The “Mormon issue”

Mitt Romney is not responsible for the beliefs of the LDS church, and they are not a legitimate issue in the campaign for the Presidency.

The Washington Post has a long piece by Jason Horowitz about Helen Radkey, an extraordinarily unpleasant woman who, having been excommunicated from Mormonism, spends her life trying to embarrass the LDS church. Her focus is on the practice of posthumous baptism and marriage, especially of Jews.

The story is well-written and compelling: the weirdnesses of unfamiliar religions are always stranger than the weirdnessess of familiar religions.  Mormons believe that they can perform rituals to make dead Jews into Mormons; fundamentalist Protestants and hard-core Catholics believe that a loving God torments dead Jews throughout eternity for not being Christians.  One of those beliefs is strange, and the other is familiar; but it doesn’t seem to me that the strange belief is the more offensive of the two.

But the story’s opening paragraphs are something the reporter should be ashamed of, and the headline is something the editors of the Washington Post should be ashamed of.  The headline reads:

In Mormon Files,  Researcher Helen Radkey
Seeks to Cause a Headache for Romney

That’s consistent with the lede:

Mitt Romney has major headaches named Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. This month, he also had Helen Radkey.

Foul! Unconstitutional roughness, journalist. Fifteen yards. First down. “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Let’s say this once, so it doesn’t have be said ever again: Mitt Romney is no more accountable for posthumous conversions than Rick Santorum is for clerical child molesting and cover-ups, or Barack Obama for the Rev. Mr. Wright’s Biblical exegeses. “Sunday beliefs” should be presumed irrelevant to the conduct of public office unless and until a candidate chooses to invoke them. There are a dozen good reasons not to want Mitt Romney to be President, but his religion is not one of them.

Footnote Many Jews will be outraged to read that their forebears have been posthumously converted to Mormonism. But I think we should take it in the generous spirit in which it is intended; if the Mormons, unlike orthodox Christians, want to save us rather than having us burn in Hell, we don’t have to believe that they can succeed to be grateful for the kind thought.

Or we could instead accept it in the the spirit reflected in the old story about the elderly, pious Jew who, on his deathbed, tells his eldest son that he needs something. The son approaches the bedside and says,

“Yes, Abba, what do you want?”
“I want a priest.”
“A priest? What do you want a priest for?
“I want to convert.”
Convert? You’ve been an observant Jew your whole life! Why should you want to convert?”
“Better one of them should die!”

Update From our “It’s-always-even-weirder than you thought it was” department:

A commenter on the WaPo website was diligent enough to search the LDS homepage and discover an official Church discussion of the issue. That discussion points to a passage (First Corinthians, 15:25-29) which seems to refer to a similar practice in the early Christian church. Here’s the KJV translation:

For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

Sure sounds as if some early Christians underwent a second baptism on behalf of the deceased (perhaps relatives or friends?). The floor is open to anyone who knows the orthodox Christian take on this passage. As far as I know, non-Mormons no longer practice such a rite, but it does seem like a reasonable reaction to the otherwise intolerable thought that someone is suffering through eternity.

Just a reminder here: the belief in the eternal damnation of non-Christians, attributed above to “fundamentalist Protestants and hardcore Catholics” is indeed held, today, largely by fringey people, most of them with hard hearts and weak minds. But virtually everyone who called himself a Christian up until the 18th Century would have believed it: and believed, moreover, that adhering to the wrong brand of Christianity also led to Hellfire. Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather wouldn’t have considered that belief remotely controversial, and they would have had St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther and John Calvin on their side.

Progress comes slowly, but it does come: that’s why conservatives need to stand athwart history, yelling “Stop!”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

40 thoughts on “The “Mormon issue””

  1. Nonsense. Judging from the depths of his convictions on every single “legitimate” topic, his statement that Americans want a person of faith in the White House simply suggests that he adopted his faith as a vote getting device.

    As you say, he is the one who introduced his “faithiness” into the discussion, he deserves to reap what he sowed thereby.

  2. Yeah, I say if the journalist/editors touched the ref, they ought to be tossed and fined too boot! Just 15 yds.? I think the ref was shoved to the ground!

