The Christian Problem

Alan Wolfe and Ed Kilgore both have interesting things to say about Richard John Neuhaus’ article on Mitt Romney, especially the way Neuhaus has constructed the problem so as to make it impossible for Romney to escape. In Neuhaus’ telling, the issue isn’t that Romney’s Mormonism might lead him to implement bad policies as president. Rather, the issue is that Romney being president might enhance the social prestige and acceptability of Mormonism, “a new religion and, by the lights of historic Christianity, a false religion.”

To me, though, the most telling thing about the article is simply that it gives voice to what’s probably the one aspect of the Mormon issue that the press hasn’t really raised which is that theologically conservative Christians tend to deny that Mormonism is a species of Christianity, whereas Mormons insist that it is. This raises some potentially awkward issues in the way that a Jewish candidate wouldn’t. You can see that the Evangelicals for Mitt website adopts a posture of careful agnosticism (“we have explained numerous times that it is not our place to weigh in on the questions of whether Governor Romney or any other Mormon is a Christian”) about the issue but I assume that Romney, if asked, would say that yes, he is a Christian, which is an assessment a lot of Protestants and Catholics will disagree with.