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."

  • Today’s Reading List

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:44 am, June 30th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    …is pretty thin.

    Romney speaks out on yesterday’s Gitmo/SCOTUS decision. 

    What do you think about the questions in the last paragraph?

    McCain declining? Oh please, oh please, oh please…

    I still say Romney v Bayh would be the most interesting election in a long time.

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    Today’s Reading List

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:59 am, June 29th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Mitt, Marriage, Massachusetts.  My opinion, he pulls this off it would go a long way towards erasing the “too left” cloud that hangs over his head.  He doesn’t and it just looks like posturing.

    Video of the 700 Club appearance.  The RealClearPolitics Blog responds.

    Jed Babbin guest-hosted the Michael Medved show yesterday and riffed on this piece he did in ’05.

    Wartime presidents must lead their people. In this, Mr. Bush has fallen flat. It’s not enough to say we must complete the mission. It’s not nearly enough to repeat the truism that our soldiers are performing bravely, with skill and humaneness not seen before in history. As important as those facts are, they pale in comparison to what we aren’t told: What is the mission? Who are our enemies, and where are they? How are we going to attack and defeat them? What, specifically, are they trying to do and how are we going to stop them? We know none of those things from the President. To say what he says again and again — without saying much else — leaves wartime opinion-making to Vladimir Putin, Russell Feingold, Chuck Hagel and Cindy Sheehan.

    Is this a function of being a great business manager and coming to politics only late?  I would call this managing the war instead of leading the war effort.  Would Romney have the same problem?

    Romney and Pataki compared – Pataki loses.

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    A Note On Terminology: “Mormon” and “Christian”

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:06 am, June 28th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This blog is not the place for sectarian arguments; the authors’ goal is to avoid such battles here. Toward that end, we need to explain one rule of usage we will follow: The meaning of the words “Mormon” and “Christian,” at least on this blog. Our goal is to promote clarity and keep misunderstandings to a minimum.

    There are two definitions of the word “Christian” that are important to this discussion:

    1. One common definition is that a Christian is simply one who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior and the Savior of all mankind. Arguably, that is the commonly-understood meaning of the word. (A much simpler and broader variation appears in most dictionaries: “One who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”) Using either the common definition or its broader variation, there is no doubt that Mormons are Christians.

    2. A second definition is important to many people, perhaps especially those who pay close attention to certain doctrinal differences: To be truly Christian one must believe in a particular written creed or declaration of belief, such as the Apostles’ Creed or The Lausanne Covenant. Mormons do not accept everything in both of those declarations. (The difference of views centers on the nature of the Godhead.) That has led many to take the position that Mormons are not Christians.

    Mormons find that conclusion deeply hurtful, because their belief in Christ is at the center of their faith. When casual observers hear or read that a particular church is not Christian, to them that means the church does not teach belief in Christ– like Buddhism or Islam. To Mormons, that is a terrible misconception of their deepest and most cherished belief. In this blog’s view, when many other Christians, whether or not evangelicals, describe Mormons as non-Christians, they do not mean to offend. They are simply using definition no. 2 above, and their terminology is accurate.

    The problem is this: Many, if not most, people do not make the fine distinction between Christians as believers in Christ and Christians as believers in certain doctrines of creedal Christianity. They think “non-Christian” means “non-believer.” On this blog, we will try avoid falling into the trap of imprecision by using the terms “Mormon,” “non-creedal Christian,” and “Latter-day Saint” to describe members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “CJCLDS.” We’ll use “creedal Christians to describe members of those other denominations who accept a Christian creed. We won’t refer simply to “Mormons and Christians” as two separate groups.

    We think this is approach is accurate and inoffensive to all interested in the discussion. On one side, Mormons freely acknowledge that they are not in doctrinal agreement with most of creedal Christianity on certain points– after all, that’s a fundamental characteristic of Mormonism. On the other side, informed creedal Christians do not dispute that Mormons believe in Jesus Christ, and surely do not want to leave an erroneous impression in the minds of casual observers. If you have questions about this rule of usage, please let us know using the “e-mail us” button above.

    [tags]evangelicals, Mormons, Mormonism, Christians, Christianity defined, Apostles’ Creed, Lausanne Covenant [/tags]

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    Today’s Reading List

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:55 am, June 28th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Arkansas looksee.

    CBN appearance – the view from Boston and Hotline.

    AN interesting question for future investigation.  The role of a Mormon President’s religion in foreign policy.  After all, in some circles, traditional creedal Christianity can be a problem in a President.

    What’s happening in Iowa?

    2002 profile from the ‘ol Alma Mater.

    Campaign staff grows.

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    Today’s Reading List

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:03 am, June 27th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Good conservative advice.  (Lowell’s added comments in italics.)  Looks like Romney’s following all of it.  So are all of the “early mention” candidates other than McCain.

    An interesting comment string.  Indeed, and a good illustration of the reasons why we don’t have comments on this blog.  After about the tenth comment the commenters are arguing about subjects miles away from the original post, and eventually descend into petty religious arguments.  Even so, there are some interesting examples of the thinking on both sides of the issues.  My favorite was the one arguing that a vote for Romney was a vote validating Mormonism.  A silly argument, I think, but revealing.

    Commenting on the Weekly Standard Michigan article from yesterday.

