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 – April 30, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:04 pm, April 29th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Today’s list is lengthy; click these links to find each section:

    1. Movies and Mitt: The PBS documentary, "The Mormons" and “September Dawn” (the Mountain Meadows Massacre)

    2. David Brody of CBN

    3. Richard Land, Evangelical power-broker?

    4. John Mark Reynolds series continues!

    5. The nutter left blogs about Romney and religion

    6. Geoffrey Stone, religious tests, and SCOTUS decisions

     

    1. Movies and Mitt: The PBS documentary, "The Mormons" and “September Dawn” (the Mountain Meadows Massacre)

    Here comes the "history."  The media blitz on things Mormon is about to begin.  Here the Washington Post looks at the upcoming movie on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and here the Boston Globe looks at the upcoming PBS series.  There will undoubtedly be endless discussion about the fairness and accuracy of the materials discussed here and of the pieces discussing them.  For example, the Boston Globe, which is supposed to be reviewing a television program, cannot resist ending the review with a potshot at the subject of said program:

    And yet, even after four hours of "The Mormons," it's hard to digest the institution. While all organized religions have attributes that sound daft to some and offensive to others, the Mormons, for whatever reason, seem to have more than their share. You be the judge.

    Reviews are supposed to be about the program; I really could not care less about the reviewers opinion of the subject matter.  What qualifies Sam Allis to judge the entirety of a religious institution anyway?  He supposed to know television, not church.

    The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a fascinating bit of history from the old American West, and like so much of that era, the legend and the fact are extremely hard, if not impossible, to separate.  Lowell may disagree with me on this, but I am not sure what precisely happened matters all that much, at least not from a political and social perspective.  I can understand how important it would be to those that hold the LDS faith because of the value they place on the office of prophet/president.  But this single event, NO single event, regardless of the what did or did not happen, can be definitive with regards to the political and social value and legitimacy of a religious institution.  We all have skeletons in our past.

    In the end, Mark DeMoss in his Politico op-ed last week but the best possible perspective on all the questions that are being examined by this forthcoming media blitz:

    I have often been asked whether evangelical voters could find their vision for president in a man of another faith, and specifically a Mormon. Then it struck me: This is the wrong question. To evaluate a candidate solely on religion is unfair to both the candidate and the religion. The better question is: Could I vote for this Mormon? That Catholic? This Baptist?

    The Romney candidacy does not put the CJCLDS on trial – just Mitt Romney.  For purposes of this blog, that is the focus.

    Lowell addsAgreed.  Even, the more realistic left side of my brain (which is often in conflict with my idealistic right side) tells me that to a certain extent, such a "trial" is simply going to happen.  For example, Romney's name comes up whenever either the PBS documentary or the Mountain Meadows movie (called "September Dawn") are discussed in the MSM.

    The PBS Documentary:  "The Mormons" 

    The Boston Globe review of the documentary begins by saying the film's

    "mere airing may finally force the former governor to explain publicly his faith and its influence on him as a politician, much as John Kennedy did with his Catholicism in 1960. What it will surely do is complicate his run for the White House."

    An aside:  Kennedy did not explain his Catholicism in his famous Houston speech.  He essentially reassured the nation that he would not take orders from Rome.  As for the idea that Romney should "explain publicly his faith," I am sorry, that is simply a bizarre notion.  No presidential candidate has ever done that.  And Romney has already explained Mormonism's "influence on him as a politician," in Hugh Hewitt's book, A Mormon in the White House?

    "Look,” Romney told me when I raised the issue of belief in the founding narrative of the Mormon faith.  “I believe my faith.  I love my faith.  And I would in no way shape, or form try to distance myself from my faith or the fundamental beliefs of my faith.

     

    “But what I can say is this,” he added.  “To understand my faith, people should look at me and my home and how we live. . . . I am a better person that what I would have been.  I am far from perfect and if you spend some time looking into my present and past, you’ll find I’m no saint.  I have my own weaknesses as did my dad.  We’re not about to be taken into Heaven for our righteousness.  But we’re better people—I’m a better person, my kids are better people—than we would have been without our faith.  So judge my faith not by how different the theology may be on one point or another, but whether it made me and my family and perhaps others in my faith better people.”

    If Romney needs to say more than that, I'd like to know why. 

    The Wall Street Journal review of "The Mormons" (link requires subscription) draws some interesting conclusions from the standpoint of this blog's purposes:

     

    [W]hat's fresher here is the suggestion that the rest of us had better not judge Mormonism lest we be judged ourselves. Time and again, we're reminded that what sounds nutty or extreme to our ears may not be. With their dancing, for instance, early Mormons celebrated the physical that mainstream Christianity repressed. Ex-Mormon Margaret Toscano even allows that in advocating polygamy Joseph Smith was trying "to bring together spirituality and sexuality," which most major religions, she says, Christianity included, have been "really bad at."

