If I were Mitt Romney

December 5, 2007 | 45 comments
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We recently surveyed a bunch of politically savvy bloggernacle types — including some of our own T&S crew — and asked them to answer in a few paragraphs this question: “What would you say tomorrow (in the much-anticipated “Religion Talk”) if you were Mitt Romney?” Here are replies we’ve received:

From Ryan Bell:

Many have criticized me for holding my religious beliefs to be private, while some have accused me of making my faith too explicit a part of my candidacy. Both criticisms arise from a misunderstanding of the role faith plays in America. Religious conviction was at the core of America’s founding and drove the progress of this nation from slave-holding and divided to free and united, and then from separate to equal. At no point in our history did any great decision turn on one person’s received theology. Rather, the unique religion of Jefferson, the fervent faith of Lincoln, and the fiery passion of Reverend King formed the course of American events in unison, on their common foundation of belief in God and in His gift of liberty. If those men gathered in a room today, would we ask them to discuss their different interpretations of the Bible? If we did, they would not take the bait. Their contribution lies in their ability to find God in humanity. We would dishonor their legacy by demanding doctrine more detailed than this.

My own doctrine provides more detail of course, as do the teachings of many different faiths in this country. The question is whether the doctrinal details matter when it comes to solving America’s problems. I have considered my religious beliefs deeply, and have always concluded that they have made me better than I might have been without them. Some have focused on marginal or sensational details of my religion, as if my belief in the origin of scripture is more important than my relationship with its author. The beliefs I hold most sacred and most formative are those that teach how I can improve, how I can strengthen my family, and how I can help others in the world. If this rings of Christianity, it’s because I believe the Christian message of love for God and neighbor to be the heart of my religion.

And yet, large differences remain between my faith and that of many others. But large differences existed at the time of the founding, and always have. The differences never defined the best Americans. We are one nation under God. We have always asked our leaders, regardless of their specific doctrines, to embrace that idea, combined with a love for this country, its institutions and laws. I share that belief in God, and that admiration for this nation. I would lead this country without regard to my own specific beliefs, or those of others of my church, but in reverence for the American ideals of freedom and faith.

From Marc Bohn:

I think Mitt Romney hat-tipped how he plans to handle his upcoming speech on faith during an interview two months ago with Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. It’s likely that he used that interview to test messages for this speech in the event that he chose to give it. While I view the speech as inherently risky and am not convinced of the necessity (or wisdom) of giving it, since Romney’s decided to go ahead with it, I think his Face the Nation interview is a good starting point. In that interview, he really managed to hit most of the key issues that could possible sway an evangelical voter sitting on the fence because of religion. Romney will assuredly sound many of those same themes, while also trying not to alienate any of his current supporters. So, with the aforementioned interview as my foundation, I think:

Romney should not try to distance himself from his faith (“I’m not going to try and distance myself in any way, shape or form from my faith. It was the faith of my fathers, of my sons, a long tradition in my family…. I accept the teachings of [my] church, and I do my best to live by those teachings.”). He should softly try to denounce religious bigotry (“I don’t try and be critical of other people’s faith… I respect the work that’s being done by ministers of all faith.”). But he should avoid sounding defensive about religious concerns that some Republican primary voters may feel are legitimate (“I don’t feel bad at all about people asking me about my faith. I think it’s natural. Most people don’t know very much about it. And so, if they want to ask questions, I’m happy to respond.”). He should direct people to the Church for doctrinal specifics (“If [people] have questions about the doctrine of my church, I… direct them to the church, because they could probably do a better job explaining than I can.”). But he should recognize that interest in how his faith might affect his approach to policy is fair game (“[I]n terms of my values, what I think about the future of the country, how my faith impacts my thoughts about important issues… I’m of course open to all those topics.”). He should try to draw on common themes (“[T]he values of my faith are founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and the same kind of philosophy that is associated with other Christian faiths and the Jewish faith and others is very much consistent with ours. The view that there is a God that created us, that all the children on Earth are of the same… divine origin, that the loss of one life anywhere is the loss of a fellow son or daughter of God, that liberty is a gift of God. These fundamental principles are the same faith to faith.”). He should acknowledge Mormonism’s differences on a general level (“[R]eligions are different. And in some respects, [my] faith has a different take on various religious issues, as do other faiths.”). But he should try and minimize the importance of those differences (“[When people] get to know me and my wife and my family, they realize that our values are as American as any values you’ll find in the country, and they’re comfortable with us… by and large, people will make their decision not based on where you go to church but instead based upon your values, your vision for the country and your ability to actually help the country at a time of great need.”). He should stress his conservative policy positions (“[Voters are] not going to accept my religion necessarily, but they will certainly see me as someone who can be one of those who can carry the standard of conservatives for social, major social issues.”). He should clearly state that he won’t be taking orders from Salt Lake (“If I’m president of the United States… I do what the Constitution tells me, what the rule of law tells me. I certainly don’t do what leaders of my church or any other tells me to do.”). Lastly, he should remind people (as he often has) that they are voting for a president, not a pastor.

