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 – September 29, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:56 am, September 29th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The view from New Hampshire.  It's a great piece, but I'm not sure about that headline.

    The Minneapolis Strib on the convention coming there and recent polling.  (HT: The Corner on that poll)  Despite the poll, I agree with KLO, I don't think Rudy is running.  Particularly when I see stuff like this.  If he does, he is going to be way behind the curve organizationally from my reading.

    Share

    Posted in Reading List | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    What We Cover And Why

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:23 pm, September 28th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    A discussion has arisen between the two of us about the appropriateness of this blog covering the kind of down and dirty political attacks represented by the recent South Carolina thing.  We are not, nor do we ever want to be, a Romney campaign blog.  It is true and admitted that Lowell is supportive of the Commonwealth PAC, and John is leaning in Romney's direction, but uncommitted; our effort in this blog is to examine the religion issue, as it springs from that campaign, but in broader scope when appropriate and as impartially as possible.  We run a risk, when we tackle stories like that one, of seeming more partisan than we want to be.

    Nonetheless, after some discussion, we will continue to cover such things – here's why:

    1. Such attacks may raise religious questions but they are not really religion/politics issues – they are pure politics.  We need to be able to distinguish between genuine religious issues, and faux religious issues so that we can go where we want to with this blog.
    2. We started this blog, in large part, to help religion find its proper place in politics and more, to prevent the great beast that is politics from swallowing religion whole.  In attacks like this the politician makes religion the instrument of politics, and does so regardless of the actual stance of religion.  This could perhaps irrevocably harm religion in America.  The establishment clause and Article VI protect religion from corruption as much as they create freedom in this country.
    3. As demeaning as Evangelical prejudice towards Mormons may be to Mormons, such political attacks, miscredited to Evangelicals, are demeaning to Evangelicals.  In these cases the sword cuts both ways.

    We will endeavor, as always, to be factual, not partisan, in covering these events.  We will leave the partisan stuff to the numerous "XXX for Romney" blogs out there, but we will continue to sort the wheat and chaff when it comes to legitimate and illegitimate religious questions.

    John and Lowell

    [tags]Romney, Mormon, Evangelical, South Carolina, politics, religion[/tags]

    Share

    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Economist on Mitt Romney and “The Question”

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 01:53 pm, September 28th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This is, in essence, a late addition to today's Reading List.  The September 28 edition of The Economist contains an article, "Mitt Romney's problem," subtitled "Religious prejudice may yet undo the Republicans' latest favourite."  It's an interesting U.K. perspective on American politics.  Excerpt:

    As for evangelical Christians, they can be a remarkably pragmatic bunch. They have spent the past few decades building alliances with “people of faith” whom they once regarded as spawn of the devil. And they know a winner when they see one: they happily forgave Reagan his divorce and eccentric theological views. In an ideal world they might prefer a more orthodox man of faith. But if it comes to a choice between Mr Romney and a maverick like Mr McCain or an avowed social liberal like Rudy Giuliani, they may be willing to swallow the Book of Mormon.

    We shall see.  Meanwhile, I was struck by the story's subtitle and its blunt reference to "religious prejudice."  That's refreshing, in a way.  Isn't prejudice what we are really talking about, after all is said and done?

    Many who are either sympathetic to the view that voting for a Mormon presents at least a moral dilemma for evangelicals (Al Mohler comes to mind), or who actually take the position that an evangelical could never vote for a Mormon (I believe this is a minority within the evangelical community) probably resist the notion that such views are outright religious prejudice.  I think it's undeniable, however. 

    The rejoinder from the anti-Mormon evangelical camp may be that Mormonism is so wrong, so far out of the mainstream, that it is an evangelical's duty to vote against a Mormon for fear of "mainstreaming" a dangerous sect by electing one of its adherents to the highest office in the land.  Al Mohler has openly suggested this.  In that regard, I found Dr. John Mark Reynolds' analysis compelling:

    So if we assume religious traditions are, at least in part, knowledge traditions, then being wrong about religion does matter. How wrong does one have to be before losing credibility in the public square?

     

    Let me propose a few tests and suggest that Mormonism easily passes all of them.

