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."

  • Some Orthodox Christians Get It, Some Don’t

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 05:25 am, March 31st 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    As commentators continue to pick through the religious residue from the campaign so far (Romney, Huckabee, and even Obama) it’s clear that some of the groups involved have learned something positive and others have not.

    One bunch that apparently has learned nothing and is determined to keep driving the “Values Voter Express” at full speed toward the cliff are the editors of World Magazine. (Remember, this is the same magazine whose founder, Joel Belz, wrote an appallingly bigoted piece there explaining Romney’s so-called “flip flopping” as simply characteristic of dishonest Mormon behavior.) Here’s a World Magazine “news” article pretty much taking the Mike Huckabee line: If only Evangelical leaders had gotten behind Huck, he’d be the GOP nominee right now.


    John comments: There is real news in this piece, namely Paul Weyrich’s confession:

    In a quiet, brief, but passionate speech, Weyrich essentially confessed that he and the other leaders should have backed Huckabee, a candidate who shared their values more fully than any other candidate in a generation. He agreed with Farris that many conservative leaders had blown it. By chasing other candidates with greater visibility, they failed to see what many of their supporters in the trenches saw clearly: Huckabee was their guy.

    Frankly, this is something we need to look into, I think that reporter Warren Cole Smith may be spinning more than a bit here. If I had to guess, and this is purely surmise on my part, Weyrich is commenting not on Huckabee so much as on the fact that a divided Evangelical movement is rendered ineffective. I base this guess on the fact that even if they had united behind Huck, it would not have carried the day for the nomination (it takes a coalition!), but I could foresee a circumstance where such would give them a voice at the convention and in the platform, something they now lack.

    Again, guessing, Weyrich is here confessing that they could not steer the rank-and-file, so they needed to follow to maintain their power base. There is a balance between those two things in any leadership position. The key question is, “Do Evangelicals want to hand leadership of the movement over to Huckabee?” because that is what such a move would have done.

    Well, this Evangelical answers, “No.” Simply put, Huckabee lacked the breadth or regard for all the issues facing the nation. Such would be a sentence to Evangelicals remaining a one-note (well, two notes, abortion and gay marriage) special interest group instead of a truly effective broad based political movement.

    World Magazine, disappointingly, endorsed Huckabee. This piece represents, I think, their spin on efforts to rebuild a fractured Evangelical base. There is a lot of work remaining to be done on that front, and a lot of players not at the table this piece gathered around. As Drudge says, “Developing….”

    Back to Lowell :

    On the other hand, Charles Haynes, a Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, does get it:

    Personally, I don’t like religious tests — official or otherwise — because religious affiliation should not determine a person’s qualifications for public office. But having said that, I do think the public has every right to inquire about the religious or philosophical views of candidates in a presidential race. After all, voters want to know the sources of values and convictions that would shape a president’s decisions.

    The challenge — especially for the news media — is to get beyond stereotypes about Mormons, evangelicals, Muslims or African-American preachers and provide the context for a fair, informed understanding of the role of faith in a candidate’s life. . . .

    Understanding doesn’t necessarily translate into support. However well informed, voters may still reject Obama — or any other candidate — and religious affiliation may well be one factor. But at least the “religious test” should be an essay question and not a fill-in-the-blank exercise.

    “An essay question.” I like that.

    Another Evangelical, Tim Keller, has written a book called “The Reason for God: Belief in An Age of Skepticism.” Sunday’s Washington Times book review describes Keller as a “theologian, intellectual, pastor, who shepherds a church of 5,000 in New York City,” and it makes me want to read Keller’s book. Some excerpts from the review:

    “We have come to a cultural moment in which both skeptics and believers feel their existence threatened because both secular skepticism and religious faith are on the rise in significant, powerful ways,” Mr. Keller says.

    The fact is, he argues, that both religion and secularism are ascendant. The failure to recognize this causes a problem, he says: “We don’t reason with the other side; we only denounce.” Mr. Keller recommends less fear and loathing of opposing faith views. The idea of either side making the other extinct is silly. Instead of paranoia, he says each side should learn to “represent the other’s argument in its strongest and most positive form,” then wrestle with that opposing point of view.

