James Dobson is my homeboy

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.


  1. I agree with Rebecca that if you chose which party to join based on who else is in it, I do not think many of us could join any party at all. I used to vote republican routinely. I did not stop voting that way because of the religious right’s influence over the party, nor did I register as a democrat because many secular leftists are democrats. I switched because, by and large, I thought the direction of democratic party favored was closer to the direction I think we should move as a country than the direction the republican party does.

  2. What exactly is the shelf life for rat’s asses? Say, if I have my year’s supply worth, when do I need to start using and replenishing? I would hate for any to go to waste.

  3. 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.

    I was one of those people. Still am. I’m a bit fed up with the Republican party and I’m not sure when, if ever, that is going to change. [Not that I’m rushing to become a Democrat.]

    I believe Obama raises the bar for future presidential candidates. I am hoping his credentials, intellect and poise will raise the bar for all future presidential candidates.

    But I suppose that is asking a lot (probably too much) from our political parties.

  4. For a Republican Mormon to start voting Democratic simply for being snubbed by Evangelical Republicans is as foolish as Evangelicals refusing to vote for a Mormon candidate.

  5. So, if Mike Huckabee is 2nd-to-the-bottom, who is at the very bottom?

  6. Martin Willey says:

    I like reading what Rebecca J writes so much that I forget she is the kind of person that could put Sarah Palin on her flair board.

    My deal is totally different. I don’t really like evangelicals (I probably need to repent of that). A lot of it is their politics. I have always enjoyed seeing a lot of space between us and them. They clearly enjoy that, too. And to be honest, I always kind of feared the day that they figured out that many of my fellow Mormons were a lot like them on social/political issues. I am kind of glad that the religious right is still squeamish about associating with us. For me, the feeling is mutual (at least).

    I just don’t like it that now, post-Mitt and post-Prop, many people assume that because I am a Mormon, I must be a right-wing, religious fundamentalist, like James Dobson, but with a cultish, polygamist twist. THAT is why I have an Obama sticker on my car. Well, that, and he was the best candidate.

  7. Rebecca J, I’m a Democrat, even though I have some evangelical friends, who likewise believe I’m gong to hell, and are very sincere about saving me. I generally don’t like evangelicals unless I have met them in person. No, my problem with the GOP is that there is no room for me in a party, big tent or not, that includes Ann Coulter, the Paris Hilton of Politics.

    Although, you might be able to say the same thing from tho other side about Al Franken, who probably plans to take the Senate oath in a Gorilla suit. But I can live with that.

  8. Don’t forget that the Catholics all think we’re going to hell, too. After all, they don’t recognize the efficacy of LDS baptism, and they believe that baptism is required to avoid hell (see item #6 under “The Effects of the Sacrament”).

    Ironically, I’m a lifelong Democrat (since 1971) who switched over to the Republican party last year. But it didn’t have anything to do with the Religious Right. ..bruce..

  9. Oops! That should have been “see item #2 under ‘The Effects of the Sacrament'”. ..bruce..

  10. Mark Brown says:

    This is a good post Rebecca, thanks.

    Politics does make for some strange bedfellows, to continue your metaphor. My problem arises when we stop thinking the temporary partnerships are strange, and start feeling at home in them. That is why, even if we agree with evangelical social conservatives (and on some points, I do), I see a lot of value in drawing some bright lines.

    I will also observe that an organization in which Dobson and Palin are seen as the leading lights needs to do some serious thinking about its future, if it wants to have a future. If I ever fudge over $20,000 on my expense reports at work and charge my employer for my family’s travel as Palin has done, I will expect to do some hard time in the hoosegow.

  11. Rebecca, it was very refreshing to read this on a Mormon blog. As DavidH says, the argument that Mormons shouldn’t be Republicans because of evangelicals is senseless. Personally, I vote for individual candidates based on a variety of factors that includes where they stand on the issues, their level of personal integrity, and even on whether they speak well and I “like” them. I never say to myself, nor should I, “I can’t support this person because James Dobson does.” I think I’m capable of making up my own mind regardless of what good ol’ James thinks.

    Thanks for this wonderful post.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Wait…what? There’s a Republican at BCC? Huh? How did that happen? Crawdaddy, this is your doing, isn’t it. Admit it.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, it’s not senseless, it’s just not one you find compelling. Personally, I think the political company we choose to keep as Mormons is important. If anything, Rebecca’s post is reflective of the mix of priorities we all consider in our political decisions, but just because some people don’t find these issues compelling doesn’t mean they’re devoid of sense.

  14. We will overcome, Kevin.

  15. StillConfused says:

    I am afriad that the rat’s ass that I gave away included all things politics.

  16. You make some excellent points, points that I certainly will be pulling out in future political discussions. Yield the floor to someone who has taken their meds, limited supply of rat’s asses, that’s some mighty fine work.

