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."

  • The Prince Of Darkness and Religion, Smarts From The Left, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:34 am, May 19th 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Denying Novak…

    Remember that Novak piece from last Monday? You know, the one that painted Evangelicals as vindictive, judgmental . . . those sorts of things? Huck denied the story as he found someone to float Veep rumors on his behalf. Well, the denials keep piling up. (HT: EFM)

    This blog came out of Novak’s contention that, essentially, Evangelicals were small-minded individuals that could not bring themselves to vote for a Mormon. I have begun to get the distinct impression that Robert Novak does not like us. Too bad we keep giving him fuel for his tirades. Admittedly, he makes mountains out of molehills, but we still give him the molehills.

    Veep Rumors . . .

    Earl Ofari Hutchinson does a spot on analysis of why McCain should pick Romney as his running mate. Hutchinson is a black liberal that sees everything, and I mean everything, through the lens of race. Yet this piece is intelligent and smart and pretty much right on. So why do I smell a rat?

    The common wisdom appears to be that if Romney is the Veep choice, The Question has been immunized and will be a non-starter. I disagree. Please remember that during Romney’s run, it was the left that was most vituperative in their invocations of the issue of Romney’s religion (Weisberg, Woodward, Linker, et. al.). I think they believe they were effective, because I do not think they get the Huckabee factor at all. Therefore, I also think that they are salivating over the possibility of a Romney veep choice so they can do it all over again. I also think they think it will be effective because of McCain’s weakness amongst Evangelicals.

    However, given last week’s California Supreme Court decision, “The Sleeper has awoken.” (Forgive my very geeky sci-fi allusion, sometimes I cannot resist.) Evangelicals may have rallied to one of their own in the primary, but with such a stark vision of a liberal future handed to them on a silver platter, they will rally as needed. I also think that absent that rallying point they will recognize a generic religion attack dressed up in Mormon clothing for what it is.

    So, The Question may be immunized to the extent that it will not prove fatal, but the attacks would come, they would come ugly, and the fight would be horrendous. I think the left views a Romney veep choice as a weapon in their arsenal. It’ll backfire, but that will not prevent them from trying it.

    Lowell: I’ll fire up my crystal ball and disagree slightly. I too think the left will come out swinging against Romney as V.P., and will make religious attacks. Something deep inside tells me, however, that the attacks would be harmless and may even help a McCain-Romney ticket. For one thing, I think analogies will abound to Joseph Lieberman in 2000. People will see the attacks and ask themselves: Why were religiously-based attacks against him illegitimate, if it’s OK to raise them against Romney?

    Also, there seems to be something about raising such a tangential issue against the veep nominee that is simply . . . creepy. Stay with me on this. Maybe it’s because voters look at the V.P., rightly or wrongly, as a somewhat tangential figure who waits in the wings in case he’s needed to fill the president’s shoes. If the vice presidential nominee’s religion is being raised to attack him — a tangential attack on a tangential figure — that seems more like a bigoted attack than if it were made against the candidate at the top of the ticket.

    We’ll see.

    Although . . .

    Mike Huckabee says he really wants the Veep job. However, as one Newsmax columnist notes in an analysis of Novak’s piece cited above:

    Moreover, even though Huckabee lost no time in endorsing McCain once he clinched the nomination evangelical community sources dispute the veracity of Huckabee’s support. [Emphasis added.]

    I’ll buy that! Huck getting the Veep job is not gonna happen save in the fevered imaginations of people that can smell a juicy “story.” Huck himself, in the article linked above on his desires said of his Obama aimed “joke” in front of the NRA:

    Huckabee added: “It wasn’t the first dumb thing I’ve ever said. And . . . it won’t be the last dumb thing I’ve ever said.”

    Not exactly the sort of admission that makes me want to vote for the guy. What if he says one of the those “dumb things” to the president of Iran, or Kim Jong Il, or someone else that does not like us real well and has nukes?

    We Are Not Alone . . .

