For those engaged in the perennially fun pastime of Mitt Romney watching, one of the more interesting places to go is the Evangelicals for Mitt blog. They had an interesting post a while back on what a pro-Romney Evangelical theology would look like. Charles Mitchell writes:
While some of our e-mailers seem to think we here at EFM are Mormons, we are evangelical Christians, which means we think reading the Bible is important. . . . Well, as we discuss Gov. Romney with evangelicals across the country, one frequent refrain is that folks want some sort of example from Scripture that God has worked through unbelieving rulers to the benefit of His people.
The answer, it would seem, lies in the Book of Ezra. There, Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia, acts as Godâ€™s instrument in restoring the Jews to the land of Israel after the Babylonian captivity. Mitchell goes on to write:
So God worked through Cyrus–and his successors–to bring the exiles back to Jerusalem. To my mind, this data point thoroughly dispels the idea that our almighty Lord can or will only work through a leader with certain views. If He wants to, He can, because He can do all things–and He has done this particular thing before. Period. . . . So let’s put that aside, because any way you slice it, examining Ezra shows that the idea that God can only work through an orthodox leader is clearly not biblical. Our Lord worked through Cyrus and his successors; certainly He could work through a President Romney, too. And should there be a President Romney, it will only be because He allowed it to happen. Of both of these we have absolute conviction, and the rest is gravy.
It is not a bad little bit of political exegesis. What is interesting to me is the insight that it gives into the conservative Protestant theological imagination. The conclusion strikes me as rather obvious, but thinking about it I realize that it is because I grew up with Mormon arguments along these lines. There has always been a sense in which Mormons have lived in countries ruled by unbelievers. Hence, Mormons cannot ever see God at work in the acts of the state (mind you, I donâ€™t think that God works with any regularity through states) unless one is willing to see God at work amongst the unbelievers. Indeed, the idea is in some sense written into Mormon scripture. The Doctrine & Covenants speaks of God raising up righteous men in the American founding. Yet historical novels from Deseret Book notwithstanding, the American Founders were not unbaptized Mormons. Adams was a Unitarian. Washington was a quasi-conforming Episcopalian. Jefferson and Franklin were Deists. Yet Mormons have little trouble seeing these men as instruments of Godâ€™s will. Protestants, in contrast, suffer from the theological handicap of living in a Protestant country. Sure there are differences between Protestants, but a Methodist president doesnâ€™t seem all that religiously different to a Baptist. Faced with the prospect of a truly religiously different president, conservative Protestants must either consign him to the forces of the godless, or else play theological catch up with the Mormons.