  17. Thing is, I actually care more about the fate of my Church than I do about the fate of the United States of America. Church first, country second (or probably third or fourth actually…).

    So yeah. I wasn’t going to vote for Huckabee, no matter how bad for America his hypothetical opponent was.

    That’s how I roll.

  18. Excellent post, Rebecca. I disagree with a few minor points, but I agree with the general points and, like Jami, appreciate the verbiage.

  19. I suspect you’re speaking of more than one rat, so it should be RATS’.

    And, any thinking person would have put Tom Tancredo lower on the list than the Huckmeister. So I’m guessing Rebecca’s got him there too.

  20. bythelbs – As I understand it, rats’ asses can be kept in an airtight container for up to 30 years.

    Mark B. – I was going to get in a huff about you dissing Gov. Palin to my face, but you had me at “hoosegow.” And thank you for correcting my spelling.

    FHL – Since Mark reminded me of Tom Tancredo’s candidacy, I’ll have make a correction: Huckabee was probably third to last.

    Seth – I can appreciate your feelings, but for me it isn’t a choice between church and country. I don’t think Mike Huckabee or James Dobson or their ilk is a threat to the church.

  21. I agree with Rebecca also, except for the part about voting for Huckabee.

  22. Douglas Hunter says:

    Just for some perspective. On the other side of the political / religious fence the problems that Rebecca describes (and doesn’t give a rats arse about) just weren’t there. As a no on 8 Mormon I partnered with leaders and representatives from 60 different faith communities and was warmly welcomed by people who have no history of saying Mormons are going to hell, spreading anti-mormon literature, calling us a cult, etc. The interfaith work on the “no” side had a very different character than the “strange bedfellows” experience that marked the work on the “yes” side as a gathering of political convenience.

  23. Hoosegow is a highly underrated word, right up there with bombastic.

    You rock, RJ.

  24. 19. By gum, you’re right, Mark!

  25. The point isn’t that you should avoid political alliances with people you don’t like on a personal level. The point is that you’re handing the religious majority the power to encode their beliefs into civil law. That should give you pause because, like gay people, you are a minority, hated and mistrusted for religious reasons.

    The blatant anti-Mormon stuff from the Religious Right is merely a clue to you that these guys absolutely don’t have your back — they aren’t even pretending to.

  26. Mainstream Christianity doesn’t even know the Bible itself. They’re not dying and going to heaven, living forever in hell if they don’t and a lot more…that is, if they think they’re Biblically-based Christians (because no such thing is in the Bible, period).

    As a (non-mainstream) Christian, more than once I’ve stepped up to defend Mormons e.g. defeating homosexual legislation and other agendas…while, by the way, mainstream American Evangelicals DID NOTHING. (Except hold lots of Sunday schools classes on the dangers or Mormonism and Catholicism).

    One more thing the Bible states: religion, en masse, is not in relationship with God The Father. And, what more proof do you need than to look at mainstream Christianity in the U.S.? (Or, assume God has an IQ around 47?)

    Sure, I don’t believe what Mormons believe. But, mainstream Christianity can’t even evaluate Mormons correctly using scripture in the first place. For example,

    1. No one dies and goes to heaven.
    2. The (first) death is not the point of judgement
    and, more.

    The Mormons, and my own faith, are in God’s hands. If we can agree to fight for shared values, let’s do it. As for as I’m concerned, I’ll still stand up in (Protestant) Sunday school and bible studies to point out the above homosexual agenda and other points where my own faith’s affiliates should take lessons from the Mormons rather than bashing them.

  27. C.L. Hanson, The religious right is not a majority even within the Republican party. The age of Western religious “encoding” is over. The function of the religious right is strictly conservative – trying to stop others from “decoding”, and usually rather unsuccessfully at that.

    Supposing history were rolled back a century and a half, what do you suppose the religious right would do? Outlaw polygamy and slavery perhaps?

  28. The issue isn’t what the Evangelicals believe about Mormons religiously — it’s how they treat us politically. They accept Mormon money and organization to support their social causes despite our religion but won’t support a candidate because of his or her Mormon religion. That doesn’t seem consistent, for one thing, but more importantly, how can that relationship be good for Mormons, either individually or collectively as a group?

  29. I just have to point out that MANY Evangelicals supported Mitt Romney. SOME evangelicals have treated us poorly, but I would not say ALL have. Having lived in the South most of my life, I can assure you that the vocal anti-Mormon bigots are in the minority. Yes, most evangelicals have issues with our theology, but we have issues with theirs as well. The vocal bigots get all the press, but they ARE in the minority. Same goes for the Republican party. I can’t stand Ann Coulter, but just because she’s a Republican doesn’t mean she represents me. Just because some wacky zealot preachers have a lot to say about Mormons doesn’t mean he represents the majority of the Republican voters.

