Mitt Romney — Good for American Religion?

I grew up being taught that Catholics were people to be avoided. We whispered about them. I even remember being scared to walk into my first Catholic church. Then, when I was as old as my children are now, I remember the tears shed over the assassination of John F. Kennedy — our first Catholic president. I remember all the documentaries about the tragic loss of our great president and all the books my parent bought about him. Catholic bigotry seemed to melt during the following years. And as differences between the two major Christian religions melted, religion itself seemed to loose yet another little part of its black magical power.

If Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, many American Christians will have to face an extreme cognitive dissonance between voting for their religion (as most don’t consider Mormons to be Christians) or voting for their party. I imagine that most will vote for their party–though probably not enough to win the election. But if Romney becomes the President and does a fair job, I think that Christian exclusivism will fade further out of the American psyche via the mechanism I explained here.  We may then get little closer to a new milieu where people evaluate a person by looking at their values and behavior before they judge someone according to their religion (or lack thereof).

Who knows how Romney would effect economics, foreign policy, corporate welfarism or civil liberties? Only time and the new make-up of the Congress would make those issues clearer. But I am pretty convinced that religion would change for the better in America if Romney were elected.  Mind you, I am not an issue voter by any stretch — I am just doing some fun arm-chair speculation today.  Care to join me?

Questions for readers: How can you imagine a Romney win affecting the American religion psyche?  Am I being too simplistic or too optimistic? Do you think he would polarize and sharpen fundie’s voices in a destructive way? Would his presence strengthen the strangle hold of Mormonism? Go ahead, make a predication now and maybe in 8 years we can look back at our guesses and laugh at our pathetic arm-chair sociological speculation and the unpredictable twists of history!


Filed under Political Philosophy

13 responses to “Mitt Romney — Good for American Religion?

  1. I hadn’t really taken the time, to consider how Romney may affect the religious tapestry, so thanks for the thought provoking post!

    I’ll begin by predicting that Romney will be the Republican nominee, overcoming Christ McChristianson (a.k.a. Santorum). I think the RNC recognizes that while Santorum has some very strong localized support in a handful of states, Romney has more appeal across the nation, even if it is lukewarm appeal. So, we’ll get to see if this prediction is laughable very shortly! 🙂

    I think that, for the Mormons, Romney’s nominee status alone will be a legitimizing symbol. Kennedy didn’t really have to worry about this, because Catholics have the alleged apostolic succession from Simon/Peter. So for the Mormons, they will be able to hold their heads a little higher when they travel outside of Utah now that a great Mormon man has gotten the approval of the entire US (at least from their perspective).

    As for economics, I think that there will just be a conservative thrust like you might expect to see from any Republican. I’m not sure, because it’s hard to gauge the full strength of the economy, but I suspect that such a thrust will slow the recovery a little, but not much. I would guess that Obama’s re-election would mean a more recognizable recovery in 2-3 years, while election of Romney will mean 3-4 years, but whoever wins this election is quite likely to be touted as the one who really fixed the economy. Therefore if Romney wins, I suspect that he will get a second term without question, unless he seriously messes up something else. But I digress…

    About the American religious psyche… I get the impression that the psyche is largely changing with the younger generations, and we’ll see some large shifts over the next few decades as they become more of a political force, so that is going to muddy up discernment of what effect a Romney presidency would have. The voices of the “mainstream” fundie figureheads, such as Limbaugh and Beck (a fellow Mormon), will likely embrace Romney with open arms, but that has more to do with promoting all things Republican/Libertarian in nature, while slandering everything else. This, in turn, will necessarily soften the opinion of the conservative crowds regarding Mormonism, just as Beck has already helped to do. Everybody else will likely see Romney as just another Republican president, and that, too, may soften the common aspect of Mormonism, but the hardcore Christian fundies will be only slightly less outraged to have a Mormon president than they are right now to have our “Muslim” president.

    However, with all of that said, I don’t think a Romney presidency will really change much at all in our religious tapestry. Outside of the states centered around Utah, I haven’t run into many Mormons. Outside of there, I’ve probably run into only twice as many Mormons as Sikh’s, making them rare indeed, unlike the more ubiquitous Catholics. So, from my limited perspective, there seems to be little that most of the people in the US have to deal with Mormonism, and the people who do live in the group of states centered around Utah have sure known enough of Mormons to overcome any significant prejudices which would have been shattered by a Mormon president.

