Mitt Romney and “cultural superiority”

Jim is much too kind when he reads this quote by Mitt Romney:

Citing the book “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations,” Romney detailed his interpretation of author David Landes’ thesis. “He says if you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it’s this: culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said.

David Landes’ book puts forth the idea that European cultural is superior to all other cultures. That’s why their economic system has prevailed. I don’t want to get into the subjectivity of Landes’ measurements here, but I would urge you to do just that.

However, I want you to think about Mitt’s words.

If he were standing in same place in 70 CE, he would have said that Roman culture is superior. If he was standing in Jerusalem during the Middle Ages, he would have said that Islamic culture was superior. If we was standing in Jerusalem in the 1930’s, he would have said that German culture was superior.

I am not an anthropologist, but I do follow the works of some. I would have to agree that some cultures are indeed superior than others. For instance, those cultures who practice child or ritual sacrifice are simply not superior or equal to those who have long ago banned it. Or, cultures who practice slavery and women’s subjugation are not superior or equal to those who have abandoned the practices. However, we have to understand that their are subjective markers – usually the economic indicators of Landes – and their are objective markers – think R. Girard, such as religion and the way in which the oppressed are treated. With that said, however, focus on what Mitt has said, to the Jews. If they accept this language, they are hypocrites.

A bigger gun does not make you superior.

But… what does Mitt mean by “and a few other things…”

Culture and what?

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

2 thoughts on “Mitt Romney and “cultural superiority”

  1. Well, I guess if their culture includes armed embargoes, then I guess he has a point.

    Gov. Romney is advancing this theory because it appeals to the social Darwinist rhetoric the RIght loves so much.

    He gets away with it because of the blinders Americans wear.

  2. It’s easy to explain. A “few other things”, as well. Mormon theology and fundamentalists have one thing in common. They believe in America’s divine destiny. God provided for the formation of America. God provides for Israel. The Judeo-Christian culture is superior. One step further, the link between this and making money (only a ex-CEO could truly appreciate that). The funny thing is – the difference, Mormons and fundamentalists would both view the other as not going to the celestial kingdom of heaven. For the Mormons, they view the three levels of heaven, with the highest (celestial), only reserved for those that go to the Mormon temple. That’s also why they do baptisms for the dead, so their relatives can join them in the celestial kingdom. Another indication of the “culture” thing. Brigham Young specifically said that black skinned people would only get to the celestial kingdom as servants. While the white skinned people effectively become Gods, presiding over their descendants (spirit children) from the celestial kingdom. I am not implying that Romney believes this, since the Mormons overturned that original belief of white/black. However, Romney, being a good temple-going member, could not help but pick up the underling “culture” tie, to being a “believer”, and a “money-maker”, and a white guy with a culture from Utah. It can be denied, but it is in his heritage. The “mark of Cain”, they use to believe, lies in the dark skinned people. I am sure Romney rejects this. However, it is easy to see how he could easily accept the ideas of the book by Landes, since it closely mirrors original Mormon beliefs. And to a certain extent, fundamentalists. OK – I fully expect to get flak from Mormons. But it is hard to deny history. How can you, as a good Mormon, stand at the curtain leading to the celestial kingdom room, and repeat verbatim, your long, memorized speech, in order to have an angel pull you into the room, without also believing your history of how you got there?

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