Romney, Reindeer, Religion And Reality

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that." - Al Sharpton

In the May 13, 2007 issue of the Post Chronicle John W. Lillpop writes that National Review's Katharine Jean Lopez asked Governor Romney, "Will an exposé on Mormon Christmas celebrations hurt you in the primaries?" Governor Romney replied, "This may sound strange to some, but my grandchildren will be eagerly awaiting presents to be delivered to their homes by a bearded man in a red suit led by a pack of flying reindeer. There are differences between doctrines of churches. But the values at the core of the Christian faith, the Jewish faith and many other religions are very, very similar and it's that common basis that we have to support and find ability to draw people to rather than to point out the differences between our faiths."

When CNN'S Wolf Blitzer asked Governor Romney before he declared whether his faith would be a problem, Governor Romney responded with this declaration of the American people: "The great majority of American people look at the character of the person[s], their track record, what they plan on doing, what their values are... You are going to see most evangelicals support whoever they feel is closest to their values. I don't think that people are going to ever disqualify someone and apply a religious test."

In response to inquiry as to how he would "deal with what is bound to be attacks from the media and opponents about 'his' religious faith, Romney made this additional point: "I think the American people want to see a person of faith lead the nation, and I don't think the American people care very deeply about which brand of faith that is. My religious beliefs are consistent with the religious beliefs of other Judeo-Christian faiths."

Meanwhile CNN reported that civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who led the charge to have radio host Don Imus fired for making racially insensitive remarks, is now under fire for a comment about Romney's Mormon faith. During a debate on religion and politics at the New York Public Library with atheist author Christopher Hitchens, Sharpton said, "As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation."

Can Governor Romney be elected President of the United States as a professing Mormon?

Posted May 13, 2007


Vinny Hall said...

Michael – Here is an interesting article by Post-Tribune writer Rich Jackson which fits in with this question ....

President's religion shouldn't matter,jackson.article

Mitt Romney is mad at Al Sharpton, who is mad at Mitt Romney, and it's all in the name of God. Sharpton recently said that "those who really believe in God will defeat Romney," the Mormon Republican candidate for president. Romney responded by saying Sharpton made a "bigoted comment."

American voters en masse are bigots about the religion of our presidential candidates. That phenomenon didn't exist at the beginning of our country. Consider that our first six presidents -- at least -- couldn't be elected now.

George Washington was a deist, a popular belief at the time that allowed for the idea of a creator, but not one who dabbles in our daily lives. Deists also generally don't believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

John Adams started out a Congregationalist, but later became a Unitarian.

Thomas Jefferson floated between agnosticism and deism, although some ascribe Unitarian beliefs to him. Regardless, Jefferson never attended any church.

James Madison generally espoused agnostics beliefs.

James Monroe was a deist.

John Quincy Adams was, like his father, a Unitarian.

Abraham Lincoln often talked about Providence and the like, but, by most historic accounts, he wavered between agnosticism and deism.

We've elected two Quakers -- Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon -- who could never be elected today because of the strong Quaker belief in pacifism.

We elected a Jehovah's Witness -- Dwight Eisenhower -- who never would be elected today because voters wouldn't want him knocking on our front-porch door.

We elected one Catholic John F. Kennedy ..... because the Catholic mayor of Chicago helped fudge the election.

Jimmy Carter, the first modern candidate who promoted himself as born again, was a horrible president.

Ronald Reagan, espoused religious views, but rarely went to church.

In Bill Clinton we had a man who went to church almost every Sunday, but must have been daydreaming during the Ten Commandments sermon.

Today, we have a president who tells us that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, told him to go to war in Iraq.

As is often the case with politicians, what one says and one does don't always jibe. I suggest we judge our presidential candidates on their practical merits. This will leave them time to sort out their own spiritual matters in private.


Diana Malcolm said...

I was about to say that the only candidates that I might be wary of would be Scientologists and Jehovah's Witnesses. But now I see that Eisenhower belonged to the latter group and though he was not great as a President he was certainly above average.

I wonder how many of the candidates are really secular humanists (atheists) but know that in the USA they can not afford to admit it. At least Romney is honest about what he believes and for me his ethical behavior, family life style, management as Governor of MA and his work on saving the winter Olympic Games are all positives.

Di Di

Peter said...