The trick in all of this, of course, is to not make it sound like any speech or interview he’s ever given before. In closing, I must admit part of me would love to see Romney use this opportunity to defend Mormonism on its merits, but politically that would be a disaster for him. His goal here is to diffuse the issue while striving to ratchet up his conservative credentials. Whether this speech can or will do that for him is anybody’s guess.

From Ronan James Head:

“Long ago, many of my ancestors left Europe to seek a better life in
America and build Mormon society in the West — a society of
patriotism and morality, work and faith. I inherited these values from
my family and from my faith and have tried to live my life in a way
that will please God. America should be the city upon the hill whose
light — in our country of many faiths — can guide the world. As
president I pledge to let justice and freedom prevail at home, and
restore honor to America overseas.”

And I would add, in hope, “My first act as president will be to follow
my own holy book and renounce war and proclaim peace with Iran.”

From J. Nelson-Seawright:

There has been a great deal of discussion about my religious beliefs over the last year. I hold those beliefs close to my heart. They are part of who I am and what I will do as the next president of the United States. So it is important to me that my fellow Americans can come to know this central part of who I am.

I am a Latter-day Saint, or what is commonly called a Mormon. Like other Mormons, I believe in the Bible as the word of God. I believe in Jesus Christ as the central part of God’s plan for humanity. I also believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that God has revealed additional scriptures beyond what is in the Bible. So in some ways, my beliefs are similar to those of Catholic and Protestant Christianity, but in other ways they are different.

My beliefs have guided me in my public-sector and private-sector leadership experiences throughout my life. They have taught me the importance of family, for Mormons believe that family is an eternal part of God’s plan. My beliefs have shown me the importance of peace, but also the value of military preparation and the necessity of self defense. These ideas are central to the Book of Mormon, just as they may also be found in the Old Testament. My religion has taught me the importance to society of caring for the weak and the poor among us, for Mormon scriptures — including the Bible — teach us that God’s kingdom is composed of those who care for those in greatest need. My faith has taught me the need for humility and the power of prayer. These are the lessons from my life and my faith that will guide me in my next presidency.

Many Americans do not accept all of the scriptures and all of the theology that I believe in. However, it is my conviction that the core values I have learned from those scriptures and that theology are a large part of what unites us all as Americans. As president, I will not enforce my theology on the country. I will not teach religion from the White House. Instead, I will try to lead our country in a way that expresses my faith and my values, but also my respect for those with different theological convictions. In asking for your vote, I ask you to extend me the same respect.

From David Sundwall:

Even before I announced my candidacy for president, there has been a lot of attention paid to my faith. While at times this attention has been overwhelming and bewildering, I can understand why many who are unfamiliar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have questions. We admit even to ourselves we are a “peculiar” people. I am proud of my faith and its uniquely American history that began in 1830 in upstate New York. It has been a tremendous source of strength and comfort that has helped me to become a better person.

As important as my faith is to me, I want to make it clear today that I will not explain nor apologize for these deeply held personal beliefs. As I have said many times before, I am running to be Commander-in-Chief, not Pastor-in-Chief. First, arguing matters of faith and belief in the Almighty does not lead to the unity that our nation needs to overcome the challenges we face. And foremost, if I did try to appeal to voters because of my religion, I would subject myself to an impossible test of conscience and establish an unprecedented litmus test that would be required of future candidates.