  3. I don’t really believe that Jews are smarter than non-Jews, but one quote from the Radkey article would seem to provide strong evidence for that proposition: “[S]he sought to convert to Judaism. ‘The Jews didn’t want me,’ she said.”

    Sounds pretty smart to me.

  4. “Mitt Romney is no more accountable for posthumous conversions than Rick Santorum is for clerical child molesting and cover-ups, or Barack Obama for the Rev. Mr. Wright’s Biblical exegeses.” I don’t buy this parallel: Romney and Santorum, okay, these are things happening elsewhere in their church organizations, and for which they don’t have any personal involvement. But Obama chose Wright’s church, went there instead of to some other Protestant church for years. I think Obama has substantially more to answer for for sitting in the pews for Wright’s stuff than do Romney and Santorum.

    1. get off your high horse. if i were a black minister who had lived through the 50s and 60s and gotten the education necessary to be a minister in major black church, i’d ask god to damn america for its racism every now and then myself. i’m not a believer but i understand the role of the black church and its ministers in the history of this country and part of that role has been speak out against the oppression of the white race. you think all those sermons that get preached about the babylonian exile and bondage of the israelites was strictly for historical reference and didn’t make a pointed thrust at the racist masters?

    2. Moreover Rev Wright took some flak in 2008 for saying that 9/11 was a sign of America’s chickens coming home to roost. Probably 95% of the population of the world believes that. Not to say that it was right, or moral, or even deserved – but to say that it was a consequence of US actions abroad, rather than, say, an inexplicable manifestation of evil, is pretty clearly true. Evil, but not inexplicable.

      1. Actually, a large number of conservatives believes that. Well, not those who side with neocons, but certainly those who support people like Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Macaca Allen, etc. And a lot of conservatives who agree with that also do not vote. as they think the government to be illegitimate. But, yes, much of the rest of the world also believes that “America” got its nose cut off for sticking it where it does not belong. They don’t necessarily cheer the outcome, but they do blame both sides. But even here the blame is not equal. False equivalence tends to be the domain of political spin doctors and US press corps.

    3. You make this sound passive.

      Did Romney give money to his church?

      Does Santorum not campaign on these issues?

      Sure, institutions do stuff that members might not like. It happens. Kind of hard to make the case when you’re talking about these particular characters.

      1. Santorum–and many non-Catholic right-wingers, such as Huckabee–have repeatedly campaigned off the media “attack” on religious freedom by “exaggerating” the pedophile priest problem. The fact that the problem is not merely pedophile priests–something that exists in every religion, including Judaism, Islam, etc.–but the pervasive institutional cover-up that can be traced solely to the Catholic Church. The other religions, being far less centralized, do not suffer from the same systemic problem. If Santorum wants to stay off this issue, no one should raise it against him–he is not responsible for the ill conduct by some of his coreligionists. But if he tries to defend the Vatican, than he, like a bad lawyer who should otherwise know better, opens the door to criticism. If he defends the hierarchy, he’s complicit in their misdeeds. The same, to a lesser extent is true of R-money. He tithes heavily to the LDS–a sign of respect for the Church. No one is holding that against him. But the sheer volume of the tithing, combined with his particular position within the church–a position that he sometimes promotes as a sign of his deep faith–place him into a unique position of having an opportunity to be a critique while not sharing the responsibility for misdeeds should he stay on the sidelines. I am not convinced this is fair. If he has an opportunity to be critical of his Church, he should avail himself of it. Furthermore, it is not clear that the author intended the hed to be a slight against Romney in itself. He is nowhere accusing Romney of complicity. But we must also recognize that quite a number of evangelicals and Jews are uncomfortable with high-positioned Mormons (as quite a few Evangelicals are not comfortable with similarly positioned Jews and others, especially ATHEISTS, so any negative information of this sort is indeed a headache to R-money because of THEIR prejudices, not the authors. This could have been expressed better, admittedly, but it’s not necessarily wrong in and of itself–it really comes down to the author’s intent and plausible deniabiltiy. So, while I’m not fully comfortable with the WaPo decision, it’s not quite as clearcut as Mark makes it out to be.

