Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • The Romney/Mormon Meme Now in Full Play

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:18 am, January 26th 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    There have been rumors, and hints, and really silly comments, but with the appearance yesterday of this piece by Ashley Parker and Alex Thompson in the NYTimes, the Romney/Mormon meme hits a stride we did not see – even in 2008.

    A prominent Republican delivered a direct request to Mitt Romney not long ago: He should make a third run for the presidency, not for vanity or redemption, but to answer a higher calling from his faith.

    I hardly know where to begin with this piece.  Mike Huckabee has declared he is called by God to runBobby Jindal held a prayer really this past weekend.  In radio interviews I have heard Scott Walker and John Kasich say they were praying about a run.  Where are the articles on the fact that their religion is motivating their considerations for a run?  Romney has made no remarks even remotely that religious.  The piece cites his speech to the RNC where he discussed his charity work related to the his church, but that is far from claiming divine inspiration or direction for a run.  Is the appearance of this article a testament to Romney’s instant front-runner status or to the NYTimes view that Mormons are weird?  If we did not have two campaign cycles to pretty much prove the later, one would tend to assume the former, but here we are.

    This is also particularly interesting because the greatest strength in the Mormon meme lies in separating Romney from the religious/conservative portion of the Republican party.  Yet pretty much every political analyst out there already sees the Republican primary as a Romney/Bush fight in the center/right arena and everybody else competing in a Over-The-Top-Rope Battle Royal in the religious/conservative arena, culminating in a final clash between the two or three to emerge from those fights.  In other words, Romney is right now already separated from the religious/conservative wing and this ammunition is best saved for the time he has to try and win them over.  Why now?

    Not to mention the fact, the separation strategy may not work this time.  Last Friday, conservative religious stalwart, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke at BYU, addressing specifically the joint tasks confronting Catholics and Mormons.  Our old friend Albert Mohler has spoken at BYU several times in the last few years.  Bridges are being built as rapidly as possible. Here’s hoping they are being built faster than the NYTimes can tear them down.

    Then there is the article itself.  For one thing it never directly cites Romney, or his family.  It cites only other Mormon friends and acquaintances.  When it comes to trying to decide what Romney and his family think it quotes the “Mitt” movie.  That is not exactly great sourcing for a piece like this, particularly in light of numerous other candidates overtly stating their religious motivations and convictions.  The case made by the sources cited is essentially that Mormonism is a religion with a strong patriotic bent and that Romney is therefore strongly patriotic and motivated to serve his nation.  Gee, patriotism and a desire to serve, particularly as opposed to rule, is a pretty good thing in a presidential candidate.  Where’s the beef?

    So at its best the piece is an effort to drum up some “Mormon garbage” where there really is none.  From a source less prestigious outlet than the NYTimes, which featured it prominently in its politics section, this piece would not be worth the time I have already given it.  But it turns despicable with these paragraphs:

    Some Mormons also believe in something called the “white horse prophecy” that, while not official church doctrine, says the Constitution will “hang like a thread” and be saved by a white horse — which some elements believe to be the Mormon Church or a prophetic church figure. High-profile Mormon candidates often reinvigorate this lore, and Mr. Romney is no exception. A longtime friend says that he has seen Mr. Romney approached at church about the prophecy.

    “It makes him uncomfortable,” said the friend, speaking anonymously to discuss a delicate topic. “He kind of laughs it off and shrugs it off and doesn’t engage.”

    No named sources, a tacit denial by Romney according to those unnamed sources, and yet this generally ignored (note the word “some,” and the “not official church doctrine” admission, in even the NYT’s account) “prophecy” of the Mormon faith just has to come up.  Innuendo is as close as Parker and Thompson can come to making the case they set out to make in the piece.  This is beyond bad reporting – this is a hit piece, both on Romney and on Mormonism generally.

