Quote: “I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me.” John F. Kennedy, speaking to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, September 12, 1960.
Figure of Speech: chiasmus (key-ASS-mus), the criss-cross figure. From the Greek letter chi, or “X.”
This week Mitt Romney plans to do a Kennedy, delivering a speech about his religious beliefs. Kennedy, a Catholic, faced opposition from groups who feared he would take orders from the Vatican. Today’s religious fundamentalists oppose Romney because belongs to the Mormon Church — a cult, say Christianists.
Kennedy deployed a chiasmus (Figaro’s favorite figure!) which states a clause and then repeats its mirror image. Kennedy’s speech may have made the difference in a close election against a Quaker named Richard Nixon.
Can Romney pull off the same feat? Unlike Kennedy, he can’t advocate separation between church and state; the Republican base isn’t too keen on that part of the Constitution. Instead, Mitt should emphasize values over doctrine, saying he stands for marriage and family far better than horn dogs like Giuliani and Thompson. That strategy won’t win him Iowa, where voters seem to enjoy a direct line to God. But it will help him in the more profane states like New Hampshire. Which happens to be the state of sin where Figaro lives.
Snappy Answer: “Enough about church. Let’s talk about God.”