Now that the question of who the 2012 Republican presidential nominee will be seems to have been answered, another question is being hotly debated in Evangelical circles: Can an Evangelical Christian vote for Mitt Romney?

It’s a question that’s been discussed all along, but for most Evangelicals, it was a question that they hoped they ultimately wouldn’t have to face. They had a number of candidates they were generally supportive of and were optimistic that one of them would surely beat Romney. It didn’t happen.

So the question that was once in the abstract is now reality and, not surprisingly, the opinions on the matter are rather forcefully being set forth in blogs, on Facebook, and in Sunday School classes.

The discussions frequently involve an assertion that voting for Romney is voting for the “lesser of two evils”, and therefore is still a vote for evil. The contrary argument usually defends the hypothetical vote for Romney on the ground that not voting for him (in our two-party system) amounts to a vote for Mr. Obama.

So why would a vote for Romney be a “vote for evil”? There are generally three reasons that are cited:

First, there is little confidence that Romney is really the conservative he says he is. Few Evangelicals (or anyone else, for the matter of that) trust him. On the social issues they care about, Evangelicals are leery of what President Romney will do as opposed to what candidate Romney has been willing to say. And they are quite aware of what he said and did as Governor of Massachusetts. I think it’s fair to say that many are convinced that Romney will say nearly anything he deems necessary to get elected.

Second, while Romney has staked out some positions that are relatively conservative, he hasn’t gone far enough to suit most Evangelicals. For example, although he has changed his position from being pro-choice to being pro-life, he still supports abortion rights in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. Romney’s website says he believes life begins at conception, and if this is really true, it stands to reason that he would drop his support of at least the first two exceptions that he allows for. He hasn’t.

Third, Romney’s Mormonism is an issue for some. A few generations ago this would have been a massive problem for Romney, and not just among Evangelicals. But times have changed, and many Evangelicals have been deeply affected by the pluralism that our nation seems to have thoroughly embraced, thus if they could be convinced that someone can restore the Judeo-Christian ethic of a by-gone era (not to suggest Romney has actually promised to do this) they’d gladly support him, even if he is a Mormon. For this reason, Romney’s religion is the least of his problems with Evangelicals.

To be sure, these are matters which legitimately ought to give any conservative Christian more than a little pause. But do these concerns categorically and utterly disqualify Romney as a candidate if there are indeed no other viable candidates for the Evangelical Christian to vote for in this year’s general election? What is the alternative? The re-election of Mr. Obama is simply unthinkable to most Evangelicals. A Romney presidency looks utopian by comparison. He would clearly do them the least amount of harm. Therefore they may view it as being in their best interests to support Romney if they aren’t prepared to simply disengage from political activity. Voting for him may be seen as nothing more than utilizing a civil mechanism in an attempt to slow the progress of evil.

I do not accept the characterization of this approach as voting for the “lesser of two evils”. I have written about this before, but I have never developed my thoughts on this subject in any detail. I plan to do that in a subsequent post. I hope to discuss a number of questions, but as I see it the matter chiefly rests on the answer to two questions: (1) What are the civil obligations of Christians in a pluralistic nation and society as opposed to a distinctively Christian nation and society? (2) What is the nature of a vote?

For now, suffice it to say that although I do not endorse Mitt Romney, I am interested in defending those Christians who find themselves reluctantly supporting him in the general election. It is a calumny to suggest that they are necessarily unprincipled hacks for doing so.

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  1. As a Tenther^2, Constitutional Conservative, Christian Conservative, member of the Grace Brethren Church (a Conservative branch of Baptist), while no longer having a Grace Brethren Church within 500 miles or so from where I live, I can categorically declare that I have already stated I will not, ever, vote for Mitt Romney.  And his Mormonism has nothing to do with it.  I have wholeheartedly endorsed Mia Love for her aim to win the House seat she is running for, and she’s a Mormon.

    While I agree another 4 years of Obama will mean the death of the US as we know it, and the death of the US Constitution, period, I also know 8 years of Romney would mean the exact same thing.  And 4 years of Romney could mean the end of the Conservative awakening (but  not necessarily).  The choice is between “flaming Socialist” and “Socialist lite”.  I choose option 3: a Conservative who will not be elected President.