     

    The timing of "The Mormons" — with Harry Reid leading Democrats in the Senate and co-religionist Republican Mitt Romney running for his party's presidential nomination — couldn't be better. Compared to the average media portrait of other religious groups, e.g. evangelical Christians, the treatment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints couldn't be rosier.

     

    We'll see about that. 

    The Movie:  "September Dawn"

    The Mountain Meadows Massacre, as it is known, is a troubling episode for anyone who studies the history, and perhaps especially for Mormons.  I think my view is widely shared among my co-religionists:  Something terrible, a true atrocity, happened there in 1857, and we will never exactly know how or why.  But we mourn the loss of so much innocent life and are revolted by the violence involved.  If you have the time, here's a transcript of a long presentation on the subject by an LDS scholar.  The Mountain Meadows Association's web site is here.  I don't think anyone can read about the event without being filled with sadness.Why is the massacre relevant to this blog?  Because of statements like this, by Bill O'Reilly, interviewing Jon Voight, a star of "September Dawn:"

    [T]his movie is going to be controversial, because it deals with a massacre allegedly ordered by Mormon leaders — Mormon leaders — back in 1857, and there's a Mormon running for president.

     

    Is Mitt Romney going to like this movie?

     

    JON VOIGHT, ACTOR: Well, so far he hasn't seen the movie. And I think — and most of the Mormon community has avoided seeing it, because they don't want to get into a discussion of it.

    Need I say more?  And O'Reilly is no left-wing Romney-basher; he's actually friendly to the Governor!  It seems to me that we had better get used to this:  Almost anytime a controversy related to Mormonism comes up, Romney will be mentioned.  That does not happen, for example, to Giuliani whenever a Catholic controversy comes up (has anyone ever seen Giuliani's name him in a story about Catholic priests sexually molesting young boys?).  John interjects: What about John McCain and the recent move by the Episcopal Church electing a gay bishop?!

    But I think it's important for Mormons not to whine about that imbalance.  Our faith is simply not well-known by many people the way Catholicism is.  As Mark DeMoss told us in an interview yesterday (to be published hopefully later this week or the week after) there seems to be plenty of time between now and the 2008 election for people to become more familiar with — and, presumably, comfortable with– Romney's faith.  Again, we'll see.”

    Update: For those interested, here’s the audio of an interview today with the PBS documentary’s producer, Helen Whitney. For those wondering if all the history has any relevance to Mitt Romney as a candidate, I also liked this blogger’s comment:

    [T]he [documentary's website] prominently features fundamentalist polygamy and Mountain Meadows. While we recognize these as valid matters for press exploration, active Mormons can and do practice Mormonism for a lifetime without such things playing any role in their religious lives.

    2. David Brody of CBN

    David Brody at Pat Robertson's CBN continues to have good things to say about Romney.  I hope other evangelical outlets will at a minimum be as wise in terms of discussing the politics, not The Question.

    3. Richard Land, Evangelical power-broker?

    Speaking of which, over the weekend, Naomi Schaffer Riley in the WSJ, recounts a sit-down with Richard Land, who in her words, "represents the political concerns of the largest Protestant denomination in the country."  He had good things to say about Romney and The Question, even if he is non-committal.  But consider these excerpts:

    He wants "to make certain that we never become as taken for granted by the Republican Party as African-Americans have been taken for granted by the Democratic Party."

     

    [...]

     

    At the very least, the evangelical influence in the Republican primary will be diluted, with some religious conservatives thinking ahead to the general election and others going for the purest representative of their values. It is noteworthy that even among the unelectable candidates, evangelicals can't make up their minds between a free-trade, open-immigration candidate like Sen. Brownback and a closed-borders protectionist like Rep. Hunter.

    Seems to me that if the latter is the case, the former should not be a concern.  The Democrats’ ability to take the African-American community for granted, something they can do less and less these days, lies in that community's bloc voting habits.  If Evangelicals are that diverse, and indeed they are, then they will never be taken for granted, which is why this statement about Land is bothersome:

    Richard Land is a man waiting to be courted, and on behalf of religious conservatives he is playing hard to get.

    If Land could deliver Evangelicals as a voting bloc, then indeed, the "wait to be courted" approach would be the way to go.  However, it seems to me that the political clout of a diverse community arises out of its willingness to pitch in and work.  If Mr. Land is not careful, he may find himself a spinster, still waiting to be courted.  It's early, but….

    4. John Mark Reynolds series continues!

    After roughly a week of technical difficulties,John Mark Reynolds returns with part five of his six part series.  He then concludes with part six.  Excellent, heady stuff, and again, too much to encapsulate adequately.  READ…IT…ALL!

    5. The nutter left blogs about Romney and religion

    Just a reminder of THE REAL OPPOSITION.  This MySpace post, which if you follow the links comes from far more influential and adult sources than you might imagine, is from the nutter left.  It starts with Romney, somehow manages to tie him up in a ball with George Wallace, and then declares Romney "Theocrat of the Week"  I keep telling you, the left cannot tell the difference….

