Sunday, March 25, 2012

Theocracy and Democracy

On Saturday, March 24th, Rick Santorum won the Louisiana Primary defeating Mitt Romney by a substantial margin (49% vs 26.7%) and claimed 10 delegates compared with Romney receiving 5 delegates.  The current delegate count between Romney and Santorum sits at 568 and 273 respectively.  Romney is about 49.6% of the way to the 1144 delegates required to capture the GOP nomination.  Santorum follows in second with about 23.8% of the delegate percentage. 

And so it goes on.  We have 22 primaries to go from now to the GOP convention in Tampa.  There are essentially 1145 delegates remaining in the upcoming primaries.  Of those 1145, the southern states where Rick Santorum has done so well and his home state of Pennsylvania have a total of 363 delegates. As the majority of states are proportional and not winner-take-all states, it looks like more and more Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee for President. 

Like the 2008 Presidential race, this election will be a historic one.  For the first time, unless something unravels the Romney campaign at the last minute (and he seems to be trying very hard to sabotage himself), then a candidate with a religious affiliation other than Christian will be a candidate for president.  I know, I know, many of you will say that Mormonism is an extension of Christianity and indeed it is. However, there are many of the faith that claim it to be a fringe group or at worst, a cult.

The presidential race this time around has an interesting level of religiosity flowing through it that we've not seen for some time.  The 3 people most likely to be candidates (I'm including Santorum in this discussion for now) have all had their religious affiliations looked upon with suspicion.  We all know about President Obama's situation; a large segment of the Republican Party believe he is a
"secret Muslim", and in Mississippi and Alabama, more than 45% of GOP voters polled believe he is a Muslim.  Rick Santorum is Catholic and Mr. Romney as mentioned earlier is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Of the three, only Mr. Obama, who incidentally has professed to being a Christian for over 20 years is a member of  a Protestant denomination called the United Church of Christ.  Interestingly, Mr. Obama's affiliation with a Protestant faith more closely resembles the make up of the faithful in this country.   Some data for your consideration.   A Pew Poll done in 2007, called the US Religious Landscape Survey on religious make up of the US shows that about 78.5% of the people surveyed considered themselves "Christian". Note:  All three candidates religious affiliation shows up in the 78.5%, so Mormonism is considered a denomination of Christianity in this poll.  Catholics amounted to 23.9% number considering themselves Christian with Mormons accounting for 1.7% of the group.  Protestants made up 51.3% of the 78.5% and of that 51.3%, 26.3% considered themselves "evangelical".  The population of the survey was 35 thousand people across the US.

So, it is pretty evident that the US is a fairly religiously affiliated country. Whether or not these numbers represent devout belief or simply familial or social affiliation is not discussed, but the numbers indicate that the US does indeed take religious affiliation seriously.  By the way, non-believers like me accounted for about 12% of the populations surveyed who had no religious affiliation identified.  Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other non-Christian percentages totaled 4.7%.

Well, we are going into an election where religion is up front and center, thanks to the conservative right wingers who won't let go of the "Obama is a secret Muslim" meme, and thanks to Mr. Rick Santorum's public declaration of faith on the campaign trail. Mr. Santorum has made this campaign not an issue of economic recovery, but seems to be fully intent on saving us from ourselves.  He is a proud and devoutly religious member of the Catholic Church.  Mr. Santorum is associated with a sect of Catholicism known as Opus Dei.  Mr. Santorum embraced the teachings of the founder of the Opus Dei movement, a Spanish priest named Josemaria Escriva.  Mr. Santorum is genuine in his faith, I'll give him that. I do not see any "Elmer Gantry" in his discussions of his religious faith and how it guides his view of the world and government. 

Mr. Romney's faith is also well documented though not discussed as much in this campaign.  I think it is not discussed much because Mr. Romney's team doesn't want to create the collision between fundamentalist evangelical Christians and his faith which would inevitably surface if he made a show of his faith while on the stump.  It is true that Mormonism is not well understood by those who have not bothered to do the research.  It is also true that Mr. Romney seems as devout in his faith as Mr. Santorum and presumably Mr. Obama is in his.

For the first time in a long time, we have a national campaign where religion will have some level of impact on who is voted in as president-elect in November.  Not since 1960 and the churn around the religion of candidate John F, Kennedy was a hot topic have we seen this much discussion on the faith of who will become President.  It stands to reason that whomever the GOP nominee turns out to be, religion will once again become a major talking point in the general election.  The "nutters" who continue to think the President is some type of Manchurian Candidate who is a Muslim will keep up their blather. That's a given.  But, if Mr. Romney becomes the nominee what will the religious community in this country think about him?  Mormonism is definitely not well represented by numbers in the United States. The aforementioned survey found only 1.7% of the survey population were affiliated with the Mormon Church.  What are Romney's core beliefs?  Mr. Romney is over 60 years old and has been an elder in the Mormon Church for sometime. Did he hold with the creed and canon of the Church that Black Men could not be priests? This doctrine was repudiated in 1978 with the Revelation on Priesthood, but the question remains. Did Mr. Romney hold with the law of his Church and believe that Blacks were not worthy of being priests?

I used to think it didn't matter a tinker's damn what religious affiliation a candidate for President held.  As long as the person would honor his oath of office as put forth by the Constitution of the United States, I didn't care what they believed.   But, I've changed my mind a bit on this.  I do care if someone like Rick Santorum gets elected president because I do not think he can separate his beliefs from his governance.  I do not think he can protect the first amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religious belief while at the same time attempting to govern from his religious morality.  It does make a difference to me now, and I will indeed pay close attention to what these candidates say and how they act. 

What do you think about the rise of religion in our political discourse today?  Tell me what you think.


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