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Ten Defining Phrases of 2012

Generally, we only know how history will be remembered once it is in the rearview mirror. Something, or some things, jump out and remain indelible in the collective memories of the culture. And in a world defined by sound bytes, sometimes only a few words tell us a lot about that moment in time.

In that spirit, here are my selections for the ten most defining phrases that will stay with us from the past year.

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Obama and Romney respond to Christian leaders on poverty

Date: September 12, 2012
What happened today was unprecedented. Christian leaders from across the theological and political spectrum came together to demand that the presidential candidates directly address the issue of poverty. And because of the faith community’s witness, the candidates responded. Check out what President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney had to say.

President Obama’s faith challenge at the Democratic convention

Date: September 6, 2012
As a senator in 2006, Obama also delivered a stirring, personal speech about the role of faith in both his private and his public life at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference.Commentators rapidly seized on the historic nature of the speech. In a column titled “Obama’s Eloquent Faith,” E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post called it “the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy’s Houston speech.”And during the 2008 campaign, the Wall Street Journal noted that the race was shaping up to be an unusual one “in which the presumptive Democratic nominee is talking more openly about his Christian beliefs than the Republican candidate.”

Christian Leaders Press Presidential Campaigns for Response on Poverty: Obama and Romney Respond with New Exclusive Videos

Date: September 9, 2012
Release of new exclusive videos from President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney to people of faith on poverty issues. Faith leaders highlight worsening poverty numbers on the day of the U.S. Census Bureau release. Leaders will announce a robust outreach and education strategy to reach grassroots Christian voters through the videos.

The End of Compassionate Conservatism? Why Jesus and Today's GOP Don't Mix

Date: August 29, 2012
Consequently, a number of Christian groups, including the Evangelical Sojourners, Catholic bishops, and even some nuns on a bus, have confronted Republicans on these policies which seek to build wealth on the backs of the poor. Still, these remain voices in the wilderness. For the most part, conservative Evangelicals still offer unquestioning support for the Republican party. But the fact is, a major change has gradually taken place in the GOP. Gone is the focus on "compassionate conservatism" with its legislation to help the poor, and in its place is an Ayn Rand philosophy that despises compassion as weakness, and idealizes the super-rich. So while Republicans may continue to use religious vocabulary in order to appeal to their conservative Christian base, they are nevertheless promoting values that are diametrically opposed to those of Jesus.

The Ethical Opportunity of a Video

Date: September 19, 2012
The recently revealed video of Governor Mitt Romney at a fundraising event last May is changing the election conversation. I hope it does, but at an even deeper level than the responses so far. There is certainly politics here, some necessary factual corrections, and some very deep ironies. But underneath it all is a fundamental question of what our spiritual obligations to one another and, for me, what Jesus' ethic of how to treat our neighbors means for the common good.

What the Most Negative Election in U.S. History Says About Us

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we learned that President Barack Obama would remain the leader of the free world. But his victory came at a price. He and Governor Mitt Romney now have the honor of participating in the most negative election in United States history.

“The campaign has already set records for nastiness and negativity,” Senator Joseph Lieberman commented to CNN in August. Howard Fineman echoed the sentiments on the Huffington Post, calling it “the nastiest, most abrasive personally accusatory presidential campaign in modern times.”

It’s hard to argue with their assessments, but does anyone care? And if so, what are we going to do about it?

Every campaign has a measure of negativity, but 2012 was exceptional.

Every campaign has a measure of negativity, but 2012 was exceptional. Mudslinging became an art form, and the lack of truth-telling turned “fact-checking” into a cottage industry. At one time in this country, disagreements could be settled by a good old-fashioned duel. (If you don’t believe me, ask Aaron Burr.) But in the media age, guns are no longer necessary. We have commercials.

The campaigns unleashed roughly 1,000,000 television ads during this election, and a record four out of five were negative.

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‘Mormon Moment’ Ends with a Loss — But Romney’s Religion Still Won

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormons in Utah and across the nation were thrilled by the prospect that one of their own might occupy the highest office in the land.

That won’t happen now. But Mitt Romney came closer than any other Latter-day Saint since that once-beleaguered brand of Christianity burst onto the American scene in 1830.

"For many Latter-day Saints, it was a surprise that a Mormon candidate was able to make it as far as Mitt," said Stuart Reid, a Mormon and a Republican state senator from Ogden, Utah. "He’s done more than any single person in recent church history to share with the general public what a Mormon is, putting up a very positive image about Mormons and creating interest in our faith that was unprecedented."

Despite the defeat for Romney, Mormonism came out a winner, said Philip Barlow, chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University.

"It developed a thicker skin in the eyes of the world," Barlow said, "and the world could see that a Mormon who runs for office isn’t, by definition, a nut case."

Overall, most observers say, the Romney candidacy was a net positive for his Utah-based faith.

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