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Tue

20

Feb

2007

No More Free Passes for Faith-based Campaigners
Tuesday, 20 February 2007 22:13

by Stephen P. Pizzo

At the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Florida this weekend, a heckler yelled at presidential hopeful Mitt Romney that he was not a “real Christian,” since he was a Mormon and his church, also known as the Church of Later Day Saints (LDS), the Christian heckler charged, “is a cult.”

Romney didn't lose his cool. He just smiled and a calmly replied that, what particular faith a candidate held was unimportant. All he cared about, Romney claimed, was that the next President of the United States “is a person of faith.”

Really? Does that mean Romney would support a fundamentalist Muslim candidate for President, one who believes that US law should be replaced with strict Islamic law?

How about a Scientologist? Would Romney be comfortable with Tom Cruise in the Oval Office? Don't laugh. Remember, it was less than a century ago that the Mormon church was viewed by mainstream Christians the same way they view Scientology today. (Becoming a “religion” is, after all, a numbers game. Gather just a few followers, and you're cult. Gather a few million and you're officially a religion.)

My purpose here is not to bash Romney, his faith or anyone else's. America is chuck full of faiths, and that's just fine with me. Whatever floats your boat. But when I am picking a president, a person's publicly stated faith becomes another matter entirely.

My goal is to encourage the media to break through the barriers that seem to shield a candidate's right to advertise his or her faith from the public's right to know just more precisely what that faith teaches, and how much those teachings might shape a candidate's decisions and public policy.

This is serious business — the most serious. We've had nearly seven years of experience with what happens when we fail to nail down just what a candidate really means when he or she claims they are  “a person of faith.” We have a guy in the White House today who repeatedly evoked the name of God and Jesus during his campaign, assuring us that he had been “saved,” and was, therefore, a certified “person of faith," — pronouncements that went unexplored and unchallenged.

What we discovered, too late, was that for once young George wasn't lying. Among the things Bush had “faith” in was that his decisions were endorsed from on-high — by no less than God Himself. He also believes that creation had more to do with “intelligent design,” than natural evolutionary processes, and that bundles of cells moments after fertilization are itty-bitty people.

All the warnings were there, but weren't pursued. And so it came to pass that George's faith blessed an illegal and un-winnable war in which hundreds of thousands of “full-term humans” have been — and are still being — killed.

He appointed others who shared his “faith” to government posts, and they acted on their faith too. These appointees of faith today shun real science when it collides with their faith and instead provide aid and comfort to practitioners of faith-based un-science, who proceeded to cripple potentially life-saving stem cell research, all in the name of “life.”

So we learned, the hard way, that there can be seerious consequences for failing to parse details out of otherwise bland-sounding claims of "faith."

The cost we've paid, and will pay for decades to come, for the media's failure to press George on his faith has cost Americans, and the world, more than can now be calculated. Only history may be able to weigh the cost of Bush's arrogant, ignorant, numskull faith-based polices.

Nevertheless, here we go again. There's already a baker's dozen of candidates, from both parties, out on the hustings, advertising themselves as “persons of faith.”  Of course there are two possibilities with each; they are simply lying to attract “voters of faith,” or they're telling the truth — like George. 

The media's first job should be to sort out which is which.

If the candidate is claiming "faith" just to herd some of the religious flock into their coral, then they're a liar, and we've had quite enough of that kind of leadership already too, thank you very much. 

If they're telling the god's-honest truth, and really are a “person of faith,” then the media's work should really begin. Reporters should treat claims of faith with the same scrutiny as they treat claims of fiscal responsibility and personal morality — with due diligence. That means plumbing the depths of a candidate's advertised faith. Just what is it that that candidate has faith in? What are the central  tenants of that faith? How do those tenants shape the candidate's private and public life, how they conduct their business, form their decisions, shape their view of life and the world around them?

Inquiring minds should want to know.

But we haven't wanted to know in the past, and we've paid a horrific price for that lapse of democratic responsibility. Why? Because we continue to consider probing a person's faith as impolite, even intolerant.

