Romney’s Mormon Hurdle
Mitt Romney’s efforts to have it both ways on his Mormonism continue to spark rather bizarre theological discussions, such as the most recent kerfuffle over LDS teaching that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers. Or the rantings of Lawrence O’Donnell that were so over-the-top as to have Eleanor Clift calling them shrill.
Regardless, though, Duncan Black is right: “If belief has meaning, then surely the substance of those beliefs matter. Otherwise why do people keep yammering on about them?”
As Julian Sanchez (who wins Headline of the Day honors for “Family Reunions Must Be Awkward”) observes, “I don’t think you get to say: ‘It’s vital, and crucially relevant to my qualifications for office, that I have a powerful set of guiding convictions… but never mind the actual contents of those beliefs.'”
Mormonism theology is sufficiently outside the American mainstream that many consider it a cult. That’s problematic for Romney. At the same time, however, I’m not sure he has to defend every jot and tittle of his church’s doctrine.
The classic South Park episode “All About Mormons” is often cited in these discussions because of its dead-on skewering of the logic of the Joseph Smith story. “Dum dum dum dum dum” and all that. (See videos here.) But while this provided plenty of grist for the humor mill, the lesson of the story was in the closing comments of Gary, the Mormon kid:
Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life. and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back.
In essence, Romney is trying to sell that message without acknowledging the oddness of his faith. Then again, as Clift pointed out to O’Donnell (and Dave Schuler noted on OTB Radio last night) “every religion has some crazy beliefs.”
The problem is that Romney is trying to simultaneously deny that his faith is significantly different than other Christian denominations, proclaim the necessity of faith for national leadership, and portray himself as religiously devout. That’s going to be a tough combination to sell.
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