The Big Picture
The proxy baptism meme has turned into a full-throated furor, but again only on the left. The Brits are seeing it for what it is – a blatant religious attack. Fortunately, some Jews are rising to the defense. This, by the way, is just nonsense:
So to Carter’s point, I think many candidates like Romney have lacked a common touch because it is in fact mostly alien to them. I’m not sure Mormonism is Romney’s problem.
Oh, let’s disprove that argument by turning to the now rising discussion on Rick Santorum – everybody’s supposed “everyman.” As this leftie and this one make quite plain, they view Sanotrum just as weird as Romney. Religion is what takes away “the common touch,” be it Mormon, Catholic or Evangelical.
So, here is the big picture. In one policy initiative by Obama, forecasted (I am now convinced with foreknowledge) by George Stephanopoulis the national conversation has pivoted from the economy, giant government, and Obama’s flat out unconstitutional power grabs to social religious issues. The net result of this change is that the polling inside the Republican primary has flipped and both leading candidates are now losing to Obama. What do we conclude?
Religious/social issues are a LOSER! So, when it comes to picking our candidate, do we want the one of the slightly different faith that works hard to keep his faith reasonably personal, or the one that wears his faith on his sleeve providing the Dems with an enormous target. Think hard now, and remember social issues are an electoral loser.
Do we want a candidate that is socially conservative? Absolutely, but we do not want one that RUNS on being socially conservative – there is a big, big difference.
It’s The Weekend, So Let’s Get Deep For Just A Minute
In the century since the Chicago fair, Mormons have been lauded for their choirs and their football. They are largely respected as good, decent, family-centered people, who are welcome to sing for presidents and dance with the stars—and everyone agrees to avoid theological questions. But as presidential nominations near, Romney’s candidacy threatens this compromise, because what a Mormon presidential candidate actually believes seems far too important to table. And when Mormon theology enters the public discussion, the words Charles Dickens wrote in 1851 strike many as still apt: “What the Mormons do, seems to be excellent; what they say, is mostly nonsense.”
But this is only true because in acquiescing to the compromise, Mormons have largely left others to frame the theological discussion. In opting to emphasize Mormon culture over Mormon theology, Mormons have too often left the media and ministers free to select the most esoteric and idiosyncratic for ridicule. So jibes about Kolob and magic underwear usurp serious engagement, much as public knowledge about the Amish is confined to a two-dimensional caricature involving a horse and buggy. But members of a faith community should recognize themselves in any fair depiction. And it is the fundamentals of Mormonism that should ground any debate worth having about Mormon beliefs or Mormon membership in the Christian community.
Because I do not want to turn the discussion here theological I will avoid getting into the fundamentals that Terryl Givens well describes. Let’s just say we have as much in common as we have differences. But as I read this I was struck by something extraordinary that I should have thought of long ago. I think it finally dawned on me because of the Jewish role in the proxy baptism dust up and my trip to Israel last summer.
Some years ago, I was changing planes in La Guardia and had to change terminals – that meant clear security (Yeah – it’s that bad an airport). Anyway, it was a short connection and I nearly missed my flight becasue I was stuck in security behind a family of Hassids – ultra orthodox Jews. Do you have any idea how long it takes such men to get off all the garment related accouterments of their faith so they can pass through the metal detector? When I visited the Western Wall this past summer, where local Jews pray daily, I was stunned at how much clothing they had on – it was HOT!
Then there is the San Jose airport where the vast majority of service personnel are turban wearing Sikhs. You tend to think you are in the Punjab when you arrive.
Do I need to go on? The point is garment requirements for the faithful are common to many faiths. Next time a Mormon gets asked about their undergarments, they should ask the asker what they are wearing and why.
But back to this piece – it starts with a very brief historical perspective on Mormons and the nation and describes “the compromise” that Mormons made with the nation – essentially to drop polygamy, emphasize culture, and de-emphasize theology. The question that this piece does not answer, is why does running for president violate that compromise. Is it just too “uppity?” (Lord I hope not.)
Let’s go back to “The Big Picture” above – the reason it matters is because when religion and social issues matter, Republicans lose. It does not need to be any more complex than that. Changing that fact is a matter for the church not politics. No amount of arguing faith in the political realm will change it – the only thing that will change it is when the vast majority of the nation shares your religious views – that means evangelism, conversion, and retention – but it does not mean politics.
Like I said above – we want a candidate that IS socially conservative, but we do not want one that RUNS on being socially conservative.