Well, Romney didn’t convert.
Admit it. You wondered if he might announce in his speech on “Faith in America” that he’s embraced Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior in a very evangelical way.
Who could blame you? The buzz about Romney is not that he is a successful businessman and experienced executive, but that he’s a guy who will say anything.
Well, he didn’t “say anything” in THE SPEECH.
There was something bold about Romney’s speech at the George H. W. Bush library in Texas today. Here, a guy who is most easily identified as a “flip flopper” who doesn’t believe anything but what is politically advantageous, stated plainly that he would not “disavow one or another of [his faith’s] precepts.”
While assuring anyone who might be freaked out by what they do or do not know about the specifics of Mormonism that “no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions,” he nonetheless refused to distance himself from his faith.
He didn’t talk specifically about questions that have been raised: about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its history involving polygamy and race. Needless to say, undergarments didn’t come up, and nor did the location of the Garden of Eden. And Romney very clearly stated, “some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate’s religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today.” And so he has.
Is that enough? He clearly thinks so. And he puts his faith in the American people. In his speech, Romney said: “Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people.”
Calling himself a “friend and ally” of “any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty,” Romney named names of Americans with whom he shares common values:
I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: 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. As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life’s blessings.
He goes a step further and says, “Americans do not respect believers of convenience.”
Here, a man who the media had clearly defined before most Americans met him, tries to change the public narrative about him. Romney used the speech as an opportunity to introduce himself, himself, as an experienced guy who has operated in the world successfully with his faith as a guide:
As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew itI tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution – and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.
And Romney rounded out his speech by putting on a leadership suit, reminding us of the deadly serious religious issues that America faces. After cautioning against the secularism of Europe, Romney said:
Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent Jihad, murder as martyrdom… killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance.
You have seen and will see more of my family, he implicitly acknowledges. And that’s because that is who he is: “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.”
And in case you’re worried about the fact that none of those Romneys drink, he made it clear that he’s O.K. with anyone who wants to go for Sam Adams — conveniently replaying a scene from the First Continental Congress.
So with a hand of friendship to Irish Catholics and other faithful and tolerant Americans, Romney, in his College Station speech, drew his inspiration from an American before John F. Kennedy’s time, instead emulating George Washington. In his farewell address, the original George W. said:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.