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."

  • I Guess This Is Adieu . . . for Now

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:23 am, August 29th 2008     &mdash      11 Comments »

    Looks like Sarah Palin is going to be John McCain’s VP Nominee.

    First of all, kudos to the McCain organization for a masterful handling of the Veep build up. To hold it close until hours before is an amazing thing.

    This also means that for now, our job here is done. *SIGH*

    We will probably be working on this site in the future to improve its archiving capacity, this has been an important issue and it is important for it to be properly recorded. We would ask for our readers to provide us with some input in that department – let us know what you think was our best work and most worth preserving. Let us know who you think were the heroes and villains in the story we have followed here.

    And of course, should Mitt Romney, or any other Mormon politician return to this level of national prominence I am fairly confident we will be back.

    Some Comments On The Palin Pick . . .

    Really, the only thing she brings to the table is her gender, but she also does no harm. She is safe with a possible bump from disaffected Hillary lovers, that’s about it. At this point the Republican ticket lives and dies on John McCain and John McCain alone.

    To our Romney loving friends . . .

    There has been a lot of talk of “Romney or I am not voting for McCain.” Please, that is just petulant. This is not the ticket any of us wanted, but it is the ticket we have, an abstention, an independent vote, or, please no, an Obama vote is a losing vote. Take a few days here, mourn a bit, and then get busy. McCain may not be everything we want, but Obama will spell a serious problem for the nation – we can ill afford it.

    To my new Mormon friends . . .

    Thank you, you have been gracious, generous and wonderful people. I look forward to continued friendships.

    To Hugh Hewitt . . .

    It was all your idea – THANKS!

    To the Romney family and organization . . .

    The classiest. Nothing more need be said.

    To Lowell . . .

    Words fail. Heck of a partnership. I hope for future adventures. Seriously, it is difficult to contemplate the days without our somewhat constant IM chatter.

    Where from here?

    Well, I will still be at Blogotional, but that is in no way a political blog. It has been suggested (Hugh again) that I start up JohnSchroeder.com, and I am giving that serious thought, but find it hard to believe that apart from this issue anyone really cares that much about what I think, so for now it is just churning in the mental pot. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    God’s richest blessings to all that have turned to these pages.

    Lowell adds:

    Amen to all that John said.  I’ll probably post something longer, later, but we will not be posting every day here.  I will miss that.  But I do want to focus on what I have gained, not what I am losing:

    • A good friend in John Schroeder.   An open-minded, kind and thoughtful man who has taught me much.
    • An understanding of orthodox Christianity that I never dreamed of having before.
    • A deep appreciation of that same tradition.
    • An abiding affection for, and gratitude to, Mitt Romney and his family.

    It has been a great ride.  I know little about Sarah Palin, but she seems to be an American that religious conservatives can get behind and be proud of.  And yes, I intend to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin, and I will do so enthusiastically and with a smile on my face.

    We are not disappearing.  I’ve got some additional thoughts here, and we’ll be back with still further thoughts now and then. Until that time, our Heavenly Father’s choicest blessings to all our wonderful readers.

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    Short and To-The-Point

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:02 am, August 28th 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Lowell and I have both has severe attacks of “too doggone busy” so welcome to today’s link list:

    Church and politics quiz – haven’t had time to look at it, tell us what you think.

    About the Dems and faith:

    “On Faith” is trying to advise the candidates. Is it just me or has this once valuable forum gotten a bit silly?

    Southern Baptists getting out the vote with prayer.

    No middle ground on Romney?

    Finally in Huck-a-land:

    Idle speculation. Which in the end was denied by the Huckster himself in an interview on Limbaugh yesterday.

    RUSH: Well, he’s got a Pelosi problem on that. You know, she’s been denounced by as many Catholic Church leaders as have chosen to speak out on it and she’s standing by it. You know, these people are sitting ducks I think if the Republican campaign is run the right way. Are you on the vice presidential short list?

    HUCKABEE: I don’t even think I’m on the long list. I have not been asked to pack a bag to go to Dayton on Friday so I don’t think there’s any illusion. If he’s looking for a female, the closest I would get is if they would ask me to maybe dress in drag and run that way but I don’t think that’s going to happen, so, no, I don’t think I’m on the list at all.

