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Posted at 01:30 PM ET, 05/20/2012

The Mormon obsession

The New York Times' Jodi Kantor has a piece on Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. It is largely sympathetic and reveals, despite Kantor’s thesis that everything you need to know about Romney boils down to Mormonism (hmm, funny how the New York Times ignored and deplored similar inquiries about candidate Barack Obama in 2008, but what do you expect from the liberals’ paper of record?), that his religiosity is identical to those of other faithful people. (“He prays for divine guidance on business decisions and political races . . .” or “‘He is an unabashed, unapologetic believer that America is the Promised Land.’”). Perhaps if the liberal media did not treat religious people like Margaret Mead approached natives it would seem less strange.

The piece is a troubling, and in many cases a bizarre, attempt to picture Romney as “The Mormon candidate,” a standard that would repel most Americans if applied to another faith. Take for example this sentence: “He may have many reasons for abhorring debt, wanting to limit federal power, promoting self-reliance and stressing the unique destiny of the United States, but those are all traditionally Mormon traits as well.” Now substitute a different religion: “He may have many reasons for abhorring debt, wanting to limit federal power, promoting self-reliance and stressing the unique destiny of the United States, but those are all traditionally Jewish traits as well.” You see, it comes across as rank bigotry when we talk about other religions.

And since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is also a Mormon, how would one explain that he is unbothered by big government and not all that interested in curtailing the debt?

Kantor strains to translate ordinary behavior and views into distinctly Mormon precepts:

Having a higher purpose is part of what motivates Mr. Romney, many of those close to him say, and gives him the wherewithal to suffer the slings and arrows of political life. Mormons have a “history of persistence and tenacity, a sense of living out a destiny that is connected to earlier generations,” said Mr. Anderson, the business school dean. Mr. Romney is driven by “responsibility to his father and his father’s fathers to use his time and talent and energy and whatever gifts he’s been given by the Lord to try to make a contribution.”

I got news for you, but Jews also have a “history of persistence and tenacity, a sense of living out a destiny that is connected to earlier generations.” So do most people who have been persecuted as minorities.

In sum, the left’s obsession with Romney’s faith tells us more about their ignorance of faithful people of all religions than anything else. There’s virtually nothing in the piece’s Mormonology (the equivalent of Kremlinology) that could not be said of many other denominations. In fact, religious voters of other faiths will instantly recognize all these “Mormon traits” as “traits of religious people.” I suppose this is generally helpful to Romney in demonstrating how entirely common (in a country of believers) is his attachment to his faith. But that still leaves the matter of defining a candidate by his religion, something JFK eschewed and something never invoked when Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) ran for VP.

Whether born of ignorance (i.e. that other faiths don’t share these essential values) or rank bias or intention to paint Romney as weird, the definition of Romney as nothing more than a Mormon stick figure is pernicious in our political culture and begs the question; Why is the media entirely uninterested in Obama’s religious influences, and indeed has dubbed such discussion racist?

By  |  01:30 PM ET, 05/20/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, Media

 
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