VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – There were no jeers, no protests, and no mention of the religious doctrines that divide them – just the patter of applause and nods of agreement. Taking the stage under a cloudy sky, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney charged the graduates of Regent University with forsaking the shallow water and seeking the depths where life is about others, one’s “spouse, family, friends, faith community, country.” It could have been just one of many routine commencements held across the nation Saturday, but this was a Mormon addressing students of a school that labels itself “America’s pre-eminent Christian university,” a scene pundits could predict would be tense given the evangelical community’s concerns with followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Saturday, as during the first four months of his campaign, Romney’s religion has not risen as the high hurdle once predicted. The White House hopeful has faced several other campaign bumps, but his religion – one viewed with hesitancy by many evangelical Protestants – appears to be taking a back seat. Romney steered away from any specific mention of his faith on Saturday, opting for broader mentions of marriage, of service, of faith in God, of the spirit that drives America. Graduates should strive to go beyond the bounds of comfort, Romney advised, like great Americans before them. “This too is your heritage, to reach beyond the shallows of selfishness and to shape the character of the nation,” said Romney, draped with a black robe and scarlet-rimmed graduation hood. “The deep water will be more rewarding and more exhilarating than you can imagine. Come on in, the water’s fine.” Speaking at Regent, a school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and home to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), is one of many moves Romney has made to assure wary voters that he and they are not unalike. When news broke that Romney would address graduates, some students and alumni balked. They argued the pulpit at Regent was reserved for those who follow their same tenants. CBN’s Web site lists the LDS Church as a cult. “Mormons are some of the most exemplary human beings, especially in regard to their behavior patterns and their adherence to the fundamental values of our society,” the site says. “But their religious beliefs are, to put it simply, wrong.” Robertson avoided any talk of that Saturday and introduced Romney as a “person of great distinction” and an “outstanding American.” Those attending were gracious to Romney. “His message seems to be pretty impressive, very strong,” said John Rivers, a Southern Baptist from Richmond, Va. “Nothing offended me.” “He’s a good, upstanding person,” added evangelical Christian Trevor Hartman of Charleston, S.C., who dismissed any need for concern about Romney’s faith. “There’s no reason for a protest,” he said. “You wouldn’t be a good Christian if you did that.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!