From here in the UK I don’t know too much about Romney. I read an article in the Sunday Times, May 13, 2007, by Andrew Sullivan entitled “Republicans reap the religious whirlwind” which said:

Bush indicated his own political philosophy when asked in an early primary debate who his favourite philosopher was. “Christ,” he answered, “because He changed my heart”.

Rudy Giuliani – the strongest Republican candidate in the polls – is nominally a Catholic but, according to the Pope on his trip to Brazil last week, has already excommunicated himself by backing abortion rights. Giuliani has tried to finesse his long record of supporting public financing for abortion, but finesse is not what the evangelical primary voters want. And so last week he gave up trying and told the media he’d be running proudly as a pro-choice candidate in primaries organised by people for whom abortion is the most important issue.

Mitt Romney is a very accomplished executive, speaks well, innovated universal private-sector healthcare in Massachusetts – and has the hair and teeth and demeanour of a president. Alas, Romney too has a long record of being strongly inclusive of gay people and solidly pro-choice. Grafting him onto the party that Rove built is not too easy. As recently as 2002 his wife told Massachusetts women they “had nothing to worry about” with her husband’s pro-abortion stance. Not so long ago Romney himself campaigned for the Senate in Massachusetts by pledging to be more pro-gay than Ted Kennedy. Romney has adjusted to the Bush-Rove rules by claiming that he has suddenly evolved on these issues and is now pro-life and antigay. No one really buys it. But his obvious comfort with blatant pandering and eagerness to tell voters what he thinks they want to hear has reassured some on the religious right. They argue that an actual evangelical in the White House has not been able to stop abortions and gay marriages, so maybe a nonevangelical could do better.

A poll last year found that only 31% of Americans view Mormonism as part of Christianity, compared with 35% who did not and 31% who were unsure. Romney has tried to defuse it by focusing on the values that Mormons share with evangelicals, specifically the importance of the family and social stability. He glosses over the Mormon belief that marriages are eternal and physically replicated in heaven for ever; and he omits the mysterious temple rituals that seal these familial bonds.

Tackling an antiMormon evangelical heckler at one event, Romney delivered this carefully rehearsed line: “We need to have a person of faith lead the country.” It sounds pleasant enough and smooths over the difficult question of what exactly the content of your faith is – but isn’t it also a form of bigotry? Doesn’t it imply that atheists have no business running for office in the United States? If it’s bigotry to oppose someone on the basis of their faith, why is it not bigotry to oppose someone because they have none?

In the first nationally televised Republican debate, three candidates said they did not accept the theory of evolution. A resolution proposed by Utah Republicans at a local convention a couple of weeks ago was a statement of opposition to illegal immigration, but it had an eye-catching title: “Resolution opposing Satan’s plan to destroy the US by stealth invasion.”

Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is among Republicans discovering there is a downside to using religion as a political weapon.

Take care,

Derek Bell said...


I’m surprised you didn’t point out that we have a fundamentalist minister running things here in Northern Ireland!

From what I see about Romney he is not a “fundamentalist” and doesn’t go around forcing his personal beliefs upon others’ lives.

I suspect that if one asked the Revd. Paisley and Governor Romney if only the members of their faith would make it to ‘heaven’ you might get a ‘yes’ from the former and a ‘no’ from the latter.

D. Bell

Roger Spenser said...

CBN news are watching to see if in the GOP debates Romney will be asked about his religion (Mormonism) while the other candidates will not be asked about theirs (Protestanism, Catholicism etc)

CBN had an interesting summary of the pro and con Romney arguments which are:

First the Anti-Romney Crowd:

Mitt Romney's run for the White House is raising the profile of the false religion he espouses.... We Christians must have lost our minds and our faith, or it least it seems like at times. We have for so long wanted our views to be promoted that we have willing made some huge compromises in order to get them promoted…This guy believes he is going to become a god someday in a distant galaxy. Have we all gone crazy?..... It finally dawned on me a couple of weekends ago why I’m against Mitt Romney and why I’d not vote for him. It’s not because he is a Mormon. It’s because it gives legitimacy to the LDS Churches drive to be accepted as a Christian group...... This is not going to be easy, as Mr. Romney may be a nice guy, however he is seriously misguided in his faith, electing a president of this faith, is going to encourage others to look at this as their faith. You will either, walk the walk on this one or not. There is no middle ground here. You know it. You can state these things without being offensive. Will you stand for Christ, or buckle to man? That is the question.

