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 Importance of Religious Institutions

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:17 am, April 17th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Fascinating story in the Desert News Tuesday and religions, religious affiliation and belief:

    For several years, the United States has seen a decline in religious affiliation. Currently, 20 percent of Americans don’t claim a particular religion or church — up from 15 percent just five years ago. Some worry that this shift into secularism will turn the United States into Western Europe.

    Yet others are more optimistic. They point out that polling data don’t always allow for a nuanced discussion of faith and spirituality, and that many individuals still want to have a relationship with God, albeit on their own terms and with their own timing. These individuals may not relate to specific dogmas or rituals, but they still seek and find solace in believing that God is in charge and that when they put him first, their lives go smoother — an acknowledgement that is at the foundation of most religions and the first of the Ten Commandments.

     ”To argue that America is suddenly becoming vastly secular is not the case,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup. “You can’t say (religion) is fading out of importance when a lot of the central events of our time, for better or worse, are based on strong religious convictions. I think that rather than becoming increasingly more of a straight, old-fashioned secular society, we have the potential to be religious, but in some different ways.”

    As Spock might say, “Fascinating Captain.”  These are the now well discussed “spiritual, but not religious” and comprise many of the so-called “Nones.”  As you read through the entire well-done piece you come to understand that this group of people want to shape a personal religion for themselves rather than allow religion to shape them.  Theologically that is a subject for a series of sermons and a book.  But let’s focus here on what that means for society and politics.

    Politically, it’s significance is straightforward.  Church and para-church institutions can no longer be relied upon to provide a focal point for political action.  What used to be an exercise in herding cats has now become an exercise in chaos.  Churches, parachurch organizations, and other religious institutions have been a traditional organizing advantage for conservative.  Should the trend described in this article continue, that just does not work anymore.  In terms of organizing we begin to look much more like the liberal/Democrat side of the aisle.  They have been at it a lot longer than we have and are therefore better at it.  Big problem.

    Societally, this is an enormous problem.  American government is not designed to shape people.  Its good functioning is conditioned on a nation of good people.  Our government relies on other forces, mostly education and religion, to make those good people.  Education is pretty firmly in government hands, and the only counter-balance seems to be in decline.  The constitution has both internal and design “checks and balances,” it relies on greater societal checks and balances.  These latter checks and balances are on the wane.  Without them the future appears bleak.

    This is a problem for the church, not politics.  I would argue that it is the church relying on political/cultural force, rather than the moral and spiritual force that is unique to it, that has created this trend.  I believe it is time for the church to get serious about fixing it.

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, Political Strategy, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    There Is A Cure

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:52 am, March 27th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Daniel Henninger in this morning’s WSJ wonders why liberals can get elected, but not govern.  He uses action on climate change as an example as says:

    Put differently, it’s not about doing something serious about global warming. It’s really all about them (a virus threatening American conservatism as well). The “them” at the U.N. summits included not just the participating nations but a galaxy of well-financed nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.

    Not a particularly insightful conclusion really, but that parenthetical shot at conservatives is what really bothers me.  You see, if we have the same issue then I must conclude we have abandoned religion just as surely as the left.  Oh to be sure we remain clothed in our religious garb, but if we are “threatened by the same virus,” then it would seem our religiosity is in garb only.

    Regardless of your particular brand of of faith, there are two lessons you can draw from faith that sink deeply into the Great American Civil Religion.  Lesson One – there is something much bigger than the self at play.  Lesson Two – It’s about service, not self.

    Before this turns into a sermon, I would simply suggest that the key to our recapturing the Senate this year, to winning the White House in 2016, but most importantly to setting the nation back on the right course are those lessons.

    That most likely means careful and deep re-examination of our religious lives and the institutions that support them.   Take your faith seriously first and the rest will follow.

     

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, character, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Governance, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    So, Who Is The Bad Actor In This Drama?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:56 am, March 19th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Neil J. Young pens a review of a new book, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception, by J.B. Haws. (HT: Ed Stetzer).  I quote from the review with emphasis added:

    Growing up in central Florida, I did not go to the beach for spring break. Instead, nearly every March my family would escape the swampy humidity of Orlando for the crisp mountain air of Utah. Skiing throughout the week, we’d often take one day from the slopes to rest our legs and explore Salt Lake City—which usually meant a visit to Temple Square, the institutional and symbolic heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There, earnest missionaries would bear their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ brought about by the prayerful seeking of a young Joseph Smith. We’d exchange knowing glances at these moments; we were Southern Baptists, and we knew a lot about Mormonism. A good bit of that knowledge, it turned out, was erroneous, but it was the product of a concerted effort begun by the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s to make its members more mindful of Mormonism, a “heretical” faith that was gaining sizeable Baptist converts.

    [...]

    The Mormon Image is bookended with the tale of two Romneys: George Romney’s 1968 run for president and his son Mitt’s 2008 and 2012 bids for the White House. In 1968, George Romney faced hardly any questions about his faith, a fortunate inheritance from JFK’s history-making victory eight years prior. If anything, Americans saw Romney’s Mormonism as an asset, proof that he was a trustworthy and upstanding man. A 1967 Gallup poll found 75 percent of voters had no hesitation voting for a Mormon for president. Yet forty years later, Mormonism likely prevented Mitt Romney from capturing his party’s nomination. In 2007, 29 percent of Republicans had indicated they “probably or definitely” would not vote for a Mormon. As Haws writes, “being a Mormon in the public eye meant something different in 2008 than it did in 1968.”

