RomneyRyanObamaBiden ~ Religion & Politics Overload

Now that the two presidential tickets are set, the number of things to talk about in terms of religion and this election has exponentially grown.

A Biden-Ryan debate.

Catholic showdown of timely proportions, with two men who present two very different visions of an American Catholic in the twenty-first century.  As Paul Raushenbush put it,

“Both the current vice president and the recent addition to the Republican ticket are Catholics from heavily Catholic states.  Yet they represent opposing views on virtually every issue.”

In the same week when the Leadership Council of Women Religious is substantially considering reorganizing its relationship to the Vatican, and intra-Catholic debates on national budgets and women’s health and religious freedom are raging, it seems timely to have these two as running mates.

Women’s Health as Collateral Damage

We already knew that women’s health, contraception, and the imposition of conservative religious ideology on national policy was a significant issue this election year.  With Ryan’s addition to the top tier, there is much more to come.

The National Organization for Women issued its first statement on the ticket, including the following point:

“A Romney-Ryan administration would support anti-abortion efforts like “personhood” amendments, totally defund Planned Parenthood and all ferderally-funded [sic] family planning services, and use government to sanction religious opposition to birth control. Their vision is a threat to women’s rights, public health and the economic security of the vast majority of people in the United States — all for the benefit of the most fortunate among us.”

Doesn’t sound very smart and “wonky” to me.  Or Christian.

A Romney/Ryan ticket.

Mormons and Catholics mutually exclude each other from Christianity.  Does anyone think that the running mates have discussed this?  Would you love to be a fly on the wall if they ever do?  A piece in the National Catholic Reporter in 2010 described the Catholic-Mormon cooperation to oppose same-sex marriage as a “shotgun wedding,” saying:

“The Roman Catholic church does not consider Mormons to be Christians. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement in 2001 that declared Mormon baptisms to be invalid Christian baptisms. The statement was written under the papacy of John Paul II and was signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the current pope.”

 Mitt?  Paul?  Care to respond?

Obama.

The only self-avowed born-again Christian in this elite group of four.  Theologically, the most aligned with conservative Christian voters (many of whom don’t think that either Catholics or Mormons are Christians).  But Barack Obama is the one from whom those same voters flee in fear, calling him a Muslim as if the hint of such a thing can effectively discredit him.

Aaron Blake pointed out at The Washington Post a few weeks ago:

“President Obama’s “religion” may be just as much of a liability as Mitt Romney’s (actual) Mormon religion. 

According to a new poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more people are concerned about Obama’s religion (19 percent) than about Romney’s (13 percent). 

The reason?  The unbelievable number of Americans, now numbering 17 percent, who for some reason think the president is a Muslim.

So while there has been a lot of consternation about whether Americans will be hesitant to vote for a Mormon like Romney, misinformation about Obama’s religion may matter just as much come November.”

I remain stunned that for some voters, an imaginary Muslim is still worse than a real Mormon.

So there’s a lot to sift through in the coming months.

Are you ready?

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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