Voting For A “Non-Christian”

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 9, 2011 — 64 Comments

I truly admire it when public figures bluntly state their true views on a subject. There is so much hedging, retracting, and re-positioning in modern politics that it can be hard to pin down anyone on anything. So when Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 10,000-strong First Baptist Church of Dallas, introduced and endorsed presidential contender Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit it was something of a jolt to hear him publicly proclaim what many Christians secretly profess.

“That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult,” Jeffress told reporters here. “Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”

There it is: “Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” That’s the bottom line. No matter how conservative you are, how in-line your values are with the Republican party, a massive chunk of the grass-roots and conservative king-makers won’t embrace you if you aren’t (the right kind of) Christian. As Andrew Sullivan says, “If you turn a political party into a church, as the GOP essentially now is, sectarianism will eventually emerge.” There is only one exception to this “don’t vote for non-Christians” rule, and that is if the only choice is between Romney and Obama.

“I’m going to instruct, I’m going to advise people that it is much better to vote for a non-Christian who embraces biblical values than to vote for a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces un-biblical values.”

Of course many conservative Christians have been trying to make the argument that Obama isn’t actually a Christian for years now. So in their minds it would be non-Christian vs non-Christian (In which case thumbs-up Romney? I guess?).

According to a Pew poll, 68% of Americans are ready to vote for a Mormon president. That support or understanding is built on a “big tent” view of Christianity. If Mormons are just another flavor of Christianity, then it’s OK to vote for them (and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been on a charm offensive for years). However, that support evaporates if you aren’t seen as religious. 61% of voters see atheism as a negative when considering a candidate, no doubt numbers are similar if you have religion but are part of a “cult” and not seen as part of the Judeo-Christian mainstream. As Jeffress would say: “Private citizens can impose all kinds of religious tests.” As it stands now a third of white evangelical Protestants (34%) say they are less likely to support a Mormon. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s a potentially damaging percentage when you take into account the fact that more than half of Republicans are evangelicals.

This is a problem for the Republicans. Not because they prefer Christians, but because Christianity is losing its hold on America, or “softening” as Duke Divinity School professor Mark Chaves would put it. If you become the party of “Christians only” (outside of rare exceptions) you’re setting yourself up for long-term demographic irrelevance. As Americans become more comfortable with atheists, agnostics, and minority religions, the more a political party whose grass-roots demand theological purity suffers. Right now we are in a place where it seems only a Christian (or possibly a Jew) could be elected president, but as the calculus changes, the groups that are more agile in embracing a post-Christian future will ultimately benefit.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Lizz

    Those poor idiots. Someday people will go back to voting based on political issues and not “who’s more like me”.

    • Anonymous

      What is further amazing, to me, at least, is when I see the same thing in our communities. Wanting to vote for Aldous Tyler because he is poly is one I’ve come across recently.

  • Anonymous

    What I find amusing about all these recent-vintage (in historical context) Christians bickering over who a ‘true’ Christian is is this: They’re all wannabes. Every one of them. If you roll the clock back far enough-past the schisms in Protestantism, past the Protestant reformation, even back past the Roman acquisition of Christianity and the establishment of the Roman papacy, you’ll find the oldest branch of Christianity is Eastern Orthodox- the Byzantine branch. If anyone can claim to be ‘true’ Christians, they can.

    They probably quietly chuckle at all these kiddies squabbling amongst themselves about who is really a Christian. Or not- they’re too busy, you know- actually running a religion with an incredible history.

    • Thelettuceman

      I disagree. Orthodox Christianity is just as likely to run among each other as who is a true Christian, just like they are as ready to meddle in political affairs and bring their weight against minority religions. I would argue that no form of Christianity is true, as all sects are derived from political influences. Particularly of Constantine’s meddling.

      • Anonymous

        I agree. Constantine was the worst thing to happen to Christianity since Paul- although Paul did quite a lot of damage on his own.

        I am very glad that I walked away from the lot of them.

        • The worst thing to happen to Christianity was Christ.

          • Huh, I always thought the worst thing to happen to Christianity was that it got organized. The basic concepts of the religion are ok, but once it got organized…

          • Nothanks1

            Basic concepts like there is only one god and one true religion and all other gods and religions are false? Yeah, that sounds “ok.”

