This is an early indication that Mormonism will not be as much of a problem for Romney with conservative Christians as his opponent would wish it to be. I am not the world’s biggest Joel Osteen fan — I disagree, in general, with what’s called the “prosperity Gospel” — but he reaches a lot of people, and, my reservations aside, I recognize that he does good work reaching people with the Good News. The fact that he acknowledges so forthrightly that Mormons are Christians is very important, culturally and politically.
Even more important is that even conservative Christians who disagree with that opinion are unlikely to hold Mormonism against Romney. A southern fundamentalist-Christian pastor of my e-mail acquaintance expressed his disagreement with Osteen’s view, and accused Mormons of not being true Christians because they don’t teach “what the Bible says” and put forward, instead, “another Gospel.” So I asked him: Are most of the people you know who agree with you on this hostile to Romney’s campaign as a result? He responded, basically: No. He himself finds Romney “preferable to the incumbent” — “we are not choosing a theologian-in-chief” — and says only a “small minority” will vote against Romney on the Mormon issue.
Consider that the larger group harboring anti-Mormon sentiments in this country — Left secularists who disdain all conservative religions — wouldn’t vote for Romney even if Romney were an atheist, and Mormonism looks to be not much of a problem for Romney in this campaign. Indeed, I would contend that it might well be a net plus: I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who are like me, who are not Mormon but are very impressed with the LDS church, and even more so with the lives and characters of the Mormons they’ve met. (As I wrote here years ago: nicest people in the world.)