Over at the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, Ben Alpers observes the relative lack of attention paid to the fact that the Romney-Ryan ticket is the first from a major party without a Protestant candidate. He correctly points out that a Mormon-Catholic alliance, supported by a largely Evangelical base, represents a dramatic shift from an earlier era, when both anti-Mormon and anti-Catholic sentiments were integral to American nativism. The two groups have had a tough time with one another as well, as described in Matthew J. Grow’s colorfully titled 2004 Church History article, “The Whore of Babylon and the Abomination of Abominations: Nineteenth-Century Catholic and Mormon Mutual Perceptions and Religious Identity.”
The question remains: if we have come so far in our religious tolerance that these former enemies can become allies, what are they allied against?” It seems to me that this sort of decrease in tension between Christian sects is a circling of wagons against what they imagine to be “the secular.” Doctrinal differences can be overlooked if ideological stances match up. While Romney, Ryan, and their Evangelical supporters have very different soteriological beliefs, they share a particular American Christian worldview that transcends sectarian divides. In the upcoming months, expect an increase in salvos leveled at the “secular left,” which would include the media, liberals, and of course, Barack Obama. The blending of Christianities in the Republican ticket allows the GOP to present a unified front against not only this imagined godless left, but also against Islam, which did not get an invitation to this breakdown of sectarianism.