Under the banner of Romney

At some point, the question of Mitt Romney’s faith will come up and loom much larger than any of his business past. It will come up not just in circles of evangelical conservatives, but as a controversial subject necessary for a healthy discussion of religion and politics. Or at least it should.

I have nothing at all against Mormons themselves, and tend not to hold peoples’ faith against them (or try not to) unnecessarily. But faith is an important question when it comes to our leaders, and religion makes me nervous. Or rather the mixture of religion and political power makes me nervous. As well it should.

Electing an evangelical to the presidency makes me nervous, too, and I’d be equally cautious about a Muslim or a Scientologist or any other person hailing from a faith that might affect their decisions in the Oval Office. Which actually describes most faiths, or at least those that people hold with conviction.

Am I an awful person for saying so? Perhaps. It is at least a little taboo to go too far down this particular rabbit hole.

To be honest, I don’t think that cleaving to a religious belief system disqualifies anyone from holding high office, or building a religious building near Ground Zero, or doing much of anything else for that matter. But religion, like any other belief or practice, really should weigh into our thinking and our own decision-making at the ballot box.

For one thing, Mormonism isn’t “open” in the way that many other Christian denominations are, at least to the non-Mormon public.

“The most common and visible target for charges of suspicious secrecy in the Mormon religion are the temples,” according to PBS. “After dedication, these buildings are closed to the public and church members do not talk openly about the rituals that take place within. The church holds that the temple and its rituals are sacred and therefore private, not secret. They maintain that early Christianity featured similar special practices and bodies of knowledge that were kept quiet to preserve their sacred nature.”

Secrecy is a word that often comes up when discussing government; it also comes up when discussing the more cult-like elements of the Roman Catholic Church, or other straight-up cults for that matter. Or Scientology. It’s also a word that anyone concerned with civil liberties should find at least a tiny bit troubling and even a bit frightening. How would this secrecy affect Romney’s policies as President of the United States of America? What sort of double standard would be applied to Mormon and non-Mormon groups? Who knows?

Then there is the Romney family’s polygamist past:

His paternal great-grandfathers, Miles Park Romney and Helaman Pratt, were born in the United States but lived for decades in Mexico. Pratt was a Mormon missionary there; Miles Park Romney left Utah for Mexico with a tribe of polygamous Mormons after the practice was outlawed in the United States in 1890.

Pratt had five wives. Miles Park Romney had four, and 30 children, one of whom was Gaskell Romney. The polygamy stopped at Gaskell, who had a single wife and seven children. One of the children, George, was born in a Mormon colony in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, although he was nonetheless a U.S. citizen. He was Mitt’s father.

If you’ve read Under the Banner of Heaven (and you should if you haven’t) you’ll understand that the concerns surrounding the FLDS church go much deeper than simply having several wives. Obama, it turns out, has family in his past with multiple wives as well, but there remains a glaring difference: Obama does not hail from any African tribal religious tradition. Romney is very much a Mormon – though not a fundamentalist.

“You know, the principles and values taught to me by faith are values I aspire to live by and are as American as motherhood and apple pie,” Romney told The Atlantic. (Motherhood is American?) “My faith believes in family, believes in Jesus Christ. It believes in serving one’s neighbor and one’s community. It believes in military service. It believes in patriotism; it actually believes this nation had an inspired founding. It is in some respects a quintessentially American faith.”

It is, indeed, a quintessentially American faith, and in many respects I think it is inevitable that eventually an American president will be Mormon. Fine, so what are the implications of that inevitability? Has Mormonism gone “mainstream” with the American public? Is it not so different than the now all-but-erased Catholic/Protestant divide? Religion is a huge part of the national conversation in this country, and in spite of our church-state separation, it looms larger here than almost anywhere else in the Western world.

Do I think we should disqualify Romney because he’s Mormon? No, I don’t. I know lots of Mormons, and have family who are Mormons, and I wouldn’t want to disqualify any of them simply for holding a set of beliefs. I don’t mean to pen this in the hopes of offending anyone who happens to be Mormon, or to say that their faith is any less meaningful or important than any other. I’m fairly egalitarian in that sense: anyone should be able to hold any religious belief they choose, and those of us who do not hold the same faith should be able to critique those beliefs on their own terms.

Part of adopting a faith is answering critiques about it, and Romney is going to have to do that if he wants a shot at the White House. There is no reason his Mormonism should be “off limits” either in the press or in religious circles (or anti-religious circles, for that matter.) It certainly won’t be off limits at the voting booth.

There’s a right and a wrong way to do this, of course. The “Mormonism is a cult” card isn’t particularly helpful, even if that secrecy I mentioned earlier does have the faintest whiff of cult to it. Nor is religion necessarily the number one most important component of a candidate’s fitness to be president.

But it’s a part of the whole package, and unlike race, religion is something we choose for ourselves. There is nothing bigoted about discussing what having a Mormon president would mean for this country, any more than asking that same question of an atheist, Buddhist, or Baptist.

 

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285 thoughts on “Under the banner of Romney

  1. I don’t have any problem electing a Mormon, in general. But the thought of electing a Pratt is quite a bit different than merely a Mormon. The difference between electing Barney Frank and a Borgia, if you will.

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      • No, because Pratt is basically the biggest name in the Mormon community. Because the one thing you don’t do in Mormonland is make fun of them. Because they took over after Smith. That sort of a name is practically at the level of “titular head of the Mormon Community”

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                • Isn’t Romney a rich due who fancies running the country? I suspect that to the extent there is any kind of collective action among the mega rich you’re more likely to see money taking care of its own than dividing along religious lines.

                  I’m also confused about Their aims. Apparently neither Bush or Obama was not enough to get Them to act against either but the prospect of Romney would be. Is Their political interest limited to making sure the President is not too far from the Christian mainstream?

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                  • To a large extent, it is money looking after money, as they act politically. So we get O’Neill’s comment about “economic terrorists” — which aptly describes their level of frustration at “what do you mean they’re ignoring us???” when they discovered that a substantial portion of the TeaPartyCongress would rather listen to their priests instead of their backers.

                    Obama did exactly what they wanted — shoveled money at them and helped them get richer.

                    Bush did exactly what they wanted — “deregulated” and helped them get richer.

                    I’m not certain they’re entirely aware of what they’re trying for, right now, but it appears to be a wealth-aggregation scheme, where they keep the middle/lower class too poor/desperate to take their money away ever again. Doubt it’ll work (this gen of rich folks ain’t as smart as their granddaddies), but it’s what they’re trying for.

                    ‘snot just them. Lotta folks got agendas they don’t bother to think about. Mind’s me, I might as well take a hard look at what DD & company are doing…

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      • i love the part where the brothers are in jail and brother 1 of tells brother 2 that God said that he should kill brother 2.  brother 1 chokes out brother 2 using a bar between the adjoining cells as leverage.  brother 2 doesn’t die and comes back to the cell eventually.  brother one sez:  “God still wants me to kill you”.  Brother 2, “let me see what God says.  God says you shouldn’t kill me”.  hilarious.

         

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    • In the circles I travel, it’s been the left insinuating evangelicals wouldn’t accept a Mormon as the GOP nominee. There was a well-pumped essay in 2011 by a fundie named Warren Cole Smith that they and the media tried to generate into an intraparty stink:

      http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/january-27-2012/the-evangelical-vote/10177/

      Didn’t work.

      BTW, Dems are less likely to vote for a Mormon, acc to, well, everybody:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2011/10/mitt_romney_s_mormon_cult_controversy_anti_mormonism_is_the_prej.html

      In the Pew poll, 31 percent of Democrats, compared to 23 percent of Republicans, said they’d be less likely to support a candidate if he were Mormon. In the Quinnipiac poll, 46 percent of Democrats, compared to 29 percent of Republicans, said they’d be uncomfortable with a Mormon president. In the Gallup poll, 27 percent of Democrats, compared to 18 percent of Republicans, said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon for president. In the Poll Position survey, 37 percent of Democrats said they’d never vote for a Mormon, compared to 26 percent of Republicans.

      And of course, Republicans have more reason to reconsider their answer at this moment than do Dems…

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      • the lefty blogosphere has been waiting for the righty blogosphere to come out with the “War on Mormonism” angle.  the righty sphere and Rmoney’s advisors have been signaling that they would do so for a while now.  i wonder who had Rubin in the pool.  it has been pretty clear that the victimhood would be coming down the pike.

        i have no reason to dispute your claims re: who is more or less likely to vote for him.

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        • Thank God, another epistemological crisis averted. All it took was a link to 3 major polls via the thoroughly leftish Slate.com.  If only they were all so easy.

          As for the War on Mormonism, last year, it was more the left hoping to stir up shit among the right.  They’re far too clever for a frontal assault.  I don’t know where Erik’s piece here fts into that

          To be honest, I don’t think that cleaving to a religious belief system disqualifies anyone from holding high office, or building a religious building near Ground Zero, or doing much of anything else for that matter. But religion, like any other belief or practice, really should weigh into our thinking and our own decision-making at the ballot box.

          For one thing, Mormonism isn’t “open” in the way that many other Christian denominations are, at least to the non-Mormon public.

          …and I don’t disagree with his summation, that “there is nothing bigoted about discussing what having a Mormon president would mean for this country, any more than asking that same question of an atheist, Buddhist, or Baptist.”

          But clearly we’re not at Barney the Ecumenical Dinosaur yet.

          _____________________________

          http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/press_box/2008/10/the_liberal_media_and_how_to_stop_it.html

          *”A similarly lopsided count of media liberals can be found at Slate, where we report this week that Obama got 55 of the 57 votes cast by staffers and contributors. That’s an extraordinary turnout. I doubt that Obama will garner 96 percent even in his home precinct of Hyde Park.”

