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."

This Is Supposed To Be A Holiday Week, And Yet There is So Much To Discuss…

Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:05 am, December 19th 2007     —    2 Comments »

Situational Bigotry?

Frank Pastore let go with another one yesterday.

As Christians, our deepest allegiance and commitment is to Jesus Christ and His Word. We are Christians first, Americans second and conservatives third—and we’ll support the Republican Party as long as it maintains fidelity to our deepest core values.

My whole Christian life has been spent fighting to maintain a prominent place for the Christian worldview in the market place of ideas against the forces of secularism that would seek to silence that voice. Ironically, many well-meaning Christians are now unwittingly working with these forces to prevent the discussion of Christian theology in the public square—all for the sake of improving the chances of a single candidate to win a single election. My vision, and the vision of many Christians, is more long-term than the ’08 election. We’re defending a Gospel and a Kingdom, not a party and certainly not a candidate.

[...]

Like I said, I’ll vote for Romney—if I have to—since it will mean keeping a Democrat out of the White House. But should he become president, I, along with millions of other Christians, will expose each and every attempt by the LDS church to advance their false religion into the world, for we are aware of the potential spiritual challenges of having a Mormon in the White House.

I have been withholding this diatribe for a while, but by implication Pastore seems to think that my faith, because of my stance on this one issue, is somehow lesser than his. Please note, with the establishment of priorities that he does, he implies that because I am unwilling to discuss Mormon theology in this context, I must place my faith below my citizenship and am therefore somehow a “lesser” Christian.

Do you see where this religious talk is getting us? Now we are not passing judgment simply between very different religious groups, but we are passing judgment in a discussion about a presidential election on who is and is not “sufficiently Christian.”

And what precisely, other than their normal evangelical activities, has the CJCLDS done to “advance their false religion?” You know it is possible to be in competition for souls and not politics.

I honestly do not know how to respond to this kind of limited thinking. This is a brick wall that will not listen to reason and that refuses any sort of subtlety. Fortunately, I think such thinking is a minority position.

Lowell: Sigh.

Back to John: There are a couple of other things about the Pastore position that I find troubling. One is that is strikes me as playing “religious defense.” From my way of thinking, the best way prevent the advance of Mormonism is to win souls to my faith. I don’t need to beat down Mormons, I just need to attract people to my faith.

But the most important point is the one made by this op-ed:

Candidates from both political parties have been more willing this year to speak openly about their faith. While this development is generally positive, Romney’s speech was necessitated by an unfortunate and unnecessary focus on theology, especially as it relates to the Mormon Church.

This inappropriate focus has the potential to divide the Republican Party, which is comprised of numerous interest groups, and people of many different backgrounds and faiths. [Emphasis added.]

While people like Pastore may indeed be “Christian first, American second, conservative third” their ability to accomplish anything, anything at all, in the political arena requires an intact Republican party.

And forgive just this little bit of theo-nerdness, but God has a lot of ways of reaching people that do not involve me. It is presumptive and arrogant to presume that I must always mention God in every setting to be “Christian first.” I think it is called the “witness of the Holy Spirit,” or for the less miraculously inclined, “general revelation.”

Craig Hazen, out of Biola, takes a more philosophical approach to some of this, though I still have a problem with it.

The “experiential” approach is one in which all religious knowledge ends up being confirmed almost exclusively by one’s own personal faith experiences. Many religious groups in America center on this, but Mormons may very well take the lead. At the end of the day, when you quiz a Mormon about the truth of Mormon religious claims—such as, is the Book of Mormon an actual history of the pre-Columbian people in the Americas?—the Mormon will simply say that “I have had an inner testimony from God that this is true.” This is utterly unsatisfying to those who adhere to the last category, the realist approach.

The realists are comprised mostly of evangelical Christians who believe that if certain religious assertions are not true—like Jesus rising from the dead—then their faith is empty and worthless. Realists believe that the Bible paints a picture of the world that matches the way the world really is—and ultimately can be demonstrated to be true through open investigation.

Romney’s speech will not help him among the “realist” evangelicals. He is a very attractive candidate, but if the evangelicals have a viable alternative candidate in Mike Huckabee who better fits their “realist” approach to religion, then they will not take a chance on a man whose religion they believe has no grounding in the real world. And they won’t trust a candidate who cannot see this or cannot address it squarely.

I am sorely tempted to go very theo-nerd and discuss this in depth, but shall resist. It is worthy descriptively, and therefore important to note.

Lowell: I will simply note that I find it fascinating to describe the miraculous events in the Gospels in terms of “realism,” while belief in other miraculous events is “experiential.”

Which brings me to . . .

…an interesting meme that broke big yesterday – Huckabee as the non-establishment candidate. This meme was a lot of places, but one of the better descriptions was from my friend, and Huckbee supporter, Matt Anderson.

