Friday, December 07, 2007

Romney’s Faith in America

I know that many here probably like Romney, a lot (some, considering the gay + LDS thing, may even love him ;-)). I caught his speech yesterday, though, and am motivated to blog on the matter. Though I know it was meant for very conservative early primary voters, I was expecting something else, and was quite surprised at the content.

Here’s a link to the text of the speech, “Faith in America.”

And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.

Let me get the Romney-gay rights stuff out of the way first… :-)

I’m all for cutting government spending, getting off oil, and supporting families. I just wish he meant what he said. We may see if he does on spending and oil, but that last bit is clear code. Sure, “the family,” as defined by Romney took a hit when women gained the power to more easily leave their husbands. But divorce rates have been steadily declining for over 2 decades; teen pregnancy has been on the decline for a while as well. In fact, no one I know is attacking the family, or man-woman marriage; most everyone thinks such is amongst the most precious institutions of human life.

It should be clear to all that he is referring to his record of attacking our families, those headed by gays and lesbians, not defending from any breakdown. I’m sure the writer of the speech was counting on that to be clear to the religious right. The two topics are already tied on the Romney site.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the brazen use of such Orwellian doublespeak. Defending “the family” means attacking families. Those who are "anti-marriage," are advocating marriage. Protecting “the children” means keeping children’s parents from legal responsibilities, and making them pay more in taxes, health insurance, and encouraging them to use welfare and put the kids in daycare (1, 2). Really? People are buying this, or do they really deep down know it’s a poor sound bite of an excuse to treat people in a way you’d not want to be treated?

Romney's excuse is the standard “Ideal Family” argument. I went over that in great detail in these posts. In the end it’s that he thinks it’s best for our children to have different parents (never mind that we could say that of more than half of all kids ;-); no one has an “ideal” home). While children do need mothering and fathering, he argues they need a mother and a father and hopes prejudice will assume the rest: that men don’t, say, nurture and women don’t push. It’s a cheap trick of vocabulary meant to tug on the emotions most of us associate with mom and dad, despite the fact that those emotions, along with mothering, and fathering all go on in the homes of gays and lesbians.

But even if Romney is right here, and the government’s position should be that our children should have different parents, it still makes no sense. It’s somehow better for our “deprived” children if the people raising them are not legally responsible to each other, and are encouraged to place them in daycare and so on? Wouldn’t legal marriage make Romney’s bad situation for them better? Isn’t that why “pro-family” folks decry out-of-wedlock births, because marriage stabilizes a child’s home? Or is it just a façade of an argument, meant to hide the sort of intolerance the man holds, and yet is also hoping to quell in others with this speech?

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.”

When I heard this, along with the bit that the Constitution was meant for religious people, I was surprised. This is, after all, supposed to be a speech about religious tolerance. I know many atheists, my dad for one, and they are amongst the most principled individuals you could meet. They are so because they value morality, no hope for reward or fear of punishment, no means to absolve themselves of past sins either. If asked who would be the least risk to do harm with his freedom, the man who does right because he loves right, or the man who does so under want of reward, I think most would take the first man any day. Nevertheless, Romney apparently thinks differently and this comes off as a threat to both atheists and agnostics. Consider how you’d react if your President stated that, for your religious ideas, you can’t be trusted to sustain freedom, or that the constitution wasn’t meant for you.

Still, I bet there’ll be little fuss over this in his party, and it will help him in the primaries. Though, in the US there are about 3 to 5 times more nontheists than LDS, almost 75% of republicans say they’re less likely to vote for an atheist and only 28% are less likely to vote for a Mormon (link). How’s that for a religious test?

I suppose, such shouldn’t be a surprise. Minorities, once they begin to take a place in the majority, often show the same low tolerance they once experienced. I don’t mean to say this is the case for the LDS as a whole; it happens in parts of the gay community too.

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

More code, but hey, I know I’m absolutely exhausted by such people too, Mr. I’d be “better for gay rights than Ted Kennedy” in the 90's :-).

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.

Thank goodness such bogymen don’t exist, then, or at least that such folks are so small in number that I’ve never encountered one. They are so bad that the mere idea of them gets the troupes to the polls, right? Everyone I know, though, is just fine with public displays of faith and acknowledgements of Gods. The problem comes when you ask your neighbor to pay for your religion, when you ask a Baptist to, say, pay for a granite statue of the Buddha in the public square.

Here in Utah we just had a fight over a Ten Commandments monument a while back, and the government eventually won the right to keep it on public land, and that’s fine by me. We paid only for the land, and I’m a sucker for monuments. But then the local Summums came in and wanted their monument of the Seven Aphorisms in the same area, and guess who fought of that? They were fueled by religious intolerance, but not from the dreaded secularist war machine.

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders - in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.

It is best to acknowledge what or who created you, be you Christian, Hindu, or even Atheist. But for the record, as far as I can tell, the founders didn’t put statements of faith on our currency (more irony, God on Mammon :-)), nor did they put it in our pledge. All that was added later.

