Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Today’s Reading List – June 29, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:57 am, June 29th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Richard John Neuhaus addresses the question, somehow managing only to prevaricate and be disappointing.  Take for example what he has to say about the much disputed word "Christian:"

    I believe that many Mormons are Christians as broadly defined by historic markers of Christian faith. That does not mean that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christian. It is indisputably derived from Christianity and variations on Christianity, but its distinctive and constituting doctrines are irreconcilable with even a very liberal construal of biblical Christianity.

    That just sounds like double talk to me.  In essence that is a statement that can be made about virtually every church that claims to be Christian.  Take, for example, my Presbyterian church.  To Dr. Neuhaus' Roman Catholic mind, my church supports and engages in a number of heresies, so I guess our church is not Christian.  But I am sure he would find many of us individually to be Christians.  Thus, once again, Mormons appear to be little different than the rest of us.

    However, Dr. Neuhaus' primary thesis is an attempt to refute Johin Fund's excellent OpinionJournal piece from Monday, which we linked to enthusiastically.  Because of the kind of "have it both ways" talk just cited, Dr. Neuhaus manages to sound like his usual erudite self and a Southern Baptist fundy at the same time.  He takes great exception with Fund's conclusion:

    But I can now register a respectful disagreement with John Fund when he writes, “We will be a better country if even people who don’t support Mr. Romney for president come to recognize that our country is better off if his candidacy rises or falls on factors that have nothing to do with his faith.” On the contrary, we are a better country because many Americans do take their faith, and the faith of others, very seriously indeed.

    It sounds to me as if Dr. Neuhaus fears that the natural result of Fund's conclusion is that religion will cease to have a voice in politics.  To the contrary, I think Fund's conclusion leads to that voice being exercised in the manner it was intended, which is through religiously committed people, as opposed to religious institutions.  Which seems to be the point that he made when I accused him of doublespeak earlier, so why the caveats and naysaying?

    Lowell adds a late thought:  May I respectfully note that Fr. Neuhaus's argument is simply a sectarian quibble dressed up in scholarly language.  If we Mormons wanted to engage in such asdebate, we would simply respond that we believe our faith is restored Christianity, and that in fact, all other creedal Christian faiths, including Fr. Neuhaus's Catholicism, are apostate "derivatives" of true Christianity.  But we don't go there, and I won't either.  I'm just raising the point.  Such quibbling is interesting in seminaries and Sunday School, but not in political campaigns.

    As if on cue, the Cinncinnati Enquirer tries to make one of Dr. Neuhaus's points for him.  The article looks at Mormon missionary efforts and is structured in a fashion to make it appear that Romney's candidacy is bringing legitimacy to those efforts.  I must resist the temptation to get seriously theological here.  This point argues that affiliation matters more than personal faith.  The preeminence of personal faith is one of the hallmarks of Evangelicalism.  Therefore, I find it somewhat unsurprising to hear Dr. Neuhaus advance this concern as it would be in line with his Catholicism.  However, to hear it from Al Mohler, as we have on several occasions, is somewhat remarkable.  I am sure if you put the question "Does church membership bring you salvation?" to Dr. Mohler, he would answer "No."  Which begs the question, "If someone becomes a Mormon because of who is president, or running for same, can they be said to have made a genuine religious commitment, or have they just joined the currently most popular club?"

    Forgive my cynicism, but at this point and from my perspective, the most amazing thing about the Romney dog story is that I have yet to find anyone that ties it to Romney's faith somehow….

    There is a new meme in the land of religion and politics.  This Salon piece about Rudy and Evangelicals lays it out.  The meme is that Evangelicals must be somehow "overcome" to be elected as a Republican.  How come nobody writes such stuff about the far left for the Dems?

    My point?  Same one it has always been.  The left wants to delegitimize Evangelicals as much or more than Mormons and they are not afraid to pit one against the other.  That is why the worst pieces on The Question have come consistently from the left. 

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    Today’s Reading List – June 28, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:13 am, June 28th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Is nothing beneath the Boston Globe?