    And so, confronted with America at its weakest internationally since before WWII made us a superpower , Obamacare wrecking untold medical and financial havoc at home, a President that thinks he can pick and choose which laws he wants to obey, and an American public demoralized, who has helped and who has hurt the nation?

    It is a question worth very serious consideration by very many parties.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Worse Than Nixon?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:44 am, March 14th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Howard Kurtz this morning objects to Victor David Hanson’s portrayal of Obama as “Nixonian,”  Kurtz’ objections are summed up in this sentence:

    The problem with most of these examples is there’s no evidence that Obama ordered, or knew about, these efforts. And that’s very different from Nixon, who as we know from the secret tapes, would talk about breaking into the Brookings Institution.

    So, what we learn from Kurtz is that not only is the Obama administration engaged in unconstitutional and illegal activity, but that the president has little control over his own administration.  To my mind this makes Obama a worse president than Nixon – unconstitutional crook AND bad manager.

     

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    I Object!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:19 am, March 3rd 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Ross Douthat’s column on the debate over the AZ religious freedom bill has been making the rounds.  It’s a good piece and I am with him right up to the first couple of sentences of the penultimate paragraph:

    I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying. Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.)

    I beg your pardon, while there are some ugly and harshly judgmental people out there in the church – they are the minority.  It’s not a question of “charity” v “intolerance.”  It is in fact charitable to point out when a person is engaged in wrong behavior.  Such is an effort to save the person from themselves and is loving at its root.  The church cannot ostracize the sinner, that is self-defeating – but the church can also not be called upon to tolerate sin of any sort, this particular sin or any other.  Christ was loving towards the woman at the well, but he also pointed out succinctly her sinful marital and sexual practice. In these sentences Douthat has bought into homosexuality as identity; he has bought into the wrongful argument of the opposition.

    Douthat in this piece is calling for Christian charity from those that reject Christianity wholly as a standard for human interaction.  I do not deny that there are those Christians that have failed to show the love of Christ to those that are engaged in this particular sin, but the societal shift we are currently experiencing is not a result of that, for such have existed since the church’s founding.  I am reminded of the scene in the movie “Bridge over the River Kwai” when Alec Guiness quotes the Geneva Convention to the senior officer in the Japanese prison camp where he is held.  The Japanese officer simply does not care.  Guiness holds firm, under incredible torture, until he eventually carries the day.

    The church cannot afford to concede that homosexuality is merely a matter of identity – it is a matter of sin.  We must keep it in perspective as just one of a myriad of sins, no worse and no better.  We must practice the charity we are called upon to practice towards all sinners, inclusive of ourselves.  But I fear that in the current climate even naming homosexual behavior as sin is sufficient to gain the title “intolerant.”  To try and shed the title under these circumstances is not merely to accommodate, it is to change the very nature of Christian thought.  That we cannot do.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Stuff You Have To Read

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:18 am, February 28th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Scott Clement @ The FIX:

    Tuesday’s public spat between an atheist advocacy group and Christian conservatives was full of bluster and drama, all over a CPAC conference booth

    This small theater in the culture wars may be of little consequence beyond Washington, but it highlights a dynamic in which non-religious voters are gravitating steadily away from Republicans, even as Democrats have made few major efforts to galvanize their support.

    Michael Gerson on Thursday:

    The evidence accumulates that the Republican Party is sobering up — cotton-mouthed and slightly disoriented — from its recent ideological bender.

    [...]

    No political movement can persuade a great democracy without displaying a measure of democratic grace. And any ideological movement that claims to be inspired by faith and morality is discredited by language that dehumanizes its opponents.

    One can hope that Gerson is right, but only time will tell.  I am; however, convinced that much of the ideological battles the party currently face lie in the religious battles that began in 2008 with Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.  It’s just not talked about now because it would simply appear too bigoted, but all this talk of “being true to…” began when a Mormon tried to take center stage and reached its zenith when such was the GOP nominee.

    You see parallels to this discussion and way of thinking inside the Evangelical church when you read about people writing off the decline in church attendance to the loss of “Christmas and Easter only types,” and then contending that such is not really a loss.

    This post is not the forum for deep analysis of this phenomenon, but one must react to it by saying perish the thought.   Huckabee gave air to this stuff and I don’t care how much he moderates, as such he has no business being the nominee.

    Mark Tooley asks, “Was America Ethically Christian for Only 8 Years?.”  I got to be honest – silly question.  Even Christians aren’t ethically Christian much – it’s a foundational concept of our theology called sin.  Christian ethics are not the issue when it comes to national politics and policies.  It is a question of aspiration, not actual practice.  The current apparent ethical pullback that the nation is on is not a the bottom line issue, it is how that pullback is happening that gives one such pause.  It is a discarding of ethical considerations generally that is so problematic.  No longer is the debate about what is the right thing to do, rather is it simply about what people want to do and asserting that they have a right to do whatever they want to do.  We no longer seem to aspire to what is good and then argue about the definition of good – we simply argue about what these people want versus what those people want – good apparently has nothing to do with it.  That’s what makes this cycle amongst the many such historical cycles frightening.

    Things that have a point, even if you don’t agree with the entire piece:

    Yeah, we have to avoid arrogance.

    No, the press is not to blame, but they do pick the scab and can keep the wound from healing.

    The word “cult” can sometimes be useful, but only with great care and this piece shows it more than most, but not sure they are all the way there.

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