    And no, this does not involve either Scully or Mulder. This involves the Brits. Check out what is happening on their politics and religion front.

    On A Related Front . . .

    From Lowell: I do not like to get into whining about unequal MSM treatment of Mormons generally, but this Newsweek piece caught my eye. (I do not read the magazine, but a copy happened to be open to the story.) What’s the thrust? Why, the high percentage of Mormons on reality TV shows.
     
    What? We are keeping track the religious affiliation of contestants on shows like “American Idol”and Survivor? But only one religion in particular? Do we know how many Catholics or Jews are among the contestants?  This is the kind of nonsense that makes me think John is right about The Question not being dead if Romney is picked as the V.P. nominee.
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    Obama Ups The Ante…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:35 am, May 16th 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Because yesterday’s poker analogy was not enough, we continue it today. Frankly theft would be a good analogy as well, because Obama is stealing right from Huckabee’s playbook.

    Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign has ramped up its efforts to emphasize his Christian faith in a series of new radio and television ads, as well as in a flier that volunteers have distributed.

    Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who endorsed Obama on Sunday, narrated a new radio spot for Obama that highlights the Illinois Senator’s upbringing and values, including how Obama is “a strong Christian.”

    There is not much to add to this, we said it all yesterday – the double standard is extraordinary. But make a note of this stuff – we can beat him to death with it in the general.

    Baptist Praise For Romney

    David R. Stokes is a Baptist minister, with a church, and a radio host. Yesterday he wrote some reflections on Romney’s Becket Fund Canterbury Award acceptance speech, at the increasingly good “New Nixon” blog.

    It’s not likely that Mr. Romney’s eloquent words will assuage the darker passions of some new-breed atheists (better: anti-theists). Men like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins very much see religion (of whatever sort) as a scourge on society – the very root of all modern evil.

    Their kind of thinking was reflected in a story out of the United Kingdom a couple of years ago. BBC History Magazine conducted a poll in its January 2006 issue asking the question: “Who was the worst Briton in the past thousand years?” Mr. Becket – a man who has been venerated by both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches – came in SECOND. The 5,000 people who participated in the poll ranked only JACK THE RIPPER higher. I guess a killer is just slightly worse than a cleric.

    Apparently, the desperate question uttered by King Henry II way back in 1170 A.D. (pardon that religio-centric date citation) – “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” – would have plenty of respondents in century number twenty-one.

    Freedom of religion is a very good thing. Freedom FROM religion, though promoted by some as the wave of the future, is not.A simple look back at the eighteenth century gives us a case study. It was the “age of revolution.” Here in America, very much in the spirit of Becket, we rejected tyranny. Over in France they tried to do the same thing.

    It worked out very well here. Not so much for France. For all the cries of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” – they instead wound up with a period of violent chaos only somewhat resolved when that despotic secularist Napoleon took over. Hello short man, good-bye freedom.

    What made the difference? Well, an often overlooked factor is that it was RELIGION that may have made the difference – particularly something that happened here in the years immediately leading up to 1776 and beyond. It was called THE GREAT AWAKENING. Inspired by men such as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, there was a period of deep religious reflection in the land – one that ultimately served to temper human passions – even those inflamed by injustice and revolutionary fervor.

    Heck of a point the man has there. The French Revolution comparison points out that religion has both a personal and a societal role to play. Good people should be able to distinguish the two. With its rejection of polygamy, more than a century ago, the CJCLDS became a church capable of fulfilling the societal role equally with other more orthodox Christian churches, even if I might find it unsatisfactory in the personal role.

    It strikes me that the inability to distinguish the two roles is, in the end, selfish. It is a confusion of our personal perspective with the a societal perspective.

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    I See Your Mike Huckabee And Raise You A Barack Obama

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:30 am, May 15th 2008     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Remember this? Mike Huckabee’s now infamous Christmas ad with the “hidden” cross in the background? Well, check out this puppy on the left from Barack Obama – Hat Tip: Holy Coast. So much for “hidden.”