     

    First, the religious beliefs of the candidate should be held by a significant number of people and by a group willing to defend them (even if unsuccessfully) in a rational manner. . . .

     

    Second, the group in question should not have religious claims that will naturally lead to horrific, or at least far out, public policy. . . .

     

    Third, the group should have a long track record of generally playing by republican rules in areas where it is dominant. No group is perfect, but the Presidency is too powerful a prize to trust to a new group that might have secret authoritarian leanings. . . .

    Once a religious organization – a church- meets those tests, it seems to me, an argument against voting for one of the church's members for fear of mainstreaming or legitimizing that church has no other basis than simple religious prejudice.

    As always, I remain willing to be proven wrong, or at least vigorously opposed in my argument.  But for now, that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

    [tags]Mitt Romney, Al Mohler, John Mark Reynolds,The Economist, religious prejudice, religious bigotry, Mormons, evangelicals [/tags]

    Share

    Posted in Electability, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Today’s Reading List – September 28, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:17 am, September 28th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Romney interview podcast on RedState.  Comments:

    1. I hate podcasts – I can read so much fasterFoot in mouth
    2. Not much new on the religion question – although the Falwell citation is outstanding,
    3. TKS blog comments on the seemingly dual minded state of RedState.

    Lowell:  I liked this from Geraghty:

    If the GOP base wants a pro-life candidate in 2008, fine; they are, definitively, the pro-life party. But if the litmus test was that the candidate had never wavered on the issue at any point in their career, neither Reagan nor the first President Bush would have made the cut. Telling Romney to get stuffed would tell any wavering elected leader, any politician with divided internal views on the issue, that you’re not welcome as the party's nominee unless you’ve been down-the-line pro-life from the get-go. This doesn’t bring people in, it’s driving people out.

    Lou Dobbs continues to grind the immigration issue, and now takes on the church's role in the whole thing and blows it up to constitutional levels.  Dobbs is right about having a national discussion on churhc/state matters – but why does he only bring it up when his pet peeve is involved?  Lowell:  Let's just say Dobbs is not the most insightful commentator out there on such matters.

    The relationship building continues.

    Yours Truly on the Mohler program from an Evangelical religous perspective.  However, in a effort to make me crazy, Mohler here seems to be saying culture matters more than religion in voting decisions.  Time to pin this guy down.  Dear devoted reader, drop him an email and encourage him to respond to our request for an interview. 

    Lowell:  My admittedly wild speculation is that Mohler, and others who agree with him, are torn internally on the question of voting for a Mormon. Mohler seems not to have come to a resolution in his own mind on the issue.  In a way, I understand this.  I also suspect (speculating again) that this internal conflict arises from a deep-seated fear of Mormons.  Yes, that's right– fear.  And that phenomenon is not unique to Mohler; nor do I intend to criticize him personally by saying that.  One of these days I'll put up some more thoughts about this idea.

    Looking at looking at Evangelicals.

    LowellThe first book reviewed is another example of fear– but this time it's the author's fear of religious people, and of religious belief generally.  A common malady among leftists.

    Fred Barnes does not think Allen is dead yet.

    Lowell:  I think he is.  Allen needs more seasoning.  2012 might be his year, if the GOP stumbles in 2008.

    Share

    Posted in Reading List | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Today’s Reading List – September 27, 2006

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:00 am, September 27th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had a discussion on his radio program on "The Mormon Question" on 9/19.  You can give a listen here.  You can read an after-post by one of Mohler's guests here.  (HT: Between Two Worlds)  This group of Evangelicals is definitely to the right of me and I think it will give this blog's readers, who tend to be more sophisticated than average, an insight into what Romney will face from some Evangelical circles.  I am going to have to reserve a lot of my commentary on the matter to my "Godblog" – Blogotional (I'll link when I make it) because it will be Evangelical theology and therefore not appropriate for this blog.  But having said that, one observation I make is that Mohler, who is reasonably moderate on the question, by giving kind voice to callers that most assuredly are NOT so moderate, lends credence to Evangelical objections that I am not sure it deserves.  I'll be quite interested if Mormon ears hear the same thing?

