From Mark Davis’s recent column on Gov. Romney:
So I asked him: if an entire society existed in North America for centuries before and after the birth of Christ, planting crops, worshiping in a Judeo-Christian fashion, using an Egyptian-Hebrew hybrid language, riding chariots and smelting iron, wouldn’t there be archeological evidence of it?
Here was Gov. Romney’s response:
“I really don’t think it’s productive for me to say ‘let me tell you about this doctrine or that doctrine,’” he explained. “I’m not a spokesman for my church.”
“‘Senator Kennedy,” he asked, posing as an imaginary questioner in JFK’s tricky 1960 drama involving doubts about his Catholicism, “Do you really believe that that wafer turns into the body of Christ, do you really believe that? Has there been chemical analysis in the stomachs of people after they’ve taken communion?’ These are not questions you ask someone who’s running for President.”
There are some who say that it is unfair for Gov. Romney to have to handle a question like this. I don’t think it is. The press and voters of the United States have a right to inquire about virtually any part of a candidate’s life that they think might influence his decisions in office. But Davis takes it a step too far: He believes that Gov. Romney must not only handle such difficult questions but also engage them with a nuanced discussion of his theology in order to keep Mormonism from lurking as a “torpedo that could spell the doom of his promising candidacy.” Now I’m all for these questions from a theological perspective; they have eternal significance. But it doesn’t do Gov. Romney or any other candidate any good to engage in a detailed theological discourse. It’s a debate that no candidate can win–and that few voters will even understand. From my seat in the bleachers I think most voters understand that there is an enormous difference between what Gov. Romney believes and what, say, John Piper –or EFM–believes. And they understand that for the purposes of a presidential election that that is not the point. Rather, the point is that Gov. Romney is a proven leader who shares our values. And in the end that’s what we–and he–should be talking about.
CHARLES adds: David also made the point over e-mail that Davis has a false premise here, namely that evangelicals are going to “study up” on Mormonism. How many people do you know who have studied up on Islam since 9/11? I’ll confess that read Timothy George’s book, but that’s it. The concern I have is not that folks are going to be come self-made scholars of LDS theology; it’s what’s going to happen when the first anonymous mass-mailer goes out. And before that happens, evangelicals need to remember that not every aspect of an individual’s theology is relevant to his governance, and also that if you don’t think someone with unorthodox theology can be a good political leader, then you better not be visiting the Jefferson Memorial.