  30. Mark Brown says:

    The age of Western religious “encoding” is over.

    Mark D.,

    Mike Huckabee disagrees with you. This video from last year shows him advocating amdendments to the constitution so that it agrees with the Bible. So. C. L. Hanson’s question is one worth answering: whose interpretation of the Bible do you think he is talking about?

    Supposing history were rolled back a century and a half, what do you suppose the religious right would do? Outlaw polygamy and slavery perhaps?

    Oh, there’s no need to go back that far. Try maybe 50 years, when these very same social conservatives tried to stop the integration of schools and public accomodations, on the grounds that it was decoding their God-given beliefs.

    (Rebecca, fyi – Mark Brown, Mark B., and Mark D. are all different people.)

  31. I just mean that (given that you are a religious minority) it’s not in your interest to strengthen the position of the political ideology of using religion as justification to steamroller over the rights of minorities. One day you could potentially find yourself on the wrong side of that steamroller.

  32. Mark Brown, I will agree with you that Huckabee would have made a horrible president. If it’s Huckabee vs. Obama in 2012, based on how Obama seems to be setting up his administration, I, a conservative Republican, will vote for Obama. (That of course could change — Obama isn’t even in office yet — but Huckabee is NOT a conservative when it comes to economic policy, would be a protectionist and would set back the social conservative movement because he is such a moonbeam).

  33. I do think it is important to consider who you are politically in bed with. If we vote for a party in which interests groups that might not reflect our interests and values have strong weight, then we need to recognize that representatives of those interests will fill the less visible ranks of government and have significant influence over our national priorities. This is a consequence that I don’t feel we can afford to overlook. So, I guess I have to disagree.

  34. Mark Brown says:

    Here is a question I would like to consider in the context of this post. Politics is the art of compromise, so everybody who participates at all is going to split a lot of differences and be satisfied with a lot of half loaves. But how do you know when it is time for a breakup?

    A social conservative probably has the many of same political motives as a guy who bombs abortion clinics. An environmentalist probably has a lot in common with the Unabomber. Obviously those are extreme examples, but somewhere between opposing abortion and murdering those who practice it, there is a parting of the ways. How do we know when we have reached that point?

  35. For a Republican Mormon to start voting Democratic simply for being snubbed by Evangelical Republicans is as foolish as Evangelicals refusing to vote for a Mormon candidate

    The snub by evangelical Republicans is a regional issue. It is not a small thing and there is no reason that Mormons should feel obligated/shackled to vote alongside evangelical Republicans who basically despise Mormons and will go to great lengths to keep a Mormon from becoming the presidential candidate.

    I wasn’t even a major Romney proponent – but I was excited about the possibility that a Mormon was taken that seriously as a candidate.

    I was an undecided voter for a very long time – something I had never been before. In the end, it wasn’t the snub that decided things for me. The deciding factor for me was reading many of the negative things associated with McCain’s biography. He was clearly a reckless, immature personality.

    That is why, way back in comment #3 I said that I hoped Obama would raise the bar for future presidential candidates (of both parties).

  36. I suggest consideration is in order when such candidates (1) become the consensus of one’s party and (2) exercise enough actual power to implement objectionable social policies.

    It is worth remembering that the opposition to civil rights in the sixties was concentrated among southern Democrats, most of whom voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Does that mean that it was counterproductive for liberals to find common cause with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson? Were Democrats of that era morally obligated to vote for Goldwater and Nixon instead?

  37. Mark Brown says:

    Mark D.,

    Regardless of party labels, those people identified themselves as social conservatives, and it is recent enough that some of them are still alive, and many of the same people who resisted integration, sometimes by violent means, are prominent in the movement today. I think that should give us pause. The point is that politics is always a mixed bag, and I advocate caution in forming alliances.

  38. Mark,

    Most of those Democrats became Republicans when the Dems refused to vote with them didn’t they?

  39. Well he ain’t my homeboy. His org refused to let a Mormon pray at one of their events a few years ago.

    Individual characters and factions of a political movement have little impact on voting patterns. They are mostly driven by other factors. demographics, family influence, regionalism etc.

    We get opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. Evangelicals on the right and secularists on the left. The difference between the two is that the righties views on political issues more closely matches up with mainstream LDS views as demonstrated by prop 8

  40. Hooray – finally a political post on this site that I can agree with for the most part. This is a first – and Rebecca J, your writing style rocks.

  41. Mark Brown says:

    The difference between the two is that the righties views on political issues more closely matches up with mainstream LDS views as demonstrated by prop 8

    Except when they don’t. See, for instance, immigration.

