THE BLOG
12/07/2011 02:22 pm ET Updated Feb 06, 2012

The Great Evangelical Disaster of 2012

Speaking as a former evangelical anti-abortion leader, I note that if it boils down to a choice between the Mormon or the adulterer for the Republicans in 2012, the Evangelicals who drive the Religious Right will climb the walls. Do they vote for a heretic or a lying philanderer?

As Ross Douthat writes in "The Tempting of the Christian Right":

More than any other Republican constituency, religious conservatives have good reasons to be wary of Newt Gingrich... As Speaker of the House, he undercut their claim to the moral high ground by carrying on an extramarital affair even as his party was impeaching Bill Clinton for lying under oath about adultery.

...
Now his path to the nomination depends on this conversion paying off... The real issue for religious conservatives isn't whether they can trust Gingrich. It's whether they can afford to be associated with him. Conservative Christianity in America, both evangelical and Catholic, faces a looming demographic challenge: A rising generation that is more unchurched than any before it, more liberal on issues like gay marriage, and allergic to the apocalyptic rhetoric of the Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell era...

Rallying around Newt Gingrich, effectively making him the face of Christian conservatism in this Republican primary season, would ratify all of these impressions. It isn't just that he's a master of selective moral outrage whose newfound piety has been turned to consistently partisan ends. It's that his personal history -- not only the two divorces, but also the repeated affairs and the way he behaved during the dissolution of his marriages -- makes him the most compromised champion imaginable for a movement that's laboring to keep lifelong heterosexual monogamy on a legal and cultural pedestal...

His candidacy isn't a test of religious conservatives' willingness to be good, forgiving Christians. It's a test of their ability to see their cause through outsiders' eyes, and to recognize what anointing a thrice-married adulterer as the champion of "family values" would say to the skeptical, the unconverted and above all to the young.

And then there is Mitt Romney.

He is a Mormon.

As John W. Kennedy noted for evangelical mainstream magazine Christianity Today, though some evangelicals concede that Mormons are good neighbors, the theological chasm is wide. Mormons profoundly distance themselves from orthodox Christianity in that they:

  • Do not interpret canonical Scripture as being solely the Old Testament and New Testament. They add the Book of Mormon and founder Joseph Smith's other works, The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants.
  • Do not believe in the Trinity. Mormons believe God the Father and God the Son have fleshly bodies and that the Holy Ghost is a spirit man.
  • Teach that God was once a finite being who achieved his exalted rank by "progressing."
  • Based on supernatural visitations in the 1820s, Smith believed he was called to restore the true Christian church that had been lost 16 centuries earlier. According to this great apostasy, God told Smith that all churches -- with specific reference to Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians -- were wrong, and to join none.

"On every major doctrine, the fundamental teachings of evangelical Christianity and Mormon doctrine are diametrically opposed," says Norman Geisler, dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary.

If you think that in their hearts any evangelicals can vote comfortably for what they'd call a heretic or worse, think again.

And so the great evangelical disaster of 2012 is on the way.

And here's the supreme irony: the man the evangelicals who have hijacked the Republican Party hate most -- President Obama -- is a faithful married man, good father and professing Christian who has described his born-again experience in detail.

But he's "liberal," black and perhaps "not born in America," or a "Muslim," or "communist," or "the Antichrist," or something else pretty terrible: actually Christ-like in his compassion for the poor!

This is considered a great sin by evangelicals now that most of them are actually followers of Ayn Rand, not Jesus.

So the evangelicals will be voting for either Romney or Gingrich holding their noses. This bodes badly for the Republicans.

In fact some evangelicals may even be forced to sit out the election and/or just deny it's happening at all just as they already deny global warming.

Maybe they will take to a hilltop and await the Return Of Christ and/or the return of Sarah Palin, whichever comes first.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway