Tags: Liberals | See | Mormons | People | Faith | Steroids

Liberals See Mormons as People of Faith on Steroids

Wednesday, 13 June 2007 12:00 AM

Liberals are most likely to oppose having a Mormon as president because they look upon them as "people of faith on steroids," Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tells NewsMax.

Polls have found that as many as 37 percent of Americans say they would not vote for a Mormon. The greatest proportion of those people describe themselves as liberals.

To be sure, Land says, "A significant percentage of Evangelicals have reservations about voting for a Mormon — reservations which I think Mitt Romney could successfully address." But, Land says, "I have known all along that the preponderance of the people who say that they wouldn't vote for a Mormon are liberals. And the reason is liberals tend to be leery of people who take faith seriously and who seek to apply it to areas of their lives beyond church and home."

The fact that Evangelicals see eye-to-eye with Mormons on a number of issues like abortion, pornography, and gay marriage also makes liberals mistrustful of Mormons, Land says.

It's a myth that liberals are "sweet, loving, and tolerant," Land declares. "Liberals do not tolerate people who disagree with them. And, of course, the one group they are least tolerant of is people who believe in moral absolutes."

A graduate of Princeton and Oxford, Dr. Land has represented Southern Baptists and other Evangelicals in Washington since 1988.

Numbering 16.4 million, Southern Baptists represent the largest Protestant denomination in the country. They and an estimated 35 million more people in the U.S. consider themselves Evangelicals. In exit polls, 26 percent of those who voted in the 2004 presidential election identified themselves as white Evangelicals. In the last election, almost 80 percent of them voted for George W. Bush.

Looking at the other presidential candidates, Land says he could not vote for Rudy Giuliani because of his position on abortion. In addition, "I couldn't vote for him on the grounds of his marital history."

Divorce has touched most Evangelical families, including his own, Land says: One of his children is divorced.

"But I think most Evangelicals would say that three marriages is one too many," Land says. "And particularly when you look at the really ugly nature of Giuliani's second divorce, and the fact that his second wife had to take out a restraining order to keep him from bringing his mistress to Gracie Mansion to public functions, that's just beyond the pale."

John McCain on the other hand, "has acknowledged that he is the one at fault for the failure of his first marriage," Land says. "You've never heard any comment by Evangelicals about his marital history. Why? Because there's only one divorce, and he's been happily married, by all outward accounts, for more than 25 years to his second wife. Now Giuliani's a two-time loser, and his behavior at the end of his second marriage is one reason why he's not only estranged from his second wife, but estranged from his children."

While he supported the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, Fred Thompson is clearly a conservative, Land says.

"He has since acknowledged that McCain-Feingold didn't work, and that we need significant change in that area," Land says. "He's a strong proponent of traditional marriage and is an opponent of gay marriage. And he is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights."

In meeting with him, he has found Thompson to have "a depth and breadth of knowledge about judicial philosophy that I have found most impressive."

While Thompson has been described as lazy, Land says the same claims were made about Ronald Reagan.

"Reagan was not a driven policy wonk, but Reagan applied himself regularly and persistently to his task," Land says. "I have found Thompson to be a man who knows how to pace himself and how to apply himself."

Land thinks Romney's faith should not be a deal breaker.

Most Baptists "believe in separation of church and state, and they understand that they are voting for commander in chief, not theologian in chief," says Land, who explores these issues in his new book The Divided States of America. "However, I do think that Romney has to deal with the issue."

At Romney's invitation, Land and other evangelicals met with him last October at his home in Belmont, Mass. Land suggested that Romney give a speech, as did John F. Kennedy, addressing his religion.

"Kennedy was the only person who could make millions of Americans comfortable with voting for a Catholic for president," Land says. "Similarly, only Mitt Romney can make millions of Americans comfortable with voting for a Mormon president. Now I believe he can do that. But only he can close that deal."

Land is not suggesting that Romney hash out the intricacies of his religion. Rather, "He's got to, in his own words, explain what his faith means to him, and how it does and how it does not relate to his performance of his public service, as governor and as president," Land says.

As Kennedy did, Romney should appeal to Americans' "basic sense of fair play."

To date, Romney has emphasized the importance of his faith and his belief in God while deflecting specific questions about his religion.

"Gov. Romney's not sure a speech explaining his faith is called for at this time," Eric Fehrnstrom, his traveling press secretary, tells me. "Perhaps at some point, it will become necessary. Time will tell."

Asked why Evangelicals believe Mormons — whose church is officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — are not Christians and what that says about Jews, Land says most Evangelicals, as well as Catholics, consider Mormon beliefs to be beyond the parameters of apostolic Christianity.

"I would look upon Catholicism as an erroneous understanding of the Christian faith; that's why I'm a Baptist, not a Catholic," Land says. "I would look upon Mormonism as another faith in the same sense that I would look upon Islam as another faith. I think the fairest and most charitable way to define Mormonism would be to call it the fourth Abrahamic religion — Judaism being the first, Christianity being the second, Islam being the third, and Mormonism being the fourth. And Joseph Smith would play the same character in Mormonism that Muhammad plays in Islam."

Evangelicals who are "less charitable" call Mormonism a cult, Land notes.

"A cult is a form of faith which does not comply with the essential teachings of the Christian faith but claims to be within the Christian faith or to be the true expression of the Christian faith, as opposed to being another religion like Judaism," Land says.

However, those who say Mormons are gullible because of what they believe are "patronizing and unduly dismissive," Land says. Nor should Romney's adoption of a pro-life position be seen as a drawback.

"What the media tends to see as a flip-flop would be perceived by many pro-lifers as growth or illumination," Land says.

"If you were doing a movie about a presidential race, and you sent over to Central Casting for a presidential candidate, they'd send back somebody who looks and talks a lot like Mitt Romney," Land says. "He's extremely telegenic, very personable. I mean this is a guy who would be considered a leader of men in any group that you would assemble."

But while Romney has an impressive track record, he lacks foreign policy experience, Land says.

"Thompson was a member of the intelligence committee," Land says. "I find Thompson to be a tantalizing combination of charisma, gravitas and elect-ability. I've called him a Southern-fried Reagan."

Asked what he thinks about John Edwards' statement dismissing the war on terror as a political gimmick or "bumper sticker," Land says, "I think the American people are very unlikely to entrust the national security of the country to John Edwards. When you're facing a mortal threat, you elect serious adults for the presidency."

In national match-ups, Republicans are doing well, Land says.

That's because, Land says, "When the American people look at the Democratic party, they say, ‘Do we really want to entrust the national security and safety of cities and our families to these people?'"

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Liberals are most likely to oppose having a Mormon as president because they look upon them as "people of faith on steroids," Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tells NewsMax. Polls have found that as...
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