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 Politics Of American Religious Identity” – Mormon ‘Orthodoxy’

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:59 am, February 28th 2007     &mdash      1 Comment »

    0807855014.jpgWe have before on this blog quoted from the book "How Wide The Divide?" by Craig Bloomberg (Evangelical New Testament scholar) and Stephen Robinson (CJCLDS New Testament scholar).  Specifically we quoted Robinson as follows:

    Another frustration Evangelicals often experience in dealing with Latter-day Saints is the fact that we have no professional clergy, no creeds or catechisms, and no theologians in the strict sense. Pure LDS orthodoxy can be a moving target, depending on which Mormon one talks to. Indeed, my part of this book represents only the views of one Latter-day Saint, though I hope a credible one. I do not speak in this volume for the LDS Church, only for myself, but I think I qualify as the world’s authority on what I believe, and I consider myself a reasonably devout and well-informed Latter-day Saint. [Emphasis added.]

    I could not help but reflect on that quote as I read the later portion of the subject book here.  In the wake of the 1890 Manifesto and the Smoot hearings the CJCLDS underwent enormous change.  Polygamy had been a bedrock on which the church had been built and now it was jettisoned.  Flake spends roughly the last third of the book examining how president/prophet Joseph F. Smith and The Quorum were able to pull off this seeming ecclesiastical miracle without schism.  (It should be noted there are schismatic Mormon groups to this day, but they are statistically and poltically insignificant, criminals in religious guise.)

    To my creedal Christian eye, the astonishing fact was that it was such an amazing and difficult accomplishment.  From my basic understanding of a prophetic, revelatory faith, changes in direction would be fairly easy – "the prophet says so and off we march."  Which as an aside shows the utter ignorance of that South Carolina woman, Cindi Mosteller that looks like she is McCain's Mormon attack pit bull.  Lowell quoted an article quoting her sometime back this way:

    On Tuesday, Mosteller, who is a Baptist, said, "The question is: Does Governor Romney support Joseph Smith's doctrines? We as evangelicals don't believe we can go in and change Paul's doctrine. I don't see how you move around this."

    This reveals on Mosteller's part, and I think that of many others she represents, a particular ignorance of creedal Christian faith and history, since she assumes orthodoxy never, ever changes, and Mormon faith and history since she assumes it would have an orthodoxy in the same sense we do, and that that orthodoxy had never changed.  But I digress.

    The plain fact of the matter is that Mormonism has an orthodoxy.  It is both more plastic and more individualistic than creedal Christian orthodoxy, but it is no simple matter of prophetic declaration.  This is born out in the political, liturgical, and ecclesiastical maneuvering which occurred in the wake of the Smoot hearings that Flake goes to such great lengths to examine in the later portion of the book.  I am reasonably certain that her examination of such would be uncomfortable for a Mormon to read.  It is my understanding that Flake is Mormon (she did undergrad at BYU) but she does not fail to turn a very scholarly eye on things that are deeply devout, making what appears to be very spiritual appear to be very pragmatic. I will leave the detailed discussion of events to the book.

    These facts should, however, be a comfort to creedal Christians that fear Mormon faith in a presidential candidate.  The Mormon ship simply will not turn on a dime as this history illustrates.  For example, a Mormon in power would not therefore give license to Mormons to return to their polygamous ways.  Forget for the fact that a President could not make it legal by Executive Order anyway; the church itself would rebel against such a thing because it would violate their current orthodoxy.  Any prophet that tried to turn the church in that direction would need to be as opportunistic, shrewd, and most importantly patient, as Joseph F Smith was.  Even one that is as opportunistic and shrewd could not accomplish the feat today as the cultural conditions in the church simply are not ripe for it.  Such a prophetic utterance would, if I understand how it worked 100 years ago properly, create an enormous crisis in the church, but the more likely outcome would be an ousting of the current prophet and a gross weakening of the office, as would happen if any other religious figure in any other normative religion defied orthodoxy.

    The events surrounding the Smoot hearings demonstrate practically that there is a Mormon orthodoxy and it is tightly held.