  5. 1. Even if a person believes that the conscious decision of religious belief and practice playing a role in salvation is more sensible than the belief in entirely involuntary posthumous conversions, that person would need to agree that any difference is at most a difference in degree as opposed to a degree in kind. They both require assumptions that are not entirely obvious or scientific.

    2. Mitt Romney’s political career does not have a lot to do with this practice. Otherwise, there is either a distinction between Mormonism and other religions that is, at most, based on trivial differences in degree at most, or instead a straight line to bossy pointlessness.

  6. The story is well-written and compelling: the weirdnesses of unfamiliar religions are always stranger than the weirdnessess of familiar religions.

    This is a function of the patina of age. In some distant past Jesus turned water into wine. People have been believing that for nigh 2000 years. From venerability comes respectability. Now contrast that old nonsense with this bit of contemporary nonsense:

    The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2200 BC to AD 421.[Insert snort here] It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi.[Chuckle] . Smith claimed that the last prophet to contribute to the book, a man named Moroni, buried it in a hill in present-day New York and then returned to earth in 1827 as an angel,[Hee-hee] revealing the location of the book to Smith and instructing him to translate and disseminate it as evidence of the restoration of Christ’s true church in the latter days. [Insert belly laugh here]

    Mark: There are a dozen good reasons not to want Mitt Romney to be President, but his religion is not one of them.

    Judge a book and a man by the nonsense it contains. The Wiki quote up above is pure hokum that hasn’t been air-brushed by 2000 years of amens. It is so obviously BS that only someone born into a cult could accept it as true. Do I think it says something deep that Romney accepts this goofiness as gospel, went to France to proselytize it, and became a bishop to uphold it? Hell yes. It speaks to his character, to the quality of his mind, and to his willful adherence in a modern cult. This guy’s world view is built on the back of a loony young turtle. And it is loony turtles all the way down.

    As a voter who puts his faith in Science, who believes Science is the one thing that has done anything good for me in the last 30 years, Romney’s blind acceptance of fables on an intellectual par with Santa Claus, matters greatly to me. Especially when he has the unmitigated gall, to “question the science” of global warming while unquestionably worshiping his Santa: Foul! Intellectual dishonesty. Fifteen yards. First down.

    1. There is one significant difference between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, apart from the patina of greater age. The Book of Mormon is a literary sin against the English language, and we have no original language version to compare it with. The Bible (or for that matter, the Koran a fortiori) is magnificent as a piece of literature. And for those who don’t believe that divine miracles occur in these latter days, remember: the King James translation was written–by a committee!

      1. I like to say that the New Jewish Publication Society translation must be endorsed by the Almighty, because it had Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews serving together on its translation committee. How could they have possibly agreed on where to go for lunch, let alone how to translate the Tanakh, without Divine inspiration?

  7. Here’s the problem: John Kennedy defused the issue of his Roman Catholicism by de-coupling it from his political beliefs, making it clear that his political positions would not be dictated by Catholic doctrine. However, Romney and Santorum (and most of the other Republican candidates) have tied their religious doctrinal beliefs to their respective candidacies and political positions. Moreover, the churches to which Romney and Santorum belong have inserted themselves in partisan politics in support or opposition to policies based on their respective religious theologies. Thus, the LDS became a major financial backer of Proposition 8 in California even though less than 2% of living Californians were LDS members.

    (And, no, this is not the same thing as African-American churches forming the backbone of the civil rights movement in the South. In the African-American community in the South, due to the destruction of most other forms of African-American institutional life, the churches were the predominant institutional glue of the community. Moreover, the movement they supported was based on a broad universal message, not a narrow, theological one such as the anti-contraception messaged of the Catholic Church or the anti-gay message of the Catholic Church and the LDS.)

    It seems to me that we can ask of both Romney and Santorum the following questions: Do you believe that your church has the right, via government action or inaction, to imposes its religious theology on those who do not support that theology? Do you believe that employers have a right to impose their religious theology on their employees who do not support that theology?

    One should not confuse these questions with the statement that “I won’t vote for Romney or Santorum because of the churches they belong to.”


    Not sure what’s going on here — if true, why hasn’t it gotten more press? It’s a 2007 Newsweek article which claims that Romney has admitted to having *performed* posthumous baptisms. If so, that’s a pretty good response to Mark’s statement that “Mitt Romney is no more accountable for posthumous conversions than Rick Santorum is for clerical child molesting and cover-ups, or Barack Obama for the Rev. Mr. Wright’s Biblical exegeses.”

