Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Our Nations Symphony of Faith"

Having just introduced everyone to a new format future post, I am going right back to the original format for this post. Mitt Romney gave a speech last week that I feel is worth devoting an entire post to. There has been a lot of coverage in the media regarding Gov. Romney’s faith. Last week, Gov. Romney decided to answer some of those concerns with this speech. Much of the coverage surrounding this speech has compared Mitt Romney to John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy gave a similar speech to a group of Protestant Preachers the month before the election that would see him become the nation’s first Catholic President. Many in the media compared Gov. Romney’s speech to that speech even before the speech was delivered.

The speech itself is one of the best speeches I have heard in a long time. Michael Medved called it the best speech of this election cycle. I would encourage everyone to read this speech not just to examine Gov. Romney as a Presidential candidate, but also because it argues religion’s place in today’s America. I think Gov. Romney’s argument is entirely correct. Gov. Romney’s speech is currently called “Faith in America”, but I think future classes will study it as the “Symphony of Faith” speech.

Early in the Speech, Gov. Romney says the following:

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.

This is a statement that has evidence in today’s world, and a warning for future generations. The United States is the symbol of freedom to the rest of the world. As such, we allow our citizens to worship as they choose. If we start to exercise religion from our country, then we start down the path the Soviet Union took generations ago. Gov. Romney also makes the point that many people of faith have tried to make regarding the First Amendment:

No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But 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 public domain any acknowledgment of God…as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism.

And also:

The founders…did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square.

Today’s society has taken the separation of Church and State and turned it into something our Founding Fathers would never have recognized. The founders knew that faith was an important part of society. Far from trying to ban it, they wanted to encourage every citizen to practice their own beliefs as they saw fit, without meddling from the government.

To me, the most powerful part of this speech is towards the very end. In this last section, Gov. Romney stresses that we should be thankful and take strength from the diversity of religions in our country. I can think of no more fitting way to end this post than with the paragraph that I believe will later rename this speech.

In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that 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.


David Weisman said...

'Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.'

He doesn't say that he's not a friend or ally of atheists or agnostics under any circumstances - or that he is. I think those two groups have reason for concern.

Andy D said...

I think it depends on the atheists or agnostics. Gov. Romney says in your quote that any believer in religious freedom has a friend in him. He isn't saying it is believers vs. non-believers, instead it is those who argue against religious freedom who should take notice.

Anonymous said...

I'm a believing, every-week church goer, yet I agree with this column by David Brooks that there are some real reasons for concern about Romney's speech.

Andy D said...

I saw the column by David Brooks when it originally appeared. I read it, and thought maybe I had missed something so I sat down and re-read the speech. I think one point is off base, and the other is just wrong.

First, he argues that Romney called on people to ignore the differences with different religions. I didn't get that impression at all. Romney wasn't giving a theological discussion on faith. Instead, he was arguing that faith is important.

Secondly, Brooks seems to believe the Romney is trying to call to arms people of faith against non-believers. I don't think that is accurate either. Certain individuals have been fighting to ban any expression of religion from the public square. People of faith (be they Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) have a battle with those individuals right now. Romney didn't start it. I didn't see anything in his speech that makes me think he wants to lead that battle. And I am afraid we will still be fighting that battle long into the next Presidency, no matter who is elected.

I would encourage you to read the speech in its entirety. I think David Brooks is simply wrong.

Old Sage said...

Sometimes I think Young Andy is a little verbose. When he is to the point he is always right on. On this issue he is over expalining himself. However, as almost always very accurate.

Keep up the good work.

Andy D said...

Thanks for the compliment and the criticism Sage. I try to keep my post short enough that they are readable. Sometimes, I just get carried away.

familyman said...

From the speech - "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."

My comment - That is a load of baloney. (keeping it clean for you Andy) Religion encourages conformity and discourages free thought. The only thing keeping religion in check in this country are the non-religious freedoms we are guaranteed. If we didn't have the establishment clause in the constitution, I shudder to think of all the freedoms that the Christian right would try to deny us.

From the speech - "But 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 public domain any acknowledgment of God."

