Dec 8, 2007

Stepping In It

All the worry about Mormonism this week. I'm no fan of Romney or his particular brand of beliefs. I kind of see it as a Freemasons sort of organization. Pinging off of Christianity, kooky secrets, weird clothing, widespread acceptance as do-gooders and assets to the community. So why aren't we talking about Freemasons like we discuss Mormons?

And there is where I step in it.

In the spirit of "separation" we find an ideal, but not a reality that we can live with because people are going to be people. And that's why someone's faith generates so much discussion. I probably stand alone in thinking that it's actually a mature response to want to talk about and discuss a political aspirant's faith. All of the, "Oh, come on! Haven't we progressed as a nation to the point of not caring about all this?" is so much intellectual posturing.

Well, no, we haven't progressed that far. When we progress that far, we will become as rudderless as the Europeans. And every bit as useless to the rest of the world.

Faith should have consequences. To want to assure ourselves that someone's faith can be suspended from their public service is to vaguely suggest that it's okay for our politician to have a spiritual Zoloft, but that it really shouldn't affect how he thinks or acts.

In reality, all human institutions based on faith seek to influence their members and possibly non-members in active and passive ways. So, maybe knowing what human institution or agenda influences me AND my beliefs may really be worth discussing.

Discussing it is NOT the same as it being a Constitutional "test" for elegibility. That's why we can elect anyone we want, regardless of what they believe. But, by golly, we CAN discuss it all we want, and vote our INDIVIDUAL conscience, thank you very much.

Which means that Mormonism and Freemasonry are both up for scrutiny, just like everyone else. We'd kick around another Catholic if we could, we've vilified Jews, we minced Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown, we've mocked sobriety as "dry alcoholism", and have elevated homosexuality to a national religion while labeling any squeak of protest or scrutiny about that as phobic (wait, that's another post.) Oh, and we've taken a keen interest in the teachings of Mohamed to better adjust our political understanding of their wife-beating. Which I'm pretty sure is NOT Constitutional. The wife beating, I mean.

We are, as a nation, a bunch of "separation" hypocrites. Deal with it.

So, Masons come off as a para-church organization, maybe, but they seem more than that. Why do they seek each other out? To what benefit? And should I understand it better if I'm going to vote for someone who is a Mason? What do they believe? I'm not picking on them to pick on them, I'm trying to make a point about the discussion of ideas and religion and influence and reality.

Because, if a politician's chosen homies say they believe the moon is made of green cheese, I am not cool with that. Not because I think it's silly, but because I don't want to spend any more money on exploring the moon or importing green cheese. Let's go to Mars. The moon is so last century! While it may not be an overt question of morality, a belief in green cheese may affect my tax return in a negative way. I can't vote Green Cheese. Can you, Mr. Politician, assure me that you won't be swayed by your belief in the Green Cheese composition of the moon? Is my pocket book safe from Green Cheese spending? Can you separate your church from your state? Can I?

As I mature, I find less and less to like about most human institutions, especially when they have an overt political agenda not based in a vital moral tenet, but in a self-interested deviation from true purpose. Freemasonry gets no love or hate from me. Just an idle curiosity as to its socio-political agenda, its beliefs, its defining purpose. If it's not a faith, then it has another purpose for membership. Can we discuss it?

Why do Catholics get vilified, investigated and hounded politically? Because people are afraid that what Catholics believe might affect them. Well, why are we not pointing out the Freemasonry affiliation with high-level businessmen, movers and shakers? Why are we not questioning their secret influence in political and economic circles? Do they have none? I don't question their right to do so, I just question why anyone who wonders about it aloud, gets labeled kooky or conspiracy-theorist. It just. isn't. done.

Is their influence aligned with Constitutionally sound principles, or have bad apples overrun the leadership? There's my point of separation. Can we discuss it?

When a socio-religious institution decides to cross that line and become politically and economically influential to another individual or group, they're up for questioning, consideration, and discussion. Because that IS just how far we've come in this country. We've maintained a healthy suspicion of sheep with unraveling seams.

Thank God.

As an aside, Fred Thompson's refreshing honesty about his insouciant approach to spirituality just about seals the damn deal for me.

But maybe he's a Mason...

Is it okay to belong to a group that has its own standards of membership? Yes. Is it okay to belong to a group that seeks to influence its community? Yes. Is it okay to scrutinize a group, to understand who and what it desires to influence? Every time. Is it okay for a group to have secrets? Sure!

So, I hear that Mr. Politician is a Freemason. They have a lot of secrecy and funky stuff going on. Can I trust those secrets to be benevolent for my country? Can we talk about it? Like adults?

Because it may--or may not--be important.

But being free to talk about it is.


LauraB said...

Having known two men of the "order", all I know of it is that they were very good men.

But I suppose this is why I stand a bit aside from all this - are we not just voting who to allow to put the noose around our necks?

Deciding who might tighten that of our enemies; if voting for this guy, will our noose be comfy and soft and easy to ignore?

Hard pressed to know what to think about it all but...I have much to agree with in your post...

Joan of Argghh! said...

Your take is cynical, and yet dead-on. Who, indeed, will we allow to hoist us up on their platform?

Hopefully, the wonder of our two-party system will keep anyone's beliefs or agendas from having an overt effect on the Constitution.

pamibe said...

Excellent post! No religion is free from scrutiny nor should they be; I can't even conceive of a world devoid of questioning people.

Fortunately, people like me have deep thinking people like you to read and talk to... :D

Joan of Argghh! said...

