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."

  • Quote for the weekend: January 31, 2009

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 12:08 pm, January 31st 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    “That’s one of the more frightening things I’ve seen in a long time. . . . There’s no mistakes in advertising.”

    Donny Deutsch on Hardball, responding to a question about Mike Huckabee’s Christmastime “cross” ad in Iowa.

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    Quick Links – Hits That Came As If On Cue

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:26 am, January 29th 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Yesterday I compared the extreme expressions of Evangelicalism to a cancer.  Not in response, but as if on cue, some new material has appeared on the same subject.  Hugh Hewitt interviewed theologian J.P. Moreland on Christians and their view of politics.  Not sure I agree entirely with Moreland’s approach – but I certainly agree with this:

    JPM: Well, I think Evangelicals have failed to develop a political philosophy that’s holistic. I think instead, they’ve tended to be issue-based rather than having an entire approach to government. 

    And then, something of a firebrand in the traditional Christian blogging world, the Internet Monk, predicts the collapse of Evangelicalism.  In discussing the why’s, iMonk says:

    Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences.

    I am not entirely sure that Evangelicals have purposefully pursued this identification, I think in many instances it has been pressed on them, but regardless, it exists – and it is problematic.  I have always contended here that politics will corrupt religion far more than religion could possibly corrupt politics, and I think that is the case in this instance.  When religion becomes identified as the political, the religion ceases to be.

    This is where I have an issue with Moreland – he dives back into the question “What does the Bible say about…?”  If we try and press a Biblical, heck for purposes of this blog let’s say “scriptural,” viewpoint on every issue, then we approach that issue in politics as if exercising the authority of the Almighty.   The religion is now fully politicized, the identity made and the decline begins.

    If, on the other hand, religion exercises its primary purpose – to make better people – and those better people then come to bear by doing politics and being political, then religion and government stay separate, religion is protected, and government functions well in a religiously diverse society.  Politically exercising divine authority is a recipe for absolutism in one of its many ugly forms – and that is not what has made America great these last centuries – nor American religion.

    Lowell:  Hurrah!  Hurrah!  And amen!

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    Remembering The Basics

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:37 am, January 28th 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    “Evangelicalism” has rapidly, in the last few decades, changed from movement inside the church to near-religion in and of itself. This has been fueled in part by the political activism it undertook starting vaguely in the Carter years, but taking real shape under Reagan. There is a problem with this; however.

    Evangelicalism can, in its ultimate forms, be much like a cancer. Its devotion to reproducing new Christians is so manically focused, so uni-directional, that is produces Christians without purpose. Like cancer which reproduces rapidly, but produces useless cells that interfere with the working of normal cells. So Evangelicalism seems to produce Christians that interfere with the better workings of the church.

    This was driven home to me deeply by ths post “The Point”, a blog of Colson staffers. It looks, briefly, at atrocities committed in North Korean death camps, and then links to a deeply insightful Weekly Standard piece of what has become of the idea of “human rights.” In the middle of the piece, Joseph Laconte, summarizes the problem succinctly:

    How did we arrive at this dismal state of affairs? The problem is not simply that human rights have become grossly politicized. The problem is that rights have been profoundly secularized–and severed from their deepest moral foundation, the concept of man as the imago Dei, the image of God.

    America is widely acknowledged as the most religious nation on earth. But it strikes me that the religious folk of America, largely now “Evangelicals,” spent so much time trying to make (somehow, although in politics I have no idea how it can be done) new Christians, that they ignore the very basics like this.

    The Republican party crumbled into bits this last cycle.  One of the bigger fracture lines was religious.  A certain segment of Evangelicals – those that see church as a purely reproductive instrument – flocked to “No Chance Huckabee,” apparently because he was “the most Christian.”  This left far more able and more broadly conservative candidates like Giuliani, Thompson and Romney unable to pull a winning coalition together.  John McCain was, simply, the last man standing.  For the sake of some misplaced sense of doctrinal purity we let a president into office that will contribute to this slide of basic human rights. We elected a Congress that will more than help him.

    Evangelicals need to learn there is more to being the church than making new Christians. The church is a multi-functional organism. One of the fundamental functions is keeping people alive. It’s hard to covert them after they are dead – particularly at the hands of evil.

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    The Right Has Its “Nutroots” Too…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:50 am, January 27th 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    . . . and they seem to like issuing news releases.  The last time we looked at a press release it was chastising Dobson organization for carrying a Glenn Beck interview because Beck is a Mormon.  That lead to days of controversy.  (See herehere, here, and here.)  Well, here we go again.  This time “conservative leaders” are calling for Jed Babbin’s job (does anybody besides me see echoes of the GBLT activists’ strategy in the wake of Prop 8 in this move?) because:

    The editor of what was Ronald Reagan’s favorite conservative weekly, Human Events, Babbin only recently admitted in an explosive radio interview that Mitt Romney illegally instituted same-sex “marriage” and $50 government-funded abortions.

    Now, the first thing to remember is that the press release was made by Gregg Jackson, the radio talk show host who conducted this “explosive interview,” and its sole purpose was  get people to his web site and listening to clips of his show.  The release also bashes Fred Thompson and John McCain on their record on abortion, but it contains special vitriol for Romney:

    On numerous occasions, Jackson and others had gone to great lengths to share Romney’s far left wing record with Babbin and other writers at Human Events such as Ann Coulter, David Limbaugh and John Gizzi, but they all chose to suppress Romney’s radical record in Massachusetts and in doing so deceived countless conservative readers.

