Thursday, June 16, 2011

"A Vote For Romney Is A Vote For The LDS Church" Is Correct But Misses The Point

The web site “Patheos” (which sub-headlines  ”Seek, understand”) appears as an informative collection of articles relating to pan-spiritual aspects of religiosity. There are substantial resources relating to a large volume of the world’s religions without, it appears, any bias towards any one in particular. The site self describes thusly;

Founded in 2008, is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information or resources about religion. Patheos brings together the public, academia, and the faith leaders in a single environment, and is the place where people turn on a regular basis for insight into questions, issues, and discussions. Patheos is unlike any other online religious and spiritual site and is designed to serve as a resource for those looking to learn more about different belief systems, as well as participate in productive, moderated discussions on some of today’s most talked about and debated topics”

There are amongst the contributors on any given day a range running from Catholic priests weighing in difficult spiritual matters to this esteemed academic; 

Kyle Roberts is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Lead Faculty of Christian Thought, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN).  Who opined on “Jesus and basketball,does God take sides?” in relation to the NBA.

Thus when a contributor, in this case a Warren Cole Smith, writes an article headlined “A vote for Romney is a vote for the LDS Church” we can take as a starting point that both the author and the site are serious,contemplative,rational people whose opinions are well worth considering. The article is prefaced by the editors:
“The article below is published as a part of a symposium hosted by Patheos’ Catholic Portal and Evangelical Portal, entitled, “For Life and Family: Faith and the Future of Social Conservatism.

Mr.Smith states his objection is not so  much to Mr. Romney, but to the Mormon faith. and in particular its, as he describes it, reliance on “continuous revelation” as a key aspect . He points to this factor in relation to such continuous revelations regarding the church’s attitude to marriage and also to Blacks as key examples. 

For Smith the danger in electing Romney as president would be the “Placing a Mormon in that (bully) pulpit would be a source of pride and a shot of adrenaline for the LDS church. It would serve to normalize the false teachings of Mormonism the world over. It would also provide an opening to Mormon missionaries around the world, who could start every conversation: “Let me tell you about the American president.” To elect a Mormon President is to advance the cause of the Mormon Church.

After taking a potshot at Romney’s career in relation to his own “continuous revelation” 
“Even if a Mormon social teaching happens to concur with orthodox Christianity at this point in time, it is unreliable and subject to alteration. It’s tempting to say that “continuing revelation” has defined Romney’s career, who has changed his positions on same-sex marriage and abortion and just about every major “culture war” issue.” Smith gets to the meat of the issue.

For evangelical Christians, Romney has some additional explaining to do. On such essential doctrines as the Trinity and the role of Jesus in salvation, there are major differences between orthodox (biblical) Christianity and Mormonism. But the real problem is that Mormons believe and teach an American history that is in many particulars completely unsubstantiated and in others demonstrably false. Mormons believe that the “lost tribes” of Israel actually ended up in America, and that Jesus visited America and these tribes during his incarnation. These are just a few of Mormonism’s highly idiosyncratic views of history.
Does Mitt Romney believe these views? Why or why not? Does he believe historical facts are matters of personal opinion? More to the point, does he really believe that, if he were to become the GOP nominee, he would not have to answer these questions before the world? Romney will face a Hobson’s choice. He will either affirm certain beliefs about reality and American history that most Americans will find false or flimsy, or else he will reject them be thereby “outed” as a hypocrite or traitor to his own belief system.
With that paragraph Smith touches on the absolute core of the matter.I to have raised this in an article in which I set out the reason why I will not vote for Romney (or Huntsman). Basically it is because I believe he is an honest, sincere man of faith. I stated, inter alia:

“Thus for Romney to hold, as I am sure he sincerely does, to the purported historic roots of the Mormon faith shows that, to me at least, he has thought processes that are a significant aspect of his personality that are questionable in respect of wider views he might hold now, or in the future.These include concepts which, again to me, are are totally divorced from reality. I would not look to a candidate for president to have, again as a major aspect of his very being, this sort of mindset. 

Simply put, if non-rationality at this core level can be accepted and acted on then what other non-rationality can also be accepted and acted on.

Smith gets some degree of criticism, as might be expected in the comments section which he answers in asubsequent follow up interview.

True to Patheos being a balanced journal there is a subsequent article where the author David French opines in “A Mormon President Are Souls At Stake” the statement 

Those who believe that presidents impact our immortal souls have too great a view of politics and too small a view of God.  Where he basically appears to advise that a presidents personal beliefs are of no consequence whatsoever. However a commentator comes back to the Smith,and my, overview by saying bluntly 

Thoughtful, and I largely agree with Mr. French.  My problem isn’t with mormonism per se, but with a leader who believes in a thoroughly debunked religion–Smith was shown to be a liar and a fraud through extensive research of primary documents, e.g., the classic tome, Mormonism, Shadow or Reality?, that exhaustively researches the roots of that religion.  The faults of the Book of Mormon and other “holy” books are legion.  The revelation that reversed the LDS position on blacks was the world’s best-timed “miracle.”  Maybe some can write Romney clinging to such a farce of a faith as a quirk; I’ve not quite made up my mind.  But I don’t think I’d be a Christian if Jesus was demonstrated to be akin to Joseph Smith and his ilk by similarly credible research.”

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