About as deep as a pizza-pan!

Thanks, Pam. Your excellent discussion with Mark stirred this up. I've been refraining from weighing in on politics this early in the season.

Velociman said...

Masons are no big deal anymore. No moreso than the fact Kerry and Bush are both Skull and Bones.

Me? I'm gunning for the Elks. I just don't trust those fuckers.

Joan of Argghh! said...

And the Moose Lodge.

C'mon. A moose bit my sister once...


Francis W. Porretto said...

The "religious test" clause of the Constitution has no bearing on the behavior of private parties. It merely means that no official, duly elected or appointed, can be denied his office on the grounds of his religion or lack thereof.

For the rest of us, religion is indeed a factor in our decisions to award power or status to anyone. In large measure this is for the reasons you gave. In equal measure, it's because no two persons agree on what constitutes a religion.

Imagine a Wahhabi Muslim candidate for office. Imagine him declining to discuss the jihadist teachings of his creed in public. Would any sane American vote for such a candidate? If not, would that be a prohibited "religious test?"

Some questions really do answer themselves.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Welcome Mr. Poretto, and thank you for your excellent comment!

Anonymous said...

Great post!!!

I'm gonna hang with Vman at lodge...


Mark said...

"I'm gunning for the Elks.

And the Moose Lodge"

As a former Grand Poobah of the Bisons, I find this thread to be somewhat threatening... ;o)>

Okay, it's early and I haven't had much coffee but I'm getting that the main point of your post is that what we have in these here United States that is so great is the freedom to discuss the relative merits and potential ramifications of electing persons to higher office that may or may not belong to kooky klubs or "weird" (looking sideways around the place) religions, and that is what sets us apart from most others.

And that, when all is said and done, those "kooks" will probably influence policy somewhat according to their personal beliefs but that our willingness to scrutinize their agendas a most important check and balance to ensure that one "nutty" group doesn't take over completely?

I couldn't agree more.

Apathy sucks.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Thanks, Mark, for such a succinct review of my work.

So did you and BeerBrains survive Alcatraz last night?

Mark said...

Yer welcome!

Yes we did and we successfully escaped. What pisses me off is my damn camera batteries died after two or three pics, and none of Beerbrains hisself on The Rock!

He's still racked out. We'll get some pics today, hopefully, before he heads back.

Mizz E said...

This is so much better than what Peggy Noonan didn't write. [I've been coming across as cryptic lately, so I better clarify. PN took the position the belief system doesn't matter.]

What newspaper editors are you mailing this to?

Mark said...

"PN took the position the belief system doesn't matter."

I just don't see how it could NOT matter. The assumption then would be that humans, er, political humans, are so evolved that they are able to completely separate out their belief system from their governing.

RIIIIIGHT. And that's why they have prayer breakfasts, and invoke god in speeches, and...

You get my drift.

With regard to this topic I'd say Peggy Noonan's point of view is ignorant at best.

Mark said...

OTOH, I may have spoken too soon. If Miz E is referring to this:

He had nothing to prove to me regarding his faith or his church, which apparently makes me your basic Catholic. Catholics are not his problem. His problem, a Romney aide told me, had more to do with a particular fundamentalist strain within evangelical Protestantism. Bill Buckley once said he'd rather be governed by the first thousand names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty. I'd rather be governed by Donny and Marie than the Washington establishment. Mormons have been, in American history, hardworking, family-loving citizens whose civic impulses have tended toward the constructive. Good enough for me. He's running for president, not pastor. In any case his faith is one thing about Mr. Romney I haven't questioned.

it sounds less to me like she is saying his faith doesn't matter and more like she's saying it doesn't matter to her because she is convinced that it won't color his governing of the US.

Subtle difference, but upon reading that piece I'm not really getting the sense that she is saying faith doesn't matter as a blanket statement.

Joan of Argghh! said...

I don't most had a problem with JFK being Catholic, as in some sort of prejudice (though many may have anti-Catholic prejudices as a matter of faith), but more likely they had issues with the upper machinations of the Church, and the convenient link to power that such a President could provide.

Maybe Romney has nothing to do with the larger interests (HUGE businesses and investments) of the Mormon organization) but what group, being given such an open link between their interests and the most powerful office in the world, would not be tempted to exploit it?

I'm not saying anyone would, but it is a legitimate concern. We worry about Chinese influence because it is another sovereign State, as is the Vatican.

Yet, we get wigged out if a local "megachurch" has its tentacles in city politics. As well we should.

nonny said...

Like you I would also worry about the implications of prospective influential leader in my society, I would much prefer my country be governed by fact and rectitude as opposed to divinity. It becomes much more of an issue if their beliefs are not (for want of another world) the “norm” in society. People pussy foot around the topic of religion for fear of stepping on the toes of the politically correct but I to would definitely have reservations. At the very least the topic should be debated.

Excellent post Joan J.

Hammer said...

I share your concerns. For the most part Mormons and Masons are nice people. Kookie but nice.

I don't subscribe to any particular
idol so I guess I'm not the best judge.

Mark said...

"I don't subscribe to any particular
idol so I guess I'm not the best judge."

Or perhaps, because of that, THE best judge...

Linda said...

Did you know that the next Dan Brown book-he of The Da Vinci Code fame-is going to be set in the States and be about the Free Masons?

Joan of Argghh! said...

No, I didn't, Linda! And I likely won't see it. Dan Brown may be interesting to some, be he is sophomoric and unschooled in logic, in my humble estimation.