If politics and religion do not mix, what of politics and cults?
But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured - perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again - not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me - but what kind of America I believe in.
He was struggling to persuade the sceptical American people that the White House would not become an embassy of the Vatican, and neither would the US President do the Pope’s bidding, but, for a nation born out of the struggle for liberation from religious tyranny, his words frequently rang hollow. Yet the prejudices were overcome by his oratorical skill. At times, the communication of his dreams and visions were redolent of Martin Luther King Jnr:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute - where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote - where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference - and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
That speech was made in 1960, yet even in 2007 the land of the free does not permit all men to be equal. Of course, the inequalities are no longer based on race or gender, but they are manifest and legion when it comes to religion. Mr Romney is presently experiencing not dissimilar problems from those faced by Senator Kennedy. Then the issue was the Church of Rome, now it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But while Rome has a self-confessed salvific religio-political mission to redeem the world, the principal objection to the Mormons is their rejection of the Trinity (having abandoned polygamy a century ago). It says much for a nation when it places a distinctly theological issue over an acutely religio-political one. Many who object to him for his trinitarian views would be wise to acquaint themselves with certain aspects of church history, and with the contentions of Chalcedon in particular.
Largely through the radiant charisma and global profile of Pope John Paul II, Roman Catholicism has become a respectable religion the world over, but Mr Romney’s problem is that Mormons are perceived to be a cult. There is little authoritatively which distinguishes between the two: for many, ‘religion’ is simply a positive and respectable spiritual force, while ‘cult’ is a religion of which one does not approve. Belief systems tend to be considered cults when their practices are perceived to be harmful to their members, or when they stand in opposition to the widely-accepted beneficial interests of mainstream cultures and governments.
There are, of course, too many relativist considerations in the present age for terms like ‘harm’ and ‘beneficial’ to be expounded. Even the democratic primacy of ‘mainstream’ is undermined by the deference displayed to every fragmented religious minority interest, for fear of causing offence. In the final analysis, every cult is now a religion because no-one is perceived to have the political right or the spiritual authority to tell anyone else what they should or should not believe, or what they may and may not do. Liberty has become a deity.
This is the tragedy of postmodernity. One is now obliged to respect all religious beliefs, and revere every spirituality. If this is not extracted by statute, it is enforced by the zeitgeist. All men may not be equal, but all religions certainly are. Islamism is as ‘noble’ and ‘great’ as Roman Catholicism, which is just as worthy of respect as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and any and every other spiritual ‘-ism’ which emanates from the mind of man.
Cranmer, by the way, is content to adhere to the cult of an obscure Nazarene.