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."

  • Root Questions

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:39 am, November 21st 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Perusing the headlines this morning, the presidents unprecedented power grab last night was a yawner.   There is the appropriate outrage from the usual conservative sources, but even that is well-tempered in order not to give Obama the political advantage he seeks with this stunt.  Very, very few dare laud this terrible misbalancing of the constitution; therefore, it is treated as a matter or course and little consequence.  As far as the general public goes, this is almost a non-event.  That would be stunning were it not for two very important facts; a) the MSM remains deeply devoted to this president, facts not withstanding and b) the general public is not well enough read, sufficiently educated, nor deeply thoughtful enough to understand the subtle yet massive shift of power the president is trying to pull off here.

    There is a temptation to cast this as a matter purely of political optics.  The president is messaging to the feelings of the American populace to overcome an intellectual and legal hurdle to achieve his goals.  In doing so he casts his opposition as mere political opportunists, hungry for power, while he simply wants to solve the problem.  This appeals to the pragmatic nature of most Americans, even if this messaging attempts to mask a power grab on a level far beyond the imagination of his opponents and destroys the opportunities to exercise the pragmatism that makes the nation work.

    This is terrible and destructive legally and its is, at best, propagandist politically – though I am far more inclined to declare it a lie.  It is tempting to want to analyze the president and try to understand what drives a man to do things like this.  And yet, history is replete with individuals that have sought, and in many cases gained, absolute or near absolute power.  It is a story as old as time itself and the motivations of each are highly varied and yet fundamentally consistent – an undying belief in their own rightness.  In the end it is not worth trying to analyze beyond trying to figure out how to defeat it.

    The pragmatic nature of the American public has seen that what this president attempts does not work.  Hence the results of the last election.  That is a good reason not to get too exercised about this – this will fail like everything else he has tried.  But as Obamacare before it, this will create a trail of destruction on its path to failure that will leave the nation irrevocably altered, and quite possibly worsened.  It will require remarkable will, energy, thought and morality on the part of the American populace to recover from this impending failure and be as before.

    What we have on our hands is, quite simply, a crisis of leadership.  Instead of a leader that leads us to be better people, we have a leader that cows us by offering “bread and circuses” in the form of apparently compassionate policies and promises of grossly expensive free healthcare.  (Yes, I wrote that totally oxymoronic phrase on purpose.)  The troubling question in all this is how the populace has come to the point where they lack the innate desire for self-improvement that would normally see through this blatant pandering.  The troubling thing about the last election is that while it did seek to “throw the bums out,” one does sense that it was looking for different bums, not for the bums to get out of the way.

    Before politics will produce a leader that calls us to be a better people we have to want to be a better people.  That is not something politics can produce.

    So, the root question in all of this is:  How can an American church, which in its most numerous and populated expressions seeks not to call the congregant to improvement, but to reassure them of their salvation, move us to the point where we desire a leader of the type that the nation now so desperately needs?  Maybe churches ought be asking themselves that question.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, The Way Forward | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Very Confused Thinking In Opposition to Traditional Marriage

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:25 am, November 19th 2014     —     1 Comment »

    Religion Dispatches is a web site we have monitored regularly at this web site since its inception.  It has a very liberal agenda and indiscriminately attacks religion in pursuit of that agenda.  It arose after Prop 8 in California.  While it rarely attacked Romney directly, it has been after Mormonism tooth and toenail since its founding.

    A piece appeared there today, that has echoed a bit, that I find stunning.  Using the recent admission by the CJCLDS that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy as a springboard for the discussion, the gang at RD “reveals” that polygamy is still an active part of Mormon theology through the doctrine of celestial marriage.  Therefore, of course, Mormons should be excluded from any serious discussion on marriage – especially the conference that is happening at the Vatican this week, which has featured the likes of Rick Warren and Russell Moore.

    That the Mormon concept of celestial marriage allows for polygamy in the hereafter is not news.  Anybody that takes more than a minute or two to learn about Mormon teaching will know this.  And what, exactly, does what a particular religion believes happens to marriage in the hereafter have to do with a discussion of marriage in the here-and-now?  Many of the  Christian expressions that are participating in the conference do not believe marriage exists at all in the hereafter.  Does that disqualify them from discussing marriage in the here-and-now as well?  The discussion simply is not about eternity, it is about this life and this place and the marriages that are present in it.

