Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney's Speech:

I agree with Andrew Sullivan. The biggest problem I have with his speech is Romney seems to try and form an alliance with other religious conservatives, mainly orthodox Christians -- find common ground between them -- and gang up on secularists, atheists, and agnostics, in an us versus them mentality. America belongs to everyone, not just religious folks.

That said, I think Romney well-positioned himself by appealing to America's Founders and their inclusive civil religion. Now, they weren't Mormons; but neither were they "Christians" as orthodox Trinitarians understand their faith. In other words, the political theology of America’s Founding is every bit as inclusive of Christian heresies like Mormonism (indeed, it was established by unitarian heretics!) as it is of orthodox Christianity. And it also arguably includes non-Christian faiths like Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Native American Spirituality, and pagan Greco-Romanism as well. (If you haven't noticed, I use that list because each religion mentioned qualifies as one that America's Founders identified as "sound religion" or valid paths to God that could, like Christianity, support republican governments.)

Romney's appeal to America’s Founding political theology can show how Mormonism fits well with authentically American politics; indeed, given that Mormonism incorporated, after the fact, some of America's Founders' eccentric a-biblical theology, arguably Mormonism better complements America's Founding republican constitutional order than does orthodox Trinitarian Christianity. No orthodox Christian should believe the Constitution and Declaration are divinely inspired as is the Bible. Yet, this is exactly what Mormons believe. And if one believes the Constitution is divinely inspired, one is less likely to violate it.

[Some other eccentric non-biblical beliefs Mormonism incorporated from America's Founding include Jefferson's belief that God is a material being; Franklin's belief that each solar system has its own more personal, knowable God, the one he would worship, with some unknown creator/creation as the first cause; and Elias Boudinat's belief that American Indians were the lost tribe of Israel.]

However well Romney's Mormonism situates with American political theology, stressing such fact is not likely to score points with conservative evangelicals, mainly because too many of them have bought into the Christian Nation myth. Evangelicals may perhaps feel perfectly comfortable with a President who doesn’t have a real orthodox Christian faith, because, after all, neither did the first 5 or 6 American Presidents. But realizing so many early Presidents/key Founders were not really Christians, instead of making them feel better about Mitt, might actually leave a bad taste in their mouth and make them feel worse about America's Founders. For that, I would put the blame squarely on the "Christian Nation" crowd and the myth they've managed to peddle to too many conservative evangelicals.


Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and wanted to applaud your for your well written blog and especially the points about the FF. I plan to get the book by David Holmes about the FF that you mentioned.

Jonathan said...

It's my pleasure.