« | Home | »

Theological Questions

Tags: |

Some evangelical Christian websites have been reproducing my LRB blog post on Mitt Romney, presumably less interested in his trochaic surname than in his Mormon underwear. One of them reprints, on the same page as my post, an article by Gary Bauer, president of American Values, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, and perennial television talking head for the Christian right:

A thought experiment: Imagine a presidential candidate. He has spent years in politics, rising to become a trusted leader in his party. He also has spent time in the business world, has an impeccable personal life, a deep understanding of the issues, and is eloquent in speech and moderate in temperament. Sounds like a dream candidate, right?

But imagine that, along with those qualities, the candidate is also a Wiccan, a modern pagan… Wicca involves magic, spell-casting and sorcery — not exactly mainstream religious practices. But would this candidate’s beliefs make you question his fitness for office? Would you oppose him based solely on his faith?

Bauer’s article appeared in the ever-bland USA Today, so naturally he has to conclude that it wouldn’t matter, as long as the candidate held ‘traditional values’. But then again, he admits, Wiccans aren’t likely to hold traditional values… The article serves its purpose: he’s blown the dog whistle, as they say in American politics – the sound that only believers can hear.

Romney is not merely one of the faithful, he is, or was, a ‘bishop’ in the Mormon church. And the tenets of the faith, once they gain some circulation, as is inevitable in the campaign, will be far more disturbing to many Christians than, once upon a time, John Kennedy’s Catholicism was to Protestants.

Rick Santorum, endorsed by Bauer and a recent conclave of evangelical leaders, would have no hesitation in declaring that Jesus was the son of God, who died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven. Will Romney be equally open about his faith’s belief that, after the Ascension, Jesus returned to earth and went to America to preach to groups of descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel? That will lose him more votes than the tales of his corporate raiding.

Santorum may think the earth is 6000 years old. (Or, as Rick Perry said, ‘Evolution is just one of those theories out there.’) We expect these things from the Tea Partiers. But Romney, to the general public, is considered a more reasonable man. Will he be asked if, as the Church insists, he takes the Book of Mormon literally? That is, groups from the Holy Land began arriving in the Americas as early as 2500 BC; they had horses, cows, pigs and goats, and drove chariots. Does the total absence of archeological or genetic evidence for this trouble him at all? Does he ever wonder about ‘reformed Egyptian’ – the language of the Golden Tablets, which Joseph Smith translated and which is otherwise unknown? Will he denounce the polygamy of his not-too-distant ancestors?

The election of Obama demonstrated a greater tolerance for diversity among the American public. But this was ‘diversity’ only in terms of who he is – a black man with a strange name – and not his core beliefs, which are merely the left bank of the mainstream.

Americans won’t be too happy when they learn that Mitt, following the Mormon practice, is praying to posthumously convert non-believers. Great-grandma’s Baptist soul just might not want to go to Mormon heaven.

Comments on “Theological Questions”

  1. Higgs Boatswain says:

    Yes, chariots and reformed Egyptians in upstate New York is pretty weird. But then, some of us believe in transubstantiation. I’m prepared to bet that looks pretty strange from the outside, too. And praying for posthumous conversions (not a completely alien idea in orthodox Christianity) at least indicates a certain generosity of spirit foreign to some of the hellfire Baptists. One of the more interesting things about Mormonism is the way it gives unusual emphasis to ideas that are often present but marginalised in Western Christianity (theosis, for example).

    I’m less bothered by Romney’s belief in golden tablets than I am by his belief in a 15% tax-rate. Only one of those things is self-evidently absurd to the point of impossibility.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.

  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • UncleShoutingSmut on Goodbye, Circumflex: Unfortunately this post is likely to leave readers with a very partial idea of what is going on. Firstly, there is no "edict": all that has happened i...
    • martyn94 on The Price of Everything: If it's a joke at anyone's expense, it's surely at the expense of any super-rich who take it seriously. I used to skim it occasionally as a diversion ...
    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...
    • Michael Schuller on Immigration Scandals: The Home Office is keen to be seen to be acting tough on immigration, although I'm not sure that the wider project has anything to do with real number...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement