People Magazine interviewed Ann Romney. The interview features what has to be some of the most inane questions I have ever read. I mean People is no bastion of deep intellectual inquiry, but consider:
- What drew you to the Mormon Church?
- What about the faith appealed to you?
- Was your family okay with it?
- What are some of the misunderstandings about the church?
- Do you follow all of the Doctrine and Covenants, the sacred undergarments, no hot drinks or alcohol?
- Have you seen Big Love?
Talk about a slide downhill into silliness! Mrs. Romney handles these questions with her typical grace, charm, and aplomb, but give me a break – I thought only Andrew Sullivan was dumb enough to dip into the sacred garments thing – and the "Big Love" question – particularly when she has already said polygamy is no longer practiced by the LDS. And "no hot drinks"? – no, its no caffiene, and how come, I (Evangelcial, remember) know more about Mormonism than the people reporting it? Can we really accept such a state of "journalism" in this country?
I think Mrs. Romney should have answered that second to last question, "When was the last time you went to confession?" and left it at that, but then, having met her, she is far too gracious for such a response, unlike the press.
Ah, but the Boston Herald sees People and raises with this headline:
Mitt & Ann Romney: Modern-day Eisenhowers?
Now that is "code." Writing about the People interview (as an aside, should it not disqualify a major newspaper from serious consideration as such when they cite People as a source?) the Herald seizes upon the Romney's pride in their traditional and strong family, something indeed blessedly reminiscent of the 1950's, and uses it for a bit of vaguely disguised satirical ridilcule. And, of course, they breathlessly report
She’s never once watched “Big Love,” the HBO series about polygamists.
Guess what, neither have I! – I am not even a "creepy, nostalgic, stuck-in-the-past" Mormon – just a standard issue, modern-day evangelical Presbyterian and I don't even have HBO on my cable!
Is it necessary?
And as news media outlets run stories about the current “Mormon moment,” his phone keeps ringing. He considered it a blessing that he was already on his way out of New York for his annual summerlong sojourn in Provo, Utah, when “Good Morning America” and “The Daily Show” started calling.
“I’m still kind of a babe in the woods when it comes to TV,” Professor Bushman, 76, said from Provo, where he is joined by his wife, Claudia, who has also taught at Columbia and has written books on Mormonism with him.
And yet he says his stomach for so many media appearances, answering the same questions over and over, is born of duty to his faith. He believes Mormons can overcome prejudice only through vigorous dialogue with outsiders. For the nation’s nearly six million Mormons, a largely insulated community that is barred from discussing rituals outside of temple, it is not a natural posture.
You know, when Lieberman was VP candidate, I don't recall phones ringing off the hook for Dennis Prager (well more than normal), just to cite one example. And why the mention of Mormon Temple practice and "insulation"? That mention in that way strikes me as a viewpoint in what is supposed to by unbiased journalism.
Lowell: Calling Mormons "insulated" is ironic, mainly because it betrays the writer's stereotypical view and provincial bias. He does not know many Mormons and has not spent much time getting familiar with the culture. My guess is he has spent a lot of time in densely Mormon Utah (where about 15% of all Mormons live) and has decided that Utah Mormon culture represents the church generally. And I don't even think he describes Utah Mormons accurately.
The whole "Kennedy" speech thing…
For the record my views, and I believe Lowell's, are not quite as stark as they keep getting painted. Worldview matters and it derives from religion. Thus, if there were muslim candidate, one would have to ask of what type in order to determine their worldview. Are the jihadists? – that matters, but it is derivative of religion, and not religion itself.
Bigotry arises in a couple of ways. The first is when one examines the theological (not the theological applications, but the theology itself) and determines a given religion to be worthy or unworthy. Dennis Prager is fond of saying one cannot judge a religion by its sacred texts, but must in fact judge its practioners. Bigotry exists when you judge the religion, and therefore the people in it, instead of judging the people, and therefore the religion.
The second place bigotry arises is when, based on ritualistic practice, something that really is private, one decides a given religion is worthy or unworthy, and then again judges the religion, not the people. Consider this analogy – "When he was in college, candidate X wore face paint and a wig to every football game his alma mater ever played – the guy is nuts, we can't elect him president."
As Mitchell puts it: "I don't think it's "bigotry" that many evangelicals want to think and pray their way through that issue" – I don't either, any person of faith should think and pray hard about their vote, any vote - it is the lack of thought and the mere labeling that constitutes bigotry.
To date, all that has ever appeared in the press is somewhat breathless recounting of the "odder" ritualistic practices, and the unorthodox doctrines of the LDS. A simple recitation of those things with the expectation that they should result in a "no" vote is bigotry. What I have failed to see, and what would be valid, would some analysis that ties those things into a moral, ethical, and behavioural structure that would result in bad policy or inability to conduct the duties of the office.
Of course, we have not seen those thing because as best as I can tell, with Romney, they do not exist.
As to Mitchell's point that "flip-flop" has been established as "code" - He's right, but the way to fix that is not to talk about Morminism, it is to talk about code, once exposed, the naked bigotry will not stand.
Meanwhile, from abroad…
Australia - The usual yawner of an "overview" story, but Lowell, I have to ask how you feel about this sentence:
Mormonism is still seen by some as a cult rather than a mainstream creed [emphasis added]
I'm thinking that sentence proves the ignorance of the MSM, even the foreign MSM, when it comes to writing about religion.
Lowell: We Mormons don't, um, believe in any creeds. In fact, we reject them all. It takes about five minutes of reading about the Church to know that.
The Beeb chimes in to help the left claim the religion label.
And the IHT feeds the beast with a AP story likely to be everywhere today.
While here at home…
From Alabama….I wonder if these local reporters ever look at the Internet and actually know how unoriginal and therefore uninformative these pieces really are?
Forgive me a few wisecracks…
Read this, do you still really want to make religion an issue in the election? By the way, all the people involved in this story actually consider each other "Christian."