I have read quite a few articles about Mitt Romney and how his religion might play a role in his Presidency if he is elected. Often these articles are full of carefully worded, vague concerns that don't really explain anything.
This week I read this quote by Georgia State Representative Judy Manning:
“I think Mitt Romney is a nice man, but I’m afraid of his Mormon faith,” Manning said. “It’s better than a Muslim. Of course, every time you look at the TV these days you find an ad on there telling us how normal they are. So why do they have to put ads on the TV just to convince us that they’re normal if they are normal? … If the Mormon faith adhered to a past philosophy of pluralism, multi-wives, that doesn’t follow the Christian faith of one man and one woman, and that concerns me.” (Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Lawmakers sound off on )
As disheartening as it is, I think this quote really says what is on the minds of many Americans, especially those with strong religious connections.
First of all, people are afraid of us. Why? What exactly are they afraid of? Do they think Mitt Romney will pass a law that forces them into polygamist marriages? Do they think he will have all the Bibles burned and make their kids read the Book of Mormon in school? Do they think he will pass a dress code making everyone dress like missionaries? How much power do they think the President actually has?
I don't get it. What is there to be afraid of, really?
Rep. Manning asks why we have ads telling everyone how normal we are if we are normal. Well, a lot of people don't believe it. I have had friends tell me "You're not like other Mormons. You're normal."
When trying to tell someone that I am a Christian they refused to accept that, saying "You are part of a cult. You have been taught what to say to trick people into thinking you are something you're not. It's not your fault, you just don't know any better."
I have also been told that whatever I say that is consistent with "real Christian beliefs" is a con, a very long one at that! Apparently I am following the devil and he lies to lead people away so I must be lying too. It doesn't matter that I am an honest, upstanding person.
The people who said these things were convinced that I was putting on an act. They were sure that everything I did and said was a rouse to lead them away from God into the grips of Satan! How difficult it must be to live with such strong paranoia!
I think many Americans, including educated, professional, otherwise reasonable people prefer to err on the side of caution. They are still unsure about Mitt Romney and the other 5 million+ Mormon Americans. Could it be we are too good to be true? Could it be they just can't believe that a man might actually pray for guidance and follow it humbly? Is it too unbelievable that he might love his wife and be faithful to her? Is it really so bizarre that a man might be successful without stepping on others to get there?
There is also the idea that Romney "flips" on issues like gay marriage. I don't think his personal feelings about that issue have ever changed. I think the fact that he has been able to find reasonable solutions to volatile issues in spite of personal feelings is sign of how capable he is to lead the country. Some might say that he doesn't stand up for his beliefs, that he is morally weak if he is so willing to compromise. I disagree. It is easy to say what a person should have done in a situation you have never experienced. It is easy to self-righteously point the finger of blame when we disagree with someone. But does that make us right? Does it make them wrong?
What we are really doing here is hiring a man to run our country for a few years. If he does a good job we might let him do it for a few more years. If not he's fired. On a small scale people have learned that Mormons are good employees, good students, good citizens. Has the time come to apply that on a larger scale and see if a Mormon can make a good president, too?