Thursday, March 8, 2012

Religion and the election

As a political junkie, I find this presidential election fascinating.

I have not missed one Republican debate since the Iowa Caucus, and CNN is ambient noise in our house. I hang onto every word spoken around the Reporters’ Roundtable on “Meet the Press,” and I wish Tim Russert were a candidate for sainthood.

The presidential candidates often say that this is the most important election of our lives, and they may be right. Over the next four years the president will have to deal with the economy and the dipping Dow, high unemployment rates and lack of jobs, and the Arab Spring.

Obama may be the right leader for our time, or perhaps one of the Republican candidates will be the man for the job. As an independent voter, I listen to all the rhetoric and try to have an open mind until I make the final decision in the ballot box.

But what is most interesting about this race is that religion plays a pivotal role. The two Catholic candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are constantly on the defense, denouncing Catholic bashing and the loss of religious freedom in this country.

These mainstream Conservatives wrestle with the media and the Obama Administration, but nothing much has been said about Mitt Romney’s faith, Mormonism.

As a religion writer, I would have bet the family farm that his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be a hot topic, especially in the Bible Belt.

Personally, I think his Mormon faith is what makes his candidacy so compelling. No one can dispute that Mormons have family values, the mantra of the Republican Party during the Bush years. Their large, close-knit families, disciplined lifestyle and high moral standards are exemplary.

I am blessed with close Mormon friends, who gave me a copy of “The Book of Mormon” to use as a reference when writing stories about their faith. Inside the front cover, they wrote:

“We know with all our heart that strong families are the lifeblood of all communities and nations. We know with all our heart and soul that strong family relationships are founded on eternal proven principles that have been taught by Jesus Christ and by prophets throughout the ages of time. The Holy Bible is a witness of our Savior Jesus Christ and the principles He taught. The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ and teaches these same principles. We are grateful for these two books of scriptures that unfold these important truths as we strive to continually strengthen our family. We know that we are close as a family and closer to our Father in Heaven as we read from the scriptures daily.”

Four years ago, we elected our first African-American president, and perhaps the time has come to elect our first Mormon president.

During his candidacy and presidency, Barack Obama has spoken as eloquently as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about his faith and heritage.

Conversely, Romney touts his business acumen and mums the word on Mormonism.

It would be refreshing if he would reveal the real Romney, the man of deeply held religious principles. Our American family needs strengthening.

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