          • Don

            Whoops, I’m Don, not “Nothanks1.”

          • @Don;
            I was thinking more specifically the “love thy neighbor as yourself”, and the “how you treat the least of you is how you treat me,” etc. I don’t recall Jesus saying that other gods and religions are false, just that the only way to savlation was through him. That seems to have been an innovation of the Church (pick your version). After all, even the 10 Commandments say “I am the LORD, your god. You shall have no other god before me”, not that there aren’t any other gods.

          • Fvrnite

            Assuming that the Bible is accurate about what Jesus supposedly taught, the guy was about kindness and caring for others, hardly a bad trait. Assuming OC that Jesus actually existed, which I doubt.

            When Saul became Paul, that is when the budding religion became twisted. I you believe in a misanthropic supernatural being, then this being could have fooled Paul to prevent what would have been a kind religion into another beat humans down into the gutter method. Thomas Paine said a few things along that line.

          • Don

            Jesus promoted “one true god/ one true religion,” a perverse doctrine.

          • Thelettuceman


            Of course he did. He was a Yahwehist Jew.

        • Thelettuceman

          I think the worst thing to happen to Christianity was its elevation from just another “eastern mystery cult” to dominant state religion.

      • *COUGH* Greece *COUGH*

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    These things are not set in stone. If GOP kingmakers nominate Perry because he’s a better Christian than Romney, and Obama (predictably) eats his lunch, I would expect a reaction among rank-and-file Republicans against sectarian kingmakers, and a less sectarian party in the next few election cycles.

  • All other theological differences aside, I would guess that the largest opposition among non-LDS GOP voters to Gov. Romney is due to the fact that the LDS Church wants to convert everybody, even other Christians, to their way of thinking. A Baptist might accept a Lutheran might accept a Pentecostal might accept a Presbyterian, but a to a Mormon they’re either members or non-members (of the LDS Church) who need to be taught and baptized into the one true faith. I’m really interested to see how this will play out.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Does that really distinguish them? Don’t all the others seek the same thing, at least in the theory of their basic constitution?

    • “Romney is due to the fact that the LDS Church wants to convert everybody, even other Christians, to their way of thinking.” Most sects of christianity have missionaries dedicated to spreading their version of the word. Baptists and Lutherans are no different.

      • It’s been a few years so I may be remiss, but I thought after everybody is called up – specifically the non-members – they’re given the opportunity to make penitence, be taught, and accept the gospel. In my experience what I found in practice was that non-LDS Christian churches would like people to convert to their denomination, but if a person has “been saved” once, then that’s it – they’ve got “the grace.” For example, I met man in the Baptist church once who told me he came to them from the Presbyterians, but because he was already baptized he didn’t need it again (which he always thought was funny because they’re *Baptists*), but the LDS Church doesn’t accept anybody else’s baptism – it has to be done their way or it doesn’t count.

        • For the church, they don’t accept the baptisms of other churches because they are viewed as having fallen away from God in some way, but that ultimately it’s up to God whom He lets into heaven. Perhaps the baptism of the other church is right, but something else isn’t. They don’t know specifically for each church what’s wrong, but to be safe they do the baptism over again anyway. At least that’s how I understood it.

  • AMH

    I think the Mormon attitude on Universalism is a problem the author of this blog is not willing to address and It stinks to high holy hell in my opinion. You aren’t doing the pagan community any favors by playinhg one kind of Universlaism against another and your hiding behind politics to do it and ought to be ashamed.

    • I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Neither do I. Please explain to an ex-mormon?

      • Anonymous

        Mormons are a Universalist church. They believe in inducting DEAD Jews into the Mormon faith, often in direct conflict with these Holocaust victims own faith, in order to bring about the End of Days. What part of “they don’t consider themselves anything other than Christians” do you not comprehend? As a former pagan who worked for Marriott International, I can tell you that as a secular company they are NOT pagan friendly and neither are the flesh and blood Mormons I have known when matters of faith came up. Perhaps you have had a different introduction to them? They are rabid beasts.

        • I think you are misinterpreting the meaning and intention of this post.

