Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Curious Response

There is so much wrong here.    On June 1, The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz wrote

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has developed a simple method to determine whether coverage of the candidate’s Mormonism has crossed a line.

“Our test to see if a similar story would be written about others’ religion is to substitute ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish,’ ” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in objection to a Washington ost article last fall about the candidate’s role as a church leader in Boston.

She pointed out a passage that explained a central tenet of Mormonism. It described the belief that Christ’s true church was restored after centuries of apostasy when the 19th-century prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates that he discovered in Upstate New York.

“Would you write this sentence in describing the Jewish faith?” Saul asked in a November e-mail, adding: “ ‘Jews believe their prophet Moses was delivered tablets on a mountain top directly from G-d after he appeared to him in a burning bush.’ Of course not, yet you reference a similar story in Mormonism.”

The outrage on behalf of the first Mormon candidate to represent a major party in a presidential election is not unique. Recently, Jodi Kantor reported in the New York Times that Romney’s aides often ask reporters, “Would you have written this about a Jewish candidate?” The guilt trip may be motivated by political calculation, sincere concern about religious bigotry for a faith that has suffered its fair share or some combination of the two. Regardless of its impetus, the campaign’s response gets at a crucial challenge for the news media: to educate the public about an unfamiliar faith unusually central to a candidate’s formation without treating Mormonism as biographical exotica that could fuel prejudices.

The comments obviously were "motivated by political calculation," not an indictable offense in presence of the First Amendment.    But they were motivated by calculations disturbing, misleading, and insufficiently considerate of cultural pluralism.

I don't know to what religion Ms. Saul describes.    For all I know, she may be Jewish, which would be irrelevant, considering that she is speaking not for herself but for the candidate.     "Our test," Saul writes, is "to see if a similar story would be written about others' religion is to substitute 'Jew' or 'Jewish.'

Rest assured:   that is a shout out to those (minority of) conservatives who have a problem with Jews, who believe they get a free pass.   There are individuals who, confronted with criticism of Christians or Christianity, will say:   what about the Jews?   There are other individuals who, confronted with criticism of whites (or blacks) will say:   what about the blacks (or whites)?    A nerve is struck when our side gets blamed, or even questioned, when the other side doesn't.  When a liberal Democrat falls victim to scandal, many progressives contend that Democrats are ostracized for foibles for which the media looks the other way when committed by a Republican.     Accurate or not, such complaints betray suspicion that one group is disproportionately blamed while another gets off easy.

"Would you write this sentence," Saul writes "in describing the Jewish faith?    Jews believe their prophet Moses was delivered tablets on a mountain top directly from G-d after he appeared to him in a burning bush?"    

Whatever does Ms. Saul mean by "Jews believe their prophet Moses....?"    In the third chapter of Acts, Peter approvingly told the assembled individuals in the temple

Moses said "The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.   You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.   And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people."

Moses was considered a prophet not only in the Old Testament- accepted by Christians as divinely inspired- but also in the New Testament, also inspired by God.   One evangelical commentary on the verse from Acts states "Peter's argument here, though not stated, is implicitly twofold:   (1) true belief in Moses will lead to a belief in Jesus, and (2) belief in Jesus places one in true continuity with Moses."     To Christians who believe in Scripture, Moses was not merely a bystander or cartoon character.  The Old Testament story about Moses on Mt. Sinai is not only part of "the Jewish faith," as Saul apparently believes, but also a part of the Christian faith.    

Mitt Romney's spokesperson may simply be ignorant about the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament, of the Old Testament concealing what the New Testament reveals.    Or she may be attempting to divide Jews and Christians, the latter of whom are encouraged to think that Jews- and Jews alone- believe something as jarring to the senses as is the Joseph Smith story.     At the least, the media should not be so intimidated as to avoid asking the Republican candidate whether he agrees with his spokesperson.

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