    If you go to this guy’s web site, (and I don’t recommend it – I hate to supply the link, but providing documentation of my claims demands it) he bashes even George W. Bush.

    Unless this release gains more momentum I am going to leave an actual refutation of it lie – there is no sense arguing with an absolutist who is clearly beyond reason.  I will, however, ask a simple question:  If indeed virtually the entire Republican, and hence broadly conservative, leadership is so terribly inadequate, why is such special and thorough bile reserved for Romney?

    I think we know the answer.

    Lowell adds:  Well, I visited Mr. Jackson’s site and really invite any clear-thinking person to do so.  You’ll quickly see his colors.  For example, in this article, from February 4, 2008, he explains why he is supporting . . . you guessed it, Mike Huckabee for president.   It is actually kind of a fun rant to read, until one sees the special anti-Romney vitriol that Jackson uses on Romney, as John notes.  Remember that the kinds of falsehoods and distortions Jackson uses were apparently believed by many people. People like him are a disgrace to American politics, and I think he’s just as harmful as the crowd at the Daily Kos and MoveOn.org.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Electability | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    A Cautionary Thought

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:07 am, January 24th 2009     &mdash      3 Comments »

    This week saw a rather dubious anniversary – the decision in Roe v Wade.  This caused the predictable ripple effect throughout the Evangelical blogosphere of posts about the sanctity of life – an issue on which I am in TOTAL agreement with my Evangelical brethren.  But many of the posts had a very defensive ring to them.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, or even give you a specific link – there was just a fervor in them and posture that seemed out-of-place with the situation.

    Many in Evangelical political activism claim to be “issue only.”  That is to say they are concerned about abortion and/or marriage, but they do not back candidates, parties, etc.  Now, in the case of churches or charitable organization claiming a tax exempt status of some sort,  such is pretty well forced on them by current tax codes.   Nothing we can do about that short of changing the law.  I’m talking more about the “action groups” that are set up as separate but related organization, specifically for the purpose of direct  political activity.  Can they be effective and be “issue only?”

    I don’t think so.  In the end it is the elected officials that get things done, and that means we have to ally with them if we want our particular issue to carry the day.  In order to ally with them, they should expect our support on more than a single issue.  Parties are the cement that hold such alliances together.

    If a person or group operates as “issue only,” it is a form of self-segregation.  It is kind of like going to the party and not really talking to anyone – just hanging around the buffet and saying “I’m only here for the food.”  Not very gracious, nor productive.  You can stand on your high horse and say “I don’t drink and dance,” which is fine, you don’t have to to join the party and mix and mingle with people.

    A major factor in the Repubican debacle of the last election was the fracturing and unreliability of Evangelicals.  As the party starts to put itself back together any constituency group, but especially in this instance Evangelicals, are faced with a choice – they can join the party or they can find themselves outside, not even welcome at the buffet.

    It’s time for Evangelicals to get serious about politics or go home.  Yes – life and marriage first – but not only.  Embrace candidates, embrace the party.  Conduct yourselves in the fashion you feel lead to conduct yourselves.  If you must view politics as a pig sty (it’s not, but that is a discussion for a different time) it is possible to walk through a sty and get a pig without getting filthy.  Do that.  Drop the petulance and do the hard work.

    Know this, if you don’t – abortion will never be controlled and the destruction of the family is inevitable.   Think about it.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Political Strategy | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Just Thinking…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:01 am, January 22nd 2009     &mdash      5 Comments »

    …that this story on the inaugural prayer service was pretty hard to find.

    A bevy of religious leaders, including the first woman to preach at an inaugural prayer service, gave newly sworn-in President Obama plenty of spiritual advice Wednesday.

    In some circles the inclusion of female clergy would be highly controversial in and of itself, but this included this little gem:

    Eight people representing various religions read aloud prayers for the nation, including gynecologist Dr. Uma V. Mysorekar, President of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. She was the first Hindu woman asked to appear at the event. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, was also in the group, as was the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.

    In all this diversity, where’s the Mormon?  If the idea is to demonstrate religious diversity, Mormons are a huge religious presence in the United States- numbers alone should demand their presence.  If the idea is to showcase politically liberal religiously motivated groups, I know there are liberal Mormons out there.

    So what can we conclude?  Well, I would bet the “diversity” mavens behind this affair did not consider the Mormons distinct enough from your common ordinary Christians to warrant special inclusion.  Either that or an event designed to showcase diversity flat out discriminated and I find that unlikely.

    The lesson we should draw from this is that on the political stage, the divisiveness between Mormons and more orthodox forms of Christianity serves only as weakness.  By analogy consider that the Army and the Navy are very distinct military forces with very different missions and views on war-fighting.  The political battles between the two in the Pentagon are legendary.   But when the war is on, they work together to win – the enemy could care less about their Pentagon internal distinctions.  If they did not work together in war, a smart enemy would exploit that division.

    I think religiously motivated, politically active people really need to figure that one out.

    Lowell adds:  I couldn’t agree more.  As the the comments reflect, LDS people struggle with the treatment they feel they are getting from their Evangelical cousins.  I’m fresh out of solutions, unfortunately.  Someone in the Evangelical leadership needs to show some courage and leadership in this regard.  Sadly, those who do, like Richard Mouw, are attacked  for doing so.  Here’s another example.

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

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