    There is one interesting tidbit from the discussion.  It seems clear that they intend to avoid the slippery slope of same-sex marriage leading to polygamy and bestiality and other aberrant forms of marriage by relying on the old tried and true “polygamy hurts women while same-sex marriage produces no harm.”  That is so ignorant of history as to not even be funny.  It must be remembered that historically, marriage was a woman’s means of obtaining property, wealth, standing and security in a society.  Even in our egalitarian age there is no doubt that a successful marriage produces greater economic stability than the alternatives.  Polygamy arose in the Old Testament as a means of providing security to women that otherwise were without prospects.  Polygamy as traditionally practiced in the Old Testament was far from an act of oppression and was instead an act of grace and mercy.

    But then if ones concept of marriage would permit same-sex marriage, this glaring misunderstanding  of historical polygamy is not surprising.  Theirs is a view of marriage based solely on the legitimization of sexual activity, not in the concepts of bonding, covenant, reproduction, or economic activity.

    So let me sum up their argument.  A church that used to, but no longer, practice polygamy (which includes them all by the way) has no standing to discuss same-sex marriage because they still think plural marriage exists in heaven.   That’s not an argument, that’s attempting to play “peek-a-boo” with a ten-year-old.  It’s just not working.  As the aforementioned peek-a-boo game reveals only how little the adult understands of a ten-year-old, this discussion reveals how little these particular proponents of same-sex marriage understand about serious, committed traditional marriage.

    Don’t you think you should fully understand something before you attempt to change it completely?

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    Posted in News Media Bias, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    President Hardhead or Cultural Portent?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:32 am, November 7th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    The punditry in reaction to the presidents reaction to Tuesday seems to be pretty unanimous.  The Washington Examiner says, “It’s still Obama’s way or the highway.”  Howard Kurtz surveys the pundits and writes, “Still, the media consensus was that the president had blown it.“  Leave it to Peggy Noonan to quote Chris Matthews:

    This is not just poor strategy, it seems to me to be mildly delusional. Chris Matthews erupted on MSNBC: “There’s something in this guy that just plays to his constituency and acts like there’s no other world out there!”

    One must ask in the wake of this utter repudiation how the man got reelected.  We know how he got elected, he lied.  But his character was obvious even before his reelection (remember “I won”?) though less blatantly so than the last two years.  His crack about the two-thirds that did not vote reveals much not only about his character, but about the nation.  His much vaunted GOTV effort was very much cult-of-personality based and definitely attracted the low information types.  And that, frankly, is what scares me.

    Many of the low information types also reflect a personality type that is so self righteously self-absorbed that they rise to the level of “mildly delusional.”  Obama is, in more ways than I really want to contemplate, representative of his core constituency.  “I do not care what the facts are, I want (am entitled to,  should have)….”  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced this sentiment in so many big and small ways in my daily life of late, that with a president that loudly proclaims it I must conclude what I am experiencing is more than purely anecdotal – it is a serious societal trend.

    It’s a recipe for chaos.  From the very small things (barging in line, for example) to the very large (Obamacare being Exhibit A) our society cannot survive if everyone thinks the way they see things is the only way, and their desires are the only desires that matter.  Anyone with any Christian insight should have alarm bells ringing right now; Christian thought being full of everything from wisdom sayings, to admonishments, to outright commands to “regard one another as more important than yourselves.”  That being true, our nations troubles run much deeper than politics.

    This election tells us that the nation clearly wants something different than what it is getting, but an election will not fix it.  Yes it may fix some of the big things but until the little things get fixed, this ugly, unsurvivable viewpoint will lie there, just below the surface waiting once again to assert itself in large and unhappy ways.  It takes more than politics to fix this.

    Education and religion are the two great cultural shaping institutions in our society.  They affect the little things in ways that politics just cannot address.  They cannot be turned as quickly as politics.  It takes far more energy, effort and commitment to fix our educational and religious institutions than it does our political institutions.

    We should enjoy the hard fought victory from Tuesday night through the weekend.  But come Monday there is much to be done.

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

    How We Lose

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:20 am, November 4th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    It is election day and if the polling holds it looks to be a very good one for Republicans.  Come tonight we should have very good reason to be celebratory.  And yet I find celebration hard to come by – and not just becasue the most hard-headed presidency in history will fail, utterly, to receive the message being sent today.  No, the ennui I experience today is born of a story that has ridden pretty high, but just off the main radar, amidst the closing arguments, the final pushes and the last gasps of Campaign 2014.

