Pyrrho and Mitt
Pyrrho: Mr. Romney, thank you for speaking to us today. Some are saying that this is the most important political speech since John Kennedy’s “Separation Speech” in the 1960 election.
Romney: “There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation’s founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam’s words: ‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.”
Pyrrho: Well, surely Mr. Romney, you’re arguing for the entanglement of religion and politics. Kennedy argued a faith-neutral stance for the President. He would have been cooked and eaten for dinner by the Southern Baptists if he’d called himself a Man of Faith. Do you see a conflict there? And that bit about the founders, a little on the sly side, wouldn’t you say? Adams also argued against penal laws for those critical of the Bible and free thought. And many of the founders were more concerned about freedom from religion than freedom of religion. So you’re quoting out of context…..
Romney: “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”
Pyrrho: Well, Governor, those are very instructive words. That’s a chiasmus, isn’t it? I love a good chiasmus. John Kennedy was good at that, too. Are you saying there’s something about religion that promotes freedom? Religion in general? But you can’t be talking about Islam, now, can you. The freedom of Christianity? Not sure that Christianity has traditionally supported freedom of conscience. Mormonism in particular? Well, since Mormonism wasn’t around during the time of the Founders, I’m not sure that works with your analogy. But many people would doubt that religion and freedom have anything to do with one another. And during whole periods of human history their relationship has been bloody. Never mind– that line about “opening the windows of the soul…” really gorgeous. Did you get it from the Fashion Heaven website? What about the Presidency—how does that relate to religion?
Romney: “When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. …No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”
Pyrrho: Right. To God? And to cite an ancient dilemma passed down to us by Plato, how do you know you’re doing the will of God, and if you represent all faiths, which God is it you’re promising, and whose will are you doing? America’s a lot messier than it was in George Washington’s day, religiously speaking. And if you require prayer to do your job properly, shouldn’t we really be looking for somebody who can do it without divine intervention?
Romney. “It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it’s usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.”
Pyrrho: But governor, it’s not just theological differences between churches, like whether you sip wine or slurp grape juice at communion. (“I like Ryvita, but you like the Pita.”) Where do I look in my local library for the Common Code of Moral Convictions? You can’t mean the Bible. The moral convictions there include holding slaves, selling daughters, stoning sons, and driving out foreigners, not abolition and civil rights. I like what you say about speaking to the convictions of religious people. I assume you mean their stubborn insistence that only religious people have values. Are you saying that secular and non-religious people will be able to challenge those convictions under a Romney presidency? What about secularism?
Romney: “In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong…We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.”
Pyrrho: Gosh, did I have that wrong! Sort of Back to God, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes is it? But does this “trust” thing bother you at all? I mean, it isn’t fiduciary. The dollar hasn’t been buoyant against the pound and Euro lately. In fact it’s taking a flogging. You wouldn’t want a faith based Treasury, or a faith based stock market or faith based trade. So exactly at what point does this Trust thing kick in? Maybe in war? Hasn’t helped much since 9-11 though, has it? And the Muslims who trusted God against American aggression and Taliban who trusted God to deliver them from the American Devils didn’t get very far—or is that your Different God? You mean the American God, the one with the red, white and blue crown.
Romney: “We should acknowledge the Creator as did the founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from ‘the God who gave us liberty.'”
Pyrrho: I missed that day in my American History class. I thought we were fighting the British and whupped them fair and square at Yorktown. I guess it was more biblical eh? Yahweh’s armies leading the hosts into combat against the Hittites? –By the way, I could have sworn a menorah was Jewish. And would you also advocate the use of Crescents during Ramadan dangling from city lampposts, or a savory Wiccan fire outside the local PO? What about Mitt Romney, personally, you and your lovely wife?
Romney: “My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. 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 that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency.”
Pyrrho: Oh good. Then you have stumbled. But basically your lovely marriage pretty much expresses your family values. And family values are as American as pizza, a lot of the candidates are saying. Mormons are known for their commitment to marriage. I suspect their family values were so intense at first that they decided the more marriage the better. But leaving that aside, is there any place for diversity in your faith?
Romney: “The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed.
Pyrrho: Gosh, that’s pretty. And here again, I thought it was our art, science, technology and economy that put us at the forefront. I didn’t recognize the importance of religious dialogue until you mentioned it. How does that work exactly? Is our religious dialogue better than German and French religious dialogue—like California wine? But if you’re right, just point me to the ones who want to destroy religious freedom and I’ll spank them silly. I’ve learned more in this hour than in all of college about our history and our values.
Romney: No, thank you:…” we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.”
Pyrrho: Amen, Mitt. Can I be first chair violin, or are you looking for a Jew?