Now, the pro-Romney crowd:

The Romney candidacy is bringing bigots out of the woodwork, and I don't think there are really that many of them. I believe and hope that most conservatives are able to rise above religious differences and vote for the best man on his merits. And so far, he is beginning to look like that man ..... I respect all persons of faith and believe only God can and will be the judge of one's salvation. What is important to me are the values of a person, which are clearly visible though a lifetime of behavior. Mitt Romney shares my values. Which are without question Judeo-Christian-Christian values, clearly visible through a life time of behavior .... I firmly believe Romney would not force Mormonism on anyone. But their families are quite good and the kids are always taken care of as far as I know. Not perfect, don't know a lot, but as Independent that is my opinion.


Helen Wright said...

I watched the second debate last night and Romney did not do as well as in the first one. I think this contest will be between McCain and Guiliani.

My impression of McCain is that he is a bit old, I think he is older than Reagan was at this point in his search for the Presidency. Guiliani, however, seems to have only 911 going for him.

It's early days.

Helen Wright

Vinny Hall said...

The surprising thing in the debate is that Romney for all his insistence on "values" was in favor of doubling the size of Guantanamo Bay and not providing any lawyers to those incarcerated there.


Andrew Wilson said...

The betting odds usually are a good tracker of who is in the lead.

Right now this shows Clinton way out front on the Democratic side and Guiliani is in front on the Republican side. Note that Thompson, who isn’t in the race yet, is ahead of Romney.


Helen Wright said...


I picked up on that too. I was surprised by the statement. The exact quote was "You said they're at Guantanamo? I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. I want them at Guantanamo where they don't get the access to lawyers that they'd get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons, I want them there. Some people say that we should close Guantanamo, my view is: We outta double Guantanamo."

Helen Wright

Roberto Mendoza said...

"[...] The Pope on his trip to Brazil last week, has already excommunicated himself [Giuliani] by backing abortion rights".

Let's not misquote people here. What the Pope said, in compliance with the Code of Canon Law, is that people who supported abortion could be excommunicated, but in all truth that is unlikely; Do you know any politician who has been excommunicated for supporting abortion laws? Only people who practice abortion themselves are automatically excommunicated.

As far as Romney goes, I am not a
Republican, or a Democrat for that matter, but I think his turnaround in the abortion issue could be interpreted in two ways. First, if one is cynical, it can be said that it was a matter of political expediency - it would be nearly impossible to get the nomination from the GOP if he were pro-choice.

On the other hand, a reasonable, thoughtful, and ethical person can change her mind about a complex issue as abortion. I say this from personal experience. Although I am still pro-choice (whatever that means), I have in recent years become very conflicted about this. This preoccupation of mine stems not from religion, as I am somewhat of an agnostic, but from long philosophical, ethical, and theological reflections. It comes down to, Can one assert a positive right (the woman's right to choose) over the positive right of another person (the fetus' right to live)? Any serious ethicist will tell you no. But the disagreement comes from the definition of person I guess.

In short, coming from a politician, I am inclined to believe that it was political posturing, rather than reflection, that led Romney to change his position. As far as his being Mormon, I don't see how that is different from being a conservative Christian, so to me it's irrelevant.

P.S. By the way, anticipating those who might say that reading Theology makes me a believer, not an agnostic... rethink that more carefully.

PRD said...

Roberto: Welcome to this forum!

I read your very insightful comment with much interest. As an agnostic myself I don’t know where to properly come down on this issue of abortion. I like the idea of adoption and I understand there are many families who wish to adopt and have to go abroad to find children.

One of the issues that we hear discussed is that ‘life’ begins at conception. Frankly, I think this is a very narrow view of life which I see as a continuous process.

For example in the case of a tree we have a seed which grows to a tree which sheds seeds which grow into trees which shed seeds etc. The life cycle is this whole process in perpetuity and could theoretically be interrupted at any point in the process.

My mother could have aborted me or her mother could have aborted her or my great grandmother could have aborted my grandmother etc. So wherever the cycle of life that led to me was interrupted it would have resulted in my non-existence. Therefore I see no difference in theory, or in the practical outcome, between the abortion of a fetus, the killing of a newborn, the killing of a 2 year old, or the killing of any human prior to the age of reproduction – the life cycle leading to the next generation has been brought to a halt.

So I guess all of this means that I am leaning to being opposed to abortion.