The essay below first appeared in September of 2007 in anticipation of the ‘08 election. This version is updated for 2011.
Would you vote for a Mormon for President? Under the right conditions, I would.
By now, the name Mitt Romney is at least vaguely familiar to most of us. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is running for President and is a Mormon. So far, his fund-raising efforts have been fruitful, and the discomfort of many Republicans with the alternatives has kept Romney in a strong position in the polls. Though his chances of being the Republican nominee are smaller now that Rick Perry has entered the race, an eventual Romney nomination is far from impossible.
Some pundits claim the Christian Right will never allow that to happen. In their view, evangelicals view Mormonism as a cult and anyone associated with Mormonism as an embodiment of evil. One pundit, who happens to be a Mormon, wrote the following:
Everyone knows that Christian evangelicals hate Mormons so badly that if they had to choose between a bribe-taking, FBI-file-stealing, relentless-lie-telling, mud-slinging former first lady, and a Mormon ex-governor who doesn’t lie, who’s still married to his first wife, and who supports the entire Christian evangelical agenda, they’d still rather die than vote for a Mormon.
Is he right? More importantly, should he be right? I for one would vote for the Mormon Romney over any liberal Democrat likely to seek office, and I’d do so with only brief hesitation. Before you brand me a nutcase or a heretic, consider the following factors behind my thinking.
Maybe Romney’s Mormonism isn’t as casual as some of us thought.
“An indoctrinated Mormon should never be elected as President”
First and second century Roman historians provide a window through which to see the context of the Roman Christians in the time surrounding Paul’s letter to them. These historians’ accounts of the life and times in Rome are second-hand. When Paul wrote Romans, historians Suetonius and Dio Cassius had not yet been born, and Tacitus was two or three years old. Of these three, Tacitus, who was a close friend of Pliny the Younger, lived closest to the time of the events surrounding the book of Romans, and his accounting of that time period is the most detailed. Tacitus wrote, “I do but relate what I have heard and what our fathers have recorded.” The works of Suetonius (Lives of the Twelve Caesars) and Dio (Roman History) both corroborate and complement that of Tacitus (The Annals).
While it is difficult to pinpoint the beginning of Christianity in Rome, it is known that “visitors from Rome” were at Pentecost (Acts 2:10), Romans were converted to Christianity before Paul’s conversion (Rom. 16:7), Christians (namely, Aquila and Priscilla) lived in Rome during the reign of Claudius (Acts 18:2), and reports of the faith of Christians in Rome had already spread “in all the world” by the time Paul wrote to them (Rom. 1:8). These factors make the presence of Christianity in Rome likely from the mid to late 30s on into the reign of Claudius. The year AD 47 was about ten years before Paul wrote Romans and ten-plus years after his conversion. It is the year in which the following narrative begins.
When Claudius was in the seventh year of his reign over the Roman Empire, his wife, Messalina, was at the height of her power. Many murders were committed at her bidding, and she forced others to commit suicide—sometimes only to quell her jealousy. As Messalina’s hate increased against Claudius’ niece, Agrippina, she was overcome with desire for another man and began an adulterous relationship with him. About a year later, when Claudius was away at the harbor city of Ostia, Messalina married the man with whom she was having an affair.