Mitt Romney On Faith in America

I just finished watching Mitt Romney’s speech on Faith in America. You can check out the video here.

Romney’s delivery is very good. I had to give that to him. His delivery
was crisp, clear and concise on the matter of his faith. I almost
wanted to admire him for that. But the contents of his speech, as good
as it was, is just so freakin’ mythic. And I have a problem with a (potential) President who has (predominantly) mythic
values (whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist). We’ve already
had two terms under a U.S. President to learn valuable lessons from the
unhealthy side of mythic values, thank you.

Now, just to be
clear, I don’t know enough about Romney to cast a judgment on his
values. For all I know he could be playing a religious facade to get
the sympathy of the religious voters (e.g. Christian evangelicals) to garner votes (ala G.W. Bush),
but deep inside his values could be different from what he publicly
profess (of course, this applies to all candidates). However, based on
what I’ve seen so far, Romney is indeed a man of faith (see this debate video). His professed faith is mythic to the core.
And his speech stretches the gap between believers, not-so believers
(moderates, those with no religious affiliation, agnostics), and
non-believers (seculars, atheists). It elevates the believers
(faithful) above the non-believers (faithless). Romney’s preference of
belief over non-belief is more divisive than unitive–a reflection of
his (predominantly) mythic faith.

Listen to Romney professing his faith (see the text of his speech here):

“Some
believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If
they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American
people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience.

“Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.

“There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What
do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son
of God and the saviour of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may
not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own
unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but
rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow
principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we
agree.

“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.”

Notice how Romney appealed to people
of all faiths while leaving out non-believers (those who have no
religious affiliation, including seculars, agnostics, and atheists).

Romney continues:

“I
believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer
to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I
wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic mass,
the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the
tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence
of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through
the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims. As I
travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always
moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing
to heaven, reminding us of the source of life’s blessings.”

Notice Romney leaving out people with Eastern religions (i.e.
Buddhists, Hindu, etc.) His appealing on Christian and Muslim voters
anyway.

“We separate church and state affairs in this
country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state
nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But
in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has
been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to
remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is
seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as
if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the
religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

Separation
of state and church is a good policy. But in practice this separation
is merely an illusion. In the U.S. the law takes precedence over
religious freedom (e.g. if you’re a Muslim, you can’t implement the
punishments of your religion (e.g. flogging) if it is prohibited by the
law.) In the same sense, when the stakes are high, the religious faith of leaders, greatly influence
their decisions on morally divisive policies (e.g. stem-cell research,
abortion, euthanasia, going to war, etc.). And why is it that
secularism is called by Romney as a “religion”?

Speaking of secularism, as far as I know, some of the New Atheists
don’t necessarily want to “remove from the public domain any
acknowledgment of God.” On the contrary, you have all the right to profess your belief in public. However, your religion should not serve as a “cover” and make it a taboo to criticize the irrationality of your professed faith.

“Perhaps
the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a
political office, is this: does he share these American values: the
equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another and a
steadfast commitment to liberty?”

Is Romney implying
that only people of faith can have these American values? Nonsense.
What about the progressive European countries that are mostly
secularized?

“I’m not sure that we fully appreciate
the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have
visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so
inspired … so grand … so empty. Raised up over generations, long
ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to
societies just too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and
kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no
favor to Europe’s churches. And though you will find many people of
strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away”

Huh? I’m not sure why empty Churches in Europe is an issue for Romney.
Is he implying the U.S. is on a higher moral ground than secularized
European countries based on the number of head counts in Churches? I
might be missing something here.

“The diversity of our
cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has
kept America in the forefront of civilised nations even as others
regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed.”

True. So how about taking it further? Daniel Dennett’s proposal is actually not less religion, but more religion! Let’s teach world religions to children at a very young age and give them the opportunity of making informed decisions.

If and when Romney wins this election, I just hope that he stick to his conviction.

“Let
me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church
for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.
Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and
it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.”

Heaven help us all.

P.S. David Brooks has an excellent op-ed on Mitt Romney’s speech on the New York Times. Check it out. Below is an excerpt.

“In order to build a voting majority of the faithful, Romney covered
over different and difficult conceptions of the Almighty. When he spoke
of God yesterday, he spoke of a bland, smiley-faced God who is the
author of liberty and the founder of freedom. There was no hint of
Lincoln’s God or Reinhold Niebuhr’s God or the religion most people
know — the religion that imposes restraints upon on the passions,
appetites and sinfulness of human beings. He wants God in the public
square, but then insists that theological differences are anodyne and
politically irrelevant.”

Comments (2)

  1. Will wrote::

    I think you would enjoy the book UnChristian (http://www.unchristian.com/). It would tie in nicely with your research of the New Atheist. If you get a chance to read it let me know what you think.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 8:06 am #
  2. ~C4Chaos wrote::

    Will,

    thanks for the link. sounds interesting. will check it out!

    ~C

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 8:16 am #