That's provides a free-bee to candidates. It allows candidates to advertise “faith” as a reason we should vote for them, unchallenged, unexplored. Their faith, these candidates assure us, is one of the personal and professional assets we should consider in voting for them — yet we cannot allowed to inspect this asset, weigh it or even judge its sanity — or lack thereof.

This is how we end up with people in the Oval Office who believe in some pretty strange things — really believe in them. Take Mit Romney for example. Romney is a Mormon, and by all accounts a devout Mormon. Now, remember that college student who asked candidate Bill Clinton whether he wore “boxers or briefs?” Well she might drop her jaw if she'd asked Romney the same question. If Romney wins in 2008 America will have the distinction of being the only nation with a leader who believes he's wearing magic underwear.

The temple garment ... is a set of sacred underclothing worn by adult male and female Latter Day Saints ...Those who wear the garment consider them sacred and may be offended by public discussion of the garments. Anti-Mormon activists have publicly displayed or defaced temple garments to show their opposition to the LDS Church.... It is worn, in part, to remind adherents that they have made special oaths and covenants to God. .. The garment and the covenants made in conjunction with it are believed to be a spiritual "shield and protection" against the powers of evil, and sometimes against physical harm. 
(More on that here.)

So there's that.. but holy undies are the tip of the iceberg of Mormon beliefs. (Plenty more questions here)

Romney wasn't the only presidential candidate twirling prayer beads at the Religious Broadcasters Convention. Straight-talker-crooked-walker, John McCain was there too. He tried to out-person-of-faith Romney by coming out four-square against abortion. Why? Because, he explained, he's “a person of faith” — specifically their faith — the Christian fundamentalist faith. And he wants their vote.

As a foreign policy expert, McCain must know that most of those at that convention also believe that Armageddon — the “End Days” — can arrive only once all-out war consumes the Middle East and all “unsaved” Jews are massacred - among other things:

Although there are many variations in perspective among religious believers, a few specific events which are commonly held by many of dispensationalist inclination have been attributed to Bible passages:

  • The revival of Israel as a nation, (last generation before Christ): Parable of the fig tree, Matt.24:32, Mark 13:28, Luke 21:29
  • A strong and united European state (United States of Europe), (revived Roman Empire): Daniel 2
  • Various tribulation events: Matt.24:4, Mark13:5, Luke21:5
  • War in Iraq -> Jeremiah 50 "Concerning Babylon, A nation from the north will capture her" — It is important to note that Iraq has been conquered several times by Ottoman Turks, British, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, etc. (although maybe only captured specifically and not conquered by the British, there is a distinct difference) (More)
Do McCain and/or Romney share that particular bit of “faith “ with them? Do they consider such a belief to be reasonable, even sane? Or don't they?

Who knows. Maybe one or both men share such beliefs. We don't know. We can't know because, while the media has no problem turning a candidate's personal finances and even sex lives inside out, reporters can't seem to bring themselves to give a candidate's stated “faith,” the same level of inquiry.

Reporters demand to know what a candidate's position is on tax cuts, but show no curiosity about what a candidate's advertised faith leads him or her to believe on pressing issues that could get us all killed if they get it wrong — like global warming. The Christian right is full of folks who believe God will bring mankind's reign on earth to an end in His own good time and in His own way. And, if global warming is His way, so be it. If a candidate for our nation's highest office is of that “faith,” might we not want to know that before we vote?

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a hardcore secularist. So that's my “faith,” and I am happy to answer anyone's probing questions about what I believe and don't believe. For example, I don't believe Noah got one of every kind of animal on earth aboard a boat he built in his backyard. And frankly it makes me more than a little nervous when I realize we currently have a President (with access to nuclear weapons) who believes that literally happened just as the Bible says. 

Am I wrong to worry about that degree of reality disconnect at the very top of my government?

When George W. Bush was asked if he ever sought his father's advice, he responded, “No, I consult a higher source.” You know Who he was referring to. Unfortunately that “higher source,” gave us Iraq and has saddled our federal judiciary with hundreds of faith-based-friendly judges.  Person of faith, George W. Bush has perverted taxpayer funded, secular, family planning programs and organizations. He and his persons of faith appointees have  morphed them into  faith-based — nearlyTalibanish — instruments to deny women control over their own reproductive prerogatives. And, since George's “higher source” has assures him America is  No. 1with the Big Guy, George treats the rest of the world with dismissive contempt.