    Lowell comments:  I have one clarification.  I am still reading the Flake book, so can't comment in great detail, but I will quote Richard Lyman Bushman, a Mormon emeritus professor of history at Columbia, on the question of prophetic revision of Mormon doctrine (link may require subscription):

    But [the concern that LDS Church leaders will dictate policy to a Mormon president] –rooted as it is in logic rather than reality–does not take into account how revelation actually works. In Mormonism and in biblical history, the prophetic tradition itself places heavy restraints on prophets. It makes a big difference that the moral law is enunciated repeatedly in Mormon scriptures. The Ten Commandments were restated in an early revelation, installing them as fundamentals of the church. Later, the saints were told that "no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned." Could all this be overthrown by a new revelation? Linker thinks that revelation negates everything that came before, but this is not the case. The best analogy is to the courts and the Constitution. Theoretically, five Supreme Court justices can overturn any previous interpretation of the Constitution on a whim. But, in fact, they don't, and we know they can't. Their authority depends on reasoning outward from the Constitution and all previous decisions. The same is true for prophets. They work outward from the words of previous prophets, reinterpreting past prophecy for the present. That was certainly true for church founder Joseph Smith, whose most extreme revelation, plural marriage, was based on plural marriage in the Bible. Prophets do not write on a blank slate. Like Supreme Court justices, they would put their own authority in jeopardy if they disregarded the past.

    So I think Steven Robinson's claim that "LDS orthodoxy can be a moving target" vastly overstates the case.  LDS orthodoxy may evolve, but it does so exceedingly rarely and almost always at a glacial pace.  History is full of examples:  Polygamy and African-American access to the Mormon priesthood, for example.  Neither change happened overnight, although both were critical to the church's continued success.

    [tags]Mormon, orthodoxy, polygamy, Reed Smoot[/tags]

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    Today’s Reading List – February 28, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:46 am, February 28th 2007     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Of course, the big "news" was the strategy document.  I, however, am with Hugh Hewitt.  We don't know what the document really says because all we have to rely upon is the representations of the Boston Globe whose anti-Romney sentiments are so over the top as to make anything they say on the subject unreliable.  Two quick comments:

    • The piece suggests that the tactic of Romney directly addressing specific Mormon beliefs is on the table.  I hope not!  To date he has deferred to Salt Lake City on such questions.  He simply must continue that policy for reasons we outlined Monday.
    • The piece does, I think establish, Romney's campaign slogan (Git-R-Done!) and official spokesman – Larry, The Cable Guy.Laughing  No, really:

    The case for Romney, according to the plan, is this: "Mitt Romney, tested, intelligent, get-it-done, turnaround CEO Governor and strong leader from outside Washington, is a better candidate than McCain & Giuliani to ensure that America's strength is maintained so we can meet a new generation of global challenges."

    OK, OK, my complete lack of refined taste when it comes to comedy is showing, so sue me.

    Lowell:  Here is how Globe reporter Scott Helman interprets the Power Point on Romney's religion issue:

    Romney's sensitivity to his Mormon faith as a campaign issue is apparent throughout the plan.

     

    It acknowledges that some view Mormonism as weird and lists ways Romney should defend his faith, from highlighting the way he has lived his life, rather than which church he attends, to acknowledging theological differences with mainline Christian denominations while refusing to be drawn into an extensive discussion of Mormon doctrine and practices. It also suggests Romney might soon need to address the issue head-on, perhaps as John F. Kennedy did in a 1960 speech amid concerns about his relationship to the Catholic Church.

     

    The document appears to raise the possibility of Romney delivering such an address at George H.W. Bush's presidential library outside Houston, the same city where Kennedy gave his.

    The key aspect of this, as John notes, is that this is all what Helman thinks the slides mean.

    I'm glad it's EFM getting this stuff and not me.  Of course, given the attitude of the e-mailer Charles so effectively dismembers, I am likely beyond redemption since I dare have a Mormon co-blogger.

    Every time a creedal Christian has a problem with Romney's faith, the libs get a notch in their gun belt.  Proof. 