    6. Geoffrey Stone, religious tests, and SCOTUS decisions 

    Speaking of which, last week, courtesy Hugh Hewitt, we looked at the religously bigoted rantings of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone in the wake of the SCOTUS Gonzales v. Carhart decision. Sunday, John Yoo was published by the Wall Street Journal forcefully asserting the same bigotry charge levelled by Hewitt.  Favored with a joint appearance at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books over the weekend, Hugh Hewitt was able to briefly interview Stone.  Here is the key exchange:

    HH: Do you think they were applying catechism?

     

     

    GS: No, no, no, no. I think they were seeing the issue through the light of their particular religious views, and confusing those with moral views, and I think that, in our country, where we talk about separation of Church and state, I think it’s very important for public officials, whether they be legislators or judges, to make a serious effort to separate their religious beliefs from their moral beliefs. And I think that this is a case where the justices, those five justices may have failed to do that.

     

     

    HH: So if they didn’t separate their moral and their religious beliefs, they were applying catechism, in your view?

     

     

    GS: I don’t know what it means to say applying catechism. But what I mean is I think that they saw the issue through the lens of their own personal experiences and beliefs, and those beliefs can be about religion, they can be about civil liberties, they can be about institutional judgments, about federalism. They don’t have to be about catechism or religion. But when you see a decision that’s not explainable in conventional legal terms, and you see a pattern of the justices voting in a way that just doesn’t make sense otherwise, you look for explanation.

    And there you have it, a religious test.  Any holder of any faith can be accused at any time of viewing virtually anything "through the light of their particular religious views" that is the very nature of religion.  Thus Professor Stone argues, though he attempts to deny that he does, that persons of faith are inelligible for public service.

    Which is the point I have been trying to make to people concerned about Romney's faith for over a year now.  Those that would argue about Romney's Mormonism giving him a "skewed" worldview, or something similar, are making an argument EXACTLY parallel to that levelled by Professor Stone.  If we as Evangelicals make such an argument and make it stick, then we have given the Geoffrey Stone's of the world all the ammunition they need to win this political battle.  Anyone of any faith will be disqualified from office.  Goodbye Roberts — Goodbye Alito — Goodbye the other three justices — Goodbye George W. Bush — even Goodbye Jimmy Carter.  Not the nation I want to live in.

    [tags]PBS,The American Experience,Frontline,”The Mormons”, “September Dawn”,David Brody, Richard Land, Mark DeMoss,John Mark Reynolds,Geoffrey Stone [/tags]

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    Prophecy and Quotation

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 11:38 am, April 28th 2007     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Lowell's faith and my own have decidedly differing views of prophecy, yet when I was recently reading the book I am about to quote I could not help but be struck by how very prophetic the words were, in the sense that either of us would use the word.

    The book I was reading is called The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter, and it is a classic of creedal Christian ecclesiastical literature.  Written in 1656, just a few years after the Reformation, the book is a guide to pastors in the then very new reformed faith as to the demands and expectations on their lives and work.  From its pages a couple of passages jumped out at me in light of this blog.

    And it is not ourselves only that are scorched in this flame, but we have drawn our people into it, and cherished them in it, so that most of the godly in the nation are fallen into parties, and have turned much of their ancient piety into vain opinions and disputes and envyings and animosities. Yea, whereas it was wont to be made the certain mark of a graceless wretch to deride the godly, how few are there now that stick at secretly deriding and slandering those that are not of their opinions! A pious Prelatical man can reverently scorn and slander a Presbyterian; and a Presbyterian an Independent; and an Independent both. And, what is the worst of all, the common ignorant people take notice of all this, and do not only deride us, but are hardened by us against religion; and when we go about to persuade them to be religious, they see so many parties, that they know not which to join; and think that it is as good to be of none at all, as of any, since they are uncertain which is the right; and thus thousands are grown into a contempt of all religion, by our divisions; and many poor carnal wretches begin to think themselves in the better case of the two, because they hold to their old formalities, when we hold to nothing. [Emphasis added.]

    And then a few pages later:

    Besides, consider what a disadvantage you cast upon your cause, in all your disputations with men of different views. If your principles be better than theirs, and their practice be better than yours, the people will suppose that the question is whether the name or the thing, the shadow or the substance, be more desirable, and they will take your way to be a mere delusive formality, because they see you but formal in the use of it, yea, that you use it not at all.

    More than a century before the founding of the United States of America, almost 200 years before Joseph Smith received his revelations and the LDS were born, this humble pastor in England seemed to see precisely the kinds of issues we would be facing in the greatest nation in history.

    Would that we listened.