    What I truly do not understand is after the shellacking he has taken for Jeremiah Wright, why he would want to invoke religious imagery at this point. Unless, of course, he wishes to de-link Wright and religion, but that I think would remove all restraint in terms of Wright criticism.

    But worse, where is the heat over this? Now, far be it from me to defend Mike Huckabee, but he took a quite the hits over that Christmas ad, and by all appearances, it was an accident. Nothing accidental about this.

    Oh wait, I forgot, it is not really about the invocation of religious imagery; it’s about whether the invocation comes from a Republican or a Democrat. Ugh!

    Lowell: It is always amusing and interesting to remember the standards that were imposed on Mitt Romney and then apply them to Barack Obama. How do you think Romney would have fared if he had put out a photo of himself standing in front of the famous Mormon Tabernacle with a caption describing how he tries to do God’s will? Think about it. The double standard is almost overwhelming at times.

    Evangelicals Arguing . . .

    On Faith asks its contributers:

    Some Christian leaders issued An Evangelical Manifesto last week to depoliticize the term ‘evangelical.’ “We evangelicals are defined theologically, and not politically, socially or culturally,” they said. In your mind, what is the definition of an evangelical?

    Needless to say, answers are all over the map. So . . .

    McCain Adds To The Confusion

    Jonathan Martin reports:

    Continuing his effort to reach out to evangelicals, John McCain had a private meeting with Joel Osteen last weekend. The two met in a Houston hotel on Saturday following a finance event McCain had there.

    Osteen, while immensely popular, is the subject of some derision in religiously serious Evangelical circles. I will not bore you with the theological details, but every time McCain hooks up with an “Evangelical” he looks like he is playing horseshoes – remember, “close counts” in horseshoes.

    Which demands the question – why not a Mormon?

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    What Happened Yesterday

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:32 am, May 14th 2008     &mdash      4 Comments »

    McCain/Hagee

    Hagee apologized to Catholics. McCain applauded but said he had nothing to do with it. Good idea on McCain’s part. Most mainstream Evangelicals are no big Hagee fans. Distance is the best bet on this one.

    Well, No Duh!

    George Barna, Evangelical pollster prime, polled on Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelicals and Mormons.

    Most Witnesses say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is important in their life, but only one out of every 10 of those adults base their hope of salvation on a confession of sins and acceptance of Christ as their savior. But Witnesses are also significantly more likely than born-again adults to reject the idea of salvation earned through good works.

    Additionally, 61 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses, compared to 42 percent of born-agains, strongly believe that Satan exists. They are also more likely than born-again adults to argue that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth (77 percent versus 63 percent).

    In comparison, Mormons have more similar views with born-again Christians. One-third of Mormons meet the born-again criteria, but some evangelical leaders argue that Mormons’ refusal to trust wholly on God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ as the only means to salvation disqualifies them from being born-again. A majority of Mormons believes that a good person can earn their way into heaven.

    More than nine out of 10 Mormons have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that they describe as being important in their life; nine out of 10 say their religious faith is very important in their life; two-thirds affirm the sinless life of Christ on earth; and more than half believe that Satan exists.

    “All three of these groups claim to be Christian, uphold the importance of faith and spirituality, are active in their churches, generally believe in the same God, and accept the holiness of Jesus Christ,” George Barna, director of the survey, commented. “Beyond that, there are huge differences related to central doctrines such as the means to eternal salvation or the reliability and authority of the Bible.”

    Now, THAT sounds like grounds for a strong working political alliance. So what went wrong?!

    Which Brings Me To…

    this interesting story out of Marin County (the most liberal place in America? – certainly in the top five) about cross-church cooperation on public projects. It raises an interesting question – Why do liberals seem to be able to put religious difference aside for their public cause but Republicans seems to break down into infighting?

    The standard right-wing answer is “They don’t really follow what they claim to believe!” and sometimes that is true. But I think there has to be more to it. What is is about right-wing religious adherence that insists on purity in theology accompanying purity in action? Sort of kills the action if you need more than agree with you, doesn’t it?