    Lowell:  Further proof:  Media Matters, a left-leaning news media monitoring blog, is very eager to highlight creedal Christian unhappiness with Romney's faith– devoting a couple thousand words to the effort.  It's the old "let's you and them fight" approach.

    Hugh Hewitt in Christianity Today, very briefly, on his upcoming book.  Knowing Hugh, I think the book will be excellent.  Hugh! – Where's our Q&A???

    McCain appears to have a bigger issue than The Question is for Romney - his age.  Sometimes I really wish we were in a more substantive era.  Speaking of which – the ultimate in identity politics.  I really am wondering of that is the heart of The Question – "Doesn't look like me."

    Laura Bush gets it.

    Oh really?  Maybe papers should have fact checkers on their Letters To The Editors page.  Theory and reality don't necessary blend in the CJCLDS as our continuing series on the Reed Smoot hearings is demonstrating.  The series so far – Part IPart II.

    Lowell:  As a Mormon, I love it when people who are not of my faith tell me what I believe, as in this choice nugget:

    God's revelations must be obeyed by all good Mormons at the risk of excommunication. 

    Well, no.  Saying something ridiculous ike that is the surest way to reveal one's ignorance. 

    Romney is "inconsistent," but Guliani is "reaganesque"?  Some other thoughts on Rudy here and here.  Can I confess some confusion — sure Rudy is the guy this week, that's going to ebb and flow over the coming months, but I think we need to find some consistency in how we evaluate candidates.  If the way we are going to select candidates is because they never change their mind, we could start electing some consistent fools.  What gravely concerns me is we are making decisions based on less substantive stuuf like The Question, or age, or appearance and then looking for arguments to justify the decisions.  The pros are, of course, just trying to read the voters so they look smart when the votes are actually cast, but can't we, when trying to read the voters, talk about what matters?

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    Today’s Reading List – February 27, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:27 am, February 27th 2007     &mdash      1 Comment »

    News of The Question yesterday was dominated by response to the AP's vain attempt at a "gotcha" piece concerning Romney's ancestry.

    Many of us have been trying to analyze for many years: why this personal hatred of George Bush on the part of entertainers and others when they don't even know him. It's one thing to disagree with somebody's policies and so forth, but the personal hatred is just difficult to understand, unless you understand the root of it.

     

    I think I do, and I think it has to do with faith. I think they're scared of Bush. I think so many people who don't believe in God have basically a guilt trip about that — not all, but some do — and whenever they are confronted with someone who doesn't have such doubts but has a firm belief in God, I think they're threatened immediately. If they then think that a person who has a firm belief in God is using any aspect of that faith as part of a foundation for governing, the way a personal life is lived, I think it's threatening. There are probably a lot of other psychological factors rooted in this because it's quite abnormal to personally hate somebody you don't know. Yet there's quite a lot of it on the left, and I think as I've mentioned to you before, global warming is a religion. It's not a scientific movement. It's not a moral movement as Gore wanted to point out.

     

    It's a pure religion, and as I think Chesterton said, "If you don't believe in God, you'll believe in anything," and people who do believe in God and people who have no problem publicly proclaiming their faith are a huge, huge threat, both psychologically and emotionally to people who don't share that faith or have any faith at all — other than in inanimate objects like elements of the earth or what have you. I think with Romney, the fact that Mormonism is not understood by people, it's considered to be a cult, a weirdo sect. It's considered, by people who don't know about it, to be very, very serious and devout, and it's the devout aspect that just sends the left quivering and shaking. We cannot have somebody who's going to be judgmental, can't have somebody who has absolutes of right and wrong and good or bad. We can't have somebody like that running the country. No, no, no. That's why the left feels like they are imprisoned when such people have positions of power.

    Lowell interjects:  I liked this one from Phillip Klein on the American Spectator's blog:

    When I saw this outrageous story, my first thought was that it read like an Onion parody of how absurdly overboard the media goes in digging up dirt on presidential candidates. It's hard to know whether to chalk this up to liberal bias or religious bigotry that for some reason is tolerated when Mormons are involved. . . . My only hope is that the AP has gone so far overboard with this one, and utterly embarrassed itself to such a degree, that it will force the media to create some boundaries as far as how they cover Romney's religious background.

