I often don’t cover the venom being spewed in smaller publications, just because such publications are less likely to make a broad impact, and are less likely to be persuaded to repent anyway. Once in a while, though, some two-bit magazine will print something so indefensible that it’s hard to bite one’s tongue.
This week’s offender is World Magazine (tagline: Weekly News | Christian Views). Columnist Joel Belz wrote a piece titled “Trifling With the Truth; Mitt Romney’s Mormonism May Shed Light on His Sudden Policy Changes.” Reading the title sets off a few suspicious alarm bells, which ought to remind the cautious reader to be on the lookout for evidence.
Some of the highlights:
By theologian Norman Geisler’s count (he’s written two books about Mormonism), Mormons reject more than half the 16 main tenets of historic Christianity– held jointly by Roman Catholocism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and traditional Protestantism. So we’re plowing brand new ground when we talk about electing a Mormon as president.
It became clear last week that recentpolls out of South Carolina showing a surprising rise to the top by Mitt Romney in that state deserve to be taken seriously. Much as the other candidates would like to dismiss these reports, and pundits have long thought such an ascension unthinkable in this heavily evangelical state, Romney’s advantages in organization, endorsements, and work ethic seem to be paying off, at least for now.
In the immediate wake of this good news for the Romney camp comes a reminder to mix their optimism with a healthy dose of caution. This Michael Crowley story in the New Republic catalogues the well-known tradition in South Carolina Presidential politics of fighting as dirty as humanly possible.
Crowley details several low blows already dealt in the S.C. race, many of them leveled directly at the biggest chink in the Romney armor: the millstone of Mormonism. Exhibit 1 is a mysterious letter widely distributed just before an S.C.-based debate last Spring, wherein Joseph Smith was unflatteringly compared to Mohamed, with emphasis on each prophet’s (supposed) ambition to become a “warlord.” Even uglier, a mass email reached many S.C. voters with the message that “[t]hose dark suspicions you hide deep inside yourself about Mormonism are trying to tell you something. . . Trust your instincts! . . . the light of truth will burn through the smoke and mirrors of Mitt Romney’s movie star looks and crafty words!” Unsurprisingly, the enlightened author of this ominous counsel remained anonymous. But the religious insinuation– God is trying to tell your conscience to reject the glossy candidate of evil– was easily discerned. Continue reading South Carolina: Raising the Stakes, Risking the Wrath→
Michael Kinsley has raised the bar. Starting out on the trail blazed by his former Slate colleague Jacob Weisberg, Kinsley has pulled out a blowtorch to slash and burn great swaths of new acreage. Where Weisberg posited (against all evidence) that people who believe in prophets are incompetent rubes, Kinsley argues (against all history) that you can’t even believe in the Bible and be qualified for the presidency. The war of secularist escalation continues, and before long, it’s going to claim some victims.
Cue deep-voiced trailer-announcing specialist Don La Fontaine:
This Friday, in theatres everywhere, God’s fury will be unleashed! Or how about: Holy Warriors will spill blood in God’s Name! Or maybe: Religious people are crazy killers!
The possibilities for super-sensationalistic tag-lines are infinite. But the ways in which the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre is relevant to the 2008 presidential campaign are not. Interest in this episode is rising as a result of the marketing campaign surrounding September Dawn, a modern retelling of an old story, which attempts to persuade of its relevance via emphasis on the similarities between 19th century Mormon zealots and contemporary Jihadists. Exhibit 1: the massacre happened on SEPTEMBER 11th!!! This fact, apropos of nothing, appears in every interview, story, release, and blurb sent out to hype the movie. Perhaps the chance to chill viewers with a coincidental convergence of the calendar is the best they’ve got.
I had planned to see September Dawn this weekend, the better to respond to it, but alas, Variety’s description of the film’s climax as “graphically staged,” “fetishistic” “massacre porn” convinced me I might find better ways to spend my Friday night. Massacre porn not really being my thing.
An interesting column appeared in a small New York paper last week, one that did not garner any national attention as far as I can tell. The column, published in the Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer under the headline “Mitt Romney’s Mormonism: Irrationality Can and Will Be Held Against You,” probably did not reach more than a few thousand souls. However, it represents an attempt at disqualifying Mormons from public office that is just articulate enough, and just brazen enough, to engender echoes from others if not rebutted.
Here’s the thesis:
If a person has irrational beliefs, then he is less likely than others to make reliable judgments. This is because irrational beliefs tend to weaken one’s judgments about rights and liberties . . . . If a person is less likely to make reliable judgments, then he is less likely to make good decisions, and this is not what we want in a leader.