Have we not learned anything from all that?

When Joe Biden mispoke a few weeks ago, describing Barack Obama as “clean,” reporters beat that horse to death. Why? Because, they reminded us, “words matter.” Well, if words matter so much, shouldn't faith matter even more?

What I am suggesting here is that the media not allow candidates a free pass any longer on blanket claims of “faith.”  Precisely what are the driving tenants of the faith they claim? And how much of it does the candidate believe is literal .. I mean really believe?  Then ask the candidate to explain how he/she would handle the contradictions and tensions between what their stated faith holds true, and their duties as a secular leader.

It amazes me that this discussion has not already begun. After all, it's not like we don't know where the road that mixes religion and politics leads. We are entangled in a part of the world — the Middle East — almost entirely run by “men of faith.” And look where it's gotten them. One would think just watching the evening news would be enough to sober up right wing Christians who believe that the cure for all that ails America is to elect more “leaders of faith.”

I say all this “faith-branding” among candidates is serious business and we better start treating it as such. It has already reshaped public policy and will continue to do so in ways we cannot control or predict until we stop pussyfooting around and get to what's really going on between the ears of candidates who to be “persons of faith.” And that's not going to happen until the media  begins treating pronouncements of faith with the same level of suspicion and curiosity as they treat a candidate's secular claims and positions.

If the media began doing that tomorrow, I predict it would quickly yield two postive results in matter of days:

First it would flush out the intellectual lightweights — and the wingnuts, like George — running for office. Because such folk really can't tell the difference between the real and the metaphysical, or care to. Instead they wear blind faith as a badge of honor, no matter how absurd their beliefs might be. They are easy pickings for reports who simply have to pose the questions. They'll gush out the answers in all their nonsensical glory. After that, voters can decide if, for example, they want to turn the keys of the country over to someone that believes the universe is only 6000 years old, mankind and dinosaurs co-existed and burning bushes can talk — or not.

Then, within a week of the media asking for more information about the candidate's advertised faith,  serious candidates in the race would drop the “I'm-a-person-of-faith-too,” gambit like a hot potato.

Then we can around to finally picking among candidates willing and capable of ruling what's becoming a very complicated and increasingly deadly earthly realm.

Ponder This

Via Eric Martin, one of McClatchy's Iraqi bloggers wonders if the Bush administration has asked itself this question:

If the war started between U.S. and Iran, on which side the Iraqi government will be?

 (Full Post)
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a guest said:

0
Close but no cigar.
The title of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dropped a t and Jesus Christ. Figure anyone can be a cult. May as well vote for him. After all, we want to have proportionate representation. If it is time for a woman to be president because she is a woman or a man to be president because he is black, it is now time for a left-handed, one-eyed transexual to be elected because, by gum, they are waaay under-represented. Or, here is a radical thought, why not vote the best person in and not worry about sex, religion, race, creed or color. Sort of like the equal rights laws mandate. Sheep say "bahhhh"
 
February 21, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
James Lightfield
Thank you for your article. As a Scientologist for nearly 40 years (an all-denominational applied religious philosophy), you bring to light -- and very well express -- a vital issue.

When John F Kennedy (a Roman Catholic) ran for president, he clearly stated that the Vatican would have no part in his decisions. No ambiguity.

When JFK was asked on a TV show (1960's) if America should send people into Russia to promote democracy, he said that the way a people obtain freedom is through their own desires expressed as actions.

What deeply concerns me is when I hear, "America is a Christian nation."

At once, it marginalizes people of other faiths. Nothing could be more damaging to this nation that the concept of "we're all equal, but some are more equal than others." The same concept, incidentally, occurs when this nation stopped being composed of Americans, and starte be comprised of hyphenated Americans (Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Chinese Americans).

One's heritage is important, but the unifying force that built this nation is that it was a "melting pot" into which the best of all was added to create the distinctly unique quality of being an American.

