There’s much to admire about Mitt Romney’s faith speech. And there are some statements that require scrutiny and sober and reflective discernment.
As he stated, one of the forces that should hold our country together is the commitment to religious liberty. I agree. That means one’s faith should be no barrier to the right to vote, the right to run for office, nor the right to hold office.
It does not mean, however, that a candidate’s faith should not be weighed as a very significant factor for voters making their choices. As Romney himself pointed out, our faith fundamentally shapes everything in which we believe. It is the lens through which we view the world. It is the glass through which we perceive truth. It is the prism that shapes our deepest values and convictions.
That’s why the faith of a candidate is considered so important to many Americans no matter the office. But when that office is the presidency of the United States, the importance is magnified greatly.
I couldn’t agree more with Romney when he states: “There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation’s founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams’ words: ‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. … Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.’”
Romney said: “I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God.”
That may be his belief, but it is simply not true. In fact, it is provably untrue – even according to the words of his own speech.
Everyone has a religion – even atheists. A religion is what a person believes about God. Everyone has beliefs – even if it is a belief that there is no God, or that there are many. Romney himself acknowledged this when he referred disparagingly to “the religion of secularism.”
How could it possibly be true that everyone’s beliefs bring them closer to God? How could it be true that everyone’s beliefs bring them closer to a relationship with God? It makes no sense. It sounds nice. It tickles the ears. But it is simply false. It is, in fact, double-talk – frankly, a language Romney has mastered in his political career.
Not everyone is right about God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:14: “[S]trait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” I believe that – as I believe everything Jesus said and every word of the Bible.
Romney also plays the victim card in his speech – suggesting, in an ever-so-subtle way, that those Christians opposing him do so only because of his faith – out of some form of bigotry.
He says, for instance: “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”
He leaves out of the discussion, however, whether faith should be a factor that is weighed by voters. And, since faith does shape so fundamentally, as he admits, all of the deepest values and convictions one holds, why should it not be considered and considered seriously?
In many ways, Romney’s speech was well-crafted. But it was a political speech designed to rally a sagging campaign – or, perhaps more accurately, one that has never really caught fire despite his many charms and his seemingly limitless financial resources.
Romney claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, whom he called his Savior. He seeks the favor of Christians by making this assertion. Yet, those of us who follow Jesus know well that He never promised us an easy path. In fact, Jesus told us “ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”
Jesus actually encouraged us to look forward to that persecution, saying it would be a blessing. He didn’t tell us to whine about it.
Whether or not discerning, Bible-based Christians should vote for a Mormon to be their president is not really a question we have to face this year, because Romney is, as I have pointed out in the past, totally unqualified for the office on his political record.
Thankfully, he even cited that deeply flawed political record: “As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution.”
He also said: “Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.”