    Finally…

    …out of small town Wisconsin, a guy agrees with me on Obama/Wright.   Smart guy.

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    If You Could See Me, I Would Have An Incredulous Stare . . .

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:34 am, May 13th 2008     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Wishful Thinking? — Sabotage?

    Reports James Pethokoukis, “money and politics blogger for U.S. News & World Report,”:

    Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and defeated contender for the GOP presidential nomination, is currently at the top of John McCain‘s short list for a running mate. At least that’s the word from a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman who has spoken to McCain’s inner circle.

    OK, if there is anyplace in the Republican party that McCain needs help, it is Evangelicals. Can’t quibble with that, but a move like this would quickly alienate pretty much the rest of the conservative wing of the party and McCain could not win the general without them either.

    Huck denied on his blog the self-disqualifying Obama comments attributed to him on which we reported upon yesterday. But his record is full of having to back away from stuff like this. McCain is not this dumb.

    I have no idea what this reporter is trying to do, but if he is without agenda he is the victim of some planted stories or else at least one source of his report would be credited – as it is we have a “top Republican fundraiser” and a “top Republican political strategist.” Names, I need names . . .

    Lowell: It seems clear that Pethokoukis is talking about one person who is “a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman.” (Whatever happened to having two sources before going with a story?) This is not a credible story.

    Speaking of Obama . . .

    Well, Jeremiah Wright really. Here are some numbers on his impact in Indiana and North Carolina. While the United Church of Christ is backing away from Wright, although they refuse to dissociate – they are crying “out of context.” Hugh Hewitt took care of that. There is no “there” there on that one.

    That “Manifesto”. . .

    . . . is drawing some comment. The inside Evangelicalism politics that surround it are beginning to surface (though they were visible to anybody that watched before). This time in Al Mohler’s comments thereon:

    In the end, I must judge “An Evangelical Manifesto” to be too expansive in terms of public relations and too thin in terms of theology. I admire so much of what this document states and represents, but I cannot accept it as a whole. I want it to be even more theological, and to be far more specific about the Gospel. I agree with the framers that Evangelicals should be defined theologically, rather than politically, culturally, or socially. This document will have to be much more theological for it to accomplish its own stated purpose.

    Now, perhaps we Evangelicals will all gain by a civil conversation about this Manifesto that calls for civility. That at least would be a good place to start.

    I am not at all sure how to react to that, since when Mohler talks theology, we often get political statement.

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    “The Speech” Redux, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:36 am, May 12th 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    We mentioned last week that Mitt Romney was getting an award for religious freedom. Well, the speech he made at the ceremony was another great one, well in line with, and flowing from, his famous Texas speech last December – the one Lowell and I were very proud to attend.

    John Adams offers a further perspective. Our constitution and freedom would only endure if the passions and destructive tendencies of man’s nature were constrained by the bounds of religion: “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion” he said “…would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”

    This great experiment in liberty will endure and flourish only so long as we maintain the humility, faith and character to govern ourselves.

    There is much more really good stuff in this speech. Read the whole thing.

    The reaction to this speech, is firstly at a far lower volume than when he was running, and it is also less critical. The Dallas Morning News calls it “more sophisticated.” K-Lo also reviewed the speech and summarized a recent interview she had with Romney. Needless to say, she loved it. I thought this was interesting:

    In an interview with National Review Online, Romney called the December speech “the most memorable part of my campaign.” He said, “I had an opportunity that other people didn’t have, and I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity to talk about religious liberty.

    Which makes me feel very honored to have been there. It was indeed a memorable experience. I am not sure the speech this week is more “sophisticated” and it is more explicit, which generally leads to greater clarity. I see no new thinking on the governor’s part, only being a little better at saying what he is thinking.

    Speaking Of Which…

    K-Lo asked Romney about Jeremiah Wright.

