Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Religion in the White House


Mark Osler opens this article analyzing how JFK memorably addressed his religion, which was a highly debated topic. A good opening, but he describes Kennedy's approach as a bit bumbling (which it obviously was not, otherwise he would not have been elected; anyone who has reviewed his method and the speech in question and its aftermath can see how effective and brilliant it was).

He then goes on to say:

In the current election, all of the Presidential candidates (in either party) are Christians who seem to take their faith seriously, which makes the question posed here an important one. Would Mitt Romney's Mormon faith affect the way he conducts himself in office? I certainly hope it would, because I believe that faith (for those who have chosen to follow a faith) should be an animating principle that does direct action, not something that a leader drops at the doorway as he enters the oval office. It seems that Romney agrees, too: In a speech at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in December, 2007, Governor Romney echoed the distinction (between external influence and personal faith) that Kennedy implied. While recognizing that "no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions," Romney went on to explain that "I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers -- I will be true to them and to my beliefs."
Imagine this: There is a grave national crisis, perhaps an escalating conflict with another nation. The President must make a tough choice on how to respond. As a Christian, he reflects on this decision in prayer. If we tell ourselves that the experience of prayer, that deep and solemn reflection, really has no influence on the decision he then makes, we are fooling ourselves. The connection between faith and action, even in the absence of external pressure from a church, not only is real but should be real. We are better off knowing a candidate's personal faith and the effect it will have than continuing to pretend that there is no connection between faith and action. We need to press for honest answers from our politicians as to how their faith influences their work.
Would this issue be coming up so much if Romney weren't a Mormon? I think not. Religion is always a source of curiosity, attack, and character analysis in presidential (or any) elections, but this time more than ever because of the stigmas surrounding the LDS religion.  As a non-Mormon who has lived my entire life in a predominantly Mormon state, I can say that I don't think it will impact Romney as much as outsiders uninformed on the religion seem to believe. The nicest and most open-minded Mormons tend to be those that live outside of Utah. Here there is a lot of groupthink that goes on and it can make for some uncomfortable tensions, but YES--MORMONS ARE NICE AND POSSESS BRAINS-- and speaking from experience non-Utahn Mormons seem to be most immune to the groupthink.  Mormons are (shocker) people like all of us and their beliefs may be labelled radical and ridiculous by others but what religion on this earth hasn't been accused of the same? With so many unique and diverse religions in the world I personally think critics and outsiders are obsessed with Mormonism because it is relatively new, pretty local to the U.S., and has all the masonic mystery surrounding it that draw people in, but I don't believe that this religion, or any religion really, would have such a hold on a person that they wouldn't be able to keep their personal beliefs and what is best for their country separate.  Someone obsessively dedicated to their religion and unable to keep it out of their work life wouldn't be running for the presidency anyhow (conspiracies aside).

I catch Osler's drift but I do believe he is taking it too far. I'll be curious to see how Romney addresses his religious beliefs and the numerous attacks that are made on them. Hopefully he'll take a leaf out of Kennedy's book.
And I can't believe this is really a book. Like
a Mormon in the White House is the Worst Thing Ever.
Don't we have more important things to worry about?

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