I'd watch it on the Founders. I mean, have you ever read the derogatory things Thomas Paine wrote about the Bible in the Age or Reason? Heck, Thomas Jefferson took the bible and removed all the supernatural events and republished it. He also wrote:

That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore. But that he might conscientiously believe himself inspired from above, is very possible.

Believed? Possible? Can you imagine if Romney rewrote the Bible, or said that instead of what he said yesterday?

If you don’t get elected, Romney, it may be some comfort that Jefferson would more likely be burned in effigy over a pile of Paine’s books on the campus of Bob Jones University than be reelected these days. That’s religious tolerance today; our 3rd President would probably not get a tenth of either party’s vote.

I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty

That makes two of us.

Okay, it’s nice to get that off my chest. I hope I wasn’t too inflammatory, but please, this was a speech on religious tolerance, right?!

Eh, at least I know I’m manlier than Mitt. ;-)

And hey, once I find the candidate that meets my requirements, you can all pick on him or her (not an endorsement of Hillary) too. Don't hold your breath.


Abelard Enigma said...

My wife and I were having a 'you are starting to turn liberal / no you are turning more conservative' discussion this morning, during which she asked me if I was going to vote for Romney.

I told her "no, but not because of what he stands for, but because I don't know what he stands for." As far as I am concerned, Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper - he is the John Kerry of the republican party, saying what he thinks people want to hear.

Having said that, if he wins the primary (which I doubt) then he will most likely get my vote in the presidential election. If it comes down to a choice between Mitt and Hillery than it's a no brainer in my book. Mitt may be a flip-flopper, but Hillery is just dang scary - IMOHO.

Abelard Enigma said...

One more thing: It's wrong to NOT vote for Mitt Romney because he is Mormon; but, it's just a wrong to vote for him simply because he IS Mormon.

Neal said...

This time I think I'm going to write in a candidate - the Geico Caveman. We've had a Neaderthal in the White House for eight years, so I would hate to see us break the tradition!

[əɪ̯ wʌndɹ̟] said...

Neal: amazingly enough, I totally agree with you.

Abe: Why exactly do you think Hilary is scary? I must admit that I'm not terribly enthusiastic about her, but at least I trust her not to try to get an (unconstitutional) amendment to the constitution that persecutes minorities just so the majority doesn't feel uncomfortable. There are several other issues of course, but that is a major one for me (and many, many others). I really just don't understand why it is seen as legal to discriminate against any group, especially when the reasons to do so are rooted almost solely in religious belief.

Chris said...

When I read Romney's speech, I had some throw up in my mouth.

I've come to despise him more than any other candidate. I'd vote for Dennis Kucinich before I'd vote for Mitt Romney. Hell, I'd vote for Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo before I'd vote for Mitt Romney.

My favorite pandering moment in the speech came when he talked about how wise the Founders were in recognizing that in God we trust and that we are one nation under God. Of course, he left out that the Founders had NOTHING to do with those phrases, which entered the national lexicon in the 1950s during the height of the Red Scare and McCarthyism.

Abelard Enigma said...

We've had a Neaderthal in the White House for eight years

I'm from Texas. Them are fightin' words!

Why exactly do you think Hilary is scary?

Two words: National Healthcare (or, is that 3 words?)

Seriously, I actually do like George Bush. I believe him to be an honest man of integrity (something his predecessor knew nothing about). No, I do not agree with everything he believes in.

There, I said it! Am I going to get kicked off the gay island of misfit Mormon's now?

Chris said...


Too bad he shown himself to be horribly incompetent.

Chris said...

National Healthcare

Because the current system works SO WELL!

[əɪ̯ wʌndɹ̟] said...

National Healthcare

I agree with Chris, changes must be made. And I think that national health care is a wonderful idea, and something that every industrialized ought to have.

There is no excuse for millions of Americans to be unable to afford health care, and for thousands to die each year because they don't have access to health care.

If that's the scariest thing about her, then this country is in for a treat.

Scot said...

Chris: Hell, I'd vote for Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo before I'd vote for Mitt Romney.

Let’s not get crazy. Duncan Hunter? At least Romney has a chance of flipping back ;-).

Abe: There, I said it! Am I going to get kicked off the gay island of misfit Mormon's now?

Hope you can swim.

Nah, okay. I still like ya. Besides, I suspect if you get kicked off of the gay island of misfit Mormons the continent would just ship you back, same day air.

Java said...

The whole mess just confuses the hell out of me. I'll not vote for Romney just because he's a Mormon, nor will I vote for him because he is a Mormon. I don't care that much about his religious affiliation. The same can be said for the other candidates. There are so many candidates, so many issues, and so much political posturing that I can't keep it all straight in my head. I probably won't vote in the primaries, but will wait and see who survives. Then I'll decide.

J G-W said...

I'll be using Age of Reason as a required text in the course on American religious history I'm teaching this spring.

I also plan to have the class read Romney's speech, and have a discussion of American civil religion. I thought the giving of that speech was a pretty amazing political moment. I wish I were a fly on the wall of Evangelical right wingers trying to figure out what to make of it.