    Back to John:  Now, here is an interesting question in all this.  I am confident the AP did not lay a glove on Romney here, save with those that had already made up their minds.  But they have sure generated a lot of attention.  Could we see an avalanche of completely irrelevant, but controversial "hit" or "gotcha" pieces in the MSM to try and steal readers from the new media?  I wondering the same thing about the current dust-up with James Cameron and his claim to have found Christ's tomb.  BTW, Lowell, I assume you are as offended by Cameron's claims as I am?

    Lowell:  Yes, and about as convinced as I was by The da Vinci Code.

    Al Mohler is all over Michael Portillo for his purported desire that David Cameron (these are competing leaders for the Conservative Party in Britain) not take his faith so seriously.  I'm offended by the idea myself.  And yet, I have heard in private communication many creedal Christians saying they can only take Romney seriously because they do not think him too serious about his Mormonism.  You know my brethren, what is good for the goose . . . .

    Lowell:  And, by the way, where have we heard this before, about a government leader who prays for divine guidance? "I worry because men of power who take instruction from unseen forces are essentially fanatics."  That's Portillo, but it sure sounds like a garden-variety American left-liberal.

    And now, a brief aside . . . I really wish I got more on-the-record and less "private communication."  When all the negative is off the record, it strikes me a tacit admission that Romney's faith should NOT be an issue, or at least that treating it as such is indefensible.  Come on people – if that is the case, get over your emotional hang-ups and get serious.  Emotional hang-ups are what drive the left for crying out loud!  Back to our regular scheduled linking and commentary

    Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics interviews Romney.  Like a cool breeze on a hot night – no mention of religion whatsoever.

    Lowell:  With apologies for this partisan-leaning comment, I simply must note how pleasant it is to read the unscripted words of a Republican presidential candidate who speaks in paragraphs and does not battle the English language.

    John responds: I agree, sadly however, with the exception of our readers and the readers of RCP and a few others, many in American don't listen in paragraphs.

    Bill Clinton was America's first true "celebrity" president, and now it appears Al Gore is headed in the same direction, though hopefully, he won't run again.  Just what we need, people getting even LESS serious about elections.

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    Today’s Reading List – February 26, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:50 am, February 26th 2007     &mdash      4 Comments »

    There were two wire service stories that made huge rounds over the weekend.

    The first was a Reuters story, "Pressure on Romney to firmly address Mormon faith"  The story is ostensibly an overview of The Question, but the headline and the angle are something very different.  They again talk about the JFK speech as "addressing" it, but the rhetoric calls for something more – and that is a huge problem.  First of all, if Romney gave a speech like JFK, "My religion won't affect my governance," he'd be, as best as I can tell, lying, and faith voters would immediately discard him as a phony.  If he discussed it in detail he would be forced to engage in Mormon apologetics.  NO CANDIDATE IN AMERICAN HISTORY HAS BEEN FORCED TO ENGAGE IN APOLOGETICS FOR HIS/HER FAITH!  This would be disastrous for the United States.  It would destroy the very concept of religious pluralism.

    It is one thing to have a majority religion, as we do, but it is another thing altogether to make those of minority religion defend it to qualify for a vote.  Such becomes a de facto established religion.  

    There was a bit of related discussion  on The Corner when they were talking the Founders and religion the other day.  I found this interesting.  John Derbyshire says:

    I'll go the whole distance here and say that when Christian apologists do acknowledge the skepticism of the Founders, it often drives them into something close to anti-Americanism.

    There is real wisdom in that particular statement.  Apologia, the argument that a particular religion is true and correct will, by definition, exclude other religion.  It is great for philosophy class, seminaries, and Sunday School, but not for elections.  Such discussion in the context of a presidential race would be very un-American.

    Lowell:  Hear!  Hear!  I also liked Derbyshire's comment that "this business of 'recruiting' historical figures to one's pet cause is deplorable."

