Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 26, 2007

November 26, 2007

Inquiring Minds


Want to Know

Wednesday night Republican candidates for President will hold their own YouTube debate. Since those in the mainstream media we depend upon to ask the really important questions more often than not don't, we can only hope they let the YouTubers do it for us.

We can each make our own list of what we consider "important questions" the candidates are not being asked by reporters. But for me it's no contest. We've now experienced 7 years of God-talks-to-me, faith-based, Jesus-is-my-favorite-philosopher, science- smyence,  governance of George W. Bush. And look where it's gotten us. Which is why I really want to start getting some specific questions posed to any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who wears his/her faith like an American flag lapel pin and/or tosses around references to their "faith" as though it's some kind of UL certification of righteousness.

This Wednesday night, during the CNN Republican YouTube debate, Americans will get a rare opportunity to ask the candidates the kinds of questions reporters shy away from. At the top of that list are questions that plumb the depths of what candidates themselves claim they hold sacred -- their religious beliefs.

Bush keeps telling us we have to take terrorists at their word, and act accordingly.Fine. Then let's also take the candidates at their word too. Let's listen to what they say the believe in and then connect that to the job they are applying for, President of the United States of America.

Overtly religious candidates, particularly Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, have been allowed by the media to flash their religious "gang signs" to like-minded voters without challenge, without digging, without context or exploration of the consequences that might flow should that candidate become our next leader.

Which is why I submitted a YouTube question for Mike Huckabee. I doubt it will be selected but I sure hope there are plenty more submitted by others. (See also: Mike Huckabee is Not a Sane Man)

I figured I'd have, at best, one shot at a YouTube question so it was hard to pick between Huckabee and Romney, the two candidates I think have gotten the away with the most god-pimping. Both men belong to Christian sects with core beliefs so out of the political, social, scientific and intellectual mainstream that it's breathtaking. But even more breathtaking is the media's refusal to confront them with pointed questions about those beliefs and how they would shape their presidency should the win.

Since Huckabee, a minister himself,  adheres to the most fundamental of Christian fundamentalist sects, can we assume he would favor teaching the creationist's anti-evolution pseudo-science in our public schools? We don't know because no reporter has yet forced him on to explain his beliefs about creation on the record. 

That lack of journalistic curiosity and courage is even harder to excuse in the case of self-described devote Mormon Mitt Romney. Mormonism (Church of Latter Day Saints, LDS) is, like Scientology, a belief system created by a modern-day "prophet," Joseph Smith. Unlike Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard who invented an entirely new school of superstition,  Joseph Smith borrowed liberally from the old and new Testaments as well as mis-translated Egyptian papyrus fragments.

When those sources of inspiration failed to distinguish his sect from the dozens of Christian spinoffs, Smith simply made up entire civilizations complete with competing tribes living in city-states here and abroad, civilizations that archeologists say never existed.

Smith, a half-educated, failed treasure hunter, claimed he could translate ancient languages because he possessed a "seer stone." This mystic stone not only allowed him to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics decades before scientists were able to do so, but showed him where to find treasures his made up civilizations had buried during times of turmoil. Among those alleged treasures were the gold tablets off which he claims to have transcribed the Book of Mormon.

It's all pretty weird stuff if you can stick to it and read the whole BoM. (Mark Twain tried, describing the Book of Mormon as "Chloroform in print.") But, since Romney states he's proud of his faith then he should have no problem having his beliefs probed. 

For example, does he really believe, as the BoM states, that that American Indians ("Lamanites" as described in the BoM,) were one of the lost tribes of Israel, and were direct descendants of pre-Columbian Judeo-Israelite colonists who fled to the American continent around 400 AD? Does he believe this central tenet of the Mormon faith? And if so, how can he believe it since DNA testing has proven beyond doubt that America Indians actually descended, not from Semitic lines ,but rather Asian and Eurasian linage? I want to hear him reason that one through.


Why is that important? Because it tells us a lot about a person's critical thinking and reasoning. And since the American presidency is an office that is often faced with reasoning through some of mankind's most potentially deadly matters, wouldn't you like to know how Mitt's mind works? Wouldn't you like to know how he navigates the world or real things with the spirit world he inhabits as a devote Mormon. I sure would like to know.

At the very least I would not want a fellow as president who actually believes that the ancestors of American Indians were, at any time in their history, a  part of a worldwide Jewish Diaspora. I sure as hell don't want someone that gullible and -- let's not mince words --- stupid, mucking around in Middle East politics. And I sure don't think we want someone who defend or otherwise rationalizes the absurd and entirely fictional version of human history making decisions about how we educate our children. (So, call me picky.)

Maybe Romney would like to elaborate on the Mormon belief that when Christ returns to earth he will build a new Jerusalem. Where? Not on the West Bank, not even in the Middle East, but in Jackson County, Missouri! This new homeland will then serve as the seat of Christ's 1,000-year reign on Earth. Jerusalem in Missouri, imagine that! And then try to imagine a president of the United State who believes that. (I guess Jackson County Missouri can expect some big-ass earmarks during a Romney administration.)

During Bill Clinton's first run for President a student asked him,"boxers or briefs." It was viewed a humorous though frivolously question to ask a candidate for president since it had nothing to do with how he would preform in office. He said boxers, and now we can only wish he'd kept them on for his whole term in office.

Nevertheless, the same similar question for Romney would be more justifiable. It would go like this:

Mr. Romney, inquiring minds want to know, boxers, briefs or holy underwear?

If Romney wears these so called "temple garments" he believes they protect him from evil, and possibly even physical harm. Wouldn't you like to know? What if, just for comparison, a candidate believed that wearing garlic around his neck protected him from vampires? Would that be something you'd like to know about a would-be president of the United States? Well holy underwear is no less silly -- and no less telling.

So, who's going screw up the courage and ask Romney? He claims he doesn't mind talking about his religion, so let's talk.

Yet reporters seem hindered by the notion that it's rude, or "intolerant" to ask critically probing questions about a candidates' stated religious beliefs. Well, that's just plain wrong. Sure it's rude to run around cross examining your generic church-going Joe or Jane Blow about their beliefs just because you disagree with them. But it's not rude or out of bounds when when candidates for high office volunteer such information implying that we should consider their religious beliefs a reason they deserve our vote. If so then we deserve to know exactly what those beliefs are and how they might shape a candidate's social and world view during his/her presidency.

But reporters have failed us badly in this regard. With the exception of one silly "hold up your hand if you don't believe in evolution" question in the first GOP debate we've gotten nothing out of the bible thumpers running for the GOP spot on the ballot. Allowing candidates to get away with their wink-wink, nod-nod, code-word assurances to religiously-like-minded voters without following up with probing questions, is nothing short of dereliction.

After all, that's how we got stuck with alleged born-again, George W. Bush. We got war against Muslim nations, we got perverted science, global warming denial and a condescending, Father Knows Best disdain for our basic freedoms. This time around I'd like us all to know exactly what we're getting when we vote.

But god forbid we should ask any "rude" questions to find out.