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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Religion and Politics

At the end of the day, the similarities were eerie. Both men made the speech because they felt compelled to explain the issues raised by the brand of theology they espoused, against the advice of some campaign staff. Both men wrote the speeches themselves, with little outside help or editing. Both delivered their speeches in sober suits, in front of a bank of American flags, to emphasize their personal patriotism and dedication to country. Both speeches were widely anticipated and widely autopsied, with the Punditocracy of every persuasion weighing in. Both were hailed as having given the speech of their political careers.

Neither one changed a single mind.

Mitt Romney delivered his speech (text HERE) on last Dec. 7th, at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas. After reminding his listeners that the Constitution precluded any religious test for office, Romney went on to say, "There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers - I will be true to them and to my beliefs."

Barack Obama delivered his speech today (text HERE) and chose the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia as a venue. After carefully explaining that he absolutely disagreed with some of the "wrong and divisive" remarks by his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama went on to say, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love."

Their speeches are a credit to both of them. They are both thoughtful men, with fine principles. The American mainstream knows little of liberation theology or Mormonism, and doesn't really care to - which is why Porcupine is sceptical of the effect of Obama's speech.

Romney's speech on faith was to reassure evangelical voters that he was not a zany cultist, but a sincere and religious man who shares their values. Obama's speech was to reassure the public that he was not an ultra-leftist race warrior, but a sincere and religious man who shares their values. Yet the shades of Joseph Smith and the fire-breathing Jeremaids of Rev. Wright continue to hover over them both.

Religion and politics are a volatile mix in America, with direct and collateral damage. Let us hope that the careers of these good men are not part of the casualty count.

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Blogger Jolly Roger said...

I seldom agree with the modern version of "conservative," but I mostly agree with this. The only point I disagree on is the part about suffering in their careers for their sops to organized religion. The Founders were deeply suspicious of organized religion, and they were quite correct in this attitude. Let no religion put its imprint upon the Government. Let those who would pander to organized religion suffer the consequences.

2:39 AM  

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