As many know, there are many from my church who are eager to share our beliefs with anyone who cares to listen. There are also many critics of my church who are perhaps even more eager to share why they think my faith is misguided and wrong. This religious freedom has been one of the hallmarks that makes our nation so great. I am grateful that we are able to freely disagree and still fully coexist side by side. Our union has not only survived but has benefited from a rich religious diversity of presidents who have been Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Unitarians, members of the Disciples of Christ and Dutch Reformed denominations, Quakers, Congregationalists and a Catholic. Perhaps our greatest general who later became president, Dwight Eisenhower, was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

Religious freedom allows us to discuss, argue, and to go on disagreeing but that is not why I am in politics. Politics is about building a shared vision for our future of and that is why I am running for office. I am not asking my fellow Americans to validate my private beliefs or to legitimize my church. I am asking American voters to judge me on my public record, our shared values, and how we can work together to help America move forward..

Now, about my lawn care service . . .

From T&S’s Russell Arben Fox:

(Please note that I write this 1) as someone primarily interested in the ideas of politics, not what actually works in the real-world political game, and 2) as someone who hasn’t ever voted for a Republican candidate for president.)

There are two stories which many different Americans, for many different reasons, tell themselves about the United States which are relevant to my campaign. The first is that we are a Christian country, deeply bound to the principles and history of Christianity; the second is that we are a secular country, deeply committed to eschewing any formal ties between church and state. I believe both of these stories are correct, but are often misunderstood. Are we a Christian country? The answer is “yes” if you mean “are our laws, informal norms, holiday traditions, civic rituals, sense of history, and so forth shaped by generally Christian expectations?” But the answer is “no” if you mean “does being a citizen of the United States entail, even implicitly, a set of theologically Christian beliefs?” For what we are not is a sectarian country, committed to the inculcation of a particular metaphysics, whether Catholic or Presbyterian or Southern Baptist. And that response should properly shape one’s response to the second story. “Secularism” is much broader and much more complicated than the reductive, simplistic antisectarianism that some atheists preach, an antisectarianism that assumes everything religious is ultimately sectarian, part of a program to move the world in the direction of some very specific God or dogma. This is not the case. The secularism that properly adheres to the American character–a secularism which involves civility, toleration, human decency and human rights–is not a secularism that ever did or ever should launch crusades against sects, whether they be Catholic or Presbyterian or Southen Baptist, assuming those organizations break no democratically-determined laws; it is a secularism that rather emerged alongside a broadly Christian understanding of what the plurality of sects means for a society.

I acknowledge that maintaining that very liberal–in the classic sense–sensibility about the place and role of Christianity in our pluralistic society is hard to maintain, with many failures of understanding having occurred along the way, and we can expect more in the future. Mormons like myself live with a bright memory of that time–generations past now, but still vivid in our rituals and practices and beliefs–when we were both the cause and the occasion of such a failure. I have no intention of going over all that contributed to that failure, on both sides: I’m neither a historian nor a scholar of my own religion. I am just a believer. But as a believer, I would insist upon this: that those who our critical of the Mormon faith, and express that criticism in ways that suggest that Mormonism is too outlandish, too authoritarian, too this or too that, to be a credible belief system for a candidate for president, are playing a game which presumes the sort of cramped relationship between Christianity and secularism which I have just denied. Nothing–no single thing–that drives some to be suspicious or dismissive of a Mormon candidate for president has anything to do the form of Christian thought actually relevant to this nation and my campaign to lead it. Instead, all such criticisms have to do with sectarian matters: which this book of scripture or that ecclesiastical routine or this doctrine or that way of dressing or speaking or who knows what else. These are matters that can only be understood–that can only be taken seriously–if one gets into high theology, which I not qualified to do and have no more need to do than John F. Kennedy had a need to explain the sacraments to his mostly Protestant audience. This is not, this should not be, where the argument lies.

I want to emphasize that I think it is perfectly possible to legitimately vote against a candidate on the basis of their religion; I know that, even in the simple and straightforward ways in which my daily beliefs have shaped life, there is ground for criticism and doubt. And some, of course, for reasons both good and bad, are hostile to any acknowledgement and defense of kind of Christianity which I think is key to America’s civil society, or at least may be hostile to the ways in which Mormons like myself have done so. But I take the American people seriously enough to believe that they will recognize and respond to an expression of faith which is Christian first and foremost, and sectarian second. Not that I don’t have my particular beliefs; I do. But the Mormon faith has, over the past century, embraced America and its civil order, and consequently while we may argue amongst ourselves over this or that particular matter and what it does or should mean for politics, and we may even argue about this interpretation or that with others, we know that in terms of governing America, the Mormon faith can provide everything that Catholicism and Presbyterianism and Southern Baptism can provide. And that, I think, is more than enough.

