Saturday, December 08, 2007

Round-up of Responses to Romney's Religious Ramblings

Here are some of the things I've read about Romney's big speech this week. (I don't agree with them all, although obviously I've chosen ones that I found interesting -- and it's probably fair to say I agree with the common thread among them all.) I've tried to encapsulate the responses in the quotes I've chosen, but of course to get a real sense of what any particular commentator said, you should click through and read their whole post.

Kevin Drum: "deeply offensive... Not only does Romney not have the guts to toss in even a single passing phrase about the nonreligious, as JFK did, he went out of his way to insist that "freedom requires religion," that no movement of conscience is possible without religion, and that judges had better respect our "foundation of faith" lest our country's entire greatness disappear."

David Brooks: "There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press... In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics. In Romney’s account, faith ends up as wishy-washy as the most New Age-y secularism. In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things. Really? Then why not choose the one with the prettiest buildings?"

Matt Yglesias: "if Romney had wanted to say that the nature of his beliefs about Jesus are irrelevant to the campaign, fine. Similarly, if he'd actually wanted to avoid discussing Mormon theology, fine. But he didn't stick to it. Instead, what he wanted to do was discuss just enough about Mormon theology to make it seem as similar as possible to orthodox Christianity while underscoring the idea that the nature of his belief in Christ is relevant to the campaign just insofar as his beliefs overlap with those of the Evangelical Protestants whose votes he's courting."

Fred Clark: "If freedom requires religion, then the a-religious and irreligious, the non-religious and un-religious are the enemies of freedom. Romney believes, in other words, that atheism is incompatible with freedom. Whatever it is he means by "religious liberty," he does not believe it can safely be applied to atheists. Keep in mind that this is Mitt "double Guantanamo" Romney talking -- he's made it clear what he wants to do to those he regards as the enemies of freedom."

Hugo Schwyzer: " 'any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.' ... Yikes. I hit my knees a lot, Mitt, and I worship the same Almighty you do. I’m heartened to hear you will be my friend and ally. Tell me, will you also be a friend and ally to my mother, who does not believe in God?... A real commitment to diversity is embracing not only all believers, but embracing all those who are in varying states of unbelief. I say this as a Christian who loves Jesus, and I say it on behalf of those whom I love who share my convictions — and those whom I love who don’t."

Ezra Klein 1
: "What Romney's speech today seeks to do is construct a new "us versus them." Where Huckabee was having some success making the us equal "Christians" and the them equal "Mormons," Romney is making the us equal "believers" and the them equal "atheists." The bet is that voters hate "secularists" more than they're unsettled by Mormons, and that if Romney can set himself up as the foremost opponent of atheists in public life, that will be more important than precisely which version of Jesus he believes in, or how many planets he'll be given to rule after his death. It's a speech calling for tolerance, that hinges on a public display of intolerance. It's classic Romney, and totally disgusting."

Ezra Klein 2
: "there were really two speeches within it. The first 846 words, which were a Kennedy-esque denunciation of elevating religion into political litmus test, and then the rest of the speech, in which Romney elevated his religion into a litmus test, said his faith, and belief in Christ, ensured that he passed it, and then warned the Christian Right to focus on their real enemy: the secular left.... [given the clips the news shows are playing,] Most viewers will experience only the first portion of the speech. Theyll only hear Romney playing Kennedy. But the bits from the second part will undoubtedly receive prominent play within the evangelical community. The speech they will experience is the one in which Romney declares "freedom requires religion." They will hear Romney playing religious warrior, and promising to further destroy the walls between church and state. "

Eric Kleefeld, reporting for TPM: "A spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign is thus far refusing to say whether Romney sees any positive role in America for atheists and other non-believers, after Election Central inquired about the topic yesterday"

Mark Kleinman: "Romney's recitation of the religious traditions he admires includes only monotheist failths. I'm not surprised he left out pagans and wiccans, but excluding Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Native American traditions couldn't have been accidental, could it? When Romney says: "any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty has a friend and ally in me" he seems to mean that literally: that to be his "friend and ally" you must practice a religion that acknowledges one Almighty God."

David Frum
(via): "Romney is saying: It is legitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the son of God?" But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?""

Atrios: "It's completely appropriate that Mitt was introduced by George HW Bush, the man who once said, "No, I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God." to give a speech which included the line "freedom requires religion.""

Steve Benen: "This wasn’t the JFK speech; it was the anti-JFK speech. Kennedy believed in an “absolute” separation of church and state; Romney believes government neutrality on matters of faith is a mistake. Kennedy believed in leaving religious institutions free of government aid or favor; Romney believes the government must take an active role in preventing secularism from taking over. Romney didn’t echo the wise words of John F. Kennedy; he repudiated them."

...And if you want still more reactions, you can read Joan Walsh, the Rude Pundit (very much NSFW), more from Ezra Klein, more from Steve Benen (and still more), the NYT editorial board, Melissa McEwan, P. Z. Myers, Charles Pierce, Juan Cole, Andrew Sullivan, Peterr at Firedoglake, Digby, and a more mixed response from Russell Arben Fox. Tbogg quotes some right-wing raves here, and (here) links to still more over here.

(Update: Links added.)

Update 2: More from Fred Clark here.

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