    He expressed his frustration to me that “the Wright Factor” is often “referred to as a religious issue and I didn’t see it as a religious issue. I saw it as a matter relating to his sentiments about the country. His comments were not about religion, they were about America and to me they were very offensive.”

    I continue to be concerned about this idea. Wright’s comments were about America, but they flow, at least in part, from his theology. I remain fearful that examining these statement is such detail opens our own thoughts, like Romney’s speech, to greater levels of scrutiny than we might like.

    Lowell, chiming in: Forsooth! A rare, but typically mild, moment of disagreement between John and me. I agree with John Mark Reynolds: A candidate’s theology, and that of his backers, is out of bounds; but public policy statements, even if grounded in theology, are fair game. For example, if Jeremiah Wright’s counterpart in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints– say, the President of the Church– were to make incendiary and provocative statements about America, in meetings that Romney attended, it would be absolutely fair to ask Romney what he thinks of those statements.

    And Evangelicals . . .

    . . . are unhappy, are revolting, and not quite what the press made them out to be. If I may, this whole thing is getting just silly. I am beginning to think the press thinks of Evangelicals kind of like sideshow freaks. Which would certainly explain the Left’s reaction to Romney. Mormons would be viewed as steroid-enhanced freaks.

    What a world, what a world . . .

    An Addition from Lowell:

    Robert Novak is at is again. Sometimes I think he just likes to stir the pot. (Devoted readers will recall that a piece by Robert Novak was the catalyst for this blog’s creation.) This time “the Prince of Darkness” paints a dark picture of Evangelicals:

    An element of the Christian community is not reconciled to McCain’s candidacy but instead regards the prospective presidency of Barack Obama in the nature of a Biblical plague visited upon a sinful people. These militants look at former Baptist preacher Huckabee as ‘God’s candidate’ running for president in 2012. Whether they can be written off as merely a troublesome fringe group depends on Huckabee’s course. . . .

    One experienced, credible activist in Christian politics who would not let his name be used told me Huckabee in personal conversation with him embraced the concept that an Obama presidency might be what the American people deserve. That fits what has largely been a fringe position among evangelicals that the pain of an Obama presidency is in keeping with the Bible’s prophecy.

    That actually sounds like the kind of speaking out of both sides of his mouth at which Huckabee is so adept. And yet it’s also the same anonymous claptrap that Novak loves to spread. Politico’s Mike Allen, writing in the May 10 edition of his Playbook, doesn’t think too much of the story:

    This is so delicious, we almost hate to spoil the fun. But a reluctant reality check: We talk to well-connected evangelicals all the time and not one of them has ever said anything like this, or thinks anything like this. And not one of them would ever vote for Huck.

    Alas, although I share Allen’s skepticism, I think he dismisses the story a bit too easily. As Novak correctly notes:

    Even taking Huckabee’s professions of support for McCain at face value, he is not leaving politics for the lecture circuit. He has formed the Huck PAC to back Republican candidates, his supporters have established a Website (Huck4America.com), and Huckabee backers are behind the Government Is Not God PAC to discourage McCain from naming Romney as his vice president.

    Indeed. John and I chatted a bit about this yesterday, and concluded that Huck is neutralizing himself. What’s more, the people who are his most ardent supporters — the ones who now see Obama’s election as the judgment of an angry God– are apparently turning out to be a mixed blessing for Huck. He was basically the center around which the anti-Mormon forces, which are by definition from the fringes of the Evangelical movement, rallied.

    John’s brief additional comments:  Huckabee’s once widely praised political skills are looking less sharp on a daily basis.   He is personable, likable, and a tremendous figure in front of a crowd, but he seems remarkably unable to expand his attraction beyond a certain segment and that is a segment that comes with as much bad as it does good.  One must remember that even Reagan kept Evangelicals at a friendly, but respectable distance.  There is a segment of Evangelicals that have, as they say, “gotten too big for their britches,” and Huckabee, by using Evangelicals as a base is stuck with their shenanigans.  He has failed to divorce himself from them and hence the self- neutralization.

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