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|Why the old Mitt Romney was better|
Apr. 22nd, 2007 at 9:10 am
From the Admin: We’re proud to announce our latest backdoor entrant to our perma-blogger lineup: Dan Ellsworth.
I think LDS folk are watching the Romney candidacy right now withÂ mixed feelings.Â On the one hand, they are thrilled to see one of our very best and most competent in a position to make a serious run at the Presidency.Â There are people on the left, as well asÂ a lot ofÂ Evangelicals inÂ the Republican Party,Â who areÂ nervous over the prospect of a mormon wielding that level of influence; it is natural to feel that way towards any group that has anÂ eliteÂ membershipÂ (recommend holders) withÂ access to exclusive places,Â and institutionalÂ secrets.Â SoÂ when we put a face forward to engage the public, we want it to be someone good and intelligent enough to demonstrate that we are actually rather normal, maybe even boring.Â Mitt, in many LDS minds, is the competent and successful PR Moses of the Church, who can bring us the social acceptance we so crave by ascending to become the Mormon leader of the free world.Â Mitt is pursuing that position within the context of the Republican Party, which most mormons regard as their political home.Â Parenthetically, home is the wrong metaphor here.Â The better metaphor is,Â the Republican Party is like an abusive boyfriend, and the Church is generally like a needy, acceptance-starved girlfriend who comes back to more and more abuse because she simply can’t imagineÂ better alternatives out there.
Anyway,Â the Romney candidacy has also spooked some mormons. Â I, personally, have been spooked by the sillyÂ pandering to the guns and NASCARÂ crowd- I have no idea how someone as smart as Mitt can listen to theÂ image consultants he has.Â What’s next, pictures like these?Â Puhleeease.Â Mitt, put down the pork rinds and get out of that bass boat.Â You’re aÂ white-collar Northeastern businessman, and nobody will believe anything other than that- just accept it and run with it.
The other reason a lot of LDS have been spooked by Mitt’s candidacy is the revelation of the things heÂ argued so eloquentlyÂ while runningÂ for office in Massachussetts.Â He argued the pro-choice position very well, and his statements about gay rights were jarring to a lot of people who could not fathom a stake president holding those views.
Well, I would argue that those views were to some extentÂ the more scriptural ones.Â Look at the book of Helaman:
Â Chapter 4
Hmmm, and this from chapter 5:
Now,Â chapter 4 says the people’s laws were corrupted; that being the case,Â why would Nephi and Lehi abandon their political positions?Â Wouldn’t that be the best place for them toÂ exercise a positive influence over the people?Â Apparently not- in fact, their abandonment of their political positions suggests that they viewed their work in that capacity as being fruitless, in light of the moral state of the people.
After the gay marriage amendment debacle a year ago, I wrote aÂ friend a lengthy email expressing what a waste of energy I felt the Church’s well-meaningÂ efforts had ultimatelyÂ turned out to be.Â At the end of the day, trying toÂ create a more moral people (aÂ mission of the Church) is,Â always was, and always will beÂ a matter of teaching and inviting, not legislating.Â I think Helaman 5 argues that efforts to make laws conform to religious and moralÂ sensibilities areÂ misplaced if people don’t actually have those sensibilities, or if they don’t consider them a high enough priority to merit their own legislation, as is the case with many of those issues here in the U.S.
I toldÂ my friendÂ that if the Church wants a gay marriage amendment, they would achieve vastly more success byÂ purchasing TV air time andÂ doing an interfaith broadcast in prime time to give the American people the moral teaching behind the amendment.
The same goes for abortion; I grew up in a part of Southern California where abortion was very common among people I knew, and some of them were assisted in their abortions by parents and grandparents.Â That is the moral teaching (or lack thereof) that they acted upon.Â As mormons, we believe abortion is awful except for a few exceptions, so where are our efforts at prevention best spent, in legislative campaigns and blockades of clinics, or in the real work of engaging people andÂ teaching,Â funding, and publicizing alternatives?
I believe that flashy, heatedÂ political activism in the Church has become in a sense a counterfeit to quiet, humble, heart-wenching difficultÂ missionary work in its varied forms.Â Mitt Romney would do well to relearn his skepticism of legalism as the way to a more moral society; and if Rudy Giuliani’s successÂ is an example, Mitt’s campaign would be better off for it.