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Arthur Goldwag

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Romney and the Mormons

Posted: 03/ 5/2012 7:49 pm

Last week, there were more stories about posthumous Mormon baptisms -- this time it was Daniel Pearl. Pearl's parents sent an email to the Boston Globe, in which they responded to the LDS:

We appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny's soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld. He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed.

A few days later, Pearl's widow called on Mitt Romney to condemn the practice; Pearl's father asked that the baptism be nullified. The idea that the same people who harvested Hitler's soul would also be keen to baptize iconic Holocaust victims like Anne Frank is more than a little bit creepy and strange -- but I'm not sure what purpose it serves to hold Mitt Romney accountable for it. His church doesn't sanction the practice any longer and if you take your Judaism seriously, you shouldn't believe that it does any harm to the dead themselves. It might be insulting to their memories and to the people who loved them, it's intrusive and presumptuous in the extreme, but it's not as if Anne Frank and Dan Pearl are being compelled to live as Mormons in the after life. If religious Jews are right about God, then Mormon baptism rituals carry no more weight with the Almighty than Baalist sacrifices.

Romney had to deal with this question back in 2007 and it wasn't easy for him then either:

When asked by Newsweek if he has done baptisms for the dead -- in which Mormons find the names of dead people of all faiths and baptize them, as an LDS spokesperson says, to 'open the door' to the highest heaven -- he looked slightly startled and answered, 'I have in my life, but I haven't recently.'

Given all the trouble Mitt Romney has had just being Mitt Romney it seems almost like piling on. You don't have to dig into Mormonism's bizarreries (and as the author of Isms & Ologies, I know that no religion is without its odder tenets -- I'm not singling anyone out) to find negative things to say about Romney. He's lived in the public eye for a long time; he can stand or fall on his own record.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion presumes that the Jewish secret agenda is encoded in the Talmud; that just being Jewish is enough to implicate you as an evil-doer. A lot of Mormon-bashing seems to be based on a similar set of presuppositions. Romney shouldn't have to answer for the LDS's not-so-distant racist past (its so-called "Curse of Cain" legacy, which banned blacks from the priesthood and hence the highest heaven, wasn't lifted until 1978, when Romney was already 31 years old) or its dominionist aspirations unless they can be shown to be reflected in his politics -- anymore than a moderate Islamic American politician should have to take responsibility for what his fundamentalist co-religionists are doing halfway around the world, a Catholic politician should be presumed to be in the service of the Pope, or a Jewish politician to take his or her marching orders from the government of Israel. This doesn't mean that religion is irrelevant -- simply that it's not dispositive.

I don't like Romney and I don't feel sorry for him, but it's painful to see him squirming in the pincers of his faith. Never mind the secular left, the bigots in the Republican base who see him as a member of an anti-Christian cult will deny him their votes no matter how desperately he panders to them. If most establishment Republicans don't demonize Mormonism, many of them condescend to it. And then his fellow Mormons embarrass him with these baptisms. The man just can't win.

 
 
 

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