Laying a Mitt on the Secularists

Bill Murchison
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Posted: Dec 11, 2007 12:01 AM
Laying a Mitt on the Secularists

Right. Yes. Mitt Romney, if elected our president, "will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest." Nor should any candidate "become the spokesman for his faith." Yes, naturally.

If such was the point most take-away from Romney's venture at dispelling fears of his Mormonism, well, yawn. What presidential candidate could differ with such a description of the chief executive's role in a nation of many faiths? We have to hope, I think, that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would speak similarly.

No, the core of Romney's speech -- viewed as some kind of exam on approaches to dealing with the "religious right" -- was further down in the text. At the Bush presidential library, that core won vigorous applause. One might hope his words -- and the reaction -- will stay with us a while.

With gentility but also some intellectual force, Romney lit into the secularists who -- infinitely more than the supposedly fearsome Bible-wallopers of the religious right -- have forced on us the issue of religion in public life.

Said Mitt: "Religion is seen as a private affair, with no place in public life. It is as if they (were) intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

Right -- they're wrong. That's -- as the old radio show had it -- The Big Story. They're wrong. Romney does well to say so in this blunt fashion.

Somehow, my worthy, lifelong profession, the mass media -- following the lead of the cultural establishment -- have made up their collective mind that the evangelicals, the religious-righters, the preachers, the shouters, call them what you will, launched in the '60s some cockeyed crusade to put the Holy Bible in the center of our affairs. Putting it there might not be such a bad thing, but assuredly, that's not what the preachers, etc., undertook.

The preachers didn't start this business; the secularists did. Out of the celestial blue came the news from the U.S. Supreme Court, in the '60s, that the public schools enjoyed no right to allow prayer of any kind or the reading of the Bible.

Along came the justices a few years later to assure us that the Constitution forbade legislative restrictions on the right to abort a pregnancy. That religious-based morality generally disallowed abortion was a matter over which the justices passed in embarrassed silence.

We might not equate these pronouncements -- untouchable because of the untouchableness of the federal judiciary itself -- with assault and battery against religion and, especially, against Christianity. Yet, coming so soon after the comparative serenity of the churchgoing '50s, such developments shocked. And still do.

Just what gives secularists the supreme confidence there's nothing to this religion business? The weight of tradition is on the opposite side. You sense, while taking in the scurryings of the secularist brotherhood, an anxiety to get things done and nailed down lest through a sudden opening in the heavens a thunderbolt should shoot downward.

The brouhaha over Darwin vs. intelligent design gives evidence, if not of fear, perhaps of exasperation with folk who just won't quit wanting to affirm the agency of God in creation. A world without a creative principle -- hence without purpose -- suits secularists well enough. Nor can they see intelligent designers as working at anything short of the subversion of science.

How many Mormonophobes Romney persuaded in his behalf, we can't tell. Give the man credit for at least opening a question that we, the people never face with confidence or enthusiasm: namely, how, in a manner compatible with the constitutional requirement of respecting non-belief in Christianity of Judaism, we avoid kicking the God of the Bible out of history and out of sight. Which looks to be precisely the errand of militant, snobbish secularism.

If it takes a Mormon to make us look squarely at these urgent matters, well, let's hear it for the Mormons. Or, anyway, this particular one.