So Mitt Romney gave a speech at Texas A&M today in which he defended his right to pursue the faith of his fathers while also attempting to reassure the American public that he would not be beholden to the church authorities of the Mormon church in his role as president.
This whole question of using religious faith as a deciding point when examining political candidates is kind of troubling and interesting at the same time. On the one hand, as Americans we've been kind of trained not to be judgmental about matters relating to a person's faith. As long as a person isn't hurting someone else because of their religious faith, I try to remain open minded about it and accepting of it (well, sometimes it also bugs me when people become judgmental on the basis of their religion).
So should the same rules apply to a person who's running for president, or do voters have the right to be a little more opinionated about a person's religious choices when that person's religion may serve as the bedrock that informs decision-making processes which will most likely effect the course of global events?
And Romney's speech today- his assertion that he can continue to faithfully adhere to the tenets of his religion without becoming beholden to the religious leaders of his church. I'm not sure what to make of that claim. From what admittedly little I understand about the Mormon church (or The Church of Latter Day Saints), it has always seemed like a religion with pretty strict rules and a fairly rigid structure. Is Romney stating that he would turn his back on church doctrine if it came into conflict with what was "right for the country"? Would he even see the possibility of distinguishing the two things? Saying that he won't be beholden to church leaders seems like an easy thing to proclaim, but when those leaders are maintaining that their words represent the will of god or the church, the distinction between being faithful to one's religion and adhering to the dictates of religious leaders becomes much more murky.
Then again, John F. Kennedy was a Catholic, and as far as I know he never bothered to have a red phone installed in the White House that could connect him with the Vatican. I'm pretty sure the Pope was never consulted during the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
It's interesting to note that even Romney agrees on the point that religion matters. Almost any person pursuing a life of religious faith would probably agree with the idea that religion contributes to a person's personality, character, and moral principles. Romney chooses to draw his line of distinction by saying that he isn't going to feel compelled to follow the dictates of the leaders of the Mormon religious hierarchy. But Mormons believe in revelation of divine will, and from what I understand (which is, once again, quite limited), the leaders of the church are thought to be the people who receive revelations most directly from God pertaining to the guidance and direction of the church as a whole (I think this is expecially true of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The First President, and a few other high ranking members, who receive revelations pertaining to the leadership of the church as a whole).
Then again, how much of this is really going to effect presidential policy? I guess that's the question.
Well, Romney probably isn't going to make my short list of candidates, anyway, but his candidacy raises some interesting questions for Americans relating to religion in politics. It also highlights how little I know about the Mormon church.
I'm going to go find some dumb sitcoms to watch now.