Mormon: Romney’s on top again … but his church?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0201_Mitt_Romney_wikimedia_commons.jpgRomney roared in Florida on Tuesday.
He’s back on top, again. But his church?
Mormons are likely to face months of tough media scrutiny as his campaign surges. Our discussion this week about Mormons in America is an effort to look beyond this year’s often stormy political claims. We’ve been looking at recent Pew data—solid information about the lives of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Look at our first post on Monday for an introduction to this series.)

Today, let’s consider a provocative critique of the church in a New York Times (NYT) online posting of viewpoints about Romney and his church. One of the five commentaries was written by Sally Denton, a noted investigative journalist, author, and critic of the LDS church. She has won awards for her investigations of troubling chapters in American Western history.

Denton’s NYT commentary called the LDS church, according to her headline, “A Male-Dominated World.” We all should question Romney as a candidate, Denton told readers, because “male authoritarianism” is the church’s “most distinctive characteristic.” You can read Denton’s entire commentary at the NYT site via the link above. But, her central charge is: “The controversial and secretive religion is a multibillion-dollar business empire ruled by a stern patriarchal gerontocracy.”

What’s fascinating about Denton’s claim is this: That same charge has frequently been made against Catholic leaders and the Vatican. The same criticism could be made of Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well. Right or wrong, such a claim is no small matter. The Catholic and Orthodox churches worldwide represent two thirds of all Christians. In fact, looking beyond Christianity, the same charge has been laid at the doorstep of all the major world religions.

On Tuesday, based on Pew data, we looked at changing attitudes about whether Mormons are Christians. As we noted in that story, attitudes toward the church appear to be changing among some segments of the population. American attitudes about various religious groups keep evolving. As recently as half a century ago in the U.S., criticisms were routinely made of Catholic candidates about the secretive and male-dominated nature of their church. There still are critiques of some individual Catholic politicians about their voting records on issues related to women’s rights.

Here’s a provocative question concerning Denton’s charge against Mormons:

Is Denton’s criticism really a critique of the majority of Christianity?

Is the criticism really a broad indictment of inequality in world religions?

How do you balance faith and gender equality?

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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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