Don’t get me wrong I could care less about Romney’s personal religious beliefs. It’s his foreign policy and how those Mormon “personal beliefs” may get people like my Marine son killed that scares me.
The danger to our military families posed by having Romney in the White House comes from the fact that to be a good Mormon one has to be jingoistic and combative about foreign policy. So let’s pray Romney isn’t a good Mormon! Let’s hope he’s faking it! But on the off chance he’s a sincere Mormon it’s worth taking a hard look at what it is about Mormonism that will prove so deadly if translated into policy.
Bill Maher said: “In 100 years this country will be Mormon. It’s a stupid religion and a stupid country. They were made for each other.” I hope Maher’s wrong. However one proof that he’s right about our stupidity is that we Americans debate the impact Romney may have on the economy while ignoring his unique Mormon-inspired potential to get Marines like my son killed.
And that’s where Romney’s combination of Mormon theologically-inspired ignorance of the world and neoconservative stupidity will be deadly if Romney’s elected. It’s the chief reason to keep this odd millionaire and former Mormon bishop as far from the White House as is humanly possible.
You see unlike Romney’s sons my military-aged son volunteered to serve our country. (Thank God he came home from multiple wartime deployments alive.) I co-authored a book with Kathy Roth Douquet, Blue Star Families CEO about who serves in the military these days and who doesn’t that John McCain wrote the forward to: AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service — and How It Hurts Our Country. Point being unlike Romney I have had skin in the game in our wars.
As the father of a Marine who was sent to fight in two stupid wars by an evangelical Protestant president I know how presidential theology can exacerbate stupidity. So I shudder to think that we might elect an even more religiously deluded and theologically-motivated president than W Bush was.
And yes, I know one is not supposed to criticize other people’s religion in polite conversation. And yes I was once myself a member of the stupid Religious Right as I describe in my book Crazy For God, then I changed my mind. But there’s nothing polite about needlessly sending Americans like my son to their deaths.
We Americans have the right to ask what our presidential candidates believe that may impact our lives. Romney’s world view is couched in a religion that makes stark raving evangelical-inspired Christian-Zionist aggression of the kind W Bush practiced when he took us to war look positively mild. If Romney is a good Mormon he believes that the United States is the New Jerusalem and/or Zion. If Romney is a good Mormon he also believes that anyone endorsing models of life outside of Mormon/American xenophobic boundaries is warned in the Book of Mormon in (2 Nephi 10:16) as follows:
“And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. And I will fortify this land (the USA) against all other nations. And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God. For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish…”
In other words from the Mormon “perspective” too bad for the country or person who embraces non-US models of government outside the United States. Too bad for those unaware of the “fact” that they are “fighting against God and His Zion” if they disagree with American policy. And since those not like us are fighting against God when they take on America then naturally they must be dealt with very harshly.
This underlying Mormon bellicosity towards the “other” perhaps explains why all Romney’s criticisms of President Obama’s foreign and military policy always — but always — take the form of faulting the President for not being harsh enough, aggressive enough or suspicious enough of other nations.
If Romney is elected and sticks to his theology and the odd history of his people as shaped by their alienated “victimhood” and confrontation with the world, then welcome to a presidency that will make George W Bush’s reckless wars look like a Sunday school picnic.
Belief in “American Exceptionalism” equals perpetual war. Belief in American “manifest destiny” equals willful naivety about the way the world works and our place in it. And Mormonism is nothing less than the religious idolatry of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny.
My son served with many wonderful Mormon Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen. But the fact that the individuals serving from Mormon backgrounds are often exemplary does nothing to fix the fact that when Mormon ideas of destiny and American exceptionalism impact those in top political roles it will make their policy needlessly belligerent. And I’m not just picking on Mormons! Overly self-confident, as in “God is on our side!” theologically-tainted views held by the more jingoistic evangelicals like W Bush have also proved deadly.
American exceptionalism/manifest destiny – the core belief of Mormonism — is the belief that America, among all nations for all time, is unique. Other nations rise and fall, but not us!
For Mormons no rules of history apply to America. Foreign affairs are a theological statement, not a pragmatic fact-based exercise. In fact America has an obligation to not be bound by any international law let alone to learn from history.
In No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney writes: “I am one of those who believes America is destined to remain, as it has been since the birth of the republic, the brightest hope of the world.”
Translation: Romney is yet another neoconservative shill for nationalistic adventurism but with a ramped-up Mormon twist. Romney’s two books, No Apology and Believe in America, tell us that only a “strong America” can make the world safer and more prosperous.
What does Romney mean by “strong America?”
With Romney’s comments on the murder of our ambassador in Libya used as an opportunistic campaign point it’s worth examining whom Romney listens to. And when the advice of the warmongers and ultra-Zionists Romney has surrounded himself with is interpreted through the lens of Mormonism’s xenophobic paranoia and belief in “divine providence” it gets truly scary.
It seems four trillion dollars wasted and twelve years of perpetual war isn’t enough for Romney. He wanted us to stay in Iraq and wants us to extend our time in Afghanistan. Enter the war loving far right wing warmonger Dan Senor, one of Romney’s closest advisers on foreign policy. He’s also the poster child for American stupidity of the kind that needlessly got four thousand, four hundred, eighty eight Americans killed and more than 33,000 injured in Iraq.
Romney keeps a large group of discredited far right foreign-policy advisers, eight of whom participated in the early neoconservative group Project for a New American Century, founded in 1997 and headed by William-never-met-a-war-I-don’t-love-Kristol. These are the men who killed the Marines whose funerals I have attended as surely as if they laid the road side bombs on some dusty track in Iraq’s deserts themselves.
But you ain’t seen nothing yet! Neoconservative jingoism plus Mormon delusion equals perpetual war.