From T&S’s Adam H. Greenwood:

I speak to you today as one American to another. I am proud to be an American. I am proud to have you as my fellow citizens. Most of all, I am proud of our country.

In the beginning of our American history, the Pilgrims came to these shores fleeing religious persecution in Europe. They felt that God had guided them here. They vowed that they would try to be worthy of his purposes. They vowed to make America a shining city on a hill, an example to the whole world. For all our history we Americans have fought to be that shining city on the hill. In the words of our pledge of allegiance, we have fought to provide liberty and justice for all.

We Americans have not always succeeded. But when we have, I sincerely believe that we succeeded because—again quoting from our pledge of allegiance—we recognized that we were one nation under God. Long ago in the Declaration of Independence we acknowledged that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”, and now we live in a country where those rights are respected. Our first President, George Washington, asked all Americans to give thanks to God for our blessings. We still do that every Thanksgiving. And now we are richly blessed with freedom and happiness and strength and prosperity. During the terrible times of the Civil War, our President Abraham Lincoln, promised that no matter what happened we would see God’s justice in the outcome. And now we are one people once again and have put those terrible divisions behind us. The Reverend Martin Luther King and other southern preachers, and civil rights workers of Jewish and other faiths, showed us the sins of racism and discrimination we were committing. And now we live in better times. During a time of national malaise, our President Ronald Reagan reminded us again that we were that shining city on a hill, under God. And now we have had pride in our country again. I could go on. But for now I will only say that America’s strong belief in God has always been a source of strength.

But why has belief been so strong and vibrant here while its lapsed into apathy in so many other parts of the world? The reason is two-fold. First, we have religious liberty here and embrace people of different faiths equally. Second, we don’t act like differences in religious belief don’t matter, like they’re just personal quirks. How have we Americans been able to do both? Its simple. We simply have recognized that religious differences are properly handled through discussion and debate and personal example, through healthy competition, and not through voting and politics and government. We simply have recognized that religion is too important to be just another tool in a politician’s toolbox. We simply have recognized that faith should not be focus-grouped.

As many of you know, I’m a Mormon. You and I probably have many beliefs in common. We both believe in the Bible as the word of God. We both believe that Jesus Christ is our divine Savior. We both believe in respect for life and for traditional marriage. We both believe in the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity. We also have many differences. I do not apologize to you for those differences. I do not apologize to you for my faith. I never will. And I do not say those differences in our beliefs are trivial.

But I will say this. I am running to be the American President, not the Mormon President, the Christian President, the Jewish President, or the Muslim President. I will not use my campaign or my office to try to persuade you that my beliefs are correct. I will not make differences that are purely about religious belief the basis for any of my Presidential appointments or any of my Presidential actions. I will serve to the best of my ability. I will pray for guidance and then give the problems facing this country all the experience and energy and intellect I have. I will remember our common beliefs and our common heritage. And I will make you proud. So help me God.

***

We’re very pleased with the great suggestions from our participants, covering a range of possibilities. Which of their sentiments (if any) do you agree with most?

What would you say, if you were Mitt Romney?

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45 Responses to If I were Mitt Romney

  1. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    One proposed version of the speech:
    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MGQ2NDJjOWJhNDVlMWFmODA3Mjg1OWY0YmEwMzNjNDk=

    Another, though with a big helping of snark in the introduction:
    http://theamericanscene.com/2007/12/05/this-is-the-place

  2. manaen on December 5, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    You guys are good — maybe he’ll just read through your offerings above, sans the lawn service.

    I’d love to hear what Bro. Romney actually does say tomorrow — anyone know the time he’ll speak and what radio/TV will carry the speech in Los Angeles? Internet sites?

  3. David H. Sundwall on December 5, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    manaen –

    The speech will be at least be streamed from mittromney.com at 10:30 am Eastern.

