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Monday, July 30, 2012

Talking Religion and Politics - But not Mormonism?

Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is. Mahatma Gandhi

Blogging about Governor Mitt Romney's Mormonism receives lukewarm responses from readers who feel the Republican candidate's religion is politically off limits.  This is mystifying because both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama took time to explain their positions on religion.  Why Governor Romney gets a pass on explaining his relationship to Mormonism, the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), is unacceptable. 

Kennedy and Obama "got" what Gandhi knew.  Romney seems to get it, too, just as long as it's not about his Mormonism.

Romney speaks haltingly about being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He acknowledges his faith in public interviews, but quickly moves on.

In a TV interview with Brian Williams, he brushed off the religion's familiar name,"Mormon", saying "it's okay" to call him Mormon. Romney showed virtually no passion whatsoever about his religion during the interview. In other words, "Don't go there."

Could it be because Mormons don't believe in using contraception and the LDS religion isn't Bible based?

Although Mormonism seems off limits in blogs and during TV interviewers, Romney is more than okay wooing Christians, Jews and Catholics to vote for him.  He's traveling to Israel and Poland to demonstrate a connectivity to Evangelical, Jewish and Roman Catholic voters who know very little about Mormons, mostly because, the religion itself is enigmatic. 

Like the Mormon temples closed on Sundays, the religion snubs those who probe it's secrets:

"Even non-Mormons sometimes object to articles such as the one you are now reading, since such articles reveal Mormons' religious secrets to a curious - and perhaps unworthy and even mocking - world. Many people, not only devout Mormons, feel that it is wrong to do this. Usually two reasons for the objection are given: 1) things that anyone holds sacred should not be profaned, mocked or ridiculed by anyone else, even by one who does not consider them sacred; and 2) the person who is revealing the secrets usually is someone who obtained the secrets only by swearing an oath of secrecy, and thus is breaking an oath.

Clearly, Romney is engaging religious voting blocks while sidestepping answers about his own LDS faith.  Will it work?

Shmuel Rosner's review in the Jewish Journal:

"Here is a truism we all already know: Jews are news. The fact is, no matter how tiny the American Jewish community might be -- between 1.5 and 2 percent of the population -- the battle for Jewish votes will be extensively reported and analyzed," Rosner wrote in a Jewish Journal article titled: 
"So, how many Jews will vote for Mitt Romney?"

Perhaps Jewish voters are disappointed in President Obama, but are they smitten with Romney?  Catholic voters break into right wing conservatives and social progressives. Regardless of what American Bishops say, there's no lock-step Roman Catholic voter.  Evangelicals are skeptical about Mormonism because it's not a Bible based religion. Mormons believe in the Bible, but their LDS religion is revealed in the Book of Mormon as disclosed by an angel named Moroni, to founder Joseph Smith.

Religious voters value sincerity. Do politicians talk the talk and walk the walk?  Although Romney calculates how to impress religious voters, he doesn't demonstrate empathy toward any of them.  His Mormonism doesn't teach how to identify with other religions.  Rather, LDS are converters of those who are outside their faith, even practicing the controversial baptism of the dead.

As a Mormon missionary, Romney learned to evangelize others. As a presidential candidate, he shields his own faith from public view.  

In the privacy of the voting booth, few Americans will vote based upon their's or the candidate's religion alone.  But a candidate's sincerity matters.  Romney's lack of sincerity about religion, other than to protect Mormonism, is an aloof warning about how he will lead, if elected President.  Protecting Mormonism and the sources of his wealth, by holding back his tax returns, Romney gives us insight about how he will lead our nation- with the same secret aloofness.

Religion and politics are interconnected because faith is a window into a person's soul.  But courting religious voters, because it's useful, rather than with sincere respect for these faiths, is disingenuous.  

A wonderful truism in the French proverb fits:  
Plus ça change plus elles restent les mêmes.
(The more things change the more they stay the same.)

In fact, Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca agreed with this proverb, writing eons ago:  "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful."

Miss Manners and our mothers taught us to never discuss religon and politics.  Hmmmm. Could Mahatma Ghandi and Lucius Annaeus Seneca possibly be politically wrong?  Neither of these gentlemen were Mormons.  We don't know enough about Mormons, because many of their religious beliefs are kept secret.

Americans might elect a Mormon President, but we don't want the nation's leadership style to protect a secret administration.



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