    Speaking of which, a brief aside.  I have been told in private communication that I "sound like a Mormon apologist."  I am not, I am a level playing field apologist.  This does mean that I will have to, from time-to-time, defend Mormonism against false accsuations, or point out that charges levelled at Mormons can be levelled at my own faith as well.  You will, however, likely not ever hear me argue for Mormon doctrine or faith.  I don't believe them and do not see myself ever changing my mind on that.  I am creedal Christian through and through.  I realize that is a fine distinction for many to make, but it is a key distinction on which this nation has been built.

    The other, and far bigger in terms of outlets that picked it up, wire service story was this AP story on Romney's polygamous ancestry.  This story is, I think, really Lowell's to respond to, but I want to provide a few interesting responsive links.  Captain Ed appropriately wisecracks at its nonsense.  A prominent Godblogger that we have previously accused of bigotry proclaims this a non-story.  When honor is due, never accuse this blog of not granting it.  Finally, well, you draw the connections.

    Lowell:  Where to begin?  I find it shocking that anyone is being held to account for the behavior of his or her ancestors.  It's astonishing that the AP is taking that tack.  Moreover, by all credible accounts the early Mormons who practiced polygamy were pious people who engaged in the practice as a matter of conscience and because they believed it was a commandment from God.  It is not as if they were horse thieves.  Besides, any modern Mormon who has ancestors from the early days of the church (including me) is likely to have polygamous ancestors several generations back.

    Notably, this is also true of many non-Mormons who have Mormon ancestors.  I have a law partner, for example, who is a staunch Catholic, but who is also a direct descendant of an early (polygamous) president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Is he to be haunted by his ancestry also?  Or is such "haunting" to be confined to those who still profess Mormonism?  If I'm not mistaken, Jimmy Carter's ancestors owned slaves; is that to be held against him as well? 

    Modern Mormons do not pine for the days of polygamy, but are frankly glad they are past; and we constantly wonder how those people were able to live that way.  Are we all supposed to apologize now for, or explain, the actions of people who lived over 100 years ago?  As Captain Ed asks, "My paternal great-grandfather was a drunkard; does that disqualify me from driving, too?"

    Update:  James Taranto on Best of the Web Today gives the AP story– and the MSM approach to such matters– the most effective smackdown I have seen yet.

    NRO gives Romney some advice.  They point out that Romney is following a well worn path, one described by Nixon, "move right in the primaries and towards the center in the general."  However, in Romnay's instance the moves are being used to declare him a flip-flopper.  Something they learned in part from Karl Rove because it worked so well against Kerry.  But why does that attack have traction this time when it did not against Reagan and Bush II?  Sadly, I think because it is playing on an inherent, whispered mistrust of Mormons.

    LowellI actually think NRO's editors' advice makes sense.  They seem supportive, and comment that they "believe he can have a significant and healthy role in this race, but probably not by simply checking all the conservative boxes."  They're just saying his campaign needs an overarching theme.  So far, thanks to the MSM, the theme that comes through to many observers has been (a) he's got a religion problem and (b) he's seen as a flip-flopper.  Is he getting closer scrutiny than candidates who don't face The Question?  Are those memes based on unspoken assumptions about Mormon "weirdness?"  I don't know, but those are fair questions.

    Consider what Joseph Kelly, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at John Carroll University, is quoted as saying in this piece.

    "If the problem comes up, Mr. Romney can emphasize that nothing that the Mormon church teaches goes contrary to American law. His problem may be that the issue will not arise openly so that he can answer it, but that it will just remain unspoken in people's minds and thus work against him."

    Bigotry is by definition almost impossible to argue with.  If open, no evidence will matter, and more insidiously if unspoken it is unchallengeable.  Bigotry is defeated, in the end not by argument, but by outstanding individuals proving the bigotry wrong.  But even that may not always be enough - any group will have good actors and bad actors.  The very deeply bigoted will choose to focus only on the bad actors.  Time and again in private communication, I am told stories about bad actors from the Mormon community, with the inference that good ones simple don't exist.