While evangelicals shouldn’t vote for someone out of spite for his critics, the distaste for Huckabee from the Republican intelligentsia raise serious questions about our alliance with the GOP.

Where are they going to go? This is so reminiscent of the late ’60′s and early ’70′s to me. Everybody wanted to drop out, and suddenly found they were nowhere. Politics is the science of the possible, not the ideal.

Lowell breaks in: By the way, Byron York has an interesting piece out in NRO called “Huckabee Hits the Target.” It’s about Mike Huckabee’s intuitive feel for reaching his audience. Read it; if you like Huckabee’s campaign, you’ll admire his skills; if you don’t like what he has been doing, you’ll find his abilities and approach at least a little disturbing. I’m in the latter category.

So is K-Lo, in “A Divider, Not a Uniter.”

And here’s some evidence that Huck has managed to annoy even the head of the Catholic League with his, ah, religiously-themed approach in Iowa.

Elsewhere, K-Lo also cites polls that raise questions about the success of that same strategy.

Meanwhile, Mark Steyn analyzes the “why” of Huckabee’s appeal to values voters.

John comes back, still thinking about old times: Allahpundit has video of Ann Coulter, not necessarily my favorite conservative, but sometimes right on, proclaiming Huckabee as the “Republican Jimmy Carter.” (Hugh Hewitt likes the Carter analogy as well.) This really takes me back. I have confessed before on this blog that I voted, in the first presidential vote of my life, for Jimmy Carter, seduced by his willingness to stand up for Christ in the pages of Playboy. I was a fool. But the analogy is, I think, apt on levels more than just their policy similarities which are many. The attraction is the same, it is based on identity.

Quote of the Day…

Charles Krauthammer on Brit Hume Monday night:

We’ve got a war on terror. We have difficulties in the economy. We have immigration issues. Religion is not the key. Being a minister is not an answer on those issues.

I cannot believe how many non-Mormons know what Mormons believe…

I guess because Romney did not satisfy with The Speech, people felt honor bound to stand in the gap. FOXNews had a fairly straightforward Q&A about Mormon theology, why I have no idea, and I will leave it to Lowell to comment on accuracy.

Lowell: Well, the answers to those questions sure look like what I believe and what I was taught all my life. They won’t satisfy the anti-Mormons (nothing ever will) and the MSM won’t like them because they’re just not . . . titillating. But they’re accurate. I hope everyone can accept that from a “lying” Mormon like me. ;-)

But then it got interesting. An ex-Mormon essentially calls Romney a liar. “Ex-Mormon” – think there is an axe to grind there?

Lowell again: I guess we’ve come to the point where very disaffected ex-Mormon who is a political cartoonist is an expert commentator on Mormonism? Because his grandfather was president of the Church?

Remember when we told you about the anti-Mormon protestors at The Speech? Well, meet the Google ad equivalent. And we think the Mormons “play dirty”?!

Lowell yet again: Ed Decker is an infamous anti-Mormon who’s been at it for more than 20 years. He was the force behind “The Godmakers,” an almost unbelievably malicious film parodying the Church and its teachings.

But this diatribe from a left-leaning Evangelical in a local Georgia newspaper takes the cake.

As stake president, Mitt Romney commanded hundreds –maybe thousands — of Mormons under his charge. (No one really knows, since this information has been kept from public view, as have Huckabee’s sermons.) [Emphasis added.]

Oh dear me, all this time, I never knew – the CJCLDS is organized as an army, with commanders poised to strike at the very heart of the nation. This rhetoric is so over-the-top as to be self-parody. But jeez, the long knives came out yesterday.

Lowell: My stake president would find the notion that he “commands” anyone pretty funny.

Back to John: There has also been a rash of pieces like this one from the LATimes. Local pieces looking at the reaction of the local Mormon community to Romney and particularly to the Romney/Huckabee sideshow. I guess given the number of “Evangelicals flock to Huckabee” stories there have been it represents something resembling balance, but it perpetuates the appearance of conflict. What I fail to understand is why spiritual conflict must also equate to political conflict?

Lowell: This quote (from a person who happens to be my wife) does express the feelings of many Mormons I know:

“The majority [of California Mormons] welcomed the interest in the church. But there are some that have been nervous about it, as any person would feel about their faith . . . in a situation like this. They don’t appreciate seeing it torn apart in 1 1/2 minutes on the TV news.”

When Romney decided to run, many Mormons dreaded what they thought would happen as their faith was picked apart by people with varying agendas.

And, like always, the sharpest long knives were reserved not for Mormons but for Christians, and they come from the left. Consider this WaPo piece from Harold Myerson.

Today’s Republican values voters don’t really conflate their rage with their faith.

Do we really want to be depicted as people of rage? Something to think about, isn’t it?

Finally…

A little bit of sweet reason from a local paper.

And the headline says it all:

Romney’s record goes beyond religion

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