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Why Mitt Romney's Mormonism ain't like Kennedy's Catholicism

Jan Frel: While Kennedy was able to promise the public a divided church and state, but Romney intends to be a darling of the religious right, which wants a theocracy. And explaining himself won't help his cause.
 
 
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I hadn't heard of Damon Linker until I came across this book, "Theocons" ( excerpted on AlterNet), his insider account of how a bunch of Catholic theologans have blended with Bush's authoritarian project . He was a former editor of the magazine, First Things , and he's a damn good writer and lucid expert on the intersection of Christian theology and American government. His cover story on the problems posed by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormonism for The New Republic is an excellent read. I recommend it very much. Problem is of course that you need a subscription... so I've excerpted some bits of it for you to peruse.

Snip:

Within days of stepping down as governor of Massachusetts on January 4, Mitt Romney is expected to announce his candidacy for president. Shortly after that, Romney will almost certainly need to deliver a major speech about his Mormon faith--a speech in the mold of John F. Kennedy's 1960 address to the Baptist ministers of Houston, Texas, in which the candidate attempted to reassure voters that they had no reason to fear his Catholicism. Yet Romney's task will be much more complicated. Whereas Kennedy set voters' minds at ease by declaring in unambiguous terms that he considered the separation of church and state to be "absolute," Romney intends to run for president as the candidate of the religious right, which believes in blurring the distinction between politics and religion.

Romney thus needs to convince voters that they have nothing to fear from his Mormonism while simultaneously placing that faith at the core of his identity and his quest for the White House. This is a task that may very well prove impossible. Romney's strategy relies on the assumption that public suspicion of his Mormonism--a recent poll showed that 43 percent of Americans would never vote for a Mormon--is rooted in ignorance and that this suspicion will therefore diminish as voters learn more about his faith. It is far more likely, however, that as citizens educate themselves about the political implications of Mormon theology, concerns about the possibility of a Mormon president will actually increase. And these apprehensions will be extremely difficult to dispel--because they will be thoroughly justified.The religious right has been enormously successful at convincing journalists not to raise questions about the political implications of a candidate's religious beliefs. Analyzing the dangers of generic "religion" to the nation's political life is considered perfectly acceptable--indeed, it has become a cottage industry in recent years--but exploring the complicated interactions between politics and the theological outlooks of specific religious traditions supposedly smacks of bigotry.

 
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