Questioning Mitt’s Faith
Like it or not, we are going to be hearing more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Last month I expressed my eagerness to see the media’s treatment of Mitt Romney’s faith. There are bound to be all kinds of treatments, some better than others.
There many issues that will be discussed about Mormon doctrine, assuming Romney remains viable. Religion was a thorny topic even before political correctness. We’ll see all sorts of treatments, motivated by everything from sincere interest and respect to outright hatred.
Mark Finkelstein of Newsbusters catches Stephanopoulos challenging Romney’s own explanation of his beliefs. [emphasis in original]
When I spoke with him, I asked him how Muslims might perceive the Mormon belief that Jesus will return to the United States and reign personally here for a thousand years.”
GMA then rolled a clip of Romney saying the following: “Our belief is just like it says in the Bible, that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem, stand on the Mount of Olives, and the Mount of Olives will be a place where there’s a great gathering, and so forth. It’s the same as the other Christian tradition.”
Stephanopoulos: “Actually, we checked in with a Mormon spokesman who said that’s not exactly true. They believe the New Jerusalem is here in the United States, in Missouri, and that’s where Jesus is going to come.”
Finkelstein sees the new precedent:
ABC has now conferred with a religious spokesman for purposes of challenging a public figure on his religious beliefs. Should we expect to see ABC challenge pro-choice and pro-gay rights Christians and Jews with statements from spokesmen from their respective faiths? Will ABC challenge Muslim guests with statements from Islamic experts? Or does ABC limit its theological challenges exclusively to Mormons?
The answer is probably both a double standard, and more media addressing candidates’ religion. Barack Obama’s church and pastor have attracted attention, and there was a debunked story that he had attended a radical madrassa in Jakarta. Religion and politics overlap these days, as they often have in the past. And particularly when lesser-understood faiths are in question, people want to know more. Religion is important.
If Romney does well, and especially if he were to become the nominee, his faith’s doctrines are going to be of compelling interest to many people. The media are not what they used to be, and there is no bottling up of issues as off-limits. The story can’t be done justice in an interview gotcha game.
Stephanopoulos as theologian just does not sell, even though his father was a Greek Orthodox prelate. His ham-handed I had my staff call somebody retort is not a convincing claim to scriptural mastery. I would guess the story is more complicated. That doesn’t mean the topic is going to be off limits.
Romney has put the subject in play by addressing it in public. And people are interested, for reasons good, bad and ugly. So expect more attention to the Latter Day Saints.
Hat tip: Bryan Demko