With the nomination of Mitt Romney very likely, I feel compelled to comment on Mitt’s religion: Mormonism. Just as Mitt, I am also a lifelong Mormon albeit a much more theological liberal akin to Liberal Protestants. It would seem my beliefs are similar to those of Jon Huntsman. I do not accept most of Mormonism’s unique truth claims but I am a theist, a participant in my Mormon community, and will always choose to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ if Latter-day Saints.
My middle name is Romney. My great grandfather is Mitt’s grandfather. Miles Park Romney had four wives. I come through the ancestral line of one wife and Mitt comes from another. I know this makes us some form of cousins although I have no idea what this familial relationship is formally called.
During the course of the GOP nomination process I have been dismayed at some of the more idiotic comments about Mormonism by both Romney’s GOP rivals and those who claim to be “progressives.” I would like to take this opportunity to comment on this idiocy, not because I support Mitt politically, I don’t; rather I believe my heritage needs a little defense from the blatant attack coming from both the idiotic right and the hypocritical left.
Is Mormonism Weird?
Mormonism is “weird”, without question; but so are Catholicism, traditional Protestantism and the more modern charismatic/Pentecostal Evangelicalism. Stay with me for a moment here. All of these believe that 2000 years ago, a man was executed by Roman occupiers of Palestine, placed in a tomb and then about 36 hours later got up and walked out. Catholics teach that when the Eucharist is eaten that the wafer literally transforms into the actual body of Christ and that that the wine served literally becomes the blood of Jesus. At face value then, Catholics are open cannibals.
(Note: Some readers have questioned the validity of my claim regarding the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. I freely acknowledge that in practice, most American Catholics do not believe that the wafer and wine literally transform into the body and blood of Jesus. However, the doctrine still remains and is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Also, I want to apologize to all Catholics out there for using the term “cannibal” to describe your views on transubstantiation. I am purely using hyperbole to illustrate an important point.)
Evangelical Christians believe that someday soon they will “raptured” and leave the rest of us behind to experience a tribulation and the awful rule of a world dictator, the anti-Christ. Then, at the end of this of this rule Jesus, along with all of those raptured will return and burn up everyone who doesn’t believe in their version of Jesus.
I don’t mean to mock Christian faith in any way as I myself and a Christian; but let’s all take an honest look at the facts. Christianity is weird just like every other religion. When I see Christians claim that Mormonism is too outside the mainstream of Christian thought and is therefore a “cult” I am forced to conclude two things. First, these Christians don’t realize how silly their beliefs seem to outsiders and second, these Christians want a monopoly on the word “Christian” thereby demonstrating their complete lack of understanding of Christian history. If they think their modern ideas on the “rapture”, grace, and the so-called Trinity have any resemblance to the Christian church of the late first or second century, they need to pick up a book before they arrogantly start claiming to own the copyright on the word “Christian.” Oh, and let’s not forget that these same evangelicals also claim that Catholics are not true Christians either. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.
So, while the criticism of Mormonism by the Christian right is dripping with irony, the criticism coming from the left is, for the most part, ripe with hypocrisy. Remember, liberalism and being progressive means accepting people no matter their religion, sex, skin color or sexual orientation, right? Peruse the comment section of any post on Romney at The Daily Kos or Huffington Post and see just how accepting these self-proclaimed progressives seem to be. Keep in mind that most of these folks probably voted for John Kerry, the Catholic cannibal, and revere another Catholic cannibal, JFK. It should become apparent that their problems with a candidate’s religion are selective at best. Remember, most of these folks like Harry Reid and he’s a Mormon. Funny how Reid’s religion never seems to be an issue. If progressives don’t like Romney’s politics then they should deal with his politics and stop using his Mormonism as a punching bag. It’s quite lazy and betrays any sense of objectivity these progressive hypocrites may claim.
We should also remember that the US constitution is pretty specific about any type of religious test. Both left and right would do well to remember that little bit of information before spouting off about Romney’s religion.
If you choose not to vote for Romney due to his religion you are just as much a bigot as those who refuse to vote for Gay, Muslim, or black candidates. Period.
As I have shown above, any religion can be caricatured but this represents the worst kind of intellectual laziness. Before criticizing a religious belief system, it is probably a good idea that you have made at least some kind of effort to understand it from the believers’ viewpoint.
So over the next few blog posts let’s take a look at Mormonism’s weirdness and I will attempt to bring in relevant context so that at very least, readers can understand why Mormons believe what they do. By understanding how Mormons view their own faith, Mormon belief will still seem weird but perhaps a bit less so.
I do want to point out that I have no dog in this hunt, as it were. I’m indifferent as to who wins this presidential election as all candidates have been about as inspiring as a wet rag.