George W Bush and his team of "good Christians" has done the United States incalculable damage.
 
February 21, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
It amazes me what some people think is important. Does it really matter what kind of underwear Romney wears? No. I totally agree that our president's faith matters and it always will. But someone wanting to know about a religion should really research it correctly. If you want to know about a Ford, you would not go ask a Toyota dealer. Find out what the religion really believes and its history. Research the meaning behind the ordinances that seem "strange" to you. Parading the sacred garment, for example, as if it were not sacred to someone, is totally unnecessary and demeaning. Though it may not be sacred to you, it most definitely is to those that practice the religion. I do not know if you value anything as sacred, but if you do, would you like it picked apart by someone that does not believe in, or understand it, and then have it totally misrepresented and displayed to "prove" to everyone that sees it, that you are "weird" or "strange" for holding it sacred?
I caution you that no matter what religion a person may be, if any at all, when we all die, one certain thing happens to all of us. This world will never agree on what it is that will happen, but be assured that something will happen.

Ponder this:
Let's say that you spent your life believing a certain way, when you die and find out you were:
A. Right. Then you will be fine with whatever happens in respect to what you believed.
B. Wrong. Then you will still be held accountable for things you did wrong, no matter if you believed you would be accountable or not.

For example, if you believe in reincarnation, when you die, if you come back as someone or something else according to how you lived your previous life, then you were right and life continues and is good. If you were wrong, oops, there was a whole list of other things you should have been working for.

If you believe there is no heaven or hell, when you die, if you find out there are no such places, then good, nothing to worry about. If you find out there are such places, oops, you have to go to one of them regardless of what you previously believed.

The point I am trying to make is, no matter what you believe, be respectful to the many, many other religions that are out there. These people really, really believe in their faith, so to attack it or display parts of it in any manner that they would not, is disrespectful, and if that particular religion ends up being the correct one, you will be held accountable for making light of it, or insulting it.

So like I said, if you want to really know what Romney, or McCain believes, research it, don't attack it. Once you've researched it thoroughly and correctly (I do not mean dig up dirt and opinions on the internet), and if you do not agree with the faith and feel the candidate would not make correct choices because of his/her beliefs, then don't vote for them. Simple as that.

Be an American if you so wish to be. Being an American means accepting your neighbors into this amazing, wonderful melting pot that gives this country its identity, without unnecessary judgements and ridicule. If you would rather attack others for their beliefs, then get out. . . America does not need citizens like this. Keep this country a free land based on the principles that our founding fathers established it under: that Americans will be free to worship however they choose. Vote using facts, not opinions.

 
February 21, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
pupmunchkin
A "guest" said:
"So like I said, if you want to really know what Romney, or McCain believes, research it, don't attack it. Once you've researched it thoroughly and correctly (I do not mean dig up dirt and opinions on the internet), and if you do not agree with the faith and feel the candidate would not make correct choices because of his/her beliefs, then don't vote for them. Simple as that.
Be an American if you so wish to be. Being an American means accepting your neighbors into this amazing, wonderful melting pot that gives this country its identity, without unnecessary judgements and ridicule. If you would rather attack others for their beliefs, then get out. . . America does not need citizens like this. Keep this country a free land based on the principles that our founding fathers established it under: that Americans will be free to worship however they choose. Vote using facts, not opinions."

Perhaps you need to go back and read the article -again- since you obviously did not understand the author's intent. And it is not about the underwear. I believe Stephen Pizzo has done an accurate job researching his piece and I do not see him attacking anyone or any particular religion. Quite the opposite. Like so many others who refuse to comprehend the dangers of the religious right, you represent a particular culture which cannot seem to differentiate between the right to practice one's chosen religion privately and forcing that chosen religion onto others. The complete hypocrisy of people like McCain and Romney has been well documented by other progressive authors.
If mainstream media refuses to question potential candidates as the author points out- then how exactly WILL Americans obtain their information about a particular candidate's religious beliefs? Oh yeah, from the Internet most likely. After the disasters that George W. has wrought on this country I want to know everything about a potential candidate's religion. As Stephen Pizzo has stated in this excellent piece, the majority of Americans have had enough of Dubya's talking to a "higher authority."