    [tags]Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, prophecy, Reformation, religious plurality, strife, genuineness[/tags]

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    Today’s Reading List – April 26, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:08 am, April 27th 2007     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Politico interviews Romney.  Romney hits this one out of the park:

    Q. How is your church so successful in getting its young people to follow its teachings?

     

    A. “I’m probably going to have to suggest that you turn to the Church. I’m not enough of an expert.”

    Reporters seem to keep trying to sneak up on The Question because they know it is illegitimate, but that did not stop these reporters from trying again:

    Q. At the grand opening of your headquarters in Iowa, on a teleconference call you had question from a lady about polygamy. Why do you think that in this day and age, the year 2007, some key tenets of your faith are still so misunderstood?

     

    A. “Well, I think most people have other things to do in their lives besides keeping up to date with Mormon doctrines.”

     

    Q. But, Governor, polygamy is more than just a doctrinal issue.

     

    A. “Yes, of course. But you have TV shows that continue to play off the old history, and people don’t spend a lot of time looking at the disclaimer that says this is not the practice of the Mormon church today. They just sort of watch it and don’t pay a lot of attention to it. My expectation is that as this campaign goes on, there’ll be a little more attention to recognize that some of the old misconceptions are exactly that.”

    Romney is right to blame media; here's a prime example.

    Plural marriage is illegal in both states, although an estimated 30,000 people continue its practice across the West. Polygamy is a remnant from the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members settled the region and believed the practice brought exaltation in heaven. The church abandoned polygamy in 1890 as a condition of statehood.

    You know there are a lot of non-Mormon polygamists in the world!  The communities to which they refer are not Mormon "remnants," but apostates. (Lowell, am I using the best terminology here?  That's what we would call it.)  But what I am sure of is history.  The CJCLDS abandoned the practice of "plural marriage" because their prophet received a word.  (Again Lowell, is that the right vocabulary?)  That fact did pave the way for statehood, but there was no quid pro quo.  The way this sentence is constructed makes it sound has if the church was insincere in its change.

    Lowell:  You're very close.  Yes, anyone who once was a Mormon who now practices polygamy is an apostate.  Most, if not all, of the members of the current group of polygamous sects were never members of the Church.  Some have no relationship at all– historical or otherwise– to the Church.  None of them – none – could ever be called "remnants."  As for the rationale for the end of polygamy, the president of the Church in 1890, Wilford Woodruff, received a revelation ending polygamy.  He laid out the reasons in a document that came to be known as the Manifesto, which has been very public since 1890.  I won't speak for President Woodruff; you can read the Manifesto, and further commentary by President Woodruff, here.  The historical record reflects no "deal" over polygamy, but I think it's generally accepted that Utah would never have obtained statehood while polygamy continued.  The question was, once the Supreme Court held that the government could constitutionally outlaw polygamy, would the practice end because the government destroyed the Church, or because the Church gave it up voluntarily?  The Church chose the latter approach.

    The Fox reporters could have read that same information, but I guess that's our point.

    By the way, asking a political candidate why the doctrines of his church are misunderstood, as Politico did, has to be one of the dumbest journalistic questions I have seen in a long time.

    Hugh Hewitt and Dean Barnett joined in with our outrage at the abysmal Garry South piece.  Quote Hugh:

    The deep-seated and open religious bigotry on the left no longer surprises me and shouldn't startle anyone who has watched the left's effort to drive faith from the public square over the past two decades.

    I know I have read so much of this stuff now that it actually takes effort for me to notice how bad it really is – it just sorts of slides through my eyeballs under "more of same."  It is sad when the nation becomes numbed by stuff like this.  It innoculates the issue for a Romney, but it is sad we lose the outrage at such bigotry.

    John Mark Reynolds chimes in on South as well!  He actually manages to refute South's "logic."  Only a philospher like John Mark would have the patience to bother!

    Lowell notes:  I almost feel pity for Mr. South as Professor Reynolds deftly demolishes South's (long) hit piece in only a few paragraphs.  That's not surprising, since Prof. Reynolds actually engages in some real thinking, and South simply wants to stir up conflict.  Everyone should read what the good professor has posted. 

    Speaking of cheap shots at Mormons:  What is most notable about this predictably liberal anti-religious op-ed is that it is just that – anti-religious.  It is aimed sharply at the LDS, but substitute Bob Jones University or Oral Roberts University for Brigham Young University, then substitute the Southern Baptist Convention or the Assemblies of God for the CJCLDS and you'll read a piece that you have read dozens of times before.  There is an important lesson in that.

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    Today’s Reading List – April 26, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:29 pm, April 25th 2007     &mdash      2 Comments »

    A Tale of Two "Politico" Posts 

    IT WAS A VERY BUSY "Romney and religion" day at Politico yesterday.  The day began with a marvelous op-ed by one of the most influential Evangelicals in the nation, Mark DeMoss.

    A month before this luncheon, I'd spent an hour in Romney's office, wanting to hear firsthand his vision for the country. After studying his life and career for a number of months, I told the governor that not only could I support him (a number of evangelicals have said as much), but also that I would support him. (I further told him I was not for hire. I was looking for a good candidate, not a client for my PR firm.)

