We all know by now how fundamentalist Christians feel about Mormons. Bryan Fischer and others have made it abundantly clear. They call Mormonism a cult. To be fair, Mormonism turns around and calls other fringe “Christian” religions like Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses cults as well and laughs at their beliefs, so we shouldn’t be too outraged on behalf of Mormonism on that account alone.
But we have a real and very serious problem when one religion attacks another religion solely to convince voters that members of that religion are not suitable to hold public office because of those beliefs. This is done not only to Mormons but to Muslims (Keith Ellison) and even other Christians (Barack Obama), including those with no religion at all – atheists. This is a symptom of the old America; the America Thomas Jefferson fought against and did his best to banish.
The new Republican paradigm, however, completely contrary to the Constitution, is that only Christians – and then only Christians of the right sort – are fit to hold public office, particularly the highest office in the land. Other Christians aren’t really Christians at all; this is a charge that has been flying about since the day Jesus died and as Thomas Jefferson and George Carlin have both observed, millions have died because of it.
Which brings us to the Internet’s favorite tabloid. Under the headline “Mormon Bishop’s Daughter Spills Romney’s ‘Secrets‘ …’Would you trust the judgment of a man if he truly believes he’s gonna be a god?'” we read,
The daughter of a Mormon bishop who has abandoned her family’s faith claims in a new book the election of Mitt Romney to the presidency would put the U.S. in danger due to what she calls the Republican’s “outrageous,” “horrific” and “mind-controlling” beliefs.
Mind-controlling…really? Would it surprise anyone to learn that Christianity itself has been accused of using mind-controlling beliefs? Any recovering Pentecostal knows about mind-control and Christianity. Just ask them.
But Joe Kovacks, executive news editor for World Net Daily, wants you to be shocked by what is about to be revealed, as though Mormon beliefs are so far beyond the pale that Romney is determined we never know what they are. I got news for Kovacs: Romney isn’t telling us where he got his money either, or how much of it he has, and that’s more of a concern than his religion:
“While he attempts to portray Mormonism as just another Christian religion, Mitt Romney counts on his skills to shift our attention away from what he truly believes,” says Tricia Erickson, author of “Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America.”
According to the current Republican ideology that WND supports, God controls America: political power derives not from the consent of the governed, as Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders asserted, but from God. He chooses our presidents and if we disobey him he gets very angry and kills things. We fought a Revolution against the idea of the Divine Right of Kings yet here we are again at that very precipice, and not because of Mormonism but because of conservative Christianity.
We have very good reason to ask whether any conservative “believer” serves the Constitution or a holy book. How is a Mormon any different? we might ask. They answer: Oh, well they don’t believe what we believe! They don’t believe the right things!
The correct answer to this: Why does any of that matter?
All that matters – the only thing that matters – is what the Constitution says, not what any religion says; not what one religion says about another.
Gods and holy books and competing doctrines are exactly what the Founding Fathers were trying to avoid.
The Romney question is one which must be settled on its merits and “right” and “wrong” beliefs don’t enter the picture. And from a liberal perspective, to pretend Romney’s religion is any greater threat than conservative Christianity is absurd. Anyone who kicks the Constitution under the bus is a threat to America. Anyone, for any reason, religious or otherwise.
We are told that Tricia Erickson believes that “[i]f the American people knew what he truly believed, they would surely not place him in the highest office in the land.”
Perhaps not, but that’s simple bigotry; it does not reflect the principles upon which the country was founded. What Romney believes is irrelevant according to Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, as irrelevant as what Obama believes and as irrelevant as any other candidate believes.
But because Romney doesn’t believe what Erickson believes we are supposed to be alarmed:
- He will become a “god” in the afterlife and be given his own planet
- Satan is Jesus’ literal brother
- Jesus was not born of a virgin birth
- He will be given his own afterlife kingdom where he will have sexual relations with his wife, Ann, to populate his kingdom with spirit children as God the Father Himself has a wife on His own planet.
Now as far as outrageous religious beliefs go, many would say that Christians are in no position to talk: we have a person who was immaculately conceived and born to a virgin, was crucified and buried and then zombie-like came back to life. Scholars who point to the impossibility of the resurrection are mocked for pointing out a simple scientific fact: that dead people stay dead. And while we laugh at the idea today, let’s be honest: if the giant talking cross of one early gospel had become canon, no Christian today would blink at it.