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          • i didn’t check your links.  i had no reason to doubt what you were saying.  passed the sniff test for me, comports with my own experiences, etc.  this isn’t a zero sum game for me and you were going in a direction that’s not as interesting for me.  people can vote or not vote for whomever they want for whatever reason.

            i also believe you when you say that you believe that the left was egging on the right last year.  my recollection was that the bar was set very low as to what consitutes a “war”.  in some instances, just discussing the fact that Rmoney is a mormon was beyond the pale.

             

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            • It was a relief to skip the epistemological war part, Mr. Joey.  The rest was just being sardonic about the internet as a species.

              “The circles I travel in” referred to orbits in my writing about religion & the Founding, which is populated by academics, almost all of whom are leftish.  However, the link I provided from PBS does illustrate the attempt to elevate the anti-Mormonism of the rather obscure Warren Cole Smith to battle stations within the Religious Right.

              It didn’t work.

              In support of Erik’s OP, here’s some Mormons on Romney’s heir apparency:

              http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/53888762-90/romney-lds-utah-mormon.html.csp

              The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is likely to see more scrutiny than it did during the Olympics — now through a political lens.

              Ben Park, an LDS doctoral student at the University of Cambridge in England, said Mormons will face a host of new perspectives.

              “Prior to this,” Park writes in an email, “it’s only been evangelicals and the religious right. … This will be the first time they confront thoughtful secular criticisms — the kind that can’t be shrugged off as anti-Mormon bigotry and will actually cause reflection.”

              That may prompt a bit of a pause with some of the LDS faithful, who find themselves hopeful for a candidate but also wary of the spotlight.

              “There is a curious mixture of excitement and apprehension [about Romney’s likely nomination] among Mormons, whatever their political persuasion,” says LDS writer and blogger Jana Riess in Cincinnati. “We are hyperaware of our minority status in America and concerned that increased public scrutiny of our faith will prove painful.”

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              • i would hope they would welcome thoughtful secular criticisms but would wager (if able) that they retreat to the “everything is anti-Mormon bigotry” stance bolstered by “blame the media”.  that path is the “hip” way to do things these days.

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      • I’m wondering though how that compares with evangelicals.  The Left doesn’t trust those of a markedly religious bent, with good reason.  I see Romney wrapping himself in God and the Flag, and I shudder.  More “Faith-Based Initiatives”.  Yay.

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          • Which is pretty much a nice way of saying the open hostility toward all manner of religion by the Left.
            Until they’re able to close every church in the nation, they’re probably going to have a problem with that.

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      • In the circles I travel, it’s been the left insinuating evangelicals wouldn’t accept a Mormon as the GOP nominee.

        Yeah, right. That must be why in every primary state where evangelical Christians comprised more than 50 percent of the voting pool, Romney lost.  Obviously, it’s the left’s fault.

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          • Those Bible Bangers know a thing or three about LDS trying to horn in on their schtick.   The Evangelicals are growing increasingly sick and tired of Romney trying to say he’s a Christian, as Jews grit their teeth when Christians try to convince them Jesus was just a Jew.

            Truth is, Plastic Man Romney doesn’t believe in anything but himself and you know it.   And so do the Evangelicals.   They’ll make a few faint smiles (and try to hold down their gorge) when Romney tries to tell ’em how he’s a big ol’ Christian.   But mark my words, such people will pull the curtain closed on the voting booth and go for Obama before they’ll tolerate Plastic Man taking the oath of office on the Book of Mormon.

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          • I’m sure there are some who won’t but, yes, all the deep-red evangelical states will still be deep red come November. However, I took your point to be that lefties were more concerned about Mitt’s religion than evangelicals, and I don’t believe that’s the case. Otherwise, second-rate candidates like Santorum and Gingrich wouldn’t have been able to beat Romney by relatively large margins in evangelical strongholds.

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      • Those polls say less than one would think. When those polls were taken, “Vote for a Mormon”, is tightly linked with “Vote for Romney”. My guess is the Republican number will be lower today and the Democratic number would be higher because Romney is the nominee. It’s a bit more difficult to split of partisanship from prejudice in this.

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  2. Personally, I couldn’t care less about a candidates religion. (I don’t consider Scientology as a “religion,” but as a “cult.”)
    I feel it’s completely arbitrary, and find the thought offensive; somewhat similar to voting for a candidate based on their penis size or breast size (I like A-cuppers, and you don’t see a lot of those in the Senate).
    I find the talk of Romney and Mormonism to be disgusting.
    I think the idea of an atheist president is pretty scary, considering how actively hostile to any manner of religion so much of the Left is.
    But Mormons?– Big deal.

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    • What an incoherent comment. Talking about religion is offensive and someone’s religion is irrelevant but Scientology is a cult (so that doesn’t count) and atheism is “pretty scary” so that doesn’t count.

      Give me a break, dude. Don’t you even see how little this makes sense? What if people consider Mormonism to be a cult? Why are they any less entitled to that belief than you are to your belief that Scientology is a cult? Is your baseline here the objective standard by which to judge all candidates?

      Besides, discussing religion is in no way like discussing penis size. The former is something you choose and actively maintain; the latter is something you’re born with. There is a very big difference. But it’s more than that. Penis size probably won’t affect your decisions in office (though that may be debatable.) Your religious convictions have a huge impact on your politics.

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    • There’s a world of difference between religious belief and breast / penis size.  There is nothing foolish or immoral about judging people based on what they believe, be that religion or some other idea set.

      Of course, it matters how religious the person is.  If someone who goes to church occasionally, but doesn’t think about their faith much, then their religion isn’t very important.  But if someone claims to be guided by their faith in all things, then their faith is directly relevant to their decision-making.

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      • No, there’s no difference at all.
        It’s a personal matter, not to be regulated by the government.
        There is no “religious issue.”

        [B]ecause I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured–perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again–not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me–but what kind of America I believe in.
        I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote–where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference–and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
        I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
        For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew–or a Quaker–or a Unitarian–or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim–but tomorrow it may be you–until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
        Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end–where all men and all churches are treated as equal–where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice–where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind–and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
        That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe–a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

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        • First off, I never said anything about being regulated by the government, I’m talking about how a voter should react to a candidate.

          And JFK’s speech supports my point.  What he’s say there is that he may be Catholic, but his Presidency wouldn’t be.  The point is that he needed to make it clear how his beliefs affected his thinking.  Kennedy was a secularist, so his faith was not important from a voting perspective.  But what about Rick Santorum, who made no such call for secular government, and even explicitly repudiated Kennedy’s position?  If a politician is going to act on their religious views in office, then their religion matters.

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    • When the Mormon church split between the mainstream LDS non-polygamists and the FLDS polygamists, the FLDS folk moved out of Utah into Mexico and Canada (though some stayed, and remain today.) There are still large colonies of FLDS in both Canada and Mexico. That Romney’s family were A) in Mexico and B) polygamists pretty strongly supports the FLDS connection. Though Romney is not FLDS by any measure.

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      • One cannot assume plural-married LDS members moved to Mexico to avoid the U.S. law.  The LDS was in Mexico before 1890, so members could have moved there for many reasons.  Also, the LDS stopped performing new plural marriages in 1890, but did nothing to break up preexisting unions, so there would be no reason to move unless there’s evidence family members entered new plural marriages, and there does not appear to be any such evidence.

        Also, applying the FLDS label to polygamous LDS members shortly after 1890 is an anachronism.  Yes, polygamy did not die in the mainstream church immediately after the LDS outlawed it; but the separate FLDS movement arose gradually over time.

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        • the LDS stopped performing new plural marriages in 1890

          Actually, even that is not true; there is considerable evidence the mainstream LDS church continued to perform some plural marriages even after officially banning the practice. Which only supports my argument.

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            • And I tend toward making only claims supported by fact.  As I said, there was no “FLDS community” at the time in question; only LDS members not quite ready to accept the church’s ban on polygamy.  The FLDS only splintered off later when it became clear the LDS was serious about the ban.  It appears no one in Romney’s ancestry was part of that splinter group, as there is no evidence of post-1890 plural marriages in his family.  So your ominous warning about “the concerns surrounding the FLDS church [that] go much deeper than simply having several wives” is just so much sensational tripe.  What, isn’t Romney an easy enough target without questioning his ancestry?

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  3. Eisenhower argued the following: “our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

    Whether or not he was 100% accurate with the “no sense” part, I do think that the whole “deeply felt religious faith and I don’t care what it is” is a great description of much of how American Religion is more or less practiced. On a purely practical level, what’s the difference between a Babtist Banker and a Catholic one? What’s the difference between a Methodist Grocer and a Muslim one? What’s the difference between a Presbyterian television repairman and a Hindu one?

    In the American ideal, religion is a deep and important part of your (and anyone’s) life and, in practice, the only thing it really impacts is how deeply various folks feel like they have to hold to a handful of various food taboos in public.

    What’s the difference between a Mormon president and a president who went to Trinity United Church of Christ?

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    • [W]hat’s the difference between a Babtist Banker and a Catholic one? What’s the difference between a Methodist Grocer and a Muslim one?

      If we switch those, there could be a lot of difference between a Baptist, Catholic or Methodist banker and a Muslim one. As I understand it, Muslims take an even dimmer view of usury than do Jews, and that will impact how they do business. For that matter, a Muslim grocer won’t stock non-halal items, so there’s a difference there, too.

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        • Syria is the last secular state remaining in the region.   Lots of Christians and Druze and Yezidi up there, it’s by no means a Muslim country.   That’s part of its problem, some might say the fundamental problem for Syria these days.

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        • Mike,

          They may have been Alawi; they don’t have too much against alcohol.  I remember an Alawi barber in Latakia running out of his shop at 9 in the morning, waving a paper-bag covered beer can at me.

          Somehow I ended up paying for the next round and a shave I didn’t really need, as well as trading my brand new watch for his cracked one…

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      • “For that matter, a Muslim grocer won’t stock non-halal items, so there’s a difference there, too.”

        A Muslim grocerY likely won’t stock non-halal items, but plenty of Muslims run shops that offer all the same goods as those run by non-Muslims.

