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     —    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.


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