    We have contended on this blog since its inception that one of the reasons to guard Romneys’s Mormon flank was because if the secular left is allowed these attacks on Mormons  They will come for other faith expressions as well.  The last six years have proven us unfortunately correct.  Yet even the closed minds of the secular left can feel the winds of change in a nation fed up with religion bashing, and with robbing the religious of their most basic freedoms.  And so they return to the attacks that they used to leverage themselves into the position they have enjoyed this last half-decade.  We cannot let it work this time.

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    Who Is Mixing What!?!?!? Beck and the Mormon Crack

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 12:47 pm, January 23rd 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    McKay Coppins tweets of Glenn Beck:

    It is fascinating to watch this thing go all over twitter in a matter of seconds,  First thing, watch the video, there is no context whatsoever.  One must assume from the comments that Beck is commenting on some local Utah issue, but you can’t really tell.   Secondly, Beck has his history so, so wrong.  His reference to Smoot-Hawley is just bizarre.  One, not both, of the sponsors was a Mormon.  We did an extensive 5 part review (III - IIIIVV) of a book that centers on the seating of Reed Smoot way back when this blog started and there is simply no evidence that its was Smoot’s religious convictions that informed his sponsorship of that ill-fated tariff.  Finally there is the point that Beck himself, as almost everyone that responds to Coppins notes,  is a Mormon, though he is rumored to be having a crisis of faith.  I met Beck at Romney’s “Faith in America” speech back in ’07 and he then seemed a man who knew where the lines were.

    One must wonder here if Beck is not the one mixing his “gospel and politics.”  Could it be that Beck’s personal issues with his faith are influencing his comments?  One must also wonder with his “Tea Party” and “Bush/Romney” mentions if he is not reaching for a convenient stick to throw at candidates that he disagrees with?  That is to say, Beck appears to be the one using religion as a political weapon here.

    Regardless one thing is certain, and the Twitter response makes this quite plain, if a Mormon with as public a profile as Beck is going to take Mormon swipes like this open war on Mormons in public life has been declared if Romney runs.  Beck may have left himself some plausible deniability with the word “when,” but does he honestly think the general press is going to notice that or be so nuanced?

    This campaign has not even really started and it’s getting awfully ugly already.

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    Consistency Matters

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:44 am, January 22nd 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    In ’05-’06 when the name Mitt Romney first emerged in the presidential lists, it was almost immediately slammed with the descriptor “Mormon.”  He never did escape it in the ’08 primaries and in ’12 it hung around like a bad penny though not so ever present.  Ben Carson has been circulating his own name in the ’16 cycle for quite a while now.  Granted, Carson is on the fringes of the contest, but he has been out there and ever present.  He is a darling within certain circles in conservatism.  And yet just today I learned he is a Seventh-Day Adventist.

    And don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against an Adventist running for, or even being, president.  It is just a matter of what is good for the goose is good for the gander.  Seventh-Day Adventism grew out of the same “burned over district” in western and central New York that Mormonism did.  But why is Romney’s Mormonism so well known and Carson’s Adventism so little known,=?

    Much of it, of course, has to do with the seriousness of that candidacies.  Romney was a major player from the outset, Carson will have to work very, very hard to get to the point where he is in the game as much as Romney was out of the starting blocks. Much of it, also, has to do with the fact that this blog and many other places have worked very hard to remove religious bias from the voting public.  But we have also been of limited success.  We have quelled the voices, but the results of the last election would indicate not so much the bias.

    But what is really amazing is that Carson’s popularity seems to be, at least in part, amongst people that found Romney’s Mormonism off putting.  Or did they?  Perhaps religion was an easy stick to grab for when the opposition was really more political in nature, but a losing argument?  If so, then deep shame is to be assigned.

