The New York Times hosted a “Room for Debate” segment asking “Are Republicans Ready Now for a Mormon President?” Most of the bloggers provide — frankly — a rather mundane analysis that falls far short of the dialogue that Patheos kick-started with Warren Cole Smith’s controversial piece.
My favorite piece, however, did have some quotable portions. Called, appropriately enough, “What’s Not to Like,” R. Marie Griffith writes:
These days, a Mormon looks (and feels) far more a part of the conservative mainstream than just a few years ago, when thundering attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a “cult,” filled Christian pulpits and bookstores across the country. While plenty of non-Mormons still scoff at their church’s theology and the provenance of the Book of Mormon, few denounce L.D.S. leaders as evil tyrants set on brainwashing or sexually abusing hordes of lost seekers.
At worst, outsiders may see Mormons as eccentrically restrained, their earnestness sweetly countercultural in a cynical age. At best, they have shown themselves to be highly self-disciplined, fiscally prudent yet personally generous, family- and civic-minded, staunchly capitalist and as patriotic as they are globally invested: in short, model conservatives. The popularity of their music has surely helped too: millions have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform in Salt Lake City and at events like presidential Inaugurations (at his first inauguration, in 1981, Ronald Reagan dubbed the singers “America’s Choir”).
True, Mormons still have to take a lot of heat for their historical dealings with gender, homosexuality, marriage and race. But that heat, when it’s not generated from within the church itself, now comes mostly from the left. After all, the outcomes of these issues — condensed in strong support for heterosexual monogamy, male-headed households and a priesthood now open to blacks but not women — resonate perfectly well with many conservatives, not least that most crucial bloc: traditional evangelicals. These days, Mormons look a lot more “Christian” to these folk than do liberal Protestants (as U.S. Representative Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri, reminded us this week, in his mistaken but telling charge that “at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God”).
. . .
Religious prejudice takes a seemingly endless variety of forms in the U.S., and it is easy to fuel into flaming rage. Hardline fundamentalists remain anti-Mormon (and anti-Catholic, for that matter); they may not ever support any but their own. But Mormons have been good for the politics now defined as conservatism. More than ever before, Republicans may be ready to give them their due.
Read the whole thing.