Friday, July 13, 2007

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life News Items

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life had a few news items that were of interest to me in their weekly update.

The first is titled "How Muslims Compare With Other Religious Americans: In Intensity of Religious Identity, Not Unlike Evangelicals." This article by Robert Ruby and Greg Smith begins by stating:

Although Muslims constitute a small minority in the United States, and their holy book and many of their religious rituals are distinctly their own, Muslim Americans are by no means "the other" when it comes to religious life or politics in the United States. In many ways, they stand out not so much for their differences as for their similarities with other religious groups.

The article then develops this notion by examining various areas including the importance of religion in life, the question of religious and national identity as primary, and views on scriptural literalism. The article includes charts that help compare American Muslim perspectives with those of Protestants and Roman Catholics.

The second news item of interest is titled "Romney Faces Uphill Battle for Evangelical Voters." Barbara Bradley Haggerty writes that:

Nearly a half-century after John F. Kennedy broke the Catholic barrier to the presidency, Mitt Romney is attempting a similar feat.

His Mormon faith raises the fur of some conservative Christians. Many evangelical believers — a group that Romney must win over to prevail in the primaries — say the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not Christianity.

The article goes on to say that Romney's ability to woo evangelical Republicans in order to win the primaries will not be easy. Negative evangelical attidues on a Mormon presidential candidate are shaped by the history of American negative attitudes towards the "religious other" from the perspective of Protestantism, and its views related to "cults." Two evangelicals are quoted in this news piece as they share their perspectives on Mormonism and Romney that reflects such views:

Mary Doren, a stay-at-home mom, said Romney's Mormon faith was a deal breaker.

"I'm a Christian," Doren said. "I don't think a Mormon or a Catholic is a Christian."

Suzanne Clackey, who home schools her children, echoed similar theological concerns.

"My understanding is they don't believe in the triune God, and so that would bother me," she said.

As the article nears its conclusion the author makes the following observations which seem to indicate that the political ramifications of religious pluralism in America represent a significant theological issue for evangelicalism:

Whether Romney will deter Christians from voting for him remains to be seen, but John Green, a senior fellow at Pew Research Center says that it might. Polls show that Americans say they are less comfortable with the idea of a Mormon president than with a Catholic, Protestant or Jew, though Mormons rank higher than Muslims or atheists.

"When asked in polls whether they would vote for a Mormon candidate, a substantial minority of conservative Christians say they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate," Green notes. "And when those questions are followed up, there's a significant group that says there's no chance that they would vote for a Mormon candidate."

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