    My Blogotional comments on the matter will focus on the fact the fact that people often fail to distinguish between attitude and action.  That the right action with the wrong attitude, or belief, is preferable to wrong action with the right attitude and belief in the here and now.  Eternity is an entirely different question, but in the here and now it is the right action we need in governance.  Here is an example of what I am talking about.  I agree with the theology in the post 100%, but when it comes to questions of governance and who I make political common casue with, I want to say "SO WHAT!"

    Lowell:  I am listening to Mohler's program even as I type this.  My observations:

    1.  Mohler is an impressively articulate spokesman for his point of view.  Very, very smooth and easy to listen to. A gifted man.

    2.  His two guests, Russell Moore and Philip Roberts, are not Mormons.  Mohler nevertheless describes Mr. Roberts as "an expert on Mormonism," but both guests are Baptist theologians and seminarians.  It is clear, listening to Mr. Roberts, that he is an expert critic of Mormonism. As I've often stated here, if you want to understand a religion, ask one of its spokesmen, not one of its critics.

    John responds:  I think that's fair, but Mormons need to remember that many, if not most Evangelicals will discount what the Mormon Spokesperson says in a manner similar to your desire to discount a Mormon critic.  That said, dialogue is always preferable and far more reasonable.

    Lowell:  I'd be happy with simply a Mormon scholar who's sympathetic to the Mormon point of view.

    3.  Mohler phrases the question as one of Christian discipleship:  Do evangelicals have a religious duty, as disciples of Christ, not to vote for Romney?  I am pleased that evangelical leaders are asking this question, but I think they also need to start answering it.  I am referring to the "big guns," the leading ministers, and yes, even Al Mohler.  Just tossing the question out continually eventually becomes cowardly. Eventually, those leaders need to have the courage of their convictions and start telling their flocks what they believe is the right course.

    John responds:  Agreed!  My biggest beef with the whole show is the lack of answers.

    4.  That last point raises an interesting question:  Mohler says serious Mormons must be concerned about the implications of a Romney candidacy, because our faith will be exposed to scrutiny unlike anything it has ever faced.  I'd like to turn the question around to evangelicals:  Don't evangelicals have a similar worry?  Isn't a Romney candidacy going to expose evangelical biases to a scrutiny unlike anything they have ever seen before?  Do you not worry about how ridiculous, bigoted, and narrow-minded many of your fellow evangelicals might make your own religion look?  One caller to Mohler's show likened Mormons to Wiccans.  Doesn't that at least make you wince?

    John responds: Hey! – I've said that here repeatedly.

    5. Mohler comes right out and says Mormonism is a "cultic corruption of Christianity" and that Mormons are not Christians. Phillip Roberts, the "expert" on Mormonism, calls that faith "aberrational," "cultic," and "heretical."  Well, there you have it.  Why is this name-calling discussion taking place?  Would Mohler devote that much time to a Catholic candidate's "corrupted" beliefs, and would he use similar epithets in describing Catholicism?  Maybe so; I am not all that familiar with his writings and statements.  This raises the question of distortion:  What does "Christian" mean, and when someone says Mormons are not Christians, is that statement unfairly misleading?  We comment in-depth on the terminology issue here.

    John responds:  I think Mormons need to be comfortable with being classified as "heretical."  Protestants say that about Catholics and vice versa.  Baptists say it about almost anyone not Baptist – and so forth.  It's a term that means simply "Your beliefs are wrong."  While Mormons don't use the word, they certainly think the same thing about creedals.  "Aberrational" has negative connotations to be sure and I would not use it simply to avoid those connotations.  However, to my mind, it is suitable because at its core it means simply – "heretical offshoot."

    Lowell:  We don't call other religions heretical, just wrong.  ;-)

    "Cultic" is a whole other matter.  This word has a whole bunch of sutblety to it, and is, in common Evangelical parlance, dismissive and derisive.  I cringed when I heard it as well.

    6. Mohler says evangelicals need to be honest about the fact that if Romney is elected, there will be a "mainstreaming" of Mormonism, and that such mainstreaming is a legitimate concern for them.  In other words, they think Mormonism must be marginalized.  Is Mohler really saying that a vote should be based on whether the candidate's religion will benefit from his or her election?  Are competitive religious goals a legitimate basis for voting decisions?  Has he thought through the implications of such a statement?  Do we want to break the electoral process down into religious tests?  Also, there is a lack of courage in Mohler's question:  He needs to answer it.  If he thinks that is a "legitimate concern," then he needs to offer a resolution to the concern. The same is true of other evangelical opinion leaders.  After a while, simply asking the question over and over only stokes the fires of bigotry.

