Romney and Mormonism

Andrew O'Hehir has a great column in Salon about how Romney's pending [just delivered] speech on religion and his Mormon faith is not at all like Kennedy's famous speech on his Catholicism nearly 50 years ago.  Kennedy argued eloquently for the separation of Church and State.  Romney cannot exactly make that argument in the modern Republican party.  Rather, he's got to make the difficult case that Mormonism is really just mainstream Christianity (it is not– see Christopher Hitchens, among others). First an excerpt from Kennedy's speech and O'Hehir's brief take:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is
absolute,” Kennedy told the Houston ministers, “where no Catholic
prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to
act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to
vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or
political preference … I believe in an America that is officially
neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official
either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope,
the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source;
where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly
upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.”

Kennedy was seeking to take his then-controversial faith off the
table by embracing the constitutional and secular nature of the
American republic, and by asking voters to judge him on his own words
and deeds rather than as a representative of his church. If Romney were
trying to accomplish something similar, one could only commend him. But
his task is more perplexing and difficult than that.

Here's the problem for Romney:

Romney needs to appease a constituency that conspicuously does not
believe in the absolute separation of church and state, that favors
public funding of religious education (or at least certain varieties of
it) and has frequently sought to impose theological ideas or religious
structures in the public sphere. He's not trying to convince right-wing
evangelical Christians that he would govern as a secular president;
he's trying to convince them that his ideas about religion are close
enough to theirs, in some general way, that they should overlook the
differences.

In aiming his candidacy at a born-again audience, Romney has made
his faith into a campaign issue, much as George W. Bush did in 2000.
But while Bush's version of repentant-sinner spirituality made him
appealing to a wide swath of Americans, both devout and less so, Romney
is now facing the fact that his religion makes many of the same people
uncomfortable. After 187 years, Mormonism has become a recognizable
skein of the American religious tapestry, but that doesn't change the
fact that it was founded on a rejection of mainstream Christianity and
embodies many beliefs that no other Christians are likely to accept…

There's no reason to doubt the sincerity of Romney's faith, or to doubt
that he accepts his church's current self-definition as an exotic
blossom on the golden bush of Christian America. But like all other
Mormons he's stuck with the religion's history and contradictions; he
doesn't get to pick and choose among Joseph Smith's free-associating
pronouncements any more than a Muslim gets to ignore the edicts of
Mohammed. Either Smith was a prophet of God or he wasn't. If he was,
then all other forms of Christianity are corrupt and a tiny handful of
us may grow up to be gods in other universes. In the meantime, Mitt
Romney will probably spend Thursday morning trying to spin all that for
the Republican base.

I am honestly quite curious to see how this all plays out.  It seems that in the modern Republican party, Romney's Mormonism may be a fatal flaw, but it seems like all the Republican frontrunners have fatal flaws–except McCain, honestly.  Maybe he'll get a fresh look one of these days as the least-flawed Republican candidate. 

Babies: Smarter than you think

From this week's Science Times:

In a study that suggests that people may begin evaluating one
another for trustworthiness even earlier than believed, researchers
showed infants a demonstration in which different shapes played the
good guy or the bad guy. Then the infants were allowed to choose one to
play with.

The good guy won almost every time.

You gotta love the way they set this study up…

In the case of Circle, a small wooden character with big eyes, that
would be Triangle, who helped him when he was struggling up the hill ?
not Square, who gave him a good shove back down.

Of course,
when the roles were reversed and Triangle was cast as the hinderer, as
the researchers called him, the infants preferred Square. (The shapes
were moved by a researcher out of the sight of the infants.)

What is amazing is that they did this study in babies just 6 to 10 months old.  I guess one lesson of this may be to watch how you behave in front of your babies– they're onto you.

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