    But the interview was marked by our hearing, once again some of Huckabee’s more vacant denials about making Romney’s religion an issue:

    RUSH: Thank you. So are you, sir. Now let’s get right to the chase here. I said something a couple weeks ago, maybe ten days ago, about you and Governor Romney that you strenuously objected to. What was it that I said that was incorrect?

    HUCKABEE: Well, that I had made an issue out of his religion and had sort of poisoned him with evangelicals and that’s simply not true. You know, one of the things that I’ve been very adamant about is that I don’t think his religion has one thing to do with whether people should support him. Some of my favorite public servants in America happen to be the same religion he is, the Morman religion. That would be people like Mike Leavitt, Orrin Hatch, Jon Huntsman, the current governor of Utah. Great people. It has nothing to do with it.

    RUSH: Yeah, but they’re not running for president nor running against you for the nomination. I guess I track this back to at one point you talking about what Romney believes, that Christ and Lucifer were brothers.

    HUCKABEE: It was a question that I actually asked of the New York Times Magazine writer, because he knew a lot more about Mormonism than I did. It appeared as 11 words in about a 10,000-word story, and that got all the play. I personally apologized to Mitt because it did come across wrong and it’s simply not the way I feel and it isn’t, and I don’t think Mitt Romney’s religion has a thing to do with it. I think, you know, a record has to do with it, but not his religion. And frankly, my attitude is, the primary’s over, we need to get behind John McCain, support him, He’s our best chance, right now, our only chance to beat Barack Obama, and Barack Obama will destroy small business, his plans for higher taxes would be abominable, and his absolutely frankly deplorable view about when life begins is nothing short of frightening.

    There is nothing new here, save for the fact that he has taken about every opportunity at press he can get to tell this tale after the “anybody but Romney” push of a couple of weeks ago. People of faith like us, creedal or Mormon, are big on apologies – it is after all where redemption is rooted. Politics is a very different story – politicians never apologize; they change the subject, they spin, they “move on,” but apologies are a sign of weakness and a politician never wants to appear weak.

    Huckabee now has a giant millstone hanging around his neck and he is drowning. He is obviously trying to get it off and get to the surface, but he is not having much luck. What the followers of this blog, and many others, clearly want is an apology, but he is a politician so that ain’t happening. What’s he to do?

    Well, in this humble blogger’s analysis he has only one option, and it weakens him almost as much as an apology. He must repudiate those that did blatantly and remoreslessly make Romney’s faith an issue, particularly those that did so under the guise of his campaign. He will lose an enormous amount of his support when he does, but it is his only hope of ever gaining any mainstream support.

    The fact that Romney is on the VP short list and Huck is not has served as a severe chastisement to Huck. (His admission of that fact above is something of an apology) And our open letter of last week, along with others like it that have undoubtedly been written, could have resulted in some behind the scenes communication to send Huck the needed messages. He clearly wants to move to the correct side of this, even if he does retain his personal distaste for Mitt Romney. (The evidence of this later fact remains strong) He just has one more step to take.

    Keep coming Huck, shore is in sight.

    Lowell adds: There is one element that has been distressingly absent throughout this election cycle: Denunciation. McCain never disavowed Cyndi Mosteller’s comments. Huck, while always putting on the most innocent of airs about his own comments, has never been able to bring himself to say anything at all about, much less denounce or disavow, the ugly comments of his supporters. This is undeniable. I wish Rush Limbaugh had asked Huckabee what he thought about the comments of bigots like Joel Belz, or about the comments on Huck’s own web site (which were not removed) referring to Mitt Romney as “Mormon garbage.” I wonder if comments calling Lieberman a “sneaky Jew” would have been left on Huck’s site? It continues to amaze me that in the United States of America the general response to such repulsive speech has been silence, which I think is born of outright cowardice.

