In 1997 and 1998, the Utah Jazz broke my heart when they couldn’t close the deal against Michael Jordan and win the NBA Championship. Since then, I’ve come to expect absolutely nothing from the Jazz, and they haven’t disappointed me.
I’m trying to do the same thing re: New Hampshire today and let Mitt go, but I’m not entirely successful. (Even if he gets the nomination, which is doubtful at this point, he loses to Barack in November, so why get my hopes up?) I do think McCain wins, but I don’t think it’s fatal to Romney. Iowa was such a huge shocker because the margin was so large, whereas he’s going to get close in New Hampshire, and his campaign seems to be managing expectations in order to stay in the race after a NH loss, which means Mitt may have a few tricks up his sleeve going forward.
But I don’t want to just talk horserace politics, because that bores my sister. No, I want to get into religion, which bores everybody else. And then, to wake everybody up, I’ll talk about testicles at the end of the post.
I got an email from my formerly-evangelical-now-Catholic friend about his still-evangelical-non-Catholic wife’s parents, who stated their unwillingness to vote for Romney because he’s a Mormon. My friend and his wife are, to their everlasting credit, both big Mitt fans, and she laid into her parents about why Huckabee is, in fact, Satan’s brother. (I’m pretty sure she didn’t use that terminology, but the facts are what they are.) It got me thinking about this whole notion of religious bigotry, and whether or not I’m just as bad as the Huckabites are. And I concluded that I’m not, but I shouldn’t give away the end of the story without explaining myself first.
Plentiful articles about a new book re: Tom Cruise and his Scientology ties are making waves, and I asked myself whether or not I could be persuaded to vote for a Scientologist. Truthfully, I can’t think of a circumstance in which I could.
Much hay can be made about the maniacal galactic emperor Xenu who flew millions of DC-10 airplanes through the vastness of space to strap aliens to Hawaiian volcanoes and blow them up with hydrogen bombs billions of years ago. This is what Scientology teaches, and, to me, it’s just plain nuts. But plenty of people have taken Mormon doctrines and Scientologized them – or, more accurately, Battlestar Galacticized them – to sound just as nuts. Kolobians who live in glass galaxies shouldn’t throw stones.
Yet my opposition to a Scientologist for president is not based on the weirdness of their doctrine. I could imagine voting for a Hindu president, despite the fact that I find reincarnation to be ridiculous and think the only thing separating the silliness of the Hindu god Vishnu from the harebrained galactic emperor Xenu is a few thousand years of tradition. Antiquity has a way of making goofy ideas more plausible. The doctrines of traditional Christianity can be made to sound ludicrous, too, but, as the New York Times put it recently in a lucid discussion of Mormonism, “Events in the distant past, we tend to think, occurred in sacred, mythic time. Not so revelations received during the presidencies of James Monroe or Andrew Jackson.”
So why is Hinduism not a dealbreaker and Scientology is? For me, it’s not really about what Scientologists believe. It’s about what Scientologists do. Scientologists sue people a lot, often solely for purposes of harassment. They go out of their way to estrange people from friends and families who are “difficult.” Their leaders build Hussein-ish palaces to themselves by means of applying crushing financial burdens to rank-and-file Scientologists.
Put simply, Scientologists tend to be jerks.
Hindus, on the other hand, are, from my limited experience, mainly decent people. I suppose Scientologists can be decent, too – I like John Travolta more than I like Tom Cruise, for instance – but the doctrines of the Church of Scientology tend to discourage decency and encourage jerkiness. Is it possible that a decent Scientologist would emerge that I could support? Well, I suppose, but his church affiliation would lead me to believe they’re a jerk until proven otherwise.
I began thinking in these terms when I read a post at The Corner over on National Review’s website. It was written by a guy named Mike Potemra, who I’d never heard of, but he makes a salient point:
In my decades’ worth of meeting people from many different religious backgrounds, I have found that in every faith tradition-Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, what have you-there is roughly the same proportion of nice people and jerks. To this rule there is one conspicuous exception: Mormons. I have yet to meet a single Mormon who has been a jerk-and I have met many LDS believers. As someone who grew up in Rudy Giuliani’s faith, and is now somewhere between Mike Huckabee’s and John McCain’s, I find Mitt Romney’s religious background a factor that makes me more, rather than less, likely to vote for him.
That’s where my pro-Romney bigotry comes into play. Having grown up as a Mormon, I know what kind of moral fiber is necessary to serve in the Church to the capacity that Mitt has served. He has been both a bishop and a stake president, two offices of high responsibility that require full-time, unpaid volunteer efforts at tremendous personal sacrifice. It’s nearly impossible to be a bishop and a stake president and still be a jerk. (It can be done, though. But that’s another story.)
So I began my consideration of Mitt thinking he is an inherently decent guy. That may be bias, but it’s an informed bias – I know what it takes to do what Mitt has done, and it’s impressive. In contrast, my rejection of Huckabee is based partially on his populist political principles and partly because the way he’s played the religion card makes him a jerk. If Huckabee were a conservative and a God-fearing Christian without the slimy, dishonest tactics, I could vote for him without reservation.
I also should note that being a Mormon does not necessarily mean that I would vote for a person solely because we share the same faith. Mike Potemra claims never to met a Mormon jerk, which means he never met former presidential candidate Bo Gritz. (Thankfully, he’s now a former Mormon, too, so that solves that.) Here in Utah, whenever a Mormon tries to use their religion as political leverage in local races, I get disgusted. The LDS Church goes out of its way to stay politically neutral, and those who use their church membership to enhance their secular status are reprehensible. (They’re also, usually, not very good members of the church.)
I don’t think theological purity is a prerequisite for the presidency. I think decency is. It’s one of the reason I don’t fear Barack Obama as much as I fear Hillary. They’re both wild-eyed liberals, but he’s a decent man, and she’s thoroughly corrupt.
In other news, my twin boys today asked what the proper word was for the two round things that hang down by their penises. We told them it was “testicles.”
My son Corbin said. “Oh. I thought they were beans.”
To which my son Cornelius added, “I call them garbanzos.”