    “Only then is it safe and fair to disagree with it,” Mr. Keller writes. “That achieves civility in a pluralistic society, which is no small thing.”

    This is very refreshing. It is also very hard work to address opposing views on heartfelt issues this way, which is why I don’t think Keller’s approach will gain wide acceptance. Even so, it’s important to promote such honest, rigorous discourse.

    Tim Keller is a Presbyterian, like John (although Keller is in the PCA, not the PC(USA)); but John’s on vacation so we may not get his insights into Keller’s approach to theology.

    John adds a thought or two: I have some disagreements with Keller (for example, he is a “complementarian,” meaning he does not believe in the ordination of women to church office – I am “egalitarian.”), but taken as a whole he is one of the best and most effective Christian thinkers writing today. He is also one of the more liberal in the PCA, though remaining very conservative by PC(USA) standards. Maybe that is why I like him so, we stand in pretty much the same place between the two.

    Keller’s specialty is engaging with prevailing culture. One of his key theses, as reflected in the review, is that faith is more than label, and conversion is about convincing and thus changing, not coercing and thus relabeling. He is worth a read by any serious Christian, but don’t look for much in the way of politics, not really his bag, though he has much to say, indirectly.


    Posted in Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Uncategorized, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Friday Musings: Harvard, Muslims, Obama, and Romney

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 09:30 pm, March 27th 2008     &mdash      5 Comments »

    puzzles_of_life_title_screen.jpgToday I just have a few questions:

    Why is it that folks on the left and in the MSM (but I repeat myself) have such a double standard for religion in the public square?

    More specifically, why is it not objectionable for Harvard University to close one of its on-campus gyms to men for six hours each week so Muslim women can exercise without men present? (HT: Ronald Bailey, writing in Reason Magazine, and commenting extensively.)

    Would an on-campus Evangelical group get the same consideration?

    Also at Harvard, why is it OK to have the Muslim call to prayer broadcast over a loudspeaker from the steps of the university’s main library during Islamic Awareness Week? (Also from Ronald Bailey.)

    That means that daily, Harvard students heard the refrain that “there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.” I don’t begrudge the Muslims that belief or practice at all, but can you imagine a Mormon Awareness Week at Harvard, during which quotations from Joseph Smith would be read over a loudspeaker?

    Or, as Bailey asks:

    I wonder what the protesters would have thought if some students had similarly recited the Nicene Creed during Christianity Awareness Week?

    Just wondering.

    I am also wondering: Why can Barack Obama undergo that huge kerfluffle over his minister’s appalling anti-American rants, and yet suffer little damage in the polls — while Romney, whose Mormon faith is unabashedly patriotic, must wear that faith like an anvil around his neck from day 1?

    It just seems that some people and faiths get a pass, and others don’t.

    Or am I wrong?

    John comments: In every case, the Mormon one included, we are confronted with multiple issues wrapped up in a single knot, and we get varied reactions because the press and people tend to focus different single issues rather than trying to untangle the knot and deal with all the issues.

    In the Harvard case we have not only the religious issue, but also the issue of their literal militancy.  In this instance people are essentially conceding to blackmail.  People assume that the special privileges they grant the Islamic community will prevent violence.  They are wrong, but the point is they are focused on the violence, not the religion.

    In the Obama case, we are confronted with racism and religion.  Now, I think the verdict is still pending as to whether he is or will suffer damage from all of this.  I believe it could yet be fatal to his aspirations, if not in the primary, in the general.  In addition, I have been highly uncomfortable with the detailed theological analysis that Jeremiah Wright’s preaching has undergone as a part of the political discussion.  Especially from some sources that I highly respect.  But again, any break that Obama and his pastor are being cut is based on people focusing on the racial aspects of the situation, not the religious one – which begins to point to the problem.

