It’s no wonder that Mitt Romney won plaudits from evangelical bigwigs for his commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday. It showed he’s learned how to talk to them–or at least, learned to listen to the people who know how he’s supposed to talk to them.
When he was running for president last time, Romney told the bigs that he was pretty much like them in considering Jesus his Lord and Savior. But if there’s anything evangelicals don’t like, it’s Mormons claiming to be Christians like them. Then he gave a speech declaring that, like a presidential candidate half a century earlier, he did 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.” But evangelicals (these days) don’t much believe in Kennedyesque separation of faith and public office.
At Liberty, by contrast, he extravagantly praised the Christian commitment of the graduates while differentiating his own faith in a way that did not quite claim that it was Christian too. Thus, for starters, he informed the graduates that “moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals” would set them apart and put them in the company of a bunch of Christian luminaries