     

    I have often been asked whether evangelical voters could find their vision for president in a man of another faith, and specifically a Mormon. Then it struck me: This is the wrong question. To evaluate a candidate solely on religion is unfair to both the candidate and the religion. The better question is: Could I vote for this Mormon? That Catholic? This Baptist?

     

    For example, there are Mormons who would not get Mitt Romney's vote (and, he tells me, Mormons who would probably not vote for him). Similarly, there are Southern Baptists I would not vote for. So, could I vote for a Mormon? It depends on who the Mormon is.

     

    For years, evangelicals have been keenly interested to know whether a candidate shared their faith. I am now more interested in knowing that a president represents my values than I am that he or she shares my theology. In fact, in terms of values, evangelical Christians have more in common with most Mormons than we do with liberal Southern Baptists, or those of any other faiths and denominations who promote abortion rights and are attempting to redefine marriage.

     

    For decades, evangelicals have proudly worked side by side with conservative Catholics, Jews and, yes, Mormons on issues of life, the family, gambling, pornography and Israel, to name a few. Why, then, couldn't we be governed by someone from one of these other religions?

    Lowell and I are scheduled to interview Mr. DeMoss tomorrow and we hope to have that interview up sometime next week.  It should be interesting.

    BUT THEN POLITICO FOLLOWED UP with this bit of "huh-what?" from Garry South.  South breaks  little new ground and scatters about a few snide remarks, but never once connects the dots in a fashion that would make any of those slights matter a whit in how Romney, or any other Mormon, might perform in the office of the President.  In fact his charges are really non-charges, and he resorts to the old tactic of "I'm not saying it should be a problem, but somebody has to look at these things."

    But then one must consider the source here.  South is described this way by his admirers:

    Garry South has been called the "Carville of California" by The New York Times and "one of the top political strategists in the Democratic Party" by DailyKos.net, the most-visited liberal-leaning blog.

    Comparisons to James Carville and endorsements by DailyKos will not exactly endear South to anyone on our side of the aisle, but that information helps explain the tactic and proves once again our primary point:  The most vicious religious attacks on Romney are not from Evangelicals or any other conservative, but from the left.  This makes it four-for-four of the nastiest, most bigoted articles on The Question from the left: Linker, Weisberg, Woodward, and now South.  And that is precisely why Evangelicals have to stand up to this kind of stuff – I keep hearing echoes of the attacks on James Watt as Secretary of the Interior because of some creedal Christian eschatology – WE'RE NEXT!

    Lowell:  One of our readers saw it correctly, I think:

    This is an interesting twist, seriously different from the secular-left attacks such as those in [The New Republic] . . . Some of that stuff stems from wrongheaded bias against personal religion in general.

     

    South's piece is an example of malice, deliberately crafted by a political operative for an obvious purpose.

    Isn't it fascinating that a man with South's background would take the time to write a religious hit piece on a Republican before the GOP primaries are even under way?  [John wonders:  Does he have a client at the moment, or is he fishing for one?] What could possibly be his motive? 

    By the way, to call the Daily Kos a "liberal-leaning blog" is like calling Hezbollah a "Muslim-oriented organization."  But I digress.

    Garry South.  Let's see; wasn't he the Gray Davis campaign manager who, in 2002, mounted a ferocious and expensive campaign against Richard Riordan, then the moderate Republican mayor of Los Angeles, during the Republican primary?  It seems that South wanted to knock the moderate Riordan out of the race so that Davis could run against the relatively unknown and very conservative Bill Simon (whom Davis barely beat anyway).  It also seems that South bragged openly about the success of this strategy.  Based on that very peformance, South  later was excoriated for engaging in "puke politics" by his own party's Attorney General, Bill Lockyer.

    So, yes, as John says, consider the source as you evaluate the soundness of South's remarks.

    But don't stop there; South's message is that Mormons believe other religions are wrong, and theirs is right.  Shocking, isn't it?  (John smirks: So he believes they are all right?!  How's he do that?) 

    Notably, South introduces his less-than-compelling argument by saying "Now, I want to make clear that I give no quarter to religious bigotry."  That's usually a warning to get ready for some naked bigotry.

    To South's rapier-like reasoning faculties, the "critical and basic question" is: 

    Does Romney's brand of faith and membership in the Church of Latter-day Saints require that he question or dismiss the validity of the Christian tradition, and the efficacy of baptism into their faith, of every non-Mormon adherent of Christianity who has ever lived since the end of the apostolic era? And does he?

    Well. South could at least get the name of the church right.  His question is frankly so embarrassingly silly that we won't dignify it with much of an answer.  Maybe if Romney were running for pastor-in-chief instead of commander-in-chief . . . .

    Even so, we wonder:  If South were on the other side of Senator Lieberman's 2004 presidential campaign (South was an adviser to Lieberman that year), I wonder if he would have asked this: 

    "Orthodox Jews believe they are truly God's chosen people, and that He wants them to teach the rest of the world about God.  Will that inform a President Lieberman's actions in office?  He needs to explain that to the American people.  Oh, and how will the Muslim world feel about a Jewish president?  Of course, I do not tolerate religious bigotry, no, not for one second; I'm just asking the question."