To add to the perceived “sin” of zombie worship, it could be pointed out that Christians believe Jesus is not only fully human but fully god, and to make matters worse, he is not just god and man but a trinity of beings – the Father (God), the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. Bad enough to be conceived immaculately but to be your own son?
If it all ended there it would sound crazy enough to many people but we are further assured a prefect being is capable of hating people and wants to punish them for thinking for themselves even though he gave them free will. This allegedly perfect being acts as though he were a tantrum-throwing 3-year-old who kills not only birds, but people when he gets pissed.
As a disclaimer, I should admit that I thought some of these beliefs were crazy too when the Mormon missionaries first came to my house, just as crazy as the idea that God did not want black men to hold the priesthood. But I later came to realize that I thought the mainstream Christian beliefs were equally crazy and that, in fact, any religious belief could be deemed crazy from the eye of the beholder.
And let’s face it folks: for many non-Christians and from the perspective of science, the idea that a man was born of a virgin is far more absurd than the idea of a man not born to a virgin!
I am also required to point out that what finally drove me from the Mormon Church was the belief that we became gods of our own worlds after we die. Upset about this revelation, I asked the missionary who had recruited me to the church why they had not told me this important detail up front, and he muttered something about how that would be serving dessert before the meat. I got up and left and never went back. I thought it was a ridiculous belief then and I think it a ridiculous belief now.
But no more ridiculous than the idea of a trinity. And realistically, none of these beliefs mean anything to me except to the extent they pose a threat to my freedom of belief. They’re not my beliefs; it’s not my god. They are beliefs for others and others are welcome to them. The American political system was never meant to be about religion or religious beliefs – that is why the Constitution was written as it was, to protect America from the fate of the Old World: centuries of bloody and divisive religious wars.
So when Erickson tries to sway our vote by saying of Romney, “I kind of believe, you know, that he should be completely sane and he should have discernment and good judgment. I mean if the man truly believes he’s gonna become a god, would you trust the judgment of somebody like that?”
So if you don’t believe certain doctrines you’re insane? If you believe certain others you’re insane? Erickson might be on to something if she could prove the truth of any doctrine, but she can’t. It’s belief, not science. If Erickson’s position is valid, atheists could claim that anyone holding any religious belief is insane. But what atheists believe is irrelevant too, according to the Constitution.
We are told by Kovacs that we should fear Romney because of this:
The Boston Globe reported in 2006 that Romney’s political team quietly consulted with leaders of the Mormon Church to map out plans for a nationwide network of Mormon supporters to help Romney capture the presidency in 2008.
I can only ask what about fundamentalist plans to do the same thing on behalf of Christianity, plans dating back to 1964? And point out that in 2001, these plans worked. And worked again in 2004. They failed in 2008 but you can bet your last dollar they will be trying equally hard to make them work in 2012. So what, it’s only okay if fundamentalists do it?
All any of this amounts to is conservative Christians whining about the idea of somebody they don’t consider a Christian winning the White House. Nobody else will ever be legitimate in their eyes. They’ve become convinced that America is their’s, that it was meant for them, that this is how God wants it.
If Romney was an atheist we would be in the same place: then they would be attacking atheism and some former atheist turned Christian would be the subject of Kovacs article, and the same is true of Islam, Paganism or any other religion you care to name. Meanwhile, pulling former religionists out of the shadows might not be a road down which Christians want to go. There are a multitude of former conservative Christians out there and the stories they tell make Erickson’s pale by comparison.
So if we’re going to talk dangerous religious beliefs, let’s not limit the field to Muslims and Mormons but include Christians as well, because according to the Constitution, we cannot favor one over the other when it comes to our government. But better yet, let’s concern ourselves with the Constitution, and defending and upholding it, not one religion’s place over another, for that is not, and was never meant to be, the role of government.
The lesson our conservative Christian friends need to learn is that we can have no expectations of Romney that we do not have of everyone else, including people like Sarah Palin, who thinks she is Esther reborn, and the half-dozen others who, like Michele Bachmann, say God told them to run for president, but get free passes from Evangelicals in the sanity department.
Screw what anyone thinks God wants. In this country what matters is what the Constitution says. Believe what you want, but obey the Constitution. It’s as simple as that.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.