Friday, May 18, 2012

Romney & Religion

LDS Temple in Salt Lake City
There was an interesting development this week in the presidential race.  A Romney supporting super-PAC planned a $10 million anti-Obama ad campaign centered on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.  Presumably, the ads would have focused on the kinds of themes that often come up in Black Liberation Theology and the fears, anxieties, and misunderstandings that theology might ellicit among many white folk.  Mitt Romney squashed the campaign.

The cynic in me says that the reason for this was not because he felt the ads were out of line, but because he was worried that if religious questions come to the forefront of this campaign, his own Mormon faith would be under the magnifying glass.  There are lots of evangelical Christians who already have problems with a Mormon president, to add more doubts to that piece of the picture would, I believe, be very damaging to Romney.  He needs the Christian Right and underscoring Mormon doctrines, history, and even his own family story of faith would not be helpful with that constituency or with more secular folk.

I think that Mormonism should come under the magnifying glass, especially with regards to Romney's commitment to his faith and the way that would play out in social policy, ethics, and in who Mitt Romney is...  Likewise, I think it is not a bad thing for people to wrestle with the ideas of Black Liberation Theology and the role that tradition plays in Obama's formation and ethics.  I do see at least some of that tradition playing out in Obama and it makes sense to me to understand that when I make a decision about whether to vote for him.

I have no idea how serious Mitt Romney is about his Mormon faith at this point in his life.  I do know that he did his missionary work and that he continues to give substantial amounts of money to his church.  I also don't know a lot about Mormonism.  I do have impressions about the way that religion sees its relationship to the government and that makes me a little nervous.  From the little I think I know, I'd be very nervous about a seriously committed Mormon as POTUS.  I'd like to hear more about Romney's relationship to the teachings of his church and to see more of those teachings made public.

On the other hand, I know a good bit about the various strains of Liberation Theology and feel quite comfortable with the way that theology would and does interact with politics.  Indeed, I wish that Obama had shown deeper roots in that tradition and stronger commitments to it during his first term. 

I'm not arguing that a Mormon or a Wiccan or a Presbyterian or an Atheist or whatever cannot be POTUS.  I am arguing that a candidate's faith or lack thereof are a part of the package that must be considered when we go into the ballot box.  I'd like to know more regarding Romney and his Mormon faith.


Michael Mahoney said...

Many of the same arguments were made against President Kennedy being Catholic. I agree that some aspects of Mormonism are uncomfortable for a Christian to accept, especially evangelicals, and it should certainly be taken into consideration. I'm not particularly happy with either candidate, and it seems it will be an election of the lesser of two evils.

Romney seems to be at least consistent in his approach to his faith, at least from what I've seen. Obama seems more to be blowing in the wind of popular opinion.

Do not confuse Black Liberation Theology with Liberation Theology. They are very different things.

roy said...

it is true that many of the same things were said re: Kennedy... and he essentially said that his religion would not impact his leadership, that his faith was impotent in his life. That answer allowed many to vote for him who were nervous about his loyalty to a foreign nation - the Vatican. A similar answer from Romney might make some folk more comfortable with his Mormonism, but I don't know that he is quite in the same place... and I'm not sure that there is quite the room for diversity in serious Mormonism that there is in serious Roman Catholicism. I'd like to know more.

As for Black Liberation Theology and Liberation Theology, I did significant work in both during my M.Div. and my doctorate.

Michael Mahoney said...

Well then you clearly understand better than I do.

To be honest, I don't know that that answer from Kennedy would have made me feel better. Personally, I think I would want someone for whom faith is important. I mean, seriously, if you're not informed or connected to your faith, why bother calling yourself anything?

roy said...

what do I understand better, Michael?

Again, re:Kennedy's faith (or lack thereof), it sounds to me like a fairly typical American response from that time when church membership was seen as important but faith, for a significant majority, was seen as something "private," that did not impact their lives beyond inspiring them to be "good Americans."

And we agree regarding the importance of faith in the lives of public figures... I much prefer honesty there.

Michael Mahoney said...

I was pointing out you understand liberation theology better than I do.

And did you say we agree on something? Whoa!!! :)