Romney’s Struggles and The Wall of American Civil Religion

By Peter Daniel Haworth for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

At the risk of adding to the monolith of analysis about Mitt Romney’s political struggles in the GOP primaries, I will posit the thesis (more as a question to be further considered) that one of his political problems entails his LDS faith contravening a real, but not-honestly-conceded, American civil religion consisting of some general, traditionalist Protestant consensus of faith. By many accounts, this (largely trinitarian) Protestant consensus was once extremely prominent in America, but it may now be confined to a major constituency within the Republican Party. Lee Trepanier and Lynita Newswander’s new article in ANAMNESIS reveals the dark history of Mormons hitting the wall of this American (Protestant) civil religion during the mid nineteenth century. With this in mind, I question whether Romney has also been slamming into this wall during his current and previous primary campaigns.

If this is correct, some alteration has occurred in the former traditional Protestant consensus that formerly functioned as a dominant civil religion, but now lurks in the GOP as a shadow of its former self. As seen by relative success of Rick Santorum, the Protestant consensus now accepts (for political purposes) Roman Catholics. This could partially be due to recent Protestant recognitions that the RC’s trinitarian faith (unlike the LDS) has more theological similarities than differences relative to their own creeds, and it might also be due (in part) to feeling besieged by other non-Christian cultural rivals that are now also prominent in the “Republic.” Such questions are ripe for further examination, and poor Mitt might be the specimen that spurs this analysis.

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