If some readers feel that I’ve been piling on Romney of late, or that I’m guilty of Mormon-bashing, I plead no contest on both counts. Three cheers for Mormon-bashing! Having clarified my insidious agenda, let’s move on to what I want to talk about.
Romney supporters like Wayne Grudem, Richard Land, and John Mark Reynolds suggest it’s out of bounds to question Romney on his Mormon faith because that’s irrelevant to his presidential qualifications.
Let’s us concede, for the sake of argument, that his Mormonism is, indeed, irrelevant to his presidential qualifications. Does it follow that he shouldn’t be questioned on his Mormon theology? Not at all. Even if we accept the premise of this argument, we can build on that same premise to draw the contrary conclusion.
You see, Romney is a Mormon celebrity. Indeed, running for president has made him a celebrity. And he’s not a celebrity who just so happens to be Mormon—as if you had to be a devoted fan to know this obscure detail about his private life.
There may be clueless Americans out there who have never heard of Romney because they don’t follow politics. But if you know who he is, you know he’s a Mormon. He is known for being a Mormon. He is famous for being a Mormon.
A consequence of this fact is that Romney is now the public face of Mormonism in a way that Gordon B. Hinckley is not. You either have to be Mormon or a countercult junkie to know who Gordon B. Hinckley is.
Romney is to Mormonism what Donny & Marie used to be to Mormonism. Probably Glenn back is, at present, the only another Mormon of comparable notoriety.
When, therefore, Romney presents himself as a Christian, that, of itself, is reason enough to publicly question his theology. This represents a rival interpretation (or radical reinterpretation) of the Christian faith. If Romney were a nobody, it wouldn’t matter. But it does matter when a popular, high-profile cult-member or cult-leader is identified with the Christian faith.
Like it or not, Romney is a de facto evangelist for Mormonism. Just by calling himself a Christian, his sheer celebrity catapults him into the role of a Mormon missionary—with vastly more media penetration and potential impact than the square young men in the Eisenhower era business suits. He’s a national ad for the equation between Christianity and Mormonism. You couldn’t have a bigger, louder commercial for the Mormon cult than a promising presidential bid.
So, yes, Romney should be grilled on Mormon theology. Even if that’s irrelevant to his presidential qualifications, it is highly relevant to the public perception of what constitutes the Christian faith. That may be an incidental side-effect of his presidential ambitions, but however ancillary to his presidential credentials, it has now taken on an importance of its own and all it’s own. And in terms of our Christian priorities, is that not at least as important as who wins in November?