    Money quote:
    >> Romney’s biography is fully Mormon. When asked by NEWSWEEK if he has done baptisms for the dead—in which Mormons find the names of dead people of all faiths and baptize them, as an LDS spokesperson says, to “open the door” to the highest heaven—he looked slightly startled and answered, “I have in my life, but I haven’t recently.”

  9. I agree that it’s not really fair to pick on Romney over this – he’s been, ah, severely insincere in everything else in his life, so I have no reason to think he takes Mormon theology seriously.

    That said, there is a fundamental problem with some forms of devout Christianity, Islam, and the LDS when it comes to living in a pluralistic society. If you sincerely believe that there’s an afterlife, and it’s eternal, and it involves unending torment for those who do not adhere to your faith and bliss for those who do, is there any atrocity you may not commit in order to save souls from that torment? Doesn’t it become profoundly unethical not to torture people to death in the name of the one true faith, when the alternative is to abandon them to eternal punishment?

    At least the Mormons permit the “conversion” of sinners postmortem, which avoids the logical trap above. But all of these faith share a fundamental problem in that true belief demands a profound disrespect for the beliefs and feelings of nonbelievers. The ethos of letting people do what they like so long as it doesn’t affect you doesn’t work when you believe letting them do what they like means they burn in hell for eternity – but that ethos is key to a pluralistic society.

  10. “In Mormon Files, Researcher Helen Radkey Seeks to Cause a Headache for Romney”

    Don’t blame the headline writer. This headline is perfectly correct. According to the article, Ms. Radkey believes that publicizing this post-death baptism of non-Mormons will cause problems for Romney, and she wants to cause problems for him.

    Just because we believe that voters *shouldn’t* take Romney’s religion into account as long as he doesn’t try to involve us in it, doesn’t mean voters *won’t* take his religion into account.

    1. Exactly. This is no more bad journalism than a story pointing out that some people won’t vote for Obama because he’s black.

      Now, I think she’s going to have about as much luck as visibly angry people ever do when they publicly set out to embarrass a candidate (or a religion, for that matter). For example:

      Now Radkey’s energies are directed at a new area of research, which she hopes will cause a new headache for Romney: the posthumous plural marriages of his ancestors. She calls this “Romney’s polygamy tree.”

      How in Mormon hell is this going to cost Romney votes? Nobody–and I mean zero votes out of a hundred million cast–who might have voted for Romney is then going to not vote for Romney just because it comes out that he has 17 great-great-great-grandmothers instead of 16. But she’ll probably shake a few sympathy votes loose for him.

  11. According to the Interpreter’s Bible, which some have jokingly called the Talmud of mainstream Protestantism, the virtual baptisms referred to were on behalf of persons who had some connection to the Church, however distant. They may not have been baptized because they were born too early, or due to some other practical difficulty. It was assumed, in other words, that those benefiting from a virtual baptism would have wanted to be baptized. That’s somewhat different from baptizing dead folks when it is known that the deceased were well aware of Christianity, and rejected it in favor of a different religion.

  12. Believers of all stripes periodically put aside their “minor” differences and rise up in a a Coalition of Righteousness against non-believers. When that happens, said non-believers remember pissing matches like “who’s-baptizing-whose-ancestors” and laugh quietly to themselves.

    1. You’d be mistaken to think that taking offense over this affront to national identity and dignity is predicated on religious belief.

      1. That Judaism is connected with a national identity doesn’t cause its religious beliefs to lose that character, or require others to refrain from regarding them as such. In my opinion, the belief that one is harmed by the way others pray about one’s ancestors is a religious belief.

        1. The thing is, they don’t “pray about one’s ancestors”; they claim to have redefined one’s national ancestors. If you think this has no power to offend, ask the Palestinians how they feel when Newt Gingrich claims their peoplehood is an invention.

          1. For clarity, my preference would be that Mormons quit offending Jews with this practice. However, if one declares that for his own religious reasons he is choosing to redefine another’s ancestors, a non-religious target has a splendid and dispositive answer: “You’re nuts.” If, however, the target feels compelled to declare that the redefinition offends his own religious beliefs, that is indeed a sort of intra-believer-world pissing match that reinforces non-believers in their thinking.

