Rich Mayfield: Religious or not, we need someone to get us out of this mess
I am fairly certain that I won’t vote for Mitt Romney if he wins the Republican nomination for president. I don’t much care for his position on a plethora of issues both foreign and domestic. His recent pandering to the religious right has my stomach turning. And this week’s announcement that he will be the commencement speaker at Pat Robertson’s Regent University means he’s catering to the crazies, Christian or not. No, I probably won’t be voting for Mr. Romney for a whole host of reasons, but it won’t be because of his religion.I’ll confess that his Mormon faith was initially off-putting with its strange history of golden tablets and angelic visitations, but a nanosecond of self-reflection on my own religious tradition reminded me that orthodox Christianity has its share of bizarre beliefs as well.
There is grousing about Romney’s recent and radical change of mind regarding gay and abortion rights, as well. A more cynical mind than mine might suggest these alterations have less to do with questions of conscience and more with getting elected but given the benefit of the doubt, I like a politician willing to admit he or she was wrong.If only a particular politico in the White House would do the same thing, we all might be spared the continuing miserable mess of Iraq. John Kenneth Galbraith’s famous remark is worth remembering here: “In the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there’s no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.”In reflecting on the question of religion in regard to Mr. Romney’s candidacy, one can’t help but remember other political campaigns that cast similar shadows. John Kennedy’s Catholicism had people convinced that the Pope would rule the White House and Jimmy Carter’s outspoken evangelicalism certainly had some of us main-line Protestants apprehensive, but none of these previous religious concerns have been as vociferous or vicious as the alarms raised around Romney’s chosen faith.
By all accounts, it isn’t just Democrats and liberals who are worried here. A recent survey showed that Evangelicals harbored some of the severest reservations. After all, when you’re absolutely convinced that it’s your way or the highway, backing a non-believer may require a tad too much tolerance for some of America’s more convicted Christians. A quick review of recent presidential tenures should alleviate any anxiety over religion’s real influence. Some of the most rigid regulations regarding sexual behavior belong to the Baptists, as does Bill Clinton. And Ronald Reagan’s Presbyterianism didn’t prevent him from playing fast and loose with the Contras. Richard Nixon was a Quaker after all, which probably was the greatest test Friends everywhere had to truly hold their tongues. Our current president claims that Jesus is his top political guide. Is it any wonder atheism is on the rise?There’s never been a Lutheran president, which may have saved us Lutherans some embarrassment. Founder Martin Luther once wrote he’d rather have a pagan prince who could rule well than a Christian one who couldn’t … which may have something to do with the Lutheran lack in presidential leadership.
Still, such a pragmatic position might serve us all well as we look forward to someone, be he or she, believer or not, who can get us out of the fix one of the faithful got us into. Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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