Intro. to Mormonism and Political History of LDS
Monday, January 7, 2008–The New York Times Magazine has an excellent article about Mormonism today. This article gives an outstanding Political History of the LDS in relation to Mitt Romney’s run for the nomination in the GOP. I am going to give the link first, then take some excerpts and discuss them.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/magazine/06mormonism-t.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5087&em&en=fc2e77108757dcfe&ex=1199854800 Noah Feldman, the author of the article, begins by stating the key problem: since the LDS church shares so many core values with the evangelical conservatives in the GOP, and since Mormons have been so successful in all kinds of areas of our culture from business t academia to politics, why is Romney having a rough time with religious conservatives?
Feldman correctly states that one key problem area perceived by non-mormons is that mormons have a division between their public presentation of their faith and their private practice of the faith. The LDS have a lot of secret ceremonies behind the closed doors of their Temples and in America, secrecy breeds suspicion and resentment. The Mormons hold to a lot of strange doctrines that they refuse to talk about in the open. Such doctrines as celestial marriage, baptism for the dead, and their belief that “As man now is, God once was, as God now is, man will become.”
In my personal experience with witnessing to several Mormons and having a dialog with a group of Mormons, they will absolutely LIE about their beliefs if you let them. They will say, “We believe in Jesus just like you do” knowing that their definition of Jesus is RADICALLY different from orthodox Christianity’s. Similarly, when you ask them about the phrase, “As man now is God once was… ” They are trained to say “We don’t much about that”.
Here is what gripes me: if you believe in a religion and know its teaching, you ought to be comfortable with proclaiming those tenets loudly, confidently, and unashamedly. There is nothing in my faith (Protestant, Evangelical, Conservative, Baptist, Reformed) that I am ashamed of. Our church services are open to all, and I will discuss every belief I hold with anybody interested. I am not ashamed of the doctrine of the Trinity (three persons with one essence), the Incarnation of Christ (two natures in one person) , hell (eternal punishment for unbelievers), or God’s sovereignty vs. man’s free will. If you have to hide some of your esoteric, nonsense doctrines from those you are proselytizing, and only reveal it behind closed doors after you get them sucked into your faith, …that is just lame and weak.
Feldman discusses the sources of Mormonisms strange doctrines here:
he connections between the sacred and the secret in early Mormonism did not come out of nowhere. Believers, of course, consider the source to be divine inspiration — although over the course of the last century Mormon teaching has moved away from many of Smith’s more radical ideas, which are often not accepted by contemporary LDS members. Academic students of early Mormonism have traced the mysteries expounded by Smith to the hermetic tradition of secret magic dating back to the Renaissance and beyond. If this account is accurate, then Mormonism’s theological secrets actually have more than a little in common with religious mysteries that can be found in medieval Islamic esotericism, kabbalistic mysticism and ancient Christian Gnosticism.
My problem with what Feldman has written here is that he totally leaves out the well known influence of the Masonic Lodge upon Joseph Smith and the Mormons. What Feldman says is accurate, but these ancient and medieval sources were mediated to Smith via the Lodge.
Feldman gives a very thorough political history of the LDS and shows how the church has deliberately softened and hidden their beliefs in order to gain respectability in the world. The long battle over polygamy is pointed to as a prime example of how the LDS will compromise their faith out of political expediency.
I would strongly recommend this NYTimes article for a better understanding of the history of Mormonism and why Romney may be having a tough go in his Presidential campaign.
Monday, December 31, 2007– Mormonism has long been one of my theological interests, even as far back as high school. With the current Presidential campaign of Gov. Mitt Romney, the topic of who are the mormons and what do they believe has really exploded all over the country. This is a good thing! I am sure that Gov. Romney could be a very good President, he does have more executive experience than all the other candidates from both parties, but his religion may be a stumbling block for many, myself included. But whether Romney wins or loses the race to be nominated is, in my mind, secondary to the value he is bringing to the spiritual life of the country. I think the more Mormonism is discussed, the better we will be because Mormonism is one of the most spiritually dangerous false religions around. Now don’t get me wrong, the Mormon people, the members of the LDS Church, are good, decent, patriotic, hard working, generous people. I have many Mormon friends through the years and readily admit that their commitment to their faith is admirable. But what they believe is, well, embarrassingly ridiculous. Quite simply, the history of the founding of their religion, the book of Mormon itself, and their philosophical worldview have so many holes and inconsistencies that it would make a good colander.