    Im the latest profile entry they discuss the Romney SLC/Olympic experience, and manage to paint Romney's greatest challenge there as backing off some sort of Mormon "cabal."  At some point in all of this the Boston Globe has ceased to be ignorant, or misguided, or even merely biased – they have become simply contemptable.

    Let them hate Romney, that is their perogative.  But to smear an entire religion in the name of political opposition should be beneath even the worst of the left-leaning MSM.  This may be a new low.  It is a one thing to play on the misguided suspicions of people that do not know or have not studied Mormonism, but this is more, this is an allegation of conspiracy.

    What's worse, the allegation is to conduct, oh Lord heaven forbid, Mormon evangelism.

    Remember now, I am the evangelical one – I like Mormons a lot, but I'd just as soon there not be any more of them simply because I think my religion is better – but they have the same right to try and spread their religion as I do mine, it's not a conspiracy – IT"S WHAT RELIGIONS DO!

    Elsewhere – when you can't get media attention otherwise, put out an outrageous press release and hope for the best.  Lowell predicted it to me privately, but I did not think it would actually happen.  Some ultra-fundamentalist nutter named Bill Wilson has proclaimed the Church of Christ a "dangerous cult" while discussing Fred Thompson's rather colorful relationships with the opposite sex.  (The CoC is unique in that it claims no creed save the Bible, but unlike the LDS, it is generally accepted as within the Christian mainstream)  Having brought up the cult word, he cannot resist a shot at Romney in the concluding paragraph.  I hesitated to link to this because I think we may give it more attention than it would otherwise get, but it was just to silly, and utterly random, to ignore.

    That's about it for Romney and religion today; however, I did find some other stuff that might be of interest to our readers.

    The Washington Post profiles Pentecostalism in Africa and starts the story this way:

    As the miracle-healer descended from the sky in an immaculate white helicopter, his disciples cheered with joy: "Hallelujah! Praise Jesus."

     

    Gospel songs thundered through the speakers as televangelist Benny Hinn landed outside Uganda's national stadium last month, before addressing 40,000 enraptured faithful.

    Now, to be entirely frank, most Evangelicals find Benny Hinn tasteless and "out there" – but they do consider him in the fold of conventional Christianity, even if on its furthest edges.  And yet, when I read that opening paragraph I have a hard time telling the difference between that and the Mormon story of Joseph Smith and the golden tablets, they both have a similar "feel."

    Which is, I think the point.  Once you concede the supernatural, it becomes very difficult to distinguish the real from the false.  If you deny the Joseph Smith stories, you must deny the miracle stories in your own faith as well.  If you are going to disagree with Mormons, you need to be pretty smart about it – simply dismissing them as somehow "fantastical" will cost you more than you know.

    In a presidential campaign, the specific religious affilition of a candidate should just be one of these little bits of trivia that gets tossed around – so should this.

    Finally, forgiveness is a religious topic.

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    Today’s Reading List – June 27, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:34 am, June 27th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Yesterday's entry in The Boston Globe's Romney profile series is nothing short of outrageous.  One of the longest stories I have ever read about Mitt Romney in any outlet devotes but 20% of its total content to Mitt Romney himself, choosing instead to tell in excruiating detail the story of his polygamous ancestors.  And then, finally in the last few paragraphs turning to Romney himself, though dedicating most of its coverage to his mission in France, they print the following:

    On the campaign trail, he angered some Mormons by denouncing the church's history of plural marriage, saying on CBS's 60 Minutes, ''I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy.''

    I'm no Mormon (sadly Lowell is on vacation with limited internet access – I hope he can chime in on this one) but I have yet to encounter a Mormon that disagreed with Romney's 60 Minutes comment.  The Mormons I know all accept polygamy as God's will for their church at that time, but they are equally adamant that they are grateful they no longer have such a mandate.

    This story seems clearly intended to me to make it seem as if Mormons still support polygamy and as if Romney's long dead ancestors incriminate him personally in that practice.

    For the record, my family has a long, storied, and now very old, history of slave ownership in the deep South.  Am I therefore implicated in their behavior?