    John inserts again:  Sure he would, his arguments reveal no seriousness about religion, only politics.  He has no concerns, only tactics.  You know, "putting on" bias for the sake of politics is worse than heartfelt bias.  Bias rooted in and topped by deception, that's about as low as it gets in politics.

    Bottom line:  South is simply trying to put this poison in the water.  He has a history of involvement in the opposing party's primary and attempting to influence the outcome, and he has always done it in the nastiest, dirtiest way possible.  So we have a leopard here who has not changed his spots.  

    Shame on Politico for publishing such tripe.

    Update: In a rare one-two punch, Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt both join this fray.

    In Other News . . .

    USA TODAY looks at the flood of Mormon related media in the wake of Romney's candidacy and presents the following quotation:

    "We tend to use elections as a way to hold national seminars on religion," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion & American Public Life at Boston College. The candidacies of John F. Kennedy and Sen. Joe Lieberman triggered "seminars" on Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism.

     

    "This is our seminar moment for Mormonism," Wolfe says.

    We seem to be confusing marketing and "buzz" with serious politics here, and that is problematic.  I have little doubt that such "seminar moments" happen, but why?  Particularly in a case like this where the great American tradition would hold that religion should not matter, and yet the very fact of seminars would say it does.  I'd like to suggest two reasons.

    Firstly, the nation to some extent, and most certainly the media to a huge extent, has turned towards "identity politics" in a way that makes it easy to describe voting patterns, but is very antithetical to how the Founders envisioned tha nation.  No longer are we portrayed as the nation of E Pluribus Unum - "From Many, One," but instead we appear to have become the nation of "my group uber alles."  I am grateful that most citizens have yet to buy into the media's leanings in this direction, but am uncertain of the public's ability to withstand the onslaught forever.

    Second, though, is the phenomenon of cross-marketing.  No longer do we just release a movie, but we also release actions figures, collectibles, memorabilia, literature, etc.  The synergy of marketing this plethora of products builds market for all the products.  And so, though a campaign itself has but a single "product" to sell, the synergy is capitalized upon by movies, universities, media, and so on.  All of that is capitalism at its finest in a media-age, but much as the media onslaught in identity politics erodes the general citizenry's ability to hold those identity groups in proper perspective, so the the marketing synergy can blur the line between legitimate political consideration and just having stuff to sell.

    One can only hope the seminar throwers out there have the common sense to draw the line clearly while they hawk there intellectual wares.

    Finally, out of Providence, RI, a political column uses the increased media presence of Mormonism to once again list Mormon distinctives that some might consider weird.  Why-oh-why don't these pieces ever point out the Mormon distinctives that could be consider positives?  Could it be because they have an agenda?  Why can't they even point out that some of the distinctives they list, like how hard it is to be gay amongst Mormons, is true in a heavily creedal Christian community too? 

    Lowell:  Maybe it's because, while "man bites dog" is news, "Mormons aren't any more weird than other miracle-based faiths" is not– at least in the MSM's mind.

    [tags] Garry South, Mitt Romney, religious bigotry, Politico, Mark DeMoss, Mormonism [/tags]

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    Today’s Reading List – April 25, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:47 am, April 25th 2007     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Hotline carries a video of Mike Huckabee on Colbert attacking Romney.  In my opinion Huckabee is playing a dangerous game for a candidate that carries a very heavy religious identity.  He has never attacked Romney's faith directly, but he has on more than one occasion done what he does here, which is play on Mormon stereotypes, in this case the "Mormons lie" stereotype.  On the other hand, he and Romney are competing for pretty much the same voting blocks, so the fact that he would go after Romney hardest is unsurprising.

    But imagine, if you will, Hillary attacking Obama, perhaps even with some credible evidence to the assertion, on the grounds of "'gangster' campaign tactics"…

    I think Barbara Bush wanted to be helpful

    Archbishop Charles Chaput writes a long defense of the religious voice in the public square.  In it he writes:

    Only one question really matters. Does God exist or not? If he does, that has implications for every aspect of our personal and public behavior: all of our actions, all of our choices, all of our decisions. If God exists, denying him in our public life—whether we do it explicitly like Nietzsche or implicitly by our silence—cannot serve the common good, because it amounts to worshiping the unreal in the place of the real.

     

    Religious believers built this country. Christians played a leading role in that work. This is a fact, not an opinion. Our entire framework of human rights is based on a religious understanding of the dignity of the human person as a child of his or her Creator. Nietzsche once said that “convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.”

     

    In fact, the opposite is often true. Convictions can be the seeds of truth incarnated in a person’s individual will. The right kinds of convictions guide us forward. They give us meaning. Not acting on our convictions is cowardice. As Christians we need to live our convictions in the public square with charity and respect for others, but also firmly, with courage and without apology. Anything less is a form of theft from the moral witness we owe to the public discussion of issues. We can never serve the common good by betraying who we are as believers or compromising away what we hold to be true.

