The first always makes us uncomfortable.
We don’t have a history of others to compare him or her with to mold our expectations, calm our anxiety, or shape our views. As so many have said before me, we fear what we don’t understand.
“I don’t like the fact that Mitt Romney’s membership in the LDS Church could be a hurdle,” Raelene Davis, director of marketing for Ski Utah, said on “A Woman’s View.” “I think back to when JFK was running and his Catholicism was a huge issue.”
We’ve come a long way, baby.
Or have we?
We were discussing the recent Pew research on the program, the research that showed nearly half of Mormons in America still say they face significant discrimination. Best-selling author Anita Stansfield said, “The whole prejudice that we’re not actually Christian is just ludicrous. I have a lot of peers in the writing world who can’t get their work sold in the Christian market, even though it’s not Mormon specific, just values-based.”
“I’ve lived all over the United States and out of the country,” Davis added, “and I don’t feel like I’ve been personally attacked because of my faith, and I work in an industry that is not predominantly LDS (the ski industry). It’s interesting the questions I’m asked. I feel like even if people don’t accept my faith, they accept me.”
That’s really what Mitt Romney is asking the American people. He’s not asking them to accept his faith, just to accept him — to see that his values, his strengths, his experience add up to a person who can be trusted with the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency.
“I am definitely a Mitt supporter,” Stansfield stated. “I am an instinct-oriented person, and I’ve always had a good feeling about him. I think we should trust our instincts more, shut out the chaos.”
It is hard to shut out the chaos of politics, especially if you’re in a state where a primary election is taking place. Your airwaves are filled with negative ads about the candidates, which are not even purchased by their opponents directly, but by so-called Super PACs. Talk about chaos.
How do you get an instinct in the midst of all that noise? From the way a candidate looks? The way he or she speaks? “There is a spirit about a person,” Stansfield explained. I hear that. On some level, I hear that. After I listen to the debates and read the editorials and study the positions of the candidates, what actually guides my decision when I enter the voting booth? Is it really the nuts and bolts of the candidate’s positions, or is it something intangible? The “spirit” of the person?
“I endorse Mitt Romney, like many of us do who worked with him during the Olympics,” Davis explained. “I hope he goes on to be the nominee and ultimately the president.”
“And I think people are becoming more open minded to his Mormonism,” Stansfield added. Most Mormons around the country agree, according to the Pew research. 56 percent of those surveyed believe the country is ready for a Mormon president. “His religion really has come under scrutiny, but maybe people are thinking, ‘Oh, maybe Mormons aren’t what I thought they were.’”
“I wish people knew more about what the Church does for people around the world,” Davis added. That would most certainly have an effect on their opinions.
Isn’t this true for all of us? If we only knew more about each other, we would open more, possibly care more. If we knew how much the person in the cubicle next to us suffered, we would care more. If we knew more about how hard the mother in the grocery line in front of us was trying to be a good mother, we would have more patience.
If we knew ... if we only knew.
Of course, there is a way for us to know. We don’t have to stay in our comfortable ignorance. We could ... ask. We could inquire. We could reach out, one human being to another. “How are you?” Those are three magic words. We could seek to learn before we seek to judge. If the people who judge Mitt Romney took the time to learn about him first, we wouldn’t have so much blind prejudice.
I don’t often give assignments, in columns or otherwise, but there is a first time for everything. Your homework assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to ask questions — of someone, of anyone, but particularly of someone you feel inclined to dislike or judge or resent. Who is he or she? What are their circumstance? What brings them to this place in their life?
Feel your discomfort dissipate as your understanding grows.