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    Since Lowell Brought It Up…

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

    Yesterday, Lowell proclaimed Joel Belz’ World Magazine piece from November of last year, as the MOST bigoted piece of the primary campaign, by a hair.  Our original reference to that piece occurred in a much longer “Reading List” on November 5, 2007.  With the awarding of such a “prestigious” award, it seems appropos that we reprint the pertinent section of that original post:

    I’ve Been Wondering When This Was Going To Happen . . .

    I have said all along that the “flip-flop” thing had traction because of Romney’s faith.  Well, Joel Belz at World Magazine (a leading Evangelical journal) is now connecting those dots in a fairly ugly fashion (subscription required):

    It’s not a trivial matter that Mormonism, as a cultic movement, has a bad reputation when it comes to getting its own story straight. Check out the public record, if you will, including fairly recent interviews with Mormon officials in venues like Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, and Newsweek. Do these officials hold to the fantastical 1827 golden tablets of Mormon founder Joseph Smith—or not? Well, they seem to say: We believe it when we want to, and we don’t when it’s less convenient. Where Mormonism isn’t shrouded in deliberate secrecy, it is covered with confusion.

    So when folks tell me they’re satisfied that Mitt Romney won’t try to drag his Mormonism into his politics, and that he would never ever impose his theology on the American people, I have to worry whether that’s exactly what he’s already done. When, in a relatively short space of time, he seems to be on both sides of the same issue—and when such a deviously confusing approach seems to be consistent with his faith rather than counter to it—that sets off alarm bells for me.

    Only a few weeks ago, I sat a dozen feet from Romney as he compellingly spelled out his convictions and credentials. He was winsome and persuasive. On the surface, he said almost everything I want to hear my candidate say. On the issues that matter (except for choice in education), he was as convincing as any politician I’ve heard in recent years.

    But still.

    More than anything, I want a president who tells the truth. And I worry deeply when people are overly ready to believe a man whose religious upbringing, of all things, suggests that the truth is a negotiable commodity.

    There are basically three charges in this:

    • The changing nature of Mormon doctrine
    • Secrecy
    • That Romney will behave in exactly that way.

    Let’s briefly address each of those in reverse order:

    Romney will behave that way.  Do I behave exactly like John Calvin?  Do Catholics behave exactly like Baptists?  Do all Catholics behave in the precisely proscribed manner of the church?  For that matter do American Catholics behave like Mexican Catholics?  Do East Coast Catholics behave like West Coast Catholics?

    You get the point?  The actions of a specific religion cannot be straight line drawn to dictate the actiosn of an individual, or even group of individuals within that faith.

    James Bopp was on Hugh Hewitt last Friday.  (Transcript was not yet available at writing time, but it should show up here and the podcast is available here.)  Bopp is a pro-life legal legend, and an early and strong Romney supporter.  He said that he thought Romney had genuinely and sincerely “flipped” on abortion, but that he had not, and probably never would “flop.”

    So where’s the beef on this one?

    Secrecy.  Been there, done that.  ‘Nuff said.

    Changing Mormon Doctrine.  Any reasonable student of Christian church history can attest to radical changes in doctrine through the 2000 year history of the church.  Any such student will also know a couple of other pertinent facts.  As the changes occurred there was much confusion within the church as to what correct doctrine was.  Those periods would create an appearance of uncertainty or “convenience” in a religion.  Secondly, the changes and decisions about doctrine came pretty quickly in the first years of church history.

    The CJCLDS faith is a very young one and it is showing its age as it were.  It is and has changed, and is doing so very rapidly.  The pace of change is so rapid that creedal Christians would find it disturbing, but that is a far cry from disingenuous.  Within my own denomination, in a matter of just a couple of decades there has been an almost complete transformation in the denomination’s view of homosexuality – not necessarily in the correct direction, but that is a different story.  No one involved in the PCUSA homosexual debates is a liar, or disingenuous, or anything else pejorative.  Why should sinister motive be ascribed to the CJCLDS faith when they are not actually in evidence?  Such is a presumption – not a fact.

    If Belz does not trust Romney, that is his prerogative, that is politics.  But to attempt to justify that with faux reasoning concerning Romney’s faith is no different than when the left-wingers dismiss us because we have our own beliefs.  These arguments are simply beneath a person claiming adherence to the faith that gave rise to reason.

