Tag Archives: 2012 presidential election

Is Mormonism the New Evangelicalism?

by Rebecca Borison

With Mitt Romney’s status as Republican presidential candidate now official, Americans have begun in earnest to analyze his characteristics and qualifications. The first topic up for debate seems to be that fact that Romney is a practicing Mormon. The talk of Romney’s affiliation with Mormonism is highly reminiscent of the 1976 elections and Jimmy Carter’s Evangelicalism, which brings to the table an important question: should the President’s religion matter?

In 1976, Moment featured an article by Martin E. Marty titled “Is Carter an Evangelical?” In the article, Marty offers an informative guide to Evangelical Christianity and explores the validity of the Jewish concern over Carter’s religion. Thirty-six years ago, most Americans were fairly clueless about what Evangelical Christianity actually meant; various Christian sects often got bundled together under one umbrella. “Evangelicals have been overlooked in part because they tend to be lumped in the public eye with Fundamentalists,” Marty explains.

Once Marty comes up with a clearer definition of Evangelicalism, he discusses the Evangelical view on Judaism: they believe that a Jewish homeland in Israel fulfills the biblical prophecy and will eventually lead to the Second Coming of Jesus. According to Marty, “nothing in [Carter’s] Evangelical Southern Baptist roots would predispose him to express sentiments that might make Israel’s friends nervous.”

On an individual level, however, Evangelicals (in the 1970s, at least) had very little interaction with Jews and tended to express anti-Semitic notions. Many Evangelicals grow up in the South, where Jews make up a very small minority. Marty refers to a book called Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism and explains that “among ten surveyed denominations, Southern Baptists were least likely to defend the right of Jews to be free of discrimination at vacation resorts, least ready to be sensitive in an anti-Semitic incident, more likely than any other denomination to feel that Jews’ loyalties to Israel might compromise their devotion to America,” and ranked second-highest on an overall “index of anti-Semitic beliefs.”

So while Carter might bring pro-Israel values to his presidency, Jews (and Americans in general) could have been justified in worrying about his ability to be open-minded and pluralistic. In a campaign document called Why Not the Best, Carter attempted to prove that he is more open than most Evangelicals. But according to Marty, Jews still had some reason to worry: “Jews are wary of Carter’s context. To them he is from a distant region, a strange faith, given to expressions of piety that are uncongenial to them.”

Thirty-six years later, we still worry. In the latest issue of Moment, nine rabbis answered the question “Will it matter to Jews if there is a Mormon President?” Across the board, the rabbis strove to ignore labels and judge a candidate for his actions as opposed to his religion. It is important to carefully evaluate the presidential candidates, but simply making assumptions based on religious affiliation would be counter to the religious freedom America proudly upholds.

Ron Paul’s Unkosher Track Record

by Amanda Walgrove

Representative Ron Paul announced his bid for the presidency over a week ago, but not before taking a hit from the Republican Jewish Coalition. Foreseeing the problems that Paul’s candidacy would cause for Jewish Republicans, RJC executive director Matt Brooks took the precaution of expressing concern about Paul a day before the Texas congressman announced his campaign, saying that Paul’s “misguided and extreme views” are not representative of the Republican Party. While Brooks is correct, the Republicans have yet to produce many convincing contenders who could pull the spotlight away from Paul and highlight views toward Israel that can be representative of the GOP. Some say that his policies don’t reflect any anti-Jewish sentiments, but rather just a broad isolationist view, which happens to include cutting aid to Israel. But this isn’t the first time that Paul has made RJC nervous. During his campaign for the 2008 election, Paul was barred from the RJC’s Candidate’s Forum due to his stance against providing further foreign aid to Israel.

A former obstetrician, Paul transitioned into politics because of his interest in reinstating the gold standard that Nixon slashed. While Paul ran as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008, having his name on the Republican ticket for 2012 doesn’t sit well with all GOP members. Especially during a time of turmoil in the Middle East and with all eyes on Israel, the foreign policy of the winner of the 2012 election will be crucial in garnering support. Paul already has an infamously unpopular track record with his policy. He has suggested cutting $3 billion in annual defense assistance to Israel as well as denying funds to its Arab neighbors. Brooks asserted that Paul appeals to only a narrow constituency in the U.S. electorate, citing his “dangerous isolationist vision” for the U.S. and harsh criticism of Israel. As a prime example of this, Paul openly condemned the raid and murder of Osama Bin Laden.

It’s not only on the topic of Israel that Paul’s viewpoints place him squarely outside the mainstream. A recent Tablet Magazine article highlighted some of the more offensive musings of Paul’s political career. Most outrageously, in a New Republic article from 2008, James Kirchick revealed how Paul’s newsletters—then a conventional way for hardline conservatives to communicate with the populace—contained statements that were not only disrespectful to Jews but were also racist and offensive to homosexuals. While Paul’s adversaries have plenty of opportunities to easily inflame the severity of some of these statements, many believe that as a presidential candidate, Paul should account for some of these previous transgressions. Many laud Paul for his consistency, but considering his track record, consistency may not be an attractive quality. His inability to reform his idealistic objectives over time makes him a bit of an outcast, and an unsuitably inflexible candidate.

Given the oddities of Paul’s career, an NPR article considered the curious flocking of youths to Paul’s campaign, evident by the substantial number of twenty-somethings turning up at his rallies and book signings. Sixteen-year-old Rob Gray wasn’t surprised by the young audience, offering that it’s just “the old canard of the young being more open-minded than the old.” Some attendees at the most recent book signing for Liberty Defined mentioned that they may someday have to support a candidate with a better chance of winning, but not now.

Although the third time may not be a charm for Ron Paul, for now, his candidacy mostly seems to be stirring up controversy, especially among RJC and its supporters who are left biting their nails until a fresh face emerges. With Newt Gingrich losing his support, it’s time for a GOP candidate who condones America’s aid to Israel to step up to the plate if the Republicans want to retain their support of the Jewish homeland.