    What is saddest of all, however, is that Romney's mission service was quite formative in his character, as was chronicled in Hugh Hewitt's book.  While I disagree with the theology that mission served, I also understand the good character that service can develop in and of itself, regardless of the particulars being served.  But instead of emphasizing that angle the Globe choses to use the mission as a reason to bring up at immense length , long dead practices of the LDS.

    This is a hit piece of the worst order, designed to smear a man with practices not his own – designed to paint him as some sort of hyper-religious freak.

    Naked partisanship coupled with a general bias against religion, further coupled with a particular and virulent bias against Mormonism make for a pretty ugly picture.

    Lowell chimes in from vacation:  As a life-long and continuously practicing Mormon I can confirm that no one among my co-religionists– no one– longs for the days of polygamy.  (In a church of 12 million there must be some oddballs somewhere who do, but I've never met anyone like that.)  So when Romney said ''I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy,'' virtually every Mormon listening understood exactly what he meant.  The consensus among us is: we believe it was a commandment from God; we cannot imagine how difficult it was to live that law; and we are glad it is not required of us. I imagine the Israelites of the Old Testament who came after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob's time felt the same way.

    That ugly picture continues, though somewhat less outrageously in today's piece in the profile series.  Ostensibly about his immediate family, the piece traces his political career as well.  The discussions of the role of Romney's faith in his family life are simply ham-fisted.  They aren't really bigoted against Mormonism per se as they are against religion in general.  It seems obvious to me that the reporters just don't get people who grant faith an important place in their life.

    But when it gets to the political stuff, there is one just flat out lie.

    About a month before the election, Kennedy launched his most devastating attack. On the airwaves, he strafed Romney with tough ads designed to turn his greatest asset of business success into a vulnerability. Romney's Bain Capital had bought a paper company called American Pad & Paper, or Ampad, which then bought an Indiana plant and laid off workers, cut wages, and reduced benefits. The workers began striking. Seizing on Romney's candidacy, they brought their complaints to Massachusetts.

    The Ampad attacks did hurt Romney in his Senate run, but they were certainly not the "most desvastating."  That distinction involved Kennedy's use of the "Mormon card," something the Boston Globe failed to mention altogether.  Speaking of which, we here at Article Six tried to reach Mary Jo Kopechne for comment, but found her unavailable. 

    Elsewhere:

    Brother in understanding John Mark Reynolds writes on Patriotism and the Christian Soul.  An excellent primer on what it means to be a Christian in a democratic west.

    The religion writer cum blogger at U.S. News goes where virtually everyone has gone before on The Question.

    Nancy French of Evangelicals For Mitt fame had a nice NewsMax op-ed over last weekend.  Sadly, one of her EFM co-bloggers Charles Mitchell reports that her piece is being re-transmitted through cyber space "with modifications."  This is nothing short of despicable.  I am well aware that there are many creedal Christians out there who feel that disagreement with Mormons is insufficient, that their concerns rise to the level of animus.  However, I wonder if they realize that in warping and misrepresenting and even fabricating the stance and ideas of their brother and sister creedal Christians they commit the very sin they accuse in Mormons?  Such things serve only to destroy one's own credibility.  

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    Today’s Reading List – June 26, 2007

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 06:11 am, June 26th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Here's a long, analytical Washington Post article on Romney's campaign so far.  It's a mostly excellent piece, but — call me weird–  what struck me as most interesting about it is . . . of at least 1,000 words, only 29 related to The Question, and they were buried deep in the article: 

    Romney has yet to demonstrate convincingly that he can win over evangelical Christians, an important constituency in Republican primaries; some are skeptical about him because of his Mormon religion, and others may doubt that his conversion on abortion is genuine.

    I guess that's progress.

    John comments:  That's what I like about Lowell, he is a glass half full kind of guy!  The piece outlines Romney's strategy and how well he is executing it, polling, fundraising, etc, and then, out of nowhere, comes that paragraph.  Maybe it's in the name of balance, but I'm betting it is because, once again, the MSM cannot let go of their preconcieved narrative, even if it does not apply or is not true, it simply must be repeated.  Which begs the question – When does the preconceived narrative become "The Big Lie"?  You know, the one that if you repeat it enough times it becomes the truth?