    I bet cable picks it up as well.

  4. Ardis Parshall on December 5, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Almost thou persuadest me to be temporarily political. Really, you guys are good.

    manaen, see the last few comments on Matt’s “Mitt Romney’s Mormon speech” thread — http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4270#comments for times and sites.

  5. AH on December 5, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    I hope he goes something along the lines of what Ryan Bell wrote above. Well stated!

  6. AH on December 5, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    By the way, what time is this speech supposed to be tomorrow?

  7. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I’ve just read the other Romney speeches and I like them all. If I had to pick I’d probably pick JNS’s but its very close and as far as I can tell, we’re all making the same case–that in “American theology”, so to speak, its perfectly moral to treat divergent beliefs where the divergences are purely religious as irrelevant in politics. I expect that’s the case Romney will make tomorrow.

    But it occurs to me that the case hethat really needs to be made (Romney can’t make it) is the case that this aspect of American theology is compatible with Catholic theology or Evangelical theology or even secular agnostic/atheist theology.

    And even though Romney is a Mormon, the same case needs to be made for Mormons. Why is it acceptable in Mormon belief to vote for someone of another faith? Why is it acceptable in Mormon belief for a Mormon candidate for President to say that he won’t use his office to proselyte? Depending on what Romney actually says, I’ll probably put up a post on the subject in a couple of days.

  8. East Coast on December 5, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    If I needed to hire a speechwriter out of this bunch, I would probably go to J. Nelson-Seawright or David Sundwall. Good points by everyone, so I’ll have you all sit around and brainstorm my speech and then have one of those two write it into sound-byte format.

  9. Dave on December 5, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    You know, there’s a lot at stake in this election and a true patriot makes sacrifices for the good of the country. So maybe Romney should renounce Mormonism and announce his conversion to Evangelicalism. Hey, it worked for Henry of Navarre.

  10. Lupita on December 5, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Wow. If Mr. Romney sounds as honest, forthright, and compelling as y’all do, we’re in for an excellent speech.
    Times and Seasons for President?

  11. Bob on December 5, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    #7: ” Why is it acceptable in Mormon belief to vote for someone of another faith?” It appears it isn’t if a Mormon Republican is running. Romney should say nothing about his Mormonism, if his message is “It doesn’t matter”, just say it and move on. If his message is “It only means I am just another kind of Christan”, we know where that will go.

  12. Ivan Wolfe on December 5, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    All the speeches were excellent, though Ronan James Head’s final (out of context) quoting of the Book of Mormon seems more like a gratuitous cheap shot at Bush that has little or nothing to do with Romeny’s speech. It ruined what was otherwise a thoughtful comment.

    I don’t want to get into a debate about when the BoM says war is justified, though. Just letting Ronan know that he had a great speech until he ruined it with the too timely by half attempt to bring in the latest trendy left wing talking point.

  13. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    “Why is it acceptable in Mormon belief to vote for someone of another faith?” It appears it isn’t if a Mormon Republican is running.

    Bob, Mormons are as tribal as anyone else. So, yeah, many Mormons support Romney. Many evangelicals support Huckabee. Thompson gets more support in the South. And so on.

    But I haven’t heard anyone say that if you take the Mormon faith seriously you have to vote for Romney.

    For what its worth, if Jeb Bush or Haley Barbour were running, I probably would have supported them over Romney. I would have supported Owens from Colorado too until he blew up his career and his marriage.

  14. Ivan Wolfe on December 5, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    And I meant to say “Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants” in post #12.

  15. Ivan Wolfe on December 5, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    As for me and my house –

    we have no idea who are going to support (yet).

  16. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    The Mark Hemingway speech I link to in #1 is the best of us all. Check it out.

  17. just me on December 5, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Loved Ronan’s speech. But then I love Obama.

  18. Bob on December 5, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    #13: “But I haven’t heard anyone say that if you take the Mormon faith seriously you have to vote for Romney.” Then what is being said? It’s either “Romney’s Our Man “, or remain silence. Will we be having speeches written for Hillery, why it’s Ok to vote for a woman? Will we have speeches written for Obama, why it’s Ok to vote for a black. DeWhite Eisenhower was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, did anyone care ?

  19. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    Bob, I’ll personally validate your choice to vote for Hillary or Obama or Dwight Eisenhower and give you a hug to boot, if that’s what you want.

