Last night, Nimby and I had a long conversation about politics in light of the Guantanamo Bay case in the Supreme Court. Actually, it was more like I had a conversation at him, since Nimby is an official member of the Politics Is Stupid Party.Well, that’s his prerogative, and even though all the posturing and clever rhetoric is mostly meaningless in the end, I’m getting a lot of entertainment out of watching the fantastic spectator sport that is the presidential campaign.
The latest development of interest in the presidential campaign is Mitt Romney’s speech on religion, his religion, to be exact. Mormonism. If you ever talk to a practicing Mormon (something I’ve only done rarely), it’s hard to get a real grasp on what they believe and practice. And, if I understand correctly , they do that on purpose. Something about you have to be a believer in order to know what they believe. I don’t know how that works, but … *shrug*
So anyway, Romney gave his speech today, and he said some interesting things, but he didn’t really explain what he believes. Hrm… Well, Republicans are notorious for making faith-based decisions, so I can understand why Republican voters would want to know what Romney believes, but if Republicans didn’t trace their decisions back to religious standards, if they made their decisions based on other arguments (like saying murder is illegal because it damages society and not just because God said so), maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem.
I heard an interview recently (on NPR, where else?) in which a Christian minister said that many of his peers had taught their congregations that Mormonism was not a Christian religion but a cult. I’m familiar with that attitude because, believe it or not, there was time when I was super into the whole Christian/Catholic scene, and I remember a lot of my own friends saying the same types of things. At the time, I found those statements rather absurd, and I figured, “If they say they’re Christian, then they are.” Perhaps that was a simplistic view, but, what the hell? I tried to find out more specific things about Mormon beliefs, and I never really got it, but I never had a problem with Mormon’s either. It started to look like those Christians who accused the Mormon’s of being a cult were really just trying to make themselves look better. I started to notice other ways that Christians would try to put each other down and promote themselves as “true” Christians. Protestants accused Catholics of worshiping Mary and the saints. Catholics, Methodists and other mainstream Christians said Southern Baptists were too extreme and made fun of Pentecostals, calling them “Holy Rollers.” Of course, Pentecostals and Southen Baptists said the others were all hypocrites and sinners. Meanwhile, the Catholics said that middle-of-the-road Christians like Methodists, Lutherans and others who never seem to offend anyone were merely “lukewarm.”
The point here is that I don’t think it’s right for Romney to have to ask people to ignore his faith in a country where we’re supposed to be doing that already. Ok, maybe not ignoring, but at least respecting. And I do respect a lot of what Romney said, especially, “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”
I still don’t understand why he would say, “Freedom requires religion,” though. I don’t see any connection between the two. Maybe he meant to say that true freedom necessarily includes the freedom of religion, but it also includes the freedom from religion, and that’s the point many of the Christian conservative voters are missing. Sadly, I don’t believe Americans would elect an atheist to the presidency, and I think it’s even less likely that they’d elect a pagan, Muslim, Hindu or a Buddhist. Why not? Because the majority of Americans are Christians, and there is safety in numbers. Just like we don’t trust those strange new cars that depend on electricity rather than fossil fuels, we don’t like people who have strange ideas about gods that can’t be imagined as monolithic old white dudes.