    In the Mormon case the knot is religion tied up with historical polygamy.  As in the other two cases, people seem unable to separate issues.  It is especially troubling for Mormons because they have not practiced polygamy for over 100 years, which makes it somewhat jaw dropping that people are unable to separate the issues with the expanse of time, but I think it is the lessons on Mormon polygamy from history class that underlie most of America’s “weird factor” with Mormons.

    In all three of these cases, the reason people are unable to make the separation of the issues is the idea of  religion defining a persons entire identity.  Now, as a deeply religious person myself, I want my religion to consume my entirety, and transform it into something better, but it does not establish for me a group stereotypical identity.

    Consider these two links to stories on Romney.  In both cases, Mormon is treated as a defining “label” for Romney and for a larger group of people instead of an individuals chosen faith and philosophy.  Now in fairness to the shot that I took at Hugh Hewitt in the link above, this is the point Hugh was trying to make. I just think that making it by picking on Wright’s specific liberation theology is too targeted, the point needs to made in a broader perspective.

    In essence, religion is an individual’s choice, and they should not suffer consequences based on that choice alone, thought he right is reserved to bring those consequences if that individual behaves – either as a direct result of their faith, or a combination of that faith and their individual proclivities – in a fashion our nation deems to be unacceptable.  But it is important to note the consequences are a result of behavior, NOT RELIGION. 

    Which brings me back to Lowell’s original concern.  The Harvard and Obama situations have current behavioral consequences, and yet they are cut religious breaks.   Mormons had, but no longer have, behavioral consequences, and therefore are the only group which should be accorded “the religious break” and yet they are not getting it.  That is undeniably a form of bigotry.


    Posted in News Media Bias | 5 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Slim Pickin’s

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:30 am, March 27th 2008     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Oh, It Does Matter About Religion and the Veep?

    The Penn student paper wonders about the chances of Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and early McCain supporter and Penn alum, for the Veep slot. This would be nothing more than a “local interest” story (Huntsman daughter is a current Penn student and I rarely hear his name mentioned for the slot) save for this little bit of student analysis:

    Huntsman endorsed McCain in March 2006, despite strong support for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Utah and the fact that both Romney and Huntsman are Mormon.

    Is it just me, or is that statement not full of a whole bunch of bigoted presumptions? That a governor would endorse counter to the overwhelming votes of his constituents is a political risk, but to presume that he would endorse on the basis os relgious commonality sort of calls into question that value of a Penn education. I would think even the largely liberal nature of higher education in this day and age would overcome this kind of bigoted presumptiveness.

    But then. look at the current mess the Dems are in. Such are the fruits of playing by identity instead of ignoring identity….

    Preachers, Identity and History

    Politico Editor Andrew Glass looks at past incidents of preachers changing campaigns.  Glass discusses the 1884 election and Samuel Burchard’s famous “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” slur, as well as the 1938 grossly and horrifically anti-Semitic utterance of Catholic priest, Father Coughlin.  Both are horrific instances of religious bigotry and hatered in our nations history and both were formative in elections.

    I have but one question – why recall these stories now when the Dems have their issues, but not when the Republicans had theirs?

    The short answer is the religious issues in the Republican race were more complex, far less “in-your-face,” and expressed far more subtlety.   In other words, reporters are a lazy lot.  Not much of an excuse though.


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    Huckabee: “Rank-and-file evangelicals supported me strongly, but a lot of the leadership did not.”

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:28 am, March 26th 2008     &mdash      6 Comments »

    Mike Huckabee has shared some thoughts on his campaign with the Washington Times. As a source of points for discussion the article is very .  .  .  rich.

    First, Huck clearly thinks he was done in by evangelical leaders who did not support him because they are jealous for their influence:

    “Rank-and-file evangelicals supported me strongly, but a lot of the leadership did not,” the former Arkansas governor says. “Let’s face it, if you’re not going to be king, the next best thing is to be the kingmaker. And if the person gets there without you, you become less relevant.”

    I think he’s wrong about his Evangelical support. If memory serves me, in most, if not all, primary states Huckabee got a large chunk of the Evangelical vote, but I am not sure he ever got a majority of it, at least when Romney was still in the race.  [Note:  See the comment to this post by Texan, who has a breakdown of the Evangelical vote.] 

