By Tom Holmes
Religion became an issue in the Republican primary race when Rev. Jeffress asserted that Mitt Romney’s religion, Mormonism, is a cult.
Regarding the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is as Christian as Christianity is Jewish. Christians include what they call the Old Testament in their sacred scriptures. Mormon’s include both the Old and New Testaments along with the Book of Mormon in theirs. If you would ask Orthodox Jews, “Are Christian’s Jews?” what would they say?
But regarding the Republican primary race, we’re not talking about ultimate truth. Regarding the race for president, religion doesn’t matter.
First, candidates’ views on ultimate truth, in my experience, matter far less than the policies they propose and their track records as elected officials. Here’s an example. I am a Lutheran Christian. About ten years ago, there was an article in the news about Lutherans in Congress. Exactly half were Republicans and the other half were Democrats.
I assume that if asked about what they believe about God, all those Lutherans would have no problem reciting the Apostles’ Creed as a faith statement, but when asked to apply what they believe to concrete situations, they obviously had different opinions. I learned that Harry Reid and Glenn Beck are both Mormons. See what I mean?
Second, I am more familiar with Buddhism than Mormonism. What has always impressed me is that although Buddhism and Christianity are polar opposites when it comes to questions of ultimate truth, the two religions are remarkably similar when it comes to ethics. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Tell the truth. Don’t cheat on your spouse. Remarkably similar.
Third, in the realm of governance, competence seems to be more important than religious beliefs. Martin Luther — who will never be remembered as an ecumenical pioneer — is said to have declared that he would rather be governed by a competent Muslim than by an incompetent Christian.
Finally, if I were Mitt Romney I would go on the offensive and brag about being a Mormon. They have firm moral standards to which many Americans could resonate, and the dedication expected of their young adults makes me recall President Kennedy’s famous line, “ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.”
Mormon young men are expected to spend a year of their lives doing mission work. You’re all familiar with the pairs of neatly groomed young men with white shirts and black pants doing their ministry in a polite, respectful way. I’ve never met a rude Mormon. And they finance their year of mission work by themselves.
I don’t buy the Mormon take on ultimate reality nor do I expect to vote for Romney in the coming primary, but let’s keep religion out of the debate as we try to discern who will lead our country best.