Monday, December 10, 2007

I never knew John Kennedy, but Mitt, you're no John Kennedy

Mitt Romney decided to give a speech last week, as he does so often these days. In this case, he was trying to explain how his Mormonism would not affect his ability to lead the country. Forty-seven years ago (plus the odd month or two), John F. Kennedy made a speech with a very similar concept, in regards to his Roman Catholicism. The difference, however, is that Kennedy was much more honest about his agenda.
I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so--and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.


And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died--when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches--when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom--and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey--but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo.
Let's compare that to some of the more interesting statements in Mr. Romney's speech.
Mr. President, your generation rose to the occasion, first to defeat Fascism and then to vanquish the Soviet Union . You left us, your children, a free and strong America . It is why we call yours the greatest generation. It is now my generation's turn.
To defeat the Soviet Union? (Hmm... quick definition of Fascism -- rights of the people stripped away, a government so paranoid it spies on its citizens, people imprisoned without a trial... I could go on, but if you were capable of getting my point, you would have already...)
America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us.
Yeah, but we ignore the leaders, and concern ourselves with the foot soldiers. Osama bin Laden is still at large because we haven't been trying to catch him, and most of the money for these radical movements comes from Saudi Arabia. But do we do anything about that?

Well, yeah. We give them more money. That's always a good move.
An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership.
So you're saying WalMart is the problem? Wow, this is the first time you've said something that I agree with.
Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America 's greatness: our religious liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my Presidency, if I were elected.
Finally, he's going to talk about being a Mormon. It's about time. I wonder if he'll mention their magic underwear thing? (No, really. Mormons have magic underwear! It's a onesie that they can't just throw away. Honest! Check it out for yourself.)
There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams' words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'
Say what? You started your explanation of how your Mormonism isn't a threat by bringing up that tired old "America is a Christian nation" thing?

By the way, do you want to know the best way to tell that the Forefathers didn't think that we were a Christian nation? Go to the Treaty of Tripoli, which we ratified in 1797 (that's about sixteen years after we wrote our Constitution, isn't it?). Article 11 of the treaty start with the words "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion..."

That might be kind of a clue, don't you think?
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.
What?!? What kind of disengenuous, meaning-free statement is that? "Freedom of religion" requires freedom, and different religions require a certain amount of freedom to survive, but in general, how do you mean that "freedom requires religion"?
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.
Ah. Philosophy. Gotcha. So let's ask this question: What if all that freedom and window-opening has led someone to the feeling that they agreed with atheism? Or that an atheist is taking a negative position without any more evidence than the theist, and so our hypothetical person felt that agnosticism was the only reasonable faith? Are they ignored completely in Mitt Romney's world?
Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today.
OK, I've got an appropriate question, Mr Romney. Did Christ come to America?

Oh, right. You answered that already, sort of. Let's step away from Romney's speech for a moment, and consider what the real question here is. Why is Romney making this speech?
Christian conservatives often brand the Church of the Latter-Day Saints a cult because the 19th-century "revelations" of the Book of Mormon are given equal status with the New Testament. On Sunday Mr Huckabee, a Baptist minister, pointedly refused to say if his rival was a Christian. "Mitt Romney has to answer that," he said. "It's not for me to determine."
In an interview with The Times earlier this year Mr Romney was asked if he believed the Mormon doctrine that Jesus Christ came to America and will one day return to rule the world from Jackson County, Missouri. "I'm not going to separate myself from my faith,” he replied, "I accept the doctrines of my Church and do my best to live by them."
So there's the question in a nutshell. People think you're some kind of weird cultist. So how do you answer that charge?

In this case, you apparently answer the charge with a long, rambling speech on the importance of religion, and the statement "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

In this whole speech, Romney only mentioned the word "Mormon" once. He usually referred to it as "my faith" or, in the more abstract statements, "religion." And he tried to calm the fears of the more moderate Christians by saying:
What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior 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.
Well, yeah. And yours makes you believe that Christ came to America, and thinks that Missouri is a wonderful place to build your base.

OK, two points here. One: I've been to Missouri, and I'd hate to disagree with the Son of God, but... no, not so much. And two: if, in fact, Jackson County, Missouri is God's chosen place, why is the big Mormon temple in Utah?

(Oh, right, after Joseph Smith got kicked out of Ohio and Missouri, he was shot in Illinois. The rest of the church, getting their butts kicked in Illinois, schismed, and the biggest group, led by Brigham Young, went to Utah.)

But let's ignore the whole "Which religion is best?" question, OK? I've known ministers who think that Mormonism is a cult and not a Christian religion. And I've got to admit, the whole story is kind of silly. "The angel Moroni came down to Joseph Smith and told him where to unearth some golden plates, which were inscribed with an ancient Egyptian translation of the Book of Mormon. And after he translated them, the angel took the golden plates away." Why does the angel have an italian name? And why does he (or she - I don't know) take away the only thing that can verify the truth of the Book?

But I mean, let's be real. Is that crazier than the Christian faith? "God made the earth in seven days, to include fossils of dinosaurs that didn't exist to test your faith. Unless the dinosaurs died out when Noah did the ark thing. Oh, and don't forget that whole 'Hell' thing -- God knows everything. Past, present and future. So He knows that you're going to end up going to Hell, and he still allows you to come into existance. Which means that God created a torture chamber in His basement, entirely for His own amusement."

It's odd. Romney spends this entire speech blowing in whatever direction the political winds take him. He's trying to set himself up as a pandering, all-but-evangelical Christian-lite, who believes "just like you do." He can't even agree with himself during this speech. Like where he said "Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree." That's really a nice sentiment, but stands in contrast to Romney's statements that he wouldn't be likely to appoint a Muslim to a cabinet position.

Our boy Mitt's feeble grasp of history kept showing up in his attempts to pander to the Religious Right.
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.

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.
OK, Mitt, let's get real. "In God We Trust" was added to the money in 1864 (and only on a two-cent coin that year) because of increased religious sentiment after the Civil War. And "one nation under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 because of rampant fear of "those godless Commies." Trying to conflate these two acts with the Founding Fathers seems a little bit of a stretch, don't you think?

So, really, Mitt didn't bother to justify Mormonism. He just had his handlers write him a speech where he minimized the differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity, for a message of "any religion is a good religion" (ignoring anybody without a religion -- oh, yeah, and those Muslim extremists, they're bad, too). And he continued the Religious Right's noble tradition of rewriting history to fit their agenda.

Once again, this is just another example of Mitt Romney trying to please the most voters possible, and ignoring the truth when it's convenient. I think that Maureen Dowd saw the truth of it.
Mitt was right when he said that "Americans do not respect believers of convenience." Now if he would only admit he’s describing himself.

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