    Lowell:  John's right.  I guess I have low expectations. 

    And John adds some links:

    OK, So MSNBC, and a blog called The Democratic Daily both point to the latest entry in the Boston Globe's Romney profile series about his Vietnam era draft deferments.  This comes under the somewhat "sinister" headline:

    Mormon church obtained Vietnam draft deferrals for Romney, other missionaries

    They point out that such deferments became controversial later in the war, which pretty much did all deferements, but I cannot help but think this is another sign of anti-Mormon bias.  Ministers of all stripes routinely obtained deferments and being a lay run church, an LDS missionary fits the definition pretty well.

    Imagine this headline "Young Life staffer obtained Vietnam deferment" – a lot did.  So the question is – Is this news because he is running for President, or because he is Mormon?  Given that the story fails to mention other religious deferments, you decide.

    Lowell: Clearly one result of Romney's status as a serious candidate is that the MSM is looking for something, anything that looks like a skeleton in his closet.  As someone who was around in the Vietnam draft era, and a was Mormon growing up in Salt Lake City, I can add some perspective. 

    I was just a couple of years too young to have to worry about the draft (I was required to register and I did get a lottery number), but I was surrounded by family and friends who were involved.  During much of that time– certainly in Romney's era– each LDS ward (congregation) could send only two missionaries per year.  In those days in my own ward, we had enough missionary-age young men to send out a half-dozen missionaries annually, were it not for the draft.  As a result, many young men entered the military, then served missions; others served missions, then entered the military.  But that varied from ward to ward.  Timing and luck were everything — just as they were for hundreds of thousands of other young men thoughout the country, who worked the system for college deferments, 4-F status due to athletic injuries, and so forth. 

    I don't know Romney's story but it looks like he was one of those who was able to serve a mission, then became ineligible for military service because of college deferments and marriage, just like so many other young men in that era.  Any claim that the "LDS Church" intervened in some way to get him out of military service is simply nonsense.  The system at that time just wasn't set up to work that way.  Romney is no different from thousands of other young Mormons in the 60's.  There is no story here.

    Today's entry into BG's "profile" series, looking at his academic years, contains several "wonderful" little snippets:

    Romney also occasionally attended weekend parties and group dinners at Cambridge restaurants such as Legal Seafoods and the now-closed Joyce Chen. The restrictions of his Mormon faith never interfered in these affairs.

    I'm sorry, but that is just laughable.  On the good side, I'm not sure it is bigoted because I can easily see them wrting the same thing about any person in Romney's position of any deeply held religious conviction, but the whole "religious people are human too" aspect of that paragraph is stunning.  But then there is this:

    Romney's classmates were widely aware he was Mormon, but said he never proselytized. Mark E. Mazo, one of Romney's law school study group partners, recalls that Romney offered to discuss his faith with any classmates interested in learning more about it. "He mentioned it once and only once, and it never came up again," Mazo said.

     

    On occasion, Mitt and Ann invited classmates to "family home evening," a Mormon tradition in which families set aside time each week to spend together. Visitors to their house at the time, on Winn Street near Belmont Hill, remember it as modest, without any obvious trappings of wealth.

    Well, what do you know, Mormons are people too!  I'm sorry, but give me a break.  It's as if the Globe thinks mission work is all there is to Mormonism – even when they are not knocking on your door.  I'm not a Mormon and even I know they don't do that all the time.  Besides, I wonder if anyone remembers that we creedal Christians have been known to do door-to-door evangelism too, I certainly have.

    When Lowell and I appeared on Hugh Hewitt's radio program last week, I said that I thought MSM coverage of Romney's faith was getting freakshowish – like Jerry Springer or Maury Povich.  This piece sure carries that air to it.

    The NYT covers Guiliani's continuing troubles with the Roman Catholic Church.  While the story definitely works to portray the church as somehow close-minded, at least there is some "there" there.  The church is arguing how to handle candidates who disagree with the church's stance on certain issues.