  42. Ok, here’s my two cents worth on this subject.

    I, unfortunately, do have a bit of antagonistic nature against radical evangelicals. I’ve been trying to get over it, but I keep hearing things from them that keep bringing my blood to a boil. It began when my wife and I were in SLC during the Olympics in ’02. We were in Temple Square being dazzled by the displays and lights. As we exited, a lady who was dressed as a Mormon missionary (including a name badge) handed me a pamphlet. I thought it might be a list of events in Temple Square and so I took one. Instead it turned out she and her group were impostors and the pamphlet was one of the most vile and hateful attacks on my religion I’ve ever come across.

    I’d like to know how that group can still call themselves Christians? I still get mad just thinking about it. I’ll agree with the comment above that these groups are the minority. But they can still do significant and irreparable damage despite their numbers.

    As for the political angle, I used to be an independent around eight years ago. I voted for the person, not the party. Because no one party or political group will ever completely match anyone’s personal views, and you do yourself a disservice to ignore the good on the “other side.” Now that the extremists are out of power after eight very long years, I hope to become an independent again. I’d happily vote for a Republican once more if I could find one that didn’t put the Republican party’s power before everything else. Although it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, a politician is supposed to serve others. I’ll be voting for those kind of people, whatever their political party, and leaving the power hungry, backstabbing & corrupt officials behind.

  43. Huckabee’s populist and protectionist inclinations were the best thing about him. Heaven knows we need to get a social democratic/Christian socialist candidate in this country somehow.

    Great post, Rebbeca; keep ’em coming.

  44. Rameumptom says:

    My problem with the Republicans, is they aren’t electing truly Republican candidates. Or if they are, they are candidates that quickly leave their Republican platform behind.
    It doesn’t bother me if Mike Huckabee attacks Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. It does bother me that so-called Republicans voted for McCain over Romney, because McCain is a RINO.
    The current president and Republicans in Congress have shown there isn’t a spending bill they wouldn’t vote for. They’ve largely ignored social issues, allowing the Ted Kennedys in the world to map out our education system, allowed health care and social security to collapse into crisis because they wouldn’t stand up for conservative issues (like private SS accounts), etc.
    I’m tired of people proclaiming to be Reagan Republicans, and then going off and doing their own thing. We’ve seen this since George Sr conned his way into office and then abandoning Reagan’s “voodoo economics” (GHWBush’s own term).

    George W Bush has been a one-trick pony. All he’s basically succeeded at is a tax cut, and then focusing on poorly governed wars that have kept us from true progress here. While he was focused elsewhere, our nation tailspinned.

    When will the Republicans awaken and vote for another Reagan, someone with true conservative values and goals?

    Until the Republicans can convince me they are conservative, I’ll remain a conservative independent. Obama is more pragmatic, IMO, than McCain. I believe in some things he may just end up being more conservative than McCain, who felt the presidency was owed him, like Bob Dole (another non-conservative failure).

    When James Dobson offers me a true conservative with wisdom and smarts, THEN I may consider going fully back to the Republican party. But when he’s too busy separating people first by religious affiliation prior to okaying them to run for an office, then we have a problem of a good ol’ boys network that is failing us.

  45. I think one of the difficulties with defining what makes a true Republican is that the Republican party strikes me as a rather uneasy alliance of social conservatism and fiscal conservatism. It is not immediately clear to me why these two positions go together, since I think that either view can be embraced without embracing the other. But, regardless, I agree that the Republican party has become so ideologically focused as to be incompetent, despite liking in theory many of their ideas.

    Incidentally, in the current political moment, I have decided not to vote independently, because I think that regardless of how good a candidate is, his or her appointments come from his base of supporters. For example, McCain obviously felt that he needed Palin to win a particular base, which is a prominent example of how candidates will appoint those who support them to gain election. When we vote for, say, a president, we are electing his entire administration, which we can presume will be drawn from the populations that he owes.

    That’s why I think we need to look carefully into who we make alliances with – and, frankly, why I admit to being uneasy voting for a Republican that is supported by certain bases that I find objectionable in their beliefs.

  46. One more comment: I’m curious about the fact that we haven’t discussed Palin being more of a reason than Huckabee for greater than usual numbers of Mormons voting Obama. Several Republicans I know remained undecided until the Palin selection, which pushed them towards Obama. I feel that this shift in voting might have had less to do with feeling snubbed by the Republican party than by many Mormons simply feeling that McCain/Palin was an incompetent ticket.

  47. #46 – There is that.

  48. I’m agreeing with #46 here. Many, many members of my extended family voted for a Democrat for president for the first time in their lives. To a man, each did so because they did NOT want Sarah Palin to become president.

  49. Natalie (46) – I tend to think the shift in this election had more to do with Obama’s appeal than Mormons feeling snubbed or McCain/Palin being “incompetent.” I’m not sure any combination of Republicans could have beaten Obama in November, certainly not after the fiscal crisis. Even though the vast majority of Mormons consistently vote Republican (at least in Utah), I doubt very much that most Mormons are Republican ideologues. I think that Mormons have their share of people (= a lot) who are only barely aware of party politics and may tend to vote Republican because that’s what they (and their families) have always done but are also open to voting for a Democrat if he/she (ha ha, she) is an appealing enough candidate.

