It’s always fun to watch WaPo bewildered:
Now that Mitt Romney has sewn up the Republican nomination, the GOP can move beyond a tumultuous primary season. But for some of Romney’s fellow Mormons, there’s still some anxiety in the air.
“For Mormons, this is a potentially volatile moment. They are deeply proud that their faith’s most prominent adherent, Mitt Romney, is steps away from a presidential nomination and could push the faith further into the mainstream,” Matt Viser wrote in The Boston Globe.
With these feelings, though, comes a nagging fear that their beliefs, often misunderstood, will again be subjected to scrutiny, even ridicule, on a national scale.”
If the past is any indicator, their fears may be founded. In 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Salt Lake City, the symbolic and organizational heartland of Mormonism. Some 3,000 Southern Baptist volunteers went door to door with the intent to evangelize Mormons; and the denomination even produced a book called “Mormonism Unmasked,” which promised to “lift the veil from one of the greatest deceptions in the history of religion.”
When Romney delivered his “Faith in America” speech in 2007, the Southern Baptist response was to label Mormonism a “theological cult” and “false religion.”
What’s surprising in 2012 is the relative lack of anxiety on the other side, among evangelicals who for years considered Mormonism a “cult” that was to be feared, not embraced.
In fact, the relative ambivalence among prominent evangelicals about this new “Mormon moment” — and the fact that Romney’s campaign could mainstream Mormonism right into the Oval Office — could radically shift the dynamics on America’s political and religious landscape.
“You can already see the change in thinking among many evangelicals who see Mitt Romney more as the Republican candidate for president and less as a Mormon,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who declined, when asked, to label Mormonism a “cult.”
Maybe they’ve all had enough of Obama. Maybe they realize the Mormon Romney won’t be forcing them to betray their religious beliefs as Obama does. Maybe a vote for Romney is a vote for freedom of religion.