After presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave his highly anticipated speech addressing his Mormon faith Thursday, it only strengthened theologian Wayne Grudem's October endorsement. Grudem, a research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary, said that the speech was an excellent outline on many ideas relating to freedom of religion and the role of religion in politics. Grudem spoke with Christianity Today about the speech and how others have reacted to his endorsement.
How have other evangelicals responded to your endorsement of Mitt Romney?
Many have said quietly, 'I think you're right, and I agree with you.' Many have said, 'We'll wait and see.' Many have decided to endorse another candidate. I've gotten a few emails from unknown people who just want to argue with specific tenets of Mormonism, and I haven't even answered those because it doesn't seem to me to be relevant. It's surprising to me how many people say, 'I think you're right.' Now others are supporting other candidates, and I'm glad that we have a wide, open primary season.
What do you think the highlights were from the speech?
I thought it was excellent in several ways. If anything, my endorsement of him is even stronger if anything after reading that speech. I thought he rightly outlined ways religious beliefs should and should not be a legitimate question regarding suitability for public office. He said that his Mormon faith gave him moral principles that were common to many Americans, which were important in the whole history of America.
But he also said that he thought questions about different doctrines of his or anybody else's faith were out of bounds, they are inappropriate for someone to ask someone as a candidate for president because that's not relevant for his suitability for office. I thought that was a good distinction.
I think he was also right in describing radical Islamic religion as probably the single greatest threat to America. That's the other extreme of religion trying to use force to impose what he called a theocratic tyranny. That kind of movement would inflict boundless suffering if given the chance. He is going to stand firmly against that. I'm glad for that.
I was very thankful to see his courage in saying that he wouldn't back down or jettison his personal religious faith just for political convenience. It was important to him, and if people reject him then so be itthat took courage.
I thought he was courageous also to say that the state-sponsored religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches. He saw the danger of state religion and talked about the empty cathedrals in Europe.
How much should a candidates' faith be taken into consideration?
In America today, the political reality is that no conservative will be elected to the president, without the support of evangelical Christians. If evangelical Christians won't support any non-evangelical, it functions as a religious test for office that the constitution says should not happen.
If as evangelicals we are going to support the principles on which our nation was founded, then we need to defend the principles of religious liberty. That means that non-evangelicals are not only full citizens but eligible for office as well. I would hate to see us come to the point where we would essentially be saying non-evangelicals are welcome to be citizens but we will never ever allow them to become president.
I strongly disagree with Mormonism as a religious system. I think it's inconsistent with teachings of the Bible in a number of ways, but that's not the question in this campaign. The question is who is the most qualified candidate. I think Romney is better qualifiedmore than anyone else with his Harvard business, Harvard law degree, experience as governor of Massachusetts, experience as head of the Salt Lake City Olympic committee, one of the most successful businessmen in the United States. He's incredibly bright and competent, and I think he stands for the principles that Americans should support.
Anyway, I was very happy with the speech. It made me proud of a country in which a candidate could speak so clearly and openly about the way that religion should and should not influence the political response.
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David Neff wrote about "What Evangelicals Heard in Romney's 'Faith in America' Speech." Collin Hansen's Theology in the News column also addressed Romney's speech.
The full text of the address is available from Romney's campaign site.
Wayne Grudem wrote about "Why Evangelicals Should Support Romney" in October.