    A young, beautiful and struggling with a major health issue woman killed herself last Saturday.

    Yes, she was dying.  Yes, she was looking at a great deal of suffering before her inevitable demise.  But regardless, her decision, and the rush to support it, takes something extraordinarily tragic and makes it indescribably saddening.  Life, even a life lived with extreme difficulty and pain, is too precious to waste in this manner.  Life is given by God, it is not ours to take away.

    Yet as I read piece after piece about that call to support the “right to die with dignity,” I cannot help but wonder where is the religious outrage at this act that so clearly defies centuries of religious teaching.  Is the press not covering it?  Google is not revealing much of anything, even press releases from religious organizations that have gone unreported.

    This is how we lose.

    Compassion for an awful situation demands some decorum, but the -pro-death people are busy making political hay and we allow our compassion to silence us when it should force us merely to temper our pronouncements and thus illustrate the incredibly poor taste of our opposition.  This is hard to message.  The difference between pulling the plug on a person already dead save for human intervention and a person not yet dead from disease is too subtle for Twitter and the TV sound bite.  We let this messaging difficulty silence us.  Medical science has forced most of us, or someone very close to us, to make life or death decisions and so we remain silent lest we be called hypocrite, or becasue it is too painful to face our own, perhaps wrong, calculations.

    We cannot be so silenced.  We have to find a tasteful, decorous, effective way to talk about this or we will be facing medically assisted suicide on demand  as we now face abortion on demand.  Our culture no longer bows to a greater power, it is inevitable if we are silent.

    But more important than the political opposition and the media messaging is what is going on in our churches.  That is what prepares the battlefield and sets the cultural agenda so that political and media messaging can have traction.  Politics follows culture.  And yet, as I drive around I have not seen church signs with sermons on this issue.  Of the myriad church social media streams I follow I have not seen any mention of discussion groups or youth events to deal with this situation.  The silence seems to be pervasive, not just in the media.

    This is how we lose.  I do not want to lose this one.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, leadership, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Same Sex Marriage – There Is Something Different Here

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:24 am, October 22nd 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    One tends to think of the progression of same-sex marriage as an accelerated version of how abortion came to be legal in the land.  People started to clamor for it.  Some states started to look into it, some states legalized it and then SCOTUS stepped in and made it so.  Certainly proponents of same-sex marriage are trying to drive such a narrative, but something different is going on.

    For one thing it is more than a little “accelerated” in comparison of abortion.  It is downright forced.  This was illustrated strongly in a talk radio event I attended this past weekend.  The very conservative panel split along interesting lines.  On the one hand  there were the younger people, and one older ally, that pointed out their generation simply was not fired up about it.  The older ally pointed out that the issue of religious freedom was distinct and had political traction even is same sex marriage did not.  On the other hand most of the older people on the panel were making slippery slope arguments that same sex marriage was just the latest attack on not merely religious freedom, but religion generally, and that despite the ambivalence of the younger generation, we had to fight and fight hard.

    The talk radio audience is largely older, so it is not surprising that that latter view resonated with the room.  Certainly things like what is happening in Houston and Coeur d’Alene would add credence to the latter view.  But what we really have here is not an issue problem, but a messaging one.

    The younger argument is, for their generation, well framed.  They are libertarian with regards to same-sex marriage, as my generation was about abortion.  But the over reach that is happening in places like Houston and Coeur d’Alene really are religious freedom questions, not same sex marriage questions.  They can get traction across generational lines.  But it was also clear from the room at the event that such subtle messaging is a bit too subtle for the older generation.

    Aside from the speed and overly judicious means by which same sex marriage is spreading, this is where the abortion analogy begins to break down.  Abortion really was the dirty little secret of history.  While often illegal or illegitimate it has been practiced in various forms pretty much forever.  Most people, rightly, think that the same thing is true about homosexuality.  But same sex marriage is something quite different from simple homosexual activity.  It is without historical precedent.  Many other of what we consider aberrant forms of marriage (polygamy, for example) have historical antecedents, but there are simply none for same-sex marriage.   From the perspective of the older generation which has learned history not merely propaganda, the idea of same-sex marriage is so outside of human practice as to be unworthy of discussion, let alone serious consideration.

