Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mitt's Speech

So several days have passed since Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered his speech regarding faith in America. Since I couldn't sleep in the wee-early morning hours of Sunday morning, I thought I would share a quote that I found interesting.

"Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom...[freedom and religion] endure together or perish alone."

First, I don't know if it is fair to go at his speech with a fine-tooth comb, seeing that he is not a theologian, biblical scholar, religious expert, or ecclesial egghead. On the other hand, he put his views out there publicly so a response from the public is appropriate. Also, since he likely spent many, many hours preparing this speech, word by word, a careful evaluation of it is only fair to him.

Second, the basic sentiment behind this quote is true enough. Religious freedom is important in America. Amen! I guess a Baptist and a Latter-Day Saint do have some common ground!

Now to nit-pick. "Freedom requires religion." It does? Ask virtually any European what she or he thinks about that. Or ask an atheist in our own country if freedom requires religion. Therefore, freedom apparently does NOT require religion. Perhaps true freedom requires space for individuals to choose religion, but it does not require religion en masse.

"Religion requires freedom." Hmm. This too can be proven absolutely false by examining world affairs today. There are many countries with official religions that completely squash all religious expression except that which agrees with the state religion. Thus, apparently religion does NOT require freedom. Now true, secure religious people see the validity in allowing others to be free, but religion does not require freedom per se.

Freedom and religion "endure together or perish alone." Again, this is simply not fully true. In environments of heated religious persecution, people of almost every faith have not only survived but flourished. Immediately coming to my mind are the two faiths that I know the best: Christianity and Judaism. The persecution and lack of freedom afforded to both by the Greeks/Romans (albeit at differing points in time) was real and did not ultimately prevent their religions from existing or their religions from being expressed. So religion can endure alone when freedom is taken away.

Can freedom endure if religion is taken away? Here we run into a contradiction of terms. How can there be freedom at all if freedom is restricted with regard to religion? If this is the case then what we have is not freedom to begin with! Perhaps Romney has a point here. Freedom can't exist if an individual is not free to have religion. That is self evident. However, if one freely chooses to not have religion on a personal level, then freedom does not stop existing for this person. Actually the choice to not take part in religion is an indication of a free person. So on a macro level freedom can't endure if religion is taken away; but on a micro level one can disavow religion and yet remain free.

My bottom line concerning this quote from Romney is this: basically what we have here is political word vomit that sounds good at first blush but that falls away under scrutiny. As for me, I don't want to hear what a candidate thinks sounds presidential, I want to know what is really going on in his or her head.

While I completely respect Romney for putting himself out there like he did, I must say that I am more than a little disappointed that for nearly twenty minutes he never seemed to say anything other than, "Don't not vote for me because I am Mormon."

So to end, I would like to slightly alter Romney's quote:

"True freedom at its best requires religion, just as true religion at its best requires freedom...[True freedom and true religion] obviously endure together or by definition perish alone."

I never said that I was a speech writer!

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