Friday, December 07, 2007

Mitt Romney Panders Right


Former Massachusetts Governor and current Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney made an appeal to social conservative voters during a 20 minute speech in Texas this week, arguing that his Mormon faith was in line with Christian conservative values.

The speech was a clear attempt to convince members of the political Right wing that his views about social issues saw eye to eye with those of groups like the Christian Coalition or Family Research Council. He sent a clear signal that he would appease Christian Conservative concerns by setting a place for Religion at the table of policy in a Romney White House and further fanning the flames of us vs. them political rhetoric.

“They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgement of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America-the religion is secularism. They are wrong,” said Romney during the speech according to “The New York Times.”

For those who do argue that the constitution calls for a clear separation of church and state, the Romney speech was just another sad example of pandering by a Presidential candidate to a vocal and still powerful often irrational interest group, that has, in the past, flexed political muscle in exchange for support of policy, all guised under the curtain of self righteous certitude, faith and unspoken arrogance.

Plenty of Americans have begun to look behind that curtain and have found the real muscle behind the flexing, is a fundamentalist agenda that is dangerous to Democracy, no matter who does its bidding.

Still, the issue of Romney’s Mormonism has been one of the more interesting political sticklers to watch as Republicans continue pandering to the Right Wing movement. It appears that much of the leeriness expressed by Right wingers over Romney is due in part to what some see as a cloud of mystery that hangs over the Mormon Church.

Unlike the often shrill and colorful antics of the “praise the Lord” evangelical movement, Mormons keep many of their religious practices quiet, exclusive, some say even secret. For example, only Mormons are allowed inside their Temples. The Temples are where members receive their ‘endowments.’ Church members are forbidden to discuss temple rituals like the widely reported wearing of special underwear, they call “garments” or the white suits for men and floor length white dresses for the women.

In all fairness and with due respect to other faiths, that’s certainly no more odd than some of the rituals and wardrobe requirements required by other mainstream denominations, faiths and beliefs within their places of worship or for that matter, some of the less discussed practices at home.

Still, voters on both sides of the political fence point to what appear to be somewhat odd Mormon rules like no hot caffeinated drinks and the belief that marriage is eternal, family sealing, concerns over past polygamy practices as well as questions over how the Mormon Church treasure chest, estimated by some to be around $30 billion, got to be so big in the first place.

In addition, there are charges leveled over the centrality of the Temple in Mormonism as well as what some Christian Conservatives see as the diminished role of Jesus coupled with a high level of importance given to the gold tablet inspired Book of Mormon. Many of these concerns have led some Evangelicals to question the very fundaments of Mormonism and to that end, whether or not Mormons are indeed Christians.

In truth, Evangelical Christians and Mormons are very much alike.

For one, Mormons are the embodiment of Family Values living.

But, more specifically, if Evangelicals could get over their concerns about the secrecy, the rituals, the gold tablets and the specifics of who is, or who is not a Christian, for all intents and purposes, Mitt Romney should be their man. In fact, if Mitt Romney subscribes to one of the Mormon Church’s most important statements of faith, he could be a bigger prize than what the “right” ordered for its political entrĂ©e.

Much of the Central concept in Mormon Religion is laid out in the “Articles of Faith” a 13 point list of the Latter Day Saint’s most fundamental beliefs.

Article 10 has similarities with what Christian Conservatives believe regarding the future of mankind and the “second coming”. The Mormons, like Conservative Christians believe that Jesus will return to Earth some day to establish Zion, what was noted in a groundbreaking PBS FRONTLINE documentary called “The Mormons”, the paradisiacal Promised Land.

However, Mormons, unlike the Conservative Christians, believe specifically, that Jesus will establish his new kingdom on the American continent.

It’s certainly no secret that the Religious Right has long advocated that the United States is, or at least should be, a Christian Nation. So it seems almost odd, perhaps mysterious that the politically powerful Evangelical movement would not throw its support behind a leader who comes from a Religion that details a future America that is not only a Christian nation, but in fact, the Promised land.

Once again, Americans are reminded that there is a battle for Democracy being waged within our own borders. It is a battle for morality, fairness, logic and for all intents and purposes, the very soul of our nation. Our constitution is clear about the separation of Church and State. It is frightening that Mitt Romney, the respected former and well liked Governor of one of America’s most liberal states, would engage in such pathetic political pandering to the self righteous agenda of the Conservative Right wing. Romney had an opportunity to define himself as above the fray, perhaps a strong principled leader. He did not. Instead, his definition appears to be dangerous.

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