Bret Hatch, identified in the news as a “28-year-old Ron Paul supporter from Green Bay” (a description that to my mind equals “president of the Phish fan club” for its suggestion of intellectual seriousness), asked Mitt Romney whether his being a Mormon means that he is opposed to interracial marriage. Romney answered: “No. Next question.”
I once heard Camille Paglia give a seven-letter answer to a similarly malicious question in a public forum, but Romney, bless him, is not quite so direct. Mr. Hatch’s question was, of course, not a question: Assuming that his I.Q. is above 80, he knows that Romney is not opposed to interracial marriage and does not interpret his faith that way. If he has access to Google, he could certainly have learned in about 15 seconds that the Mormons, though they were lamentably late in doing so, fully incorporated their black members into the church in 1978. And about 30 seconds of Google reading would have revealed to him that when the Mormons finally reformed their practices, they did so under pressure from a family of well-known Mormons surnamed Romney.
Romney later expanded on his response, and talked about his time as a Mormon bishop in Massachusetts (a volunteer position that is rather like what a Protestant congregation would call its pastor), counseling members of his community during times of difficulty. This was, I think, a good response. But Romney is going to have to get used to having his religion used as a cudgel against him. If you think that Barack Obama and his factota are above exploiting religious bigotry, you haven’t been paying attention.
Religions are funny things, and it is child’s play to make a religious scripture sound ridiculous. Evangelical atheists have all sorts of fun with Leviticus, though few of them understand it. But it is impossible to imagine anybody asking a Hindu candidate, for instance, whether he truly believes that out of the primordial man from whose body the universe was created
His face became the priests,
His hands were made as warriors,
His thighs became the merchants,
And from his feet were born the laborers.
and that the Brahmins, being from the higher parts, and the laborers, being from the lower parts, are subject to certain hereditary social privileges and disadvantages based on that fact. That was, at one time, a fairly common justification for the caste system, though my experience in India suggests that you will look a long time before you discover an educated modern Hindu who believes such a thing.
The history of race relations in our country is an unhappy one. It is worth remembering why we have a Southern Baptist Convention and a Southern Methodist Church. The Book of Mormon contains some rhetoric connecting dark complexions to wickedness and light complexions to purity, a recurring theme that is almost universal. The preference for fair skin over dark is very much a part of Indian society today, prevalent in Latin America, and prevalent, notably, in many parts of Africa. And there’s a whole little sociology of skin tone within black American culture. It’s a pretty interesting subject, if you’re willing do to the work to learn about it. But if you just want to pick up any handy stick with which to beat Mitt Romney, then you’ll treat the Book of Mormon as though it is somehow unique, or even unusual, in this regard. And of course you’ll have to ignore the reality of Mitt Romney and his beliefs and record on the issue. In which case, you are a clown.
NR subscribers can read a whole lot more about anti-Mormon nonsense here.