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    Hitting All The Marks

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:07 am, January 19th 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    Yesterday, I reacted to the reactions to Romney’s Friday night speech to the RNC.  I did so becasue I did not have a chance to see the speech.  Well now I have.  Watch it with me:

    Ten days ago, after a magazine in Paris was shot up, I wrote this:

    The campaign for the presidency, 2016, should not merely be about candidates positioning themselves to get elected.  It should be a test of leadership.  That leadership will be expressed in the candidate or candidates that can get the nation to understand the terrorism cancer that threatens us and convince us that we have to do what we have to do to survive.  I know, national security elections have seemed a thing of the past.  I am looking for the candidate that can make 2016 a national security election.  Anything less threatens our very existence.

    What is the number one concern in that speech by Romney?  Making the world safer!  He is the first candidate or potential candidate to hit what this writer considers exactly the correct tone and stance.  In one speech he has moved me from thinking about what loyalty requires of me to being truly excited by what he has to offer the campaign.

    Well and truly done.

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    Mitt’s Mormonism Front and Center?!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:22 pm, January 17th 2015     —     1 Comment »

    This might have just gotten really fun.

    I was unable to listen to Romney’s RNC address Friday night, but found this ABC story the most interesting of all the post-speech analysis:

    In a speech here Friday night, Mitt Romney reminded the world that he’s a Mormon – and made clear that it would be a key part of his presidential campaign if he does decide to run for a third time.

    Romney put his faith, something he rarely spoke about or demonstrated on the 2012 or 2008 campaign trail, front and center while addressing Republican National Committee members aboard the USS Midway in San Diego, saying that those closest to him, including his wife Ann, know him not only as a businessman and politician but as a devoted leader in the Mormon church.

    “For over ten years, as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations. And so she’s seen me work with people who are very poor, to get them help and subsistence. She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is,” Romney said.

    I think ABC might be overstating things a bit, but I do think that if Romney is to run again it would be wise for him to embrace his faith more actively than he has in the past.  But I think he has to be careful how he does it.  It things are allowed to devolve into discussions of theology, it will get weird fast.  As everyone knows by now (especially Mike Huckabee), the Mormon faith is quite heterodox in the world of Christian theology.  But religion is more than theology.

    There is a term that has descended in faith discussion from sometime in the 19th century – orthopraxy - “correctness or orthodoxy of action or practice.”  In the world of the daily practice of faith, Mormons are little different than Christians of most other stripes.  That is to say, Mormon are quite orthoprax.  (There are, of course, significant liturgical differences, but outside of the confines of the church, temple, etc., we have so much in common.)  It is here in orthopraxy that Mitt should dwell if he does indeed run again.  Here bridges can and should be built.

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    The Long Knives Are Out – And Some Of Them Say “Mormon”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:05 am, January 16th 2015     —     1 Comment »

    They seem to be lining up in opposition to Romney running again.

    Check out this MSM story or Allahpundit’s round-up of negative comments from Wednesday night for a taste.  Peggy Noonan, who was not exactly supportive of Romney in 2012, at least has a couple of reasonably novel arguments.

    And then there are those arguments based on faith.  Some of them are indirect.  It is hardly coincidence that this story on John Dehlin makes the NYTimes right now.  Our Mormon readers will know Dehlin.  For the benefit of our non-Mormon readers he is a very liberal individual that has been working very hard for many years to change the Mormon view on a variety of subjects.  He has come close to ex-communication several times in the past, the fact that he is there again is hardly newsy.  It has never made as prodigious an outlet as the NYTimes before.  One has to ask, “Why now?”  The story, of course, tries to paint the CJCLDS as “intolerant,” yada, yada, yada.  Smart people know what is up with this one.

    Then check out these political blogs – Bloomberg and Nate Cohn at the NYTimes:

    But a successful challenge to Mr. Bush from the right would have to involve winning a lot of these voters, even though they have been Mr. Romney’s biggest weakness. There is no viable anti-establishment coalition that does not include large percentages of evangelical Christians. Mr. Romney — a Northern Mormon with a history of moderate politics — has not been very effective at winning them over.

    We are not going to spend any time this morning analyzing this stuff.  Our rumor mill is percolating with babble of bigger Mormon arguments brewing on the very immediate horizon, but it certainly seems like “game on.”

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