>Mitt Romney cites Abraham Lincoln’s “political religion” when he said, “As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America’s ‘political religion’ – the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution.” Later in the speech Romney states, “Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?” This sounds like Romney’s version of political religion. He goes on to say, “They [these values] are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritence we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which American’s of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united” [emphasis mine]. Certainly these are the values of Romney’s version of America’s political religion.
These values pale in comparison to the virtues Lincoln once affirmed from previous generations before him. In a speech given on August 17, 1858 Lincoln said,
“These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”…They erected a beacon to guide their children, and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages…They established these great self-evident truths that…their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew that battle which their fathers began, so that truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land…Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence…let me entreat you to come back…Come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence.”
Lincoln cited the virtues our forefathers wished to pass on to us: “truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues.” Christian virtues? Yes. Christian virtues are deeply woven into the historical fabric of this nation. I am not saying that we are an officially Christian nation. I am not attemtping to make the case for that and I am not trying to go out of my way to beat Romney up over this. But what Romney is giving us is a watered down version of our religious heritage at best. At worst, he purposefully avoided the explicitly Christian elements of our religious heritage.
He has avoided the Christian virtues, such as the ones mentioned in the Lincoln quote above which fueled the Declaration of Independence, and replaced them with generic values in order to make them palatable to all religions so that no one will be offended. This is understandable since Romney is a member of a non-Christian minority religion that did not exist at the time of the founding of this nation. I can understand why he would want to steer away from the explicitly Christian virtues and highlight more generic values. But I am not going to accept that these values are a sufficient representation of our moral heritage. Romney said, “These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours.” This may be true of Romney’s revised version of America’s moral heritage but what of Lincoln’s citation of the founder’s “truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues”?
I’ll make this my last post on the subject. It’s starting to seem like beating a dead horse even though there is much more in the speech that would be interesting to discuss. Let me say that I think Romney is probably a decent and honorable person as far as well can tell. I respect the fact that he made a speech in affirmation of America’s history and tradition of religious liberty. I wish he and his family safety and good health health on the campaign trail.