Years ago, a colleague told me about an incident he’d observed. A group of interns and residents had been swamped with admitting acutely ill patients. They’d gotten no sleep all night, and were unshaven and bedraggled next morning. The chief arrived to make rounds. But instead of helping the bleary-eyed staff care for the patients, he spent time arranging their black bags neatly at the nurses’ station, then yelled at the young doctors for not looking spiffy and wearing neckties.
In addition to demonstrating his bad temper and small-mindedness, the chief did so in the presence of nurses and patients, thus violating a basic principle of leadership: Don’t undermine your subordinates’ authority.
My colleague concluded with bitter irony, “You’ve got to know what’s important.”
We’ve all seen people like that, obsessed with irrelevant trivia while ignoring what is truly significant. In an ordinary office, this is annoying. But it’s really dangerous when human lives and well-being are at stake. This is obviously true in a hospital or in the military. It is equally true, though perhaps less obvious, in politics.
This November we will decide the fate of our republic, and perhaps that of the free world. Choosing who will lead us at this critical time is a heavy responsibility, among the heaviest we will face in our lifetimes. But what are we arguing about? Yes, there are serious commentators like Charles Krauthammer, Hugh Hewitt, and Dennis Prager. But what are the airwaves, the Internet, and the newspapers filled with? What are so many people squandering their time and energy discussing?
“Romney underwear” yields 2,970,000 hits on Google, while “magic underwear” yields 42,500,000 hits. Liberals from the New York Times on down − or on up, depending on your point of view − have ridiculed Mitt Romney for wearing “magic underwear.”
This is pure religious bigotry. Devout Mormons wear underwear of a special design, to remind them that they are always subject to God’s commandments. This is in no way different from wearing a cross or a Star of David around the neck, or a bracelet commemorating an active-duty or fallen warrior around the wrist. It is a reminder of an obligation, a word that is little used today. We speak incessantly about our rights, but rarely about our obligations. We have forgotten that we can’t keep one without keeping the other.
I am especially sensitive to this issue, because my grandfathers were Orthodox Jews. Although they died before I was born, I believe they both wore the fringed garments under their shirts that are mentioned by the Bible in Numbers 15:38-39 and Deuteronomy 22:12. Perhaps you have seen Orthodox men with fringes hanging from under their shirts. Or perhaps you haven’t.
But in either case, they are not “magic underwear.” They are reminders that God’s commandments are binding upon us wherever we go. What was true for my grandfathers is equally true for observant members of the LDS Church. So perhaps you can understand why I take personal offense at sarcastic, belittling remarks about “magic underwear.”
I have no statistical proof, but it seems that most of the derisive comments about Mormons’ “magic underwear” come not from devout Christians, who have legitimate questions about Mormon theology, but from secular leftists, who look down on all religion. No, that isn’t quite right. Secular leftists look down on all religion, but they save their vitriol for Christianity, especially Evangelical Protestants, practicing Catholics, and now Mormons − that is, people who take their religion seriously and tend to be conservative.
Secular leftists may look down on radical Islam as well, but to a major extent, they maintain a cautious silence on the subject − thus demonstrating that in addition to being anti-religious bigots, they are also cowards. Bigotry plus cowardice make a really unappetizing combination plate.
But I’m not letting devout Christians off the hook here. With some notable exceptions, they too say little about the persecution of fellow Christians in Muslim countries. This persecution has reached homicidal proportions. Yet many Christian leaders seem oddly unconcerned. Instead, they obsess about LDS theology, which is clearly in conflict with orthodox Christianity, but which has nothing − repeat, nothing − to do with a candidate’s ability to carry out the duties of president.
As leading Southern Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress declared:
I’d rather a non-Christian like Romney who accepts biblical positions than a professing Christian like Barack Obama who accepts non-biblical views.
But instead of taking this common-sense approach, many Christians − and many secular leftists − gloss over the crucial issues that will be decided on Election Day:
● They gloss over an ever-larger government usurping the rights of our citizens. Isn’t this a moral as well as a political issue?
● They gloss over the expanding nanny state that controls everything from light bulbs and toilets to dishwasher detergent to what our kids eat for lunch. Yes, this is a moral issue. It means the demotion of the individual human being created in God’s image to a mere servant of the state.
● They gloss over a government that spends money it doesn’t have, and never will have, by heaping debt on our children and grandchildren. Talk about taxation without representation. And this too is a moral issue.
● They gloss over plans to gut our national defense in an increasingly dangerous world, where fanatics scream “death to America!” while building nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. That is a matter of life and death.
There are serious questions about selecting Mitt Romney to be our president. He has shifted his positions on important issues like government-run health care, abortion, and gun control. These shifting positions leave us in doubt about his core beliefs. Let us discuss these important issues.
But instead, like my colleague’s medical chief who argued about neckties instead of caring for patients, some people ignore the important while wasting their time and energy on the trivial. There is no perfect candidate. And if there were a perfect candidate, he would want perfect voters, which surely leaves me out.
Like all of us, Mitt Romney has problems. But his underwear is not among them. As my colleague said, you’ve got to know what’s important.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: email@example.com. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.