First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the challenge evangelical voters are facing in choosing a favorite Republican presidential candidate. Among the most competitive candidates, do these Christian conservatives back the Republican with the scandalous personal life or the Mormon, whose church many evangelicals consider a “cult”?
My friend Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch highlighted the ongoing divisions this week.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has been busy spinning bizarre theories about how the media will have to try to make voters uncomfortable with Mitt Romney’s faith in order to help President Obama because Evangelical Christian voters would have no qualms about voting for a Mormon.
The only problem with Land’s conspiracy theory is that it is constantly being undermined by others, like the new president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Brad Atkins, who says that Christians would have a much easier time voting for a thrice-married serial adulterer like Newt Gingrich before ever voting for a Mormon like Romney.
Adkins said this week, “In South Carolina, Romney’s Mormonism will be more of a cause of concern than Gingrich’s infidelity…. Conservatives can process and pray their way through the issue of forgiveness toward a Christian that has had infidelity in their life, but will struggle to understand how anyone could be a Mormon and call themselves ‘Christian.'”
It’s hard to say, at least at this point, how significant an issue this will be for Romney. What’s more, it’s worth considering the regional nature of the problem (this might cause Romney more problems in Iowa and South Carolina than New Hampshire, Florida, and Nevada).
Still, for every prominent religious right leader assuring us that evangelical voters have no interest in discriminating against Mormon candidates, there are other prominent evangelical voices saying the exact opposite.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Lowe’s continues to face pushback for its decision to pull ads from a TLC reality show about Muslim life in America. This week, a group of interfaith clergy delivered 200,000 signatures to the hardware giant’s corporate headquarters, seeking an apology.
* And reader V.S. passes along this story about high-school students who’ve begun “Tebowing” — a term inspired by quarterback Tim Tebow, who has a habit of praying on the field at inopportune times — and are facing suspensions for clogging crowded high-school hallways.