OPINION – What’s your relationship with God?
As regular folks in the regular world, it hardly matters. It’s pretty much a situation of don’t ask, don’t tell as we go about our daily business.
But, in the larger, public world of politics, it can mean millions of votes.
Although religion is not supposed to play a role in who we select as our leaders, it has become part of the discussion as we prepare to go to the polls. Separation of church and state? Well, it sounds good on paper, but we all know how it really works.
For better or worse, religion is a major part of the political landscape. Just ask the sitting president, for example, who has had to deal with a segment of the population that has repeatedly attacked his religious beliefs. Because of his name, because his father was once a Muslim, he is viewed suspiciously.
Mainstream American voters like their candidates to be like them, mainstream. They get nervous about potential political leaders who do not fit the WASP mold, which is why religion was a hurdle President John Kennedy had to overcome, a challenge President Barack Obama has had to deal with, and one that candidate Mitt Romney will also have to come to grips with publicly; because, just as there were people who would not vote for Kennedy because of his Catholicism or for Obama because he had ancestors who were Muslims, there are those who will not vote for Romney because he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Fair or not, it’s simply the way it is.
During his campaign, Kennedy was repeatedly hammered by those who feared that because of his professed Catholicism he would be controlled by the Vatican. Numerous times, in no uncertain terms, he made it clear that he answered to the American public, not the pope.
During his tenure in the White House, Obama has had to deal with the falsehoods spread about his religious beliefs. He had that nasty little business with a former Chicago pastor, whose church he frequented; that he had to deal with, which he did by resigning his membership in the congregation. He now attends various churches of differing faiths in an expression of his spirituality, which makes some people uncomfortable.
Still, among scholars who study that sort of thing, the consensus on the president is that he is, indeed, a deeply spiritual man of Christian faith.
Romney, except for a speech he gave five years ago, is not terribly forthcoming. He dismisses questions of his faith and heritage as irrelevant.
It could loom large in the election because, these days, the voter wants to know who these candidates are, where they come from, what they believe, and why. That’s where cultural and religious background comes into play, at least in the public’s mind.
And, let’s face it, the tenets of Mormonism, its roots, its doctrine, are not well known to the general public. That shows a lack of enlightenment about candidate Romney and his refusal to explain his heritage.
It’s common, you know. I was raised in a Catholic household and it wasn’t until later years that I fully realized that there are many religions that view Catholicism as a cult because of certain beliefs. It was literally a shock the first time I heard somebody refer to the religion I was brought up with described in such terms. Perhaps it is the same for Romney.
That doesn’t mean I want to hear him proselytize while out on the campaign trail. But, a clear explanation of his heritage and belief system is not out of line.
I mean, we have learned that the president was raised in a home where there was no particular religious affiliation after his father gave up the Muslim faith. That doesn’t mean, he explains, that he was without spiritual education.
Obama describes how there was a representation of many faiths in his home that his mother used to set his moral compass — from Christian to Buddhist. It’s also why now his public displays and assertions always lean to spiritual rather than denominational reverence.
Candidate Romney would be well-served to follow Obama’s lead and open up so the public has a better idea of who he is.
Personally? I don’t believe you have to belong to any particular church to have a relationship with God.
But, I don’t think I’m your average voter.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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