    Rameumptom – I think Obama is an unknown quantity in many respects. I hope for the best from him. Based on what he promised to do, I couldn’t vote for him (for fear he’d do it), but now that he’s elected, I’m withholding judgment until he actually does something. I certainly hope he ends up being all that and a bag of chips, for everyone’s sake.

    RAF – I’ve often thought (and said) that a fiscally liberal/socially conservative candidate would be able to draw a substantial number of Mormon and evangelical votes. If the Democratic party were more hospitable to social conservatives, they could take a big chunk out of the Republican base. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

    Mark Brown – Well, I knew you weren’t Mark D., but I have trouble remembering you aren’t Mark B. This is why I wish everyone would stop using their real names and go with more distinctive handles like eatingcheese1248.

  50. Brad – It’s funny because every Mormon Republican I talked to LOVED Sarah Palin.

  51. Granted, most of the ones I talked to were women, or men with crushes on Tina Fey.

  52. In the heart of Utah County, every Republican with whom I spoke thought the world of Sarah Palin. They did not think the world of Mike Huckabee. This strikes me as funny because the theological beliefs that made Huckabee undesirable were very likely also held by George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, both of whom are held in high esteem.

    I must say that of the three, I like Huckabee’s character and personality the most. He is by far the funniest.

  53. My comment about the Republican party becoming too ideological has mostly to do with the Republican leadership. I agree that most people vote according to how they or their families always have, although I also think that it is our unawareness of politics that can let us elect people who are overly ideological and not perhaps in our best interests.

    I think the differing perspectives of Palin might indicate how difficult it is to talk about a single brand of Republican existing. The communities that I have ties to tended to think favorably of McCain (in fact, most Democrats I know also tend to think favorably of McCain – they just prefer Obama), but extremely negatively of Palin. This might be because my impression is that they favor fiscal conservatism but are far more moderate socially.

  54. Since what we really value is the family and its preservation, we are willing to work with anyone else who will advance it.

  55. They accept Mormon money and organization to support their social causes despite our religion but won’t support a candidate because of his or her Mormon religion. That doesn’t seem consistent, for one thing, but more importantly, how can that relationship be good for Mormons, either individually or collectively as a group?

    If the relationship exists to further a particular social cause–e.g. restricting marriage to heterosexual couples, restricting abortion–then it doesn’t exist for the evangelicals’ good or the Mormons’ good, but only for the good of the cause. If it happens to bring Mormons and evangelicals together and force them to engage in a civil manner, I think that’s good for both sides. There are no Mormon-evangelical alliances to elect particular candidates. That Mormons and evangelicals end up voting for the same candidates a lot of the time is not because they’ve made a commitment to each other to do so; it’s because they share a lot of the same values. Insofar as they share values, it is good for them to form alliances toward particular ends that reflect those values.

    Evangelicals don’t “owe” it to us to support Mormon candidates, anymore than we owe it to them to support evangelical candidates. There’s no way of knowing how the 2008 Republican primary would have turned out had Mike Huckabee not been in the race. Some of his supporters certainly were motivated by religious bias, but a substantial number of them might have supported Romney over McCain, depending on how pragmatic they were. Again, it’s hard to say because Romney had other problems aside from his religion. My own reasons for supporting one candidate over another are complex and not always easy to explain. I assume other people have similarly complex reasons for supporting their candidates. We don’t know what Evangelicals might do in a situation that hasn’t come to pass yet–a personally appealing and inspiring Mormon candidate running on a platform evangelicals approve of and without serious competition from a similarly inspiring Christian candidate running on a similar platform. Perhaps they would support the Mormon, perhaps they would stay home in droves. We just don’t know because it hasn’t been tested yet.

    At some point, when McCain was ahead but Romney still had a chance of getting enough delegates, James Dobson came out with a statement discouraging Christians from voting for John McCain. (I don’t remember all of Dobson’s reasons for being against McCain, just that his feelings were obviously strong.) I heard him on a radio show, and the host specifically asked Dobson if he would give his blessing, so to speak, for Christians to support Mitt Romney, who had the best chance of beating McCain. He wouldn’t do it. On the other hand, he wouldn’t endorse Huckabee, either. You could tell he was in a tough position and he kept demurring by saying he never endorsed candidates, with one notable exception being George H.W. Bush, whom he had worked with and known very well. Well, Dobson has worked with Huckabee and knows him well, too. I suspect that the man was really torn, that what he wanted was for Huckabee to be doing better, that he couldn’t bring himself to appear to be endorsing a Mormon over a fellow Christian, but also that he didn’t want to be responsible for throwing Christian support toward Huckabee and away from the best chance of defeating McCain, which was Romney. He may have secretly been wishing people would vote for Romney, but he didn’t want to be responsible for that either! In other words, he was a coward. Or alternatively, a very confused old man with an exaggerated sense of his own importance. At any rate, if defeating McCain was his goal, he blew it. ‘Twould have been better if he’d said nothing at all. But how much did that hurt Mormons, really? It may have hurt our feelings, but our cause? I don’t think it made much difference to our cause one way or the other.