I realize that many atheists or other world religions like Mormons consider Christianity to be full of inconsistencies too, but I am not insulted in the least by that. What does insult me is when people do not even want to have a fair discussion on the matter and are unwilling to look at evidence objectively.
Today I was looking around on Baptist Press (see my blogroll below) and found a whole series of articles they ran a few weeks ago on Mormonism. These articles are excellent little primers on the history of Mormonism, the doctrines of the LDS, and how to talk with them about the true Christian faith. So, if you were perhaps offended by my harsh words above, I challenge you to read the articles below. And yes, I have read some Mormon literature including portions of the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, etc.
Saturday, December 22, 2007– On my blogroll is a site that every Christian ought to examine-CARM, this is the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. They have an excellent section of their website devoted to presenting what various cults believe. Their Mormon section is quite useful in summarizing what the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints teaches. They use quotes from actual Mormon sources, not anti-mormon sources, to reveal what the LDS believe and teach. They even have a complete 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon on their site. The significance of the 1830 ed. is that later editions included a LOT of changes. Today’s Mormons really don’t want you to look at the 1830 edition! They also have a page that contrasts what the Book of Mormon teaches with what the subsequent teachings of Mormonism are. Very eye-opening. There is a page devoted to the definitions of Mormon words, such as God, and compare the Mormon definition with the biblical definition of these words. This is very helpful because what I have found in witnessing to Mormons is that they will say things like, “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior” but the very definitions of who Jesus is and what Savior means are vastly different from what the average American Christian understands the words to mean. This is part of the intentionally deceptive methods used by the Mormons when they deal with non-mormons. Here is the web-site for the Mormon page at CARM:
Friday, December 21, 2007–Alpha Omega Ministries with Dr. James White is one of my favorite resources for studying sound, reformed Baptist doctrine and looking at cults like the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and also looking at the differences we have with the Roman Catholics (not a cult). A-O ministries is on my blogroll so you can go check it out. But to the point…Dr. White has a posting that coincides with what several have been writing in recent weeks about Mitt Romney and what the mormons actually believe. Though White does not take on Romney directly, he does pursue the obvious softening of mormon doctrines that has been taking place since around 2001. use the link below to read the article so that you can see that the LDS church is changing its approach, using slick advertising and spin to make they’re outlandish, ignorant doctrines sound more palatable to modern people:
Some may wonder why I spend so much time and space on my blog talking about mormonism. I grew up with some mormon friends back home in Oklahoma and had many discussions with them from High School to college. I admired their committment as I saw the kids go to what they call seminary every day for an hour before school began. I wished then and now that Baptist kids had that level of dedication. The mormons I knew could articulate their faith well, had an answer to almost every challenge and were passionate about their faith. They tended to live exemplary lives and marry their own. All of this commitment to a bunch of absurd lies that will lead them straight to hell. If only the true believers had this much commitment.
But more recently, in the church I pastored for 15 years, one of the ongoing fights involved one of our leading families whose daughter had married into mormonism and whose children were raised in the LDS. This family absolutely believed that mormons were just another Christian denomination like Baptists. Anytime I preached about mormon doctrine as being heretical or cult like, this family would raise a huge ruckus. The rest of the church preferred relationships to Truth, and would consequently defend the family and tell me to stop mentioning cults and causing a problem. The church my family and I are now attending, Redeemer Church in Ft Worth, actually has an outreach ministry to the mormons in the area to try to present them with the true gospel! Go figure!
Thursday, December 20, 2007– Here is yet another columnist who points out the dishonesty and deception of Mitt Romney and Mormon Church over their bizarre doctrinal positions which they are apparently quite embarrassed over. Bob Burney points out that the Mormons changed their strategy in 2002 prior to the Olympics being held in Utah (being run by none other than Mitt Romney) to soften some of their stranger sounding doctrines. I remember back in 2001-2 being engaged in some lively debates with my mormon friends in the workplace. I was invited to one of their meetings on a Saturday that was like a training event. They had a televised conference with their living prophet and he explained some of changes they were implementing to improve their image. Prior to this meeting I had read a very good article about the changing face of mormonism where the prophet was interviewed. The print interview the televised conference I attended matched up very well. The gist of this change was that the LDS leadership wanted to market the church as being just another denomination of Christians like Baptists, Methodists, etc. They were to be less confrontational and downplay some of the doctrines like, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man will be” and that the Fall in the Garden was a good thing, and that Lucifer and Jesus were spirit brothers who were the fruit of some kind of conjugal activity by Heavenly Father and his spiritual wife.
