I had a call from a significant journalist in the US who wanted to discuss my views on anti-Mormonism and Mitt Romney. I accepted the interview, hoping that somehow I might do more good than harm in spite of dealing with controversial topics and the unpredictability of the press. If any of you lose your souls because of anything I said, well, I hope it’s because I was misquoted. In fact, let me go on record now to state that I categorically deny saying whatever it was I said. Hey, that was easy–maybe I should run for office, too?
Chances are that nothing I said will make it into print–I was just one of multiple sources being interviewed for a story on opposition to Mormonism sparked by the Romney campaign. The reporter raised some common issues: “Does Romney’s religion and his religious values jeopardize his ability to serve in office? Will his religious values play a role in his political decisions? Can a President be loyal to America when they follow a Mormon prophet?”
I explained that these are aspects of broader issues that are not unique to Latter-day Saint politicians. Every individual has a set of values that influence how they see the world and how they act. Whether those values are based on some flavor of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, atheism, etc., or mixtures thereof, every politician brings a set of values and beliefs to the table, partly expressed in words but also expressed in one’s track record. How those values affect future decision making is a fair question for voters to consider in every case, not just for Mormons. For example, if voters oppose abortion, then they should support candidates who also oppose abortion. I didn’t mention this second example, but here’s another one to consider: if people want more racial diversity in a America, then they should select a politician whose political and/or religious values will lead him or her to oppose abortion, which eliminates a higher percentage of black children than white children.
The concern that a Mormon President will betray America by relying on the Prophet for decision making is simply ridiculous. Our two most prominent Mormon politicians, Romney and Harry Reid, have been in office for years and have never shown a sign of such behavior. Both, in fact, have taken positions on some major issues that many LDS people might not feel are highly aligned with LDS inclinations. So what’s the threat? Where’s the evidence of putting Church and Prophet ahead of America? They have values, including some I strongly disagree with, but they appear to be their own men (or, less naively stated, at least owned by someone else besides Thomas S. Monson).
People were worried about Catholicism and John F. Kennedy. Could a Catholic be a good president, or would the Pope get his foot into the White House? Catholicism was not a problem, and with all due respect, I think President Kennedy would have been wiser and happier if he had been a little more Catholic in his behavior. But I’ll leave that discussion for another day.
What irks me about the issue of Mormonism and Romney is that some unpleasant folks are using it as a cause to push their own anti-Mormon bigotry. Again numerous congregations are being told that Mormons aren’t even Christian, using contrived definitions for “Christian” that would typically exclude Christ and the early Christians of the New Testament. The attacks are intended to scare people away from the Church, and for too many, they are working. Folks, check it out for yourselves and don’t give in to the hysterical fear mongering.
As for politics, I’ve tried to give a relatively bipartisan flavor to my occasional denunciations of politicians in an effort to not be political on this blog. Bipartisan criticism is easy, of course, when one feels both parties in the United States are have let America down. Is Romney the answer? Well, first tell me what the question is. That is one of the biggest gaps in popular American thought–a failure to ask questions, especially meaningful questions. Over here in China, there are a lot of people asking good questions, like “How can America stay solvent if it keeps spending like a bunch of, uh, Americans?” For another day.