Thursday, August 09, 2007

McWhorter's Romney Problem

Browsing the internet today, as I normally do to bring you all the riveting content and commentary that spews forth from my humble laptop, I came upon this article in the New York Sun. In it, John McWhorter describes the conflict and angst of two Mormons that he knew were gay, but who decided to follow Church doctrines rather than their sexual orientation. He then goes on to describe LDS doctrines against homosexuality. McWhorter makes his point:
What I cannot abide is Mormonism's starkly official revulsion at the simple fact that some humans are sexually attracted to other humans of the same gender.
He then continues by tying Romney to this discussion in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” way:
How could someone proposing himself as the steward of our great nation concur, in 2007, with views on homosexuality which in the future will look as blinkered as witch hunting does now?

If Mr. Romney does not concur with this primitivism but lets it pass, I see this as thoroughly ugly as well.
I bring this up not just because McWhorter’s stance is incredibly silly, but to educate supposedly educated people, like McWhorter, about the mental necessity of separating Church and State in the presidential politics of the day. Hugh Hewitt and others have tried to do the same, to little avail, and so I don’t expect much in the way of success in convincing others.

The United States government is a secular instrument. Its nature and function are secular. Its origins are secular. The executive of that government, the President, performs secular duties. His responsibilities include such things as providing for the common defense, promoting general welfare, and defending the Constitution. None of these things require a theology. They can be performed ably by someone without religious beliefs or by a deeply religious person. Because the duties are secular, the Constitution is indifferent as to the religion of the person performing them.

There is, however, a tension in our presidential politics. The electorate wants a person of faith. This is not so because we wish them to believe in a particular theology. Such a proposition would make it impossible to elect a President with any sort of majority of Americans. The multiplicity of religions in America would fracture the vote. Not only would it make a national election difficult once the candidate’s religion was known and the specific tenants examined, but it is the kind of thing that our pluralistic founding fathers sought to avoid. No, America understands that it is not a religion that is desired in our elected officials, but faith.

We desire faith because it is a desirable quality in and of itself. Despite the advance of science and the scientific method, which has certainly been a benefit for society, there still comes a point of the unknown or unknowable. It is at that point that science and logic alone are deficient. Faith provides direction and understanding where science and logic cannot. Indeed, it would seem unreasonable for someone to rely purely on logic and science where those cannot provide the answers. Thus, as voters, we desire a leader who has faith when reason alone does not provide guidance.

Faith should not be confused for religion in electoral politics. Many people make the mistake of using the two words interchangeably when they really mean one or the other. Indeed, it has become common usage to call religion faith and faith religion. In presidential politics, the two should not be confused. To do so is to cynically confuse the hearer or reader.

Despite this, the prevailing way to look at Romney (and it has been especially apparent of late) has been to look at his religion, not his faith. This is an invidious way to present Romney. McWhorter is especially explicit about it. He notes that in spite of the glowing reports he hears about Romney, he doesn’t like him because of a policy of the church Romney belongs to. This makes the argument about the church policy and not about Romney. It is not Romney’s individual faith that is being discussed but the tenants of his religious affiliation. It is identity politics. No longer is it important who Romney is or what he believes, but what group we label him into. That’s why so many of the pundits of the day have come to the same conclusion as McWhorter “damned if he is, damned if he isn’t” because they’ve given him a label and they can’t get beyond it. That’s why in the radio interview, the host claimed better knowledge of Mitt’s beliefs than Mitt himself did. The host had labeled him and wouldn’t budge.

For those of us with more sense, we realize that it is faith, not a particular religion, that is the desireable quality in a president. Thus, the endless crowing about LDS doctrines serve not a bit to enlighten the hearers about Mitt Romney anymore than having LDS missionaries in your home would. The nation has gotten that message. Somehow it is the press that hasn't.


Blogger Ben4Mitt said...

Great post. I totally agree. As a minor sidenote, I have a blogging question for you. I noticed that you are able to highlight text in your post and make it a link to an outside website. How do you do that? I am an amateur blogger and have my own blog site but I can't figure out how to do that. In this post I just read, you linked a newspaper. How do you do that?

Sorry about the unrelated question.

10:46 PM  

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