Returned Missionary’s Political Conversion

Joel McDonald for Convention DelegateIn the past, as an Evangelical Christian and as a Mormon, I voiced a lot of support for the Republican party. For me, at that time, it wasn’t a matter of fiscal, domestic, or international policy; it was a matter of emotionally supporting the imposition my accepted morality on the nation as a whole. My service as a Mormon Missionary changed my political leanings, and really helped me understand that opposing viewpoints and different lifestyles were not only something that we should embrace as a nation, but they are also necessary for balance and the upholding of the ideals of our Constitution. This more universal and pluralistic vision is what drives me not only to support the Democratic National Committee in this election year, but a candidate for president who I feel understands the principals of government expressed in the Constitution, the vision of equality for our nation which inspired the words of the Declaration of Independence, and who will be a voice for all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion.

In a larger sense, with many conservative politicians bending to the will of the evangelicals in order to retain a powerful support base, it is impossible for me, as a former active Mormon, to reconcile my rejection of Mormonism’s interference in my life with the quasi-theocratic rule of evangelical lobbyists through elected officials. I believe the connection between evangelicals and government to be against the ideals of the Constitution, and that a furtherance and strengthening of this connection can only be damaging to the United States.

Specifically, I am supporting Senator Barack Obama’s campaign to become the next President of the United States. I view Senator Obama as being the candidate of the people. The power of his campaign isn’t in some political machine that’s been running for over a decade. Obama has reached out and inspired people to get involved; and in return these people have lifted him up to where he is now. The power of his campaign rests upon the grass root efforts of people just like you and me. By contributing financially to his campaign, asking others to do the same, making phone calls, representing the campaign at a local church, walking the streets of Virginia Beach, and knocking on doors to get people out to vote, I have become a better informed citizen and feel more closely connected to my state, and my nation, than ever before.

Being inspired by all this, I’ve decided to take it up a notch and seek election as a delegate representing Virginia Beach, and the State of Virginia, at the Democratic National Convention. If nothing else, I hope that my involvement in this process will be educational. While attending convention in Denver would be wonderful; being even more involved in the political activities of our nation, and gaining a deeper understanding of these activities, is very important to me. Those interested can keep up with my efforts via my blog posts about running for delegate and my Facebook group.

So, to Mormonism’s credit, I have become more open minded than I perhaps would have been without it. In addition, the necessity of critical thinking in my exodus from the Mormon Church has provided me the skills needed to not only be emotionally involved in the political process, but intellectually involved as well. No matter who you support, or your political leanings, I encourage you to get involved in your community, your state, and your nation. Allow your voice to be heard, and attempt to understand what others are saying as well. Together, we can determine our collective future.

Joel McDonald

Converted to Mormonism at 17. Served a mission at 19. Disaffected at 21. Found the Post-Mormon Community at 22. Chapter Network Manager for Hampton Roads Post-Mormons. Host of Post-Mormon Voices, the official podcast of the Post-Mormon Community.

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10 Responses

  1. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I see (in your last paragraph, at least) that you kept the phrase ‘open minded’ and the word ‘Mormon’ in separate sentences; that’s Good, even though the ‘really’ belong in separate paragraphs (if not universes).

    Keep up the good work,
    keep trying 🙂

  2. Guy Noir, Private Eye says:

    OOPS! i mis-read it….
    “they” Mormon & phrase ‘open minded’ DON’T belong in the same thought or sentence!

    attending those gosh-awful BORING LDS services…wears away at ya, just like the frog-in-the-hot-water example (I have no idea if that’s accurate).

    anyone who wants proof ‘on the ground’ that Mormonism isn’t what it claims to be, contact me….
    put in subject: MAIN STREET PLAZA

  3. profxm says:

    Hi NxtOracle. Nice post. I admire your desire to get involved (and wish I had the time).

