We all know Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, could use some evangelical support. So it’s no wonder he chatted with my former editor at Christianity Today, who recently left to attend seminary. The Q&A went online this morning.
Many Christians voted for President Bush out of a feeling of faith kinship. Do you see any drawbacks to that type of voter affinity?
People should be able to vote for who they like on whatever basis they like. I try not to counsel my fellow Americans on how they make their decisions. I think by and large democracy works pretty well.
Many times, people are misinformed about a candidate or their positions, and that’s unfortunate. But if they have accurate, complete views, I say let them vote as they wish.
How are voters misinformed about you?
I just don’t think many people know me very well at this stage, and that’s to be expected. I’m a governor, and therefore not yet a national figure. I anticipate by the time the primary season rolls around next year that I will be very well known and will either be strongly supported or will be someone people don’t want to back. I’m pleased that I’m connecting with voters in the states where I’ve spoken most frequentlyâstates like Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida.
But has your candidacy exposed differences between the two religions?
While the doctrines of my church are quite different from evangelical Christian doctrines, the values of our faiths are very much the same. I don’t know of a doctrinal difference that would suggest a different policy outcome or that would suggest that a President of my faith would lead in a different direction than President Bush, an evangelical Christian.
When I was governor here in Massachusetts, a number of Catholics wondered what it would mean to have a Mormon as a governor. After some time, one of the leading Catholics in our state remarked to my Catholic deputy chief of staff, “The best friend we have on Capitol Hill (Beacon Hill) is the Mormon governor, not the Catholic legislators.” He was joking a bit, but the value base that we share is so pronounced that the differences of doctrine really disappear.
Perhaps it’s difficult for some when two faiths have been in the battle place of ideas to say that we disagree on doctrine but share a very strong value base. It’s almost like a strong Republican and a strong Democrat have been battling for ideas in America for 50 years, and they suddenly find themselves in a foxhole fighting the Germans. They have no problem working with each other, because whether you’re a strong Democrat or a strong Republican, you share the same American hope for the future.
How do you answer evangelicals who want their President to have faith but not your faith?
It depends on what they worry about. Do they want agreement on doctrine, and does that really effect how someone leads as President? Or does someone want a President who shares values and will preserve the values and culture of America? That will only happen if people band together where we share common values.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I wish people wouldn’t vote for politicians based on their purported religious views. I’m fairly confident that Mitt Romney is a sincere Mormon; if not, he would have dropped the shtick a while ago because it’s been nothing but campaign baggage. But I’m very skeptical of other candidates who profess to be the flavor-of-the-decade brand of Christian. You know what I’d like this time around? A good president.