Katie Couric is curious about Mormons. So she brought in a religion-beat journalist to answer some questions. The answerer is Ken Woodward, whose name you might recall from the byline of this story, which has long served as an anchor of RomneyExperience’s “Attacks” page. Regardless of the man’s apparent dislike for members of Mitt Romney’s Church, our “expert” culture demands someone who has studied such things, instead of someone who has lived them. So, somehow, Ken Woodward is the man to tell us what Mormons believe, instead of, say, an actual Mormon.
Still, Mr. Woodward seems generally to know his stuff. One hates to argue with him because he gets his facts pretty right. Yet his descriptions combine the sound of authoritativeness with a tonal bent for painting Mormonism as cultish and backward. It’s no great thing to get your facts right but leave the reader with a completely wrong impression. Continue reading Ken Woodward on Mormonism: Stating the Facts, Missing the Point→
The Economist ran a decent piece yesterday on Mitt Romney’s Ames Straw Poll victory. I was happy to see nary a mention of Romney’s religion, and some balanced back and forth about the Romney operation and the meaning of the win.
Well, almost nary a mention. In the context of this pure-horserace type article, with no interest in religion at all, I was surprised to come across the following paragraph. See if you can spot the subliminal cues:
But social conservatives remain suspicious of him for his late conversion to the cause of “life”, a label used to lump together opposition to abortion, stem-cell research and euthanasia. The two most prominent social conservatives in the field, Mr Huckabee and Sam Brownback, together polled more votes than Mr Romney did. There is also something off-putting about his campaign— something a bit cultish and a bit hokey. His supporters wore yellow “Team Mitt” T-shirts and waved large mittens (Mitt Mitts) in the air. His five sons were all too reminiscent of the Osmonds. Mr Romney’s speech included a bunch of tosh about the American flag that he has used many times before.
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→
The text for this course is this excellent article by Linda Feldmann in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday– “Mitt Romney, proudly, quietly Mormon.” Now, Feldmann hits all the familiar canards- the Kennedy speech, the polls on Americans’ hesitancy to vote for a Mormon, the quotes from a prominent evangelical or two. But what is refreshing about this article is the author’s willingness to treat Mitt Romney on his own terms. That doesn’t mean she gives him a free pass. It means that this writer, singular among all others that have covered this issue, believes Mitt Romney to be a human being, rather than a religious automaton.
The result of that belief is a story that shows Mitt Romney the Sunday School teacher, the counselor to the downtrodden, the administrator of church groups, etc. It’s a character that is flawed but three-dimensional, and a member of a faith that has an impact on lives beyond just teaching a few hard-to-believe things that Joseph Smith did. What so many have missed in trying to explain Romney’s faith is that he interacts with Mormonism as an actual person. Continue reading How to Write an Article on Mitt Romney’s Religion→
Let’s cherry-pick two columns for today’s post- “Yes, Romney Needs to Answer Questions” from the Philadelphia Inquirer, being reprinted in other regional papers today, and “Mitt’s Faith Isn’t an Issue: As Governor, He Didn’t Try to Convert Us” from yesterday’s Boston Herald. For two columns that reach exactly opposite conclusions, it’s remarkable how similar these two pieces are. The formula, copied from an infinite number of columns written before them, goes like this: Question- is Mitt Romney weird by association with Mormonism? Analysis: Look at all the weird stuff Mormons believe! (List Exhibits A through L, with appropriate phrasing to lend as much of a weird vibe as possible). Conclusion: Does it really matter, now that you’ve just dragged the sincere religious beliefs of six million Americans through the dirt?
In the wake of Mitt Romney’s on-and-off the air debate with an Iowa radio host last week, there has been a huge uptick in coverage of Romney’s religion issues. I’ve read probably twenty such stories in the past two days, but that’s the punishment I’m willing to take to filter it all and bring you just the good stuff. Unfortunately, that’s left me with little time to come up with anything original to say about the new wave of coverage, but that’s okay, because few of these stories say anything original either.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t point you to the good ones. First of all, there’s a long (for a blog) piece at GetReligion that argues against the continuing coverage of Romney’s religion because it does the disservice of obscuring the man behind the believer. Continue reading Romney Religion Roundup→
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.
It’s been a while ago now, but we’ve added to our features a list of strong defenses of Mitt Romney published in the national press, seen at the bottom of this page. By defenses, I don’t mean people advocating for Mitt Romney on the basis of his religion. Rather, these are articles speaking out against judging Romney based solely on his religion, and advocating greater tolerance regarding such things. Strong editorials by John Fund and Jeff Jacoby anchor that list so far.
And it’s a good day to point to the defense section, because it will gain two new, and very good, entries today.
The first is this wise column that appeared in the Denver Post a few days ago, by recent college graduate Chris Rawlings. Rawlings laments the opportunity for serious coverage of Romney’s candidacy that his hometown paper lost when it punctuated Romney’s visit to Colorado with a three page article detailing the various peculiar points of Mormon belief and history. He states in closing that if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, “it will neither be in spite of, nor because of, his Mormon faith.” Just as it should be.
The second is this Washington Post editorial by Michael Gerson. Gerson’s categorization of religious beliefs is quite helpful in evaluating what kinds of faith-based truths can and should affect policy decisions. He draws a line between soteriology (beliefs about how souls gain salvation) and eschatology (beliefs about how the world will end) on the one hand, and anthropology (beliefs about the nature and value of human life) on the other. While he places the former two categories out of bounds, as have nearly all American politicians, he believes that the latter category is ripe with possibility for influencing public dialogue in a good way. Lest any critics find this claim too sweeping or ominous, Gerson correctly points out that religious beliefs about humanity and its dignity have driven a huge part of the progress toward equality that is already in our history. This is undoubtedly true.
It’s nice to see a bit of enlightenment being spread around, especially in a week that was also notable for its bigotry. We will bring other defenses to your attention as we see them.
I wanted to post a link to this insightful letter written in response to an article in the American Spectator about a new addition to Romney’s Faith and Values Steering Committee.
I highlight this letter not because I agree with its analysis- indeed, I think some of its political conclusions are rather strident. Rather, this is one example of how commentators might actually think about the real ways in which Mormonism could influence a President Mitt Romney. Of course, it’s admittedly unreliable to infer knowledge about how Romney would govern from the respect Mormons generally feel for the Constitution and the founding. But at least this writer attempts to get past the polls and the cliches about the Mormon impediment in the horserace, to analyze the heart of important issues.
I will do my best to post links to good analysis of how Mormonism influences Mormon politicians as I see them.