The LDS Church still teaches these things, but they just don’t want it known or advertised. Hence, Gov. Romney’s response to Gov. Huckaby’s comment is a deceptive bit of doublespeak. This is yet another reason why I am not sure I can vote for Romney (but I don’t want to vote for Huckaby either, even though I am a Baptist). Read the article by Burney, here is the link:
Tuesday, December 18, 2007– Here is an outstanding column from the Dallas Morning News I picked up on RealClearPolitics.com that addresses the mormon religion and the American political system. This article is simply outstanding in its honest approach to mormonism and its relationship to politics. I will quote the entire article as well give the link:
But for an opposing view look at this column from the Boston Globe:
Thoughts on Religion and Politics
By Rod Dreher
Herewith, my views on religion and the politics of the present moment, with something to offend just about everyone:
1. Mormons aren’t Christians. I don’t mean that as a criticism, only as a descriptive phrase. When Mormons claim Jesus Christ as their savior, there’s no reason to doubt their sincerity and good will, or even to deny that they are in some way followers of Christ. Yet Mormonism rejects foundational doctrines of traditional Christian orthodoxy, such that it is impossible to reconcile with normative Christianity.
2. Anyway, the Latter-day Saints church teaches that all other Christian churches are apostate. A heretic is someone who rejects one or more doctrines of religion, but an apostate is someone who has rejected the religion entirely. How is it, exactly, that you can get mad when people you regard as apostates consider you to be … apostate? How does that work?
3. Theologically, this is a big deal. But politically, so what? Mormons vote like Southern Baptists and come down on the same side of most issues of public morality like conservative Christians do. If you’re a socially conservative lawmaker, wouldn’t you rather have a Mormon in your legislative foxhole than a Kennedy-style cafeteria Catholic or progressive mainline Protestant? I’m no Romney fan, but is there really no meaningful political difference between Good-Mormon Mitt and Bad-Catholic Rudy, to say nothing of Liberal-Protestant Hillary?
4. There are plenty of good reasons for conservative Christians not to vote for Mr. Romney, but his religious beliefs are not among them. Do Christians want to be in the position of rejecting a candidate whose political views and moral values they agree with, solely because they don’t like his religion? On what grounds would they condemn secularists for rejecting Christian candidates?
5. “If Mitt Romney believes what Mormonism teaches, no telling what he’ll believe,” say more than a few conservative Christians. Oh? Non-Christians have to overlook the fact that Christian candidates profess to believe that God became man, was murdered and rose from the dead. They have to ignore the fact that some Christians believe that same God-man mysteriously appears as bread and wine under certain circumstances, and others believe that the universe was created in seven literal days. The content of a religion’s doctrinal teaching is not a reliable guide to the overall judgment of one of its adherents.
6. Which isn’t to say that doctrine doesn’t matter at all. Take Islam, for instance. It would be dangerously naive to assume, as American civil religion does, that all religions are pretty much the same. It’s true that most religions share core ethical teachings, but orthodox Islam also teaches unambiguously that there is to be no separation of religion and state and that non-Muslims are to live subservient under law to Muslims. To the extent that a Muslim wishes to preside over our pluralist liberal democracy, he will have had to break radically from his faith’s fundamentals.
7. Liberals who insist that religion has no place at all in American politics have to account for the Christian roots of abolitionism and the civil rights movement. When faced with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and other black clergymen explicitly appealing to Christian scripture against Jim Crow, Southern segregationists groused that religion had no business in politics. You can’t praise religion’s role in political discourse only when it advances causes of which you approve or is practiced by constituencies – African-Americans, say – that vote Democratic.
8. Does freedom require religion, as Mr. Romney asserts? Superficially, no, unless you wish to argue that post-Christian Europe is unfree, which is plainly nuts.
But we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss John Adams’ observation that the U.S. Constitution is made “only for a moral and religious people” and will not work for any other. His point was that maintaining political liberty requires a people capable of governing themselves and restraining their passions for the greater good. He might have said “moral” people, and left it at that, because in his day and in ours, one can find morally upright men and women who have no religious faith and believers who are morally corrupt.
