The Baptist Standard has an interesting article today about blogging religious opinions, with possibly some applicability for our own ‘nacle community and religious bloggers in general. The article quotes from a speech given by Hugh Hewitt to evangelical leaders:

Evangelical leaders shouldn’t fear expressing their beliefs in the blogosphere or be afraid of a potential Mormon president, conservative law professor and radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt recently told a group of evangelical theologians.

Hewitt, speaking in Washington after a midterm congressional election that swept many religious conservatives from power, said the next year will have “enormous significance” when it comes to faith and politics.

Interesting how Hewitt also fit Mitt Romney into his speech here. Hopefully the evangelical leaders won’t express fear of Mitt Romney in their blogs. We’ve already seen what some types of biggoted blog posts can do.

Hewitt encouraged religious believers to spread their beliefs through blogs, which have proliferated in recent years, and which he compared to the public square:

“However, you are an American citizen, and you have the right of expression of any political views you want. That’s an important distinction, and one that we should work to communicate to the pastors and the clergy and the parachurch organizations in the United States.”

One of the quickest and most effective ways to exert influence is through blogs, Hewitt said during the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, an association of religion professors. He told the theologians that each of them should be involved with a blog in some way.

Indeed, blogs have created a powerful new forum for anyone interested in expressing an opinion. In 1999, less than 20 blogs existed, Hewitt said. Now, there are more than 60 million.

Hewitt’s website, http://www.hughhewitt.com, received more than 300,000 unique visitors on election day alone, he said. He credits such interest to readers’ trust that he will provide truthful commentary on politics. And in his opinion, professors, pastors and theologians have the same potential to influence voters.

“You can be as active and engaged in civic society as you care to be, because all you need is a modem and a computer,” he said. “No part of the world will soon be closed to your corners of reason and of faith.” (emphasis added).

Hewitt cautioned evangelicals not to prejudge Romney, or make religion an issue in the upcoming campaign:

Hewitt is currently writing a book about Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints and prominent potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Hewitt believes evangelicals have the potential to help or hurt themselves in how they react to the possibility of a Mormon in the White House.

As a result of Romney’s potential, Hewitt noted, journalists inevitably will begin asking evangelical professors and pastors for their take on a potential Mormon in the White House.

He cautioned against disparaging or inappropriate comments about Romney’s faith. Every theological or philosophical argument evangelicals use against a Mormon candidate or Mormon theology eventually will be used against evangelicals, he said.

“Many in this room in the next year to year-and-a-half will be asked by students and the media, ‘What do you think about Mitt Romney?’“ he said, adding that once “secular absolutists” get them to talk about theology, they open themselves to attack.

“If we begin to ask Mitt Romney about which (Mormon) practices and doctrines he subscribes to, it cannot be capped. It will not be stopped.”

Most people have three main objections to Romney’s presence, should he win the election, Hewitt asserted: that Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City will control the White House, that a Mormon president will energize Mormon missionaries around the globe, and that it’s “irrational” to be a Mormon.

All three concerns, Hewitt said, are unfounded. And if people see evangelicals bashing Mormons for their unique beliefs, the thinking goes, secular leaders will turn their own argument against evangelicals seeking the presidency.

“They do not want us in politics and in the public square because they believe us widely to be irrational,” he said. “It would be tragic to me that in the course of rushing off to do battle with Mormon theology, you attract our common opponent,” the secular absolutists.

This is exactly the kind of level headed discussion that we all need to hear.  And, I was pleased to hear these ideas come from such a prominent and well respected evangelical, political leader. I agree that public opinion can and is shaped by the blogging world. I think history supports this conclusion. Dan Rather was essentially brought down by bloggers outside the main stream media.

I really liked Hewitt’s quote above that I emphasized in bold. I think he is exactly right. I wonder what, if any impact for good or bad we as a loose knit community called the bloggernacle make in terms of others’ impressions of the Church, or Mitt Romney, or Mormons as people. Good job Hugh, and thanks for the good advice.