Given that the Olympics are looming, I think I’m going to use a medal system to rate the silly Mainstream Media commentary directed at Mitt’s faith. A gold goes to epic displays of bigotry and ignorance, a silver to mild malice and moderate ignorance, while mere garden-variety ignorance earns a bronze. This weekend the Washington Post delivered a classic silver-medal effort with Lisa Miller’s column entitled “Can Romney reconcile his wealth and his faith?”
The intent here is clear, to somehow impugn the integrity of a wealthy believer by cherry-picking verses and religious teachings that seem — taken alone — to condemn the wealth only for their wealth. Ms. Miller gets off to a good start, quoting the Book of Mormon’s declaration, “Wo unto the rich . . . Their hearts are on their treasures.” Such a verse may well put an evangelical on the defensive. After all, the evangelical church is so diverse and fractious that you can easily find a prominent Christian willing to condemn any accumulation of wealth beyond a given, arbitrary, cutoff. But this is the LDS church, and the LDS church is a bit more disciplined, putting out guidelines on prudent financial management and necessary giving. Ms. Miller acknowledges as much:
A guide called “Provident Living” describes the church’s preferred approach to money matters. Mormons should be frugal, industrious, debt-free and self-reliant. They should keep three months of food and water in storage and have a family-emergency-action plan in place in order to be prepared for any eventuality.
In addition, according to “Provident Living” and other materials, LDS members should tithe. They should use credit cards sparingly and to buy used goods until they can afford quality new ones.
. . .
To live providently means to save money, according to LDS materials. Members should have at least three months’ cash in reserve in their bank accounts. “Set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts,” then-LDS President Gordon Hinckley said in 1998.
Along with being fiscally responsible, Mormons should care for the poor and serve others, according to the tenets of “Provident Living.”
Ms. Miller then goes on to describe how Mitt actually lives up to every one of the prescribed tenets. He tithes, he’s frugal, he saves . . . the list goes on an on. In fact, she even notes that he refused a salary to manage the Olympics and refused a salary as governor of Massachusetts. What then is his sin (according to Mormon doctrine)?
But his career at Bain suggests a lack of concern for people affected by his actions. And the tax returns he has released reveal a disinclination to share his wealth with his fellow citizens.
What? This is utterly absurd. Mitt built a businesses that have employed tens of thousands, tried to rescue failing businesses, and brought astounding returns to his investors. One begins to wonder if Ms. Miller has the slightest idea what Mitt did when he worked at Bain. As for the “sharing his wealth” nonsense, what does she think he’s been doing with his multi-million dollar charitable gifts, totaling well over 10% of his income, including an estimated 19% last year? His foundation has made substantial additional gifts:
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: $4,781,000
2. Brigham Young University: $525,000
3. The United Way: $177,000
4. Right to Play: $111,500
5. The George W. Bush Library: $100,000
6. Operation Kids: $85,000
7. Center For Treatment of Pediatric MS: $75,000
8. Harvard Business School: $70,000
9. City Year: $65,000
10. Deseret International: $50,000
Weber State University: $50,000
Is nearly doubling the tithe not enough? How about tripling? One suspects that so long as Mitt remained wealthy that no giving percentage would truly suffice.
So let’s recap, Ms. Miller writes an article describing in detail how Mitt has met or exceeded every single standard for frugality and generosity outlined by his church, provides zero evidence that his riches have made him “proud” yet still concludes with the following:
If he is elected president, how can reconciling his tax and spending policies with his faith be anything less than challenging?
I’m not sure . . . it seems that his record of remarkable generosity and personal frugality that she just described may help us understand how he’ll meet that “challenge.” When a church member meets every single objective test for compliance with church teaching yet still is found wanting by the Mainstream Media on the basis of that same faith, one starts to sense just a hint of media bias.
I eagerly await the Post’s analysis of Barack Obama’s personal finances in light of Jeremiah Wright’s theology. I have a feeling I’ll be waiting a very long time.