    But beyond that, I simply adore Huck’s narcissicm: He thinks the real reason “the leadership” did not support him was their own personal selfish motives. Golly, Mike, could it be that they simply did not think you were the best candidate? Gary Bauer, who has always backed McCain, said it best:

    Mr. Huckabee “ran an honorable campaign, but in spite of his successes I saw no evidence that he could bring together the three main parts of the Reagan electoral constituency — defense, economic and social conservatives.

    “If he asked my advice, it would be to try to do that in the months and years ahead,” he said.

    In other words, get to the right place on the issues! What a concept that must be for Huck, who clearly thought Evangelicals should support him just because he is . . . an Evangelical. Can you say, “identity politics?”

    As for the idea that those nasty, self-absorbed Evangelical leaders withheld support from Huck in order to preserve their own influence and “king-maker” status . . . I am going to let John weigh in on that. We have said here that what Huck himself really wants is to be a king-maker.  The psychological concept of “projection” comes to mind.

    The article offers an interesting breakdown of where the Evangelical support went:

    Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson backed Rudolph W. Giuliani; American Value President and former presidential hopeful Gary Bauer endorsed Sen. John McCain; and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins remained neutral, even as Mr. Huckabee was wowing their supporters and winning the values voter straw polls they organized.

    No mention of Jay Sekulow, Mark DeMoss, and Bob Jones III, all of whom supported Romney.

    But forget all that.  This may be my favorite ‘graph in the article:

    Mr. Huckabee says . . . the press undermined his prospects by too often mentioning he was a Baptist minister before he was an elected official.

    “The qualification for me being president is not that I was a pastor 20 years ago [but] that I effectively governed a state, running a microcosm of the federal government,” Mr. Huckabee said in an interview with The Washington Times.  [Emphasis added.]

    Oh, where to begin?  Where to begin?

    Did Huck not run ads touting himself as a “Christian leader” in Iowa, or is my memory playing tricks on me? No, I think he really did that.

    Did he not use religious imagery in his speeches repeatedly? Ad nauseum? Yes, I think he did that.

    And wasn’t there another candidate in the race, Mitt Romney, also a former governor, whose religion was mentioned in almost every news article about him — even though Romney never brought it up himself? Yes, I think there was.

    Most people who are paying attention noticed these things.  But when your name is Mike Huckabee and you have a “poor me” whiner complex, I guess that’s how you see the world.

    John Chimes In: I am under the weather, so this will be brief.  I will address only that that Lowell has asked me to, though this piece is indeed a “target rich environment.” Most evangelical leaders are pretty smart cookies politically. What they want is to be effective. That means they back the best candidate, not the one most like them. In our opinion, and the opinion of many of them that I have heard from privately, that best candidate was Mitt Romney. But, those same leaders did not go for Mitt either, largely – there are the exceptions Lowell notes, but largely, evangelical leadership was on the sidelines in this one. The key question is why.

    There was with Romney an unease based on faith. Most leaders I know knew of that unease, but also knew he was the best candidate and that unease could be overcome. But then enter Mike Huckabee and his faith appeals. And even though his ads, what few there were, got more secular outside Iowa, his network was almost purely church-based — everywhere. That gave that unease a place to land. So rather than have to work to overcome it, people experiencing that unease simply went Huck’s way. Some would have gone to Romney, and many I suspect would have simply sat this one out.

    What this did was put Evangelical leadership between a rock and a hard place. Their constituents largely had focused on Huckabee and their unease with Romney’s faith was growing into opposition given that Huck was providing them cover. This left the leadership with a choice: Risk crossing their constituencies and losing their leadership capabilities; go for a candidate they could not back on the issues, as the article cites – and who they thought was a loser; or sit on the sidelines.  Of course, they chose the latter. The net effect, however, is that Evangelicals have no voice in this election.  At least they kept their power bases intact to fight another day.

    One final quick comment:  Huck is attempting here to shape history contrary to reality. His denial of the very issues he shaped his campaign with, in order to make that campaign look more acceptable, is deplorable. It begins to call into serious question not just his politics, but his character — and I really hate to say that about a fellow Evangelical.


