Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom GRD ’56 got political last week when he weighed in on Mitt Romney’s bid to become the next Republican presidential nominee. In the Sunday Review of the New York Times, Bloom, the author of 1992’s aptly titled “The American Religion,” revisits his interest in American faith, this time arguing that Romney’s Mormonism makes him a poor candidate for the Oval Office.
In establishing his argument, Bloom compares contemporary Mormonism with the faith and practices of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, who published the Book of Mormon back in 1830.
Referring to the contemporary LDS Church as a “Salt Lake City empire of corporate greed,” Bloom writes:
Should Mr. Romney be elected president, Smith’s dream of a Mormon Kingdom of God in America would not be fulfilled, since the 21st-century Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has little resemblance to its 19th-century precursor. The current head of the Mormon Church, Thomas S. Monson, known to his followers as “prophet, seer and revelator,” is indistinguishable from the secular plutocratic oligarchs who exercise power in our supposed democracy.
“The oligarchs of Salt Lake City,” Bloom believes, “betray what ought to have been their own religious heritage.”
Yet Bloom admires Smith’s keen acumen for leadership, and defends the Mormon Church from some of its harshest critics:
Our political satirists, with Mr. Romney evidently imminent, delight in describing the apparent weirdness of Mormon cosmology and allied speculations, but they forget the equal strangeness of Christian mythology, now worn familiar by repetition.
Bloom, however, ultimately questions the role Romney’s Mormon faith would play were he to take up office in the West Wing:
The Mormon patriarch, secure in his marriage and large family, is promised by his faith a final ascension to godhead, with a planet all his own separate from the earth and nation where he now dwells. From the perspective of the White House, how would the nation and the world appear to President Romney? How would he represent the other 98 percent of his citizens?
“We are condemned,” Bloom concludes, “to remain a plutocracy and an oligarchy.” Though Bloom’s somber forecast for America’s future will not likely influence the content of primary debates or campaign ads, Bloom’s observations add an interesting, albeit controversial, perspective to contemporary American political and religious dialogue.