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

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Context, Press Agendas, Perry’s Life As A Christian

Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, November 7th 2011     —    Comment on this post »

Grinding Axes

So, last Wednesday night, noted Evangelicals (Jim Wallis from the left and Richard Land from the right)  got together at the National Press Club, and talked about…

OK, it may have been a free-ranging discussion, but some of these stories center around the same quotes.  Seems like everybody was pasting their agenda on this puppy and nobody seemed to want to listen to the what people were actually saying.  Not unlike the uncountable and innumerable debates the Republicans are having, this thing seems to exist to be pulled, prodded, pretzelled and poked for some tidbit that can be used to make the specific point the writer wants to make.

So, I did what I typically do in such circumstances, I went looking for the video or a transcript.  I could not find one of this specific event.  What I did find was that Land and Wallis have been doing this road show for a while, but apparently the show did not really exist or matter until it showed up in Washington at the Press Club.

What do we conclude from this mess?  Simple:  The press is Washington-centric and grossly myopic.  Not really news there, but rarely do we see it so blatantly illustrated.  I also think that it is so apparent in this instance is instructive.  The press in large part does not know what to make of religion – because they do not understand it, they cannot genuinely report on it – all they can do is paste onto it how they see the world.

That’s not a problem for people of faith, because they can see through this stuff, but for other people it’s a huge problem because they simply cannot get genuine reporting on issues like this.  There is a vicious circle in all this.

And the Best Example is…

the president’s claim this past week that he knows what God wants Congress to do:

President Obama invoked God on Wednesday as he criticized Congress for voting on commemorative coins and a resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.

“That’s not putting people back to work,” Obama said. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people to work.”

His Press Secretary doubled down by claiming that “The Lord helps those who help themselves,” is scriptural.  (For the initiated, it’s not.)  Ann Althouse, via Instapundit, says:

I don’t really get the theology of it. Does the President purport to know what legislation God wants Congress to pass?

Now folks, let’s stop down for a minute here and ask ourselves what would happen if Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum or Rick Perry said, “God wants me elected so I can execute the policy He has called for.”  I am not sure we can imagine the press and pundit hurricane that would blow ashore in the wake of such.  If Santorum, we’d be getting stories about papal influence — If Romney all eyes would turn towards Salt Lake City – If Perry, well look for someone speaking in tongues at his campaign headquarters.  How come no one is crawling down the throat of, oh I don’t know, Jeremiah Wright?  Not to mention he is a bit self-contradictory.

“No double standard here,” he said with the sarcasm meter pegged.  K-Lo says, “The president should not have gone here:”  Gee, ya think?!  Except the story has, as best as I can tell, ended with K-Lo’s comment.  Obama is getting no blow back at all – none, nada, nicht…the big goose egg.  This truly is outrageous on the president’s part.

Yet, to further illustrate the amazingly myopic press…

…The Mormon Stories Keep on Rolling

In addition to “weird,” which Obama’s team has telegraphed, there is another dog whistle meme you can pretty well count on should Romney be the nominee – The Mormon card will be morphed into the race card.  CNN decided to lay the ground work for this effort in  the week past.

Mormons face a problem in Texas.   I’m shocked, shocked.

Even the left is getting anti-Mormon mail.  Says James Fallows:

The only thing I’ll add for now is that while I am no fan of Mitt Romney’s, I don’t envy him having to deal with this sort of thing — which of course is stronger in the Republican primary electorate than in the population as a whole.

It’s nice to know a leftie sorta gets it, but note he HAS to take a shot at the right, and by implication religious people generally.  (Although some of us kind of deserve it.  Just a quick comment of this piece on inanity just linked – I am no more bothered by the fact I cannot enter an LDS Temple than I am by the fact that I cannot celebrate mass in a Catholic church – I’m not Catholic.)  And speaking of the left “getting it,” Joe Biden said something intelligent:

Vice President Joe Biden defended Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his Mormon faith on Friday, saying it was “outrageous” for anyone to suggest he should not be president because of his religion.

Folks, mark the date – Biden speaking so intelligently just does not happen that often.

This explanation by a Baptist as to why Baptists hate Mormons so much is, while ugly, highly informative:

The whole point of the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC beginning in 1979 was to spark a “resurgence” in the life of the convention. Their theory was that taking over the Southern Baptist Convention in the name of biblical inerrancy and fundamentalist doctrinal purity would pave the way for an explosion in church growth and missions giving. Thirty years later, they continue to argue amongst themselves as church attendance continues to fall. Giving to their Cooperative Program for missions and ministry continues to decrease. The SBC has such an image problem they are considering a name change.

