Any Mormons in the house?
I've only known two Mormons well enough to talk about religion with, a friend back in high school and one of my students back in Indiana. Both of them told me that Mormonism is not a Christian religion.
They meant that it is not Christian in the same way early Christianity was not Judaism. Mormonism succeeds and supplants the established Christianity the way Christianity succeeded and supplanted Judaism.
This doesn't jibe with my Encyclopedia Brittanica, according to which Mormonism isn't so much post-Christian as pre-Catholic and pre-Protestant. Mormonism is a return to first principles. The Church of Latter Day Saints picks up where Jesus and the original apostles left off, the point where the established Christian churches, that is Catholicism and its Protestant offshoots, went wrong.
If there are any Mormons or theologians out there who could sort this out for me, I'd appreciate it.
At any rate, there's no question that Mormons are Christian in the important sense of the word. They believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the son of God and the Christ. And you would think that would settle the question of the day, Is Mitt Romney Christian enough for the Right Wing Christians he needs to vote for him in the Republican primaries?
There's a follow-up to that one, assuming the answer turns out to be yes, and that is, is a Mormon too weird for the rest of the country to vote for in the general election?
Recent AP story seemed to be trying to jump the gun by answering the second question first with a quick, Hell, yeah!
Shakes, Atrios, Kevin Hayden, and Scott Lemieux have dealt with the absurdity and the meanness of writing about Romney's ancestors as if they had anything to do with his beliefs and what he'd do as President. Of course the point of the article was that in many people's minds, particularly those who watch too much TV, Mormonism is the religion that lets men have harems. That Romeny himself seems to be content and happy with just the one ought to be all that matters but it doesn't change the fact that Brigham Young had more than 50.
Personally, I've always thought of Mormonism as being more aggressively pro-monogomy than even Catholicism, but then the first Mormons I ever heard of were the Osmonds.
The whole are they real Christians or not question perplexes me too, because I always associate Mormonism with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with their Christmas albums.
I can't help feeling that the issue is being ginned up by the Media as an excuse to leer over the idea of polygamy.
It just seems to me that the popular image of Mormons must be of earnest, brightly smiling wholesomeness. And whatever you think of Romney's politics, he does seem to be the most well-adjusted, personally happy, decent---as in a guy you'd like to have as a neighbor---Republican running. If the two Parties' nominees turn out to be John Edwards and Mitt Romeny the 2008 Presidential campaign could end up looking like a phantasmagoric waking nightmare mix of C-SPAN and Ozzie and Harriet re-runs.
Plus, there'll be all that...hair!
So frankly, I just don't see how Romney's Mormonism can be a liability and, if the Beltway Media weren't so enamoured of Rudy Giuiani and his authoritarian bullyboy swaggering, they wouldn't be asking if the Christian Right can accept a well-adjusted, good-natured Mormon who happens to have polygamist ancestors; they'd be asking if they can accept an angry, neurotic, serial polygamist and transvestite, who, by the way, is a Catholic, another religion Fundamentalist Christians have issues with.
But even if Right Wing Christians are that prejudiced against Mormons and cross-dressing, thrice-married would-be dictators, it's only in principle. The Right are notoriously forgiving in practice. It doesn't matter if their champion of family values is a lifelong "bachelor" or a divorcee or a compulsive philanderer or all three. It doesn't matter to them if their warrior hero kings are draft-dodgers. It doesn't matter to them if their anti-choice, anti-gay marriage candidate was once pro-choice and pro gay rights and may still be and is lying to them about it. It doesn't matter to them if their "Christian" candidate goes to their church, a church, or even truly believes.
All that matters is that the candidate proves he is one of them.
There are two important steps in becoming one of them. First you have to be able to pay repeated and flattering lip service to them, to their goodness, to their wisdom, to what they believe. The second, and this is the one that makes it impossible for even the most "Christian" Democrat to convince them he is one of them, you have to hate who they hate with the same red hot passion.