America is about diversity remember? Included in that diversity is the right to believe in a religion or none at all. Those "principles that our founding fathers established" included a gigantic one: The separation of church and state. That is a FACT of American democracy although there are those who want to ignore it and turn this country into a theocracy.
P.S.
Ponder this:
It is also possible that when we die, NOTHING will happen.
 
February 21, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
I totally understand the purpose of this article. I have no problem with the purpose of the article. The problem I have is that no respect at all was given to members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when the temple garment is displayed for the public to see. I do not care what the topic of any article is, I will still take high offense to that action, as will other members of said church. I have no problem with people wanting to know about every single aspect of the church, I simply want them to do so respectfully. They are "undergarments" for a reason. They mean nothing to you, they mean a great deal to me. Do you see the disrespect I speak of yet? It is as offensive to me as it would be for a father to find his daughter has been "displayed" for the entire world to have access to. My argument is, showing this sacred part of our religion that in no way affects anyone else, was unnecessary, crude, and disrespectful. I for a fact know that Jews and some Hindus wear sacred undergarments as well, however I do not think it respectful to want to see them.

I can promise you that every member of the church I know, and every teaching that I have received respects and expects seperation of church and state. I can guarantee that if for some wild chance Romney is elected, there would be no forcing of anyone to practice our religion. Our church is a very strong advocate for the power of choice that all humans have. No one is forced to enter the religion, and no one is forced to stay in it.

As for your question of how WILL Americans gain their information. . . ? How old are you? Do you not remember the times before internet? If you want to know the truth about what the religion teaches and believes, seek local missionaries, read their teachings, attend a church meeting, ask a member you may have contact with. If you HAVE to use the internet, got to the official church website and dig around. There are contact numbers everywhere. There are also meetinghouse locators.

You have to ask yourself, do you want a presidential debate, or a religious debate? Romney is not a leader of the church. He is not a representative of the church. If the media wants to know what Romney believes, why would they not question the leaders of the church? They would be more knowledgeable about any subject of the church than Romney would. They would get better answers because they understand all the history of the church, moreso than average members.

As to your question of the afterlife. . . Like I said, we'll all have to just see when it happens. Me, personally, I would like to have tried to find out whatever I could, before it's too late.
 
February 21, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Author Responds
To the Mormon who has taken offense at showing holy underwear:

My point is that some candidates believe in things voters might find more than a bit strange, if only they knew. Holy underwear -- that among other things some Mormons believe may even protect them from physical harm -- certainly qualifies as strange belief to hold.. maybe too strange for many voters to entrust the Oval Office to someone that holds such a belief.

The same goes for many other religious beliefs... beliefs that, when fully aired can only leave some voters wondering if a candidate that believes such things isn't -- dare I say -- a bit touched in the head.

Frankly after six years of just such a person in the White House I want to know the next time if a candidate I am about to vote for is in touch with reality.

Sorry that showing the holy underwear offended you or any other Mormon, but it does beg the question... why if it's God's wishes that you wear them should you be ashamed of people knowing what they look like?

Steve
 
February 21, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
great idea!? let's have the media investigate and tell us which faith (and if any) is the most consistent with progressive views on modern government and appropriate for government officers. and then they can tell us how sincere is each candidate's belief in his or her faith so we voters will know if the candidate will act correctly. and later the media can investigate and tell us whether a president's action are based on inappropriate religious faith or on acceptible secular beliefs.

or, beyond an attack on Bush and believing politicians -- can one infer that the indirect but real target here is religious faith itself, which the author implies is not just inconsistent with the progressive intellectual requirements of governing, but absurd in itself?
 
February 21, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Actually, Christians hated the Mormons more passionately
than Christians now hate Scientologists. John Stuart Mill, for example, thought it would be a good idea to send a military expedition to Utah and exterminate the LDS -- and he wrote about it in no uncertain terms.
 