    Finally, and quite ironically, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Al Mohler begins a blog post (different seminary than yesterday, but we are hearing from these Baptist seminaries a lot) with this rhetorical question:

    Have we reached the point that a Christian who affirms traditional church teachings cannot be appointed to public office?

    He then goes on to examine the case of Bush's appointment for Surgeon General who is under attack for his classic creedal Christian faith.  Mohler has yet to go so far as to say Evangelicals cannot or should not vote for a Mormon, but he has expressed "concern" because of Mormon beliefs.

    Lowell:  He's done more than express concern; he said that for for him, deciding whether or not to vote for a Mormon for president would be "agonizing" as a matter of Christian discipleship.

    I hate to tell you this, Al, but in this country what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  If you are going to be concerned about Mormon office-seekers' beliefs, then someone else is going to be concerned about yours.  That, my friend and brother, is the whole point.

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    Today’s Reading List – June 25, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:53 am, June 25th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Just When You Think The Worst Is Over…

    One of my Evangelical brethren jumps up and just flat out makes a fool of himself.  R. Phillip Roberts, president of the Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary, ran a breakout session at a conference on Christian Apologetics called "Mitt Romney: Should Evangelicals Vote for a Mormon President?" and let's just say he was less than enthusiastic about the prospect.  David over at EFM has done a great job of refuting much of the nonsense reported, but there are a couple of additional points that I want to tackle.

    The opening paragraph of the Baptist Press piece is:

    The "overarching and primary concern" why evangelicals likely will not vote for a Mormon for president is the Mormon claim to be the only true Christian church, a Southern Baptist seminary president said during the International Society of Christian Apologetics' annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo.

    That is the most overstated bit of the obvious I have ever seen.  Every religion, every church, every denomination makes such a claim, in fact it is definitional for a religion of any stripe to claim to have THE TRUTH.  All this is is a fancy, high-falutin', attempt-to-sound-smart way of returning to the same old dog-marking-its-territory battle over the word "Christian."  More on this in a minute.

    But then there is this whopper of a paragraph:

    The nation's conservative constituency and their spokesmen "must be very careful about how they speak to Christian voters," Roberts continued. "They must understand that we can't … divide up and deconstruct a Christian personality … or position so that, 'Yes, you can vote as a Christian on one issue, but not on another.'"

    That is truly an amazing statement, and frankly a bit frightening, but revelatory.  This paragraph, taken in conjunction with the one quoted above, reveals one of the major flaws in this particular branch of Evangelicalism today – it has lost the intellectual moorings of the greater Christian movement and been reduced to an arguement over when the label applies and when it doesn't.

    A Christian, creedal or Mormon, is always a Christian, or course they are not somehow sub-divided into Christian and non-Christian parts.  What smart ones do is take their faith and intellect, look at an issue and apply those to arrive at a stance, which will always be a "Christian" stance because it has been taken by a Christian using Christian principles.  However, this naturally means that Christians are going to disagree on stuff.

    In the book, Religious Literacy, Stepehen Prothero makes the case that American Evangelicalism has largely reduced itself to a religious label without much religious content, an affiliation without faith or much in the way of practice.  I think Prothero overstates the case; such is not true accross the breadth of Evanagelicalism, but it is true for some streams of it; and this, frankly, is one of them.

    As if to make my point for me, John Podhoretz at The Corner over last Thursday described Romney as "The Other."  Indeed, Mormonism is different than creedal Christianity, but "The Other"?  That's about labels, not reality.

    Lowell interjectsI think J-Pod is revealing an Eastern elitist provincial bias.  I doubt he's acquainted with many Mormons.  In the West, I'll wager it would strike most people as odd to consider Mormons the "Other."  But what do I know?  I'm one of those . . . Others? 

    I am struck by how much these statements, about what is and is not under the "Christian" umbrella, sound like the much maligned and always feared declarations of who is and who is not a part of "the church" which many fundamental Protestants decry from Roman Catholics.  In essence, "You're a 'Christian' when I say you're a 'Christian.'"