  2. @TWF
    That was a fun analysis. Thanx. I’d be curious if perceiving Obama as a Muslim has softened or hardened opinions about Muslims – I doubt anyone will do that research.

  3. Well, having lived with “Mittens” as our governor, I can tell you he won’t bring up his Mormonism. He is pure businessman and kind of a goofy character also. I can tell you he peititioned to have surveillence cameras put up in mosques, though.

  4. Ben

    Warning: caustic, inflammatory, and somewhat silly rhetoric to follow…

    I doubt it will make much of a difference. Bush II was arguably one of the stupidest presidents in recent history. But I don’t think stupid people have made any significant strides since his presidency.

    As for the fundies, it is a fascinating situation. I am going to make a bold prediction. If Romney gets the nomination, I think large blocks of evangelicals will stay home on election day. While they may sympathize with the republicans, I don’t think they will vote for anyone who is not of their ilk.

  5. Thanks, amelie, good to get some personal stories.

    Well, Ben, we’ll see if you are right. If the fundies stay home and Republican lose, and TWF (above) is right and the economy improves no matter who is in office, then by staying home, those Christian fundie Republicans could be responsible for 12 more years of Democrats — they will have a long time to think about their decision.

  6. Boz

    I see two likely scenarios:

    romney wins the primary, and loses the general. The theocons take the lesson that “moderates can’t win”. GOP becomes even more batshit crazy. Good for entertainment, bad outcomes stemming from an ineffective opposition.

    santorum wins the primary, and loses the general. the theocons are deflated, and GOP moves in a more sane direction, more towards the centre. Less entertaining, but a stronger opposition party.

    (I live in australia, and US politics is all quite strange to me. The Dems are more right-wing than our right-wing parties. I have no words for how extremely right-wing the GOP is. So, the Dems are promoting US-leftist policies that are Australian-Right-Wing.)

  7. Fun analysis, Boz, thanx.
    My preference: the economy does well (jobs restored, and not artificially) and war is limited. Right or Left makes no difference as long as they do that.

  8. CRL

    I don’t know that perceptions as Obama as a Muslim will do anything for Muslims, as anyone who sees him such is most likely extremely anti-Obama. For these people, their perception of Barack Obama will probably affect their view of Islam in much the same way as their perception of Osama Bin Laden as a Muslim.

    Also, I find it funny that I’ve always thrown Mormons into the same mental category as fundies. I only recently discovered that they hate each other.

    Oh, please forgive any typos. I lack spellcheck at the moment.

  9. Interesting observations, CRL.
    I do wonder, though, that though anti-Obama folks keep bad mouthing them as they must (of course), that part of their minds admits to themselves aspects of them that weren’t as bad as they thought. And thus subtly an inner change occurs. Call me an optimist.

    Do you actually know real fundie and real Mormon who hate each other? I have a story on that — though I posted on it but can’t find it. You share yours first !

  10. CRL

    Well, the country is not yet under communist, liberal, pro-gay, anti-god sharia law. Perhpas he’s waiting for his second term to start the plot! For some people, it probably will have a positive effect. For others, none. All depends on their level of suspicion, I guess.

    No. I mean, that there is an emnity between two groups, in that a fundie would have hesitation in voting for a Mormon. Hate was much too strong a word for what I was attempting to describe.

  11. @CRL,
    (1) Right, that is what I mean. Probably many anti-Obama folks were holding a hugely exaggerated fear and thus when none of that proves true, something in their psyche has to shift to make up for the inconguency.

    (2) “Emnity” — yeah, that is good. Well, I have an example and will write it late. Thought you might have a personal example since you said, ” I only recently discovered that they hate each other.”

  12. Trudy Zahn

    Yes, I think you’re being too optimistic. Wasn’t Nixon a Quaker? What effect did his religion have on Christians? None that I can remember. Some Christians tolerate people of other religions to their face, but not behind their backs. Others don’t even pretend to tolerate people of other religions to their face. They can’t accept the religions of others, or lack of religion, because as they claim, “Jesus is the only way”, and of course they mean THEIR Jesus. And it’s their duty to force their religious beliefs on anyone who doesn’t adhere to their beliefs. When I was a Southern Baptist, converting others was required by God and the church. I was also told how to vote. It amazes me that churches can get involved in politics but government can’t get involved in churches. It’s a one-way street with the churches having the advantage because they don’t pay any taxes.

  13. @ Trudy Zahn,
    You are probably very correct. Thank you for the comment.

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