mouw.jpgFuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw, a leading evangelical voice, didn’t have very kind words for Mitt Romney before his speech:

In the few times he’s addressed the [religion] issue, he talks about the importance of religious values and dips into evangelical language, and neither of those is very impressive to evangelicals. Evangelicals aren’t very reassured when he’s saying something that makes him sound like us when he really isn’t like us…. it borders on deception.

Post-speech, though, Mouw has really come around. Here’s a quick Q&A with him about Romney’s performance:
So how did Romney do?

He did a terrific job. Only the most die-hard counter-cult person would question the integrity with which he spoke as a Mormon. It was one of the better statements in recent years on pluralism. I also found it very moving in parts.

Which parts?

The rather dramatic way in which he said, in so many words, that “I am a Mormon and I’m not going to back off.” And at the same time he said “I’m committed to American values and am not going to say my faith doesn’t guide me, but as a public official, the specifics of my faith will not set my agenda.”
I was also pleased that he mentioned his father marching with Dr. Martin Luther King. He was referring to a time before the Mormon Church had received the so-called revelation about reversing discrimination. That signaled a political allegiance to American values even when the church did not endorse it. It was a brilliant move.

What about when he said that he believes that Jesus Christ is the savior for humankind—was he pandering to evangelicals?

No, that’s standard Mormon stuff, unlike the times when he’s spoken about Jesus as his personal savoir. The Book of Mormon is filled with references to Jesus as the savior for humankind. It was truly Mormon but it resonated with us [evangelicals]…. I think a lot of people probably said he sounds like us, and at the same time this guy’s not trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

So do you think he won a few skeptical evangelicals over?

There is always going to be a portion of evangelicals who distrust anything associated with Mormonism, so he’s not going to convince them. But I think for evangelicals who are looking for leadership that takes our kinds of religious and family values seriously, my guess is that he did not completely reduce the concerns of evangelicals, but he greatly lowered the anxiety level about a Mormon president.


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