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."

Us v. Us is now Us v. Them

Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:00 am, April 2nd 2012     —    5 Comments »

CNN says “Romney pivots to general election mode,” and discusses his “aura of inevitability.”  FOXNews says:

As April comes into bloom he can finally see the finish line for the GOP primaries. And despite being beat up by the far right he is heading into the general election far stronger than he might appear at first glance.

And as the general election starts to take shape, the news media starts to talk religion in a whole new way, although there are still some leftovers in the primary.  Santorum says he’s not trying to make Romney look weird but then started talking, in Wisconsin where drinking is an indoor sport, about how comfortable he was around booze.  That’s just desperate.

Steve Kornacki @ Salon treats to a piece comparing Santorum to Pat Robertson and Romney to Bush 41 in the ’87 primary.  Much as I think Santorum has made a number of missteps, he has a whole lot more going on than Pat Robertson.  What one does see in common is a self-destructive tendency amongst a subset of Evangelicals that simply refuse to understand the nation is more diverse than their experience.

You can begin to see the change in tone in stories that try to make a case that conservatives, especially religious conservatives, are somehow less smart.  As someone academically trained in one of the hard sciences – chemistry – I could discuss this at length, but given the tone it would be silly.  Everybody just wants to make a point and nobody wants to listen; therefore, just a couple of sentences.  Even this study about how people understand studies, comes with a set of presuppositions, simply in how the questions are formulated, that makes it suspect.  The fact of the matter is human behavior is an inherently unrepeatable phenomena.  Two people in the same precise circumstances will not behave in the same way.  Two balls dropped from a tower will.  So while we can apply scientific techniques to the study of human behavior, the use of those techniques does not convey to the conclusions the same levels of scientific certainty as the study dropping balls from a tower.

There is a major uptick in Mormon background reporting, like Time discussing Romney’s mission in France – like that story has not been told about a thousand times before.  I have to tell you, I think that is just lazy reporting.  They have written background stories on Romney before and are just recycling old research.

But the prize for “ringing the Mormon bell” has now landed in the lap of the same outlet we found it last cycle.  You remember “the founding whoppers of Mormonism” in Slate last cycle?  Well now Slate, in a piece that has little research and much speculation, manages to tie up Mormon proxy baptism, the Mormon history on race, the Mormon practice of sealing families, and one of the most salacious episodes in the lives of the founding fathers into a package that seems to scream “whoppers” even if it does not use the word.

What I find most troubling is that a different in the details, but equally as weird concoction of history and belief could be written about virtually any person in the United States.  For example, my family at one point owned slaves – a lot of them – it was Mississippi.  They thought God granted them the right to own them.  Somehow through all of that, the very white me is perfect match for blood transfusion to sickle cell anemia patients.  Let the salacious reporting begin.

The point is, this nation as a whole is smeared with enough stuff to make us all look very bad.  But then if the point is to make someone look bad….

Obama is going to have a problem with this in the general though.  The far left, and especially the gay far left, is going to go after Romney and his faith in the ugliest of way.  Mormon involvement in the Prop 8 campaign has the gay community livid beyond all reason.    The Daily Beast has a piece about Romney support of traditional marriage, as if that is damning of itself.  But this is an interesting bit:

Given recent revelations about NOM, liberal operatives see an opportunity to discomfit Romney and, once the general election is underway, paint him as a right-wing extremist.

Given the contours of the primary, the charge of “right-wing extremist” being leveled at Romney is pretty doggone funny.  But my point is this.  Romney does have to maintain some distance from the far, far right, and Obama should have to do the same regarding the far, far left.  But when the administration is requiring that crosses be taken down, but allowing gay pride flags, at military installations in Afghanistan – that is going to be pretty difficult.

And just for laughs, consider this from a pay-for-play site about a guy suing Romney because, “Wallace sees Mitt Romney as the classic Manchurian Candidate brain-washed by his religion to become President and then by a non violent coup’d etat turn control of the government of the United states over to the prophet leader of the Mormon Church.”  Oh, but it gets better, “the church far overshadowing their efforts since the 1970′s when they built a system of spying on Americans using a device shaped as a honey bee worn on lapels to intercept conversations.”  If this guy has a lawyer, I hope he got paid in cash, up front.  Look for any reverberations of this around the internet.  It could be a psychiatric diagnostic tool.

In closing, I want to link to this Real Clear Religion piece by Janice Shaw Crouse:

I would add that, while we evangelicals are lamenting the breakdown of the family and the cultural disintegration all around us, as church goers, we need to look to the “beam in our own eye.” Name the social problem — drinking, divorce, cohabitation, etc. — and it is nosing its way into evangelical lifestyles.

If you want to have a “more Christan nation,” the answer is pretty simple – make more Christians.  Being a Christian is not merely a matter of attending the right church, or having the right identifying label.  If is not even a matter, purely, of lifestyle.  The point that Crouse makes, building on one made by our friend David French, is simple – Christianity is not a political force, save incidentally – it is a spiritual one.  If we fix our spirits, the nation will follow.

Lowell adds . . .

(Thinking desperately to myself: How on earth did that guy find out about my secret honey bee lapel pin? Who ratted us out? All those decades of conspiring — ruined!) I hadn’t heard of Doug Wallace for years and had no idea he was still alive.  He’s been a dedicated anti-Mormon crackpot since 1976, if not before that time.

But it’s not guys like Wallace we need to watch.  No, we’ll see numerous religious shots at Romney from the left.  Since my crystal ball seems to be working well lately, here are a few predictions as to lines of attack we will see:

  • The pre-1978 Mormon priesthood policy, which denied black men access to the church’s lay priesthood.  We’ve addressed the topic here multiple times (just search for “priesthood” in the box at the right), but it will never die — not in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog.  Expect plenty of left-of-center pundits to raise it repeatedly, and to point out that Romney was 31 years old when the policy was changed in 1978.  (Cue sinister music.)
  • Mormons’ sacred religious undergarments. Yes, mark my words, we’ll be hearing about them.  We can’t describe the idiocy of this type of attack any better than David Stolinsky did here.  As Stolinsky notes:

    “Romney underwear” yields 2,970,000 hits on Google, while “magic underwear” yields 42,500,000 hits. Liberals from the New York Times on down − or on up, depending on your point of view − have ridiculed Mitt Romney for wearing magic underwear.”

Sigh.  What will probably happen is that people will finally figure out that the sacred undergarments are no more a story than a Catholic Crucifix, a generic Christian cross, or a Jewish Yarmulke. On the way to that realization we’ll see a lot of mischief, as Romney’s opponents do all they can to make him seem “weird.”

  • Distinctive Mormon beliefs. These will be warped and distorted. We’ll all hear about Mormons someday becoming creators of their own planets, a sensational version of the virgin birth that I won’t repeat here, and so forth. None of it will be accurate but all of it makes Mormons look — you guessed it– weird.
  • The “Stepford Citizen” meme. This is about the Romney family’s overachiever nature, which bothers some people, perhaps because it makes them uncomfortable. You know: married 43 years to the same woman, with whom he is still in love (as if that achievement were not admirable); 5 squeaky-clean sons and all those beautiful daughters in-law and grandchildren; an dso on.  This meme by itself won’t directly cost Romney votes (it affects mostly liberals who will never vote for him anyway), but it will feed the “weird” meme.

This list is just for starters.  Watch this space.  We’ll have more predictions.

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