There are times when events occur that makes one wonder whether they are a by-product of the national zeitgeist or whether they are more accurately understood instead as mere localized stupidity.
Last week, a 4 year old Mormon boy-or more accurately a little boy born of Mormon parents-was denied admission to pre-school (I guess) at Little Rock Christian Academy. The parents were upset and went to the press. The reporter interviewed a member of the Board. A lady named Carla Emanuel, who evidently is of some prominence socially seeing as how her picture coincidentally graced the cover of a local magazine the same time as the interview took place.
"It's very, very sneaky when people come in especially in elementary and junior high grades where the kids are [sic] very influenced. It's frightening how quickly things can get turned around," she said. "They are called to do that, which is fine. But then start a Mormon school," she said.
And if we need further proof that Ms. Emanuel does not possess a "Gee, Maybe I Better Shut Up" alarm in her head, she went on make the informed and theologically nuanced observation that "I don't believe they ("they" being the Mormons we may safely assume) will go to Heaven."
A more paranoid and profoundly stupid remark can scarcely be imagined. Don't believe me? Then let us parse it further.
"It's very, very sneaky when people come in..." What's sneaky about it? I'm sure the kid's parents filed an application with the school just like everybody else. They evidently didn't lie on the application either. And what "people" are she referring to? She didn't mention the Mormons by name. Jews have historically been accused of sneakiness. Or maybe she doesn't like Unitarians.
And it is evidently the height of sneakiness when "people" try to come in to "elementary and junior high grades where the kids are [sic]very influenced." But that's not what happened here. The kid was trying to get into pre-school. While it is not uncommon for paranoids to get their facts wrong, this one, like Barack Obama not really being born in the United States, is not even close.
"It's frightening how quickly things can get turned around." Really? Has it ever happened before? Did the kids at LRCA start making reference en masse to the "Holy Ghost" and asking for martinis for breakfast the last time an Episcopalian child was admitted there? And are they so insecure about their own faith out there that the presence of a 4 year old Mormon is a threat?
And finally, "They are called to do that, which is fine. But then start a Mormon school." I assume she means that Mormons are called to proselytize. Which is not only "fine"it's true. But again, the kid in question is 4. Even Jesus didn't confound the Elders in the Temple until he was older.
Now the question I had momentarily is whether the kerfuffle over at LRCA has anything to do with the larger question burning its way through some quarters as to whether Mormonism (for lack of a better word) is so outside the stream of American religious experience that it will hurt Mitt Romney politically. There are a considerable number of people that do not believe that Mormons are Christians. Or as noted theologian Carla Emanuel put it, they ain't going to Heaven. That would be 6 million of them in the United States alone. Each and every one of them consigned to Perdition by a member of the Board at LRCA.
I may be wrong but I don't believe that I know any Mormons. If I do, they have chosen, much to my considerable relief, to keep it to themselves. But I can certainly believe that they are Christians if for no other reason than they tend to display outward and visible signs of the faith such as hard work, thrift, devotion to family, clean and moral living and charity. However, I also fully believe that Joseph Smith was a con artist of the first water who was in it for the money and the chicks as much as anything. And while I am exceedingly tolerant of the religious persuasions of others, I find some Mormon beliefs such as baptism by proxy and how Smith came to receive the revelation from the Angel Moroni to be utter hooey. Finally, while I probably don't think of end time theology very much, I can say that I do not believe for 5 minutes that the Second Coming of Jesus will occur in Missouri.
But being a Mormon doesn't disqualify Mitt Romney from the highest office in the land because the Constitution forbids a religious test for Public Office, although you wouldn't know it from the debate during the Republican primaries. And I believe upon further reflection that the recent unpleasantness here in town has little to do with the larger national debate. From what little we know now, it is just a local bit of ugliness.
Mitt Romney's faith does not disqualify him from the Presidency. But it evidently would disqualify his grand kids from admittance to Little Rock Christian Academy.