    Lowell adds:  Recognizing that I have little credibility in the eyes of Joel Belz and his fellow-travelers (after all, I am a member of a 14 million-member church full of liars), I will not go out of my way to address his screed’s shocking lack of regard for the truth, his recklessness, and his astonishingly sloppy analysis.  I’ll simply refer to this definition:

    bigot: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

    I’m not calling anyone any names.  I blog, you decide.

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    Dems, Religion, Missteps – Even Mistakes

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:36 am, August 26th 2008     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Their Convention . . .

    . . . would by all appearances be the most “religious”convention ever. Consider this coverage:

    But . . .

    Their problems began with the opening prayer:

    The young Evangelical minister Cameron Strang, editor and publisher of Relevant magazine, a Christian who describes himself as a pro-life Republican, has been talking for some time to the Obama campaign on issues important to him. He accepted an invitation to offer a prayer from the stage at the Democratic National Convention, but then withdrew.

    In fact, something one would take as simply common courtesy, inviting the local Roman Catholic Archbishop to pray at the convention, never happened. As things developed Sunday and through yesterday, that has turned out to be a very good thing. More in a minute.

    Because you know, Biden’s a good Catholic . . .

    . . . or is he? Says the Boston Globe:

    Barack Obama’s chosen running mate, U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, is a Roman Catholic who would become, if elected, the first Catholic vice-president of the U.S. Like many Catholic elected officials in the US, he runs afoul of church teachings on abortion rights, but cites church teachings on a variety of social justice concerns. His selection is likely to rekindle the debate over whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should receive Communion.

    Now that is reasonable coverage, though I am not really comfortable with a newspaper, or us, judging whether Biden is a good Catholic or not, that is for the church to decide. But the Denver Post is a bit less circumspect:

    When Joe Biden underwent brain surgery for a life-threatening aneurysm in 1988, he asked doctors whether he could tuck his rosary beads under his pillow. The six-term Democratic senator from Delaware also has offered to shove his rosary down the throat of the next Republican who tells him he isn’t religious.

    OK, I guess I am a little bothered by this line of reporting. This is akin to The Question. Can a Catholic be Vice President? But there is some difference in this coverage and Romney related coverage. The RC church has made an issue of non-conforming politicians before, and if the church makes an issue of it . . .

    Lowell adds: Good point, John. If the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (boy! that is a long name!) started telling LDS politicians who disagreed with Church teachings not to take the sacrament on Sundays, that would arguably make it relevant whether or not a Mitt Romney or Harry Reid adheres to the Church doctrines in question. And yet, like you, I am very uncomfortable, as I’ve said before, with public probing into any politician’s religious conscience.

    Speaking of Non-Conforming Catholics…

    Nancy Pelosi stepped in it BIG TIME on Meet The Press Sunday. So much so that the Archbishop of Denver (I told you we’d get back to him) had to respond.

    So What’s The Difference?

    Seems like Mike Huckabee has finally found an actual issue to pin his obvious distaste for Mitt Romney to:

    Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) says that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) should not have complied with decisions by their state supreme courts that ordered legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

    Now there is a point, that option is open to state chief executives since supreme courts have no actual enforcement power – that power is in fact left to the executive. We can argue for a very long time the legal ramifications of the move Huckabee suggests, and even the theological legitimacy of, as a person of faith, defying governmental authority when its mandates run counter to our faith.

    But that is not what has happened, nor is it what is happening in the Roman Catholic situations looked at above. Huckabee first attacked Romney’s faith (the Jesus/Satan crack way back in Iowa) and then has finally tried, after being pilloried time and again, to find an issue to hang his attacks upon. And further because of his prior attacks this comes off reading more like, “See he’s not a real Christian,” than a legitimate discussion of the issue that it should be.

    This sort of attack is actually really common amongst a certain segment of Evangelicals and it is not even particular to those of “other” faiths. “If you take even a casual drink you are not a ‘real’ Christian.” I know my LDS friends discourage drinking as well – that is not the point it is the attitude that comes with the prohibition and the willingness to denounce the legitimacy of the faith of someone that is less adherent that is at issue. When you take that attitude and pile heterodox theology on top of it, bigotry can be born.