My comment - Not true. They seek to remove government support and endorsement of one religion in particular over other religions or over no religion. When someone sues to remove the ten commandments from in front of a courthouse, they are not trying to eliminate worship from our country. They are trying to eliminate the sponsorship of one particular set of religious beliefs by the government.

This is not the country it was 200+ years ago. There is much more religious diversity now than there was back then and therefore I think we need to be more vigilant about keeping faith and politics separate. There was a time when a nativity scene in the public square could go up and not offend anyone. But in today's United States if we really mean it when we say we respect other peoples beliefs, than we need to be sensitive to them even if they are in the minority.

This doesn't mean you can't have a nativity scene on your front lawn if you choose. But if I'm Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or Atheist, why should my tax dollars pay for the erection of religious symbols unless you are going to give equal time to my beliefs? It's not possible for the government to display religious symbols that reflect all the faiths out there. So it's better for the government to stay out of the religion business all together. But the government should defend to the death everyone's right to worship and celebrate their faith (or lack of it) in there own way.

Andy D said...

Religion encourages free thinking. You are encouraged to seek answers, the Bible gives you some, but as someone with free will, you must decide what you will do with that information.

The founders never intended for religion and God to be removed from the public square. Any time the ACLU brings a lawsuit against a high school for allowing a religious after school program, or they attack an airport for having a Christmas tree that is exactly what is happening. The state should not make any law that enshrines a faith. However, that doesn’t mean tax dollars can’t go to religious organizations. Faith based groups should be put under the same scrutiny and criteria that non- faith based groups are. That isn’t happening. Faith based groups are in many cases discriminated against. In my opinion, that is a direct violation of the First Amendment.

pack04 said...

Just to get some people fired up... the first amendment to the constitution says CONGRESS shall pass no laws...and then the 10th amendment says if it is not written out here in the constitution then it is up to the states, or the people. So the way I understand it, the U.S. Capitol building cannot have a nativity scene in front of it but your local courthouse can, unless the county/city/state has passed their own religious freedom statements.
Even if the Capitol put a nativity scene in front of it how is that passing a law restricting freedom? Would it not be restricting freedom by not allowing a nativity scene?

There are Christians in America and we participate in our American government. So I think we should have a say and the ability to express ourselves with our money given to the government in our public places.
People think we should not have religious displays because it is easier not to. It was easier to sail around South America but yet we still dug the canal. It was easier to let Hitler have is way in Europe but we still stormed the beach. In America we do the hard things because it can lead to good things.
Therefore, bring on the nativity scenes, the menorah, the Islamic symbols and all the days that nothing is up can be for the non-believers.

pack04 said...

Two more things because I am still madder then hell:
"But in today's United States if we really mean it when we say we respect other peoples beliefs, than we need to be sensitive to them even if they are in the minority."
According to this statement we should take the flag down from the top of the state house because I do not believe it should be there. Now I am in the minority on this but we in the U.S. need to be sensitive to me.

I read that David Brooks article but I thought it was as pointless as an unsharpened pencil. Of course it was hard for me to read and try to understand anything after he wrote "that the faithful should stick stubbornly to their religions." I am not mad that this was published, in fact I smile that it was. It shows how great our country is. I am mad I was called stubborn for believing. I start to wonder, however, what would happen if somebody was critical of non-believers in that manner. Would they even get published? They would get letters and national debate and calls for firings. But yet it is the Christians trying to limit religious freedom. Non-believers wake up and realize you are not only trying to limit but you are seceding at limiting religious freedom and Romney left notice that he will not stand for that. Free for all...believers and non.

Saint said...

"Religion encourages conformity and discourages free thought"

I can't speak for other religions, but this is not true for Christianity. Every Christian pastor I know encourages free thought. Without free will, Christianity is nothing, and Jesus' death on the cross was pointless.

I always encourage people to explore. Don't except it on blind faith. The bible allows everyone to read it for themselves, do their own research, and make their own decisions. That is not restricting free thought. In fact, more than one author has set out to disprove Christianity, and ended up writing how they became believers.

Anonymous said...

