Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Religious Beliefs Should Remain Private

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and current Republican candidate for President in 2012 is a charlatan and a swindler. 

He was a supporter of women’s rights when he was running for governor of one of America’s more liberal states, then ever-so-conveniently changed his mind years later in order to boost his social conservative credentials. He’s worth more than $260 million dollars, yet tells unemployed voters he sympathizes with their plight because he’s also “unemployed” (while running for President is hardly a money-earning endeavor, he’s still doing so by choice). Romney also once infamously asserted that his sons’ service to his failed presidential campaign in 2008 was a more important task than the service of those in the U.S. military.

However, rather than focus on these and other examples of his chicanery, prominent media figures have instead elected to unfairly attack his religious beliefs. So as much as it pains me to do it, I believe Romney deserves some defense here.

Romney is a Mormon, one of the newer and fastest-growing sects of Christianity. Even though Mormonism dates back nearly 200 years and has always professed itself as part of the umbrella of Christianity, some (such as Baptist minister and Rick Perry supporter Robert Jeffress) have obnoxiously proclaimed that Romney should not be considered a candidate for President because he’s not a “real” Christian.
Again, there are a litany of reasons not to support Romney. His economic plan is garbage, his business credentials are laughable, and he’s happy to change his ideals to match those of the highest bidder. But his faith is hardly relevant.

And again, as much as it pains me, other Republicans deserve credit for taking the high road and refusing to attack Romney’s faith like Jeffress so egregiously did. Recently on CNN, anchor Candy Crowley posed the “Is Romney a real Christian?” question to presidential hopefuls Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, both of whom refused to answer. For once, Republican politicians aren’t the problem here.

But yet again, our soundbite-driven, “gotcha”-moment-obsessed friends in American journalism have let us down. Every second we spend discussing who is and who is not a “real Christian” is not only an enormous waste of time, it also encourages intolerance toward all religions. If Romney’s candidacy is harmed by his Mormon faith, what does that say of the chances we’ll ever see a Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist president? And what makes Mormonism so special? All religions require extraordinary leaps of faith in order to subscribe just to the basic tenants. 

Sure, it seems highly dubious that Jesus of Nazareth could have ever visited North America, or that all Native Americans share ancestry with a misplaced tribe of Israelites that somehow managed to wander halfway around the world some 500 years before the compass was invented. However, if Romney must stand trial for these curious beliefs, then some of the more religiously-outspoken presidential candidates should be made to answer for their “mainstream” beliefs that are just as bizarre. 

For example, Rick Perry should tell us why his prayer vigil to end the drought in Texas went unanswered by his deity of choice. Was God busy? Or perhaps God was angry that Perry not only violated state law by filling Houston’s Reliant Stadium with 30,000 people to pray on behalf of his presidential campaign, but also violated Matthew 6:6 – “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Or culture-crusader Rick Santorum should have to tell us why a deity that made all humans in his image, and supposedly loves us all as a father would his own children, would be so preoccupied with what consenting adults do in the privacy of the bedroom. 

Either all religious beliefs should be held to the fire, or none of them should. If the Constitution tells us anything, it should be the latter. Installing religious tests to hold public office, even at the state and local levels of government, are expressly forbidden by the Constitution. But what’s the point of establishing freedom of religion if obnoxious sects of the media and general public purposely step in to create their own religions tests, picking and choosing which religions are worth shaming into exile?

None of us would be aware of our politicians metaphysical beliefs in a perfect world, which is unfortunately impossible when so many of them gleefully wear them on their sleeves. But when someone like Mitt Romney makes the correct decision and elects to (mostly) keep his religion to himself, his privacy should be respected. His beliefs may be strange, but they’re hardly stranger than any form of theism which exists today.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Nathan. Should be in the NY times op-ed.


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