Monday, May 08, 2006

Why are Some Mormons Afraid of an LDS Presidential Candidate?

I’m keeping my options open with an eye toward 2008. Many ideas exist about who will be the eventual Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, but all of these are merely guesses at this point. Eight years ago everyone knew that Al Gore would be the Democratic nominee in 2000, but nobody really had the remotest clue who would get the Republican nod. Four years ago it was not at all clear that John Kerry would finally get the Democratic nomination.

The future may look clear to some, but even the most astute observer cannot possibly comprehend the multitudinous variables between here and there. Even if it were possible to do so, nobody really knows how much weight to ascribe to each variable. Priorities don’t necessarily remain constant between election cycles, so even experts are only giving it their best guess. Who can tell when the lead runner will stumble over a pebble inadvertently dropped on the course that runs through New Hampshire and Iowa?

Conventional wisdom on the GOP side currently has Senator John McCain (R-AZ) heading the list of potential nominees. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has often been rated in one of the next three spots, depending on who is doing the rating and when it is done. Romney has ties to Utah, having successfully rescued the scandal tainted 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He is also a member of the LDS Church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

Ever since Romney began posturing for a presidential run there has been a lot of discussion about what kind of challenges his religion would pose for him. I wrote about this issue three months ago (here). A medical doctor in Iowa runs a pro-Romney blog. He links to an interesting blog called Article6Blog. Its name references the article in the U.S. Constitution containing the clause prohibiting a religious test for any political office. The site is run by an Evangelical Christian and a Mormon. It mainly discusses the challenges Romney faces as a presidential aspirant with respect to his religion.

When the Constitution prohibits a religious test, it means as a matter of government policy rather than as a matter of personal opinion. I strongly disagree with people that think Romney’s religion should disqualify him, but I think they have every right to hold their bigoted opinions and to vote accordingly. The Constitution in no way prohibits this.

Some of the commentary on the Article6Blog by Mormons posits that it would be better if Romney didn’t make it very far because of the potential for damage to their religion caused by negative public opinion. I suppose these folks would feel the same way if Harry Reid decided to run for the Democratic nomination, so my guess is that they are consistent. I simply do not understand this cowering-under-the-bed attitude.

People that believe in New Testament Christianity should feel a duty to live their religion openly and to share it with others. This mandate is constantly reiterated to Mormons by their leaders. Believers certainly can’t carry out this doctrine if they base their actions in the fear of people’s opinions. Would Romney or Reid be where they are today if they constantly lived their lives quailing at the prospect of religious misunderstanding or intolerance?

While Jesus called his followers to preach his gospel to everyone in the world (Mark 16:15), he also told them that they should be prepared to be persecuted for doing so (Matthew 22:22, John 16:1-4). Those that want to profess Christianity—especially the Mormon version of it—without arousing negative opinions remind me of Elder Marion G. Romney’s 1955 BYU speech where he said, “Now there are those among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.”

I have to ask the fearful types, what’s the worst that could happen? This isn’t 1838 Missouri. Your opponents aren’t going to come after you with rifles, pitchforks and torches to drive you from your homes. This isn’t 1856 Utah. They aren’t going to call out the military and declare martial law. This isn’t the 1880s. You won’t have the legal goon squads raiding your homes at night.

So what are you afraid of? Are you afraid you’re going to hear someone on the evening news or a radio talk show malign or misrepesent your religion? Are you afraid that MSM outlets and bloggers will do so in print? Afraid a coworker will spew some anti-Mormon slur? Well, whoop-de-doo. What’s the big deal?

If people are going to be religious bigots, so be it. I suppose that’s what you call it when you generally agree with a candidate’s politics and morality, but refuse to vote for him/her based on his/her form of worship. If at some future point a Mormon becomes president and somebody blames some unfortunate national event (or even bad poll numbers) on his/her religion, so be it. It will only expose the nature of those carrying such opinions. I say, bring it on. Dish out your worst. Let’s get it out in the open and deal with it.