        By your logic, we’d presume the Babtist and Catholic grocers to close up shop on Sunday, which most of them certainly do not.

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        • One of the best eateries in DC, Ben’s Chili Bowl, in fact offers a delicious chili cheese dog that the owner never ate because he was a Muslim. I think it’s the same for his sons, who currently own the place. They’re really missing out.

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            • Schilling might be able to provide better information on this but Deuteronomy 14:21 talks about the importance of not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. In practice, this means don’t eat meat and dairy at the same time.

              There is a lot of overlap between Hebrew and Islamic food taboos and so, if this taboo is the same as the Hebrew taboo, it’s the cheese at the same time as the hot dog that makes it non-Halal.

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              • The meat and dairy thing is a rabbinical extrapolation from the verse JB describes, rather than a direct Biblical law.  Muslims don’t follow it, which is why the issue being pork makes more sense.

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            • The story goes he’d never tasted the half-smokes or the hot dogs because they were pork. This was reported in the Washington Post obituary, apparently against the family’s wishes- oh, the scandal! I hear you can even get veggie dogs there now. It’s a great restaurant. I stop by there every time I’m in DC.

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              • Interesting.  Thanks to both of you.  I think I wrongly assumed their dogs, or half-smokes at least, were beef.  But that was probably based on nothing.

                Have you been to Ben’s Next Door?  I haven’t been at night, when I believe it is a full-blown lounge, but it is a good place for brunch.  They do a chili cheese dog omelete.. mmm….

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  4. Unless it’s a stereotype that Mormons are dishonest, robotic panderers, I don’t think his religion is the main issue.

    And we all had polygamist ancestors; it’s just a question of how far back you go.

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        • It was a problem in the early Church.   The book of Titus, laying out the criteria for a bishop of the church, we’d call them pastors today:

          6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

          7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

          8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

          9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

          10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: [Legalists, demanding Christians adopt Jewish rules of conduct]

          11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

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  5. I think I get what you’re saying, but I’m not sure you’re taking the right tack at it.  We probably shouldn’t be so concerned with how many wives Romney’s great-grandfather had, or even with the religious beliefs of his great-grandfather.  I’m pretty certain that the specific religious beliefs of my great-grandfathers only affected me as filtered through their children and grandchildren — which is to say, I don’t really know much about their religious beliefs except the one was a small-town church-goer whose wife taught Sunday school and whose kids are deeply religious, and the other was adamant that you only spoke Yiddish or Hebrew at the seder table.

    That’s a very long, roundabout way of saying that it doesn’t matter so much whether Romney thinks the universe was created in seven days or over several billion years, but why and how he would hold such a belief.  Or, better, less inflammatory example: it doesn’t matter so much whether Romney thinks his magic religious undershirt trumps my magic Jewish undershirt in magic religious undergarment superpowers, but how and why he does.*

    Does he, that is, take faith propositions at face-value simply because he was told to?  Does he try to do some kind of balancing act between the absurdities of faith (I’ve been reading Kierkegaard lately, so I’m in no mood to bother denying that it’s absurd at times) and the certitudes/incertitudes of modernity?  Is he the Mormon equivalent of a Thomist, Chassid, Misnagid, Christmas-Easter churchgoer, MTDer, or some other category you can try to fit into this question?  What’s his method of considering/studying/thinking about Scripture and prior teachings of church fathers?  What’s the role of religious authority as practiced in his day-to-day life?  Is his is in line with his oughts, and if not, why?  When two religious principles appear to be in conflict (e.g., a dilemma about the good of an immediate neighbor and several very distant ones), how and with what tools does he go about resolving that dilemma–even if it’s only a Scotch-tape solution?

    How, that is, do his religious belief and broader worldview interact?  Because, for a religious person, they aren’t necessarily separate or separable — understanding the one requires understanding the other.  Which, I think, is where you were going with the proposition that religion shouldn’t be off the table, especially given how little most Americans know about Mormon beliefs and practices.  But I don’t know that looking toward his great-grandparents is the best method of answering this, or even that relevant, except insofar as it adds context to the history of Mormon faith.

    For the purposes of this election, it doesn’t matter one whit whether or not Mormonism is cult.  It does matter how Romney’s answer to that question affects his worldview, if only because understanding his worldview helps us to understand what type of president he would be — which helps us to cast informed votes.

    *My take, for the record: probably a tie, ’cause I’ve gone all pluralist-but-not-relativist-yet-still-traditional.  But when/if I bother to add in my magic Jewish prayer boxes, watch out!  Or my magic Jewish prayer-cape!

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    • Also, a possible corollary to putting questions of religion/faith on the table may very well be the re-opening of the question of Obama and Jeremiah Wright, if we’re after trying to figure out the intersection of faith and worldview.  But I’m not sure; I’m literally surrounded by a maze of books from the library wing that seems to have developed around my desk in the past two weeks and am simply too brain-dead to see whether that would logically follow.  But my gut thinks it does.

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      • Well, since you brought it up, Mr. Wall, still on the internet as it was in 2008.  It’s a little too heavy on the umoja for my taste, and #11 is pretty creepy, but nothing as theologically challenging as say, Kolob or Xenu.  Or the Eucharist, for that matter:

        http://www.trinitychicago.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=114

        THE BLACK VALUE SYSTEM

        Trinity United Church of Christ adopted the Black Value System, written by the Manford Byrd Recognition Committee, chaired by the late Vallmer Jordan in 1981.

        Dr. Manford Byrd, our brother in Christ, withstood the ravage of being denied his earned ascension to the number one position in the Chicago School System. His dedication to the pursuit of excellence, despite systematic denials, has inspired the congregation of Trinity United Church of Christ. Prayerfully, we have called upon the wisdom of all past generations of suffering Blacks for guidance in fashioning an instrument of Black self-determination, the Black Value System.

        Beginning in 1982, an annual Black Value System – Educational Scholarship in the name of Dr. Byrd was instituted. The first recipient of the Dr. Manford Byrd Award, which is given annually to the man or woman who best exemplifies the Black Value System, was our brother, Dr. Manford Byrd.

        These Black Ethics must be taught and exemplified in homes, churches, nurseries and schools, wherever Blacks are gathered. They consist of the following concepts:

          1. 1. Commitment to God. “The God of our weary years” will give us the strength to give up prayerful passivism and become Black Christian Activists, soldiers for Black freedom and the dignity of all humankind. Matthew 22:37 – Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 

           

            1. 2. Commitment to the Black Community. The highest level of achievement for any Black person must be a contribution of strength and continuity of the Black Community. I John 4:20 – If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother [or his sister], he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother or sister whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

             

              1. 3. Commitment to the Black Family. The Black family circle must generate strength, stability and love, despite the uncertainty of externals, because these characteristics are required if the developing person is to withstand warping by our racist competitive society. Those Blacks who are blessed with membership in a strong family unit must reach out and expand that blessing to the less fortunate. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 – And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 

               

                1. 4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education. We must forswear anti-intellectualism. Continued survival demands that each Black person be developed to the utmost of his/her mental potential despite the inadequacies of the formal education process. “Real education” fosters understanding of ourselves as well as every aspect of our environment. Also, it develops within us the ability to fashion concepts and tools for better utilization of our resources, and more effective solutions to our problems. Since the majority of Blacks have been denied such learning, Black Education must include elements that produce high school graduates with marketable skills, a trade or qualifications for apprenticeships, or proper preparation for college. Basic education for all Blacks should include Mathematics, Science, Logic, General Semantics, Participative Politics, Economics and Finance, and the Care and Nurture of Black minds. Matthew 22:37 – Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind.

                 

                  1. 5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence. To the extent that we individually reach for, even strain for excellence, we increase, geometrically, the value and resourcefulness of the Black Community. We must recognize the relativity of one’s best; this year’s best can be bettered next year. Such is the language of growth and development. We must seek to excel in every endeavor.Ecclesiastes 9:10 – Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might; for [there is] no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. 

                   

                    1. 6. Adherence to the Black Work Ethic. “It is becoming harder to find qualified people to work in Chicago.” Whether this is true or not, it represents one of the many reasons given by businesses and industries for deserting the Chicago area. We must realize that a location with good facilities, adequate transportation and a reputation for producing skilled workers will attract industry. We are in competition with other cities, states and nations for jobs. High productivity must be a goal of the Black workforce. II Thessalonians 3:7-12 – For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 

                     

                      1. 7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect. To accomplish anything worthwhile requires self-discipline. We must be a community of self-disciplined persons if we are to actualize and utilize our own human resources, instead of perpetually submitting to exploitation by others. Self-discipline, coupled with a respect for self, will enable each of us to be an instrument of Black Progress and a model for Black Youth. I Peter 1:4-7 – To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. 

                       

                        1. 8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness.” Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control. Proverbs 3:13-14 – Happy are those who find wisdom and those who gain understanding, for her income is better than silver and her revenue better than gold. 

                          Those so identified are separated from the rest of the people by:

                          • Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.
                          • Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.
                          • Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which, while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us.”
                          • So, while it is permissible to chase “middleclassness” with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method – the psychological entrapment of Black “middleclassness.” If we avoid this snare, we will also diminish our “voluntary” contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright: the leadership, resourcefulness and example of their own talented persons.

                         

                          1. 9. Pledge to Make the Fruits of All Developing and Acquired Skills Available to the Black Community.

                           

                            1. 10. Pledge to Allocate Regularly, a Portion of Personal Resources for Strengthening and Supporting Black Institutions.

                             

                              1. 11. Pledge Allegiance to All Black Leadership Who Espouse and Embrace the Black Value System.

                               

                              1. 12. Personal Commitment to Embracement of the Black Value System. To measure the worth and validity of all activity in terms of positive contributions to the general welfare of the Black Community and the Advancement of Black People towards freedom.

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                                • You say that about Dukakis too?

                                  No?

                                  Funny how it only sounds “tribalist” when it applies to blacks.

                                  Few social circles do much to help those that aren’t in “the club.”