    The Roman Catholic Church has overcome this historical tendency and learned how to work in the American system – as have the Mormons.  Sadly, it appears that some branches of Evangelicalism, a movement founded out of that same system, has "grown" to the point where they have picked up that rejected mantle.

    In the end it is a naked fight over the political power that comes with the label.  Such is precisely the circumstance that triggered the Protestant Reformation – the church lost its mission for the sake of the power it wielded.  It appears to this observer that some of us have come full circle.

    Speaking of which, American Catholic bishops discuss their political involvement in the current election cycle, and, sadly, display a reason and grace with which I resonate far more than the statements of Roberts above.  It is instructive that theologically I personally am much, much farther from the Roman Catholic bishops than I am from the Southern Baptists.

    In yet another counter-example, people keep looking at where Obama goes to church.  There are two important comments about this piece.  The first is that in the practice of Christianity Obama's church deviates far more from the generally perceived Christian norm than does Mormon practice, and yet we are not treated to any seminary officers decrying the church as other than Christian.  What matters more when looking for someone as a business partner, or a president: what they think, or what they do?

    Secondly, Obama's church has to go a long way to suffer the scrutiny the LDS have in this election cycle.  This strikes me as Obama trying to play the religious victim card.

    Meanwhile, back on the campaign trail, as we reported on Friday, some of McCain's people got stupid, and have stirred up a real hornet's nest.  Late Friday, McCain took a shot at an apology, but given his history and plummeting numbers, I'm thinking it is too little, too late.  A candidate worth serious consideration would never have gotten himself into this deep of a hole to begin with.

    It is, however, interesting to note that the last couple of weeks have seen one top-tier (Guiliani); one second-tier (Brownback); and one first-tier-to-the-press, second, no third, no fourth-tier-to-the-base (McCain) candidate apologize loudly and publicly to Romney – Sort of makes Romney look like he is leading doesn't it?  Please note, Romney never demanded these apologies, that would be playing the victim card, all he did was receive what the American public knew he deserved.

    Although I think Romney is walking a tight rope with this AP story that spread like wildfire Saturday.

    Mitt Romney said Saturday that criticism of his Mormon religion by rival Republican presidential campaigns is happening too frequently.

    It is important to note that Romney limits his comments here to other candidates and to his religion as a political issue.  These are comments he needs to make, but timing is all important.  In this case he made them in SLC where they are bound to resonate, but they will also be off-putting to the Roberts, from above, of the world.  People like Roberts will perceive Romney's comments as an apologetic defense of Mormonism, which they are not, but such people see all things in terms of apologetics.  Romney is betting that the case has been made sufficently with most Evangelicals that the religious comments are off limits – the rapid, well save for McCain the increasingly non-important, apologies are indication that it has.  But that will not prevent some from trying to capitalize – sadly.

    Some additional notes from Lowell:

    With political "buzz" like this, and NRO repeating it as if it were significant, The Question will never go away.  I would think a writer like Geraghty would know better.

    John comments:  The Question is no longer a question, it's the press narrative, they report on it reflexivly, for most of the press it is a question of "easy."  For Geraghty it is more a question of thinking too hard to find some reason to join the chorus of his compatriots.  Fortunately, voters are not part of the publishing peer group.

    A late, but extremely excellent addition:

    Political observer extraordinaire, John Fund of the the Wall Street Journal, pens his weekly column today titled, "Question of Faith."  His two concluding paragraphs are one of the most excellent summations of the proper view of The Question – I have yet to encounter:

    Recognizing that Mr. Romney's faith is in some ways a major benefit to him while also discussing the backlash some voters have against him is perfectly appropriate. But journalists and supporters of other candidates should also strive to include another perspective. Mr. Romney notes the indisputable fact that most Americans are religious and goes on to say: "I think the American people want a person of faith to lead the country. I don't think Americans care what brand of faith someone has."

