Friday, May 11, 2007

The Problems with Mitt Romney's Religious Opposition to Gay Marriage

Mitt Romney, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, has made his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples the centerpiece in his claim to Conservatism. And this Sunday he set himself up as a Man of Faith by using Scripture to justify his advocacy.

In an interview with Mike Wallace, he introduced the notion that his civil principles may rest on his religious doctrines. And that, I suspect, may not ultimately play out to be a wise choice. Although I believe this may have been an attempt to showcase his shared values with conservative Christian Republicans, I think his statements contain elements that could instead give rise to concerns for those who are leaders in conservative Christianity.

"This isn't just some temporary convenience here on Earth, but we're people that are designed to live together as male and female and we're gonna have families," he tells interviewer Mike Wallace, according to an excerpt CBS released Friday. "And that, there's a great line in the Bible that children are an inheritance of the Lord and happy is he who has or hath his quiver full of them."

There are, as I see it two problems with the above quote.

Although the first statement may initially seem to refer to commonly shared faith, it does not. While Mormons do believe that marriages consecrated on Earth may be bound in Heaven and that spousal relationships can carry beyond the grave, this is not a belief of orthodox Christianity. And one reason Christians do believe that marriage is, indeed, temporary and here on Earth could be something that Romney would prefer to remain undiscussed – second marriages. Introducing this conversation can quickly trigger anti-Mormon sentiments and doom his chances.

Another reason that orthodox Christianity dismisses post-death marriage relationships is because Christ specifically said they did not exist. Though non-Mormon Christians may sing about their loved ones waiting for them in the sweet by-and-by, their priests, pastors, and other religious leaders remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:23-30:

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"

Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

So while this message about non-Earthly marriage may appeal to fellow Mormons, or even seem comfortable to many sentimental lay Christians, I doubt that conservative Christian leaders were much comforted by this reminder that Romney is not, really, one of their own. And I do not believe that Romney can win the nomination by emphasizing those doctrinal points in which his faith differs from traditional Christianity.

While I personally believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is within the family of Christianity, only about one third of the population are certain that they agree with me. On CNN this week the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, was unwilling to say that Mormons are Christians.

The second part of his statement suggests either a shaky familiarity with Scripture or some rather disturbing theological notions. The “great line in the Bible” that Romney quoted comes from Psalms 127:3-5:

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.


Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Even a casual reading of this Psalm clearly illustrates the militaristic nature of the writer’s world. Male children of one’s youth are valuable and a blessing because they can fight with you against your enemies. This is not exactly the Norman Rockwell ‘happy man with a quiver full of children’ image that Romney seems to joyously use as his justification for discrimination.This selection troubles me.

Although I do not seek to criticize Scripture, I do believe in cultural context. I sincerely hope that we, as 21st Century Americans, do not view male children as preferable to female children. And I hope that we don’t see any of our children as military advantages.

I doubt many will read much into Romney’s Scriptural selection. But it should concern the citizenry that a man seeking to be Commander in Chief in the midst of a less-than-successful war uses sexist and militaristic imagery when talking about marriage. And it should concern conservative Christians that Romney may not be fully aware of the passages he quotes. And to the extent that his principles are based on his faith, it may concern conservatives who insist that public policy be based on their faith alone.

19 Comments:

Blogger Jim Burroway said...

Anytime Romney ventures into theological discussions, he's bound to remind everyone that the LDS has beliefs that many conservative Christians would find unacceptable. Catholics have the same problem, although possibly to a lesser degree.

I think there are some conservative Christians who may be willing to overlook this. But can they overlook his faith AND his previous gay-affirming positions?

8:29 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

Romney might have disenfranchised a segment of LDS with his statement about polygamy. Polygamy is still a doctrine in their Doctrine & Covenants scriptures and Mitt dismisses it.

The LDS practice of polygamy is only “crippled” by legal circumstances. The male members still get sealed for all time and eternity to multiple wives to this day…not just the fringe, radical, orthodox Mormons but every-day Mormons. The public is not aware of this.

Mitt Romney is an opportunist. He learned how to deftly maneuver around issues by the same tricks he learned as a Missionary.

8:21 AM  
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Blogger Timothy Kincaid said...

Nope. Not a welder

5:29 PM  
Blogger Guglielmo Pescatore said...

Actually, Mormons are not alone in believing that there will be marriage in the next world: the Swedenborgians - otherwise known as the New Church or the New Jerusalem Church - also believe it. See Swedenborg's HEAVEN AND HELL, #366 - #386. In #382[b] Swedenborg explains how this is to be reconciled with the words of Jesus in Luke 20:35-36. (Swedenborg did NOT accept polygamy.)
Although probably still regarded by many as heretical, the New Church is certainly much closer than the Mormon Church to traditional orthodox Christianity. The more liberal branch of the New Church, known as the Swedenborgian Church of North America, fully accepts gays and has ordained gay clergy. It leaves the decision as to whether or not to bless gay unions up to individual ministers. One (straight) Swedenborgian minister, if I understand him correctly, thinks that it is at least perfectly possible that there will be gay relationships in heaven - see http://www.leewoof.org/Soulmates-NJ.html

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Blogger pond master said...

Interesting statements on Mormonism. I agree most Christians do not believe in marriage continuing into the next life, but your scripture in Matthew does not, as you said, "specifically say they do not exist." What it says is "at the resurrection" we will "will neither marry nor be given in marriage." Nevertheless, this Scriptures says nothing of marriage properly sealed by proper authority prior to the resurrection. The scriptures speak of the power to bind in heaven whatsoever is bound on earth. This was lost from the earth when Elijah was taken up--the Sadducees of whom Jesus spake did not have this blessing or authority to seal in heaven. This is the promise of the coming of Elijah in the last days, to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to their fathers," as one chain of unbroken family bonds for eternity.

Those interested in learning more about the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can visit their website at www.mormon.org.

9:00 AM  
Blogger pond master said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:01 AM  
Blogger pond master said...

Sorry for the double post above (I'm new at blogs, and still learning).

Just wanted to add some quick thoughts on Randy's comment above.

1) Polygamy is, as he says, is a doctrine in LDS scriptures (viz., Doctrine and Covenants)--just like animal sacrifices are recorded, commanded, and described in Old Testament scriptures of all Christians.

2) LDS practice of Polygamy was stopped, in part, by political pressures which resulted in a revelation to end polygamy. This is not unlike the pressures felt by Samuel, the Bible Prophet, of whom the people pressed to give them a king instead of divinely appointed Judges, which resulted in revelation to Samuel to give the people what they wanted, and the consequences would follow.

3) No living member today are sealed to more than one living spouse. It is possible, when one spouse dies, and the living member remarries, they too can be sealed. But this cannot be termed "polygamy" by either legal means or by anyone who disbelieves in continuation of marriage.

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