Did Mormon Fasting Create a Romney Debate Victory?By: hawkgrrrl
Rumors of a widescale Mormon fast prior to the presidential debate were rampant on Facebook and even in some news articles. I particularly enjoyed Pat Bagley’s cartoon on the topic. In light of the much touted debate bounce that has resulted in a game-changer according to recent polling, I wonder if some of those faithful fasting Mormons will see a causal relationship between their actions and the debate outcomes.
God in Politics?
My first thought when I heard of Mormons fasting for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign was repugnance at the idea of trying to manipulate political outcomes through prayer. The current polarization of politics in the US and the uncharitable and intolerant views thrown around by both parties make me cringe on a good day. Of course, while I envision a politically independent God (hmmm, wonder why . . .) Jesus was certainly free with the political jibes and chatter when he was in his earthly ministry. So maybe I’m just too diplomatic for my own good. Jesus was all for saying what people don’t like to hear and riling up the masses.
When fasting or prayer is done on behalf of another person, most Mormons (and Christians) believe that their prayer of faith (the faith coming from them), magnified by their personal sacrifice (such as foregoing food), results in God interceding to assist in the outcome they desire. I’m not totally clear what the exact request was that was made by those Mormons who fasted. Were they fasting for Romney to win the election? For him to just do well generally? For the outcome to be positive for the church? For God’s will (whatever it is) to be done? A mix of all of the above and a few other things thrown in? If I were engaging in such a fast (which I didn’t mostly because I was just flummoxed other people did – it would never have occurred to me), I would have asked for him to not make any painful gaffes and for him to emerge as the centrist he really is rather than the tea party kowtower he has had to pretend to be to win the nomination. In short, I would pray that he not suck.
And if that was the prayer, mission accomplished! He didn’t suck! But was it because God intervened and made it happen? I am never really clear on how this supposedly works. What I always imagined was that the collective energy of the fasting population, their combined positive energy or faithfulness, would get God’s attention. If they were lukewarm, he might not do anything. If there weren’t enough of them, he might just figure it wasn’t a big deal. But with a lot of them all focused on one thing, the collective unconscious could really make stuff happen, like levitating the Pentagon or Romney knocking it out of the park in a debate.
An article in Time from 2009 talked about the proven benefits of prayer. However, unlike what most Christians imagine, prayer only shows an incremental benefit if the beneficiary knows he or she is being prayed for. In other words, the knowledge that others are rooting for us, that even God may be willing to intervene if we are faithful (if we believe it can happen), can be enough to improve one’s outcomes. Usually this is in terms of healing, although Romney’s campaign wasn’t exactly running and not becoming weary if you know what I mean. Now, his campaign’s health seems restored and revitalized. Just in time, too. Did Romney’s knowledge of the faithful praying and fasting on his behalf give him the boost he needed in confidence and mental clarity to best his opponent in this first debate?
Does the knowledge the others are praying and fasting for us create a placebo effect that is entirely in the mind of the beneficiary, or is it more like it lowers our shields and allows the positive energy to come in?
Most news outlets who acknowledge a Romney victory chalk it up to his preparation and generally strong debate skills. They chalk it up equally to Obama’s arrogant lack of preparation and having been sniffing his own fragrance enough that he believed his own fan base and dismissed his critics. Was Romney’s success a byproduct of provident living – having on hand a 90 minute supply of zingers and quotables?
Perhaps this was a case of the tortoise and the hare, as many incumbent vs. challenger races are, with the incumbent overconfident and the challenger ambitious and disciplined, plodding forward despite the taunts from the sidelines. As I recall Aesop’s fable, the hare takes a nap under a tree while the tortoise steadily passes him and crosses the finish line. That about sums up the debate from what pundits are saying: Obama was asleep.
Back to the notion that God would somehow intervene as a result of a fast, even if (as I suspect) many of those who were fasting did so with the erroneous belief that God is a Republican (or the potentially erroneous belief that Mitt Romney is one!). Perhaps there is some greater benefit to the church or to God’s plan or to the world at large if Romney either 1) shows well in this process and ultimately loses, or 2) wins and becomes POTUS. As a person who firmly believes the world will be a better place if people think well of Mormons (rather than spewing hatred which benefits no one), I don’t see how a humiliating Romney defeat or a poor performance on his part helps or reflects well on anyone, either his supporters or his detractors. But it’s also one reason I’ve at times had mixed feelings about him winning. A lot of crazy stuff can happen in four years. The exposure that comes with the presidency is not always flattering. The higher you go, the more people can look up your skirt, n’est-ce pas, Ann?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but in the wake of the announcement about mission ages changing, perhaps there is something grander happening after all. The God I believe in is opportunistic like that.