          • Anonymous

            I thought your post ended on a note of wistfulness about what the world might look like if Romney was a candidate that was willing to accept minority religion status and be an advocate for minority faiths of all stripes. Is that correct? I only said what I have said because I fear what think kind of wishful thinking would and may yet do to pagans and the pagan community – to pin such hopes on Romney that is. I admit I am not a Mormon fan. That is my bias if I have one, after having worked for a supposedly secular company that is Mormon owned off and on for ten years. I also had a HUGE ruckus with the individuals that constituted my pagan roots during this time and I left the pagan community over what I considered to be a lot of psychological projection issues which is why I brought up tacit relationships with Christianity and what is really pagan. There is another conversation going on here at Patheos about the scary Fascism word in relation to the pagan community that I think is casually related to the side issue of are Mormons pagans or not. All this said, I will state again, that I don’t think I misinterpreted your idealism.

          • If I have any “wistfulness” it is for a future where minority religions are given the same opportunities as majority faiths.

            I’m not a Romney fan, in fact, I’m about the furthest thing from it. He would no doubt quail at my socialist heart. But that doesn’t stop me from analyzing how his religion is treated and extrapolate how religions even further from the accepted Christian “norm” would be viewed in our political climate.

            In short, I’m pinning nothing on nobody. Certainly not Romney.

      • Anonymous

        P.S. I also don’t think Romney was referring to Dominionism with his comments. I think he was talking about Jeffers and that it’s your wishful thiking to suggest otherwise.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          As I understand it Romney was referring to yet another speaker at the conference who hadn’t taking the podium yet but had vented the same opinion about Mormonism in the past and was expected to do it again.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      As a Unitarian Universalist Pagan I’m also curious as to what you mean.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. So a “Christian” should choose a “Christian” over a “Non-Christian” but if a Black person stated that Blacks should vote for Blacks over white candidates there would be talks about “racism” and other such “ism” comments.
    Tell you what, If you want to LOSE my vote, infer that you are a better candidate than another simply on the basis of your religious beliefs….

  • Deborah Bender

    If a Jew were to be nominated for President in a year (like 2008) when conditions strongly favored that party, I believe he or she could win. Jews are a small minority of the electorate in every state but have about double their proportional representation in the Senate, which demonstrates that non-Jews are willing to vote for Jews.

    The obstacle would be getting the nomination. The Democrats gain nothing by nominating a Jew because 1) Jews on the whole are reliable Democratic voters anyway and 2) any Jewish nominee would face relentless litmus test questioning about U. S. policy toward Israel, and almost any answer would be a pitfall. The GOP as currently constituted will not nominate a Jew.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      IIRC the Democrats put a Jew on the national ticket in 2000 — Joe Lieberman. AFAIK there was no calculation about the Jewish vote. He was simply one of the qualified cohort of stature that year. And that’s how a Jew will someday become the Democrats’ Presidential contender.

  • dr. diogenes

    I’ve been in the broom closet organizing among faith communities for a couple years now. Interfaith in our town means go talk to the Muslims; which is great, they need talking to – but pagans are not involved in ‘mainstream’ interfaith organizing (and I live in Paganistan!)

    Ran into a couple peeps at #OccypyMN today. Thanks for linking all that coverage. Cara’s been rocking that coverage!

  • I don’t understand this whole “mormons are a cult” bullshit. I used to be mormon myself. I wasn’t born mormon, I was an outsider to the church. The mormon people that I have met are among the kindest, most caring, community-oriented people I have ever met in my entire life. A hell of a lot more christ-like than other professed christians I have ever met.

    • Nicole Youngman

      For these guys, ANY other religion–maybe particularly other kinds of xianity that have significantly different theologies, different/additional sacred texts, etc–is a “cult.” Fundamentalists refer to themselves frequently as “Bible-believing xians” to distinguish themselves from all those other who, well, don’t, or aren’t literal about it, or have other books too.

      This might be useful–note the “invasion” motif:

      • Mia

        Once upon a time, the term cult was not a negative one, it was a neutral, categorical term for anthropological and historical purpose. A book discussing Roman Catholicism, for example, may list some of the saint cults. All it generally meant was a focused form and object of worship by a group of people. No evil, baby-eating blah blah blah descriptions necessary.