    I hope my creedal Christian brethren think about that for just a minute.  The crimes committed in the name of our church are legion and heinous.  If someone chooses to focus only on our bad actors, we will not stand up well.  For every William Wilberforce there are numerous sexually-predatory priests and plate-stealing circuit preachers.  I think both Mormons and creedals know about Jesus saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

    Another of those small paper editorials saying religion should not matter.  And another.

    Here is an interesting take on religious identity politics.  Some of it I agree with, some I don't and some is just flat-out wrong

    To illustrate my point, consider the fervor that surrounded Al Gore receiving funds from a Buddhist Temple in California during the 1996 campaign. In 2000, there was no fury over Gore receiving the blessing and endorsement of Bishop T.D. Jakes and the money that such an endorsement entailed.

    I seem to recall that the Buddhist Temple thing had little to do with religion and much to do with the fact that the Temple was used to launder illegal off-shore contributions.

    Hugh Hewitt interviews Rudy Giuliani.  Key exchange for this blog:

    HH: Now the other outsider in this race, Governor Romney, is also getting some Evangelical blowback, because he’s a Mormon. What do you make of that issue?

     

    RG: I think that the Governor’s religion is not an issue in any way in the campaign, and any more than John Kennedy as being a Catholic was an issue, or Senator Lieberman as being Jewish when he ran for vice president. I mean, these things … I think we’re way beyond that, and I don’t think it’ll be an issue. I mean, obviously, by an issue, people will comment on it, but I think the American people have gone way beyond that, and they’re willing … what they want to do is look at the person, and what kind of … how have you performed in public office, what have you done, have you acted as a fair, impartial person in dealing with people of all different religions or whatever. And if that’s the case, those are the issues, not is what is someone’s religion, but how have they acted.

    That's a very classy thing for Mr. Giuliani to say – I applaud him.  I just hope he is sure to instruct his supporters to maintain such an attitude.  Some candidates seem forgetful about that aspect.

    The NYTimes cannot help itself.  When they talk about religiously motivated political action, they just make us all sound like a conspiracy.  Secrets, exclusivity, etc, etc. etc.  I'm telling you, folks, when viewed from the left, we have a awful lot in common with the Mormons.

    Dean Barnett on "Target Romney."  Dean tries to explain the focus on Romney which is out-of-proportion to his polling.  I think he misses one important point.  Because Romney is Mormon, they expect "weirdness," which will make great ink as far as they are concerned. They are, as Dean points out, panting for the salacious and they think his faith will make that easy to come by.  Hence the ancestry story spreading so far, so fast.  But then, as Dean also points out, they are going to find it pretty hard to come by in reality.

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    Today’s Reading List – February 23, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:04 am, February 23rd 2007     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Someone called "PastorBlaster" writes in a effort to justify his intolerance.  One has to dig through multiple blogs and links, but he is apparently a Baptist pastor out of Vancouver, WA.  If one strips the post of the sheer dismissal and insult, the arguments are twofold.  One, he compares Mormons to Islam.

    At a time when we face a horde of religious fanatics who treat women as second class citizens, indoctrinate children, try to convert you by force, and have just plain crazy theological ideals, these men are asking many Americans to set aside their good sense and vote for someone whose religion espouses much of the same kind of ideology!

    All I can say is it would be nice if he backed up those allegations with facts, and specifically facts from the last 50 years or so.  Please note, we presented an historical arguement just this week that unlike Islam, Mormonism has in fact reformed.  The second charge is; however, the reason I picked this ignorant blog post, out of the uncountable ignorant blog posts out there for linking here.  He flat out accuses Mormons of being liars:

    Latter Day Saints do not want the carefully painted veneer they have plastered on over the decades to be stripped away.

    Again, where is the evidence?  But more importantly where is the evidence that Mitt Romney is a liar?  Sadly, there is no counterargument to a baseless accusation of lying.  Again this week as we have begun looking at the Reed Smoot hearings and the events surrounding them (Part II here) and had some discussion about what we learned to date as we did here, it has become apparent that there was a period in history where part of the LDS did practice deception.  However, that was 100 years ago and the LDS have worked hard to purge that sort of thing from there midst since then.  However, later in the post the guy's real problems emerge:

    My father had to lie about his own religious affiliation for years when my family lived in Utah. When it was discovered, even though he had just received outstanding awards for his work and was widely recognized as the best warehouse manager his company had at the time, he was let go. My father’s problem: He was a devout Catholic in a company run by Mormons.

