Becoming the nominee of one’s party for POTUS is an extraordinary accomplishment. It ranks among the biggest accomplishments any individual can do in America. The accomplishment is testament to a desire, effort and skill set to which few can lay claim. While it is true that any citizen may become president, few of us actually can – we lack the necessary capabilities. Yesterday in the Texas primary Mitt Romney officially achieved the Republican nomination. Oh, it has been a foregone conclusion for quite a while now, but yesterday the delegate count fell into line with the perceived realities and the convention parliamentarians can declare this a done deal.
So, does the press choose to acknowledge the extent of Romney;s accomplishment? Well, or course not! Why would they do that? They have to talk about Mormonism. It was offensive when Obama was nominated and everybody wanted to talk about his race – it was as if his blackness got nominated, not him. And now, from some corners of the journalism universe, you would think it was the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints that was nominated, not Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney’s nomination marks milestone for Mormon faith
They even ran a graphic of the faith of prior presidents. I have met enough Mormons in my life to know that while they are proud that “one of their own” accomplished something of this magnitude, but the church itself seeks something in a different realm. The church, any church really, measures its accomplishments and milestones by a different metric. There was a rash of stories yesterday, led by the Boston Globe, on Mormon reaction to the Romney candidacy:
For Mormons, this is a potentially volatile moment. They are deeply proud that their faith’s most prominent adherent, Mitt Romney, is steps away from a presidential nomination and could push the faith further into the mainstream of American life. With these feelings, though, comes a nagging fear that their beliefs, often misunderstood, will again be subjected to scrutiny, even ridicule, on a national scale.
I’m sorry, and I do not intend to step on the shoes of any Mormons that might read that and thank, “Yeah, I get that.” But honestly, that’s just a cliche’ story line. “With Jim Crow abolished, blacks still fear to tread in the white man’s world.” How insulting is that? It still defines the person by their color or their faith instead of their totality as a human being and a citizen.
I’ve attended numerous scholarly conferences since that lunch where Mormonism has been discussed, and it is amazing to confront snide and disdainful comments and even overt prejudice from intellectually and sophisticated academics. And it seems perfectly acceptable to express this bias. Mormons are abnormal, outside the mainstream; everybody knows that. They don’t drink alcohol and coffee. Their women are suppressed. They don’t like the cross, and their most holy book seems made up. And there’s that multiple-wives thing. At one session involving a discussion of Utah’s history, several dismissive comments were spoken, rather blithely and without any sense of embarrassment. Belittling comments were made about Mormons’ abstemiousness, and there was a general negative undercurrent. The LDS Church was referred to as the Mormon Church, something many members object to. They don’t mind being called Mormons, but their church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS Church. At least some of the professors who were making these remarks knew that.
Yes, Mormons do not embrace the cross as a symbol of Christianity, but it is because they consider it representing state-sanctioned execution and intense suffering. I regard it as a sacrifice on my behalf. Who’s right? Various Christian denominations think that during communion the wine and wafers actually are transformed into the body and blood of Christ – and over the centuries Christians have been derided as cannibals. I was raised to believe that the Eucharist represents the sacrifice of Jesus. Nothing more than different perspectives and beliefs.
When I first moved to Pocatello, I lived in a cul de sac and seven of my nine neighbors belonged to the LDS Church. Nobody tried to convert me. They invited me to church picnics – no pressure. My next-door neighbor spent nearly two hours one weekday morning (he was late to work) helping me restore my snow blower to life after five years in the humid South. Another helped flush and fix my sprinkler system. A third returned my dogs after they’d escaped. Several just showed up with family members to help me move in. A fourth one tossed me the keys to his Cadillac after the transmission in my Suburban disassembled on my driveway. “Bring it back when you don’t need it anymore,” he said.
These are not the faces of intolerance and prejudice.
No. Those faces are in the academic mirror.
I was raised as a member of the United Church of Christ – the same denomination as President Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright – and my sister is an ordained minister in the denomination. I am now Episcopalian. An uncle and aunt and several of my first cousins are Mormons; the first was converted while stationed with the Marine Corps in Hawaii.
Just why is it socially acceptable to denigrate and trivialize and insult a class of people as a class of people? They had a name for that sort of behavior and system in the South a few decades back. You may remember it. It was called Jim Crow.
In commenting on this piece, Peter Lawler concluded:
I’m no Mormon, and I couldn’t make it for long in Provo. But maybe sophisticated Americans need some fact-based lessons in Mormon acceptance. Professors, in many ways, hate genuine diversity even more than most folks.
I find myself forced to reflect on one of the reasons I chose a science as my field of academic work. It was clear when I was in school that many fields had simply lost their moorings. Devoid of the simple decency and standards that a common religious base gave to all, they were fields in which “consensus” trumped data, if there was any, and somehow ugly had become beautiful. Fashion ruled where once standards had. In science I would, at least then, still be judged on my work not which professor I agreed with – the data lead to the conclusion instead of my conclusion going out and seeking data. Yes, there would be those that thought me a jerk, but in the face of data they would have to agree with me. In other fields, the label was enough to grant the argument meaningless.
Yet, is it surprising that academia goes this way? I mean when Andrew Sullivan is considered a “legitimate” source of commentary? Sullivan is to be dismissed becasue his body of work indicates an unwillingness to ever consider contra opinion or fact. You see the problem with dismissiveness is that if there are those not worth discussing matters with, then they can return the favor.
And finally some silliness. God save of from public officials.
It is made by Ogden’s Own Distillery in Utah, where the Mormon church is based. Its label carries the name and an image of five women, an apparent reference to polygamy, a practice abandoned by the church more than a century ago.
Idaho State Liquor Division administrator Jeff Anderson said the brand is offensive to Mormons who make up over a quarter of Idaho’s population.
Regulators in Idaho notified Elite Spirits Distributor that the brand’s concept is “offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried,” according to a letter sent on Thursday.
If any Mormon is truly offended by this, may I suggest you seek help.