The NYT’s Charles Blow tried to make a funny about Romney’s magic underwear, failed, and got smacked around for it, but what I want to talk about is this statement:
Blow really should have been reprimanded for not being able to come up with anything better than the magic underwear thing. You work at the Times, man, put your shoulder into it! Have one of your interns look up something about Mormonism that all of Twitter hasn’t adequately addressed before now.
Unfunny schoolyard cracks that Conan O’Brien’s writers would have passed on are indeed inappropriate. However, criticism based on religion is most assuredly appropriate, at least, as appropriate as criticism based on anything else.
We can’t sit here and rule things out of bounds to talk about on the basis of somebody said the word “god” and now that means we all have to stop questioning. Faith is used too often as some kind of prophylactic against criticism in public life, an instant protection against having to explain one’s positions and justify one’s actions. “I believe” has come to mean “now you can’t object, because I invoked the Jesus Pokémon, regardless of what insane shit comes out of my mouth next.”
Which is a pity, because in the best traditions of faith doctrine can be the result of long periods of learned argument and study, and talking about one’s faith doesn’t have to be a threat to that faith. Sensible criticism about a politician’s faith would, one can hope, prompt a deeper explanation of how that faith informs a candidate’s actions.
In Romney’s case, that would mean exploring a candidate’s explicit view of his campaign as some kind of affirmation that AMERICA IS TEH AWESOMEST SEZ GOD and go fuck a French mime if you think differently. So I can see why his campaign wouldn’t exactly welcome that discussion.