  20. California Condor on December 5, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    I scanned these quickly, all were pretty good. But I think Greenwood’s was catchiest, and that’s what you need for a president speech. Think “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

  21. Ray on December 5, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Personally, I wouldn’t give it as a “Mormon” speech. I would schedule the speech and say, essentially, “I’m not going to play this game. There is nothing in either my business or political career to indicate that I have ever taken orders from the leaders of my religion, and I will not do so as President. I understand how important religious convictions are, but I’m not going to address my religious beliefs when no other candidate is being required to do so. If I am going to be required to define and defend my religious beliefs and denomination, I challenge every candidate from both parties to do the same – together in a televised, communal forum. Every candidate can have 5 minutes (uninterrupted and unchallenged) to explain his or her beliefs and how those beliefs will affect the presidency. Under those circumstances, I will explain my beliefs. Now, for the rest of this speech, I will address my view of the role of faith in America.”

  22. Ray on December 5, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Bob, get a grip. You’re arguing against a position that has not been espoused on this blog. In fact, there are *many* people who have stated on this blog that they do not support Romney.

  23. Bob on December 5, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    #22: You are right, I need a grip (and you were right on Ohio State). But I just see this as a big mistake.
    99% of this thread has been on Romney..why? If not ‘espousing’, “He’s our Man.” Keep in mind, I’m a Democrat. I wish Harry Reed were running (grin)

  24. Sarah on December 6, 2007 at 12:00 am

    For what it’s worth, the Romney campaign is calling this speech “Faith in America,” and says that “[t]he speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the role religious tolerance has played in our nation’s progress and how the Governor’s faith would inform his presidency.”

    I like this segment (from the above speechlets) the best:

    “Some have focused on marginal or sensational details of my religion, as if my belief in the origin of scripture is more important than my relationship with its author. The beliefs I hold most sacred and most formative are those that teach how I can improve, how I can strengthen my family, and how I can help others in the world. If this rings of Christianity, it’s because I believe the Christian message of love for God and neighbor to be the heart of my religion.”

    I also like Adam’s conclusion a lot.

    But I still think this is just a big opportunity for Romney to make everyone on all sides mad at him.

  25. cyril on December 6, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Romney said at the event we were at tonight that the speech would not be about his faith.

  26. Clair on December 6, 2007 at 1:09 am

    If it is true that there is no such thing as bad publicity, then Romney has won the week, whatever he says tomorrow. Also, he has gotten writers on the right and left to do what they love to do – write – and to attempt it from within his skin and from his heart. That has to change the way they will consider him from now on, to increase their empathy with him.

    Hemingway’s NR editorial is really very good, as are parts of all the others.

    Given all these draft speeches, is there any chance that his actual speech will not seem a paraphrase of some parts of them?

  27. S.P. Bailey on December 6, 2007 at 1:18 am

    All were nice. Mr. Greenwood wins though.

  28. Jeremiah J. on December 6, 2007 at 1:26 am

    I confess I’d be a poor advisor to Mitt Romney on the speech. I probably would like to hear what he thinks about what his candidacy means for the Kingdom of God, and what it means for the American democratic project. Then maybe I could help him say it. But I haven’t figured these things out myself, nor am I very sure what Romney himself thinks about them.

    The curious thing to me is that the appeal of the Mormon political figure (speaking in generalities, of course), is not some particular political or ethical genius, some unique wisdom, some salt of the earth with which the whole political culture is, or could be, richly flavored (in Mark Hemingway’s terms, I see no real *conversation* between Mormonism and the wider American political culture, only a debate about a candidate). Rather it’s the competence, earnestness, readiness to serve, the easiness with which Mormons put themselves forward. Maybe you could throw in “clean living”. But this should strike us (or someone) as very strange–a heterodox, specifically American religion whose members feel quite comfortable participating politically in good faith, and yet have no significant, unique political doctrine to introduce into the American conversation? What goes by the name of “assimilation” leaves, for me at least, some puzzles, but also a wonder at something truly amazing. Alan Wolfe mentioned it at the Princeton conference–the remarkable ability of Mormons to be so different and yet feel so at home and thrive.

