When I heard Mitt Romney refer to the “faith of my fathers” in his recent “Kennedy speech”, I cringed. I watched various political pundits applaud Romney’s attempt at duplicating Kennedy’s much more eloquent clarification of his religious priorities. Then finally a breath of common sense fresh air (albeit a mighty gust) came from Lawrence O’Donnell on “The McLaughlin Group.” O’Donnell dared to comment on the gorilla in the room, namely some truly wicked aspects of “traditional” Mormonism.
Had Romney stated, “I am a practitioner of modern Mormonism, a religion that has recently attempted to abandon its previously detestable precepts concerning African-Americans”, then I would have little to say against him. But Romney chose to embrace the “faith of my fathers” and to explicitly refuse to “disavow one or another of its precepts”. He went on to say that “each religion has its own history” which is not a basis for criticism. Excuse me? It is the HISTORY of Mitt’s religion that makes it so odious. Romney went on to say that we Americans share a “religious heritage” with a common commitment to “equality of human kind”. However, Mitt’s religious heritage identifies Blacks as inferior, as folks who sinned in the world before this one, and hence are paying for it on Earth with dark skin and various deserved disadvantages.
Even if one could overlook the ethical deficiencies in the history of Mormonism, how does one get past Romney’s utter disdain for non-believers? “We are a nation under God”, he declared. Sorry, Mitt, not everyone believes that! “Liberty is a gift of God”, he says. Again, sorry Mitt but one can very clearly believe in liberty and at the same time believe that God is a fairy tale. “We welcome our nation’s symphony of faith”, says Romney thinking that he is being inclusive. Are all the agnostics and atheists’ “instruments” being muted in that symphony? Where exactly do they fit in?
In John Kennedy’s shorter and much more effective speech of 1960, he made only one “defense” of Catholicism when he said, “But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith–nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.” This wisely, was his only bow to those who felt he might be selling out on his fellow Catholics. The rest of his speech emphasized the importance of the separation of church and state. In stark contrast, Romney warned of the “religion of secularism” and seemed oblivious to the constitutional prohibition against the government promoting one set of beliefs over another. Kennedy said, “Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end–where all men and all churches are treated as equal–where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice” [emphasis added by me]. For Romney, those who choose not to attend are ripe for condemnation. To hear Romney’s view of our nation, agnostics and atheists are unamerican.
So, three cheers for Lawrence O’Donnell! Could his comments be construed as a rant? Probably. Did he lack a bit of decorum? I suppose so. But with our country on the verge of becoming a christian theocracy, some ranting might be just what we need right now.