I actually liked the speech, though I had the same reaction you did to his suggestion that atheism is un-American. I was about to say that intolerance is the more un-American value, but then I'm a historian so I know better.

No, I'm not voting for Mitt. I think the Democrats will do a better job of upholding all those shining values he talked about in his speech.

Abelard Enigma said...

Because the current system works SO WELL!

I agree the current system has problems; but, I don't agree that a national healthcare system is the answer.

I think that national health care is a wonderful idea

I agree that it's a nice idea; but, how are you going to pay for it?

There is no excuse for millions of Americans to ... to die each year because they don't have access to health care

The fact is, there aren't millions of americans who don't have access to healthcare. All hospitals are required to provide care in life threatening situations. County hospitals are required to provide all kinds of care. There are also 1,000's of free clinics around the country. But therein lies the problem with our current system. Going to an emergency room for relatively minor problems is the most expensive way to provide care. We need to figure out a cost effective way to care to those who need it.

I suspect if you get kicked off of the gay island of misfit Mormons the continent would just ship you back

[sigh] you're probably right. Good thing I love all you guys - even if you are a bunch of flaming liberals :)

Chris said...

Abelard, then your issue is with all of the major Democratic candidates, not Hillary. All are pushing for national healthcare.

MoHoHawaii said...

I was amused by the uncharitable response of hard-right commentator David Frum:

"To be blunt, Romney is saying:

It is legitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the son of God?"

But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?"

It is hard for me to see a principled difference between these two questions, and I think on reflection that the audiences to whom Romney is trying to appeal will also fail to see such a difference. Once Romney answered any question about the content of his religious faith, he opened the door to every question about the content of his religious faith. This speech for all its eloquence will not stanch the flow of such questions."

As noxious as Frum is, it's hard to refute this view. Once you allow religion to be a legitimate subject of political debate, you've opened Pandora's Box.

Bush (and by that I mean Rove) was a brilliant tactician. Not much of a strategist, though. He won his elections but suceeded in destroying the viability of the Republican party for the next 30 years or so.

Scot said...

I’m with you Java; it’s a mess. I just hope I don’t have to cast my ballot with a cringe on my face again.

(Though, you should vote in the primaries; it’s a complaint license;-))

J: I wish I were a fly on the wall of Evangelical right wingers trying to figure out what to make of it.

I’ll say. I bet he did well in their arena, though, with some to the buttons he hit. I just wish he had given an actual speech promoting religious tolerance, not merely focused on tolerance of his faith and faiths based on the God of Abraham.

Abe even if you are a bunch of flaming liberals :)

Watch yourself, you may catch fire too if the island gets too crowded ;-).

MoHo: As noxious as Frum is, it's hard to refute this view. Once you allow religion to be a legitimate subject of political debate, you've opened Pandora's Box.

That is an interesting point. I get the feeling, though, that this was the end of it; he gave them most of what they wanted. We’ll see I guess.

-L- said...

In a telephone interview with Romney on Friday evening, I asked him why he had, to many ears, seemed to fail to reach out to those of no religious belief: "I was struck that you did not explicitly extend the definition of religious liberty to those who believe nothing at all …"

"I don't think I defined religious liberty," Romney replied. "I think it spoke for itself … but of course it includes all, all forms of personal conviction."

"Or the lack thereof?"

"Yeah, the lack …" He paused. "But—well, the people who don't have a particular faith have a personal conviction. I said all forms of personal conviction. And personal conviction includes a sense of right and wrong and any host of beliefs someone might have. Obviously in this nation our religious liberty includes the ability to believe or not believe."

From Newsweek.

I'm a big Romney fan, and I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt when others won't. I realize this will be dismissed as contrived, as is nearly everything he says, but I believe him.

Scot said...

I wish I could be a big enough fan of any this round to want to assume their words meant the best scenario. Maybe I’ve become too suspicious of politicians.

This attack-then-deny thing is just too common a political tool, from Hillary’s apologizing for of her campaign’s attack on Obama’s drug use as a youth to Huckabee’s backing off of his public “questioning” weather Mormons believe Jesus is Satan’s brother.

I do believe Romney did the same trick here, knowing full well the votes of his threatening secularists and atheists wouldn’t be missed in his primaries, knowing his speech would get much press and what the interviewer struggled out of him above would not. I mean, don’t you think this was probably one of the most well thought out speeches of Romney’s campaign? I’d bet he knew exactly what he was doing when he said "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," and erroneously implied God in the pledge to the founders’ design.

In fact, reading the remainder of that article, his view is summed up as:

a republic is dependent on the virtue of the people, the virtue of the people is dependent on morality, and that morality is dependent on religion.

If that’s what he really believes, then that is some religious intolerance, though subtle.

Still, for his clear promises to continue an assault on my family, I do know I’m likely to expect more of the same mentality in other areas.

Anonymous said...

"i actually like george bush"
then you'd probably like a president romney too

and you and w and mitt and go sit in your air-conditioned, walled-off enclave and not worry about bombs in the middle east, unending droughts in africa, and the suffering of american uninsured. you are white, rich, american, and male. you'll survive.