Friday, December 7, 2007

Romney's Blinders On Faith

Well, I read Mitt Romney's speech on faith in politics, and was I disturbed. It demonstrates Romney's huge blinders when it come to American culture. The speech reeks of a purely evangelical world-view, while claiming to reflect an understanding of all. It has been widely commented that Romney's speech ignores the atheists and agnostics among us, and it certainly does that. Romney said a President "will need the prayers of the people of all faiths." Notice that he doesn't mention the good will of non-believers. He said that "[w]e should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders." Why should we? What if we don't believe in a Creator? He also says "Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God." Oh really? All Americans? I think not.

Note how all his rhetoric assumes a Christian belief system for all. He talks of placing his had on a Bible when he takes the oath of office, as if it were assumed that he should. But I encourage all of you to examine Article II of the Constitution. Neither the Bible nor God is mentioned - as they are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. I wish Romney had commented on this absence. But instead he suggests those who have a real discomfort with God having any place in government are establishing a religion of secularism - and repeats that America must be considered a nation "Under God" and that in God "we do indeed trust." Who is this we? Surely not all Americans.

The most disheartening part of the speech is rightly the most quoted in the press. Romney argues that "Freedom requires religion," but offers no explanation. What does it mean? I read it as excluding non-believers from the truly American and patriotic. If someone does not have a religious faith, apparently he cannot truly believe in freedom or the American experiment.

Romney included one paragraph that I think expresses the correct way to examine a politician's. Sadly, he sets forth his standard as if it is only relevant to "a person of faith." He said:

Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of humankind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?
Remove the phrase "of faith" and I think Romney is on to something. What Romney does not notice is that none of his three American values require the existence of God, or the belief therein.

To be honest, I don't think Romney meant to be exclusionary. Instead, I think he is blinded to the existence of those with a significantly different cultural understanding from his own. Romney pictures America as a a Christian postcard. He travels the country and sees the "many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven." Does he not know that many houses of worship do not have steeples? Even some Christian houses of worship are steepleless. But in an America where all believe in the same God, in Romney's America, all places to worship have steeples.

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