Monday, July 23, 2012

Mitt Romney's Religion

Americans have become so used to separating religion from politics that they often fail to sufficiently probe a political candidates’ religious beliefs to see how those beliefs may affect his suitability for public office.

It is true that in our age of purely privatized faith, a candidate’s religious convictions often make no discernible difference to his policy decisions. Yet as I pointed out in the first of four articles on Mitt Romney’s religion, we should not be too quick to bracket off a candidate’s religion from having any relevance. This is especially true in the case of Mitt Romney.

Rest assured, I am not going to argue that Romney is part of an underground plot to impose a Mormon theocracy on America. Indeed, if Romney’s Mormonism makes any direct difference, it is when it comes to the issue of trustworthiness. Rather, my main concern is that the real ‘religion’ animating Romney’s thinking is more subtle than Mormonism, namely the religion of spiritual nationalism.

In his attempts to downplay his Mormon faith, Romney has been at pains to present his faith as a lowest-common-denominator ethical religion that everyone can unite around. In the process, however, Romney has created a vacuum that is being filled by a potentially idolatrous valuation of the state.

It is this last point that should concern us more than Romney’s Mormonism. Indeed, Romney’s real religion is one which few people even recognize, let alone consider to be a ‘religion’ in the conventional sense.

The religion of spiritual nationalism involves predicating quasi-divine honours to the nation state along with a failure to acknowledge any ethical obligations higher than the political. In an article for Alfred the Great Society I have argued that Romney is animated by this subtle religion of spiritual nationalism, a religion which finds expression in frequent statements that seem to deify the political machinery of America.

None of this means that you shouldn’t vote for Romney. On the contrary, I am going to be voting for him and I urge all other Americans to do likewise. But we should do so with eyes wide open.

To read my thoughts on the subject, visit the following articles, especially the last.

•    Romney’s Religion: is it Relevant?
•    Mormon Mitt and the Problem of Trustworthiness
•    Romney’s Quest for a Purely Ethical Religion
•    Romney and the Cult of Spiritual Nationalism

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