    These words might be interpreted by some as a call to religious specificity in the public square, yet later in the same piece he points out:

    Christianity and Judaism see life very differently. For both of them, history is a place of human decision. At every moment of our lives, we’re asked to choose for good or for evil. Therefore, time has weight. It has meaning. The present is vitally important as the instant that will never come again; the moment where we are not determined by outside forces but self-determined by our free will. Our past actions make us who we are today. But each “today” also offers us another chance to change our developing history. The future is the fruit of our past and present choices, but it’s always unknown, because each successive moment presents us with a new possibility. [Emphasis added.]

    It is my understanding that Mormons also share this perspective on free will (Lowell?) and therefore should share the same voice in public.  This is really a marvelous piece by Archbishop Chaput and it should be cherished and read again and again.

    Lowell:  Yes, we absolutely share that perspectiveAny member of my church would tell you that the paragraph just above from Archbishop Chaput could have been spoken by any church president at any time.  The principles of free will and freedom of conscience are at the very center of our faith.  Indeed, we believe that the reason humankind is here on earth is to choose between good and evil.  We call it "free agency," or "the ability and freedom to choose good or evil;" that is what the Archbishop is talking about.

    Brief digression: This discussion puts me in mind of my favorite comment in Letter XV of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters:  "The present is the point at which time touches eternity . . . in it alone, freedom and actuality are offered.”

    It should also be contrasted with Al Mohler who looks at the decline of the church in Europe, specifically in Germany and opines

    The article avoids any reference to a theological explanation to Germany's crisis. People do not remain loyal to institutions when they no longer believe in their importance. The importance of the church is essentially tied to the reality of the Gospel.

    Now, if that is indeed true, given Mohler's concerns about voting for a Mormon because they do not hold the true gospel  (oh, give me a break Lowell thinks the same thing about me, besides even Christianity Today says Lowell and I are friendsWink), should not the Mormon church be failing as well?  And yet the opposite appears to be the case.  Clearly there is more to this church thing than just theology, which is why theology is way down the list of things to concern oneself with when deciding on a candidate. 

    Now, on to media bias – how come nothing like this is being written about Romney and Reid?  Could it be because it would spoil the MSM narrative about Mormons?

    Finally, Ryan Sager gets really ugly:

    And one final point: Expect a lot of whining about "anti-Mormon bias" from the Romney camp. It's their way of playing the victim card, and it seems, so far in the campaign, to be the first crowbar his supporters reach for when they feel attacked (see here). There may well be some anti-Mormon bias out there in the country, but I assure the Romney folks that there's a lot less of that in the world than, say, anti-Italian bias, sexism, and racism. So, really, he's not the candidate in this campaign with bias problems to overcome.

    He is flat out wrong about his assessment of relative bias in the electorate.  People say things about Mormons every day they would never dream of saying about any other people group.  If there is less anti-Mormon bias in the world than say, racism, it is because on a global basis Mormons are a relatively small group and most people in the world don't even know who they are, but what bias does exist in this country is widespread and more virulent than other forms of bias.

    No Mormon bias?  You remember those statistics?  87% of news pieces written about Romney mention his faith:

    Doing the same comparison for "Rudy Giuliani" and "Catholic" we find that only 2 percent of news stories happen to mention his faith.  If we look at "John McCain" and "Episcopalian" we find that only 0.01% of news stories mention his faith.  The evidence of media bias is overwhelming.

    As to the victim card . . . I am not a Mormon, I experience no direct victimhood in Mormon bias.  I am sorry Sager was apparently unjustly pilloried for something he did not do, but it seems to me that his contention that there is less anti-Mormon bias than racism or sexism is an attempt to make sure "the right people" get victim status.  Isn't that the very definition of bias?  If he doesn't want to hear "whining" then maybe, just maybe, he and everyone else should stop bringing it up.  We sure don't have any trouble finding stuff to talk about here everyday . . . .

    Lowell adds a bemused comment:  From an entirely personal perspective (translation: I am speaking only for myself) I find claims of Mormon "victimhood" puzzling and always have.  We Mormons simply don't sit around and talk about ourselves as an oppressed minority.  I have heard more of that talk from Hugh Hewitt and my friend John than I have ever heard within any Mormon gathering.  (I'm not criticizing them one iota for that, just making the observation about how we see ourselves.)  Yes, in the early days of our church we were badly persecuted, but it's quite telling that as a lifelong Mormon, I never heard about that history until I was an adult– and then I had to make an effort to learn it.  In Sunday School in my youth we never learned about those matters; we didn't discuss it around the dinner table; and even now when the subject comes up in gospel study the emphasis is on what we can learn from our religious forebears about Christian discipleship and commitment, and from the patience with which they endured persecution.  There's simply no celebration of victimhood going on among us.  That's just my perspective, but I think the overwhelming majority of Mormons share it.

