“Magic undies”? Really?

Dear Fellow Progressives:

Consider this a rant.

For years now, you’ve accepted and been supportive of me and my faith, down to and including the multicolored beanies on my husband’s and son’s heads (and the scarf on my own) when we say our prayers.

But lately I’ve been hearing a lot of giggling and guffawing about someone else’s ritual garments: Mitt Romney’s.

Sneering at Romney’s sacred underwear, known among Mormons as their “garment,” is no better than sneering at my husband’s kipa. Calling them “magic undies” is not witty, it’s not original, and it’s not Progressive. It’s mean-spirited, it’s divisive, and it flies smack in the face of the kind of difference-accepting, diversity-seeking culture that is the hallmark of both this country and our movement.

I’ll be honest: I don’t get Mormonism. But then, I don’t get a lot of religions, sometimes not even my own. But do you know what we can do when we don’t “get” something? Educate ourselves.

In the official LDS explanation of Mormons’ garments (“Mormon Underwear“), we learn that

Garments are a symbolic gesture of the promises that Mormons have made to God. The garment is always worn under other clothing, next to the skin…. It serves as a constant reminder of the covenants made [before God in temple rituals].

Mormons believe in being “in the world, but not of it,” and the garment helps in privately yet consistently setting temple-going Mormons apart from the world.

Well golly. That sounds an awful lot like why Jews cover their heads, which is to demonstrate yirat shamayim — reverence, or awe, before the Almighty. Indeed, for Orthodox Jewish men (and some other Jews), there’s an additional garment called a tallit katan (sometimes referred to a tzizit), which is worn under the shirt, next to the skin, with four tassels hanging out — a constant, physical reminder to live a holy life, and further distinguish the wearer from the surrounding world. Huh. Fancy that.

I know you don’t like Mitt Romney. I don’t like him either. I don’t want him to be President, and indeed, I’d rather not even have to hear his voice again. But it has nothing to do with how, or why, or even if he worships his Creator, and everything to do with the fact that his political philosophy is one that devalues people and privileges wealth over shared human dignity. I’m also rather put off by all the lying.

I further know that a lot of you are agnostics or atheists, and think that religion of any kind is a towering pile of nonsense set against a backdrop of flaming hoohah. That’s fine. I respect your right to have no faith. But I do not, and will never, respect your right to disrespect me.

Or Mormons.

You don’t like the notion of sacred garments? Don’t wear them.

But if you want to defeat Mitt Romney, please do so based on the facts of his political life, not your interpretation of a faith system in which you have no share.

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