That being said, Mitt Romney crossed into our territory in two ways:
1 - He gave his speech in my backyard. 2 miles from where I sit.
2 - He talked about faith, both his and my own.
Two days ago, I was asked by a reporter what I thought about the speech he was giving, especially in light of it being compared with Kennedy's speech about his Catholic faith. I gave a few reflections that I will echo here.
*I think the comparisons have some merit. Kennedy was addressing a group of Evangelical leaders who were afraid that the Pope would rule the USA from afar if Kennedy were to become President. Kennedy needed to allay those fears, but he went too far. His "personal belief, but" formula became the easy out for Catholics since then. Now, politicians all too frequently use it as the scapegoat. "I personally believe that abortion is wrong, but..." doesn't work. There is some anti-Mormonism in the USA. But, not as much anti-Catholicism as there used to be. The LDS church just isn't big enough to garner too much hate. But, he needs to address his faith, as did Kennedy - but unfortunately neither really got to the heart of the matter.
*I also told the reporter that I hope that Romney is a man of enough integrity to say he is Mormon, that what he believes impacts his life, and that those beliefs will shape the way he governs. It is a matter of conscience for someone to stand up and say what they believe, then to integrate that fully into their life. I don't believe he did that.
Now onto what he said.
I think he tried to do too much - and failed at much of what he wanted to achieve. But, a few pointed observations.
*He doesn't want to offend, that is obvious.
*He is not apt to shy away from being Mormon, but doesn't focus on it. This quote struck me:
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.Why can't we criticize it? If we believe something is wrong, then shouldn't we? I do believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that Mormons are not Christians. But, they do share many of the same values. I consider Mormons to be allies in the culture wars.
But, he also said this, which I am glad to hear:
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.Good for you. Stand up for what you believe in.
Lastly, I focus on the following:
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.'Again, I agree, to a degree. The separation part is somewhat disconcerting.
One other small criticism. Very little is said about how his faith actually plays a part in his decision-making as a leader in government. This is important. Are they completely separate or are they integrated.
I hope it is the latter. Otherwise, why give this speech at all?