        So, yes, they’re a cult, and most of us are part of cults. Pretty much every religion/spirituality group is a cult by the proper definition of the term, and it is still used in that form in intelligent discussion. Or at least, it should be.

        • Nicole Youngman

          Yup, quite true. And today he social sciences use the term much differently from how it’s used in general, and that’s different from how fundamentalists use it. Sometimes sociologists will use “cult” as a term for a new/small religion and bump it up to “sect” and then “religion” as it grows.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            A theology prof once told my UU congregation that a “cult” is from the outside and a “sect” emerges from the established religion. Thus in its early days (the time of the Epistles) Christianity was a sect among the Jews and a cult to the rest of the Roman Empire.

          • Nicole Youngman

            Yup, that works too–different disciplines will use the terms a bit differently I think.

        • Nicole Youngman

          Yup, quite true. And today he social sciences use the term much differently from how it’s used in general, and that’s different from how fundamentalists use it. Sometimes sociologists will use “cult” as a term for a new/small religion and bump it up to “sect” and then “religion” as it grows.

    • I have my days when I miss the LDS Church – we were very organized, tight-knit, and all did a good job of looking out for each other. Need help moving furniture? The men were there. Need a meal, or are feeling down and want to join somebody for a meal? There’d be more than two families asking you over to join them. Need a blessing or a prayer said for you? People carried notebooks and wrote everything down for prayers later. The trouble wasn’t in getting help if you needed it, the trouble was in having to politely decline help from too many people (and that’s a pleasant problem.) My experience with the LDS Church was mostly very positive and I wish there was more of that to be found in the pagan community; I’m hopeful we’ll see more of it as the pagan community grows.

    • Fvrnite

      Some evangelical and fundamentalist type Christians have redefined the word cult into basically claiming all beliefs other than theirs are cults. Since Mormons “add” to the Bible with the Book of Mormon, to these religious bigots that means Mormonism is a cult “pretending” to be Christian.

      They use the word cult as synonymous with ” false” religion. The irony that some centuries ago their own religion was a cult seems to be overlooked by these self-righteous types.

      • Nicole Youngman


      • if you want to be technical about it, all religions are cults.

  • Charles Cosimano

    This silliness reminds me of an brief incident in the 1980 presidential campaign. The Republicans found a Baptist preacher to do the invocation at their convention, no big deal. But then the preacher said, “God cannot hear the prayers of a Jew,” about a week before the convention. Again not a really big deal, Jewish voters are not noted for being Republican so who cared. But there was a big fuss and someone asked Reagan what he thought of it. Reagan just laughed and said, “I think God heard Jesus when he prayed.”

    In any event, Reagan was running against Jimmy Carter and so no one cared very much because they would have voted for Lenin’s dog against Jimmy Carter.

  • Crick

    I would think that since so many Neo Pagan paths pattern their new found beliefs off of their former Christian beliefs that this would muddy the waters even further. We now have Wiccan missionaries (such as Selena Fox) who for a fee will go anywhere to push her beliefs, Wiccan churches and Temples, Wiccan reverends and so forth. Is there really that much difference between Neo Paganism and Christianity?
    Just saying that the line is very fine…


    • kenneth

      The line is only very fine if you don’t have the wherewithal to discern obvious fundamental differences in things. I happen to know Selena Fox. She does a lot of outreach work and a lot of civil rights sort of work on behalf of paganism, but she has never gone out looking for converts. Nor has she ever proposed that anyone vote for candidates based on the “right” sort of religion. Having spent the last half-century fighting for basic rights, we pagans actually know what the Constitution is about and have grown rather fond of it.

      • kenneth

        And for the record, that one “liked” was simply a mistake on my part, a mouse-click misfire that happened before I had my first cup of coffee!

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Crick, what you are describing is not a neoPagan drift toward Christianity, but a gradual growth in neoPagan institutional strength. This is to be applauded, not condemned.

    • Obsidia

      I’m pretty sure Selena Fox would find being called a “missionary” very inaccurate. I’ve admired her for years for simply speaking up about the Wiccan religion and she has NEVER pushed that religion in any way, shape, or form. She speaks, she educates, she informs, and she joins with others to do good in this world. YES, Crick, there is a HUGE difference between NeoPaganism and Christianity.