    Heck, Dobson might even have been doing us a favor (albeit inadvertently). Imagine how the general election would have gone with Romney running against the first black presidential candidate. Forcing more discussions about the church’s historical racism might have been good for our character, but very bad for our image. That would have smarted for a long time.

  56. >Imagine how the general election would have gone with Romney running against the first black presidential candidate.

    Youch! Excellent point.

    I will now confess to a secret hope that it would be Mitt v. Hillary, only so I could participate in what would undoubtably be a fascinating social experiment, namely, parking in the church parking long with a Hillary bumper sticker. (I actually supported Obama from the beginning.)

  57. Right, Rebecca. My decidedly anecdotal data only applies to Republicans who voted for Obama (a minority within my extended family). Those who voted McCain fit what you’re describing — they were enthusiastic about Palin. But those who broke partisan ranks all did so because of her. Like her or not, she’s an exceptionally polarizing figure.

  58. #17 & #20:

    Thing is, I actually care more about the fate of my Church than I do about the fate of the United States of America.

    Seth – I can appreciate your feelings, but for me it isn’t a choice between church and country. I don’t think Mike Huckabee or James Dobson or their ilk is a threat to the church.

    I actually disagree that they aren’t a threat to the church. Fair or not, I think many people feel that the Christian Right (including but certainly not limited to the Christian-branded Bush administration) have ruined many good things and are a force that must be continually fought against. Many people who are currently unaffiliated with religion used to have an attitude of “meh. Not my thing but that’s cool if it’s your thing.” Now they are more inclined to be passionately against all things religious because of what the Christian right has done with the brand. I think it is a very worrisome trend. VERY worrisome.

  59. I would agree with Cynthia L, that the Christian Right and evangelicals have left a stain on religions in general, and socially conservative religions specifically. The evangelicals call us a cult, and the secularists on the left brand us all as superstitious nutjobs now. There is very little “main” left in “mainstream Christianity”.

  60. I admit it, the comment by “Edward Penishands” on the sidebar of MA pulled me back to see what was becoming of this thread.

  61. It would appear that the thread has outlived its usefulness.

  62. The post is excellent Rebecca. And useful. People commenting with hilarious handles can never take that away.

  63. Ian (#38),

    Yes, most of them eventually became Republicans. The point is that the country is practically immune to the legislation of anything that can only garner twenty or thirty percent of the vote.

    No party that wishes to long survive will adopt as its platform such initiatives as are unable to plausibly gain the support of the majority of the electorate. Polygamy was doomed from the start because of such sentiments. However, I don’t see the current culture and practice of the LDS Church hazarded in the slightest from anything a center-right majority is likely to dream up.

  64. I give Mitt credit for trying, but he ultimately never had much of a chance. If he couldn’t persuade the majority of conservative Bible Belt Republicans to vote for a Mormon, there is no way he would have persuaded a majority of the American public. Anti-Mormonism was one of several significant factors in his losing the nomination, and anti-Mormon sentiment is not confined to the Religious Right.

    As a devout Mormon, this election cycle opened my eyes to the reality of prejudice in America. I think I was in blissful denial about it before. But now I am more sympathetic to the needs of minorities who must live under the “tyranny of the majority.”

    Supporting any political party makes me squeamish; they all exude an unsavory stench as far as my principles go. But I still feel I need to try to work with others to positively influence political events, even if I have to hold my nose on occasion. If every good Mormon withdrew from the political process the results for the country would be disastrous. I will continue working as a Republican for now because it seems to be the best fit for my conservative views. But I have a number of good LDS friends who support the Democratic party just as strongly.

  65. Rebecca’s blog entry is an interesting read. As one of those Christian evangelical righties I would like to say I see people like Rebecca as an ally in politics. In the primaries I voted for Mitt Romney. He was my clear choice over the field of Republicans. Frankly, I can’t understand Mormons or Christians for that matter that crossed the aisle in this election. The ramifications of the election of Obama will linger for decades. Anywhere from federal judges seated for life to runaway deficit spending to large new taxes, to the gagging of opinions through the ‘fairness doctrine’ to the even greater loss of jobs due to major miscalculations in energy policy and American competitiveness, to the gagging of preachers at the pulpit through the denial of religious tax free status, to all the liberal policies that have supported the dividing up of families for the sake of raising up a new generation of Democrats.

  66. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 65
    I didn’t realize that Democrats were created by a process of family-fission. Doesn’t God create them ex nihilo?