          2. I don’t think they claim to redefine or even convert the dead people – the ceremony just gives the souls a choice to convert if they wish. It seems kind of silly to me but on its own terms, the conversion is voluntary.

  13. As far as I know the only significant lefty writer to beard the Mormon lion is Frank Rich (with a bit of a hitch):


    His campaign is intent on enforcing the redaction of his religion, not least, one imagines, because a Gallup poll found that 22 percent in both parties say they would not vote for a Mormon for president. (Only 5 percent admit feeling that way about an African-American.) A senior adviser explained the strategy of deflecting any discussion of Romney’s Mormon life to Politico: “Someone takes a shot at the governor’s faith, we put a scarlet letter on them, RB, religious bigot.” Good luck with that. Like Romney’s evasions about his private finances, his conspicuous cone of silence about this major pillar of his biography also leaves you wondering what he is trying to hide. That his faith can be as secretive as he is—Ann Romney’s non-Mormon parents were not allowed to attend the religious ceremony consecrating her marriage to Mitt—only whets the curiosity among the 82 percent of Americans who tell pollsters they know little or nothing about Mormonism.

    Weeks before his death, Christopher Hitchens, no more a fan of LDS than of any other denomination, wrote that “we are fully entitled” to ask Romney about the role of his religion in influencing his political formation. Of course we are. Romney is not merely a worshipper sitting in the pews but the scion of a family dynasty integral to the progress of an ­American-born faith that has played a large role in the public square. Since his youthful stint as a missionary, he has served LDS in a variety of significant posts. The answers to questions about Romney’s career as a lay church official may tell us more about who he is than his record at Bain, his sparse tenure as governor, or his tax returns.

    The questions are not theological. Nor are they about polygamy, the scandalous credo that earlier Romneys practiced even after the church banned it in 1890. Rather, the questions are about the Mormon church’s political actions during Mitt Romney’s lifetime—and about what role Romney, as both a leader and major donor, might have played or is still playing in those actions. To ask these questions is not to be a religious bigot but to vet a candidate for the nation’s highest job. Given how often Romney himself cites his faith as a defining force in his life, voters have a right to know what role he played when his faith intersected with the secular lives of his fellow citizens.


    Who in God’s Name Is Mitt Romney?

  14. I was fortunate enough to discuss this issue with a Mormon friend some years back. She told me that the practice has, in fact, been discontinued. On the other hand, in line with Mark’s point above, she also told me that the baptism was offered to the dead, as it were, not imposed on them. The dead could accept or reject the offer of baptism, and presumably the salvation included therein.

    Now, I still find it troubling that the Mormon church thought (or thinks) that my brother and sister Jews are burning in hellfire because of their beliefs or lack thereof. Kind of makes the choice into a non-choice; if I were in fact burning in hellfire and along came a baptism that would get me out of it, I suppose I’d take it, or grab at it if there was any hesitation at the other end. My friend’s statement strikes me as a kind of pacification, added in on the back end to soothe the Jews.

    Despite this, I can appreciate the charitable impulse behind the offer, although I’m glad it’s been stopped (assuming that it has). As is often the case with matters of faith, or any matters that do not lend themselves to direct observation (and some that do), the emotional reaction remains complex. Fortunately, as a wise man said, sooner or later we will know the truth.

  15. I think it’s time the Jewish community got its act together and started offering to say kaddish for deceased Mormons… in exchange for a small pledge to the building fund, of course.

    1. My sense is that there is no one in the world of Judaism with the authority to proclaim new rituals. If there were, I have a candidate to be hoped for: one that undoes any previous Mormon baptism, and conclusively fortifies all deceased Jews from any further attempts. That would show them.

