god, lies and Romney
by nikki meredith
When I was in elementary school, I had a secret: my parents didn’t believe in god. This was a source of anxiety for me because in the 1950’s everyone went to church. Everyone except my parents and their heathen friends. I wasn’t totally left out of the religious experience, however. Though they didn’t believe in god, they wanted me exposed to all sides of all issues, so they enrolled me in an after school bible class. That made things worse. The teacher illustrated stories from the bible on a felt board. The image that made the biggest impression on me was a tableau of a kindly Jesus Christ administering to lepers. My parents didn’t administer to lepers so I concluded that people who believed in Christ and hence in God were kinder, gentler, in short, of better character. Consequently, I kept my parents’ atheism securely in the closet.
At some point along the way I noticed that my parents, in spite of their godlessness, seemed to be guided by compassion and integrity in their work and in their personal lives. They didn’t nurse lepers, I don’t think they even knew any, but they were committed to social and economic justice. I have no doubt that my father’s Jesuit education contributed to these beliefs just as my maternal grandmother’s activism – she was a feminist, an anarchist and a protégé of Emma Goldman’s — informed my mother’s world view. At a later point, I also realized that a lot of religious people were capable of doing very bad things to other human beings.
So from my parents I learned that religion was not a necessary condition to produce moral character; from life I learned that religion was not a sufficient condition to produce moral character. I thought those realizations more or less concluded my automatic coupling of religion and rectitude, with one exception: I still assumed that people who believed in an all-knowing God, didn’t lie. I knew that God’s all-knowingness was not a deterrent to sin. From a fairly early age I understood that sin had to do with compulsion and even God seemed to know that some people were helpless in the face of compulsions. That’s why he forgave sins.
But lying seemed to be in a category all its own. Lying involves calculation and calculation gives you time to consider. Time to consider the fact that God knows your lying so you better not. That is, unless you’re a compulsive liar. In which case you’re in the same boat with the sinners. It’s not a free pass, exactly, but if God can forgive sinners, certainly he can forgive compulsive liars, though I expect that he might require enrollment in a 12-step program.
The funny thing about my belief that God-fearing people don’t lie, is that it wasn’t until Mitt Romney came into my consciousness that I realized I had it. Before this presidential election, it hovered in my brain the way superstitions do. I didn’t realize I was superstitious about black cats until I found myself walking across the street to avoid one. I didn’t realize that I believed Mitt Romney’s belief in God would prevent him from lying until he started lying so flagrantly. I was, am, shocked.
If you don’t believe that Romney lies flagrantly, Google “Romney’s lies.” Pages and pages will appear. He lies about what positions he’s taken, he lies about positions Obama has taken. He lies about discoverable facts such as his claim that federal spending has accelerated at a pace “without precedent in recent history” when, in fact, according to Market Watch, the Dow Jones website, federal spending is the lowest it’s been since the Eisenhower administration. He lies a lot about Vietnam. It’s hard to keep track of the claims — he was against it, he was for it, against it and back again, depending on whether he was talking as a Massachusetts moderate or a Massachusetts severe conservative. But the biggest whopper: as a severe conservative he says he never asked for deferments. The Selective Service and God both know that he not only asked for deferments, he was granted four of them.
Some things he claims don’t even make sense. He claims that, in his recent book, “The Escape Artist” author Noam Scheiber asserted that Obama intentionally slowed down the economic recovery so he could pass Obamacare. But Noam Scheiber and God both know that Scheiber not only didn’t write that, he doesn’t believe it.
The uncovering of lies is not only from left-leaning web sites. PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize winning political fact checking web site has identified more than his share of pants on fire lies.
Big deal, you say, all politicians lie. Yes they do, though I don’t count Bill I-did-not-have-sex-with-that-woman Clinton because clearly that’s in the compulsive territory. For a list of the not compulsive lies candidates told in the last election, check out PolitiFact on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. But they’re all rookies compared to Romney and none of them have devoted as much of their time and money to God as Romney has.
So, here’s my question: if Romney truly believes in God, isn’t he accountable to God? I’ve always believed that accountability, though a heavy burden, is one of the good things about religion. Those of us who aren’t religious are accountable to the people we love, to our neighbors, the people we work with, our community, our country. People who believe in God have all of that responsibility and God too.
And then I remembered Romney’s behavior during the primary races. The more insecure he got, the more gaffes he made and the more awkward, corny speeches he gave. And no matter how much he was mocked, he couldn’t stop singing his toneless rendition of America the Beautiful. Pundits were puzzled. Republicans were embarrassed. James Fallows referred to his behavior as “Romney’s gaffe-Tourette’s.”
I, however, am no longer perplexed by the Romney/God contradiction. The man has a diagnosable problem. Yes, he believes in an all-knowing God. And yes, God knows that he’s lying. But it doesn’t count. He can’t help himself. He’s a compulsive liar.