Friday, June 3, 2011

Mormons

Hello!  We're running for president!
As the field of presidential contenders for 2012 slowly coagulates, several things are striking about those who are sort of rising up to do battle with Obama.  Most of the GOP offerings, and by this I mean pretty much all of them, well, they're a carnival freak show.

Gingrich?  His back story reflects a level of moral lapse that his conversion to Catholicism clearly hasn't cured.  I mean, really.  If he took his Catholicism seriously, I think the only words we'd hear out of his mouth between now and August of 2019 would be "Hail Mary, full of grace, our Lord is with thee..."  The 7,777,000 Hail Marys that the manual requires for cheating on your cancer-stricken wife take a while to choke out.

Palin?  Even Roger Ailes, head of Fox, is done with her remarkable lack of actual competence.  And Bachmann?  She makes Palin look like Marie Curie.

Honestly, though, there are at least two serious contenders.  Both Mitt Romney and John Huntsman are relatively moderate, intelligent, capable politicians.  Both have solid records of competence in governing.  Both look like they could be president, in that they'd fit seamlessly into that scene in the movie when the president comes on to rally our spirits in the face of the K'Tall protein harvester fleet assembling in low earth orbit.  They are tall, more or less handsome, with attractive wives and families.  They are generally decent, well-spoken, and completely electable.

And they're both Mormon.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has always been something of a bafflement to me.   Faith in God is inherently difficult to grasp rationally, of course.  The tenets of my own Christian faith are likely as incomprehensible to some as are the tenets of the LDS church.

From my own assessment of Mormonism, I end up at the same place as my denomination.  It's just too idiosyncratic to be within the bounds of Christianity understood historically.  However, even though many conservative Jesus folk get their knickers in a twist at the peculiarities of Mormon theology, I just can't bring myself to fret about it.  That Mormon theology isn't really Christian faith (in the orthodox, Trinitarian sense) is immaterial.   I've got no problem with folks who are Christian-ish or non-Christian being in elective office.  This is America, dagflabbit.  You can believe or not believe what you wish.

That's not to say I don't have issue with schtuff.  I'd prefer it if Mormonism's hierarchy wasn't quite so vigorously set against GLBT folk.  OK, more than just prefer.  But in that, it stands with most of global Christianity.  It's more a matter of social conservatism than anything else.

Then there's Mormonism's founding document, which is so disconnected with actual material reality as to confound even my generally open mind.   Forget about the everyone-gets-their-own-planet God-is-three-guys-who-hang-out theology.  Entire civilizations are described for which there is no evidence.

Sure, evidentiary issues exist elsewhere in the faith world.  We get the words of Jesus of Nazareth, for example, through a multi-generational game of oral and written Telephone.  There's significant imprecision in that process.  But Jerusalem was actually a city.   Bethlehem existed.  Rome was real.   People actually spoke koine Greek and Aramaic.

But "Ancient America?"  Inhabited by the Thirteenth Tribe of Israel, which spread into a vast empire that then destroyed itself?   It just never happened.  Not part of it.  Not the supernatural bits that the rationally inclined might struggle with.  The entire thing.  The Jefferson Book of Mormon is just a single blank page.

But honestly?  I'm not sure that it matters on a personal level.

As gobsmackingly improbable as their founding document is, the Mormon folk I've known have tended to be quirky, smart, creative and thoughtful.  They're the kind of people who'd help you out in a pinch.  Their engagement with their faith has tended to be on a more practical level, more focused on family and work and community.  They've been good folks, in the same way that Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists I've known are good folks.  My issues with Huntsman or Romney would be around their policies, not their personal faith.

Unfortunately for both Romney and Huntsman, I'm not sure a significant portion of the GOP base is going to be willing to cut them that much slack.

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