Thursday, December 6, 2007


IT WAS a fine and patriotic speech, full of ennobling rhetoric about liberty and tolerance. But it was not a speech about Mitt Romney's particular religion, and so it may not help his cause. Mr Romney, a Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts, is a Mormon. Because many Americans regard Mormonism with suspicion, his religion has always been considered a political liability. For months Mr Romney has publicly wrestled with whether to address this situation. On Thursday December 6th he did so, but without going into the detail of his personal faith.

Polls (such as a September survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life) suggest that perhaps a quarter of Americans have reservations about voting for a Mormon. The number is higher among evangelicals, a particularly important constituency in Republican primaries. The Florida televangelist Bill Keller, for example, once e-mailed his followers to give warning that “a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan.” Few would go so far, but many evangelists do consider Mormonism pernicious, an imposter religion that keeps people from proper Christianity.
For many months the Romney campaign had calculated that it was better not to confront the religion question. But in the past few weeks the race for the Republican nomination has changed because of a sudden surge from Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas. He has displaced Mr Romney as the leading candidate in Iowa. Mr Huckabee is a Southern Baptist and faith is a central selling point of his campaign. Iowa's caucuses will be held on January 3rd. Religion could determine the fate of Mr Romney's candidacy.
The historical model for Mr Romney's speech was John Kennedy. In 1960, faced with questions about whether a Catholic president would inevitably be wrapped up with the Vatican, Mr Kennedy went to Houston and gave a landmark speech defending religious pluralism. Mr Romney also took his case to Texas. He spoke at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station and was warmly received. As with Kennedy, Mr Romney rejected the idea that his candidacy should be defined by his faith. But in contrast to Kennedy, Mr Romney did not tackle specific questions about his religion.
He might object to people rummaging around in his beliefs, but presidential candidates must expect to endure a certain amount of prodding. Sincere questions about religious belief should not be considered an impertinence. Mr Romney's speech acknowledged as much; he praised America for “the diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue.” But he might have done better to add his own voice to that dialogue, and he should not be surprised that people have questions about his faith. Mormonism is, after all, not particularly well understood. As Mr Romney noted, it is not a candidate’s job to be spokesman for a religion. But it is a candidate’s job to be a spokesman for himself.


Mark said...

Thanks for posting Kimba. I have not read or heard any commentary from news feeds. With fresh ears and eyes perspective: Looks too polished and prepared. This is not 1957 and he is no Jack Kennedy, we live in different times and although I sure his enthusiasm that our great nation should tolerated all forms of belief. I thought it was more of effort for him to be in the limelight instead of defining something important. Bush is religious, who cares? What did that give us the last 7 years. Mitt has a problem it’s simple but profound. He badly wants to be President of the United States. He will spend millions of his own money to get in. He is not a bad person and lets face it the man does look like a million bucks. The bigger problem than religion, heck that’s fine is another rich white male saying sweet things to get a vote. Not exactly what millions of people without health care and not exactly the kind of person you see taken mass transit. I think the “The Right” is pulling the same strings, unspeakably that Republican and Religion are synonymous. Maybe I am too liberal but can’t help but think given the opportunity to address the nation in the same way, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton could spin equally well, heck we might of even heard a couple amen’s in the audience instead of pleasant clapping. We are a nation that needs a lot of Amen “so bi it” lately instead of what appears to be sanctimonious dribble. OK, you go a church regularly and believe in God.. Cool. Next! What else please?

Papa Giorgio said...


Mitt isn't trying to win over people who are "theophobic," like yourself. He is trying to win over people like myself who know all about his "god-complex." Mormon men who follow the strict edicts of the church believe they will become gods in the next lifetime. They will have thousands, if not millions of wives in order to have celestial sex and give birth to spirit children. These spirit children are raised in "heaven," a planet, and then when at a mature age they will be born here on earth... which is why Mormons have lots of kids, to make bodies for the spirit persons.

Now, we all have the same daddy, Heavenly Father, just different mothers. So really, you are the half-brother of George W, I bet you are happy to learn this.