    Now, I also consider Mormons to be a fair-minded folk.  We are in the political campaign season and one of our own is running for president.  When it looks like he is being treated differently than other candidates because of his religion, the almost universal (and unsurprising) response is to say, "Hey! Now wait just a minute."  If Ryan Sager can't see the bias, and can't see that response as natural and justifiable, then I'm sorry, he's just blind.

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    Today’s Reading List – April 24, 2007

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:56 am, April 24th 2007     &mdash      3 Comments »

    The "Mormon Money Network" story is now officially very oldthis time it is told about by the Denver Post.  Now, I have little doubt that Mormons are hugely donating to Romney, it is natural and expected.  But has anybody noted just how thin the thread is in these pieces?  He is getting a lot of money from locales with a high percentage of Mormon population, but even Utah is only 62% Mormon.  These highly trumpeted conclusions are not, in fact, conclusions, but logical speculation.  Just thought that needed pointing out.  There are no actual statistics as to the religious affiliation of Romney's donors.

    The LATimes says Evangelicals like Guliani.  Blog "eyeon08" does some analysis and concludes:

    In the end, we don’t know.

    I admit, my evidence is anecdotal, but every time I talk to "Republicans on the street," particularly Evangelical ones, who are all fired up about Guliani – when I point out where Rudy stands on abortion, stem cells and same-sex marriage their tune seems to at least soften significantly, if it does not change completely.

    Christianity Today, the magazine edited by yesterday's interviewee, had an editorial yesterday, ostensibly on the global warming issue and how large the evangelical umbrella is.  It concludes:

    So let's stop questioning each other's evangelical credentials and just do the work we believe God has called us to.

    There is quite a bit of wisdom in that conclusion!

    In response to last week's question at On Faith, "Do you think Islam is a violent religion?" Eboo Patel, who is the founder of something called the Interfaith Youth Core, writes a post entitled "Blame the Individual, Not the Faith."  Once again, wisdom.

    Hotline looks at Romney as "the message candidate."

    Normally, when a campaign claims to run a "message" campaign, they're usually covering for the characterological deficits of the candidate. And generally, presidential races — even primaries — are contests of attributes, not ideas.

     

    But Romney's relentless focus on messages strikes us as necessary. Aside from the hippety-hop flip-floppery — that's still a real problem — Romney is a great attribute candidate. The man is the message: a reformer, who, by the way, has detailed proposals to reform X, Y, and Z.

    Uh, guys … it is also a very "necessary aside" from The Question.  With the MSM relentlessly attempting to make his faith the narrative of his campaign (see the statistics in this Reading List from last week), he cannot afford to make himself the issue; that would be playing directly into their hands.  As you point out what he is doing is describing himself in terms of his message not his religion.  It is sad he has to work at it so much harder than other candidates.

    Yesterday, we noted an editorial cartoon that was a blatant attack on religion regarding last week's SCOTUS decision on partial birth abortion.  Well, editorial cartoons are bad enough, but LAW PROFESSORS?!    Says Hugh Hewitt about this blog post:

    To brand the five member majority in this case a "faith-based majority" is clearly just spleen, an invitation to the haters of faith, and an explosion of bigotry not seen in respectable circles for decades.

     

    [...]

     

    Stone is, in short, an inciter of religious bigotry.  And an intellectually dishonest one at that.

     

    When Stone wrote "[h]ere is a painfully awkward observation: All five justices in the majority in Gonzales are Catholic. The four justices who are either Protestant or Jewish all voted in accord with settled precedent," he employed a religious stereotype every bit as repulsive as the racial animus that informed Dred Scott or Plessy.  He asserted that the five justices served their church and not their oaths.

     

    [...]

     

    Geoffrey Stone is a bigot, and a vicious one at that.  Few if any will rally to his view.  But I fear that most if not all law professors will simply say nothing, which is an indictment of the legal academy. [Emphasis added.]

    Is Hugh right?  Yesterday, in the same Reading List where we noted the cartoon, we noted the emerging trend of articles saying one should not allow Romney's faith to be an obstacle to voting for him, and yet going to great lengths to described the "gulf" between creedal Christians and Mormons. This strikes me as a parallel action to the lack of condemnation likely to be aimed at Geoffrey Stone.

    To my Evangelical brethren, I honestly do not care if you vote for Mitt Romney or not, but to sit idly on the sidelines while his religion is attacked, or to describe that religion derisively, while refraining from direct attack, is to invite, nay encourage, the kind of bigotry seen at this law school blog.  Attacks on Romney's religion ARE attacks on our religion as it actys in the political arena.  Do you think the left cares about the details of trinitarian viewpoints or atonement theology?  Do you think people like Geoffrey Stone would ever take the time to distinguish between the Joseph Smith story and the miracles of St. Francis?  If you do, you are fooling yourself.

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