I understand the desire to avoid unpleasantries and to have genial relations. We all work to keep our lives as unruffled as is reasonable. But openly wishing for the misfortune of a fellow believer simply to secure comfort for ourselves strikes me as bizarre. If Romney wants to run, I wish him the best. Likewise in the unlikely event that Reid wants to run.

11 comments:

Jeff Fuller said...

Excellent points. I'm right with on this issue. As someone who is living and plans to continue living outside the west, I welcome a national discussion to shed some light on the misimformation that's out there. I'll link to your blog in my next blog at www.iowansforromney.blogspot.com (Thanks for pub and link to mine)

That One Guy said...

multitudinous = triple word score. Nice

:)

That One Guy said...

I heard a Romney interview the other day with regard to his state healthcare plan... then the talk turned to a presidential run, and if his religion would play in that race, in his opinion. He stated that although he is LDS, and his beliefs play into the way he conducts himself every day, his religion wouldn't necessarily play into his public decision-making. Not sure what to make of that statement....

Reach Upward said...

Hey, the guy's a politician. What do you expect -- a straightforward statement sans emanations and penumbras?

That One Guy said...

Although I LOVE his healthcare plan, he a grease-ball. Would do well in DC.

Anonymous said...

I was all behind Mr. Romney, and even more enthusiastic about his Health Care plan....

Until I read in a little known article that he used the line item veto to remove a PITTANCE of a contribution that small businesses ($295 per year per employee) would have to contribute.

I am extremely pro capitalism and pro small business beyond that. I think the strength of this country lies in small business, but if businesses don't understand the responsibility of public good then I'm sorry. $295 per year per employee is not unreasonable for a business that can afford to have 11 employees.

It was almost enough to make me stop supporting the line item veto; though I still do.

It WAS enough to make me stop supporting Mitt Romney, who is appearantly no different than Arnold S. in California and a whole host of other 'moderate' Republicans I used to support who believe that any kind of tax on business is bad.

rcstanley said...

I have to ask the fearful types, what’s the worst that could happen? My biggest concern with any member of the church running for high office (and having religion made an issue) is that if he or she has done something illegal or obviously against the teachings of the church it would cause people to look down on the church.

I have no problems with a member of the church running as long as he or she will stick to his or her beliefs.

Reach Upward said...

Anonymous, I think you misunderstood the line-item veto that Romney did on the MA health care plan. The $295 per employee was a penalty clause that was to apply to even the smallest businesses for failure to do certain things. There are actually other provisions in the plan to deal with those businesses. The clause was added in last-minute politicking by the far left crowd after all of the deals had been struck to appease certain lobbying groups. It was part of a little game for some folks to stick it to the governor. Romney merely struck out the onerous clause that was not part of the deal his people agreed to.

RCStanley, I have to agree that I would be concerned about a church member doing something illegal, but I would extend that to a church member doing something off the wall. Although I admired Col. Bo Gritz's courage as a war hero, I throught he was a nutcake politically. (He was a member of the LDS Church when he ran for president in 1992.) Also, there was Arizona Governor Evan Mecham who was a member of the LDS Church. He made a number of public gaffes, including some racist comments. But that was nothing compared to his impeachment and removal from office after being convicted of corruption charges in 1988.

Yeah, there are some weirdos and creeps in the ranks of the church. But I'm not going to run around biting my nails in fear of these guys. I'm for the truth. If the truth is that one of the church's members that holds a political office has broken the law, let's get the truth out there. I see little to gain from hiding it.

The Hedgehog said...

Thanks for your thoughtful post. We've linked to it at Article6blog.com. (I'm the LDS half of the blogging team there.) My general attitude about Mormons running for high office is that we as members of the Church have nothing to fear, nothing to explain, nothing to apologize for. Our faith can stand scrutiny. In fact, it needs scrutiny. We are going to get more and more attention in the coming years. The primary reponsibility of members is to be ready with answers to the questions that will inevitably come up, and to live the life of a disciple well enough that our friends and neighbors can respect our views and take us seriously. This is nothing new, it's just more important than ever.

Reach Upward said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Sounds like I'll have to do more research into the situation regarding the Health Care plan.