                                   

                                  You say that about Dominionists? No? Then you’re a lying filthy hypocrite. End of Story.

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                                  • What value system was Dukakis operating under? Or the Dominionists? Give me a chance to respond before calling me a hypocrite. You post it and I will give my verdict.

                                    As for the accusation that tribalism only applies to race, you missed my exchange a few weeks ago with one of your fellow misguided progressives where I accused him of tribalism and he proudly defended it as both natural and good. The discussion in that case was localism or nationalism.

                                    Tribalism is to exploitation as genocide is to murder. I believe in a broader circle of empathy that includes all humanity.

                                    Down with tribalism!

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                                    • Dukakis was Greek. They’ve got the same system going on — spending within the community, etc. They even run free-loan societies (mostly to buy boats. fishermen know they’re gonna get their money back).

                                      Orthodox Jews do it too, so you better be down with denouncing Joe Lieberman. (I can cite sources, but basically “what the rabbi recommends” to buy from, you do.)

                                      The dominionists believe that all money ought to be spent within their right-wing Christian community (they’ve got phonebooks, this isn’t me making up shit). If I (who am Jewish) worked in a community mostly made up of Dominionists, I’d be out of business. They also are the type who if I (being a Jew) were homeless or otherwise in need of help, they’d refuse to help unless I would convert.

                                      (Fwiw, yeah, I dig ya. but, listen to Cosby’s schpiel before you really start ragging on a really down-on-their-luck buncha people, who are really just trying to pull their community out of the gutter. Communities are good, ya?)

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                                      • These are just modern day variants of mercantilism, which Mr Smith drove a stake through the heart of over 250 years ago. Buy local, buy union, buy black, buy Greek/Jewish/Christian, buy American.

                                        We are all better off if we seek quality, not tribalism.

                                        To quote the left’s favorite economist… “If there we’re an Economist’s creed, it would surely contain the affirmations ” I understand the principle of comparative advantage” and “I advocate free trade.”

                                        That said, I do understand networks of enforceable trust and the expectation that those that receive assistance comply with social standards of those offering the support.

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                                • So you oppose Neighborhood Watches because they selfishly watch only their own neighborhood, and disapprove of parents who volunteer to coach their own kids’ teams?  Or is putting your energy close to home, when it’s needed there, a natural human impulse?

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                                  • Mike,

                                    No I do not. Humans should take responsibility for themselves and their family first and then enlarge the circle of empathy out from there. Implicit in this is that our activities should never be coercive or exploitative — that when we do things to solve problems we will not do so by creating (exporting) problems for others.

                                    It is totally reasonable to form circles of mutual support. Of course I would volunteer first with my kids team, and that I would volunteer first in my own neighborhood. This aligns interests, values and knowledge. I also think it is more practical to wipe my own butt, as opposed to a strangers.

                                    Let me be crystal clear though. The above value system is totally racist. Replace the word black with white and see how it reads. Either case is totally tribalistic and morally despicable.

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                                    • The above value system is totally racist. 

                                      There’s no definition of racist I know of for which that’s true. Calling it “tribalist” denies the right of blacks to recognize that there truly is a black community in the US that needs serious amounts of help and to include it within their circle of empathy.

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                                      • Mike,

                                        So you replaced the word “black” with “white” and read the above values to yourself and didn’t see them as racist? I find that odd.

                                        You don’t think it repugnant that someone would pledge an allegiance to white leadership espousing the white values?

                                        Where exactly do you draw the line?

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                                        • Yes. Roger, and the excuse-making for the Black Value System is even more tribalism, in this case circling the wagons around Obama no matter how antithetical the BVS is to American values.

                                          My own point was less ambitious, simply pointing out that this Black Value System is sitting in plain sight on Trinity Church’s website and not one person in a hundred is even aware of it.

                                          I find it appalling on a number of levels, and see its tribalism and collectivism in BHO’s rhetoric and actions, and therefore find it relevant to the question of Barack Obama—indeed little of it is actual theology; it’s base tribalism.

                                          [There is a theology behind it, that of James Hal Cone, which is even more disturbing

                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_theology]

                                          However, I’m willing to give BHO a pass on the taller theological weeds of his church of 2 decades, except to say a caucasian or Asian equivalent would bring howls of outrage from the same quarters that pooh-pooh the significance of this race-based theology.  But the problem I have with “black” theology or any “liberation” theology is that its concerns are about this world, not the next, and should be judged just like any other ideology.

                                           

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                                          • So, Mr. TVD, you would judge Judaism just as harshly and prejudicially as the Black liberation whatchamacallit?

                                            I think the reason nobody cares about that, is that Rev. Wright belongs to a white denomination. I know you know that, Cause I mentioned it before!!

                                            Does it really make sense for that Black Value whatever to belong to a whites mostly church body??

                                            If they really believed that blacks being around blacks were better, why does Rev. Wright’s church belong to the predominantly white, non-evangelical denomination?

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                                          • Kimmi, you’re not actually talking about the Black Value System [above], just a, um, whitewashed version of it.  There’s a lot more to it and behind it than a little ethnic parochialism.

                                            I think it explains a lot about Barack Obama, but we’ll bury it in 2012 just as we did in 2008.

                                            How far the left and the Obama-friendly media machine will dare to press the Mormon thing to undermine Romney remains to be seen.  But I will say that whereas Mormons can be both Reps and Dems [Harry Reid], I cannot conceive of a black liberation theology/Black Values System Republican in my wildest dreams.  The theology and the political philosophy aren’t just intertwined, they’re one and the same.

                                            Therefore, I see Barack Obama’s church [even though he quit, it was his church for 20 years up to assuming the presidency] as far more relevant to his candidacy than a Mormon’s to his.

                                            Not that anyone asked or will ask BHO’s thoughts on James Hal Cone, mind you, but by the light’s of Erik Kain’s OP here, someone certainly should have.

                                             

                                            Electing an evangelical to the presidency makes me nervous, too, and I’d be equally cautious about a Muslim or a Scientologist or any other person hailing from a faith that might affect their decisions in the Oval Office. Which actually describes most faiths, or at least those that people hold with conviction.

                                            Am I an awful person for saying so? Perhaps. It is at least a little taboo to go too far down this particular rabbit hole.

                                            To be honest, I don’t think that cleaving to a religious belief system disqualifies anyone from holding high office, or building a religious building near Ground Zero, or doing much of anything else for that matter. But religion, like any other belief or practice, really should weigh into our thinking and our own decision-making at the ballot box.—EDK

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                                          • in this case circling the wagons around Obama no matter how antithetical the BVS is to American values.

                                            Except that my opinion of this has nothing to do with Obama nor do I think it’s antithetical to American values.  Other than that, spot on.

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                                          • I’ll take your word on the first, and demur strongly on the second.

                                            Not that clannishness is illegal or unconstitutional—indeed it’s protected, say in the case of the Amish—but it’s completely antithetical to E Pluribus Unum, our national motto.

                                            In the very least, those questions should have been raised with BHO in 2008.  Even if you’re not “circling the wagons” around Obama, the incuriosity about the Black Value System that is plainly on his church’s website was stunning.

                                            In fact, several sharp commentators here LoOG have noted that if Romney’s going to get a rectal on the Mormonism, stuff like the Black Value System deserves another look too.

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                                          • Slavery and Jim Crow weren’t exactly American in the aspirational sense either; that covers, conservatively, 190 of our 235 years.  I’m skeptical of arguments based on “neutral principles” that ignore that history.

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                                          • Karl, It was very racist as I recall. Were we all morally for it or against it?

                                            Or is the correct response that we are against tribalism from the other tribes but all for it with our tribe?

                                            In case my sarcasm isn’t clear, it should be.

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                                          • Roger,

                                            I remember being against it.  But, of course, so does everyone else.

                                            Being “for or against” tribalism is rather simplistic isn’t it?  I’s kind of like this: my tribe lords it over your tribe, but as soon as you point that out I call you a ‘tribalist’ and say that tribalism is bad no matter what form it takes.

                                            Not quite sure what all that meant, but at least it wasn’t sarcastic.

                                            In other words, you try to draw the line in the sand of reality and not in the muddied waters of perception. (And please don’t go all relativist on my ass.)

                                             

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                                        • I’d find the White equivalent suspicious, because there isn’t a white community that’s in danger, and people who think there is one tend to be racists.  They’re like the jackasses who say that if the best girls can play on boys’ teams, it’s unfair that boys can;t play n girls’ teams.

                                          But it’s not in itself racist:

                                          • There’s no hatred against non-Xs
                                          • There’s no implication that non-Xs are inferior
                                          • There’s no no desire to get rid of non-X’s
                                          • There’s no implication that non-Xs owe anything to X’s, or deserve to be mistreated

                                          It’s pure Booker T. Washington:  the talented tenth need to support the community as a whole.  If there’s any animus, it’s against blacks who succeed and abandon the blacks who were left behind, not against whites. A white equivalent would be a reminder to wealthy whites not to forget their brothers in Appalachia.  Have you ever seen anything like that?

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                                    • I’m with Mike on calling you out. And calling it tribalism is a rather loaded term, isn’t it?

                                      You’re okay with greeks selling to greeks — not calling them unfit to be president, are you?

                                      You’re seemingly okay with Dominionists attempting to drive people who aren’t christian out of their communities with economic discrimination (*cough* witchhunts *cough* — this is a palin joke, lookitup)

                                      You can’t say that one thing isn’t like another, when they’re functionally identical.

                                      You can say things like “gawd, I wish nobody’d be like that” or you can say “I support community first” — trying to say both makes you a Janus.

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                                    • It’s important to understand that a “black community” is seen as important by black people because the larger community, which meansa white people, isn’t going to help them, so they have to help themselves. I see nothing racist or even unsettling about that. That some people do is probably a result of their having no real sense of how the world works, particularly if they think that replacing “black” with “white” in that would result in something equivalent.