    People who lose their jobs are often known not to tell the whole story to their families, but let's take this at face value.  Shall I begin to list the nastiness of such forms that have flowed from this guy's Baptist traditions.  (Why I personally, as a good Presbyterian, have been told by some Baptists that I was going to directly to hell for any number of sins I have committed while claiming faith, from cussing to hanging around with Mormons.)  A faith, any faith, may not be judged by the ugly actions of a few.  In fact the jerk nature of the Mormons this guy encountered, must be compared to the actions of other Mormons like my friend Lowell, or Governor Romney.

    What saddens me most is that my faith, the creedal Christian faith, which prides itself on mercy, justice, and grace has adherents that are so graceless, and so condemning of a whole on the basis of the bad actions of a few.  I mourn for Pastorblaster's father's mistreatment, but I for one refuse to declare all Mormons liars and thieves just because some are.  I also refuse to condemn them for history they have struggled to overcome and leave behind – isn't that the very essence of the Gospel?

    Lowell:  For whatever it's worth, I will just add that as a native Utahn (I left 25 years ago) I find Pastorblaster's story about his father hard to believe.  It runs counter to my own experience and that of everyone I know in that state.

    Brownback is a "Wilberforce Republican."  This may be soft pedaled, but it is identity politics pure and simple.  It is little different than Obama walking into the ghetto and shouting "Vote for me I am black."  The words of Martin Luther King keep coming back to me, "A man will be judged not by the color of his skin" [his religious affiliation] "but by the content of his character."  Yes, religion affects character, but it does not define it.

    Lowell:  I must admit, it appears that Brownback is actively seeking to associate himself with Wilberforce and the "Amazing Grace" movie.  If he really is, that's pretty unseemly.

    Powerline's Paul Mirengoff looks at the MSM onslaught aimed at Romney from the get-go.  I think his analysis is dead-nuts on, and it would have happened to whatever conservative was up this cycle, but what he fails to note is that unlike any other time, the religious angle has made that onslaught uniquely ugly.  I have not heard similar stuff since my childhood visits to family in Mississippi in the '60's.  What is really sad is that the liberal MSM plays the game this way BECAUSE THEY THINK WE CONSERVATIVES REALLY ARE THAT BIGOTED.  Do we really want to play to their false images of us?

    Lowell:  A question:  When a politician has moved from anti-abortion to pro-choice, instead of in the other direction, has anyone in the MSM ever attacked that politician for "flip-flopping?" Think Al Gore.  Just something to wonder about.

    Lowell and I keep trying to tell you that if we conservatives make decisions based on Romney's faith we open ourselves up for similar attack.  Here's proof.  (Warning:  this is left-ugly at its non-cussing best – if you are religiously inclined, almost any religion, you'll come away angry.)

    Dean Barnett looks at Romney and sees The Champ.  Then he does the numbers.  You know what I think, the chattering classes are trying to call the election before all the campaigns have even started.  Are we going to have to start talking about "staying the course" through 18 months of election campaigns?

    I have a piece on my Godblog today about how Mormons appear to be beating us creedal Christians at our own game.  It is my fervent hope and prayer that such is not the source of religious opposition to Romney's candidacy.

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    “The Politics Of American Religious Identity” – From Whence The Protest?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:41 am, February 22nd 2007     &mdash      2 Comments »

    0807855014.jpgIn this book, which we started discussing here, Flake is quick to point out in her introduction that before the reformative actions of the CJCLDS taken during the Smoot hearings, American had legitimate reasons to be concerned about Mormons in national office.  But that fact notwithstanding, her analysis of the origins of the fight against Smoot's seating are quite informative.