    The other thing that is important to remember here is that Evangelicalism has no hierarchical structure from which pronouncements of who is and is not right can be made. Unlike Roman Catholicism and the CJCLDS, Mike Huckabee’s opinion on what a Christians should do has no ecclesiastical authority on me, let alone a Mormon.

    I mean, we Evangelicals have all sorts of opinions.

    Remember Jacob Weisberg?

    (Lowell adding a little here.) Mr. Weisberg is the fellow James Taranto aptly describes as someone who “has come in for a lot of criticism for smugness and his uncharitable attitude toward fellow Americans.”

    Well, yes. Long-time readers here will instantly recall Weisberg’s sour, mean-spirited little screed that almost takes the cake for religious bigotry in the 2008 presidential election cycle.* He’s the one who asked, back in 2006:

    Someone who refuses to consider voting for a woman as president is rightly deemed a sexist. Someone who’d never vote for a black person is a racist. But are you a religious bigot if you wouldn’t cast a ballot for a believing Mormon?

    His answer: No. “I wouldn’t vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism.”

    Now Weisberg is back, arguing that if Obama loses the election, racism will be the only reason.

    Taranto pretty much leaves that smug little proposition bleeding and gasping for breath on the floor, which is probably all right with Weisberg, because he cannot possibly believe the nonsense he writes. I suspect he just loves to be the skunk at every garden party. As a child, he probably made flatulent sounds during solemn moments, or ruined group pictures by making a face at the last moment. Most of use grow out of such behavior; Weisberg seems simply to have taken it to his adult keyboard with him.

    The man seems to be saying, “I can be a religious bigot because I don’t like Romney’s faith, and that’s not only acceptable, but the only responsible position to take. But if a politician who happens to be black loses the presidential election, racism is the only possible cause.”

    What utter small-mindedness. And what a steaming pile.

    _____________________

    *Joel Belz actually took that cake with his repulsive World Magazine piece explaining Mitt Romney’s alleged flip-flops is typical for Mormons, who tend to be liars. Belz assured himself a spot in the Religious Bigotry Hall of Fame with that one.

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    When You Interrupt Normal Blogging . . .

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:29 am, August 25th 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    . . . you end up with lots to talk about next blogging day.

    Now, About The Evangelical “Left Turn”. . .

    The Examiner was writing about it as was the WSJ. But that same WSJ interviews Rick Warren in the wake of last weekend’s Forum:

    Sitting on a small stone patio outside the church’s “green room,” I question him further — has he heard that the Democratic Party is changing its abortion platform? “Window dressing,” he replies. “Too little, too late.” But Rev. Jim Wallis, the self-described progressive evangelical, has been saying that the change is a big victory. “Jim Wallis is a spokesman for the Democratic Party,” Mr. Warren responds dismissively. “His book reads like the party platform.”

    If you’ve read any of the hundreds of articles about Mr. Warren that have appeared over the past 10 years, perhaps you think I’ve got the wrong guy. After all, the leader of the fourth-largest church in the U.S. is supposed to be part of a “new breed” of evangelicals, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and dozens of other publications. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof paid him what Mr. Kristof might consider the ultimate compliment earlier this year, referring to Mr. Warren as an “evangelical liberals can love.”

    [...]

    But there is a misunderstanding by the media, says Mr. Warren. “A lot of people hear [about a broader agenda] and they think, ‘Oh, evangelicals are giving up on believing that life begins at conception,’” he explains. “They’re not giving up on that at all. Not at all.”

    [...]

    So why is most of the press under the impression that Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist, is so different from, say, Focus on the Family president James Dobson? “It’s a matter of tone,” says an amused Mr. Warren, who seems unable to name any particular theological issues on which he and Mr. Dobson disagree.

    A recent Pew study reveals that most Americans (barely “most”) think churches should avoid politics. And Reuters reports about Evangelicals:

    The latest poll by the Pew Research Center suggests 68 percent of registered voters among this group support McCain while only around a quarter back Obama.