    One of the younger members of the panel pointed out that same-sex marriage is advancing because no one is arguing against it.  He was sympathetic that in light of history, we were caught flat-footed, but that we had to respond.  What I heard when I heard that was a young man asking to be parented.  Of course this guy is married with small children of his own, but from the perspective of my age that’s what it sounded like.  Some things are so rudimentary, so fundamental to human functioning that they should not be argued for or against.  To argue is to admit that the opposing view has some merit.  Somethings are dismissed, not argued.  For the younger generation to give credence, not dismissal, to arguments for same sex marriage is a lack of parenting, not rhetoric.

    Of course, at this juncture there is an enormous amount of cultural analysis that could and should take place.  But from a purely political standpoint, can parenting be accomplished in political messaging?  And if so, how?

    I am not smart enough to figure out the complete answer to that question, but there is one component of it that I know is necessary.  Our political leadership has to begin again to lead, not merely cater to the voter.  Much of the urgency that we see on the same sex marriage issue right now is because the lack of political leadership in the nation is so painfully obvious that almost anyone can figure out that the next administration will be better at it, regardless of who is elected.

    But this also sets an agenda for the next Congress.  Should the polling hold and the Republicans gain both houses, they have got to lead, not merely pander for votes.  Because of the administration their leadership may be fruitless, but they have to be seen to lead.  Generals in losing battles are still leaders – winning is not the point right now – leadership is.  Such leadership will embolden the older generation to do the same in small ways throughout the nation and the cultural tides may begin to shift.  If a Republican Congress fails to lead they will be just as to blame for the cultural degradation of our society as those that openly call for so much that is symptomatic of the decline.

    It is high time we older folks acted like it.

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    Posted in Evangelical Shortcomings, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Same-sex marriage | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    “Obamacare Thinking” and the Ebola Crisis

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:36 am, October 17th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    My father, a CPA and an attorney, used to tell me, over and over and over again, “You get what you measure.”  This is an accounting adage that refers to the fact that the company that focuses on gross sales may get huge gross sales, and yet no profit.  If a company focuses on profit, they may make them, but at the expense of growth.  You get what you measure.

    I recently spent a good deal of time in an airport restaurant surrounded by doctors returning home from a  convention of some sort.  One thought struck me as I listened to their conversation – “These are not professionals.”  When I was a child physician and attorney were considered the highest of professions.  And yet these conversations were not learned men discussing the limits of knowledge in their field and how to advance it.  They were not discussing how to save more lives or invent new techniques.  They were discussing insurance coding and receivables timing.  They were discussing procedures for insurance filing and how to maximize payment.  These were clerks, not professionals.  They were not exercising judgement based on a great reserves of knowledge and expertise, they were trying to figure out their place in a vast bureaucracy.

    Physicians are no longer professionals, they are ordinary labor in an immense third-party payer system of which Obamacare represents the acme of current evolution.  This system and thinking did not start with Obamacare, but it certainly represents the pinnacle of such an approach in the United States.

    Think about the much discussed second nurse.  Clearly her professional judgement thought it might not be a good idea to get on an airplane, or else she would not have called.  But trained and paid by the bureaucrats, when they told her it was OK to fly, she flew.  The narrative around the Ebola crisis is not one of the valiant professional seeking to control virulent disease, rather it is one of protocols, procedures, and systems.  It is the narrative of a bureaucracy, not a profession.  It is the narrative of how Obamacare handles a health crisis, not how professionals would.

    Obamacare has set the measurement for medicine – procedures, codes and protocols, and that is what we have gotten.  It currently appears to be failing us.

    Lest the reader think I have left the religious roots of this blog in the dirt, there is a religious tie-in.  Christianity represented something quite unique from Judaism.  The Judaism of Christ’s time was a system of rules, procedures and protocols to achieve goodness.  Christ came and preached a message that goodness cannot be achieved merely by following the rules, but that real fundamental change in a person has to happen for the rules to even have a chance.  How that change happens is supernatural and too theological for this blog, but the idea is remarkably parallel to the difference between labor fitting into a system and a professional.  Labor tries to follow rules and procedure; a professional uses his or her judgement which has been developed through education and experience.

    Leaving faith behind as our nation “advances” is having consequences far beyond simple moral decline.  Absent the predominant Christian thought that founded the nation, we no longer think in terms of individuals reaching their highest potential, we think of the rules and procedures for each individual to achieve their place.   In this case, because we have turned medical professionals, everyone really, into mere labor there are simply too many moving parts for the system to respond with the speed it needs to in a crisis like this.

    You want someone to blame for the Ebola crisis?  Blame modern areligious thought and the Obamacare it has wrought.

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