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                                      • In a free society, it isn’t so much about “helping” as about cooperating and reciprocating. We should be willing to cooperate, trade, buy, sell and employ in a race neutral way. Any attempts to derail this, as above, are morally reprehensible.

                                        If racism is bad it is bad. It is not good when our team does it and bad when theirs does it. That is just mega-tribalism.

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                                        • You have a facile idea of what racism is.

                                          Look, in a perfect world, we’d all interact with everyone regardless of what group they belong to. But the world doesn’t work that way, and with the way it does actually work, certain people get the short end of the stick. So when they decide that they should help raise each other up, I have no problem with that. The fact that you do says more about you than them.

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                                          • Chris and Mike,

                                            The conversation reminds be of being trapped in a cycle of revenge. I opt out. I am encouraging those I love to opt out, regardless of what tribe you think they should belong to. I encourage you guys to opt out of the cycle as well.

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                                          • Chris and Mike,

                                            Interesting discussion.

                                            I am not saying i will opt out of helping my neighbors. I am saying it is time to opt out of helping my white/black neighbors (delete whichever ones not apply) rather than my white/black neighbors (delete whichever does not apply). That is racism. It is morally reprehensible. You should both be ashamed.

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                                          • Jewish people donate more to Jewish charities, Catholics to Catholic charities, black people to HBCUs.  My wife’s church sponsors kids from Korea to come study in the US, while not focusing on kids from the rest of the Third World.  None of this is reprehensible, and you need to start living in the real world.

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                                • Roger is correct, in labeling The Black Value System as outlined above as a form of trialism.

                                  But before rushing to denounce it, lets consider for a moment that tribalism can be positive in some settings and applications. Oftentimes immigrant groups, and outsiders are able to “bootstrap” themselves by banding together and forming  a tribe, a network of resources. In most cases it is harmless to the larger society, and beneficial to the minority members.

                                  I write this as I sit only a few blocks from Los Angeles’ jewelry district, which is run mostly by Jewish East European immigrants, and Broadway Street, where all the merchants are Mexican. Both communities are marked by the sort of tribal code outlined in the Black Value System. Except it is unwritten, a sort of quiet unspoken network of friendships and support.

                                  How different is it, really, from the network of old school ties and fraternities and business and country club connections that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both share? Those networks aren’t as naked and clumsily worded as the Black Value System, but they are probably much more effective at closing the social circle to outsiders.

                                  Tribalism by the dominant society an be vicious, and oppressive to those who aren’t a part of it; but for those who are excluded, tribalism can sometimes be helpful.

                                   

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                                  • How different is it, really, from the network of old school ties and fraternities and business and country club connections that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both share?

                                    Not terribly different, as far as I’m concerned.

                                    Humans are tribal beings, for better or worse. While we can overcome our tribal bonds to one degree or another, we tend to feel most comfortable with those we define as our own kind.

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                                  • Liberty,

                                    As I replied to Michelle, I find the ivy league tribalism especially repulsive.

                                    This whole area is fascinating though. I get the value of volunteering locally, giving back to the community and all, but there becomes a point where reciprocity and community becomes exclusive and zero sum. If taken too far, it becomes about our group vs this group which I find morally repulsive.

                                    There is also the whole area of mercantilism or buying local, which again if taken too far is economically destructive and zero sum as per Ricardo and Smith and every economist that followed.

                                    Michelle is right that we are wired that way, but we are also wired for sex. This still makes rape wrong. A little community is good. Too much and…..

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                                    • I tend to think we’ve moved too far away from community and toward an every man for himself mentality. That’s actually one of the things I’d admire about Mormons. Say what you will about them, they do take care of their own.

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                              • Okay, well I’d rather address this to you, Tom, than pile on Roger, but Lord knows where this comment will wind up in the comment chain. Here’s the difficulty I have with worrying about this list of “black ethics”- actually, let me first say in regards to the original post that I dated a Mormon girl all through high school and spent a lot of time with her family and, maybe because of that, Romney’s religion is the last thing on my mind when assessing him. Actually, it’s hard to remember an instance in which the religion of a candidate was of much concern to me. So, that’s probably shaping my response to this.

                                My difficulty with being outraged over the black ethic list comes down to this: I’ve heard any number of black and white- maybe more often white- commentators argue that blacks in America need to openly address and combat the cultural pathologies within the black community. Sort of a “cleaning house” argument. I’ve heard that black men need to reaffirm their commitment to their families, black adults need to teach their children the value of hard work, self-discipline, and striving for excellence. This needs to come from within. And it’s nearly always a complaint- blacks aren’t doing these things. We could also call it the Bill Cosby argument. But, the problem, as it occurs to me, is that it seems as if every time blacks make collective efforts towards these sorts of goals within their community, the people who make those efforts are accused of black nationalism, racism, or separatism. So, they get it coming and going. It’s just hard for me to be terribly concerned that there are blacks who think the black community should value education, hard work, and the family.

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                                  • If black people were more like white people, we wouldn’t have these problems. Or rather, what I mean is they wouldn’t have these problems. No wait. What I’m trying to say is that black people wouldn’t be a problem for white people. Dammit! That’s not right either!

                                     

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                                • Rufus,

                                  Great points. I was nodding in agreement as I read it.

                                  I think there is a grey area where community solidarity and support goes too far. It is great to establish networks of exchange, reciprocity and assistance. I give thumbs way up across the board. These are all positive sum activities that enhance social capital.

                                  Where it goes to far for me is where the solidarity becomes exclusive or zero sum with other groups. It is the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Between community watch and community entrance barriers. Between local support mechanisms and intertribal war.

                                  We can argue where the line is. I suggest there is a line and that for me, the above value system crossed it. If it started by saying that blacks, like all other people, need to establish strong communities and values, and then went out to lay out this set of core values, I would endorse it in whole. Furthermore, they should be open to any and all joining there community. To me this document comes across as intentionally divisive.

                                  My immediate family is multiracial. White, black and Hispanic. That someone would try to divide us with this type of us and them rhetoric is frightening to me.

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                          1. Revised, much shorter, dramatic version:

                            [SCENE: Presidential candidate J.L. WALL on the campaign trail.  He turns a corner and discovers, to his horror, a gaggle of REPORTERS — and, dear God no!, ERIK KAIN.]

                            KAIN: Mr. Wall!  Could you take a moment to explain the ways you believe the religious faiths of your two very different great-grandfathers influenced the faith and worldview you hold today?

                            WALL: No, I can’t.  But I will answer the question you should ask me, which is: Do you use dairy products bearing Tablet-K kosher certification in your home kitchen?  Why or why not?

                            [PRESS GAGGLE groans in agony and proceeds to flee before WALL can even begin to continue.]

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                          2. J.L. Wall – I think everyone is focusing too much on the ancestry here. I don’t care so much that he had polygamist grandparents or great grandparents or whatever. I think it’s more important to deal with his particular brand of Mormonism, not that of the long-dead.

                            So yes, how do his religious beliefs influence his interactions with the wider world? How does influence from elders in his church affect his own views? There is a lot of hierarchy in the Mormon church, and it goes much further into the daily lives of Mormons than many other more traditional Christian groups.

                             

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                        1. “Part of adopting a faith is answering critiques about it,”

                          Um, no it’s not.  In the best of American tradition, and from sheer simple politeness, a person’s relationship with the Creator (or lackthereof) is only answerable to that person and the Creator (or lack thereof)

                          This is some pretty weak sauce, Mr. Kain.

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                        2. I don’t think it’s true that Mormon women are second class citizens and this shouldn’t play into the GOP War on Women, but it’s food for thought, and although it’s not a fair accusation, there’s nothing wrong with discussing the possibility that some people will react negatively to Mormonism, especially women who are independent and don’t want to be seen as as second class citizens.

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                          • I gots a great friend who’s a Mormon, an author, and, ya know.. A fishing Marine Corps Pilot.  Oh, and on occasion a squadron commander.

                            Oh.  And she’s a woman.

                            If she’s a second class citizen within her faith I gotta wonder what standards they put the 1st class citizens up to…

                             

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                          • My cousin’s wife sits on SLC’s city council.  She is not a he.

                            Which is not to say there are no Mormons who think of women as I might a second class citizen.  But I would argue that there are more traditional Christians who think of women as equals, as well as those that belong to the Promise Keepers.  Which is to say that people are more complicated than that.

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                            • Well, to be fair, how was anyone supposed to understand that “don’t think it’s true” and “not a fair accusation” means you don’t actually think it’s a true and fair claim? ;)

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                          • Yeah, I think it depends on where you live. In small Utah, Idaho, or Arizona towns with high Mormon populations, you see a lot of women-as-second-class-citizen. A lot of it. An enormous, glaring, somewhat terrifying amount. This is less true outside of the Utah Mormon culture, to the point where it’s probably almost non-existent out East (or in the Romney clan.)

                            But yeah, in deep Mormon culture the second-class thing is very real, and a reflection of the fact that, for instance, women can’t reach the highest level of heaven unless their husbands bring them along, and they need to have a certain number of children, etc. It’s really pretty complicated, but anti-women beliefs (or women as second-class citizen beliefs) are baked deep into Mormonism itself.

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                        3. If you’ve read Under the Banner of Heaven (and you should if you haven’t)

                          Slightly off topic, but that is a great book. I think Krakauer is a reallyreally great and very under-appreciated writer and story teller. Into Thin Air literally rocked my world. As did Into the Wild, tho to a lesser extent. Under the Banner of Heaven is not just a great book about a murder, or Mormonism. It’s a great book about murderous Mormons!

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                        4. For what it’s worth, I don’t care a whit about what informs Romney’s political beliefs.  I don’t care if there’s a religious basis, concocted in a secret chamber deep under Salt Lake City.  I don’t care if he makes it up as he goes along, whistling while juggling pens in the Oval Office.