9. But the crooked timber of humanity is frail indeed. If God doesn’t exist, then by what standard do we decide right from wrong? If a society recognizes no independent, transcendent guardian of the moral order, will it not, over time, lose its self-discipline and decline into barbarism? The eminent sociologist Philip Rieff, who was not a believer, said that man would either live in fear of God or would be condemned to live in fear of the evil in himself.
10. Adams’ pronouncement raises the question: “Whose morality, and whose religion?” The American constitutional understanding of the rights of man and human dignity come out of both the Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian tradition. The American constitutional order, and the American civil religion, is inexplicable outside of both, together, in creative tension. Religion is not sufficient for securing liberty, but religion, restricted by boundaries required by a pluralist democracy, is necessary to maintain it.
11. Mr. Romney, as a Mormon, may not be a Christian, but his values are deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Christians who judge a candidate’s fitness for the presidency based on his particular profession of faith should reflect on the quality of governance our devoutly evangelical president has provided over the last seven years. Martin Luther is supposed to have said that he would rather be governed by a wise Muslim than a foolish Christian.
Smart man, that Luther. For a heretic.
Rod Dreher is a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, 12-08-2007,—-I do have a temptation turn this political portion of my blog into a Presidential Campaign ’08 blog 24X7. But right now I find none of the front runners in either party worthy of much attention. Gov. Mitt Romney, however, is interesting in some bizarre ways due to his flip flopping to some extent, but mainly due to his religious beliefs. For the next several days I will explore mormonism and try to figure out if I should vote for Romney. I will begin by looking at his speech from Thursday. Here is the text from his website, in bold type, and I will make some comments and insert them as we go.:
Thursday, Dec 06, 2007
“Faith In America”
Remarks As Prepared For Delivery
The George Bush Presidential Library
College Station, Texas
December 6, 2007
“Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind introduction.
“It is an honor to be here today. This is an inspiring place because of you and the First Lady and because of the film exhibited across the way in the Presidential library. For those who have not seen it, it shows the President as a young pilot, shot down during the Second World War, being rescued from his life-raft by the crew of an American submarine. It is a moving reminder that when America has faced challenge and peril, Americans rise to the occasion, willing to risk their very lives to defend freedom and preserve our nation. We are in your debt. Thank you, Mr. President.
“Mr. President, your generation rose to the occasion, first to defeat Fascism and then to vanquish the Soviet Union. You left us, your children, a free and strong America. It is why we call yours the greatest generation. It is now my generation’s turn. How we respond to today’s challenges will define our generation. And it will determine what kind of America we will leave our children, and theirs.
“America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam (I am glad that he named the source of the violence- islam- and did not just speak of terror in general) seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership (he should have included their military growth as well). And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.
“Over the last year, we have embarked on a national debate on how best to preserve American leadership. Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America’s greatness: our religious liberty (he is dead center on target here. Our practice of religious liberty is clearly a source for our greatness as a nation, for religious liberty keeps us from suicidal sectarian civil wars, and invigorates all faiths as they compete in the open market of ideas). I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my Presidency, if I were elected. (This is an essential point: everyone’s faith, core values and worldview whether they be Christian, muslim, or secular humanist/atheist will affect and inform their professional lives, policies and politics. Atheists who claim to have no faith fail to realize that they still have a worldview that is inescapeable and any claim to neutrality is wrong.)
“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 (It baffles me that many in America do not recognize that the islamofascists have boldly stated this is a religious war, they are basing the war on historical interpretations of the koran, and their objective is to kill us, enslave us or convert us. There is therefore, a religious element in this conflict and we must fight this fight with military, police, intel, politics, statesmanship, economic power, and in the realm of ideas, art and religion). 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 Adams’ 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.’ (This is one of my favorite quotes from the Founders. They understood that our form of government is based upon a Christian worldview even though not all of the Founders were evangelical Christians, many were in fact deists. At the core of our society, of our history and culture, and of our political system are some shared religious values and ideas. this is also why our system of government may not be appropriate for other parts of the world.)
“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. (Again he nails it! You can obviously have a religious people who are in a religious country that is not at the same time a free country. Spain in the 1500’s was very religious, they were leaders of the Catholic renewal or counter-reformation. But it was also home of the Inquisition. There was very little freedom in 16th century Spain. Can you name many atheistic countries that are free?) “Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate’s religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. ( I want to know the worldview of anybody I vote for or against. Religion may not play a big role in the job of a city councilman, but I still want to know where the candidate is coming from). And I will answer them today.
“Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for President, not a Catholic running for President. ( click here for President Kennedy’s speech on religion http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Speeches/JFK/JFK+Pre-Pres/Address+of+Senator+John+F.+Kennedy+to+the+Greater+Houston+Ministerial+Association.htm
Like him, I am an American running for President. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.(Similarly I would not avoid a good mechanic, plumber, accountant or doctor just because their faith differed from mine. However, I believe a person’s faith really does affect my decision at some level. If I was to entrust my children to a daycare, school or BoyScout troop, I would prefer the leadreship to be Christian instead of atheist, muslim or buddhist, etc. I will shop at a 7-11 owned and operated by people of other faiths because their faith has no impact on the price of a Big Bite hot dog. But to teach and train or lead my kids…please, I would want somebody who is very close to my own worldview. When it comes to politics…I prefer to have conservative Christians available for me to vote for. But, if you have a conservative politician who is competent, a good leader, but is not of my faith running against somebody who is of my faith but is not as competent, not a good leader, then I would tend to vote for competence. For example, I did not vote for Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, both are Southern Baptists as am I, because their positions on the issues were so very different from my positions. The bottom line is that a person’s faith is important to me, but usually not the deciding factor…as long as we are talking about other Christians. The difficulty comes with Romney as a mormon. I do not consider mormons to be Christians in the biblical, historical or theological sense. Culturally they can be broadly described as christian with a little c.)
“Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions (I pretty much believe him, but have a nagging doubt in the back of my mind. In my prior studies of mormonism that I began in college, it seems to me that I recall some hint of a “conspiracy theory” proposed by some anti-mormon groups that talked of the mormon efforts and plans to eventually take over the US. Today that sounds pretty wild and idiotic, but I need to go back and study my sources to see where I heard that and see if there is any credibility. It may have been the film, “The Godmakers” which I saw in college. I have heard similar wild things about the Jesuits, the masons, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Jews, etc. all of which are totally false and fabricated and easily discredited. Life is just too complex today for any of these hairbrained conspiracies to work.) Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.
“As Governor, I 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 since he governed as a liberal republican, I believe him)– 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.
“As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America’s ‘political religion’ – the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your President, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States. (Exceptionally well said!)
“There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs. (This statement shows some true grit!)
“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. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world. (This is sheer courageous brilliance)
“There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. (This last statement is refreshingly honest, though a little bit incomplete. The very definition of God and Jesus and salvation is radically different for the mormons as compared with biblical Christianity.) Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.
“There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. 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. (This paragraph stinks. Any candidate who publicly identifies himself/herself with a faith and claims to be a committed believer ought to willingly and competently be able to discuss their theology. As far as needing the prayers of people of all faiths… this is a huge contradiction. The mormon church teaches they are the ONLY TRUE church, all other Christian denominations are apostate. We conservative biblical Christians believe the mormons to be a cult worshiping a false god, the muslims think all Christians are wrong… It is just terribly inconsistent to want all faiths to pray for you. I only want Christians praying for me.)
“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.
“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.
“We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. 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 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.
“The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.
“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.’
“Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. 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?
“They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.
“We believe that every single human being is a child of God – we are all part of the human family. The conviction of the inherent and inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced. John Adams put it that we are ‘thrown into the world all equal and alike.’
“The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day, here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or nationality.
“Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America’s sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century’s terrible wars – no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty. America’s resolve in the defense of liberty has been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting, nor must it ever be. America must never falter in holding high the banner of freedom.
“These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord’s words: ‘For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me…’
“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.
“Today’s generations of Americans have always known religious liberty. Perhaps we forget the long and arduous path our nation’s forbearers took to achieve it. They came here from England to seek freedom of religion. But upon finding it for themselves, they at first denied it to others. Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths. In this, they were very much like those of the European nations they had left.
“It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator.
“We cherish these sacred rights, and secure them in our Constitutional order. Foremost do we protect religious liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right. There will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise of our religion.
“I’m not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired … so grand … so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe’s churches. And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Recall the early days of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, during the fall of 1774. With Boston occupied by British troops, there were rumors of imminent hostilities and fears of an impending war. In this time of peril, someone suggested that they pray. But there were objections. ‘They were too divided in religious sentiments’, what with Episcopalians and Quakers, Anabaptists and Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Catholics.
“Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot.
“And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God … they founded this great nation.
“In that spirit, let us give thanks to the divine ‘author of liberty.’ And together, let us pray that this land may always be blessed, ‘with freedom’s holy light.’
“God bless the United States of America.”