    I do have one comment that I often want to discuss when it comes to politics. You said, “I believe the connection between evangelicals and government to be against the ideals of the Constitution…” I can understand that you probably meant this in the sense that there should be a separation between church and state. On that, I agree. But I often take a different position when it comes to religious individuals letting their religious views influence their politics or even letting religious groups get involved in politics. Here’s why…

    I would feel hypocritical (i.e., more than I generally do) if I criticized religious individuals or religious organizations for having political views when I let my “irreligious” views influence my political views. Shouldn’t an evangelical Christian be allowed to vote his conscience, regardless of whether I agree with it or not? Shouldn’t an evangelical Christian politician be allowed to push for legislation that would disallow, say, college loans for atheists because he hates them and thinks they represent the devil (not that any have)? Shouldn’t a right wing, Christian extremist be allowed to push for legislation saying doctors who perform abortions should be jailed for life?

    I know it’s kind of crazy, but I say more power to them. What do you say?

  4. nxtOracle (Joel McDonald) says:

    I would agree that the idea behind our system of governing is to allow opposing forces to debate issues and come to compromises. However, we also keep in mind how minorities, of any type, would be affected.

    I would never deny the right of a person to strive to move this country in a direction that matches their beliefs. However, the fact that evangelicals aren’t just one group supporting the Republican party, that fact that they seems to a main group, leads to actions by conservative officials which I feel is against the intent of the Constitution.

    We should be beyond religion in politics. The traditional platform of the Republican party has nothing to do with religion, but actually about an ideology on how to govern. This platform seems to have dissolved under the weight of evangelical support.

    There are points where I leaders should have the courage to block attempts by groups to infringe upon the liberties of others. I believe I am supporting a party, and a candidate, that will do so.

    People can voice their opinions, and write their elected officials about all sorts of things. Just because they do so, doesn’t make their opinion or their desires right. The answer to all your examples is yes. They should push for whatever legislation they’d like; but they should be told no.

    …and they can disagree with me all they’d like! 😉

  5. nxtOracle (Joel McDonald) says:

    Guy Noir, Private Eye,

    Thanks for your comment. Please don’t misunderstand where I am coming from. I have LEFT the church and am not advocating the church as a means to open mindedness; just that my mission forced me to open mine to reconcile my experiences with my world view.

  6. There’s a difference between acting to promote a secular state and acting to promote a pro-religious or anti-religious state. It isn’t appropriate to promote any legislation that strikes our fancy.

    In other words, the United States isn’t a free-for-all, pure democracy; it’s a democratic republic where the constitution protects us from the undue encroachment of religion into the public sphere.

    Shouldn’t an evangelical Christian politician be allowed to push for legislation that would disallow, say, college loans for atheists because he hates them and thinks they represent the devil (not that any have)?

    That would violate our secular constitution. Any elected official advocating something like that would breach the public trust.

  7. profxm says:

    Jonathan, I agree with you that it would breach the public trust. I also agree with nxtOracle that it is probably a bad idea. Now let me get weird: Here’s where I come across as being rather naive – I actually believe that if politicians were honest with their intentions (e.g., disallowing atheists from getting scholarships), people with those views would be driven from office. I think most people are generally moderate (and statistical data bears this out). I also think most people are relatively tolerant (less support on the statistical data here). So, I say let the religious go hog wild.

    Of course, there is a component here I’m not revealing: There is pretty good evidence that when pastors tell their congregations how to vote, they drive members away. People go to church for religious advice, not political advice (at least, most people do). So, in a weird way, letting people go “hog wild” with their mixing and matching of religion and politics will ultimately end up with a few lunatics who are quickly outed and removed from office. A secular state results. My approach is really the same in effect as yours, Jonathan, but different in approach. It’s kind of libertarian (this is one way I’m kind of libertarian).

  8. nxtOracle (Joel McDonald) says:

    I think Johnathon hit the nail on the head with saying, “There’s a difference between acting to promote a secular state and acting to promote a pro-religious or anti-religious state”.

    Unfortunately, the legislation that is connected to the evangelical movement is not as clear as denying student loans to atheists. It’s about defining marriage, a woman’s right to chose, vouchers to charter schools, etc.

  9. Hellmut says:

    I will be going to the convention as well. Since I am not an American citizen, I cannot be a delegate but I will be there as a campaign representative for Obama.

  10. nxtOracle (Joel McDonald) says:


    Great! I’m thinking about going even if not elected as a delegate. Well see what the next few months brings!

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