[Re-posted from earlier today]

Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had never attended Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago and had decided to attend services, and proselytize for, a black separatist, nationalist church that refused to allow whites to participate in crucial religious services because white people had been condemned by God for their iniquity in the ancient past and had been for ever marked white so black Americans would know instantly to keep their distance. In fact, the definition of white in this black supremacist church was just one drop of white blood in a black person. It was Nazi-like in its racist precision and exclusion. Whites were denied the rites that made a person a full member of the church. Even blacks with a tiny strain of white DNA were kept from full participation.

Imagine further that backing this racist church was not a youthful folly on Obama’s part, but a profound commitment – that he went on a mission abroad to convert Christians to a new religion based on black racial supremacy, and has often said that the most important thing in his entire life to this day is a church whose sacred scripture declares white people to be cursed by God for their past sins – and the sign of this curse is their white skin.

A simple question: Do you think this issue would not come up in a general election or a primary? If Obama was subjected to news cycle after news cycle of clips of Obama’s actual former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, can you imagine the outrage if Obama had actually been a part of a black supremacist church – that denied whites equal access to the sacraments – for over a decade in his adult life?

I raise this because it is a fact that Mitt Romney belonged to a white supremacist church for 31 years of his life, went on a mission to convert Christians and Jews and others to this church, which retained white supremacy as a doctrine until 1978 – decades after Brown vs Board of Education, and a decade after the end of the anti-miscegenation laws.

Once upon a time, when journalists were actually asking politicians tough questions, rather than begging for a get for ratings, this question was actually asked of Mitt Romney by Tim Russert. It’s a fascinating exchange for many reasons:

Romney’s response to the white supremacism of his church was to point to his mother’s and father’s secular support for civil rights for African-Americans, which ties in with Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s abolitionist convictions. And there is no question that Mitt Romney’s parents were heroic civil rights Republicans in the secular sphere – in a party that had not yet become the South’s racial plaything. And I do not doubt Mitt’s story about weeping upon hearing that the “ongoing revelation” had now changed. But all this evades the key question: what did the Romneys do to confront their own church’s non-secular position on the inherent spiritual inferiority of blacks? Nothing, so far as I can find. If any reader can find some, please send it to me and I’ll post it. And Joseph Smith’s admirable early abolitionism was soon trumped by Brigham Young who took the Book of Mormon seriously:

2nd Nephi 5:21 “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”

Here’s Brigham Young’s interpretation of the passage:

“Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a sin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

Here he is again in 1859:

Cain slew his brother . . . and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. . . . How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed.

And again in 1863:

Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.

So, in a complete inversion of Jesus’s teaching that those least valued on earth will be celebrated in heaven, we have vile racial supremacism on earth and heaven. This is not a deviation from Christianity but its total inversion. The inherent spiritual-racial iniquity of blacks places them at the very bottom of the pile on earth, and they will achieve salvation only in the hereafter – and then only after every other race has had their turn. Now listen to Romney’s response to Russert again:

My faith has always taught me that in the eyes of God every individual merited the fullest degree of happiness in the hereafter and I had no question in my mind that African-Americans and blacks generally would have every right and every benefit in the hereafter that anyone else had.

My italics. There’s nothing in Romney’s answer that violates the old Mormon doctrine – still there in the Book of Mormon – that for some reason, people with black skin suffer some kind of inherited curse that will only be lifted after everyone else has been saved in the hereafter. As for the total Etch-A-Sketch of the Mormon leadership on the question, watch the 2002 video below of the Mormon president explaining why the change happened:

His explanation for the sudden change? “I don’t know.” He has no answer, except, it seems, that the racism was inhibiting expanding market share for the religion in the developing world (and a white supremacist church might begin to worry about its tax exempt status in the late 1970s). Notice too the easy, casual shucking off of past positions and awkward inconsistencies. Remind you of anyone?

Notice also the lack of any apparent remorse, or criticism of the church’s previous position. This is a church that can take a position rooted in its own Scripture and just one day say it’s over and let’s move on. Even white supremacism! And people still don’t see how Mormonism – its utilitarian use of truth, its studied mainstream all-American appeal, its refusal to be completely transparent to outsiders, and its insistence on never having to account for itself – isn’t integral to Mitt Romney’s personality and beliefs. Romney will no more let outsiders look at his finances than the LDS church will allow non-Mormons inside their Temples after they have been consecrated.

Look: every religion has these stains in its past. My own church committed the Inquisition and, in my view, began the demonization of the Jewish people that killed and terrified and marginalized so many for centuries, leading to the Holocaust. Its continued systematic discrimination against women is a scandal. Its criminal rape of children makes it the most flawed current Christian institution on earth. And if you asked a Catholic candidate whether it was wrong for the Church to have treated Jews as cursed and sub-human for so long, I cannot imagine any Catholic politician not saying yes. Unequivocally. Is there a mite of evidence that Mitt Romney ever challenged the white supremacism in his religion and its active racism while it was in existence and he was still a missionary and member for 31 years of his life?

Listen again to the last question and answer in the Russert interview:

Russert: But it was wrong for your faith to exclude [African-Americans] for as long as it did?

Romney: I’ve told you exactly where I stand. My view is that there is no discrimination in the eyes of God and I could not have been more pleased when the decision occurred.

Why could he not just have said “yes”?