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ROMNEY AND THE POLYESTER BLASPHEMY

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Fundamentalists Scorn Candidate While He Sabotages His Chance

Maybe it’s God’s will. Maybe it’s the devil’s own mischief. At the very least, it’s great fun to watch Mitt Romney embrace another sect of Christianity in search of crucial votes. In response to his seduction, the sect squirms in discomfort over Mitt’s Mormonism. Mitt’s a “cultist,” they claim. In huge percentages they refuse to vote for him because Mormons hold odd beliefs offensive to their mainstream sect.

Dominant in much of the country, this mainstream sect idolizes a magic young rabbi who could walk on water, then transform it into wine. The sect’s more ancient wonders include a flood evacuee who crammed all Earth’s creatures onto a tiny ship and a castaway who survived capture inside a whale’s mouth before he was vomited into the sea.

The sect’s sacred text is rife with wilder stuff than these watery fantasias. Their magic book surges with the deity’s demands and threats, tall tales, tribal lore, and randy poems. Much of the early section chronicles quaint braggadocio about ancestors enjoying scores of wives, having hundreds of kids, and living hundreds of years. The sect insists that every word reveals their demanding god’s literal, infallible truth.

No matter how literally, how infallibly they insist the magic words must be read, modern sect members are highly selective in following dictates from the ancient text. For this, alas, according to their own prophets, their entire sect must be executed and forever damned. Leviticus, for one, requires the death penalty for eating pork or shellfish, picking up sticks on Saturday, kissing a girl (if you’re also a girl), and wearing mixed fabrics. Though almost all of the sect’s modern believers eat pork and wear poly-cotton blends, few have executed themselves. Instead, they exerted so much selective fury over girls kissing girls that they influenced the 2000 and 2004 victories of their chosen candidate, a Texas latecomer to the sect.

For 2008 this mainstream sect, Christian fundamentalists, can no more accept Mormonism than same-sex expressions of love. Though it’s an American-born spin on their own Judaic faith, Mormonism can’t compare to their way of idolizing the magic rabbi. Ironically, Mitt Romney remains the one Republican candidate whose social-conservative views most mirror their own. While Romney is forceful against girls kissing girls, the poly-cotton, pork ‘n’ shrimp-ingesting fundamentalists just don’t care. Not one vote for Mitt’s “cult,” they pray, then go back to picking up Saturday sticks and studying Leviticus, who further teaches that the man who sells his daughters into slavery is blessed.

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It’s true that Romney’s faith features a farm-boy prophet who receives heavenly revelations in upstate New York, but is Joseph Smith so much more peculiar than a carpenter born from unfertilized eggs in upstate Judea? Shouldn’t we, as patriots, embrace an entirely American religion, in hopes of sparking a little magic here on native soil?

Maybe we have our magic at last. Mutual suspicion and scorn may splinter the sect, diminishing fundamentalists’ influence in the next election. The wider public now sees how the literalist sect not only fails to promote religious freedom, but does not even practice the magic rabbi’s core beliefs—compassion, tolerance, and empathy. God help the Republican Party if the public votes truly Christian values in 2008.

In early December, Romney sabotaged his big chance, his vast national forum to explore the American themes of religious freedom and separation of church and state. Instead, he took the opposite course, extolling only a narrow Christianity and insulting nonbelievers. He claimed to “serve only the common cause of the people of the United States,” but like a poly-cotton blasphemer, he explicitly excluded the nonreligious from that common cause. He mocked secular society and even attacked Europe as being “too enlightened” to kneel in prayer.
Yeah, Europe. Where mainstream politics ensures workplace and human rights, civil unions for all ages and types, lifelong free health care for everyone, robust family support, and social safety nets for struggling souls. Europe’s too godless, Romney scoffed, no matter how much the E.U. looks far more like a polity founded on true Christian values than any vision the G.O.P. preaches to its weary American flock.

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Lee Patton, a Denverite, writes fiction, drama, poetry and nonfiction.

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