According to Mormon “holy writ,” the US constitution is inspired by God and God chose the USA to play an exceptional role in all human events… forever. Other nations might have to play by the rules of history – say not become overextended until their military suffers an epidemic of suicides – but not us.
As Paul Bedard writes in The Washington Examiner:
“Those who know Republican Mitt Romney say he will hit the ground running if elected, and his Mormonism will give him an ‘extra dose’ of patriotism to help.
‘I think he’s going to be a very aggressive president,’ said Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee. And for good reason, he added during a meeting with Washington Examiner reporters and editors. ‘He recognizes that we live in difficult times. The circumstances are pretty dire and that swift action is needed,’ said Lee, who predicted more White House-Congress interaction.
When quizzed if Romney’s religion or ties to conservative Utah will make him a different kind of president, Lee, also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that Mormons like Romney have an optimistic view of the United States.
‘Mormons sort of have an extra chromosome when it comes to American exceptionalism,’ he said. ‘Mormons do have an added dose of a belief in American exceptionalism,’ he said.
‘We believe that this is a choice land that it’s a great place to be. We believe that the founding of America was something that was brought about with a degree of divine intervention and certainly inspiration,’ said Lee, who added that all presidents arrive in the Oval Office with a heightened belief in the nation.”
But I’m not panicking at the thought of Romney’s election, yet, because Romney is a demonstrably unpatriotic man, so maybe he’s a comfortingly bad Mormon too when it comes to aggression and that ” extra chromosome when it comes to American exceptionalism.” So maybe Romney’s a Mormon heretic. I hope so.
Romney has hidden lots of money overseas, has strapping sons, none of whom volunteered for military service, avoids taxes, closes American companies and ships jobs overseas and even uses the death of an American ambassador for political purposes against a wartime president.
So maybe Romney is a bad Mormon and a hypocrite who will be a more pragmatic leader than a good Mormon would be when it comes to starting wars.
After all Romney’s tax dodging alone presents a double-dealing vision of globalization at average American’s expense that no good Mormon would embrace. So let’s hope his anti-American bet-against-America greed bleeds over into self-preservation when it comes to world affairs too.
But so far in letting the bellicose prime minister of Israel direct his world view and in letting the most jingoistic neoconservative advisers of the old W Bush crowd write his policies Romney seems to be a frighteningly good Mormon, at least when it comes to embracing the kind of American exceptionalism that gets lots of members of the 47 percent (from who’s ranks most volunteers come to serve America), killed. So a vote for Romney may well be a vote for perpetual war.
After all this is the man who managed to insult the British and needlessly antagonize the Palestinian people from an American-centric position, EVEN BEFORE being elected. And as Maher said: “One of the things Americans are going to love about Mormonism… is that, first of all, Jesus is an American. Jesus is an American in Mormonism. And [Americans] love the idea that Mormons embrace more than anybody that we are the super-duper star-spangled best country ever! And if we have any flaw, it’s that we make other countries feel bad because our awesomeness is so overwhelming.”
Note: The rest of the world won’t buy into Mormon “geography” either that places Jesus here in the good old USA as one of ours. Mormonism is the perfect form (or offshoot, depending on your views) of Christianity for extreme nationalism. And the Russians, French and Chinese etc., may not go for Mormon fictional “geography” that puts the center of the earth in Salt Lake City, any more than most Jews go for the idea that the Mormons baptized dead Jews into their fold or the British went for the idea that the American Olympics was inherently better run than theirs.
A favorite Romney charge is that Obama is ashamed of his country and goes around the world apologizing for it. But then no normal person who has actually read some history, or traveled, or opened his or her mind to the fact that maybe their religion has gotten some points wrong could love America as much as a good Mormon! To Mormons America isn’t just another country but proof that their alternative fanciful version of world “history,” religious truth and reality is factual.
For Mormons America is Mecca, Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden all rolled into one. In an essay on the topic of the Mormon idea of America, Pat Bagley (of the Salt Lake Tribune) included this quote from Brigham Young: “There is not a Territory in the Union that is looked upon with so suspicious an eye as is Utah, and yet it is the only part of the nation that cares anything about the Constitution.”
The Mormon “Saints” saw themselves as the only true patriots and the key link in the chain of American exceptionalism beginning with Jesus’ personal visit to America, the Pilgrims, continuing through the Founding Fathers and being the key to the establishment of Christ’s righteous government on earth forever. In all of the history of the world, according to Mormons, America alone has a special destiny, one guaranteed by God.
In 1846 Brigham Young with the leaders of the Church, issued the proclamation of “The Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” that began: “To all the Kings of the World; to the President of the United States of America; to the Governors of the several States; and to the Rulers and People of all Nations: GREETING: KNOW YE THAT the kingdom of God has come …”
After his arrival at the Great Salt Lake, Young had set up a “government in exile” to step in when non-Mormon America needed salvation by the One True Church. It was called the “Council of Fifty,” also known as “The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power Thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants.”
The Mormon belief that they were the only real and true Americans may partly explain the troubles Mormons had in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and later Utah. The US government denied Utah statehood and hounded and imprisoned Mormon leaders until the Church promised two things: to abandon polygamy and swear fealty to the United States and its elected leaders and stop the annoying practice of setting up alternative “governments” to the US government.
The question for Americans today is if we can trust a president to be a good world citizen when the entire theology and history of his religion is to see itself as superior too not just all other Americans but to all other nations. This hardly seems like a good basis for peace.
The question is not just will Romney “swear fealty” to the United States and its elected leaders but will he also swear fealty to a fact-based version of world history? More to the point: Will Romney be a good Mormon or a good world leader? Bluntly: will Romney get lots of Marines like my son killed because of some very stupid ideas about God’s “plans” for America?
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and co- author of AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service — and How It Hurts Our Country and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back .
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