                          If it’s good policy, it will stand on its merits.  If it’s bad policy, it should fail.  Few of us get to see much of the arguing and cogitating and back room dealing that creates any of the policies foisted on the American people, with the current President or any before or to come.  But we, at least, get to see the policy.  It would be no different with Romney.  As much as I detest the man, at the end of the day we’ll all get to see his proposals for the country, and his Mormonism is irrelevant.  If a secret cabal of elders can craft great policy, then I don’t really care which book of scriptures they’re basing it on.  We can all (Mormon, Jew, Lutheran, Parsi) debate it just the same when it’s proposed.

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                          • I disagree completely. As Blaise says elsewhere, it’s more about character. The fact that Romney has no character troubles me, because I wonder who will have influence over him. We don’t *know* what sorts of policies he may, hypothetically, in the future, support. That’s why we look at things like his record, his religion, his businesses, etc. now.

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                            • Indeed, Romney’s manifest character defects are deeply troubling, and reason to oppose him enough.

                              But his power as POTUS wouldn’t exist in a vacuum.  He would have a constituency to please and a Congress to convince.    I suspect that his religion would only influence him insofar as its dictates dovetail with the interests of his base.  Evangelical Christians are far more likely to influence him than Mormons.  Given that the latter are treated with some suspicion by the former, whose support he would need and who I think are almost certainly going to vote for him this go-round in any case, I don’t see Romney’s religion informing his decisions are President to the degree that you seem to fear.

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                        5. Not that African Americans (or at present women) are likely to vote for him in large numbers anyway, but the central issue with regard to religion concerning Romney would likely be questions about the LDS stance on racial and gender issues, rather than the structure or secrecy of the faith itself.

                          Romney was born in 1947. The LDS Church didn’t allow black priests until 1978. He was not only voluntarily continued to associate with the church but was an active participant in its activities through his adult life, including through that declaration. That’s a big deal. Just like how membership at Augusta National Golf Club might be considered a gender attitude flag for a candidate…

                          Of course you’ll see the fake outrage machine try to dredge up Reverend Wright again as a counterpoint and start on a defensive “war on Mormonism” nonsense.

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                          • It would be a fair analogy to Augusta if the LDS church *still* did not allow black priests.  As you said, it changed its half a (Romney’s) lifetime ago.

                            I mean, both Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter grew up in the Jim Crow South, and became governors before (esp in Carter’s case) the New South political re-alignment was complete.  Should they be impugned because they stayed in the South despite its history in their own lifetimes?

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                            • 30 year old Mitt Romney had no compunctions about belonging to a church that was racially segregated and actively discriminated against black people. That’s a choice.

                              As for Carter, he was pretty explicitly pro civil rights as a gubernatorial candidate and his family has a history of being anti-segregation.

                              If Romney had those same credentials or if he were particularly strong on the issue, there’d be no issue. But he’s not. He played along to get along.

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                                • Where’s Mitt in that picture?

                                  Also, it’s not about “attempting to slime him”, it’s a question of where his priorities, interests and thought processes lie.

                                  If contra his father, he didn’t really give a shit about the LDS policy on priesthood, then it’s doubtful he’s gonna care about much else.

                                  But yes, gin up your faux outrage machine about the poor victimized Romneys…of the George Romney that was thoroughly rejected by the party his son now represents.

                                  However, I’m not inclined to get involved with your trite sophistic bullshit that treats race like some political football. And as you say, ganging up on someone ain’t gentlemanly. I’ll stand back and let you duke it out with others.

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                                  • It’s weird that the Mormons never get any credit for changing their beliefs to accommodate US political sensibilities.

                                    Nobody ever gives Catholics or Muslims nearly the same shit for the misogynist shit they still have in their organizations.

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                                    • Pretty sure Catholics get lots and lots of shit about their political preferences and misogyny. Of course misogyny at the moment is substantially more tolerated than racism in society, so I suppose they get more of a pass. See their recent flaps over the contraception issue.

                                      Mormons don’t get any more credit for changing in 1978, than Catholicism will get credit for ending discrimination against Gays and Lesbians in 2050. That is, they’ll still routinely (and rightly) be lambasted for taking too fucking long to do it.

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                                      • Nobody gives Bob Casey (jr) any shit, though he has the same religious beliefs as Rick Santorum.

                                        It’s entirely politics.

                                        And really, Tom is right.  The shit said about Mormons all up and down this thread is no different than when the right wing wankers talk about Muslims or Rev Wright.  A general soft anti-religious bigotry from an agnostic or atheist view is fine – it’s what I have myself.  But signaling out any given group is being Terry Jones without the lighter fluid.

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                                        • In general I’d say a practicing Catholic should be excluded from religious office, if only on the grounds he belongs to a cult that sanctions and covers up the molestation of young children…but that’s just me.

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                                        • “It’s also a word that anyone concerned with civil liberties should find at least a tiny bit troubling and even a bit frightening. How would this secrecy affect Romney’s policies as President of the United States of America? What sort of double standard would be applied to Mormon and non-Mormon groups? Who knows?”

                                          This type of rhetoric, right in the OP can easily be found in the Anti-Masonic and Know-Nothing parties of the 19th century, and if it were a news quiz quote, I would think it came from Robert Jeffress of Rick Perry’s Pastor fame.

                                          So maybe I totally misreading and all this was a Swiftian ruse.

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                                          • I just wanted to say that I think Kolohe’s right here. I’m no fan of Mormonism, for a variety of reasons, but it’s offenses are no more numerous, and in some cases significantly less numerous, than those of other mainstream religions whose followers fill our political ranks (and on both sides of the aisle). The focus on Romney’s Mormonism seems, to me, to come from two places: 1) certain breeds of Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, who are just as likely to think Catholics are non-Christian idol worshippers, and 2.) “liberals” who are looking to score political points.

                                            I don’t think Romney’s religion should be off limits, and because people tend to know less about Mormonism than other Christian sects (do they always wear white shirts and a tie? are they all as nice as Canadians? are Canadian Mormons unbearably nice?), I think he should expect more questions than most, but focusing on Mormonism as if it were any less or more potentially pernicious than the religions of any other politicians is unfair and empirically suspect.

                                            Lest there be any confusion, I don’t think Kain fits into either 1 or 2.

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                                    • Oh spare me all that.  LDS changed its marriage policies under threat of federal seizure of the church assets.   When IRS went after their 501(c)(3) status for their policy on the Children of Ham, mirabile dictu, the Lord’s Prophet suddenly got Word from On High ’bout how Negroes were precious in His sight, too.

                                      Get real.  LDS has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world.   Where they have any political power at all, they’re a vicious cult, intent upon imposing their little LDS sharia law on everyone around them.

                                       

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                                      • I think a lot of people who say Mormonism is mainstream haven’t actually lived in the middle of it. My wife grew up in a small (very small) Mormon town in Utah. It was essentially hell on Earth for a young, non-Mormon girl. I’ve spent most of my life out West living in pretty close proximity to Mormons, but nothing comes close to the Mormon culture in Utah itself. I’ve even heard Mormons describe it that way: that there is Mormonism broadly speaking, and then there is Mormon culture in Utah (and possibly parts of Idaho and Arizona) and the two are quite different. The influence of the Mormon church over government and private business in Utah, or at least from what I’ve seen, is remarkable.

                                        On the flip side, I do think Mormonism can be very good at fostering close families who, I know from experience, cook very delicious food.

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                                        • I lived and worked in Salt Lake City for about six months.  The only real drawbacks were

                                          • There was nothing for a single non-Mormon guy to do at night. (The girls wouldn’t consider dating a Gentile [1], and they were almost all married by 18 anyway.)
                                          • The food was incredibly bland.  (It appears to be a little-known tenet of Mormonism that spices are a tool of the devil.)
                                          • You couldn’t swear at the office (no matter how fishing irritating the FORTRAN compiler was being.)

                                          1. That was the only time I’ve ever been a Gentile.

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                                        • Almost all the Mormon’s i’ve known here in Alaska are very “mainstream.”I’ve only know one guy, who was a client of mine, who was deeply old fashioned, as in women should do what they are told, men are the boss, and scared of the outside world. Sadly for him his ex-wife and daughters didn’t dig the second class citizen bit.

                                          When the wife and i were in Sydney a couple years ago we were standing around waiting for our tour of the Sydney Opera House. Directly behind us a young woman started up a conversation with an older couple. They were all Mormon. The young woman was heading back to SLC after visiting a friend in Samoa and the older couple was from Utah. They knew some of the same people back home and the young woman was their adopted daughter for the day. There is a lot of power in that kind of bond and closeness.

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                                  • I respect you manning up like that, Nob.  We’ll leave the ganging up for the beta males.  Combined, they almost have a pair.  If they had a pair, they wouldn’t gang up, eh?

                                    To the point, the nation will ignore the race-sliming of Mitt Romney, I think.  But I have been known to underestimate slime and the energy that some people put into it.

                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/magazine/31clinton-t.html?pagewanted=all

                                    And the man once called the “first black president” remains deeply wounded by allegations that he made racially insensitive remarks during the campaign, like dismissing Obama’s South Carolina win by comparing it with Jesse Jackson’s victories there in the 1980s.

                                    “None of them ever really took seriously the race rap,” he told me. “They knew it was politics. I had one minister in Texas in the general election come up and put his arm around me.” This was an Obama supporter. “And he came up, threw his arm around me and said, ‘You’ve got to forgive us for that race deal.’ He said, ‘That was out of line.’ But he said, ‘You know, we wanted to win real bad.’ And I said, ‘I got no problem with that.’ I said it’s fine; it’s O.K. And we laughed about it and we went on.”

                                    Yeah, real funny.  Romney can expect better?

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                            • Obama’s church didn’t get a pass.   LDS is a cult and everyone pretends it’s not.  Any religion that demands 10 percent of your money and participation in their little buying binges (the Mormons buy in bulk) is not a religion.  It’s a cult.

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                                • I strongly suspect your church doesn’t demand to see your pay stubs to work out if you’re actually paying your tithe.   If you’re LDS and they catch you not paying, you’re no longer a member in good standing and cannot enter their temple.   You’re also denied a Temple Recommend, which means you can’t join another LDS congregation.

