The EFM Feature

For the past two years, I’ve worn Romney buttons, carried Romney bags, and sported Romney bumper stickers to my Presbyterian church and my kids’ Christian school. Like a salesman walking into a room of poor people, my very presence demanded a response people weren’t ready to give.
“What’d you do this weekend?” someone asked once.
“I went to Texas to hear Gov. Romney’s speech about faith.”
Since my husband and I committed to Gov. Romney back in 2005, I’ve been thinking, praying, and writing almost exclusively about religion and politics – making conversations with polite southern friends of the platitudinous and self-censored variety.
“Texas is a great state,” he replied.
A few people were not inhibited by the southern strategy of “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, wait ‘til they’re outta the room.”
Recently, an elder at church came up to me after the sermon. “You want a President that’s accursed?” Previously, he’d told me Mitt Romney’s religion was like a Buck Rogers episode, an old television show I barely remember my parents watching. Though I didn’t fully understand why, I realized it wasn’t good.
Most of the time, it was dormant. My friends — bless their hearts — have put up with me for months. Normally apolitical, they’ve begun watching election results and debates to determine my mood the next morning at the gym. Sometimes, in unguarded moments, one would let slip that another said, “I just can’t vote for a Mormon, but don’t tell Nancy.”
So, I’ve existed between two worlds, like floating in the ocean. If I talked too openly about electing Gov. Romney, I could get pulled into the dark depths of friendship — the place you normally don’t go, where unexamined fears, prejudices, hopes, beliefs, and expectations clash uncomfortably. Sometimes — rarely — I’d be pulled up by wonderful private conversations with people who whisper, “I’m voting for Mitt,” and smile as if in a secret club.
And, in a way, we were.
Before Super Tuesday, I called strangers in my town and encouraged them to vote for Gov. Romney. Then, I took a deep breath and called my friends. They’d politely endured my pro-Romney references for months –this was Fred Thompson’s back yard — but it was time to plead my case.
“Do you have a moment?”
They expected this call eventually, during which I laid down a few years of accumulated thought at their feet, little gifts they didn’t have to pick up. In every single conversation, the same questions and fears arose. Slowly, we unwrapped them, one by one.
Aren’t they a cult? Won’t voting for Mitt legitimize them? What about polygamy? Will he swear in on a Book of Mormon? Will Salt Lake control him? Are you placing politics above God?
Some dug in their heels, protested, and lamented – just as I did at first. I remember standing in our kitchen saying, “Too bad we can’t support a Mormon.” Obviously, my heart has softened, though my theology didn’t have to. Evangelicals should lock arms with their Mormon neighbors who share the same values though not the same religious beliefs. Almost always, my friends thanked me for calling after I asked them to prayerfully consider him.
Super Tuesday’s Southern election results indicate rural folks didn’t consider him. People went with their gut — a bad guide, as we Presbyterians know – because none of our Christian leaders really challenged us to do otherwise. One famous Christian’s lawyer asked us to take down a quote we put on our site which he’d publicly made – so hesitant was he to link his name with ours. Another well respected Christian leader stopped short of endorsing Gov. Romney, though he was graciously complimentary. Mike Huckabee – our most prominent preacher right now — did speak about the subject, however, with a wink and insinuations about Satan. He encouraged us to vote for “one of our own” regardless of profound political differences.
What encouraged me is – with few exceptions — our message resonated amongst those who heard it. Gov. Romney won second place in a straw poll in Memphis in 2006, based largely on the strength of our fellow evangelicals. Although they went to the conference as a favor to us, they were quickly enamored with the candidate we called the “Yankee Governor with Southern Values.”
Also, on www.EvangelicalsforMitt.org, we regularly pled our case to thousands of people every day across the country. Many indignantly e-mailed vitriolic missives filled with accusations, always, as an added bonus, signed with the salutation, “In Him.” Invariably, some of these very people wrote back months later saying they were supporting Governor Romney.
At the end of the day, Gov. Romney mostly carried urban areas in the southern states… plus a little place known as the Mule Capital of the World – my hometown.
I’m not sure why the rest of the south didn’t vote as Maury County did… whether it was because of his Mormonism, flipflopping accusations, or support for a preacher who admits he knows nothing about foreign policy. But I know when Gov. Romney graciously bowed out of the Presidential race, we all lost. As Ramesh Ponnuru wrote, “…we have seen women vote for a woman, blacks vote for a black man, Mormons vote for a Mormon, and evangelicals vote for an evangelical.”
Though I don’t fully understand why, I realize it’s not good.


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