Here are my core concerns. Jesus, the first born child in a sexual act in Heaven, advanced so quickly in Heaven that he was already a God when he made it to earth. So there is a precedence of person's making it to godhood early. I call the not the messiah-complex, but the god-complex.

Another concern is how the leaders in the Middle-East will react to a person who thinks he will become a God when they are so monotheistic. They will all be thinking about beheading him with every handshake.

So when Romney is up there, don't think he is catering to you. He is trying to get people like me, the base... guys with hundreds and hundreds of books on comparative religion to say, "Okay, I can vote for you," not a guy who thinks corporations run their life.

kimba said...

Papa is right. He has to make the country at ease with his religion if he has a chance. Trouble is, his religion is, number one, shrowded in secrecy, and two, may be perceived as exotic, or wierd by most rural voters. Heck, even a lot of urbanites, as well.

He is the perfect candidate...young but experienced, energetic and squeaky clean-cut, very good communicator (albeit a bit stiff and pre-programmed), and says the right things, despite a liberal leaning bent in order to get elected in Mass.

He has to come clean about his religion and individual upbringing, including polygamitic (if that is not a word, it is now) relatives.

Will the mainstream American voting base ever get this guy in their comfort levels? They may have to...Guiliani is a mess...and too liberal, and although I like Mike Huckabee, he seems to have a multitude of skeletons in the closet (all of them benign so far, but ????).

That he can say he is not owned by donations (he has spend a lot of personal dollars on this campaign), really isn't holding water. He is so rich, he can afford it.

America is preoccupied with the candidates personal lives, sexual tendancies, and yes, religion. Even by non-religious types.

I thought his speech was top notch, but how many people will see it, other than every Mormon, every candidate, and the three (sometimes four) readers of this blog? (and the minions of regular readers of Religio-political Talk?)

You cannot compare the obstacle Mitt must overcome, to JFK. After all, JFK was merely a Roman Catholic, which was enough in those days. Mormonism is quite another thing entirely.

Greetings from the left to all,

Papa Giorgio said...

A "different animal" indeed. Like I mentioned on my site, if we go back through history - to our founding - some of those brave men (and women) were Unitarians. A Unitarian view of who Jesus is (compared to who Jesus said He was) is almost as heretical. (The main difference being who someone (a male Mormon) can become.) Without these Unitarian founders, we could have never done what we did those many years back. While heretical in their views, they were fine statesmen. The other Founders as well accepted them into their ranks with minor murmurings, realizing that the culture produced, much like Mormon culture, was well within the lane-lines of the American experiment. In other words, the culture produced, say, by Islam, isn't in the best interests of Western culture founded by the Grecian-Roman/Judain/Christian. The two cultures are at odds with each other. The culture "produced" by Mormonism is in the interests of our culture. While very odd in their theology, its theology still produces a people that are part of and not at odds with the American experiment.

This may not be a conversation for the here-and-now, but... as for the "Book of Stereotypes".... Jesus, unlike Muhammad, Zoroaster, Confucius, Buddha, Joseph-Smith, Charles Taze Russel, and the many others, have never claimed to be God in the flesh. The Creator of the space-time continuum. Jesus did make this claim. This is very exclusionary in saying these other founder and "ways" are missing the mark. obviously this statement creates many questions, but the main point still remains. Jesus' claims. Either he was right, and thus a good, moral person. Or he was insane, similar to a man calling himself a pouched egg (CS Lewis), or he was lying. The latter two options reject Jesus as a good, moral teacher. In fact, Jesus said those who came before him were liers and thieves. This is very "stereotypical," it seems.

Lutherans, Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, etc, etc, all believe that Jesus is who claimed to be. Mormons add three other books to try and show he isn't who he claimed to be. Which is why they will always have the "cult" tag... until they change their theology, Like the Worldwide Church of God. They were a cult, until the church officially gave up their heretical doctrines and had some orthodox theologians come in and help them get back to the basics, what Augustine mentioned in this simple formula:

"In the essentials, unity, in the non-essentials, liberty, but in all things, charity (love)."

All denominations are Christian. Mormonism, much to the misuse of this term by Michael Medved, is not a denomination... for they reject all the essentials.