Religion’s Role Inconsistent with Romney’s Speech
Religion's Role Inconsistent with Romney's Fairy Tale Speech
Black Agenda Report
by BAR contributing editor Mel Reeves
Mitt Romney encouraged folks to think of him as the second-coming of John Kennedy, when he announced plans to speak frankly on questions about how his Mormon faith might influence him as president. However, instead of easing the minds of concerned citizens, Romney embedded himself deeper in the Christian Right, calling for a jihad against "secularism" while simultaneously distorting the history of religion and politics in the United States. Like the elders of his church, Romney is unapologetic for the racism that lay at the heart of Mormon doctrine for almost all of its history. In this regard, even Southern Baptists - a denomination born of pro-slavery politics - have a better track record.
Religion's Role Inconsistent with Romney's Fairy Tale Speech
"Isn't it ironic that most of these self-proclaimed religious folks have found a home in the most rightwing, mean-spirited political party."
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's speech, last week, was a fairy tale and a total revision of the role of religion and morality in US history. The speech, supposedly designed to allay fears about what role his Mormonism would play in the Oval Office - actually raised concerns about religion - his own, in particular - and the candidate's sincerity. But if Romney's goal was to prove that he is just another one of the good old boys of the "Christian" Right, he may have succeeded.
At any rate, all this talk about religion and "values" has little or nothing to do with the way these people behave politically.
Romney declared, "it is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions" - which raises the question: what would those be? He went on to expound upon what he called a "moral inheritance we hold in common," - he also used the term, "moral heritage" - that "is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours." Americans, Romney claimed, want to vote for people of faith who share values such as, "the equality of human kind."
Who is he kidding? Please. Black folks, other people of color and anybody else that is considered an "other" in this society are still fighting on a daily basis to find this so-called equality. A recent LA Times/Bloomberg poll found that one in three Americans want to deny social services to undocumented immigrants, including public schooling and emergency room healthcare. Need I say more?
I am starting to think that when it comes to the religion of folks who run for office in the US, we should institute a policy of, don't tell and we won't ask. And isn't it ironic that most of these self-proclaimed religious folks have found a home in the most rightwing, mean-spirited political party. George Bush keeps telling us what a devout Christian he is, yet I as a Christian have no idea what he means by the term. Bush, Romney, Rev. Mike Huckabee and the other candidates should just tell us that they go to church and be done with it. Everyone knows that folks who just go to church aren't expected to be serious adherents to the faith.
One fundamental expectation of religious folks is that they at least show love for their neighbor. These guys have a peculiar way of doing that.
Bush, while professing faith, turns right around and starts lying about the need to start a war with a sovereign country that hasn't threatened his country. He professes faith, while occupying yet another country, to which he has brought only death, destruction and pain. He professes faith, while allowing his minions to flaunt international and domestic law, denying habeas corpus and allowing torture. He professes faith, while cutting needed health care aide to children.
Conservative candidate Reverend Huckabee suggested in 1992 that AIDS patients be quarantined and funding cut for AIDS research - and that Hollywood actors should personally finance the research. Huckabee made these statements long after it was learned that AIDS is not contagious through casual contact. As Massachusetts governor, Romney opposed efforts to work with fellow New England states to help clean up the environment. Although Massachusetts instituted a health care plan which some claim is better than most states, Romney didn't back the plan based on religious conviction. Instead, he said it was good for business - the true epicenter of his faith. Romney has flipped to the Right on immigration issues. Was this a decision based on religious conviction? I think not.
Faith shouldn't be much of a concern when selecting a candidate for high office, but since he brought it up, black folks ought to be made aware of some of his church's history and doctrine. Romney suggested that he didn't have any explaining to do, concerning his church's distinctive doctrines. He may not have to explain it but he should be sure to put some distance between it and him. If someone running for any office said their favorite book was Mein Kampf, we should definitely pay attention.
Until 1978, the Mormon church held that blacks were an inferior race, cursed by God, and could not enter their Priesthood. The book, "Mormon Doctrine", written by Church of Latter Day Saints Apostle Bruce McConkie, in 1966, states, "Negroes in this life are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty (Abraham 1:20-27, the Book of Mormon). The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them...negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow there from, but this inequality is not of man's origin. It is the Lord's doing."
Since the priesthood is something that nearly all adult males are entered into in the Mormon Church, this doctrine excluded blacks from effective membership in their church.
The Latter Day Saints believe that the descendants of Lam and Lemuel took the wrong side in the battle of the angels and were therefore cursed. The curse was their blackness. What makes this particular brand of racism so pernicious is that the Mormons say this was God's doing and His will, not their interpretation of his will. So, to make it clear, they accused God of being the bigot. In other faith traditions there has been a willingness to admit that their racist beliefs were the result of bad interpretation. But the Mormons put the onus squarely on God - and that they later received a contrary revelation, in 1978.
Of course, Christian traditions have some of these same kinds of passages in their Bible, but most have come to realize that, taken out of context, such words can be used to do real damage. Most have apologized for their wayward interpretations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, which in 1995 publicly stated, "We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery... We apologize to all African Americans." Romney's church has yet to apologize.
The most egregious of Romney's tall tales centered on the church's - or religion's - role in the fight against slavery and racism. Romney said: "Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people"
Somehow I remember the end of slavery occurring despite the resistance of millions of religious whites. Jim Crow segregation and racial discrimination were, in fact, articles of "faith" among most southern whites for generations.
A more accurate description of official religion's role during the civil rights era was pronounced by Martin Luther King Jr.: "Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure ...is consoled by the church's silent - and often even vocal - sanction of things as they are."
These "Christians" and religious folks running for office offer little or nothing in the way of enlightenment when it comes to racial disparities that still exist in employment, education, the justice system and in society in general. None of them have led the way on any other issues (war, socialized medicine, fair and just immigration, workers rights) that would suggest they are inspired by any kind of moral guidepost.