Thursday, September 20, 2012


I read a very lengthy review of a book called "
The Mormon Candidate." The review begins with a famous quote of Romney's:

“I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.”
It goes on to recount, in lots of detail for a book review, the history of the Mormon church. If it's accurate -- and I have no idea if it is, but since the church happened along practically yesterday, there are contemporary records -- it gives insight into the ease with which Mr Romney changes his positions and considers it so mundane as to be unworthy of comment. Or apology. To anyone trying to figure the guy out, the review is worth a read (and, I assume, the book, too, although I'm not gonna).

The gist is that from its beginning the church has changed its position on very important matters, frequently. Like polygamy, people with dark skin, the various words of god, business practices. Having done so, as the times require, they virtually wiped the past out of their history, as if it never happened, going so far as to order followers not even to read or talk about it. And so it is with Mitt. He's said, after all, that his faith is the most important influence in his life. I'd guess most religious people would make the same claim. In a weird way, it's also true of me.

When I got to the point of actually considering the teachings I heard, realizing many of them made no sense, there was one that I still found really appealing: in the prayer for the dead, recited on the anniversary of a person's death, it was said "They still live on in the acts of goodness they performed and in the hearts of those who cherish their memory." Now, I can't say if that's specific to Reform Judaism or to the whole spectrum, but I found it impressive: no heaven or hell, no call to do good by reason of fear of punishment or expectation of reward: you do good because it's the right thing to do. Your reward is in knowing you've been useful, and that there are people who love you. Pretty admirable. Better than the others, I thought.

In my case, I guess I took it a step further: the point of religion, I concluded, was to deal with the reality of death, to give some sort of sop to the fear of it, some promise that no matter how bad things are, there's a better place you're going to. (Assuming you didn't masturbate too much.) I can't recount the entire process, but I think it was there that I started on my road to disbelief. I liked the idea of doing good for its own sake; and, logically, if there was no heavenly reward, what was the point of believing in god? Having empathy, I didn't need to be told right from wrong. Besides which, the whole idea of all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving just made no sense, looking at the world. Nor did praying to him in hopes of getting him to change his perfect and infallible, pre-planned mind.

But I'm getting off track. My point is that if Mitt Romney's view of the world is shaped by that part of his faith the way mine was of mine, then it's wholly understandable he considers changing major positions in the name of accomplishing a greater goal (survival of a church, or advancing a political career) a matter of course. On some levels, it is: after all, to believe about certain things (age of the earth, climate change, evolution, tax cuts and deregulation) in ways contradicted by facts is foolish.

The problem with The Rominee is that his changes don't comport with facts, are blatant and cynical expediency. Sort of the opposite direction his church seems to have taken. But then it's hardly the first time a perverted view of one's religion has been used to rationalize bad behavior, or to hurt one's fellow man.

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