Parsing Romney’s “Faith in America” Speech

Mitt Romney’s ANTICIPATED, MOMENTOUS, HISTORY-MAKING speech on faith seems to have gone over well. His main point: America should embrace religious diversity and let his religion’s quirks be treated as “not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.” Nothing too controversial there—but unlikely to persuade people viscerally averse to Mormonism itself.

Anyway, a few lines are worth parsing:

  • “I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it.” Yes, I’m going to use the word Mormon . But just once. See? I’m not embarrassed to say it. Once.
  • “Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.” Irony alert! Hard to say why he included this line, given that in the case of abortion and gay rights, this is the exact crime of which he stands accused . (More on this here .)
  • “When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God.” Hear that? The Bible, not the Book of Mormon.
  • “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith.” And yet: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths.” Step 1: Have cake. Step 2: Eat cake.
  • “I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims.” The implication: That’s how new religions get founded. Not so threatening, right?
  • “But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. … It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.” So there are religions he doesn’t respect!
  • “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.” African-Americans weren’t allowed to serve as Mormon Bishops until 1978. The issue hasn’t really come up yet on the trail, but it might in the general election. Better to diffuse now.
  • “I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired … so grand … so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and kneel in prayer.” The sarcasm of the word enlightened didn’t quite come through in the speech, as if he were saying Europeans actually are enlightened. Next time, consider air quotes.
  • “We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way.” Seamus would agree.

Good roundups of the Romney speech here and here . Audience reactions here . Read the full speech here .