                                  Somehow I also doubt your church buys shopping malls and radio networks with your tithe either.

                                  By definition, any pay-to-play religion is a cult.

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                                  • No, we don’t do things like that. You’re free to lie about things if you want to, but that would be counterproductive.
                                    There’s no one with authority to do something like that. We are a congregation of laity.
                                    As for businesses, I think there are a few coffee shops around, and a publisher (for the religious materials). Not much else that I know of, though I don’t keep track of everything. I’m more concerned with my own little group.
                                    My feelings on the matter are, if they want to do something like that, then it’s on them.
                                    But really, I don’t see it happening.

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                                    • Yeah, that’s about par for the course with most respectable communities of faith.   But LDS will audit you, clearly and most severely.   You will write them a check or you are out on your ear.  In that, they’re no different than the Scientologists.

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                                    • “We do not know of any difference of opinion among the people of knowledge (ahl al-`ilm) that zakat on wealth cannot be given to a kafir. Ibn al-Mundhir said, “There is consensus of all those whose positions we know from the people of knowledge that a non-Muslim (dhimmi) cannot be given any zakat.”

                                      This is because the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to Mu`adh [in the authentic hadith, reported by Bukhari 1365, Muslim 26-27, and elsewhere], Tell them that they are obliged to give a charity (i.e. zakat) that is taken from their rich and given to their poor.

                                      The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) specified the Muslims as giving it to their poor, just as he specified that it is only obligatory on their rich. [Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni, 2.1774]

                                      http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=1527&CATE=5

                                      This kafir has no idea if this is authoritative; indeed, there is no Muslim pope, no magisterium, so all you can do is take a survey of “the people of knowledge.”  It is an interesting contradistinction to “Christian charity,” however, which accepts all comers.

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                          • The whole notion of a “war on Mormonism” is really terrifically rich. And the dodge that this is primarily “the left” is also absurd. Sure, the left is probably going to be skeptical of an organization that denies gays their equal rights, or tries to get gays kicked out of the Boyscouts (which the Mormons basically run at this point) but conservative Christians have a much more passionate stake in this, and I can see why. Mormons bill themselves as Christian, and that’s fine – if they want to self-identify that way, whatever – but you can see how Christians might recoil at the notion that say, Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, or Native Americans were the lost tribe of Israel, or that we all get to be gods in the afterlife, etc.

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                            • Go for it, EDK.  I’m familiar with all this stuff as it’s my own area of study, as you might know.  [We have 2 Mormons among our contributors American Creation; one is the boss.  Neither is particularly friendly to the GOP, BTW.]

                              You’re quite accurate so far and you have Kolob and the Holy Underwear yet to play.  People are gonna freak, and since it’s all grist for the mill; the game’s afoot!

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                        6. Let’s not pussyfoot around the issue of Mitt Romney’s religion.  The LDS Church has been a mighty force against progress in the world at large.  Mitt Romney is defined by his faith, as surely as I’m defined by mine.

                          JP Morgan the financier was once hauled in front of Congress (for the last time)  where he was raked over the coals by the Pujo Committee.  Morgan uttered these words to his tormentors:

                          The first thing [in credit] is character … before money or anything else. Money cannot buy it.… A man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom. I think that is the fundamental basis of business.

                          Mitt Romney is defined by his money and his power.   He’s a wealthy man who made his money in finance, as JP Morgan had made his money.   Like JP Morgan, Mitt Romney was a dutiful son to a powerful father.   And like JP Morgan, Mitt Romney is a man of faith.

                          Forget all this bullshit about faith.   Tell me of Mitt Romney’s character.  Mene mene tekel upharsin, thou hast been weighed in the balances and found wanting, Mitt Romney.

                          When it suits Romney’s purposes, he will lie.  He lies every day now, really fat shameless fabrications.  As a financier, he was (and seemingly still is) an outstandingly dirty dealer in a business noted for dirty dealings.  Romney cares only about the stockholders:  he’s ruined about half the companies he’s touched.

                          Romney has always tried to present himself as a fine upstanding Mormon gent, squeaky clean, not a molecule of caffeine in his system.   It is all a sham.  He has nothing in common with mere mortals such as us, beset with weaknesses and shortcomings.

                          The first thing in credit is character.   Creditworthiness starts with a track record of promises kept.   There have been men of character in the Oval Office, men who earned our trust, leaders who did the right thing even at great cost to themselves and their political careers. Mitt Romney is not such a man

                          If this campaign is a reflection of Mitt Romney’s character, all his pious baloney (his LDS beliefs discreetly hidden behind the label “Christian” though LDS is no such thing)  stands in marked contrast to a distinctly amoral and ruthless candidate who will say anything to anyone, a St Peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas, denying he ever knew Jesus.

                          I do not worry about Mitt Romney the Mormon.  That’s all just for show, probably always was with him.   Every serious Holy Roller I ever knew, and I’ve known many, lived his life according to the principles of his faith.  Romney doesn’t care about the poor, though Christ commanded us to care for them.   Romney’s missionarying never drilled a well or put up a hospital clinic or fitted an amputee child with a prosthesis or ran a refugee camp.

                          I do worry about Mitt Romney the financier.  If there’s any worrying to be done about Mormon Mitt, the devil wears a dog collar every Sunday morning.

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                        7. The demonization on Mitt Romney will be something to witness this year. Even a faction of the Republican Party will join in, or, at least, they won’t defend him from all the vicious attacks. Democrats have to worry about going too far in the demonization, especially as the attacks on Romney invite greater comparison to Obama, which puts Obama under a spotlight he wasn’t under in 2008. It’s not going to be pretty. Another factor is how much influence does the New Media have in 2012 — it’s the first election in which certain aspects of the Information Age will be mature. I’m sure the Romney team is working on the missionary story right now.

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                                • He’s kind of a big fishin deal, nevertheless, no? Also had a high profile race against Sharron Angle in the last election.  I remember the topic of Sharron Angle coming up a lot in this forum.  Never Reid’s religion.

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                                  • For my part I think that legitimate public interest in a person’s orientation with respect to the particular issues that religion speaks strongly to – the nature and meaning of life *and death* in particular but others as well (where in the case of some religions a claim to authority on such topics with respect to adherents’ consideration of them is advanced) – spikes considerably and legitimately when the proposal on the table is to assign that person primary executive responsibility for the physical protection of our country, command of our armed forces, and final control over our nuclear arsenal, as compared with merely being the head of a legislative majority.   And since in most cases a person’s religion does speak to those issues, interesting the person’s relationship to that religion, and in the religion itself to the extent it isn’t familiar, legitimately spikes accordingly.  These spikes might very well justify such a prospect stimulating someone to decide to address the question with an independent piece of writing in the case of someone running for president when it didn’t in the case of someone rising to the leadership of a Congressional majority.  But I could be an exception in viewing it that way.

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                            • Erik, I’m not always referring to what you write — there are many commenters here to which we respond. No, talking about Romney’s Mormonism is not demonizing him, but demonizing him is demonizing him, and the Left and Center are doing their best to demonize him, reflected by many of the comments here.

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                          • Nah.   The cheeze-eatin’ GOP won’t go after Romney.   They’ll defend him, in print and elsewhere.   But they’ve lost all the Bible Thumpers, once their most stalwart allies.

                            See, the Bible Thumpers have been getting fucked over by the GOP for a good long while now.   Everyone with political aspiration comes to shake their hands after Sunday services and eats the little egg sammiches at the Prayer Breakfasts but those politicians always arrive at that Babylon-upon-Potomac and sin with great gusto.   It’s a larger problem than just putting Plastic Man at the head of the ticket.   It’s the GOP’s constant lying about its real agenda.

                            Watch this election:  the once-loyal King James Bible readin’ Fox-watchin’ Protestant family just might stay home on Election Day, their visceral dislike of wily Obama matched by a crushing sense of betrayal by the GOP.   The meek really will inherit the earth, not because the vain and proud have crashed and burned, but because they haven’t broken their promises.

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                        8. Fortunately, my new hero Kolohe has been doing the… errr… Lord’s work in this thread so I don’t have to. I’ll just add…

                          I’m sorry about the experiences of EDK’s wife in Utah. I don’t doubt it for a minute. My less extensive experience living in Mormonland was such that I have decided that I will not settle down in Mormonland again. I know more about who they are, what they are like individually, and what it’s like to live under them than most. For gentiles, it can be… rather infuriating. I wouldn’t want to subject any future children I have to it (heaven knows, with me as a father and Clancy as a mother, they’ll have the deck stacked against them socially anyway).

                          But this goes beyond the question of whether or not we would want to live under a Mormon regime. When we talk about Utah, we’re not talking about a bunch of Mormons, we’re talking about Mormon domination. The suggestion that Romney would usher that in is entirely unsupported. It’s actually things worse than unsupported, but we’ll stick with that for now.

                          The notion that Romney has to answer for the actions of his ancestors, that he is accountable for the religious heritage he was born in to (and, to be fair, adopted, but he didn’t choose the LDS out of a hat), is built on the notion that he should answer not (only) for who he is, but for what he is. That he is a credit to his people. Those people untrustworthy for leadership until they can prove a negative and demonstrate otherwise.

                          I suppose that what I am saying is, my unfortunate experiences aside, that I do not believe Mormons to be individually untrustworthy for leadership. I do not believe that Mitt Romney has to prove that he is unlike those Mormons that are untrustworthy for leadership. And that he is not best identified by his demographic and should not have to explain why he is not like those others within it. And definitely should not be expected to answer for the transgressions of his ancestry.

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                          • It doesn’t matter weather it’s your church, your mosque, or your bowling league – if you’re a candidate for president and you belonged to a racist club then it is your duty to address that issue directly. Saying it’s as American as apple pie shouldn’t even cut it for your supporters.