    There is even religious trouble at the Democratic convention.

    Perhaps the country has not shifted nearly so much as the liberal press would like to say it has.

    But The Question Remains . . .

    Writing at Renew America, Marie Jon advocates for a McCain/Romney ticket and The Question plays a critical role in her analysis.

    Evangelical Christians have been aware of the dirge sung by those who, for whatever reason, wish to exclude Romney from consideration for the VP post on the Republican ticket. Very well-crafted words are being used to try to induce Evangelicals to withhold their votes from this very qualified man because of his (Mormon) faith.

    [...]

    Apparently some Evangelical pastors won’t cease their whisperings to the press. We get it. They are promoting Huckabee over Romney for the vice-presidency. It matters not how their opinions could dissuade voters from McCain.

    If President Bush was practically tarred and feathered by progressive Democrats for his Christian beliefs, how might an outspoken and often comical character like Michael Huckabee be perceived if he became the VP nominee? Only naivete would facilitate one believing that the media would allow Huckabee’s verbal blunders to go unnoticed. They embraced him once, but if he were to play a pivotal role as McCain’s running mate, the gloves would come off.

    And interestingly, a recent FOXNews poll on the election asked, as its final question:

    As far as you know, do you think Mormons are Christians or not?

    Now that is just abysmal. A question to get a metric on the attitudes of voters towards a Mormon candidate would be understandable, but that is an inherently theological question that has no place in a poll of this sort – none whatsoever. From a different source, I would assume this to be a push polling question, but in this instance it is just flat out ignorant.

    But while we are on the topic of such inter-religious squabbling, we should remember that there is genuine anti-religious bias out there that sharpens their knives especially for Mormons. The future of our nation with regards to the role or religion in public life can look very bleak.

    Lowell:  It is indeed disturbing that so many think a mindless cretin like Bill Maher is cute or funny.  Every single statement he makes about Mormons on that clip is either flat-out wrong or wildly distorted.  All are malicious.  What if he were talking about Jews and described The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as unquestioned fact?  Would he be so cute then?

    And Now, Going Very Deep . . .

    John Mark Reynolds puts last week’s Saddleback Forum into some perspective.

    John McCain won the Saddleback event by combining his real world experience with his agreement with Evangelicals and other traditional Christians on the paramount moral issue of the day. In that way, if only in that way, he is following closely in the tradition of Lincoln’s campaign for the White House. Senator Obama deserves credit for trying to do so. The difficulty is that Obama rejects protecting the unborn. On that issue, Evangelicals of this day will be as single minded as northern Evangelicals were on the moral issue of slavery.

    The good news is that all of us can relax. Both Obama and McCain are mainstream American politicians. Our constitution is not in peril and neither is the historic relationship between church and state. Lincoln’s Union was not theocratic from any sane perspective despite the involvement of religious leaders like Beecher. A nation governed by Rick Warren’s two friends, Senator Obama or McCain, will not be either.

    Reynolds argues that things are in many aspects the same now as they were then, and indeed, in some aspects they are, but things have also changed considerably. Daniel Henninger in the WSJ on Friday:

    There was a time before the multitude of world views fell from the sky — let’s say every presidential election from 1789 to 1964 — when one could assume that all the candidates shared a basic set of moral precepts, now called “values.” They were Judeo-Christian precepts. Old Testament-New Testament. It was pretty simple. Some past presidents may have been closet agnostics, but when they were growing up, someone “wise” told them what the common rules were. Most people in public life felt no need to challenge this world view.

    That’s gone.

    [...]

    Too bad if you don’t like those answers. This is what we get in a morally contested world. It becomes necessary to ask presidential candidates everything because we don’t know who they are and we can’t trust them. For better or worse, what the candidate thinks about taxes or Iraq isn’t enough. What, Senator, is your worst failing?

    At Saddleback Barack Obama learned this: If you want to be president in the U.S., nothing on God’s green earth is ever above your pay grade.