    But when Romney turns himself, in a sense, into a kind of theory, an account of how religion and politics works or should work in America (something he’s probably going to do tomorrow), I think he’s on thinner ice. Sure, Mormons seem to have this great easiness in serving faithfully and, in many cases, competently and honestly. So it’s tempting to theorize that for Mormons, their religion teaches them universal “values” very effectively, values which prepare them for lives of usefulness to others and direct them to selfness service, but that it gives them no doctrinal or other obstacles to full and flexible participation. Romney’s religion is not completely private, but it is completely safe, so the theory goes. Moreover, “religion” (in general) has been a great force in American history (now that the civil rights movement has been canonized, it all fits together nicely, but MLK was not running for president, nor did he ever act like he was). My problem with this way of putting things is that it denies our religion’s critical, prophetic (but perhaps latent) potential. I don’t want Romney to be seriously burdened by this potential, but neither do I want him to deny it in his enthusiasm for the basic coherence between Americanism and Mormonism. To put it simplistically, Mormonism in America is undeniably good but not completely safe or tame, appearances aside. Of course, what else is he going to say? He wants to win, and he’s going to emphasize how it works and fits together, rather than how it might not work. But I think that he’s going to tie up the package very neatly, more neatly than I’d like. My feelings are most closely in line with Russell’s speech, but I don’t think Romney will say something like that.

    God bless him though. I don’t know if I’d vote for him but I’m really rooting for him tomorrow, however he ends up on these very important questions.

  29. mlu on December 6, 2007 at 1:30 am

    These were fun to read. Nice work.

    Romney’s speech will be skillfully crafted and delivered and will leave some people feeling it was a bit plastic. But hey, what’s a Mormon to do?

    A couple of references to the “city on the hill” (which comes from the Puritans at Massachusetts Bay and not the Pilgrims at Plymouth Bay) which I quite like: it simultaneously echoes the religious vision of our founding and Reagan, who memorably quoted it, but without attribution, as I recall. (John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity).

  30. Kaimi Wenger on December 6, 2007 at 3:33 am

    By the way, I should note the blogs of our outside contributors:

    Ryan Bell at http://www.romneyexperience.com/
    Marc Bohn at http://theworldaccordingtomarc.blogspot.com/
    Ronan James Head and J Nelson Seawright at http://bycommonconsent.com/
    David Sundwall at http://www.asoftanswer.com/

  31. john f. on December 6, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Thanks for those speechlets. Very enjoyable to read and contemplate. I hope that Romney’s speech will be something similar to JNS’s and Adam’s examples. I agree with some others on this thread that Adam’s sounds like the best actual speech.

  32. Russell Arben Fox on December 6, 2007 at 10:04 am

    “To put it simplistically, Mormonism in America is undeniably good but not completely safe or tame, appearances aside.”

    Do you really believe this is true, Jeremy? Because I don’t. Until and unless something truly dramatic comes out of Salt Lake City–or something truly dramatic happens elsewhere which forces Salt Lake City to act–I’d say Mormonism has become an entirely tame lion, for both good and bad. Point being, the ways Mormonism and the American project might not “fit together” are only manifest when indulges in a sectarian reading of Americ’a religious (Christian) identity, which frankly only few of even some of the most seriously committed social conservatives are willing to do (though, as Nate has noted, various evangelicals and Catholics may be willing to do just that for other reasons, having to do with their own theological identity).

    Thanks, by the way, for the kind words about my contribution, which of course I realize no sane politician who actually wanted to make it into the news cycle would ever commit themselves to. “Antisectarianism”? Yea, right, I’m sure that’ll come tripping right off Romney’s tongue.

  33. The Fly-Man on December 6, 2007 at 10:53 am

    For Russell Arben Fox: Regarding part of your ending \”we know that in terms of governing America, the Mormon faith can provide everything that Catholicism and Presbyterianism and Southern Baptism can provide. And that, I think, is more than enough.\” Do you feel that faith is a necessary element that has to be \”provided\” to govern our country? What about Islam,Scientology or Secular Humanism? BTW, My grandfather\’s name was Arben Russell and our last name has 3 letters in it also.

