Friday, May 25, 2012

A Mormon Candidate

Jennifer Rubin wrote a pretty sharp criticism of the recent front-page New York Times piece analyzing the impact of the Mormon faith on Governor Romney's life. She raises some good points, but I think she is wrong on a few counts. First, I felt the New York Times article was a fairly objective accounting of how belief has guided Romney. It sheds light on something that gives a lot of meaning to his life. I feel like I know the candidate and his faith better as a result of the piece. 

Second, though I think Rubin is right to point out the cynical condescension of the New York Times by choosing to even write the piece, I think that kind of cynicism about faith is more widespread than just the intelligentsia of New York. A lot of Americans simplify and downplay the meaning of faith. Bluntly, religious faith isn't much a part of many people's life. That the media in this instance decided to explain rather than demean his Mormon faith is something I appreciate. I think we could use more conversations about faith in this country.

Though Ms. Rubin might be right that any piece analyzing the Jewish tradition or Catholic faith of a candidate would be deemed bigoted, she is overlooking the place Mormonism right now occupies in American life. It is a faith many Americans distrust and disrespect. The portrayal of Mormonism as seen in The Book of Mormon and South Park is not characterized entirely by good-natured humor. And it wasn't long ago that the Mormons were being chased across the continent to flee from Americans determined to exterminate them.

When I look at the Mormon faith, I see much more to admire than despise. Like Catholicism, it is a discipline of Christianity that I have great respect for though I cannot necessarily adhere to it. The analysis piece in last week's Times did nothing to dissuade me of that sentiment.

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