I began Project Conversion to combat ignorance and fear of the religious unknown we harbor for our neighbors. There is a chance for healing among the homes, streets, and neighborhoods where we live, but is there hope for religiously blind politics?
Religion plays an important role in the lives of many voters and in fact is the scaffolding upon which many base their morals and values. Interestingly enough, someone need not be overly religious for this phenomena to occur. I know a few “holiday Christians” who would not vote for a “holiday Muslim” simply because they are a Muslim. Why? For the average voter it’s because of what they’ve heard about the faith of the individual running for office, not necessarily for this person’s stance on the issues, political history, or platform.
Let’s face it: we like to associate with what/who we know and that makes us comfortable…comfortable enough to take the word of talking heads on television or radio instead of stepping outside the comfort zones of the status quo and individually critiquing our candidates.
If I just stepped on some toes, go get an ice pack and take a seat. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
So what’s the point of today’s soapbox? Well, this month I’m an honorary Mormon and therefore I’m proud to say that we have two LDS candidates running for president of the United States. Their names are Mitt Romney, a familiar face from the last presidential bid, and former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman.
- Mitt Romney
Romney has better hair and more conservative values (politically and religiously), however Huntsman is reportedly more liberal in his LDS beliefs, which brings me to the million dollar question: Why does religion in politics matter?
It shouldn’t matter. John F. Kennedy, then presidential candidate and Catholic at a time when America distrusted Catholic presidential hopefuls, had this to say about the issue:
But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.
Religion and politics matter because they are the most divisive and binding forces on the planet. Republicans and Democrats don’t get along because their theories on government and social issues don’t usually match. Same goes with religions and their various theories on values, the nature of the divine, and if drinking beer is a good idea. So in the case of our LDS candidates, we have a serious problem because both happen to be members of the LDS church, and therefore suffer the same scrutiny and suspicion JFK did when he ran for president. These folks are truly between a political rock and a religious hard place.
If a Mormon wins, will he lobby for polygamy? Will the prophet in Utah start calling the shots? Maybe a Mormon president will pass a law that says we all have to wear holy underwear. Sounds far-fetched but these (and others) are the type of concerns many voters raise when looking over the candidates–and they are the mature ones! At least they think about the issues instead of passing blind judgement upon these men and other past LDS presidential candidates, such as the prophet and founder of the church, Joseph Smith, simply because of their personal faith.
This will be an interesting presidential campaign for 2012. We have two LDS candidates, one of which is showing some decent promise, and I have no doubt things will get ugly. Our country already voted in a Catholic, a black man, and others whose affiliations were at one time questionable. Is it time to break the tradition of ignorance and myopic religious/political views once again? Can we have a Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, or even an atheist president? Does it matter what their personal beliefs are so long as they faithfully execute the duties of the presidency?
As then Senator Obama said in a 2006 speech,
…We’re no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers.
And as such, we all deserve an equal, unbiased chance to govern and be governed.