  34. Adam Greenwood on December 6, 2007 at 10:53 am

    A couple of references to the “city on the hill” (which comes from the Puritans at Massachusetts Bay and not the Pilgrims at Plymouth Bay)

    Doh. The funny thing is that I kept thinking Winthrop but still didn’t twig that Winthrop wasn’t a pilgrim. Ghastly.

  35. Jeremiah J. on December 6, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Yes, Russell I do believe the statement you quoted, because I believe that there is quite a bit in Mormonism that extends beyond the current modus operandi we’ve established with the American regime (and throughout the world). I beleive that the modus operandi is in itself not equivalent to “selling out”, a lifeless assimilation, but that there’s something very wonderful and profound about it. And yes, something very different from what we have now (even more with a possible Mormon candidate) does not seem to be on the horizon, looking at the lay of the land as Nate has done. But therre is something that goes well beyond it (sorry for not taking a good stab at what that “something” is: I mainly think of commonly known historical examples where we’ve gone signfiicantly against the grain). Yes, it’s fragmentary, ephemeral, etc., but that’s all the more reason to remain open to it, to refuse to ignore it. Jesus said that any time is right for his brothers (to go to Jerusalem), because the world does not hate them, but it hates Jesus because he tells the world that its ways are bad. He also told Nicodemus that you don’t know where the wind is going or where it comes from, and that all those who are born of the spirit are like that. It think those two statements have something to do with the political meaning of our religion. It’s not an easy sell or a very clear explanation on my part, I know.

    As I’ve looked at some of the clues Romney has left out there about his speech, I’m actually more optimistic about what he’s going to say. It seems he’ll be fairly modest in his claims (he’ll focus on religious freedom and make a general appeal for tolerance, and not try to define the meaning of religion in America or Mormonism in politics). That kind of statement seems less limiting that some of the other, admittedly very thoughful, suggestions that I’ve read for Romney.

  36. Adam Greenwood on December 6, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Here are some excerpts from his speech, posted by NRO:
    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MGI0NWJkYjUxMGE0MmRhZTNiNmU1YWNiNDcyYjkxOTY=

    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 Adam’s 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.’

    “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

    …

    “When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.”

    …

    “There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”

    …

    “It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it’s usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.

    “We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

    “The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.

    “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.'”

    …

    “These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements.”

    …

    “My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self -same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency.”

    “The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed.

    “In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.”

  37. California Condor on December 6, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    I just watched most of it on a live stream on mittromney,com. I thought it was a grand slam for Romney. Wow. He might have just won himself the presidency. I was especially moved when he mentioned Sam Adams saying that he just wanted someone of piety to pray. Romney got a prolonged ovation for that one.

  38. WillF on December 6, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I just missed his speech because someone came to my cube – Why in this day does the media insist on giving their analysis first instead of just posting the video?

  39. Ray on December 6, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I absolutely loved the speech – even more than the ones submitted here. *grin*

    I especially love how he said, in essence, “I’m Mormon. Take it or leave it.”

  40. Sarah on December 6, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I thought he did a great job. WillF, you can see the full-text version on National Review.

    Honestly, he did a much better job than I had anticipated. I wonder whether the campaign at large (or his opponents) knew he had it in him.

  41. Blake on December 6, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I agree with CC: It was a great speech about the heritage of American religious freedom. I rang true and came across as sincere. He reflected the Mormon tradition of a divinely inspired Constitution founded by God. I also respected the fact that he stated that some believed he couldn’t win unless he renounced his faith, but he refused to renounce his faith and if he loses as a result, then so be it. No flip flopping on that issue.

  42. California Condor on December 6, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    This speech might go down in history as one of America’s all-time greats. I especially liked the part where Romney compared Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams to Brigham Young. It was inspiring.

  43. Connor on December 6, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    The speech can be watched at KSL’s site: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=2148086&nid=520

  44. Todd Wood on December 6, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    After reading Mitt’s speech this morning, I now read these speeches.

    Man, the first one out of the blocks by Ryan is powerfully compelling. And I liked some of the words in Adam G.’s.

    If I ever ran for mayor in Ammon, Idaho, I would be coming to T&S to write my speeches.

    But I doubt I could sincerely mix being a Baptist preacher and politics. Makes me laugh, just thinking about it.

  45. Jim F. on December 7, 2007 at 12:25 am

    After hearing these speeches, I’m convinced that he should have hired these bloggers to write it for him.