Between the Republican primary and Proposition 8, 2008 afforded us a lot of opportunities to ponder the wisdom of us Mormon folk joining forces with conservative evangelical Christians. “Broad faith coalitions” are all well and good, but do we really want to be getting in bed (so to speak) with people who think we’re going to hell? Shouldn’t that give us just a teensy bit of pause?
Well, personally, I think that whether or not I’m going to hell is totally independent of what any evangelical Christian thinks about it, so no, it doesn’t give me pause, and yeah, I’m fine getting in bed with them (assuming we’re into the same stuff, nudge nudge, wink wink). I care more about what our common goal might be than what they think about the state of my immortal soul.
Last year I read a lot on blogs about Mormons who had always voted Republican and were supposedly going to vote Democratic this time because they were offended by the Republican party’s treatment of Mitt Romney. And lefty-leaning Mormons cheered that their heretofore-conservative brethren and sistren were finally waking up to the fact that religious righties are NOT our friends, that they do in fact mean to DESTROY us, along with a host of other vulnerable parties, once they have the power we have been so naively helping them acquire. I exaggerate (a little) for dramatic effect, but that was the general idea.
We saw how that turned out, of course. In Utah, Barack Obama got a very respectable 34 percent of the vote, compared to John McCain’s 63 percent. That doesn’t look very good, until you compare it to John Kerry’s 26 percent in 2004 and Al Gore’s 26 percent in 2000. So congratulations to Mr. Obama are certainly in order. I’m not sure how much of his victory was due to Mormons being ticked off at the Republicans and how much was due to him just being a little too awesome, but we won’t be able to claim it’s a trend until at least 2012.
I wouldn’t have a problem with Mormons trending Democratic for a change. (Maybe the whole church will go that way, and then I will be the only Republican Mormon I know, and I can feel special and put-upon when someone in Gospel Doctrine says we have to pass universal health care because Jesus told us to care for the poor. Psh.) As much as I disliked the prospect of him being president, I enjoyed seeing Obama stickers in my church parking lot. I liked that my Facebook friends invited me to join Mormons for Obama. (It showed that I’d successfully avoided boring them with my political views. Also that they didn’t notice the Sarah Palin on my Flair board.) I like the idea of more political diversity within the church, if only because it will damp the temptation to talk about politics in church. So if you want to vote Democratic because the religious right doesn’t give enough respect to Mormons, God bless you, but don’t bother saving a donkey pin for me because I won’t be going there.
Out of the 400+ candidates running for the Republican nomination in 2008, I think Mike Huckabee ranked second to the bottom of my list. However, regarding his alleged “aw-shucks anti-Mormonism”? Could not possibly care less. As for his putting that little “Jesus and Satan are brothers” thing out there and supposedly not meaning anything by it? Don’t give a flying fig whether he did or not. If he had won the nomination, I would have voted for him in November. Disgraceful, I know. They should probably yank my temple recommend. Fortunately, it never came to that.
I certainly didn’t want Mike Huckabee to be president. I don’t care much for Mike Huckabee’s populist strain of Republicanism, which isn’t very Republican, actually, but it’s close enough for horseshoes when the only alternative is an actual Democrat (no offense to them). Because, you see, I’m not a Democrat (anymore). I’m a Republican. I vote for Republicans, even if they think my religion is cuckoo, even if they’re holding their noses all the while I’m stumping for them like some kind of chump. That’s just how I roll.
It’s not really a big mystery why so many Mormons are Republicans. There are a couple different arguments one could make, but in large part it is because so many Mormons are social conservatives, and the Republican party is the party of social conservatives. If we get our feelings hurt because they don’t like our Jesus, where exactly are we supposed to go?
Similarly, if we want to work to “preserve traditional marriage,” with whom should we align ourselves? The Episcopalians? Oh, wait, that doesn’t work, does it? I suppose we should just form our own little group, Mormons Against Same-Sex Marriage. Our slogan could be “We’re not like THOSE religious nutjobs. We’re victims, too!”
Anyway, as I was saying earlier, I don’t care if Huckabee cynically exploited anti-Mormon sentiment. I don’t care if some of the folks working on Prop 8 were whispering about us behind our backs. I just don’t take it that personally. Perhaps I’m not an ardent enough defender of the faith. Or perhaps, as right-wing blogger Frank J. would say, I just have a limited number of rats’ asses.
I understand that for Mormons who grew up among anti-Mormon evangelicals, this can get personal. I’ve spent the majority of my life in religiously pluralistic California and unchurched Oregon, but I did have four years at a Southern Baptist college, where I was the only Mormon (just perverse that way), and I had an experience where this COGIC chick tried to exorcise me, so I think I can imagine what years of social harassment (or ostracism) borne of religious bigotry might feel like. However, as any non-LDS person who grew up in Utah or other Mormon-heavy populations can tell you, evangelicals don’t corner the market on religious bigotry and discrimination.
What I discovered during my college experience is that most non-Mormons don’t really understand anything about Mormonism. A lot of them have trouble keeping us straight from the Amish. So when I see a poll that says one-third of the U.S. electorate wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, I’m thinking a) how many of those people even know what a Mormon is, and b) that looks like we still have some ‘splainin’ to do. No need to get huffy about it. That doesn’t help anything.
Sometimes people tell lies about our church, and sometimes they say things that are just rude. Sometimes you need to call them on it, and sometimes you need to ignore them. You don’t have to abandon a whole political party just because a few lunatics happen to belong to it, too. (That was my standard line when I was a Democrat, and I’m still using it. See, I haven’t changed all that much.) I don’t leave the church when someone offends me, and there are way more viable churches in the U.S. than there are viable political parties, so why should anyone be surprised that I continue to vote Republican even though some Republicans offend me?
There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of my evangelical friends and acquaintances are decent people who don’t wish me any harm. There’s also no doubt in my mind that they all believe my theology is whacked-out, perverse, and probably leading me to hell, regrettable as that may be. Now, if I can live with my friends thinking that, imagine what my mere comrades-in-politics must be thinking and ask me how much I care. (See: INVENTORY, RATS’ ASSES.)
Perhaps the hand-wringers are right; perhaps most of the “religious right” do view us as useful idiots. Well, fortunately, I’m not in it for the evangelicals. I have my own agenda. Everyone in the political arena is trying to advance an agenda based on his or her values; insofar as I share a religious righty’s values, I am fine being in league with them, and I don’t care if they think I have horns. If standing for what I believe is right and good for my country means I’m standing next to someone who doesn’t want people to join my church, I think I can handle that. If they start publicly accusing me of holding orgies in my crazy Mormon temple, well, I will probably ask them to yield the floor to someone who’s taken their meds that morning. But otherwise, I’m good.
And in the event that the scheming evangelical right starts advancing an agenda that infringes on my right to practice my hell-bound religion, I will simply say that I no more condone such things than Barack Obama condoned Bill Ayers’ crazy terrorist stuff. (Incidentally, I was only eleven years old when “The God Makers” came out.) And then I will just turn to my other friends. Like Oprah. Useful idiots, indeed.