    Posted in Electability, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry | 6 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Stuff To Read…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, March 25th 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Quick Hits About Obama…

    Contention on the NYTimes Sunday piece.

    EFM on the WaPo op-ed.

    A very funny and very short blog post about all of it, linking to, among others, this unbelievable bit of fluff at HuffPo.

    Quick Hits About Other Stuff…

    Playing the “huckabee card” in Utah. I am no more impressed there than nationally.

    Equating Falwell and Wright. See where drawing religious distinction in the political arena gets us!

    This story has grown old. Of course, any one that actually knew anything about Evangelicals knew they were never a “bloc” to begin with. I thought the point of the press was to learn their subject before they wrote about it.

    Maybe The Message Is Getting Through…

    This largely factual piece on an overview of religion in the current race leads this way:

    The 2008 brand of faith-based presidential politics has prompted some political elders to suggest it may be time to reel in political debate steeped in religion.

    “I think we should be moving away from so much discussion of public policy in terms of religious beliefs,” said Roy Romer, the former governor of Colorado, who was general chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1997 to 2000. “We have to be careful of religious zealotry.”

    The piece seems aimed at chastising religious Dems and demonizing religious Republicans, but the point stands nonetheless. There is appropriate and in appropriate religion invocation in the course of politics. One of the problems this piece inadvertantly illustrates is that religion has some sort of party affiliation. As with most thing; however, the average religious person has to have such identity correspondence or things get weird. IT seems like if you tell someone Christians are not de facto Republicans, they don’t know how to vote, or they vote Democrat in some very haphazard ways to avoid being pegged.

    This is why religious talk in politics just needs to be curtailed, period. There is no other way to do it and preserve a proper balance.

    Continuing The Message …

    R.R. Reno, writing at First Things, declares his thesis this way:

    People often say that religion has become more important in politics. In a way unimaginable in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, these days politicians, pundits, and pollsters give explicit attention to religion. In his famous speech nearly fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy tried to reassure his listeners that religion was irrelevant to politics, while this year Mitt Romney wanted to convince us that his faith has a good and proper influence over his life as a public servant. The preacher-politician Mike Huckabee won in the Iowa caucus. The Democratic party continues to try to rally voices on the religious left in order to counter the religious right. Books get written defending and descrying the role of faith in politics. Europeans look on in dismay. How could anybody deny that America has entered a phase of God-saturated politics?

    But what seems obvious may be an optical illusion. I’m pretty sure that religion has become less influential rather than more so in recent decades. Today unbelief has a strong voice, and this new secular confidence throws the role of faith in public life into sharp relief as a quite distinct alternative. Religious conviction is less widespread, especially less widespread among the rich and powerful who tend to formulate and finance political platforms, and therefore it becomes more controversial. It is now a wedge issue rather than part of our common culture.

    Prof. Reno then goes on to cite stories of religious political activism, something which in this day and age would be called “ministry.” That is to say, the church actively seeking to address issues rather than simply elect candidates. This is a fascinating argument. Essentially he is saying religion is far more powerful a political force fixinf problems than electing candidates.

    I agree – wholeheartedly. What Prof. Reno does not analyze; however, is that by legislation and adjudication, the government has increasingly stuck its nose into religious territory. This fact alone has mandated that the religious become more electorally active. The problem has arisen in that the church, in general, has largely abandoned the other aspects of its cultural activity for the sake of its electoral activity, which has in turn greatly harmed its electoral effectiveness.

    I sum, our electoral activity is necessary so that we can keep a level playing field when it comes to cultural activism, but it is the cultural activism that is THE THING, not who we elect. We are a Christian nation by virtue of what we do as a nation, not who we elect.

    There is a lot of deep stuff here, worthy of extended commentary. Feel free to chime in.


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    A Personal “Apology”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:52 am, March 22nd 2008     &mdash      6 Comments »


    A formal justification or defense.