    John responds:  I am disappointed in Mohler's statements here for two reasons.  One, I believe the truthfulness of my faith sufficient to carry the day in an interfaith discussion, and do not feel a need to marginalize any "competing" relgion – but that is really a faith arguement not for this blog.  Your comments about voting decisions are dead-nuts on.

    7. Mohler says voting for a Mormon candidate would be "an excruciating decision" for him personally because his first allegiance is to Christ, and a victory by a Mormon might "confuse the gospel of Jesus Christ" or "confuse persons about the gospel of Jesus Christ."  Although I appreciate Mohler's honesty, I find this both remarkable and astonishing.  Are people such simpletons, so easily influenced by religious movements, that the election of a candidate with unacceptable religious beliefs will lead them away from the truth?

    John responds: Agreed!

    8. If Mohler continues simply using his program to give voice to ignorance and bigotry, which I think is what this particular program segment does, then I think he is doing a disservice to the body politic and to his own faith tradition.

    John responds: Mohler was skirting an edge here – with the notable exception of the "cultic" crack, he personally said little that I can take exception to – He left that up to his guests and callers.  I am of the current hope that he is allowing concerns a voice without being too immediately and harshly critical in an effort to build allies before you tell them they are wrong.  He did challenge, although far more politely and less definitively that I would have, most of the truly, truly ignorant statements that were made.  Several times he backed people into a corner where they admitted under certain circumstances they would vote for a Mormon, but he did not do so in a way that forced them to give up their bigoted attitudes.  Unfortunately, people ignorant enough to make such statements are probably too ignorant to pick up his most sutble challenges.  Only time will tell.  Mohler matters a lot to a large segment of Evangelical voters. 

    (Not that I feel stongly about this or anything! ;-) )

    Bottom line:  It's good that this discussion is getting out in the open, and early.  I actually respect Mohler's candor and his apparently sincere desire to remain true to his own beliefs.  I do not respect, however, his lack of fairness, manifest by his willingness to attack an established religion (including name-calling) without allowing any comment from any spokesman for that religion, and his repetition of provocative questions without supplying any answers.  To say that voting for Romney will be "excruciating" for him does not exactly throw oil on troubled waters.

    Mohler says he will be following this issue.  We will be following him as he does so.

    A "Godblog" looks at John Fund's piece from the other day, a piece about which Lowell commented the other day:

    It's refreshing that Fund's piece mentions Romney's religion only briefly . . . .

    and pulls out "The Question" – I find that just infuriating, that piece was about so much more.

    It'll be crowded in Iowa this weekend.  I wonder if they are all carrying Secret Service details yet?  If so, those guys could end up bumping into each other!

    The view from New Hampshire.

    [tags]Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, Philip Roberts, religious bigotry, Mormons, evangelicals [/tags]

    Share

    Posted in Electability, Reading List, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    George Allen: Dirty Religious Politics Erupt in Virginia

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 09:48 am, September 26th 2006     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    I am no great fan of Senator Allen, who I personally believe is not ready for prime time, but what is being done to him in the final weeks of his re-election campaign in Virginia seems pretty despicable to me.  There's a lot going on; here's just a snippet from Opinion Journal's Political Diary (a subscription service):

    Another issue of timing is raised by an interview with Eve Kessler, author of the Jewish Forward article last month that detailed Senator Allen's Jewish ancestry, a secret kept by his mother. Ms. Kessler told the Columbia Journalism Review this week that she "learned about it probably more than a year ago, so I knew about it and had done this research long before the 'macaca' episode." She went on to say she waited to run the piece until a time it was "going to become relevant." That sounds like journalism-speak for "most damaging."

    Indeed. 

    [tags]George Allen, The Forward, Eve Kessler, dirty politics, Virginia Senate race, macaca [/tags]

     

    Share

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    « Previous« Today’s Reading List – September 26, 2006  |  Next Page »Today’s Reading List – September 27, 2006 »