  67. Mark Brown says:

    Sorry, when it comes to handles, I know better than to try to top the ones that are already in play here.

    However, I do want to respond to the question of whether influence and political power in the hands of Dobson, Huckabee, et al is harmful to the LDS church and to the country.

    That depends. We may (1)see no harm at all, or we may (2)see some harm but be willing to accept it because we think is is more than offset by the good that is done. Or we might think (3)that the harm that is done is so great that it exceeds any possible good. I’ve been vascillating between (2) and (3), but (3) is starting to look better all the time.

    I think biblical literalists are dangerous. In Louisiana and Kansas, public schools are in danger of losing their accreditation, and the state school boards have become laughingstocks and the butt of jokes since they have been taken over by creationists.

    Of course, biblical literalism exists independently among LDS anyway. Dallin H. Oaks put his presidency at BYU on the line and was prepared to resign if the board didn’t rein in some of the efforts of the religion dept. which wanted to restrict the teaching of evil-ution in the biology and zoology departments. Fortunately the board listened to reason. But the point is that the trend towards literalism and creationism is troubling, and it gets reinforced among us if we are not always on our toes. We ought to be doing what we can to restrain this sort of knuckleheadedness, not encourage it.

    Many LDS homeschool, and 95% of the time, the cirriculum they use comes straight from the Christian Right. Based on the materials they produce, it is not a stretch at all to say that they believe dinosaurs co-existed with Jesus and that the earth is 6,000 years old. The fact that we have people in every LDS ward who see nothing wrong with this is a cause for grave concern, and we ought to be gently weaning people away from it, rather than approving it.

    The anti-science attitude in general is very troublesome, and the most recent manifestation is in the material that Dobson’s Family Research [sic] Council has published in support of traditional marriage. This uh, research was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by our people, and much of it made its way to the official church website. When I realize that many of us will buy this stuff wholesale while simultaneously casting a skeptical eye in Darwin’s direction, I become more discouraged and depressed than I have the ability to express.

    So, to sum up — I am open to the suggestion that more good than bad comes from aligning ourselves with social conservatives. But I think we need to have our eyes wide open to the downside of such an alliance, and it is a very steep one. It has harmed us, and that harm won’t be remedied without some sustained effort.

  68. What will LDS do when all young evangelicals are going Democrat?

    Many of the young evangelicals don’t care about social conservatism, Mark.

  69. Mark Brown, do you have more information or a source about Dallin Oaks’ prevailing on the Board of Trustees to rein in the religion department’s attempt to restrict the teaching of evolution? (I am not quite sure how the religion department could have any authority over the biology or other departments.)

    Mark D., I agree that a center-right government poses little danger to freedom of religion, but I think a far right wing government may. Similarly, I think a center-left government poses little danger, but a far left wing government may.

    Part of my shift from voting republican to voting democratic was because I perceived the republican party has having become much less hospitable to moderates, and the democratic party as becoming more hospitable (if only to reverse their loss of political power). Perhaps now that the GOP is out of power, it will become a little more open to divergent views.

  70. Mark, I lead a sheltered and somewhat clueless existence, but it’s hard for me to believe that belief in creationism is common among LDS people. I live in Utah and I can’t even imagine any effort to try and teach it in public schools. Can anyone else shed some light on this? Do you know of any data that demonstrate how common this type of belief is among Latter-day Saints? If it’s true that the religion department was trying to push it at BYU, that is incredible and quite disturbing to me.

  71. #66: LOL!

  72. E, I know lots of LDS who make fun of evolution. You don’t see this on bloggernacle.

    And I do admit that not all young evangelicals are heading to the liberal thinktank.

    Mark Driscoll


  73. I think the LDS who are skeptical of evolution don’t tend to buy into Creationist of the sort Evangelicals preach. Often there’s a lot of muddled concepts going on. Many who reject evolution reject it because they think it means god wasn’t involved in the world at all. Others have trouble with the no death before the fall issue. Others are fine with everything but human life. And so forth.

    The positions are too complex to fit in a binary Creation/Evolution taxonomy.

  74. Mark Brown says:


    My source for that information was the invaluable history of BYU called BYU, a House of Faith, by Bergera and Priddis. You can read the entire chapter on the controversy over the last century at BYU at this link.

    Here are some important paragraphs:

    Convinced by this time of the need for a stronger statement, Oaks responded decisively to Hinckley:

    There is a clear issue here: Should the board continue or should it revise its policy that permits Brigham Young University faculty to teach the theory of organic evolution–teaching it as a theory and not as a proven fact?