February 22, 2007 | url
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
You're not sorry in the least. You care not who you offend, and that offends me more. Though you hold nothing sacred does not make it ok for you to violate what others may hold sacred. Like I said, if you want to understand why LDS wear the holy garment, then make an effort to learn about it, not exploit it. Believe it or not, the garment is not an LDS invention. The garment has its origin with Adam and Eve. Non-LDS biblical scholars acknowledge the importance of it all through Old and New Testament times. Not everyone takes the time to do that kind of research before they establish how "weird" it is to everyone that will listen to them. Like I said before, if you want to know why something is sacred to a set of people, research it respectfully. If you want to know why Muslims view the Koran as something so sacred, they go through an ordinance before picking it up, then ask, don't degrade. If you want to know why Christians view the Cross as a sacred symbol, then ask, don't tell everyone how stupid they must be for viewing some wood as that important. As an "author" you have certain responsibilities to your readers. You mock what you do not understand. I am not ashamed for people to know what garments look like. I made a covenant with God not to make light of sacred and holy things. Records show all through the Bible of what happens to those who mock Him.

I totally get the point of your article. You think a President with "strange" beliefs will make America worse. You think an LDS president will turn democracy into a theocracy. Well, if you think our beliefs are strange, and you want to understand them, then make an effort to learn about them. Talk with a representative of the church and ask them the questions that you have. Find out the truth about what the beliefs are, directly from the source, and then make your own judgements of how you feel about it. Finding out information from biased sources that disagree with it, is like asking a firm communist to tell you the ins and outs of democracy.
Do some real research BEFORE you post an article that shows how ignorant you are on the subject.
 
February 22, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
To my mormon friend
I am not going to argue with you. You believe what you believe... and of course.. that was the very point of my piece above. But you did say something in you latest post that needs a reply. You wrote:

"You think an LDS president will turn democracy into a theocracy."

Ah, yeah. I've spent considerable time in Utah... particular SLC..have relatives there. So don'try to convince me that the LDS chruch is some kind of benigh social force. The LDS church has turned Utah into about as close a theocratic state as I ever want to see in America. They don't call-em "Morbots" for nothing.


 
February 22, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
The LDS church started Utah. The headquarters is in SLC. What do you expect to find there but a large amount of LDS members? Anyway, you completely missed the point of what I have been saying. I don't mind that you, or anyone else, believes differently than me. What I mind is that articles like these, while trying to prove its point, disrespectfully degrade others views to get their own across. This article could have been written in a way that would have been non-offensive. No one in the church minds questions about the faith or its practices. What they do mind is when less-than-knowledgable people throw out their opinions of what the church believes or practices and then misrepresent it. This only leads to more misconceptions and sometimes falsehoods about what the church actually believes. It causes damage to members of that faith whether you want to admit it or not. Most misconceptions about our religion either comes from vocal opinions from people that do not know the full doctrine of the church, or from people who left the church, who never understood it. No one will understand the deeper doctrine and mysteries of God until they grasp the basic principles and foundations. This is why there is an Old Testament and a New Testament. So casting "pearls before swines" results them nothing.
In summary, I encourage anyone who honestly wants to know what members of The Church of Latter-Day Saints believe, that they ask a member of the church or a representative. I discourage that they seek their knowledge of what the faith believes and practices, from people who do not understand it in the least and feel nothing is wrong with exploiting it or degrading it like we are all still in middle school. Because obviously their mind is already made up. Only people who earnestly seek the truths of God, will find them. I can promise you that the methods displayed here, will never educate anyone on what this candidate believes and how it wil affect his decisions in office. So you have done nothing but waste your time and the time of those that read it. Learn about the faith and its teachings and values straight from the source and only then do you have a chance at understanding how it affects how it affects its members actions and decisions.
 
February 22, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Bigotry
I just think that it is sad that the LDS church remains the only minority group that you still bash with bigoted remarks in this age of political correctness. Showing a picture of garments on the website is the equivelant of graphically depicting Muhamed in terms of it hurtfulness and insensitivity towards a particular religious group. The Author of this article is obviously blinded by bigotry, and it is really sad actually. Stephen Pizzo's religious intolerance actually managed to overshadow the logical errors of his piece.
 
March 20, 2007
Votes: +0

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