Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ordinary Rank-And-File Mormons React To Mitt Romney's Defeat; Conservative And Liberal Mormons Respond Differently

Some manifested their disappointment more directly! LOL!

Now that 24 hours have passed since Mitt Romney narrowly lost the 2012 Presidential election to Barack Obama, ordinary rank-and-file members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are beginning to express their sentiments regarding the meaning of the Romney's campaign as well as the continuing implications for the Church and Mormonism in general. Already the LDS Church reacted officially, publishing a statement in which they congratulated Barack Obama on his victory, called for unity among the people, and commended Romney for stepping up to the plate and setting a worthy example during his campaign. On November 6th, the Washington Post recorded reaction from two LDS Church publicists; Michael Otterson, director of public affairs, characterized the campaign as an intense experience, and said "we are relatively pleased that we got through this campaign without the church being dragged into the middle of politics”, while Michael Purdy, another Church spokesman, said “people are getting a clearer picture of what Mormonism is at its core rather than what are these little things I hear out in the ether that other people have tried to use to define us.”

But perhaps the most detailed and thoughtful reaction from more ordinary Church members was published by Kathryn Skaggs, the editor of the A Well Behaved Mormon Woman blog. Skaggs, a traditional Mormon who accepts the Church as it is, published a Guest Voices column in the Washington Post entitled "Election results reveal God is winning", which speaks volumes about where she stands doctrinally, is more impressed about the fact that 57 million Americans were willing to vote for a Mormon than concerned about any residual anti-Mormon bigotry. She considers it a sign that Americans overall have come to accept Mormons as good people of faith. She now believes that the win or loss of Mitt Romney in this election would never have been perceived as anything but a win for the LDS Church, and its members who share the same mission: to increase our ability to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The one negative aspect Skaggs saw during this election campaign was that she was at times frustrated with how Mormons were misrepresented. All too often, she found that during discussions about women’s issues, in hopes of distorting Romney’s views about women relating to gender equality, some ignored the voice of conservative Mormon women in favor of seeking out the minority Mormon feminist voice for comment and insights, it being more sensational and potentially detrimental to Romney. So she believes more work must be done to publicize the views of mainstream Mormon women.

In the final analysis, Skaggs sees great hope in the results of this election. She believes it has brought Mormonism out from relative obscurity, to be now clearly considered mainstream Christian denomination. In the process, this has brought together many people of Christian values who have united in a cause that takes precedence over religious denomination – a victory we cannot ignore. And she says God is winning.

Other reaction (after the jump):

-- "Romney Lost. Is the Mormon Moment Over? And What Would That Mean, Anyway?", Juvenile Instructor. Christine notes that what may have hindered Mormons in the popular imagination during the late 20th century was the deep divide that developed between the right and the left in American culture, both religiously and politically. As Americans fought their culture wars, Mormonism became a football between the two ends of the spectrum. While conservatives were willing to make common cause with the Saints politically, as the religious right became more embedded within conservative politics, Mormons suffered from the widespread evangelical conviction that their religion was a cult. At the other end of the political and social spectrum, more liberal Americans who otherwise celebrated diversity condemned the Saints for their political conservatism. The Mormon image was thus punted back and forth as a convenient straw man for the ills that Americans of all stripes saw in the wider culture. Because of what happened after George Romney's flirtation with the Presidency, Christine doesn't look upon this as a "Mormon moment", and is concerned that people might go back to looking upon Mormons as mindless zealots or lovable buffoons. This is indeed a possibility as gay marriage continues to spread and the normalization of homosexuality continues apace. At some point, this will bump up squarely against Mormon doctrine, possibly placing Mormons in a position where they might be pressured to renounce their doctrine to preserve employability and social standing.

-- "Thanks, Mitt", The Millennial Star. Rameumpton simply thanks Romney for the Mormon Moment he has given us. Romney ran a vigorous and honest campaign, exemplifying the importance of family, faith and freedom, which softened people's hearts towards Mormonism, as both Billy and Franklin Graham and many others showed when they stepped up to support him. Rameumpton suggests we must decide whether we will lapse back into obscurity, or if the Church will continue in the light we have been walking in for the last while. He also suggests that if the time comes when America is overtaken by national catastrophe and God-fearing people of all faiths will have to reconstitute to the Rocky Mountains to preserve this country, Mormons will be better-prepared with solutions that will save those who wish to be saved, as we build a Zion for the righteous remnant of America.

-- "Romney’s Defeat: A wake up call for Mormons?", KiwiMormon. A more politically progressive perspective is provided by a New Zealander. While Gina Colvin doesn't think Barack Obama the man deserved re-election, she believes who and what he represents deserved re-election, noting that Obama represents those, who for generation after generation, have been disenfranchised and undermined. This, of course, symbolizes the class warfare that so many progressives are addicted to; wanting to divide society into classes rather than unifying society. Colvin also plays the race card by claiming that Romney is too reminiscent of a bygone era where the political contest both favored white male plutocrats. Of course, it is axiomatic with progressives that white males are responsible for all the sins of the world, past, present and future; if that's not the message they intend to send, then maybe they should re-examine their message rather than bash everyone who thinks differently as being "racist".

In the final analysis, Colvin seems to think that the real Mormon Moment seems to be inviting the American church to create new narratives about our faith life that aren't necessarily bound up with myopic and fixed notions that, upon close inspection, are more cultural than transcendent. She suggests it calls upon the American church to do the difficult task of finding ways of making our faith attractive and relevant for all of those who have been traditionally passed over in the trammel for success. This may be worthwhile so long as it lifts them up to our level, and doesn't force us down to their level. All too often, progressives, in their honest desire to eliminate inequality, end up imposing the lowest common denominator upon society rather than the broadest common denominator. Being inclusive of sinners should never require us to be inclusive of sin.

-- "Still Outside", Times & Seasons. Rachel Whipple is relieved that Romney lost, because in her mind, we are still safely in the tributaries on the outside of the mainstream American Christianity. She says that on the borders of being in the world but not of the world, we remain free to work to improve our nation or bemoan its decline. This post addresses an undercurrent of conflict within LDS ranks; namely, should we strive to be a "popular people", or remain a "peculiar people"? Some, like the editor of Bare Record Of Truth, consistently echo concern that we may be sacrificing peculiarity for the sake of popularity. This is a legitimate concern.

I think it best to characterize Mitt Romney's two Presidential campaigns as public relations service missions for the LDS Church, undertaken by him at the expense of considerable time and treasure. It'll be years before we can assess the full value of his endeavors, but so far, they've had a positive impact.

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