                            When Wright came up for Obama, by the way, Obama dedicated an entire chapter of his campaign to the issue; starting with his big speech on race and ending with a complete disavowal after Wright started milking the spotlight. In comparison, Romney can’t even properly denounce a death threat from a washed-up rocker.

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                              • It’s kinda interesting because I knew people who went to Trinity UCC, Wright’s church.   I think Obama went there for the socialising and to learn the cadence of black preaching of the fire-breathin’ Black Jeezus variety.   When Obama got to Chicago, he knew as much about organic American Black culture as a Martian.

                                It’s been there a long time now at 95th and Halsted.   No humble slavery-tinged call and response like the AME churches or the hysterical Pentecostal COGIC churches, nossir, Trinity was hi-class and proud of it.   No surprise to see Barack Obama turning up there.   Trinity got so weird because it was faced with intellectual (not spiritual) competition with Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, hence all this Black Jesus and Black This ‘n That nonsense.   By the time Obama was going there, most of that had died down.   Old Rev. Wright had lost relevance, silly old man.

                                I’ve been to Trinity UCC, twice, a long time back, with some friends from around 110th and King Drive.   White people went there, too.

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                                  • What makes Obama okay is that, while he might believe religious things, they don;t make him do anything crazy.

                                    What makes Romney scary is that no one can tell what he believes, except that he really, really wants to be president, and he’s afraid that expressing his real opinions will get in the way of that.

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                                    • Exactly. There’s just something about the guy that seems off–kind of like he tried to sell his soul to the devil for money and power only to discover that he had no soul to sell. He was, by far, the best candidate the Republicans had to offer this go round, yet he’s never really been able to seal the deal. Who’s inspired by him? Who thinks he’s anymore than than some rich guy who wants to be king and thinks he can buy the throne? He beat down his opponents by outspending them several times to one. Here in Pennsylvania, his Super PAC started showing the first of their anti-Santorum ads before Santorum pulled the plug on his campaign. We saw one–it was brutal. And I’m sure it was mild compared to what he’ll throw at the president in the general election.

                                      While I do think it’s legitimate to ask about Romney’s religious beliefs, I don’t think his Mormonism will have nearly as much impact on the race as his perceived disingenuousness, his inability to articulate a compelling explanation for why he wants to be president. In the end, it is a question of both character and likeability and he comes up short on both measures.

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                                  • I contend we’d probably be lots better off as a nation if the atheists were in charge.   I couldn’t be impartial if I was elected to high office, I’d be trying to do the Christian thing, working to better the lot of the poor and suchlike Christian considerations by my lights, and that’s how I’d justify those attempts.

                                    Obama does the church thang, like all the preznits do.   Hard to say what anyone really “believes” about God independently of what their religion has to say on the subject.

                                    Here’s the deal.   It doesn’t matter what we believe.   What matters is what we do.   That’s the only proof of enlightenment.   Romney shouldn’t scare anyone, not yet anyway.    We’ve had Mormons in government for years.   Orrin Hatch is a stand up guy, for instance, if that odious turd Harry Reid is not — and I’m a Democrat.

                                    But I don’t want Orrin Hatch for POTUS.   Yeah, you’re right, it does scare people when some politician believes religious things.   And it ought to.   Such people can’t be impartial, they can’t represent us all.   I’d like to think I respect all people of faith, certainly studied enough of their languages and holy books, but if I can admit I couldn’t transcend my Christian views, why should I believe any other person of faith can transcend his or hers?

                                    That’s where all this Presumption of Neutrality just caves in like a rotten old well cover.   That sort of thinking is great for judges and juries.   Doesn’t work in politics.

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                          • Insofar as Romney’s Mormonism is only one of several facades he’s put up in front of his actual positions, it provides a useful perspective on his true nature.   Of course he’s not to blame for the sins of his ancestors but he did preach those doctrines in France, yes he goddamned well did.   LDS didn’t back down on its stance on blacks until 1978. The Book of Mormon makes its position on the Lamanites very clear.

                            When students at BYU protested against the bigotry against black people, Mitt Romney, then a student, remained silent.

                            If silence does not always give assent and we cannot get a clear picture of what Mitt actually believed, the historical facts can be brought in for reference.   Mitt Romney said nothing.   This much we know for sure, LDS only relented when its status as a religiously tax-exempt entity was brought into question by the IRS.   If  a person can be entirely excused from the legacy of intolerance, that excuse can only arise from opposition to that legacy.

                            Romney is untrustworthy, not because he is a Mormon but because he was not brave enough to oppose the bigotry within his faith.   His silence in the face of his own religion’s intolerance cannot be ignored.   Those who remain silent in the face of evil cannot be relied on to oppose other sorts of evil and injustice in the world.

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                            • Your position, that Mormons are untrustworthy for leadership until proven otherwise, is abundantly clear. Actually, I have less an issue with that than I do with Romney’s ancestry “raising questions” and attempts to link in the FLDS while pointing to Mormon friends as a defense.

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                              • Don’t put words in my mouth.   You want to dissect away Romney’s belief structure, that’s fine.   Cut him all the slack you want.  I’ve made my point pretty goddamn clear upstream, Romney’s Mormonism is a contemptible facade over a truly rapacious and predatory financier and manifest liar, none of which has anything to do with his faith.   Though there is no religious test for high office, Romney has already failed the character test.

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                                          • Judaism has fascinated me all my life.   Though it’s endlessly schismatic, so’s my part of the religious forest.   Judaism is such a great idea for a religion.   Look at their holy books, about three quarters of it is man complaining to God and God complaining about man.   God makes rules man can’t or won’t keep — and man behaves awfully to his fellow man and it’s like some black comedy starring an All-Powerful Dad and his dysfunctional family.   All Judaism’s heroes are unvarnished and fallible.   That’s why there’s gonna be Jews till the sun burns down to a cinder.   It’s a religion for doubters and comedians.

                                             

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                        9. Romney may be unusual in having polygamist ancestors. But just recently we had a discussion about the problems of coverture; I suspect most politicians have ancestors who participated in that oppressive institution.

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                          • Insofar as those politicians saw fit to make laws which abolished those institutions, should we spread that peanut butter along the Time Line of Toast into present times?   Nobody should care about Romney’s ancestors.  It’s Romney character in these times which matters.

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                            • I suspect I agree with you. I doubt I’ll be voting for him.

                              I just think referencing “the Romney family’s polygamist past” is silly at best. It’s not really a productive way to talk about Romney’s character in the present.

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                        10. I actually predict that this is a dog that will never really appreciatively as bark loudly in the main campaign conversation as some seem to think it will.  We’ll hear about it a little; there will be a bit of conversation about it, maybe even a debate question.  But Romney will handle it with aplomb, and, key, Obama will gladly move on quickly, as any dilation of this discussion benefits neither candidate.  It would go against one of Obama’s primary appeals – to America’s embrace of pluralism, social, cultural, religious – to pursue an identity campaign based on religion against Romney (class, that’s another question – Americans aren’t class-pluralists: middle-class or bust, baby). So you won’t see the Obama campaign pushing an examination of Romney’s faith, and they’ll try to move past it quickly whenever it comes up.  As a result, and as a result of the public being interested in things much more relevant to their lives materially, the media won’t effect a major side-conversation about it in any but the most incidental terms (i.e. they won’t raise it as an issue, but as a note of interest).

                          Again, the subject won’t be completely suppressed – it’ll be noted and discussed (perhaps more in quiet rooms) – but there won’t be a major campaign episode-controversy relating to Mitt’s faith.

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                          • I think this is about right.

                            I’ll add that I think a candidate’s religion is within the pale of legitimate political discussion, but I will add that before anyone convinces *me* that I need to care about a candidate’s religion, I assign to them a burden of proof.  If anyone wants to claim to me that I should disapprove of Romney for any reason based substantially on the fact that he’s a Mormon, they’ll have to draw a pretty straight line.

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                          • “It would go against one of Obama’s primary appeals – to America’s embrace of pluralism, social, cultural, religious – to pursue an identity campaign based on religion against Romney…”

                            It would also bring Obama’s religious affiliations, or the perception thereof, back into the limelight.  Obama does not want to go back down the Reverend Wright path or into the secret Muslim swamp again, and justifiably so.  If religion becomes a major focus on the election, it is going to be an ugly and unfortunate turn for everyone.

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                        11. My principle: anything that might possibly inform or influence a political candidate’s thinking and action is fair game for analysis and criticism.  A candidate’s religion most certainly falls into this category.

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                          • Agreed.  But I do have an issue if people scrutinize only some faiths and not others without a damn good reason for the dichotomy.  And I have a HUGE issue if they are scrutinizing a bastardized representation of that faith as opposed to that individual’s relationship with the faith.

                            And flat out refusing to vote for someone of a given faith is just as repugnant as refusing to vote for someone because of their race, ethnicity, or gender.

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                              • PC-

                                And I do think there is a difference between wariness and outright refusal.

                                Someone might say they are wary of voting for a woman because they fear her having her finger on the button “during that time of the month”.  As stupid as that position is, at least it is a starting point for a discussion, wherein it could be demonstrated to the holder of that position that their perspective is skewed.

                                If someone says they simply will never vote for a woman because woman are stupid/inferior/incapable of being President?  Well, not much to argue there.  The view is, to its core, bigotted.

                                Likewise with religion.

                                I might be wary to vote Christian because all I know about the faith is Fred Phelps and I don’t want someone like that as my president.  You could then point out to me the billions of Christians who are nothing like Fred Phelps, which hopefully would be enough to convince me.

                                But if I simply felt that Christians were flawed beings who were inferior to non-Christians?  Meh.  Bigotry.  Repugnant.

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                                • Kazzy:

                                  Sorry for taking so long to respond to your comments (yesterday was a busy day).  I think I agree with most of what you say.

                                  To answer your question about why I’d be wary about voting for a scientologist, it would probably indeed because of things I’ve heard about scientology.  I’m tempted to think of it as a cult and to think of anyone who professes