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September 6, 2012

Column #1,619

The Faith of Romney vs. Obama

By Mike McManus

            The most moving part of the Republican Convention was testimony by Pat and Ted Oparowksi whose 14-year-old son was dying of cancer, who received numerous tender kindnesses by Mitt Romney, many visits in the hospital.

            “The memories are still painful, but we wanted to share them with you, because David’s story is part of Mitt’s story, and America deserves to hear it…the true measure of a man is revealed in the…quiet hospital room of a dying boy, with no camera and no reporters. This is the time to make that assessment.”

            Romney arranged a fireworks party on the beach to bring David joy, and showed him respect by helping David write his will, to leave his prized possessions to his best friend and brother.

            For decades Romney was a Mormon bishop, equivalent to the pastor of a church, who donated two evenings a week and every weekend – up to 20 hours a week – in acts of  service and pastoral counseling.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as Mormons are formally known, does not have a paid clergy. Yet it is a denomination of 6 million (4th largest in America), with 45,000 volunteer clergy.

Grant Bennett, a fellow volunteer pastor, told the gathered Republican delegates,  that while building his business and raising five boys, Romney “met with those seeking help with the burdens of real life…unemployment, sickness, financial distress, loneliness…single mothers raising children, couples with marital problems, youth with addictions..immigrants, individuals whose heat had been cut off.” 

“I treasure every moment we served together,” he concluded.

Romney often reached out to the network of business leaders in the church to help people in financial need. He tithed his income, giving about $4 million to the church in 2010-11 and millions more through a family charity.  He expected other church members to tithe as well.

Eventually, Romney rose to become a Boston stake president, overseeing all the churches in and around the city. He served as a full-time missionary in France for two years.

When a colleague at work told Romney that his 14-year-old daughter had snuck off to a rave party in New York, taken ecstasy and disappeared, Romney shut down Bain and organized its 200 employees to fly to New York to find her. Eventually, they did.

By contrast, faith has been a small part of Barack Obama’s life.  Like his mother, he said he “grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion.”  His father was born Muslim, but became an atheist as an adult.  Barack lived for a time with grandparents who were “non-practicing” Baptists and Methodists.

He said he began to sense God beckoning to him to submit to his will and dedicate himself to discovering truth.  One day he walked down the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago to affirm his Christian faith. It was in that church that he was married and children were baptized, and was a member for 20 years.

Its pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a firebrand.  Some sermon quotes: “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing `God bless America.’ No, no, no. God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people.”

“I am convinced that this is one of the most unjust wars (in Iraq) that has ever been fought in the history of the world." The judgment of God is upon us today."

When quotes like these became public in 2008, Obama denounced them as “divisive” and quit the church.  As President he only attends various churches occasionally, such as an Episcopal church across from the White House.

When he endorsed same-sex marriage in an ABC interview, he made the case on biblical grounds, specifically “the golden rule” the idea we should “treat others the way you’d want to be treated,” he said paraphrasing Matthew 7:12.

In that same interview, he said, “I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power.”  But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Before running for political office, Obama contributed about 1% of his income to charity, but more later.

This year’s Democratic Platform removed a single reference to God, and to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Romney criticized these omissions, and Obama asked that they be restored. But when asked to vote for the changes, which had to be approved by a 2-1 vote, there were as many delegates shouting NO as YES in the three times a vote was called for.

Nevertheless the changes were ruled approved.

Obama’s faith appears to be more show than substance.

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