In today’s Political Diary (no link: article is behind a subscription firewall), the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund has an extended piece on “Mitt and the Mormon Question.” While he inaccurately notes that Mormonism hovers over Romney as the “dark cloud” that “no one wants to talk about”–every article about the Governor’s presidential prospects talks about Mormonism, and he addresses it in almost every interview I’ve seen–the real subject of the piece is a proposed documentary and ad campaign from a prominent LDS filmmaker:
Mitch Davis, a Mormon filmmaker best known for “The Other Side of Heaven,” says he is taking up the challenge so that Mr. Romney can talk about other issues. “The last thing Mitt Romney wants to be is the Mormon candidate,” he told reporters this week. “But inevitably, the issue has to be addressed. And it’s beneath Mitt Romney to do the heavy lifting on this.”
Mr. Davis hopes to make “hip, funny and smart” radio and TV ads that explain why Americans have as little to fear from a Mormon president as they did from John F. Kennedy, who became the nation’s first Catholic leader. One of his ideas is to recruit Mormon celebrities such as football great Steve Young and singer Gladys Knight to discuss their religion.
With all due respect to Mr. Davis, I believe this is a fundamentally flawed approach. No matter how much Davis tries to “demystify” the LDS faith, it will remain quite different from evangelical Christianity. At EFM, we feel like we have a better grasp of Mormonism than many, yet our support for the Governor does not derive from that better understanding of LDS doctrine, but rather from the fact that we know and respect Mitt Romney the person.
As his leadership through the Big Dig debacle shows, the Governor is a gifted chief executive. He is a man of integrity who knows how to handle a crisis. Theological debates can’t be won, and “hip” and “funny” ads that make Mormonism look cool may actually trigger a counterproductive defensive response from evangelicals.
In dealing with the “Mormon question,” the Governor’s supporters should be speaking with one voice: Judge the man on his merits, not on his presumed theology. I’m a conservative Presbyterian, and I know that if I ran for anything, I would not want to see any advertisements (no matter how well done), with the theme, “Predestination: It’s not as mean as you think.”