      1. You really need to reconsider how you’re thinking about this. As I tried to make clear above, this is not about empty religious rituals, and it isn’t to be answered by more of the same. It’s about how as part of being a respectable member of a pluralistic society you don’t get to tell other groups in that society they’re scum, and you don’t get to talk smack about their sainted mothers. Your persistent sneering approach about how it’s all just a bunch of idiots talking nonsense and they should be ignored or mocked completely fails to apprehend how profoundly insulting it is to go up to a people and say that, gee, it’s a shame you spent a couple thousand years ferrying massacred and that you were subjected to industrial annihilation seventy years ago, but to show how nice we are we’ve retroactively completed the job and your martyrs are, to our mind, no longer even yours. The fact that they’re talking utter bilge with an oddball theology is not the point; it’s the effrontery of stealing and transforming another’s heritage, especially the heritage of a historically oppressed group. Ask some Native Americans about the Redskins, or the Atlanta Tomahawk Chop. Ask Black folks about blackface, and minstrelsy. Sure, it’s just ignorant White folks being ignorant, and one answer would be to ignore their inane antics. But people have a right to demand better, to demand real respect. Your repeated inability to grasp this is very frustrating.

        1. We are in agreement that we would like the Mormons to stop doing this. While I can’t read Mormons’ individual or collective minds, I see little argument that they are deliberately seeking to antagonize anyone by talking smack about their grandmothers. Rather, for their own religious reasons they seem to think that they can do these deceased persons a favor, and are attempting to do so. Others, for their own separate religious reasons, feel harmed. I suggest that both groups, as fellow believers, spare a moment to consider how this looks to non-believers. I am not persuaded that your analogies are relevant or illuminating.

  16. Romney played a significant role in his church. Obama chose his church and his pastor. I wouldn’t say that either of them have the right to ignore what their church did while they were members (not saying there were equivalently bad, just that it’s not off limits).

    Santorum, as far as I know, has played no significant role in the Catholic Church. He should be strongly criticized for his personally stupid beliefs on birth control, but I don’t think he needs to answer for Catholicism’s stupidities on that issue.

    Romney OTOH had (minor) leadership roles in the Mormon Church when it still discriminated against African Americans. I think that’s a relevant issue that’s worth discussion.

  17. While Mark’s integrity on this is laudable I am of the oppinion that if the GOP religious crack pots are desuaded from supporting Romney because of his crack pot religion then let ’em have at it.

    While in a just world we could argue that this kind of crap sets a precedent it should be pointed out that this is politics not a court of justice. The GOP has been sicing this worm on the Democrats for decades now and if the worm turns on them it may be the thing that turns the tide.

    In truth I think Romney’s problems are more with his tinney tone (when the man opens his mouth he is so unbelievably unbelievable) and all the talk about flip flops and unacceptale religion is just people looking for an excuse to justify their gut dislike of the man. All this talk about Romney being the most electable GOP candidate is IMHO wrong headed. Picture him walking up to you in a auto dealer lot.

  18. It is common knowledge that Mormons have been asked to store food against a time of distress and shortage. Would we be offended if we knew they were storing it for Jews (or anyone else, for that matter), in order to save them from starvation? No one is going to force them to eat it.

  19. It is well that there is no legal religious test for public office, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t judge people on the utter crap they believe, or even are just party to. I’m making a leap of faith here, I know, because I have only experiential and anecdoctal evidence, but I still believe Voltairs is right, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

    1. Yeah exactly. The “no religious test” means Congress can’t pass a law forbidding Muslims, for instance, for running for office. It doesn’t at all mean that voters can’t decide to use a candidate’s religion as one factor in their decision either in primaries or general elections. Republican primary voters would be completely within their rights to reject Rick Santorum based on the theological views he vomited this week. Should he somehow win the nomination anyway, the general electorate would also be fully Constitutionally allowed to vote for his opponent solely on the basis that Santorum has a dangerous, whackjob theology.

  20. Mark: may I recoommend preferring a scholarly modern translation to the KJV when it comes to tricky points of biblical exegesis rather than poetry?
    The KJV translators – more revisers actually – were under strict instructions to translate ekklesia as church not congregation, to fight off synodically inclined Puritans. Baptism was also a hot potato at the time, and Anabaptists were still being burnt. I would not trust the committee on this.

  21. Fair enough, though I can’t see what motive the committee(s) would have had to invent the “baptism for the dead.” Other translations, uncluding the uninspired but generally reliable NEB, give the same sense. Greek scholars are invited to work at the passage and tell us what they find.

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