Notice the support the author offers for this thesis. A person with irrational beliefs has bad judgment; this is because . . . “irrational beliefs tend to weaken one’s judgments.” We are letting this fellow off easy to note simply that his logical framework is based on a tautology and nothing more. What’s more important, though, is why he thinks he can make such a proof based on logic at all, rather than on actual evidence. Continue reading Mormon Mitt is “Irrational”- Just Like Every Other American→
Today brings one of the strangest attacks so far, from a Rhonda Chriss Lokeman writing for the Columbia Free Press. The title is “Big Love’s Big Problem.” This is confusing for a bit, until the reader realizes that “Big Love” appears to be this writer’s pet name for Mitt Romney. She does not explain the appellation, nor does she even announce it. She just uses it as if everyone knows what we’re talking about. And if this writer weren’t so eminently dismiss-able, one might find the energy to be truly taken aback by the casual, disdainful use of this nickname.
Big Love, in case you’re not aware, is HBO’s series about a family of non-Mormon polygamists seeking to live normal lives in Utah. Mitt Romney, in case you hadn’t heard, is candidate for the presidency who happens to be Mormon. It is a gargantuan strain to connect these two dots, but without even a sentence of explanation, this woman has done it. To get a sense for how dehumanizing this is, imagine some trite, demeaning popular depiction of blacks in the 1940’s, and then append the name of the character or show to a black person without any connection thereto. Try the same with a woman or a Jewish person. What if we called Hillary, “June Cleaver” without any explanation? It may be more egregious in the case of a woman or racial minority, given the difficulty each group still has in overcoming real prejudice, but it’s exactly the same ugly tendency. There is simply no reason to call Mitt Romney “Big Love” except to slur him, connect him with polygamy, and convey the opinion that he is not worth dignified consideration. Continue reading Romney- Too Religious, But Also Lacking in Conviction→
The dominant headline coming out of the Ames Straw Poll is that Mitt Romney won handily. As it should be. But that’s been adequately covered elsewhere. There are a few other stories related to Ames that are a bit less relevant to the campaign, and more relevant to Mitt Romney’s religion. And no, the latter is not the same as the former.
The worst first: Marc Ambinder reports on the inevitable- an anti-Mormon whisper campaign in Ames. Iowa-based “Christians for Truth” distributed a handout called “Would Jesus Christ Vote for Mitt Romney?” The money quote:
We strongly believe that Jesus Christ, if he were alive in the flesh and voted, would never vote for Mitt Romney in any circumstances. Mitt Romney represents Mormonism which is counterfeit Christianity, a cult.”
While there are few who will take this seriously at the national level, it’s hard to dismiss the impact such things have on the ground right before a critical vote. But this handout’s obvious inaccuracies probably made it a bit easier for most Ames voters to see through. Continue reading Romney’s Campaign Religion In Ames→
There are some who would discredit Mitt Romney by first tying him to his faith and then making him answer for its unpopular history or doctrines. Others, like newly-minted celebrity Jan Mickelson, the radio host heard in the below video, have a more devious tactic in mind. They attack Romney by first agreeing with his faith and then accusing him of lacking sufficient character to adhere to his beliefs. It’s a bizarre sort of politico-religious jujitsu, but it’s not the first time it’s happened. To summarize the latest, Romney visited a radio program in Iowa hosted by Mickelson last Thursday. After a few minutes of the usual stuff, Mickelson launched into a full interrogation about Romney’s past stance on abortion and Mickelson’s own view that Romney should have been excommunicated from the LDS Church as a result. The two had a mostly civil exchange on the air, and then continued their sparring with increased intensity for quite a while off the air (all caught on video tape by the station). Anyway, if you are at all interested in questions surrounding the treatment of religious minorities in public life, this video is a must watch. Forgive it the slow start– the second and third acts are worth the wait.
Another in an ongoing series of RomneyExperience rebuttals, responding to attacks that were made at the beginning of the ’08 campaign. Other in this series may be viewed here.
Democratic political strategist Garry South wrote an article for Politico.com this past April under the title “Ask Romney About Mormonism’s Intolerance.” The column made the central claim that Mormons believe their Church to be true, and all other Christian churches to be false. Indeed, alleges South, while every other Christian church accepts baptisms performed by other denominations, Mormons do not accept any baptism not performed by a person ordained to the Mormon Priesthood. Mr. South argues at the close that Mitt Romney ought to be questioned about the intolerance of his faith, since South’s former employer, Joe Lieberman, was subjected to some inane questions too.