    Now that it is all over in terms of Romney’s presidential candidacy, I want to take a little time and explain myself. We have endeavored on this blog to be factual and reasonable, and struggled as best as possible to keep personal feeling, and religious expression, out of the argument. We did so because that is the way we thought this issue should be approached.

    I have, however, been involved in enough “conversations” over the last couple of years that were anything but reasonable, so what I am going to offer here is is a more personal and heartfelt discussion than is typical for this blog. I ask our audience’s indulgence. I want to make three essential arguments.

    The “Christian” Question

    If any one thing has landed me in hot water with my orthodox Christian brethren more than any other, it is my willingness to call Mormons “Christian” – albeit with adjectives attached. As someone formally trained for Christian ministry, that is to say having attended seminary, I seem to attract special criticism since “I should know better.”

    Indeed I do, were I in seminary class, I would certainly know not to refer to Mormons as “Christian;” it would be a fast road to a low grade. But such definitional insistence is a small part of what is the largest lesson I learned in seminary. We are not nearly as smart as we think we are.

    Now don’t get me wrong, every capable Christian needs to put as much energy as possible into a rational, thoughtful and deep understanding of their faith. But after spending many years pursuing that, and being very confident in my personal deeply Calvinistic leanings, I have found that they are, in terms of what I expect from my religion, incomplete. There simply is a whole heck of a lot more to this thing than just the intellectual formulations of what I believe.

    To put it slightly differently, we are finite created beings of limited capability. God is infinite, creative, and ultimately beyond my capability to understand. Therefore, while I am to study and be confident, that must be tempered with the limitations of my capabilities. God can decide to let someone into heaven whether they meet the criteria I have established or not – in the end it is His decision, not mine. Humility is the order of the day.

    The term “Christian” is, obviously derived from the term “Christ.” Technically, “Christ” is an office or title, not the name of a historical figure. In strictest terms, to be a “Christian” one must simply believe that the messianic prophecies of Jewish tradition have been fulfilled. Again, in the strictest of terms, you do not even have to think Jesus of Nazareth is “the Christ,” you just have to think someone was. Well, Mormons not only believe that the messiah has come, they, like me, believe he was Jesus of Nazareth.

    This is where it starts to get a little trickier. Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure. He was a real person that walked on the planet, and there was only one. Therefore, all the discussion about “they worship a different Jesus than we do,” just does not make any sense. That is a statement rooted in our intellectual understanding of who Jesus is, NOT any historical fact. In fact, such an assertion places the theology ahead of the history – and yet, the historical fact of Jesus is the only thing that gives the gospel narrative any actual meaning – otherwise it is just a story.

    Now it is true, Mormons have a very different understanding about the historical figure of Jesus than we do. But they believe the same historical figure was the messiah that I do. That is sufficient to qualify for the term “Christian.” Any other assertion lacks the humility that my seminary education mandated of me.

    I strongly believe that adjectives are a necessary addition to the term “Christian” because of our radically different assertions about Jesus. To put it metaphorically, Mormons are in the family, but they are cousins, not brothers and sisters. But this also means they are to be accorded the respect, affection, and welcome of family. We may not be intimate, but we are related.

    When it comes to this argument, I cannot help but note that Jesus spent His time with publicans and sinners, and generally avoided the company of the religious officialdom of the day. You see the officials were busy arguing about whether it was a sin to heal the lame on Sunday. Perhaps an interesting question, but Jesus found it a bit silly when confronted with a lame person that needed healing. He just did the job.

    Bigotry Hurts The Bigot Far More Than The Object Of The Bigotry

    I am not one of those “Love everybody equally, we are all God’s children types.” There is such a thing as evil and it is to be despised, hated, and destroyed. There is such a thing as just anger. “Anger is unChristian” is just liberal claptrap. But it is an idea rooted in truth, but carried to an extreme.

    Negative emotion – anger, hatred, fear – are destructive when they are not based in reality. Those emotions were created in us and they are reflective of God’s image in us. But if we are afraid when there is nothing truly to fear, the fear rots our souls. If we are angry when we have not truly been wronged, the anger is a destructive force on our own minds. If we hate that which is not truly evil, then the hatred eats us from the inside out.

    “Bigotry” is a term used when negative emotions such as hatred or loathing are aimed at people that are not truly deserving. The classic example, of course, is the historical treatment of people of dark skin color. Their only “crime” was to be black. We aimed our negative emotion at them for the silliest of reasons, skin color.

    When it comes to Mormons the essential question is, “Are they worthy of our negative emotions?” If they are not, then the animus we see so often against them from orthodox Christian circles is a destructive force inside of those circles. As I see it, the negative emotion from traditional Christians towards Mormons is rooted in three basic areas. The first is the belief that Mormon doctrine is a “perversion.” The second is fear of the historical artifact of Mormon polygamous practice. The third is territorial.

    The perversion argument is just silly. They are, in my belief and understanding, wrong, but that is very different from perverse. If one were to devise some sort of scale of wrongness Mormons would be a lot more wrong about their beliefs than say Pentecostals who I also believe get quite a bit wrong, but it is still just wrong. The term perversion is usually justified by the claim that Mormons lead people down a “false path.” Well, so do a lot of other sects that I think are wrong, it is always a “false path” unless it is my path. Nope, this argument is trotted out as intellectual cover for the deeper emotional responses.

    Polygamous practice WAS a justification for prosecution, not persecution which is what happened, but prosecution against Mormons. I think polygamy is a destructive practice to the foundations of our society. But they don’t do it any more. It is artifact, not fact, history, not current. We can no more hold it against them now than the Muslims can hold the Crusades against us.

    Sadly, because the persecution of polygamous Mormons resulted in their migration west (Who knows how they would have reacted had they simply been prosecuted under the laws of the land, which is what would have been the proper response) and the Mormon migration is such a hugely significant factor in the development of our nation, the Mormon polygamous past will always remain a front and center historical lesson taught Americans. We just need to learn to tell the difference between history and now.

    But it is fear of competition that I think really underlies the negative emotion that is aimed at Mormons. We are in a battle for converts, it is as simple as that. How does one win such a battle? Well, when you have factors like historical polygamy at play, delegitimizing your competition can be a pretty effective means.

    There is only one problem, such delegitimization involves stirring up all those negative emotions and when they are unfounded, as they are in this case, they are a rot, not a tool. Therefore, I see this as no way to win this argument.

    This is a more philosophical and emotional form of the same argument I have made from the beginning of this blog. If Evangelicals did not vote for Romney solely on the basis of his religious affiliation, they were serving only to squelch their own political voice.

    Competition In One Field – Cooperation In Another

    The other problem with the whole delegitimization thing is that it requires one demonize one’s competition – one eliminates the possibility of making an ally of them in situations where such an alliance might be useful.

    Consulting, the business I am in, is a funny business. Your product is your knowledge. Sharing that knowledge is, in essence, giving your product away. In my career I am often asked to participate, voluntarily, in industry associations, something that gives an entire industry the benefit of my knowledge without compensation. But here is what I have learned. In working in those association, I build alliances that would call on me for compensated work a other times. What appears to be a little short term business loss, has resulted in some extraordinary long term gains.

    Also, consider that the members of such associations are business competitors. They are all trying to sell the same widgets to the same customer base. What is in it for them to help their competition? The answer is straightforward – there are many areas where cooperation makes better business for both of them. For example. working with your competition to defeat a tariff bill results in lower cost raw materials for both of you, increasing both companies profitability. Moreover, if only one of you worked the tariff bill, what is to prevent them from making tariffs apply when you import, but not them? Now cooperation looks even more necessary, doesn’t it?

    And that, in the end, is the bottom line when it comes to my actions in this election cycle. I am in religious competition with Mormons. To all my Mormon friends and readers, I pray for you daily and hope you will convert – as I am sure you do for me. But there is much mutual benefit that we can recognize from political cooperation.

    This blog has never been, and never will be as long as I am associated with it, about justifying Mormonism, or traditional Christianity for that matter. It is about political cooperation between the two religions – for that I do not need to apologize.


    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Religious Bigotry, Understanding Religion | 6 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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