    Grover Norquist shows why he’s controversial.  This is worth reading just to get a taste of the way Mother Jones writers see the world.  The endearing reference to Christians as “Christers,” for example.  Only the Left is blind to its own use of religious epithets, it seems– but only when Christians are the target.  I also loved this statement attributed to Norquist:

    It would be nice to see Romney do for the Mormons what Kennedy did for the Roman Catholics but… his problem is he’s never lived in the United States. He’s lived in Utah and Massachusetts.

    Well, about 6 of his 59 years in Utah, attending college or running the 2002 Winter Olympics.  The rest was spent in Michigan or Massachusetts.  An Norquist is supposed to be a Romney fan!

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    How Faith Creates Societies – Post #3

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:05 am, June 26th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    John:  The Evangelical Perspective

    The May ’06 issue of The American Enterprise contains a couple of articles on How Faith Creates Societies that are potentially problematic.  The first, Small Town Religion, by Bart Hinkle, examines the mega-church phenomena and how the mega-church can act as community within the context of a metropolis.  The second, A Community Of Faith, by Chris Weinkopf, looks at a  small California town and the overwhelming influence that a Roman Catholic university has on it, and the community that fact creates.

    There is little doubt that the two strongest influences in maintaining an individual’s value structure is church and community.  Government can really do little to inculcate values, it can only press them upon people by force.  When community and church intertwine a value structure can become very strong indeed.  I do not fault anyone who wants to live in a community like those described, whether small town, or microcosm in the metropolis.  But, such can be fraught with hazard as well.

    There are two places where this deep intertwining of church and community can become problematic.  The first is that when one’s value structure is so heavily reinforced by these two factors, one tends to get lazy about developing the reason behind those values.  It becomes very difficult to defend your values to those not within that church/community because you have never had to develop persurasive arguments for them.  When one then arrives in the broader context of a state or nation, particularly one like ours where religion has a voice but is not THE voice, the person of traditional values is often on the losing end of the debate.

    The second problem area is related.  It is a natural human response to having your deeply held and traditional values challenged, particularly when you are not able to defend them in a rational and reasonable fashion, to be simply dismissive of those with other values.  This dismissal is particularly easy to do in the context of a deeply intertwined church/community.  The best example of this that I have experienced in my life is a Mormon one, in Kanab, Utah.  My wife and I love to vacation in this small southern Utah town because of its ready access to some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

    Kanab was, needless to say, settled my Mormons and remains in large part a small Mormon town.  However, do to the placements of a very large animal rescue center just outside of town, an animal-rights kind of place, the town has a large contingent of areligious, very liberal types.  One can see the town fracturing, you can almost draw a line on Main Street to figure out where each group hangs.  I am told by locals that town meetings are quite fractous and that almost nothing can be accomplished because neither side engages in actual debate, they simply state their opposing beliefs over and over and over again.

    This is the same kind of fractousness that I think lies at the heart of evangelical bias towards Mormons.  We evangelicals need to be able to defend our faith, and more importantly our values, on other than simply doctrinal or dogmatic grounds.  We need to be able to do so reasonably.

    I understand the appeal of community and church, and particularly thier role in upholding values.  But it is important to remember that it is the values that matter, at least when it comes to matters of governance and pulbic policy, not the community.  When we concentrate on the values we learn what we share in common with “the opposition” and can work together to wards a better town/city/state/nation.

     Lowell:  The Mormon Perspective

    I find John’s comments remarkably insightful.  I spent most of the first 26 years of my life living in Salt Lake City, where the majority of people I knew and associated with were Mormons.  As I got older and attended high school and college (especially college) my perspective broadened and I realized that there are many different ways of looking at the world and many, many honorable people of good will– of all religious stripes.  Along the way I think I developed a pretty good feel for the problem of insularity and the resulting tendency toward the twin problems of laziness and dogmatism to which John refers.

    Kanab is an interesting example.  This L.A. Times story appeared after John wrote his comments above, but it seems to support his argument.  I wonder a little about the story’s credibility, because it appeared in the Times and is about a clash between religious and secular people, and the Times often fails to get such stories right.  It appears the Kanab City Council passed a resolution “proclaiming that their top priority was to protect and nurture the ‘natural family:’”

    The resolution described the natural family as man and woman, duly married “as ordained of God,” with hearts “open to a full quiver of children.” The council decreed that such households are to be treasured as “the locus of the true common good,” a bulwark against crime, delinquency, drug abuse and worse.

    With rousing (if not always grammatical) rhetoric, the council promised to do all it could to promote the natural family: “We envision young women growing into wives, homemakers, and mothers; and we see young men growing into husbands, home-builders, and fathers…. We look to a landscape of family homes, lawns, and gardens busy with useful tasks and ringing with the laughter of many children.”

    Now, I happen to find the society described very appealing, an ideal I’d love to see realized on my own street.  As a Mormon, I also recognize that ideal as very much what my faith encourages.  Any Mormon would also recognize the resolution’s language as full of Mormon buzz-words– it sounds like something right out of an address by a Latter-day Saint general authority (a church-wide leader).

    But what if you’re not a Mormon and live in a city, like Kanab, where you’re in the minority and feel a little overwhelmed by the Mormon culture all around you?  I suspect you’d find the resolution at least nettlesome, harmless though it may be.

    So I ask myself:  Does this sort of language and thought actually belong in an official city resolution?  I don’t think so.  Just as we religious folk bridle when secularists try to impose their views on us, I am sure less-religious react negatively when believers take matters a little too far.  That’s what happened here, I’m afraid.  I can’t describe when that line is crossed, but as Justice Stewart famously said about pornography, I know it when I see it.

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