Can a Christian vote for a Mormon?

Governor Mitt Romney of MA

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Mitt Romney’s Mormonism has been put into the campaign spotlight once again. Per the NY Daily News:

The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas was introducing Perry to conservatives at the Values Voters Summit when he dissed Romney, saying that, as a Mormon, he isn’t really Christian and, thus, isn’t competent to run the country.

“I think Mitt Romney’s a good, moral man, but those of us who are born again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian,” Jeffress told the crowd in Tiffin, Iowa.

Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons.

“Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ,” Jeffress said. “Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

There are a lot of troubling things with this statement by Rev. Jeffress. To start with, the world “cult” is often thrown around loosely in Christian circles. If you define “cult” in the harsher sense as “a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents” then I’m not quite sure Mormonism qualifies. If Jeffress means “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious” then I think his criticism hits the mark. Mormons do have some rather weird beliefs that do not mesh with orthodox Christianity, such as the doctrine of divine progression, that God has a physical body and lives on the planet Kolob, etc. However, how this exactly is all relevant to Romney’s candidacy is a bit hard for me to follow. Mormonism might be theologically out to lunch in the sense that its teachings are unorthodox and its claims are based on fables, but it doesn’t follow that all of their beliefs and ethics are therefore untrue.

For example, if I understand the Mormon view of humanity correctly, God the father used to be a man on another planet. The father god progressed into Godhood by living after the laws of the God on that planet. He then came to this world with his wife (a goddess?), and that they had billions of spirit babies in heaven. These children include the entire human and angelic race on earth, from Jesus to Lucifer to me and to you. All of our memories of that pre-existent state in heaven are erased at our birth. Therefore, human life is a sacred gift and elective abortion is grounds for being dismissed from the church.

Now, that is an odd theological view of humankind, but nonetheless it serves as their basis for being pro-life, which I think is a correct ethical belief. Someone else who may have no faith at all might simply believe simply read an embryology textbook and find out that human development begins at fertilization and come to the same conclusion as the Mormon, that abortion is wrong. The point is that people can hold true beliefs that are derivative from that faith but can be defended as true separately of it, and that includes people whose faith we might think is pretty “out there”.

What is important is not how Mr. Romney derives his beliefs, but what his real beliefs actually are and how they are relevant to the presidency. As far as I can tell, Mormons like most theists (and even many non-theists) hold that human life is precious, that morality is objective and binding, that all have certain natural rights etc. One’s theological beliefs should not decide whether one is fit for the presidency, but their qualifications to actually do the job in question. I think that attacking a person’s credentials to be president based on their faith is wrong, and only serves to further the unfortunate stereotype that Christians are illogical bigots.

(In case any of you are wondering, I have no dog in this fight. I am undecided and probably will remain so up until the time of the primaries. I did not vote for Mr. Romney in 2008.)