Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney's faith speech

I heard Mitt Romney's speech, and I think he gave the best possible speech he could have, given his audience of Christian conservatives. I also respected that he basically said that he was a Mormon and he wasn't going to distance himself from that to get elected.

Two problems, though:

(1)Disturbingly, there was absolutely no suggestion anywhere in his long speech that he has any respect for non-religious citizens--their rights, their potential contributions, or their morality.

(2) A key component of his message is incoherent. He thinks:

(A) it is illegitimate to "have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines" because doing so "would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution"), yet
(B) it is legitimate for a candidate to proclaim in his campaign speeches that he believes that "Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind." (as he did in this speech).

He won't answer questions about his Church's doctrines, but he will answer questions about what he believes about Jesus? The implicit message is that a belief in God and Jesus is not a "doctrine"--rather, it's the baseline faith we all agree on, the standard. But to many people--Buddhists, Wiccans, animists, Shintoists, people who consider themselves "spiritual," agnostics, atheists, doubters, questioners, and adherents of traditional American Indian and non-Western religions--even the belief in God is a distinctive doctrine, not a given. When he talks about God and Jesus, Mitt IS talking about the distinctive doctrines of his church. So I don't see how he can get all self-righteous if people ask him to get more specific about what he thinks about Jesus and God.

Mitt wants to draw the line between "faith" (what a you can ask a candidate about without it meaning you're imposing a religious test) and "doctrine" (what you can't) exactly where it best suits his political goals: right next to Jesus. I don't see that as a principled position.

Note: I just found this article by Andrew Sullivan and this one by E.J. Dionne, which make essentially the same points as I do. And David Brooks has a really good piece too.

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