    Because I cannot, ever, vote for someone who got high marks from portions of the baby killer industry.  Watch Kirk Cameron in Listen To Me and pay special attention to his final arguments.  And then decide for yourselves whether you agree or disagree with my position.  But watch the movie before you decide.

      1. The other side is scared to death if a candidate even utters the word baby. I don’t think that standard will work.

        You already granted that we can’t trust Romney, DailyKos does for some reason.

    1. If you can’t vote for Romney, just go ahead and vote for Obama. The effect will be the same. If you want to give Obama four more years to appoint SCOTUS justices, enforce ObamaCare, and rule by regulatory fiat, then man up and check his name on election day.

      1. You are making it up, there ChrisB. If I vote for Obama, he gets one vote, Romney, none.  If I vote for Romney, he gets one vote, Obama, none. If I vote for neither, they both get a big fat zero from me. Don’t try to make me responsible for what other people do.

  2. to vote for Romney because you need to “Stop Obama”, even when you are vehemently against Romney’s principles and record, certainly is a vote for the lesser of two evils. I would encourage anyone who is voting to do some independent research and vote for who they believe would be the best fit for the presidency, whether it’s one of the Reps, Dems, Independents, your congressman, your neighbor or your grandmother. Your vote is YOURS to give and is NEVER wasted. So vote for whom you want to be president, don’t vote against someone you don’t want to be president.

  3. I think the key question is what can I do make America a better place?   There is no perfect candidate.   Romney will not be perfect, but he will be a lot better than Obama.   Even if the only thing Romney does is appoint better people to the courts, it will be worth voiting for him.

  4. What does his lack of conservative credentials have to do with “evangelicals voting for Romney?”

    Can we vote for Mormons for president? Yes. Is he my first, second, or third choice? No. Is he dramatically better than a second Obama term? Absolutely.

    Remember, four years ago conservatives were wishing for Romney over McCain. Don’t make every year about the guy you wish you had. Work with what you have.

    You vote for the candidate you want in the primary. You vote against the guy you don’t want in the general.

  5. Picking a president on the basis of the church he belongs too is a poor guide. Jimmy Carter is a Baptist, but was in most respects a disaster for the nation. Bill Clinton is a Baptist, as well as a serial adulterer who lied baldfacedly to 300 million Americans.

    Denying a man the opportunity to serve in government based on his religion is a violation of Article VI of the Constitution as well as the First Amendment. It is discrimination on the basis of teligion, that is just as un-American as discrimination on the basis of race or gender.

    I served twenty years in the Air Force, and Mormons have fought in all of America’s wars in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Mormons deserve to be treated as equal citizens. We pay our taxes, and work to support our families, and perform our duties as citizens. What right does any other American have to deny a Mormon the opportunity to serve in any Federal office, solely on the basis of his religion?

    As to his personal qualities, Romney has been an honorable and loving husband, fatger and grandfather. He has been honorable as well as highly successful in rescuing failing companies. He gave tremendous service to his fellow church members as an unpaid pastor for ten years. If he were trying to do anything to please Evangelicals, he would have changed churches. His faithfulness to a minority religion that is highly unpopular among many voters demonstrates that he puts integrity above winning votes.

    1. I don’t think you have thought through the implications of your application of Article Six. Do I violate the 1st amendment if I don’t let my children smart off to their mother? Do I violate the 2nd amendment if I don’t let guns in my business? No, private citizens are not compelled to follow Article Six. It only applies to the government. In other words, we can’t have a law that forbids certain religionists from holding office. It has nothing to do with voting.

  6. I agree with you 100%.
    I am very impressed by your blog and would love to interview you for my blog: http://www.sergiopolitics.orgPlease see below questions I would like you to answer:
    What are your thoughts about Mitt Romney as a GOP candidate?What do you think about Obama and his chances for re-election?What do you think will be the main issue in November election?How do you think Social Media will play a role in this campaign? and can you compare it to Obama’s campaign of 2008?What is your opinion of Super PACs and its influence in this race?If you have some other thought you would like to share please feel free.
    Thank you so much and kind regards;

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