I just read a piece here at Patheos called "A Vote for Romney Is a Vote for the LDS Church." It was written by an Evangelical Christian named Warren Cole Smith. I recommend that you read this piece, too. In it, that author takes Mitt Romney to task for being Mormon, and takes Mormonism to task for promoting a version of history that is not only factually untrue, but that might theoretically be changed in the future by the upper management of the LDS church. He asks, "Does he (Romney) believe historical facts are matters of personal opinion?"
Since Mr. Smith makes much of being an Evangelical Christian, I wonder what he thinks about the Bible as hard history: is it a purely fact-based document? Does he believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old, as an accounting of specific lifespans in the Bible indicates? If he does not believe it, how does he square this up with those many Evangelicals who do believe it? If he does believe it, how does he square this up with what the astronomers and geologists and physicists tell us? Does he (Smith) believe historical facts are matters of personal opinion?
In East of Eden, John Steinbeck tells us about the matriarch of a family in the story, described something like this: she was always lecturing everyone on what God (the Christian one) thinks, where God's opinions invariably happened to coincide with her own.
Funny how that works.
The Heathen community is generally pretty clear on the differences between myth, legend, and history. Each has its use, and its own distinctive power. Does Mitt Romney draw such distinctions? I don't know. But a big part of the Christian community makes no distinction at all between these three different things in their religion, and tries to refuse to allow anyone else to make such distinctions either. This is one of the reasons that part of the Christian community is so hard to get along with. And now the very Evangelical Mr. Smith makes this straight-faced sales pitch about historical veracity and expects us to buy it from him.
Even more fascinating.
I have experienced the power of religious realizations. If you're reading this, you probably have, too. I observe them as inherently personal. If it turns out that yours are similar to mine, that might be a bright spot in my day. If it turns out that they aren't, this country of ours requires us to get along anyway. Some of us see that as a good thing.
If Mitt Romney believes what the Mormon Church says, that's really up to him, and I fully expect those beliefs to have some influence on the decisions he makes. It would be foolish to think otherwise, and I'll spend some time thinking about what those decisions might be. I also fully expect him to understand that there are some things he doesn't get to do, even as a President of the United States, no matter what he believes, or how deeply he believes it, or how many votes he has behind him. This kind of understanding is what makes us Americans. Those who don't have this kind of understanding aren't.
I'll prefer to vote for someone who is a more obvious economic conservative than Mitt Romney. But I could vote for him, because he states the right kind of understanding on what his office doesn't allow him to do. Among other things, I trust him to know what Freedom of Religion means, not only with respect to his own religion, but with respect to others as well. Mr. Smith, on the other hand, seems to think Freedom of Religion means Freedom of His Religion, and any greater light shining on some other must be a bad thing.
Religion is inherently personal, and doesn't necessarily have much to do with actual factual history. It will be better if people realize that and recategorize some of the stories they tell. Meanwhile, Smith's complaints about the "false teachings of Mormonism" can be countered with a mirror.
10/19/2011 4:00:00 AM