    Henninger’s argument is that with the absence of an assumed shared ethic in the nation things like the Forum are necessary. The argument makes sense, and yet I find it troubling. Too often the reasonable discussion of the Forum breaks down into factionalism. We are a divided nation on political issues, but when we start to be divided in such basic areas, I worry that our system cannot overcome the divisions.

    At First Things Joseph Bottum writes a long and excellent essay on the fall of Mainline Protestanism in America and the political ramifications thereof. He makes the case for the concern that I express above. I could spend weeks detailing through this essay with you, but will leave it to you to read the whole thing. I would even recommend reading it several times. Here is a telling sample:

    Just as religion is damaged when the churches see themselves as political movements, so politics is damaged when political platforms act as though they were religions. And perhaps more than merely damaged. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the killing fields of Cambodia, the cultural revolution in China: We had terrible experiences in the twentieth century when political and economic theories succeeded in posing themselves as religions.

    We’re not on the edge of something that frightening today. But the death of Protestant America really has weakened both Christianity and public life in the ­United States—for when the Mainline died, it took with it to the grave the vocabulary in which both criticism and support of the nation could be effective.

    There is one observation that he makes that bears particular discussion:

    Perhaps some joining of Catholics and evangelicals, in morals and manners, could achieve the social unity in theological difference that characterized the old Mainline. But the vast intellectual resources of Catholicism still sound a little odd in the American ear, just as the enormous reservoir of evangelical faith has been unable, thus far, to provide a widely accepted moral rhetoric.

    I think the path may be a bit different, but he is onto something here. With the death of Mainline Protestantism there has indeed been a great deal of intellectual underpinning lost, and the Catholic Church remains the best resource from which to regain that vital necessity, but Evangelicalism seems to be mired in endless bickering and minutiae. Frankly much of Evangelicalism would be as opposed to Catholics as they are to Mormons. Oh, how many times I have been treated to diatribes against the “papists” and “Mary worshippers.”

    If there is an analog to what mainline Protestanism used to be in our society today it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Growing, not dying – the essential ethos, if not the theological correctness, of the traditional Mainlines is very alive and well in the CJCLDS. Like Evangelicalism, the CJCLDS lacks the intellectual history, depth and resources to see to completion the task Bottum lays out, but unlike Evangelicals, Mormons seems quite content to work with Roman Catholics. Mormons currently lack the numbers to render such a coalition truly effective, but that is something that is changing on a daily basis.

    Needless to say, I have my concerns about the eternal destination of my Mormon friends – I’ll trust my God to work that one out. I do, however, think that on a societal level Mormons may represent the best hope our nation has for restoring the consenual ethos that formed, and has sustained, this nation.

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    A Romney/Biden Debate – Warm Up The Laugh Track

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:12 am, August 23rd 2008     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    One of the cool things about doing a blog like this is that you get to meet really interesting people that KNOW things.  They are called sources and sometimes they have to remain anonymous.   Some of ours indicate that Romney has been the only name consistently on McCain’s short list for V.P. – something that shows real wisdom on McCain’s part.

    Yesterday’s announcement by Barak Obama (following Hugh Hewitt‘s example, insert the fanfare from Jesus Christ Superstar here) of Joe Biden as his V.P. selection simply makes McCain’s wisdom that much more apparent.  As I picture a Romney/Biden vice presidential debate in my mind, I see Tyson/Spinks.

    Biden brings to the Dem ticket the appearance of seriousness.  Romney is the only name floating for Republican Veep that can bring a better C.V. and actually add substance to the appearance.  Both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito handled Biden very well in their confirmation hearings, and Romney brings a similar education and training the table.  Romney also brings the amazing success and breadth of his business and Olympic experience to bear.  Much has been made of Biden’s ability to add experience in foreign affairs to the Dem ticket.  Well, not that John McCain lacks anything in that area, but Romney’s Olympic experience is, almost by definition, one of the most complex diplomatic tasks a person can face.

    The only possible downside to a Romney V.P. selection is The Question.   As we analyzed earlier this week, McCain’s outstanding performance at last weekend’s Saddleback Forum has set the stage to put The Question to bed.

    Mitt’s the man – no question about it.

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