    The voices aligned against Smoot were loud and broad, but she traces the origins of the movement to the Salt Lake Ministerial Association and its allies involved in protestant evangelism in Utah.  Quoting a bit:

    Utah was an especially unpopular mission field.  Protestant evangelists had arrived in the territory a day late and a dollar short.  Like most non-Mormons, they trickled into the territory beginning in 1869, only after the completion of the transcontinental railroad and in support of those who followed eastern business and governmental interests west.  An 1870 census showed that 98 percent of Utah's 86,750 residents were Mormon.  Though the next twenty years saw their numerical dominance decrease to 56 percent of the territory's populations of 210,779, the L.D.S. Church was deeply entrenched economically and politically.  Protestant powerlessness was aggravated by the fact that those non-Mormons hardy enough to exploit commercial opportunities in Utah did not tend to be churchgoing folk.  Even after their families joined them, this small group of Protestants could not afford to support clergy, build churches and schools, and proselytize unbelievers.  Consequently, Utah's ministers were highly dependent on the financial support of their sponsoring institutions in the East.  AS late as 1905, only five of Utah's fifty-two Presbyterian churches were self-supporting.  Thus, Utah's Protestant home missionaries both wanted and needed to keep their national organization mindful of Mormonism.

     

    In response to the shortage of funds and to avoid self-defeating competitiveness among the several denominations, state federations formed as early as 1900 to support the evangelizing of the West.  The Salt Lake Ministerial Association was one such federation whose shared evangelical purpose was cemented by antipolygamy sentiment….  Still, the poor ratio of dollars spent to converts made was a major source of concern to Protestants.  In 1899, when the Ministerial Association calculated "the results of evangelization among the Mormons," it found that only 514, or 16 percent, of its total membership of 3,220 had come from Mormon sources….  Faced with pressuring social problems closer to home and the possibility of doing more good among non-Christians abroad, eastern evangelicals increasingly withdrew their resources from Utah and the West.   As has been said of the Presbyterians, so also it was true that all Utah Protestants were "in a state of crisis as the nineteenth century ended."

     

    The Smoot investigation gave Utah Protestants new hope….  By accentuating their differences from the Mormons and obtaining the cooperation of Protestant institutions, social reformers and women's groups, members of the Salt Lake Ministerial Association had every reason to expect that they could convince the Senate to reject Smoot….

    In these words, Flake makes a case for something that rings true, but is nonetheless extraordinary and disheartening to my Protestant heart.  She makes the case that the Salt Lake Ministerial Association and its allies were motivated, at least in part, to drag the nation through a multi-year protracted public religious "trial" to keep the money flowing.

    I am tempted to discuss what such things say about the depth of the persons involved actual faith and belief, and their commitment to the cause to which they ascribe so much urgency, but I will resist as such would border on an ad hominem.

    What is fascinating though is that those who would appear committed to a separation of political and religious powers, because of how same had allowed their faith to flourish, would be so willing to use political means to win a clearly religious battle.  Rather than figuring out how to more effectively evangelize the Mormons thus keeping the funds rolling through success, they chose to shift the battleground to the political arena.  In so doing they sought to create a sense of urgency about their mission by demonizing their opposition, having the dual effect of motivating further funding and delegitimizing the Mormon faith and creating a somewhat more fertile mission field.

    I will grant that polygamy was and is a reasonable social/governmental issue, but the Smoot hearings put the entire faith on trial, not simply polygamous practice.  Ending polygamy was the compromise solution that came out of the hearings.  There were and are ways to address polygamy without attacking a religion.

    One is forced to wonder if similar motivations are not at play in current Evangelical and Protestant opposition to Romney's candidacy?  I am sure they are in some circles, but can those circles succeed as they did when the 19th turned into the 20th century?  There is no polygamy on which they can hang a claim of anti-social.  Can they in fact create a political battle where only an ecclesiastical one should exist?  One must conclude they already have to some extent. The Question is simply too prevalent.

    However, one would hope the nation and the church are more enlightened these 100 years later.  One would hope the nation, in this new media age would recognize the issue for what it really is.  One would hope the church would have a better ability to execute its mission without resorting to such tactics.

    [tags]Mormons, Protestants, funds, missions, motivations, battlegrounds[/tags]

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    Posted in Book Reviews, Doctrinal Obedience, Miscellany, Religious Bigotry, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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