Last week was anything but quiet as we saw the press lining up attacks for Obama in a presumed contest against Mitt Romney. Two of the shots came from the NYTimes, one on religion generally, and one looking at Romney’s religious charity. Then The New Republic chimed in with the first major attempt to turn the Mormon card into the race card.
However, as the Gingrich bubble began to expand (will it burst? Even a cat runs out of lives eventually and Newt has used a bunch) there was some other religion news. The Daily Caller had a couple of entries into a series about what the White House would be like with a Mormon president. In the second piece, Hugh Hewitt is quoted:
“Do you want to know what the most interesting thing I discovered writing ‘A Mormon in the White House?’” he asked. “When George Romney ran … nobody cared. I read everything from that campaign. Nobody cared.
“So the difference between 1966 and 2006 was incredible, mostly because of the yellow-sheet media, and modern controversialists looking for something to write about.”
Heck, the idea of writing about what would happen in the White House is extraordinary in and of itself. When one considers all that has gone on there over a couple of centuries, religious practice of any sort seems tame. What does it say about our culture when a potential president’s religious practice is considered so “tantalizing” when the licentious trysts of say John Kennedy were considered off limits. Not only have we stooped to discussion of Monica Lewinsky’s stained dress, but now we consider religious practice as the same sort of thrilling oddity as such filth?!
James Fallows at The Atlantic said something pretty smart:
I can imagine Mormon candidates — or Muslim, Baptist, Jewish, Christian Scientist, etc. ones — who were so fundamentalist in applying their faith that to vote for them would be to vote in their religion.
And he keeps reprinting some of the anti-Mormon mail he receives. There are two things of note in this continuing series by Fallows. The first is that regardless of the protestation, his obvious distaste for Romney makes his efforts to say it is not based on religion somewhat blunted. Secondly, the mail he is getting is really ugly in that nice sort of reasonable way – which saddens me more than anything else — ignorance and prejudice dressed up in nice clothes is still ignorance and prejudice.
Unbecoming the Presidency…
A gathering of religious conservatives in Iowa Saturday night turned into one of the most emotional moments of the 2012 primary season when two presidential candidates — Herman Cain and Rick Santorum — both fought back tears while telling personal stories about the most challenging moments in their lives.
The Christian Post headline read like something out of the “Guide to Evangelical Grammar and Phraseology”:
GOP Candidates Give Tearful Confessions at Iowa Family Forum
Friends, this is not easy for me to write about. As an Evangelical myself, this stuff tugs at my heart. I identify with these candidates and their struggles. In this fashion they are far more like me than Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman. This establishes a bond between myself and those that “shared” in this fashion that I cannot have with others. I want to like these people for it.
But that is simply inappropriate in a candidate for the presidency. How much time have we spent berating the current president because he makes the nation look weak? From bows to policy, this guy is making us out to be wimps. Well folks, crying in public, especially about personal matters, does not help things one bit.
Yeah, we’ve seen presidents well up at the Tomb of the Unknown (when they bother to show up on time) or in salute to the flag or other patriotic situations, but we have not seen them cry over personal loss and difficulty, even though they have all had it. If you are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you see the president crying at the tomb of his nation’s war dead, you think he is going to come away perhaps a bit angry at those that kill his citizens, and you may fear him a tad. But if you see a president cry over this kind of stuff, you see weakness, same as if the president bows.
Not to mention this all came in the context of these candidates discussing their personal foibles. In the modern political age, confession of such matters is important, but emotional outbursts over them are inappropriate. Yeah, Newt Gingrich has taken a lot of heat over whether his professed confessions of his infidelities are “genuine,” and tears make them appear so, but at what cost? If the tears are genuine they give an enemy a place to strike the Commander in Chief in psychological warfare – plain and simple. Heck, even in trade negotiations, such hot buttons can be pressed.
Yes, I want to be in a “small group” with Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich – I want to minister to them and share with them. But do I want them leading the free world? Not if this sort of public display is to become the norm. The stuff of nations is bigger and more important than our personal problems, our leaders HAVE to reflect that.
Obama’s policies are targeting Catholics. So say Michael Gerson and Russell Shaw. There is much talk of keeping religion out of politics, but the reason the religious voice has become so vociferous is because politics keeps getting into religion’s business. There is a lesson there. What religion has traditionally attempted to accomplish by developing character, our political opponents wish to accomplish by political force. The first option acts in freedom, the second in oppression.
The fact that religious bigotry plays any role at all is because of the extremely conservative nature of the Republican base.
And there you have it – BACKFIRE!
For most Jews, [ed. note: this really applies to virtually all non-Christians] especially the Orthodox, Christians and Mormons are virtually identical….
That is extremely important. It does not just make us natural political allies, but it also bolsters my point what harms one of us harms the other. Every time we shoot at each other, from the perspective of anyone but us, the result is a self-inflicted wound. We become the army that could not shoot straight.
And Now Snarkiness…
Why do libertarians think they are funnier, cuter and smarter than the rest of us? It blunts good points when they have them.
And yet, the church’s campaign could prove to be a pivotal factor in the race for the presidency.
and yet – “Pro-Mormon Ads Specifically Skirt Primary States.” There’s an oops.
Amy Sullivan of TIME Magazine writes that the religious right is struggling to find their candidate and barring a come-from-behind boomlet by an unconventional candidate, the religious right will likely be left without a viable candidate.
– I’ve been saying that for about, oh, six years now.
John Mark adds . . .
I am a card-carrying member of the religious right and I have a candidate: Mitt Romney. Why not? He shares my values and convictions. He is certainly religious.
Does a man have to go to my particular church to be “my candidate?”
Lowell adds . . .
What really matters, anyway?
John Mark’s post reminds me of a somewhat risky point I have been meaning to make here. It touches on theology and religious doctrine, topics we rarely explore in depth.
One of our readers, an Evangelical, recently commented, with apparent deep conviction, that he could not vote for Romney because the Governor did not believe in the Biblical Jesus. My immediate reaction was to think to myself, “Who cares? I don’t think you believe in the Biblical Jesus, but that has nothing to do with whether or not I’d vote for you if you ran for office.” (John wisecracks: No risk to me – I KNOW I’m right )
This conflict of views brings into sharp relief the issue this blog seeks to address. Religious views will vary among us all. Believers of all stripes have always disagreed among themselves over the nature of God, the need for and mode of baptism, and a thousand other points of doctrine. It will ever be thus. But those disagreements are simply irrelevant to any candidate’s qualifications for office.
Richard Mouw sounds off again
Richard J. Mouw is the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, the largest evangelical graduate theological school in the world. For some years now Mouw has been a champion of improved Mormon-Evangelical understanding. In Sunday’s L.A. Times his op-ed, “Mormonism: Not a cult, not a problem,” makes Mouw’s latest statement, this time in a Romney context. He concludes:
We evangelicals should cast aside old suspicions and hostilities and listen carefully during this campaign. I believe we should make our voting decisions on the basis of what a Mormon candidate — or any candidate — actually has to say about the values and issues we all care about as citizens.
Nothing new there, but the op-ed is well-timed. Amid all the MSM winds blowing the other direction (the most recent of which John reports above), it’s nice to feel one countervailing and refreshing breeze.