Cross Purposes

Well, we’re all still drying off after our dousing last night from Mitt Romney’s Gatorade barrel of holy water. Like JFK in 1960, Romney saw that his campaign was imperiled by a controversial religious affiliation; in this case, however, the risk was not that he was afraid of being seen as some sort of religious kook, but rather that he might be seen as the wrong sort of religious kook. Despite previous assurances that the particulars of a President’s religion don’t matter, as long as he has plenty of it, Mitt now feels the need to reassure the fundamentalist Protestant Republican base that he is every bit as tight with Jesus as they are, and that trivial details — such as polygamy, or that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri, and so forth — need not come between them.

Given that most folks understandably view Mormonism as a transparent and audacious flim-flam, Romney, sensing trouble, sang a chorus or two about the importance of religious tolerance in America. This may have clanked a bit in the ears of attentive Papists, given that Mormon doctrine appears to regard Catholicism as “the great and abominable Church”, whose fall will be one of the harbingers of the Second Coming — but if Mitt can rope in a few million Baptists with a single magnanimous gesture, that’s worth risking the affections of the few dozen Catholics who have actually taken the time to acquaint themselves with the fretwork and curlicues of L.D.S. dogma.

Of course, the ones who are conspicuously unwelcome under this big revival tent — as always — are poor wretches like me: agnostics, atheists, apostates and other legions of the damned. It might have been nice if Romney had so much as acknowledged our existence, or made mention of the fact that here in America freedom of religion might reasonably be construed also to embrace freedom from religion, but that isn’t what Mitt was selling last night — far from it. It would have seriously undercut his message, as far as his target audience was concerned, to have distended good Christian charity so far as actually to include doubters, Godless heathens, and other such rabble. Tolerance is one thing, and fine as far as it goes, but this is America, after all.

Romney reminded us of some simple facts:

“We are a nation ‘Under God’… “

Well, if true, then so are Finland and North Korea, I suppose. This pious sentiment dates back not to the Founding Fathers, but to the McCarthy-era pledge of allegiance.

“Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God…”

Well, I’m an American too, and I think that’s tendentious hogwash. Liberty in America is a gift of the Constitution, of the wise gentlemen (many of them entirely irreligious) who wrote it, of those who have dedicated their lives to its preservation, and of those who have sacrificed their lives to defend it.

“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.”

And if you infidels aren’t convinced by that breathtakingly unsupportable assertion, well, you’re “free” to disagree. No, wait, maybe not…

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One Comment

  1. Malcolm says

    A postscript:

    In this piece, I wrote:

    It might have been nice if Romney had so much as acknowledged our existence…

    I was wrong to have said this, as he did indeed mention us. We’re the enemies of America — not quite as bad, perhaps, as Islamic terrorists, but enemies just the same — who wish to “remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God”, and who seek, apparently, to establish “a new religion in America – the religion of secularism.”

    Posted December 10, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink