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."

  • Much Talk, No Action

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:44 am, May 30th 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    There has been quite a bit to look at this week, when nothing has been actually happening in the portfolio of this blog. Today is no exception.

    What’s Mitt Doing?

    The SLTrib says he is mending fences.

    In the process of crisscrossing the country and campaigning for other candidates, Romney also can work on bridging the divide between Evangelical Christians and Mormons within his party. The depth of this division was one of the hard lessons of Romney’s campaign this year, and it could prove to be a barrier to his presidential aspirations. By giving speeches and pressing the flesh with the party faithful, he may be able to overcome some of that suspicion and drive home the message that on the issues that count to Evangelicals, he and other Mormons are simpatico.

    That divide could explain why Romney has said he’s not expecting to be on the short list to be John McCain’s running mate. Evangelical Christians are suspicious of McCain already, and many of them also are suspicious of Romney, so it is unlikely that Mitt would help balance a McCain ticket, at least from the religious standpoint.

    That makes a lot of sense with this one proviso – I think the “average” Evangelical has been a bit chastised by the McCain victory. I think they now understand that Romney is better than the alternative. I am not sure Romney can repair relations between McCain and Evangelicals, but I do think he cannot hurt anymore.

    Frankly, Evangelicals have been relegated to the sideline this round. They have to decide to vote for McCain, because McCain is who they have the problem with. Who he chooses for V.P. will not help with the “abortion and gay marriage is the ONLY issue” crowd. It’s that crowd that would not like Romney anyway, and they have lost this round.

    Romney working on his relationship with them is wise for the future of conservatism.

    Lowell:  I find it amusing that the Tribune thinks Romney is doing something novel by trying to bridge “the divide between Evangelical Christians and Mormons within his party.”  He’s been tireless in that effort since well before he announced his candidacy.  Indeed, that’s been a Romney quest.  He has never moved from his position regarding Evangelicals and common moral values.  He never created any “divide” or contributed to one.  Any such alienation arose entirely from the bigotry or fear or lack of knowledge of a minority of Evangelicals, exploited skillfully by Mike Huckabee and his supporters.  The Trib would have done well to add that perspective to what Mitt is trying to accomplish.

    Although . . .

    A WaPo reporter thinks that the relationship between McCain and Evangelicals is too broken to fix anyway. That is just nonsense – nonsense that paints Evangelicals as small-minded, unthinking, and dim. But then what’s new?

    But Then . . .

    Lefties, whether reporters or columnists, don’t like religion much period.

    In the matter of religion, I have no preference. I don’t care what you believe or what you preach, though I’ll be obliged if you don’t preach creationism in the schools. This nation is far enough behind in the sciences without digging that hole any deeper.

    Where elected officials are concerned, though, I want decisions to be made on pragmatic grounds. I have friends, for instance—OK, acquaintances—who see no reason for conservation, because Christ will come back and carry us all away before everything runs out. Use up the oil, cut the old-growth trees, foul the water—makes no difference, because soon there will be a flash of light, a burst of music, and we’ll all grow wings and flutter off to Heaven (I may have some details wrong, but that’s the gist of it).

    Certainly they can believe that if they choose. But I don’t believe it, and I don’t want a politician who believes it making decisions that affect what the world will be like after he or she is gone.

    Lowell:  What claptrap.  This is a wearisome tendency among the writer’s MSM ilk:  Put up a caricature of religious belief, then attack that.  It’s so much easier than dealing with reality.  How many religious conservatives really believe what Corey Farley says they believe?  I have never seen such a preposterous and irresponsible view of our stewardship over the earth proposed anywhere, other than in the fanciful writings of people like Mr. Farley, who admits he does not have any religious friends.

    Finally . . .

    Obama has more pastor problems. (some video here) I really hate this stuff. This pastor, like Wright, is clearly engaged in political speech and therefore subject to criticism, but to have speech from the pulpit so subject is truly troubling. But then it is the preacher’s fault.

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    OK, It’s getting snarky, and more . . .

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:53 am, May 29th 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Jonathan Martin compares and contrasts statements on fiscal policy by Huck and Tom Coburn under the heading:

    The Christian conservative debate-cum-smackdown I want to see

    The statements are what they are, and Coburn’s invocation of Scripture is a bit too much, but Martin’s presentation makes it clear that Evangelicals are appearing sillier and sillier to most astute political observers.

    Politics is serious business, I wish we took it more that way.

    The Overview

    The Christian Science Monitor had a pretty interesting overview piece on the role that religion has played in this cycle. Here is a couple of key graphs:

    Inappropriate use of religion “can be dangerous and divisive for our pluralistic democracy … and it can end up harming the integrity of religion,” says Melissa Rogers, who teaches religion and public affairs at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. Religious ideas are much bigger than political parties or candidates, she says, but they lose their dimension when people in the pulpit suggest that voters of faith should support a particular candidate or that God looks with favor on one party over another. [Emphasis added.]

    [...]

    Critics also cite news media that turn faith into mere entertainment or play it for controversy. Some questions asked during televised debates have been helpful, they say, but others have been inappropriate or irrelevant, bordering on religious vetting. The Interfaith Alliance (TIA), a religious liberty watchdog, became so concerned it released a video called “Top Ten Moments in the Race for Pastor-in-Chief.” Among the questions it criticized: “What’s the worst sin you’ve committed?” and “Do you believe every word of the Bible?”

    That last paragraph says a mouthful and plays back into the first one. That media play is actually attractive to some. (Bill Keller, Evangelical Mormon hater in chief, comes to mind.) And so, many overplay their hand for the sake of the attention and a serious downward spiral results, and as Roberts points out, it harms religion far more than politics.

    Back to the Veepstakes

    Lowell adding thoughts here. None other than Michael Medved had this to say about Romney’s “cons” as the Veep nominee (Michael listed “pros” too):

    Romney’s Mormon faith won’t hurt him in states where Evangelicals are important (McCain should be solid in those Southern and Midwestern states in any event) but it won’t help him among the Catholic, ethnic voters who provide the most important swing group in crucial battlegrounds like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

    Um, Michael, in the primaries Romney’s best performance were among Catholic voters. This is odd indeed. Medved can’t seem to make up his mind about Romney. First, he ardently defended Romney and pooh-poohed concerns about Mitt’s Mormonism. Then Medved became an unabashed McCain-promoter and relentless Romney-basher. Now he thinks Mitt might be a decent choice except for that nasty Mormon faith of his.

    Go figure.

    John says, “BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE:” Check out what Medved says about Huckabee in the same piece:

    Members of the LDS church still resent Huckabee for his bruising campaign against Romney (particularly in Iowa) and Mormons, loyal Republicans for the most part, will be an important component for GOP victory in ferocious battleground states like Nevada and Colorado. Whether or not he’s McCain’s running mate, Huckabee should move immediately to secure his political future by making amends to LDS members who suspect him of anti-Mormon bigotry.

    First of all – “Suspect him of anti-Mormon bigotry”?!?!? Uh no, I think things are well past suspicions. I am not sure Huck is an anti-Mormon bigot, but I am very sure he is not afraid to “play one on television,” as it were. Give me a break here, Medved.

    Bottom line is this – Michael Medved does not “get” Christians, creedal or Mormon variety. The Jewish faith is a very different animal than the faith that either Mormons or creedals hold. Every time I hear Medved talk about Christians, he just sounds like he is talking about different sorts of Jews. He treats it more like ethnicity, which, of course, Judaism in part is, than what either of us think a religion is.

    He is right about what Huck needs to do if he thinks he has a future in politics, though.

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    Sometimes It Hurts To Keep Up On This Stuff…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:33 am, May 28th 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    . . . man, it was just hard to read yesterday.

    Huck Talks To Huff!

    Yep! Jonathon Martin links to a HuffPo interview with Huckabee. Says Martin:

    Close Huck-watchers will find gold in nearly every answer . . . .

    Yeah, the guy is a like the proverbial bad penny. Here is my favorite:

    Do you think Obama is an evangelical?

    I don’t know that I would call him an evangelical, but I think he’s certainly a Christian, he openly declares his Christian faith, and I think some Republicans who try to dismiss that are making a big mistake, and they’ll be very naïve if they think they can just assume that all of the faith vote is going to automatically go Republican this year. It is not.

    Now, firstly, the question itself is HIGHLY objectionable, which should have begun and ended Huck’s response. But it didn’t and I think Huck is taking a back handed shot at Romney with the “I don’t know that I would call him an evangelical, but I think he’s certainly a Christian,” remark. (Remember – this was done over the weekend that Romney was meeting with McCain about the veep slot and HUCK WAS NOT.) Particularly given how controversial the use of the word “Christian” has been when it relates to Mormons. Is it possible Huck would prefer Obama to Romney? Or is this yet another instance of Huck speaking before thinking?

    The View From The British Left . . .

    An op-ed from the VERY left Guardian.

    Finally, consider Mitt Romney, who last December delivered a nationally televised address about his Mormonism. Romney’s speech was compared in some circles to John Kennedy’s 1960 appearance before a Protestant ministers group in Houston. But whereas Kennedy made essentially a secular appeal – assuring the ministers, and the country, that his Catholicism wouldn’t interfere with his ability to govern – Romney took the opposite route. (Note: I am not related to John Kennedy.)

    The gospel according to Mitt was that Mormonism is an awful lot like evangelical Christianity, especially of the sort practiced by Republican caucus-goers and primary voters. The evangelicals were having none of it, and Romney – having indulged in outright bigotry against non-believers, as David Brooks of the New York Times observed – could not credibly demand that others not engage in anti-Mormon bigotry. Romney faded away, though he’s now back in full pander mode, trying to push McCain into making him his running mate.

    There is the story I have been waiting for from the left. “All religious people are bigoted fools.” We set ourselves up for this one.

    And from the British Center . . .

    (Lowell adding some thoughts here.)

    The Times of London has an oddly quirky view of the same subject:

    Mr Crist, for example, would be a useful ally in winning his home state of Florida, but would he be deemed sufficiently presidential by the media? Mr Jindal’s Indian heritage would be a plus but he is 36 years old, only 12 months over the constitutionally required minimum, and half the age of the presidential contender. Mr Romney is probably qualified to serve as the commander-in-chief but millionaire Mormons are not exactly what diversity demands in 2008 and it was evident from the primary contest that Mr McCain could barely stand the sight of him. If a suitable woman senator were available, she would be snapped up in an instant. But those who are available tend to be liberal on abortion, and that would trigger civil war among the Republicans.

    (Emphasis added.) Now there’s a twist: Most MSM commentators thought Romney’s Mormonism was too different or weird for him to be president. Now The Times thinks he’s not different enough.

    Poor Mitt just cannot win.

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    Lots To Talk About For A Holiday Weekend

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:37 am, May 27th 2008     &mdash      1 Comment »

    On The One Hand . . .

    This makes perfect sense:

    President Bush is expected to meet with LDS Church leaders next week, the first meeting since the new general authorities were sustained in February.

    The meeting between Bush and the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is scheduled for May 29, said Rob Howell, a spokesman for the church. The White House has not released details of the trip.

    Other Utahns will pay handsomely to meet with Bush, as he visits the state to raise money for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican Party.

    Supporters are being asked to raise or contribute at least $30,800 per person or $70,100 per couple to attend an intimate reception with the president hosted by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at Romney’s multi-million dollar Deer Valley home, according to event invitations.

    Romney tapped Mormons as a source of political money in ways previously undreamed of – money is the mother’s milk of politics – thus politicians go to where the money is.

    However, on the other hand, we have just watched a big chuck of Evangelicals very much marginalize themselves as a political force by getting too big for their britches – a tendency fed by precisely this kind of thing. In fact this is kind of how it started with Evangelicals. I hope, and pray, the LDS are smarter than this.

    Hillary Turns Into Huckabee . . .

    Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday offered a spiritual defense for continuing her presidential campaign despite the long odds of overtaking rival Barack Obama.

    Speaking to a full congregation at the Pabellon de la Victoria evangelical church, Clinton spoke in measured terms about faith in the face of adversity.

    “There isn’t anything we cannot do together if we seek God’s blessing and if we stay committed and are not deterred by the setbacks that often fall in every life,” Clinton said.

    If Senator Clinton’s faith provides her with comfort at this faulting juncture in her life, then I am honestly happy for her. However, we watched Huckabee hang on, claiming spiritual cover, for reasons of personal aggrandizement, well past the time he was able to use the campaign position to better the nation in accordance with his ideas. Clinton is increasingly looking the same way – and interestingly running home to religion as she does it.

    Is religion, any religion, really only about personal comfort? Does it permit us to make things difficult for others in light of our own personal agendas?

    I Guess It Is Unavoidable . . .

    People keep trying to draw parallels between Obama’s Jeremiah Wright imbroglio and John McCain’s. John Hagee difficulty. I guess it is the press’ idea of “balanced” to tell the same story about two situations with VERY little in common. As Jonathan Martin pointed out:

    Which brought forth the enough-is-enough statement from McCain:

    “Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Rev. Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well.”

    McCain went on to point out that, unlike a certain Democratic rival, he hadn’t actually gone to Hagee’s church.

    Hagee withdrew his endorsement rather than create further furor. The Obama/Wright relationship is far more complex.

    The lesson here from my perspective is that the press really does see religion as a label – something one simply puts on, and having done so, one is defined by it like cookies from a cutter.

    Mormon “Issues”

    Trouble in D.C. – persecution or architectural taste? Sometimes these things are hard to tell apart. And sometimes one likes to hide in the other.

    This story from London is fascinating:

    A teenager who was facing legal action for calling the Church of Scientology a cult has today been told he will not be taken to court.

    The Crown Prosecution Service ruled the word was neither “abusive or insulting” to the church and no further action would be taken against the boy.

    I am no fan of Scientology, and I pray that American free speech laws would prevent something like this from ever coming to a prosecutor’s office (although we are seeing them in university tribunals so you never know), but it does demonstrate the power of that word.

    In my life time the so-called “N-word” has moved from insult to the unspeakable. Is “cult” facing the same destiny? I honestly hope not – it has useful, benign purposes – just not in political context.

    Evangelical News . . .

    Richard John Neuhaus comments on “The Evangelical Manifesto:”

    As I say, there is much that is admirable in the manifesto, especially in its theological affirmations. But mainly it comes across as a striking instance of evangelicals approaching their cultural betters with hat in hand and pleading to be liked, or at least less disliked.

    I think I have finally found the perfect summation of that document.

    On Culture . . .

    Proof that people can be of two minds lies in the discussion of polygamy following the FLDS raid in Texas. It is certainly the consensus of our readership, and many other political observers that the FLDS sect would have been used, and still could be, if Romney finds himself the veep nominee, as a cudgel with which to beat Romney in specific and the CJCLDS in general — and that despite the complete lack of association between the FLDS and the CJCLDS.

    Nonetheless, there is significant movement in the wake of these events to legitimize polygamy! This link has to do with the Islamic practice in Canada, but you can read about it in lots of places. I have to think there is just some Jerry Springer freak show thing going on with all this.

    But while we are discussing changing what marriage is in this nation, and on this continent, I thought I would link to John Mark Reynolds’ comments on the recent California Supreme Court decision on gay marriage:

    While ecclesiastical organizations must be separated from state, morality cannot be. Somebody’s moral vision will prevail in the public square. As a result, public benefits should be handed out with great care. Forcing millions of Americans to provide government approval for actions most of the human race believes to be wrong is imprudent. Hi-jacking a social institution created by one group of people to benefit another is unwise.

    ‘Is’ does not, of course, equal ‘ought.’ Most of us find it difficult to do what we wish or what society needs of us. It is the case that a desire for vice exists. That does not justify acting on it for any of us.

    Citizens should and must use their religious wisdom to make decisions about what is good and what the state should approve. Of course, this particular religious reasoning should be communicated and defended to others who do not share their opinions with common language and reasoning where possible. It is naïve or irrational ideology to hope that perfect agreement will be found or that all one’s opponents are bigots or fools. Traditionalists know they may be mistaken, so the wise amongst them have retreated from any state sanction for this vice, but the gay “marriage” ideologues cannot be satisfied with tolerance.

    They demand full state approval.

    Make no mistake. If gay “marriage” receives state sanction, the experience of Western Europe and Canada suggests that intolerance of any dissenting opinions as to its morality will follow.

    That is a very smart and practical approach to the issues that face this blog. WELL DONE! Read the whole thing.

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    What’s Next?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:53 am, May 22nd 2008     &mdash      3 Comments »

    McCain appears to be getting serious about Veep selection and Romney is high atop the list. (What?  No Huckabee? NO SURPRISE.)  So the punditry is full of evaluations.  Here is Jonathan Martin’s and here’s a bit of a WSJ survey of commentary.  The words “religion” and “Mormon” appear nowhere in any of this?  I don’t think there was a single evaluation of Romney’s chances for the #1 slot that did not mention it.

    (Lowell interjects:  Well, Jonathan Martin does mention it in passing among the “cons” of selecting Romney:

    Yet for all his energy, Romney demonstrated trouble connecting with voters during the primary. His Mormonism was plainly a problem among some religious conservatives.

    So the punditry is not ignoring The Question just yet.)

    Questions:  Is this because the Veep slot just is not that serious? Did the primary campaign create an inoculation effect?  Would it not have been a serious issue in the primary absent Huckabee?  Will we hear from Evangelical leaders over the weekend?  Will anyone make something out of the proximate location of McCain’s weekend place to the Jello Belt?

    If Romney is selected, more questions: Will The Question arise at a serious level?  Who will raise it?  There is little love between McCain and Evangelicals, though there appears to be resigned toleration at this point.  Would this cause Evangelicals to sit this one out?  How could Romney best be deployed in the campaign?  What will we hear first “Mormon” or “black liberation theology”?  Who will be the first to charge a potential Mormon assassination plot to gain the presidency? (Oh, it will happen somewhere in the deep ugly bowels of the Internet . . . .)

    It could be an interesting long weekend.  We’ll post if something breaks, otherwise, enjoy the weekend.  We have turned off comment screening so our faithful readers can contemplate these questions and many more.

    Oh Yeah…

    There were a couple of interesting religion and politics articles yesterday.  This one on the California Supreme Court gay marriage decision and this one on an IRS ruling.

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    This Is What We Are Reading

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:31 am, May 21st 2008     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Gay Marriage . . .

    Al Mohler takes a look at the recent California Supreme Court decision and concludes:

    Take a close look at that question. When the rabbi asks, “What in the world did people in the Bible time know about homosexuals?,” he clearly indicates that he sees the Bible as a human book that reveals no more then the attitudes and prejudices and limitations of its human authors. There is no acknowledgment at all that the Bible reveals what God would have us to know about homosexuality.

    That, in the end, is the point. Is the Bible merely a human book? If so, then marriage can be anything we decide it should be. But, if the Bible is the Word of God, then we are bound by it. It’s as simple as that.

    That is a fine, a very fine, sermon. But it is no way to argue in the courtroom, or in the court of public opinion. Frankly, in those arenas it is reason to get disregarded. We simply cannot stand on religious truth claims in politics and public policy.

    Lowell adds: Mohler’s argument is an important one to make . . . in Sunday School. In the political arena, John’s right – that argument is Kryptonite to a productive discussion. To me, the important point regarding the California Supreme Court decision is that by the vote of a single unelected judge, the most fundamental element of our home life — the meaning of “marriage” — was turned on its head. For a host of reasons, such profound changes must be made through the political process. Instead, this change is being crammed down the public’s collective throat. That’s what drives people crazy, and that is the winning argument. Mohler’s argument, even though I think he’s right, is a loser.

    On The Flip Side . . .

    John Mark Reynolds looks at the value of faith in our culture.

    Secularism, without Christianity, has never produced an attractive and viable civilization (at least yet) and so like all the work the lazy kid would have done, its good deeds must remain legendary. It has been content to be parasitic on Christian wealth, Christian ideas, and Christian labor.

    The twentieth century produced several officially atheist regimes, but they were best known for mass murder. As for decaying Western Europe, it was religious in the lifetime of Pope Benedict XVI and is just about done eating up its seed corn. It has not had the cultural energy to reproduce itself in either babies or greatness. We will see if secularism has the power to save it, but the outlook does not look good. Instead of a thriving secular civilization in places like Sweden, many Christians and those outside Europe see effete secular people living on the heritage of their more godly ancestors unable to defend or reproduce what they made.

    But interestingly, that has been not because faith made good policy, but because faith made good PEOPLE!

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