Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney's Mormonism

Now that Mitt Romney has picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, the presidential election here has taken an interesting turn. First, I can't recall any other ticket that didn't have a Protestant on-board. I'm already bracing myself for the "cult conspiracy" claims that will no doubt rapidly proliferate among my mostly-Baptist and Pentecostal friends, relatives, and co-workers. That's ok, though, because maybe this is something that will make them look into Catholicism a bit more. Most of them hate Obama, so perhaps this sort of enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend deal will let some of the mistrustful air out of the room.

Looking at Romney, though, the Mormon issue is apparently a way bigger deal for Catholics than I first thought. Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers fame has written an article in which he expresses extreme reservations about having a Mormon president. These reservations are, of course, rooted in the peculiar Mormon beliefs in things like polytheism, all the while claiming simultaneously to be Christian. Naturally, this is a doctrine that is repulsive to Catholics and anybody else who bears the name Christian, since it is basically blasphemous. There is but one God and so on and so forth. Viewing the election through the lens of Romney's Mormonism, Akin writes:

To elect a Mormon to the American presidency would, to my mind, be a disaster. 

It would not only spur Mormon recruitment efforts in numerous ways, it would mainstreamize the religion in a way that would deeply confuse the American public about the central doctrine of the Christian faith. It would give the public the idea that Mormons are Christian (an all-too-frequent misunderstanding as it is) and that polytheism is somehow compatible with Christianity. 

In other words, it would deal a huge blow to the American public’s already shaky understanding of what Christianity is

That means it would massively compromise a fundamental value on the scale of the abortion issue. 

Faced with the choice of voting for a pro-life polytheist-claiming-to-be-Christian or a pro-abortion whatever, I might well choose to simply sit out that race and refrain from voting for either candidate, because voting either way would mean doing massive damage to America.

While I think these are probably legitimate concerns, I think Akin overstates their degree. Let's take a look at them separately:

1. It will help Mormon recruitment.

Will it? Have any other religious denominations benefited from having one of their own elected president? If Al Gore had won and died in office, would there have been an influx into Judaism thanks to President Lieberman?

To the contrary, I think this might help slow down Mormon recruiting. Every time a Mormon missionary knocks on my door, I invite them in and we have a discussion. Sometimes, this will go on for several weeks. The one thing that is consistent in their script is that they always try to make Mormonism and Catholicism sound like the same thing. If I had a nickel for every time they say, "So you see how they are so much alike," I could probably balance the national budget all by myself.

The election of a Mormon president would demand greater scrutiny of the Mormon religion, especially their fabricated views of history and lack of supporting evidence for those views. Mormonism is spreading pretty fast anyway without a president. I just don't see the occupant of the White House being that big of an assist.

2. It will create confusion about Christianity.

This is a battle that's already lost, as we sort of recently discussed. Jimmy Akin, of all people, should realize this given the types of questions he gets on the Catholic Answers radio show. Would he have similar reservations voting for a Modalist from TD Jakes's congregation? Like Mormons, they claim to be Christians, while blaspheming against the Persons of the Trinity. Oneness Pentescostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. can  all fall into the same category. My wife had never even thought about the Trinity until we were married. My kids' barber proclaims himself a Southern Baptist yet is quite blunt that he "doesn't go in for that 'Three Persons, One God' stuff."

Personally, I think it's absurd to conclude that there is somehow more damage to be done. Once something is utterly destroyed, you can't destroy it more. Such is the state of the word "Christian" in the societal lexicon.

Nobody in the political arena cares what Christianity is anymore, except when they are trying to paint evangelicals (another word completely bereft of meaning) as radical-minded primitives. For those few who might be presented with this new thing "Mormonism" and want actually to use their brains to find out more about it, we can be comforted with the idea that they will now be exposed to plenty of counter-evidence due to the phenomenon I mentioned in #1.

Let's face another simple fact, there has never been nor, in my opinion, will there ever be, an orthodox Catholic as president. Let's not try to make Kennedy into something he wasn't. Every president who has ever held the office has been a heretic/schismatic to one degree or another. For someone like Jefferson, who was a deist and redacted Scripture to omit things like the Resurrection, I'd say he's at least in the same camp as Romney, though perhaps not adhering to exactly the same claim of being Christian, I suppose.

Akin also ignores one other enormous factor in this analysis. From what we know, Romney is at least indifferent as to Catholics. He has spoken out against the HHS mandate but so have lots of other people of various religious and irreligious stripes. Contrast this with Obama, who has quite forcefully declared open war against God's Church and His Faithful. Even considering Romney's moral flexibility on issues, at least he has never tried to obliterate Catholicism from the public sphere altogether. This is Obama's posture, and I fear that his re-election will be a very, very bad thing for the Faith.

Akin admits that there can be reasons to vote for polytheists, including Mormons. I suggest that, when contemplating his position in this election, he recall the recent comments by Cardinal George and discern which candidate makes this future more likely.


Alexander said...

Massive damage?
Even if Romney was to do massive damage, the fact of the matter is that Obama is already doing that. And one of the two men is going to win, there is no doubt about that.

Therefore, if his premise is correct, one must vote for the one that will do the least amount of damage. Right? Because if the person who is to do the most damage wins, you can blame it on those who sit on their ass on election day.

Throwback said...

That's the way I look at it, yes.

Paige said...

I do like the idea that someone with traditional values (and I mean that in the truest sense of the word) as well as someone who has a great respect for religious freedom could possibly be elected. I have worked for many Mormon-owned companies and they were all great places to work. I think it's interesting that Mormons are so keen on Romney, however. I know Joseph Smith himself ran for office at one point, but Mormons in general are at least inwardly distrustful of government. I also have reservations that Mormons routinely lie about what they actually believe when talking to outsiders. Anyone who is willing to outright lie about things that they hold so deeply to be true really bothers me in a candidate. Also, someone who believes (and I mean BELIEVES) that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri doesn't really seem like the best idea for someone leading our country. I'm not convinced I will vote for Romney. I won't vote for Obama, but the jury is still out. I guess there's always a write-in...