Thursday, December 06, 2007

Of Shoes, Ships and Sealing Wax*

Or on the famous religion speech Mitt Romney gave today. I didn't hear him speak it but I have read the transcript, and I must admit that he hit pretty much all the points he was supposed to hit and missed all those morasses he was supposed to miss except for one big one. Oh, and he used sexist language, but that is covered in the post above.

First, he did a lot of speaking in voices (or code) for the fundamentalist evangelicals. Examples, bolded by me for your benefit:

America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership. And we're troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.


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

Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

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. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator.

We cherish these sacred rights, and secure them in our Constitutional order. Foremost do we protect religious liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right. There will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise of our religion.

There you have it. Mitt would give us a Supreme Court full of Scalia clones.

Second, he courted the fundamentalist evangelicals by implying that he is one of them, really, except for happening to be a Mormon, too:

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 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. 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.

Third, he spat the Europeans in the face quite nicely, while following that immediately with a rant against radical Islam. This juxtaposition is no accident. Wingnuts tend to think of Europe as Eurabia, as being run over by hordes of bin Laden:

I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I've visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired, so grand and 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.

Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent jihad, murder as martyrdom, killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance.

May I point to Mitt that the large cathedrals of Europe are tourist traps? The people who go to church prefer smaller churches. Though I probably shouldn't bother. I have often been astonished by the strong opinions conservatives have about Europe, especially those who have never been there.

Fourth, he managed to say nothing about the actual beliefs of the Mormons. Nothing about the Mormon underwear or about men becoming gods in the eternity while women become eternally pregnant and so on. That was very well done, indeed.

And where did he stumble? He defined religion as monotheism. That means Hindus and Buddhists are not good people in Mitt's books. And of course atheists are absolutely awful people. Very odd, given that Mitt defined secularism as a new religion, and he was all so gung-ho about religion otherwise:

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's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

*From a good poem by Lewis Carrol.