Sunday, October 09, 2011

Romney, Cults, and Presidents

There seems to be quite a lot of hubbub right now about Romney being a Mormon and whether or not it should automatically disqualify him from being president.  For me, the bottom line is what a person will do as president. As president, I am only concerned with a person's moral values in so far as it will manifest itself in his/her decisions.  As president, I am only concerned with a person's beliefs insofar as they will manifest themselves in his/her decisions.

Now these things do influence decisions, but most people have things backwards.  Our professed (or labelled) identities are no sure predictor of how we will act.  Humans are not primarily thinkers.  We are usually quite inconsistent.  Our real identities are revealed by our patterns of behavior and often have little to do with our professed identities (or the identities given us by the labels of others).

Is Mormonism a theological cult?  Certainly the official beliefs of the Mormons are unorthodox by historic Christian standards.  Jesus was not on equal footing with Satan when God presented his plan of salvation to them both.  It stretches the limits of the mind that The Book of Mormon is "another" testament revealed to some of the 10 lost tribes of Israel (read Native Americans) and delivered to a man who found golden plates in the 1800s on the frontier (that have now conveniently disappeared).

But sociologically, in terms of how how he behaves as an American, Romney seems within the normal spectrum of human weirdness.  It's unclear to me that the stranger elements of his Mormon background would have an effect on his decision making as a president.  It reminds me of how many were afraid of JFK's catholicism in the early 60s.  Romney makes no connection between his political positions and the eccentricities of Mormonism.  

The situation is quite different with someone like Michelle Bachmann, who explicitly indicates that her ideology is the central factor in her political positions.  Her ideas are a predictor of her decision making behavior because she so specifically connects her ideas with her intended decisions.  I personally think it is better for a president to be a pragmatist with good overall goals and a good working knowledge of how things work than to be an idealist.

This is not an endorsement of Romney.  I'm simply trying to present some perspectives that I find somewhat lacking right now among evangelicals in the public forum.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Nice points, Ken!

People are persuaded that if someone isn't a believer, then, they cannot be trusted! Why? because of abortion, gay marriage, and other "social issues" that they think that conservatism has a "handle on" and if the ship goes more liberal socially, then we are doomed, if not spiritually, then doomed as a society! "Family values" is the iconic value, but close behind is "the Great Commission" and discipleship! Such thinking doesn't allow for anyone other than "a believer" to take charge!

Social norms are values that help us know "right from wrong" and our society has changed persuasions over the years! Civil liberties are a threat to the "moral fabric" of traditional values. And it seems that those that are "waiting for the end of time" OR "acting as "watchmen" over the Kingdom" want to make the "new social question" be THE culmination of "God's judgment"! Therefore, Romney represents a challenge to the basic ideals of their faith, and they fear that those who are not in their "in-group" just might threatened society with THE social change that would anger "God" and create moral havoc!

Science has made many recent discoveries concerning genetic heritage, that we should understand that cultural heritage should consider seriously what science proves is innate! In fact cultural heritage might just oppress those that genetically predisposed to another kind or type of thinking!

America allows for diversity, where these ways of thinking are not "off limits"!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Some of our Founders were "Free Thinkers", where others were "loyalist" to the Mother Country! There is always going to be a tension between liberal values that press the limits and conservative values that argue "the cause"!!!

Luther challenged the Catholic Church, while Wesley challenged the Anglican Church. The first Reformation was about political power, while Wesley's was about social power!

Since evolution's acceptance in the scientific community, and the worries of environmentalists, Wesleyanism/Methodism might argue that a Wesleyan Reformation might be forthcoming. That is, that the survival of the weak and dis-empowered should be the thrust of the Church!

Empowerment will be in various areas of serving social problems; parenting, education, humanitarian needs, which incorporates local, national and international spectrums.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, the same goes for Luther's all out ex-communiation, and Erasmus' loyalty within the Church.

JohnM said...

Certainly want to avoid electing a pragmatist with BAD overall goal... Wait! Doh! ;)

But you're right about Romney's Mormonism being unlikley to influence decisions. I'd be bothered by it if I thought it would, but it won't, so I'm not. Much. We'll find out. Because for better or worse Romney, the pragmatic establishmentarian, is going to be our next president. Remember, you heard it here first ;)

Bethany Brengan said...

"Our real identities are revealed by our patterns of behavior and often have little to do with our professed identities (or the identities given us by the labels of others)." This statement resonates with me. Particularly as I find myself thinking about politics and wondering how to sift truth from PR.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Bethany, perhaps you might be interested in this article.

Hypocrisy and self deception | The Rational Optimist…

Nathaniel said...

Actually in some ways I think his Mormonism may actually help his cause. If you think about it, Mormonisim, as the only histocentric religion born on American soil, depends entirely on the American ideals and nation for its founding. This is precisely why they talk about the constitution as an inspired document (something no Trinitarian can consistently profess). I think that long-term there will be three players in American politics: Catholics, Mormons and Atheists. While other groups of Christians will always be present, they will be either too small or too fragmented to have any influence on the national debates aside from participating in the agendas of the major groups. Of the big three, only Mormons and Atheists can provide the fealty required for national exceptionalism. American Catholicism also has the problem that, in spite of its sheer numbers, religious nominalism will prevent it from being a major force.