Monday, October 29, 2007
Mormon Jihadists? Republicans Go There
The letter which starts the Crowley article leads to an extremely rare occurrence for yours truly: I find myself rising to the defense of Mitt Romney, a candidate who has precisely zero chance of getting my vote. In fact, this letter is so out there that I not only rise to the defense of Mitt Romney, but I rise to the defense of an entire religious movement which I do not believe in! Here is Crowley's description of the letter which I find so objectionable:
"Mormons in Contemporary American Society: A Politically Dangerous Religion?" The letters depicted Mormonism as based on "hoaxes" and ridiculed the church's founder, Joseph Smith, as a "gold digger turned prophet. " The mailing also provocatively dubbed Smith "the Mohammed of the West." "Like the prophet of Islam," it said, "Smith founded his religion upon prophecies and revelations which commanded him to become a polygamist and warlord. Many centuries apart, these two men became the focal point of large religions that blurred the lines between religion, war, domestic life and politics."Modern political battles are permeated through out by questions on how this or that candidate will handle the "war on terror". The vitriolic poison spread by the right wing noise machine about Islam and Muslims is a fundamental aspect of the Republican outlook on the world. Calling Joseph Smith a religious "warlord" and "the Mohammed of the West" is frankly atrocious. What next? Television commercials featuring oil paintings of Joseph Smith which slowly meld into images of Mohammed? Maybe toss in some explosions and some Osama footage... because Mitt Romney is a Mormon and the two are somehow related.
I might not be a Mormon (my wife is, and has been all her life) but I still wonder at how they will react to the right wing smear mongers who purport to be their political allies, but then are so savage in denouncing them on religious grounds to score cheap political gains. Make no mistake about it either. The most inflammatory denouncers of Mormon theology are not atheists or liberal Christians. It is the right wing evangelicals who bitterly denounce Mormonism, and then benefit from Mormon votes. When you look at the political map, there is no redder state than Utah. Idaho, which also has a large population of Mormons is also deeply red.
My impression of Mormonism is that their beliefs have a decidedly Old Testament flavor. Many Mormon institutions and precepts are directly taken from Old Testament roots. Mormons have guidelines on dietary matters and appearance which would fit very well in the books of law passed from God to the children of Israel. In fact Mormons trace their lineage back to old Israel, and if a new member can not be placed in a tribe of Israel by lineage they will be adopted into one from the Mormons perspective.
This leads to a decidedly 'old time religion' flavor for what is actually a very new sect of Christianity. When I attend Mormon services (I've promised my wife I will on certain big occasions) they sing songs that have been standards for decades. The entire congregation goes in their Sunday finest (the only time since my childhood I've been formally dressed was for these church services... and my wedding). Attending a Mormon service is to step into a time machine, and go back to any church service in the middle of last century (save a good old southern Baptist black church I suppose). My point in all this is that Mormons are not wild eyed, hippified, revolutionary apostates, or sharia preaching Muslim holy warriors, even if most of what they believe is not conventional Christianism.
This traditionalism extends to the Mormon view on society and politics. Harry Reid is a rarity: a liberal leaning Mormon. Those liberal Mormons can be found I'm sure, but every Mormon I have met and discussed politics with has been politically conservative. In fact they tend to feel very strongly about their political leanings in my experience. Indeed, after several years of living in Eugene (famous the world over for our liberal ways) and a year and a half of living with yours truly, my wife is still a hardcore libertarian conservative. She does not like Bush, but the chances of her voting for Hillary are about the same as my ever voting for Mitt. Which as I said before is a big fat zero.
So the right wing evangelical freaks do themselves no favors by slamming around Mormonism for short term political gain against a Mormon candidate. Especially when they go off half cocked about Joseph Smith being a Mohammed like warlord... Mormons may be politically conservative, but I believe they place an even greater weight on their religious views. If this type of inflammatory anti Mormon garbage is going to be a big feature from the right in order to tear down Romney, I can't help but wonder what effect it will have on the typical Mormon who is then asked to vote for the same people who have defamed Mormon leaders and beliefs in order to claw out the nomination.
I don't think Mormons will ever vote for liberal and moderate Democrats in any great numbers, but if the right makes a point of slamming them around too much they may find cause to just stay home. Especially if the guy who benefits from the slanders on Mormonism and wins the nomination is a thrice married, pro choice, pro gay marriage candidate...
The writer ironically calls it "slime" to criticize other religions while he himself criticizes the christianity of others (note, there is much justice in criticizing modern vs. historical christian faith), apparently blind to his own blatant hypocrisy.
The purpose of the 1st amendment, free speech and religion, is to give freedom to openly criticize, debate, and harshly censure whatever can be as a false religion. After all the talk of "free speech" and "free religion" it appears that (as Orwell warned in Animal Farm) "some are more equal than others".
It is impossible that all religions be true, therefore not surprising if one should surmount them all. While there have been many corruptions of Christianity and distortions of the Bible, the Bible has stood as an authentic, reliable, prophetic, and historically accurate book which makes the Book of Mormon (originally a work of fiction, read the history) and the Koran (an admixture of Judaism, Christianity, and mysticism) pale in comparison.
Neither let Americans forget that the Feds considered Mormonism and its founders as a dangerous cult which seceded into the Utah territory, and a federal war was made upon them.
As for Romney, if a man believes in everything his church teaches then he puts himself at risk when the gross errors, blasphemies and lies of his pretended religion (largely based upon Freemasonry) are exposed to the public light of day. Let the skeptics apply their trade to Mormonism and they will not be found without ammunition.
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