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Romney's speech

I’m late, but whatever. Romney gave his “Faith in America” speech the other day. No one seems impressed and I’m among those who disliked it. I’m sure you’re all surprised.

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

It’s pretty bad when you write lines that are obviously false. There are all sorts of not free religious countries and there are quite free nonreligious ones. I must not believe in freedom, as I’m not religious. So, false and offensive. Good start, Mitt.

There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.

But making sure everyone knows he believes Jesus is his savior, as he does in the previous paragraph? That’s ok. The religious test clause only means that you don’t have to justify your weird views, not ones that are fairly common, religious or not. Score one for originalism.

It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it’s usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

Let’s go with the first sentence first: no, they don’t. I dare say there’s not a single moral belief I hold that isn’t held by someone who attends a church. Nor is there a belief that is common to all churches, but not to the unchurched. Of course, what Romney wanted to convey is that while he may have wacky theological beliefs, that doesn’t mean he holds sane moral beliefs. He’s just as crazy as the rest of the religious right. Which, of course, they haven’t been buying.

The last sentence is almost offensive, but really isn’t. It’s simply obvious that social movements aren’t going to get enough non-believers to create anything broadly influential. There are probably enough total non-believers, but getting significant portion of them to agree on one thing is difficult. You will need some of the 90% of this country that’s religious.

There’s more nonsense, like how the Constitution rests on faith and God grants us liberty. Because really, what’s better than attributing our freedom to an arbitrary and capricious god who seems insecure and overly concerned with which body parts go in what bodily orifices? I’m sticking with “inalienable right,” thank you very much.

In closing, I’ll quote what Jay over at LitW says:

I admit I’m a little disgusted that his faith is an issue to begin with — to me the worst part about the speech was its necessity.

I’d have more sympathy for that position if Romney said he didn’t want religion in government. The religious right has rejected the separation of church and state and if he wants their support, he has to deal with the fact that they want their religious beliefs endorsed by our government. Until he tells them to fuck off, I will watch the tension between their fundamentalism and Romney’s Mormonism with great amusement.

Categories: 2008 elections, Religion
  1. Lina
    December 8, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    I am so irritated by the arguably “liberal” statement that no candidate’s religion should be questioned. That’s where the call for tolerance and diversity comes back to bite us. Tolerance is a good thing in the context of convincing suspicious, hateful people to accept completely harmless and normal things, like skin color or sexual orientation. But tolerance is a bad thing when it becomes watered down to mean accepting anything and everything, stupidity and irrationality included.

    To parse words, it’s not a candidate’s religion being questioned per se, but rather his judgment and reasoning abilities. Clearly. But no one’s allowed to say that in the public sphere because it obviously implies that being religious is not rational, which would lead to a charge of “intolerance.” And when people talk about a president not letting his religious beliefs influence his political decisions, what that really means is that the president isn’t religious but merely talks the talk to get elected (most Democrats in recent decades, I have a hunch). Because if a president is truly religious, religion will — AND SHOULD — shape his policy. (“Should” in the sense of remaining consistent and having religious integrity and conviction; not “should” in the sense of producing good policy.)

  2. December 10, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    It’s a nutty country, that’s all. The religious test for office has become pervasive. I’m comforted that the religious right will have a hard time with a Mormon, and also that they might (might) be troubled by an open sinner and pro-choice guy like Rudy. But I suspect that when it comes down to it, they will put their moral compasses in their little kit bags and support whoever the Republican nominee is. These are, after all, not so much principled people as people who know the road to power might have a moral bump or two on it.

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