I lived in rural Appalachia where my every-week-in-church kids were explicitly and repeatedly taught by teachers and by guest speakers in public school that their faith was bogus and that they were going to hell. That is one reason that, while I am an every-week-in-church Christian, I am with the ACLU and others who try valiantly to keep the entire government--not just Congress--from playing church.

pack04 said...

Appalachia Anonymous why do you not work valiantly at teaching your kids they are not going to hell rather then running to big brother? Has the school system passed a law saying teachers must teach religion and condemning kids to hell? I doubt it. You are asking for a law that is not there to be enforced.
You are telling me that I cannot practice my religion. Well that is part of the reason America was populated by Europeans. That is why it was written into the first amendment. So I will not have to go some where else to practice my religion or be told what and where I can and cannot believe.

You accepted your kids being taught the theory of relativity, gravity and evolution. What is the difference between those and the theory of going to hell? Maybe your weekly trips to church are not enough. Try twice weekly.

Andy D said...

I tend to agree with Pack on this one. What you describe is a little overboard. However, I don't think we need a law to fix it, but perhaps your community needs a new school board.

familyman said...

A perfect example of religion discouraging critical thought is the controversy over the recent movie "The Golden Compass".

Before the movie had even been released religious organizations from all over the world were calling on their followers not to go see the movie. They were afraid that if children saw the movie that they would become curious about the books and start down the road towards atheism.

Kids at my daughter's school were telling her, "I can't go see that movie because our minister says it's bad."

The church is so nervous about the strength of peoples' faith that they don't even want people to be exposed to other viewpoints.

Does this sound like free thought being encouraged?

familyman said...

saint - How about these 2 quotes from the bible which I picked up right off of the official website of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod as justification for not ordaining women to preach -

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent."(1 Tim.2:11-12)

"...the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says...what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord." (1 Cor.14:33-34, 37)

So, I guess Christianity gives women the right to exercise free thought they just need to shut up about it.

Anonymous said...

Pack04 says that if I don't like it when public school teachers teach my kids that they're going to hell, then I should just teach them something different at home.

By the same logic, Christians in a majority-Muslim neighborhood should simply "teach Christianity at home" when their children are called "infidels" by the teacher at school?

I do disagree somewhat with Familyman. Religion has often been a source of enormous creativity, courage, insight, and justice: read Plato, Aristotle, St. Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Martin King, Desmond Tutu, Edmund Husserl, Simone Weil, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rosa Parks, etc. etc.

And of course I agree somewhat with Familyman. Nazis put their weird crosses on everything, and the current "war on terror" has some freaky religious reasoning going on on both sides: people reciting the Koran as they fly planes into buildings and an American president consulting his "heavenly father" instead of also getting advice from potential dissenters.

Religion is fire. I would never want to live without it--it can be beautiful, true, and powerful. And it can also distort, wound, and kill. That's why we tend not to give government both the "power of the sword" and the power of religion's fire.

Saint said...

Several commentaries on the passages in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 unanimously agree that the intent of the "keeping quiet" in the churches is to allow women to learn, and that the passages apply to specific situations in Corinth and Ephesus. In fact, the same "quietness" is commanded for men elsewhere (Acts 22:2, 1 Thes. 4:11, 2 Thes. 3:12).

In other letters to churches, Paul himself wrote commending women working in the church, including as teachers.

This is actually a good example. The ELCA has been ordaining women for over 25 years. This is a topic that the Protestant church as a whole is divided on, there is not a consenus. Sounds to me like free thought.

familyman said...

There are of course plenty of instances throughout history where people have drawn creative inspiration from Christianity.

But as organized religious institutions go, that is where you find religion encouraging uniformity of thought and discouraging searches for the truth.

If I went to most Christian ministers and told them that I was involved in a scientific project to determine the age of the earth, I would most likely be told that the only place I need to look is the Bible.

As for courage, if you look through most of human history it's the people that stood up against the teaching of the church that really had to summon tremendous courage.

familyman said...

Saint - A group of people splitting apart into factions because of differences of opinion is definitely free thinking, but it's hardly encouraged by the church. Every time there has been a split within the church it has usually been accompanied by very rancorous condemnations from the main church body.

That kind of independent thinking is done because people are people and they do it despite what the church tells them to do.

familyman said...