By contrast, Mormons out-Southern Baptist the Southern Baptists by almost any measure. Their children all serve as missionaries and their numbers are growing. Mormons generally have a reputation of being socially conservative, nice people with good family values. What’s more, many Mormon converts were previously Southern Baptist.

Isn’t this simply a version of the basic plot of any zombie movie? They are trying to turn us into them.

From the viewpoint of many Southern Baptists, Mormons are Southern Baptist zombies.

There are predictions Obama will “go there” big time come the general.

And NPR is reprinting The Weekly Standard which is pretty much ripping us off.  OK, when the late, great Dean Barnett was working for Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes was mostly on Fox, Dean would have at least acknowledged us on his blog.

But the final story is really serious:

With two Mormons running for the Republican presidential nomination and the recent controversy over a pastor’s comment that the church was a “cult,” one trade group is adding more fuel to the fire by asking the Mormon church to butt out of legislative issues.

The Utah Hospitality Association, which represents bars and restaurants, argues in a federal lawsuit that considering the views of the Mormon church is unconstitutional because it violates the laws separating church and state, reports Fox News.

I wonder how one would truly eliminate the voice of a church, any church, from legislative consideration?  Would lobbyists be required to register their religion and forbidden to talk to legislators based on their registration?  When some issues were pending would people of a declared faith be forbidden from voting?  Would elected officials of faith have to recuse themselves from voting on certain legislation?  I mean, give me a break here.

Perry In The Dock

Last week, we saw CNN do a “religion profile” of Mitt Romney.   This weekend just past brought us a similar story from the same source about Rick Perry.  I do not know the particulars of Perry’s life well enough to comment on its accuracy vis a vis Perry, but the story does represent a pretty accurate picture of life inside Protestantism.

Contrasting the two stories is fascinating.  The Romney story focuses as much or more on the perceived “oddities” of Mormonism than it does on Romney himself.  The Perry story focuses almost exclusively on Perry’s “faith journey” – he went to this church and that church, and spent time in the desert praying, and did this event and that event.  It discusses at length the move from mainline Methodism to Evangelicalism, but contrasts them in terms of worship styles, not belief.  It is also interesting to examine the fact that as reported, neither campaign offered comment for the stories, but the Romney camp is painted as hostile about it, while there is no comment about the Perry camp other than its lack of participation.  More interesting is the amazing amount of detail in the Perry story, despite the campaign’s lack of participation.   There were lots of comments from friends of Perry, but the Romney story was full of comments from “LDS researchers.”  (Funny, I’ve talked to all sorts of Romney friends inside the LDS community -they are not that hard to find.)

In sum, the Perry article is very personal, and the Romney article is somehow impersonal.  That is a deep comment both on press bias and on how Evangelicalism is different than most other Christian faith.  This latter comment is a series of blog posts unto itself, so we’ll focus on the first.  Taken together these stories represent another MSM attempt to paint Romney as “weird.”

Of course some think Evangelicals are weird too.  (Scholars, or course never, “tend to come under the sway of those with the biggest microphones,” or ask if the presenter is of their ‘tribe.’  Give me a break with this stuff!)

Catholics…

…Are under direct fire from the president.  (Well, of course they are, now that Obama knows God’s will explicitly he should be telling the Pope what to do.   [There goes that sarcasm meter again.])

But they seem to be getting the whole civility thing right (not to mention the Mormon thing) and without the confusing fights between Wallis and Land.  And thus we have come full circle, so we’ll call it quits.

Lowell adds . . .

I have just a couple of quick hits.  First, the Catholic statement John links to above reflects an approach typical of the enlightened and positive attitude we have come to expect from Catholics involved in political life.  This bit caught my eye:

Adding to the controversy, Rev. Jeffress was quoted last year as saying that the Roman Catholic Church was the outgrowth of a “corruption” which he called “Babylonian mystery.”

“Much of what you see in the Catholic Church today doesn’t come from God’s word,” he said. “It comes from that cult-like pagan religion. Isn’t that the genius of Satan?”

Once Jeffress’ comments were brought to Gov. Perry’s attention he disassociated himself from the pastor.

So let me get this straight: Perry wasn’t able to ferret out Jeffress’ outrageous statements prior to arranging for the pastor to introduce him at the Family Research Council event? And after the controversy over Jeffress’ attack on Romney and his Mormonism, Perry said merely that he disagreed with Jeffress. But now that the good pastor has been shown to have attacked Catholicism, Perry has “disassociated” himself from Jeffress?

Does anyone else hear echoes of Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright here? Oh, and if you buy the Perry campaign’s explanations of its relationship with Pastor Jeffress, please don’t purchase any real estate or make any investments without consulting a highly qualified and independent adviser.

Finally, here’s something lighter to start the week, from The Spoof: Mitt Romney Converts from Mormon to Evangelicalism.  Enjoy.

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