     

    That is not entirely true. But it would help all of us if everyone in the political community worked towards that goal. In a country as diverse as ours, we will benefit if there are as few religious barriers as possible to those seeking high office. We've made great strides. After all, few people know or care that there are now two Buddhists in Congress–Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. We will be a better country if even people who don't support Mr. Romney for president come to recognize that our country is better off if his candidacy rises or falls on factors that have nothing to do with his faith.

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    Today’s Reading List – June 22, 2007

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 04:32 am, June 22nd 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Boston Globe reports on an overt (and frankly disgusting) attempt by a McCain operative in Iowa to take "direct aim at Mitt Romney's religion, according to four people at the meeting."  My question:  Where is McCain?  Brownback immediately apologized when his staffer crossed the line.  So did Giuliani.  Does John McCain have the spine and class to do the same?

    And in the wake comes a pro-McCain blogger who tries to defend the use of Romney's faith to attack him.  His thesis:  Mormonism is different, "secretive," so  . . . bigotry is simply going to exist and McCain can't help that.

    John comments:  Simply, McCain is no respector of religion.  He has decried the Evangelical voice in Republican politics for a long time, making this a natural for him.  Moreover, he is a rotten loser, and right now all is lost for him.  He is plummeting in the polls and it is all over save for a concession on his part.  That's gotta hurt – losing before the first vote is cast.  He has always reacted to loss by striking out, that is usually when bigotry reveals itself.

    As to the blogger, "secretive"?  Yes, there are secrets inside of Mormonism, things I as a non-Mormon do not know.  But have you ever hung around a fraternity or a sorority?  What about the Shriners or the Scottish Rite?  Or what about that "secret society" (Skull and Bones, I think?) at either Harvard or Yale that has produced the last several presidents?  You see my point?  Secrets do not equate to a problem.  Bigotry keeps trying to find excuses, but there are none.

    In light of this latest incident, David Brody thinks Romney needs to give a "Kennedy speech."

    John opines: The attack on Romney is of a very different nature than what was going on with Kennedy.  The role of religion in our political process is very different in 2007 than it was in 1963.  If Romney gave Kennedy's speech verbatim, substituting LDS for RCC, the results would be very different.  In 1963 religion was largely a private virtue, today it is a public force.  In 1963 most people of all religious persuasions in the US would resonante with Kennedy's claim to keep his religion on the margins.    Today, such a claim would be considered a lie or a mark of insincerity.

    Brody's broader point; however, is that Romney's current passive strategy of relying on people's basic goodness and understanding of the proper role of reliigon in American politics may be inadequate.  Having these attacks come from McCain is not worth changing strategy over.  These are the death throes of a hooked fish on deck, much thrashing but to no avail.  McCain's supporters will soon find themselves on the sidelines or aiding another candidate who, having more sense than McCain, will muzzle this garbage.

    Nor do I think the media fenzy is worth changing strategy over, at least not until some votes are cast and we can see how much the media frenzy is really affecting voters.  Most Republicans instinctively understand religious attacks are out-of-bounds.  Thus McCain finds himself dead-in-the-water, and thus they do not trust the press in this frenzy.  The general election is; however, an entirely different story.  The strategy now must lay a foundation for an active strategy then.

    The John adds some links:

    A Baltimore Sun op-ed wonders if Evangelicals ain't what they used to be as a political force.  Not exactly, they never were what the press saw them as, often confusing Evangelicals with Fundamentalists, but more as "Evangelical" has become a recognized power base, many have been self-identifying with that label that previously would have been considered outside the fold. I'm betting people's voting patterns have not shifted so much as have the labels they chose to attach to themselves.

    From the world of college newspapers: a student at Middle Tennessee State seems to get it, although his rather cursory search into Mormonism will bring the Theonerds out in force.  While out of Lowell's alma mater one student comes out strong.  Again, she does so with little understanding Evangelical sensibilities regarding the word "Christian" but then we Evangelicals have been doing that to Mormons for years - I'm just not sure my Evangelical brethren will be as understanding as my Mormon cousins have been.

    Other places: A Mormon warns that Mormons should not vote for Romney just because, anymore than Evangelicals should not vote for Romney just because.

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