Photo Op of Mitt Romney in IowaPresidential candidate in Des Moines, Iowa on December 30, 2011. (Photo by Mike Hiatt/Flick, licensed under Creative Commons)

In Wednesday's Religion Dispatches, Joanna Brooks describes how journalists report on Romney's business history with vigor, and treat his "faith" as an ethnicity. I think she's describing the disconnect between the spaces in which we live and the way we've publicly lived religion since the 60's — and that this has fermented many of our current domestic crises.

"I’m waiting for the story that transcends the flat ethnicity paradigm and gets the deeper and more persistent question of religion and moral bearings:

How does the most religiously devout candidate in recent memory reconcile a life of religious commitment with a values-neutral approach to work, livelihood, and the marketplace?

Why does religion play an outsized role in the politics of gay marriage and contraception but apparently has no say when it comes to big-ticket items like national spending and economic policy?

That profound disconnect certainly did not originate with Romney, but it may in fact be the key to understanding how he would lead and govern."

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2Reflections

Reflections

I think your question gets right to the heart of how coverage of religion skirts signicant issues. Mitt Romney throws this question into relief. There is a very real way in which Mormonism IS an ethnicity, in that there is a distinct culture with which its adherents identify strongly and which shapes many of their assumptions about how things are, how authority works, and the "rightness" of one's own outlook. Not limited to Mormonism by any means. But we are faced with a candidate for whom these things will certainly be a significant factor in how he defines his role should he become president, and it will play a huge role in the underlying paradigm that will drive his agenda. To address your question directly, my sense is that to Romney, there is no conflict: the Mormon church and its accompanying culture has a built-in dichotamy that dismisses the apparent conflict. No reconciliation is necessary, because this dichotomy is already built in and not questioned.

Why does religion play an outsized role in the politics of gay marriage and contraception but apparently has no say when it comes to big-ticket items like national spending and economic policy? -this is just exactly the question I have in mind. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

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