Mitt Romney's Ethical Dilemma (I)

"When lying to someone, look him straight in the eye."
-- Mason Cooley

Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President, is in a pickle. His qualifications to lead are being overlooked due to questions about his religion and his "Mitt-flopping" on key issues, including some very important to the Republican base, namely, gay marriage and abortion. Mike Huckabee's rise to the first tier of candidates has placed the religious differences between evangelical Christianity (40% of the Iowa Republican caucus voters) and Mormonism in sharp contrast. The media, of course, loves a good fight, and has fomented all those differences, up to and including the highlighting of an obscure LDS doctrine that Christ and Satan were brothers in their pre-earth lives.

These distinctions have created concern for many evangelicals, which eschew Mormon notions of Biblical errancy and the eternal nature of the soul. For Christians, humans are objects created by God for His own purposes; for Mormons, humans are the literal children of deity, and, in the words of Joseph Smith, the first Mormon, "co-eternal with God."

Though this makes for an interesting theological discussion, neither Romney nor Huckabee are running for Pastor-in-Chief. I find myself bored discussing the doctrines of Mormonism -- I'm much more interested in knowing whether Mitt Romney believes in anything beyond his own political aspirations.

Mitt Romney was raised a life-long Mormon. As such, he was expected to follow a path of moral rectitude, including the payment of tithing, dealing honestly with others, and living a chaste life. I gather Mr. Romney adhered to all these requirements, because at age nineteen he entered missionary service for the Church in France and later married his high school sweetheart, Ann, in an LDS temple. Only Mormons who abide by the most stringent requirements of their faith are allowed entry into the temples.

If this were all there were to it, Romney, by his faithfulness to the strict Mormon moral code, would be exactly the kind of person qualified to lead: his walk would echo his talk and we could confide that he was a person of integrity. He might be wrong, but at least he would not lie to us.

But the Devil is also in the details, and Romney has fallen well below the standards not only of his own faith, but of trust in general. While governor of Massachusetts, he promoted same sex marriage and ran as a pro-choice candidate. He now maintains that at that time his beliefs were "in flux" about these two controversial subjects, but is that truthful? As an LDS missionary, he was required to teach people that homosexuality was sinful, and that human life was sacred. Later, as an LDS Bishop and Stake President (akin to a Catholic parish priest and an archbishop, respectively), he was required to enforce Church standards of behavior upon erring members, with consequences for misconduct up to and including excommunication. So it is highly unlikely that Romney finally "came to" believe in the wrongfulness of homosexuality and abortion. In his entire life, he'd never been taught differently by anyone in his church, and he had acted as an officiator of the Church to implement those same beliefs and standards upon members over which he had a stewardship.

The truth, then, is one of the following: If Romney is an honest person who did not lie in the Church interviews, then he has always been anti-homosexuality and anti-abortion, or he would not have been allowed to serve as a missionary, bishop, or stake president. But if he lied during those interviews, then he is a man who would lie to God himself. Either way bodes ill for Romney the man and for the United States as a nation, for he is clearly capable of lying either to move ahead in religious circles (publicly subscribing to doctrines with which he did not agree) or to advance in political circles (stating that he was pro-choice and unopposed to gay marriage when he was Massachusetts governor). I tend to believe Romney would rather lie to voters than to God, so I subscribe to the first premise: he has always been in line with Mormon belief: anti-gay and pro-life, but in the past has tempered these views to obtain political power, just as he is "refining" them yet again in his quest for ultimate political power: the presidency of the United States.

Massachusetts is one of the most liberal states in the union, and Romney would have never been elected governor had he not disavowed his core personal beliefs, so he did. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that same-sex "marriages" were protected by the Massachusetts constitution, Romney ordered Justices of the Peace to perform same-sex marriages or be fired. He did not have to do this as the Court was simply advising the legislature to codify its opinion on changing the marriage statutes. Romney was not bound to enforce same-sex marriages prior to such legislative action, yet he did.

On abortion, his personal beliefs also likely took a back seat to his political aspirations: In a 1994, he ran for the U.S. Senate against Teddy Kennedy. During a televised debate, Romney declared: "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for twenty years, we should sustain and support it."

If this is the case, then in 1970, just a couple of years after his LDS mission, and mere months after he was married in the Mormon temple, he changed his mind, took views contrary to Mormon belief and practice, and embraced Roe vs. Wade. This strains credibility, given his continued involvement with Mormonism, both as a member and as a leader in the faith.

"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."
-- Mitt Romney

NEXT: The real reason Mitt Romney cannot (and should not) be president.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

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