Saint - My point in sighting those passages wasn't to debate the exact meaning of them but to point out the way that the church is using them.

pack04 said...

Yes I would teach them Christianity at home and as Andy says I would go and vote for a school board member that is in favor of teaching Christianity in school. Just as I would expect that if there is one teacher that is a Christian in that school that the Muslim parents would teach their kids Islamic beliefs.

Andy D said...

Lots of comments, good debate. I hope everyone checks out my newest post. It fits quite nicely with this debate…

As far as the Golden Compass goes, who cares? Organizations boycott movies all the time, why is that that if the NAACP does it, it is because the movie is discriminating, but if Religious organizations call for a boycott, they are discouraging critical thinking? The creator of the story says he wants to literally kill God in the minds of kids. Even if you don’t agree with religion, surely you understand why faith groups wouldn’t want this movie making a lot of money.

Family, I am confused, I thought Saint responded to your quotes correctly, but you seem to think he took the wrong meaning from your post… I also think you have the wrong idea about Christianity. As a Christian, my job is to teach you about the Word and life of Christ. I can’t make you take the leap. If you aren’t convinced from talking to me, I would recommend an assortment of other sources (including the book I just reviewed which you should click on the amazon link and buy). I am firm enough in my beliefs to welcome challenges from all walks of life. If at the end of the day I believe I am write, that isn’t me encouraging conformity, it is me encouraging you to see what I believe is write. You have to make your own decision.

familyman said...

Yikes. This debate is all over the place. I'm going to back up to the quote from the speech that got me riled up in the first place.

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom."

Can anyone explain that to me? Because it makes no sense to me. Why does freedom require religion? I'm all for freedom of religious expression, but I do not understand why he thinks religion is required in order to have freedom?

Saint said...

Two things. First, on the free thinking topic. For those of you who have children, do you raise your children based on your beliefs and values? Does that mean they will always follow what you taught them? So, are you discouraging free thought in your children? The Church is the same. It is a gathering of people who believe the same thing. Of course we are going to teach and say similar things. It's not because we discourage free thought, it's because we believe the same thing. Many people in the Church didn't grow up in the Church, but came to it later in life.

You mentioned the Church discouraging free thought because it gets upset when there is a split. What happens when a university professor starts teaching soemthing the university disagrees with? They don't call him in and say what a good job he is doing. And as far as the Missouri Synod not ordaining women, there isn't any way you can say because one synod does this, that is what the entire Church does.

Second, I don't know that freedom requries religion. There are a lot of people in this country that are free, but don't believe in anything. Let me ask this question: Would freedom without religion lead to anarchy?

familyman said...

Saint - OK, the University example is perfect. Let's say it was a science professor. And he discovered and was able to prove that the earth was 5 billion years old instead of 3.5 billion years old. Any university worth it's salt would be excited by this new discovery and would encourage their professor to teach it. The secular university setting is a place where research and new discoveries are encouraged.

As opposed to the Church where any scientific discoveries that conflict with Biblical teaching are looked at as suspect or even blasphemous. A majority of Clergy are still unwilling to let go of the young earth idea that the Earth is only about 6000 years old.

Andy D said...

I have to be honest with you family, I have never had any pastor or member of the clergy try to teach me that the Earth is 6000 years old. I have been going to church most of my life and have never been taught that.

Truthfully, almost everything I have learned in church has been independent of what school or science has taught. And as I point out in my newest post, many of today's scientific discoveries reinforce religion.

Saint said...

Familyman - Let me ask you this. What would happen if, at a secular university, a professor stopped teaching the Earth is millions of years old, and started teaching it is thousands of years old, and created by God, not the big bang and evolution? Would the university encourage the professor?

Why are you surprised if Christians get upset when people tell them the earth evolved? One of the foundations of Christianity is that the Earth was created. How do you feel when someone comes along and says one of your basic beliefs is wrong?

I believe the Earths is thousands of years old, not millions or billions. I was thinking the date was around 20,000 years, not 6,000. I don't get upset with people who feel otherwise, I just think they are wrong. I encourage them to keep looking though, because one day I think science will agree.

familyman said...

Reason and logic have left the building.