders.
Based on these conversations and my own careful study, I do not believe Mormonism is a cult. However, I am not convinced that Mormon theology deserves to be classified as Christian in the historic sense of that word. I have serious disagreements with my Mormon friends about basic issues of faith that have eternal consequences. These include issues regarding the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity and the character of the afterlife. But I have also learned that in some matters we are not quite as far apart as I once thought. In any case, such theological differences don't preclude a Mormon from being a viable presidential candidate, in my view.
Mr. Mouw, as explained above, often gets e-mails from Evangelicals who are upset about his beliefs that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not a cult. He provides an open response to those Evangelicals who are angry with him for establishing a lifelong relationship with Mormons and defending the claim that this faith is not a cult: 
A friend told me about the time a time when, back in the 1960s, he was asked, as a recent college graduate bound for seminary studies, to address his home congregation—an all-white congregation in the Midwest—about his hopes for studying for the ministry. One thing he mentioned to the congregation was his desire to be more effective as a Christian in working for racial reconciliation, specifically between whites and blacks. An older member of the congregation was very upset with him for bringing up the issue of race. “You don’t really know what these colored people are like,” the man told him. “I hope that seminary will cure you of these liberal ideas!” 
Three years later that same congregation invited my friend to preach. In his sermon he shared with the congregation some positive experiences about racial reconciliation that he had received during an extensive student internship that he had recently served at an all-black inner city church. Afterward, the same church member was once again critical of what he said about race relations, but this time his complaint was different: “You’re just saying all these nice things about the colored people because you have spent so much time with them. You are not capable of being objective!” 
My friend found this very frustrating. It is one of those “You can’t win” situations. Either your views about a group are judged to be based on inadequate experience with the group, or you are seen as having too much experience. You’re either ignorant or duped. 
Richard Mouw provides the solution to this problem: 
“You don’t really know them” and “You know them too well” are false choices. The alternative in any relationship with people with whom we disagree on eternally important matters is to listen carefully and patiently, asking questions, discerning patterns of thought—and working diligently not to bear false witness against our neighbors!
Richard Mouw's solution of having an open, sincere and honest discussion with people of different faiths applies also to politics. People can have disagreements on eternally important matters but with regards to secular matters, its important to do your homework in deciding to who to vote in any election.
When voting for a candidate that is not of your faith, its important to do your diligence in learning about the candidate. That means having an open, sincere and honest investigation into their record. Don't buy into media or blogger (including mine) who try to spin their record in a flattering or unflattering way. Go to the source yourself. It takes a lot of work but the reward is worth it. You will be able to move past the propaganda and look at the unvarnished truth yourself.
It also means means having a frank, straightforward and sincere realization that when it comes to elections, a candidate's theology is no where near as important as their values. The distinction between a candidate's religion and his values is crucial in deciding who to vote for in any election, especially in Presidential elections.
Think of about politicians that are of your faith. While all of them are of your faith, not all of them share your values. For example, even though Harry Reid belongs to the same religion I do, he doesn't share the same values I do. As a result, I could never vote for Harry Reid because he doesn't share my values regarding marriage or abortion or other issues that are important to me. 
Again, think of about the politicians that happen to be members of your faith. Make a list of those politicians who, regardless of politician affiliation, share your values. Then make a list of candidates who are not of your faith and make a list of those who share your values regardless of theological differences or political affiliation. 
I think this is a good exercise for people to do during the election year because you'll realize that while a candidate may not be of your faith, he may be of your values. Once you see that a candidate's values is far more important than their party or theological affiliation, you are able to make a better decision on who to vote for in an election. 
Once you see how crucial a candidate's values, not his religion, are in the success of this nation, you cannot simply reject a candidate because he's not of your religion. Just as you must do your diligence in investigating a candidate's record, you must also do your homework in learning about the candidate's values. You must look past his faith and scrutinize his beliefs about the important social and moral issues of the day. That means you must "listen carefully and patiently, asking questions, discerning patterns of thought" by reading all materials written by that candidate. Its also good to engage in conversations with supporters of that candidate to find out what they think his values are. Its also helpful to learn why people of your faith are supporting a candidate who happens not to be a member of your relgion. 
That is why I strongly recommend Evangelicals listen to men like Richard Mouw and Mark Demoss. You can also visit the website Evangelicals For Mitt or joining Evangelicals For Mitt's facebook page and talking to other Evangelicals why they are supporting Mitt Romney.
An Evangelical who is voting for Romney isn't an endorsement of that religion or their theology.. What their vote means is that they have found a candidate whose values are closest to their own and who will lead the nation using those values as his guide. Moreover, he will promote those values domestically and internationally. 
As a result, an Evangelical can vote for a Mormon and still disagree with him on important religious and theological matters but agree with him on the values he shares with that candidate.    

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