    We are all aware of the scriptural and scientific deficiencies of the theory of evolution. There are many. But the problem with ignoring this theory is that the theory of evolution currently explains more phenomena that are observed in the physical world than any other theory. Numerous fields of science use this theory and its corollaries, and will continue to do so until a better empirically based theory is propounded. . . . If we stopped teaching this theory, within a few years students from BYU would not be admitted to . . . graduate schools. At that point we would cease to function as a recognized university and would, in the eyes of the world (especially the world of higher education), be little more than a seminary with added courses in the humanities. I have no doubt whatever that our accreditation as an institution of higher education would be lost. The issue is that loaded. . . .

    There are thousands of our faith who feel threatened by that openness, and while I have sympathy with that as a personal point of view, in my judgment that kind of narrowness should never be allowed to impose the darkening hand of censorship on this university.

    While criticisms evidently abated, Oaks afterwards confided to colleagues Robert Thomas and Jae R. Ballif, “I suppose this matter will be solved for the present, but I expect to pay a price for the resolution

  75. I wonder how George Romney, had he been alive, would have run in 2008? I doubt he would have pandered to the religious right the way his son did. I doubt he would have done a lot of things his son did.

  76. 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.

    Just curious about whether you have actually worked with evangelicals on issues of common ground?

    I agree with you in principle, but in practice, it may or may not work out.

    I’m sad to report that when I have tried working with them, I have found that I don’t get invited to the committee meetings for which I volunteered, etc. In some cases, it has hurt the organization I was working with, when another group founded an organization working for a similar cause, so that they didn’t have to work with Mormons.

    So I agree with the attitude on our part that you suggest….but it doesn’t mean they would allow us to play. Your post makes it sound like it is no problem from their end, and that hasn’t been my experience.

  77. There is a big difference between belonging to the same political party where each faction is a minority and trying to help a group that is dominated by religious interests that have a strong motive to see you fail.

    In the latter case, I agree participation may be hopeless. In the former case, there isn’t likely to be much of a problem as long as the natural instinct for political self-preservation keeps the Huckabites at bay. How to lose an election in ten steps or less: 1. Offend natural supporters…

  78. #74 – Mark Brown, it’s worth pointing out that Elder Oaks didn’t exactly “pay a price” for his resolution.

  79. Mark Brown says:

    True enough, Ray.

    But I think it is telling that the president of BYU, an man who was as plugged into the leadership network of the church as anybody, expected that he might. Just one generation ago, the president of BYU seriously considered the possibility that he might get sacked for backing the teaching of organic evolution. That is simply incredible to me.

  80. Mark, Larry Summers got canned at Harvard because he had the audacity to state publicly that scientists should study to see if there really are sex differences that play into how women and men deal with the sciences. He got ripped apart unfairly and charged with all kinds of things that his statement didn’t warrant.

    Universities are shark pits when it comes to reputations and turf and challenges to opinion. A college president is an administrator, but s/he also is a politician in nearly every sense of those words. BYU is not immune to that, unfortunately.

    I share your concern that only a generation ago the president would be worried about backlash, but I’m not sure it was a concern only (or even primarily) about the exact issue he was addressing. I think it might have been the more sticky political issue of opposing a very powerful department and how that might be viewed, regardless of the issue at hand. I think he might have been concerned about whether the Board would back him or a group of influential others if push came to shove.

    This was prior to the Summers fiasco, but I’m sure many of the underlying issues were the same in each case. I think it is instructive how differently the two Boards reacted.

  81. So I agree with the attitude on our part that you suggest….but it doesn’t mean they would allow us to play. Your post makes it sound like it is no problem from their end, and that hasn’t been my experience.

    Well, it’s very simple. If they don’t allow you to play, you can’t play with them, and I wouldn’t waste my time trying when there are plenty of other venues where my work would be valued. I know there are evangelicals who don’t want Mormon help. I think that’s too bad, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. All of this is dependent on people being willing to work with each other. I know different kinds of evangelicals. Some of them are more amenable to working with us than others. I don’t advocate forcing ourselves on people who don’t want us there. But I don’t assume from the outset that people don’t want my help because I’m LDS.

    And yes, it does hurt a cause when the support is fragmented because people won’t work together. If evangelicals want to be that type of people, that’s too bad (for everyone), but I don’t want us to be that type of people. I would rather err on the side of being a chump.

  82. I totally agree with everything Mark Brown has said. Mark – if you are ever in Seattle, please let me buy you lunch.

    Sorry I found this discussion late. I feel very strongly that the LDS “bedding down” with the American Evangelical Christian right will hurt our cause (bringing souls to Christ) and weaken us strategically.

    #33 Natalie is also right on.

    No matter how many rats asses you have in air tight storage, politics is an unforgiving and delicate navigation. History strongly suggests that the LDS Church is horrifically bad at dealing with social political issues. The extremists in the coalition to defend marriage (you might call them Dobson-ite zealots) will further erode what little polisocial savvy the Church has.

    More of my thoughts on Prop 8 and constitutional shape shifting are here and here.