The hating is crucial because who they hate is everybody who is not them, and everybody who is not them, is on the side of the devil.
John 3:16 is the sign they hold up in the endzones at football game, but it's that verse plus the five that follow it that have been the key Biblical passages in the evangelical movment since Luther.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son inot the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [So far, so good---LM.] He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe [Oh oh.] is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, [Here it comes.] that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
Belief in the resurrection of Jesus and his divinity aren't all that's being preached here. If you don't believe, the passage says, you are out of the light, which is synonymous with being on the side of evil. The only reason you could possibly have for not rushing right out to embrace the light is that you are trying to hide, and you are hiding because you don't want your evil deeds to be exposed.
If you don't accept Jesus as the resurrected Christ, you are simply on the side of the devil.
Faith isn't just believing in Jesus, it means believing anyone who doesn't believe is evil.
People have asked when did being a Christian become the mark of being a good person. Right then, in that part of the Gospels.
I don't mind that candidates, even Democratic candidates, make religious language a part of their rhetoric. We live in a country where most people are, or flatter themselves that they are, religious, and we expect our leaders who are in government to represent us to be representative of us. We expect them to think and talk like us, generally. A Presidential candidate needs to believe in God the same way she or he needs to like baseball, mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet.
But Mitt Romeny should be careful when he gets to urge to talk about "faith," as in people of faith and a President needing to be a person of faith, because faith is a code word that does not mean what he thinks it means, not to the Right Wing Christians whose votes he's courting.
Saying you are a person of faith doesn't mean you have faith. It doesn't mean you believe in God. It doesn't mean you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God and Christ the Lord. It doesn't even mean that you believe that the only way to get to heaven is through believing in God and Jesus.
It means the whole passage, John 16-21.
You have to believe in Jesus as Savior and that everyone who doesn't is going to hell.
The phrase "people of faith" deliberately excludes atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and people of all faiths that aren't Christian. But it also excludes Catholics---who don't believe that faith is the be-all and end-all---and several of the other big Protestant denominations, as well, because they don't believe a lack of faith is all that damning. It excludes Mormons. Saying the President must be a person a faith isn't just saying that the President must be of a particular faith. It's saying that the President must be of a particular form of that particular faith.
To get back to the point, in order to win the Christian Right over you have to prove you are one of them and that requires that you flatter their beliefs and you hate who they hate.
Romney, Giuliani, and John McCain have been energetically showing themselves up as fools and liars in a desperate bid to get the first part right. Pointing out that they are hypocrites and liars won't hurt them with the Religious Right because backsliding and conversion are expected parts of the game. Was Romney lying to the people of Massachusetts when he claimed to be pro-choice or is he lying now when he says he's seen the light? Doesn't matter. As I said, all that matters is that he proves he is one of them by paying lip service to what they believe and he's doing that just fine. The question is, will he be convincing on the second part?
I've written before that I don't think McCain will be President because he won't be able to convince the Religious Right that he's truly one of them. His problem isn't his obvious pandering and hypocrisy. That's fine. He's paying lip service. His problem is that the Media keep celebrating him as a maverick. Every time he sets out to prove he's one of them, he's undercut by another big story in which he's portrayed as being definitely not one of them.
You would think Giuliani, as another darling of the effete Liberal media elite, would have the same problem. But the Media Insiders don't love Guiliani for his being a maverick or for being the kind of social liberal the Republicans need. They love him for being a tough guy. It's his authoritarian streak that's got them writing love letters to him and that authoritarianism plays very well with the Religious Right because it suggests he'll deal ruthlessly with the people they hate.
This is what has me wondering if I've been underestimating Giuliani's chances of getting the nomination.
Both he and Romney have been pretty good at the first part of proving they're one of them, the paying lip service. But when it comes to the second part, the truly important part, Romney just may not be mean enough.
He's good at the hypocrisy.
But in the end Giuliani is probably the better hater.