      • Nicole Youngman

        Right–there is a big and very important difference between proselytizing and TEACHING.

    • Fvrnite

      Crick you are distorting the facts to suit your claims. Selena Fox is not a ” missionary” and we’re being public to be free TO have our own temples and so forth, to have the same religious freedom of expression the Christians have. We’re not second class citizens and we shouldn’t be treated like one.

  • Mormons are kind and caring people, and they do believe that anyone who follows Jesus will get into heaven. However, their heaven has levels. Only Mormons get to the highest level. At least that is what my mother was told when she visited the Washington, DC temple back in the 1970s. And also what I was told when I dated a Mormon. All of this matters little, however, when one sees how willing Romney is to change his voting patterns and beliefs to fit his constituency, which is no longer liberal Massachusetts.

  • Actually Pastor Jeffress may have done us a huge favor and handed Mr. Romney the nomination.

  • Bekie Bardin

    I was under the impression that christians are suposed to love and embrace everyone, regardless of their religion or beliefs. I was raised Southern Baptist (I’ve taken a different path now) and that’s what I was taught.

    • Fvrnite

      Bekie some Xians teach all other beliefs are false and demonic. To them, Mormonism is a “cult” as they define as cult, but not some of their own Christian sects, which ironically do become cultic.

      I do hope that the Christian politics thing is dying down, but the Domnionism stuff is still around, sad to say. In their version of a Christian America, we’d be given the death penalty. Read Rushdooney’s book. It’s shocking what this guy advocated.

  • Kilmnrnock

    i know . the Christians don’t follow thier own 10 commandments . What else is new. I am happy that Rommney denounced the rederic of the prevous speaker . And Pastor Jefferies sticking his foot in his mouth was nice too. I also agree Constitine was the worst thing to happen to Xtianity, from that point on it was a powerful, state religion and was spread all over the known world by the romans and thier ilk the catholics. If Constitine hadn’t happened along, most of western europe would have avioded Xtianisation and all the nastiness that went w/ it . I would’ve been quite thrilled if Xtianity had remained an obscure middle-eastern cult . Our relationship w/the American Indians and other indiginous peoples would be very different if the origonal explorers and settlers were Pagan . Also if western europe was still pagan at the time , the Crusades wouldn’t have happened either. Alot of the hostility in the middle east against the west wouldn’t be a problem now either , we wouldn’t be so heavily involved with monothiest cults from the middle east if we were still all Pagans in the west. I believe the Xtianisation of the west has caused many of our current ills.So it goes . Kilm

    • “Our relationship w/the American Indians and other indiginous peoples would be very different if the origonal explorers and settlers were Pagan”

      What, the Pagans of the time would have hugged the First Peoples, given them flowers and been all “fair trade and cultural exchange”?

      That’s *totally* what the Pre-Christian cultures were about. >.<

      • Mia

        “That’s *totally* what the Pre-Christian cultures were about. >.< "

        I know right? A good look at European history would show otherwise, and we did have instances of pagans meeting Natives in Vinland and Greenland. Those interactions didn't always end well.

        Only difference would be that the pagans would have no problem saying they're just doing it to get more land and resources. No need for arrogant justifications like manifest destiny.

      • They would have been able to keep their religion. The roman empire in its pagan days had no problem with other religions just so long as they pledged allegiance Rome and the Emperor.

  • Kilmnrnock

    I know there was greed, and violence in the past …………but not on such a grand scale . The xtians of the time and even now w/ thier we’re better than you attitude , converting and subdueing native populations .A European pagan would have viewed an American Indian as a kindred soul , and a fellow tribal society, not a lesser group to be dominated and removed. I for one believe that pagans would have treated indiginous peoples better, that all.The biggest problem i would have still see as major threat would have been the foreign diseases. Kilm

  • Stargazer525

    Religion should have nothing to do with who gets voted in and who does’nt.This is so typical.That Christian pastor is an idiot.It has to do with experience and skills.I hope obama wins again.All Those Right Wing Fanatics do is promote their religion everytime they run for president.That should not be allowed,because it singles everyone else out.What about separation of church and state.There should be rules in place when people run.