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."

  • Looking For Our Readers To React

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:02 am, March 31st 2009     &mdash      8 Comments »

    From The Christian Post:

    “During these down times, the demands and needs are great for families and ministries alike,” Huckabee said. “In many cases, families are turning to churches for assistance with food, clothing and other basics. Yet churches have to deal with less resources to meet those needs.”

    The former Southern Baptist preacher and denominational leader warned that the troubled economy might have a detrimental effect on the work of churches and ministries if funds cannot be generated in new and creative ways.

    Huckabee, an official spokesperson for Christian Values Network, will introduce the organization as a new way to help generate funds for churches and faith-based charities worldwide.

    Christian Values Network is a free service that allows members to shop online at nearly 900 popular internet retailers who in turn pay a referral fee for every purchase made by a CVN member. A portion of the referral fee is given to the ministry of choice indicated by the CVN member.

    “I believe God has established Christian Values Network for this unique time and place to help ministries in lean times,” said Huckabee, who serves as an advisor to Christian Values Network. “They are providing a very simple and practical solution: using people’s everyday Internet purchases to support their chosen organization.”

    This strikes me as the old Huckster taking advantage of the current economic downturn to turn a paycheck, and trying to dress it up as “the Christian thing to do.”  Many questions arise from something like this.  Does this help or hurt his 2012 aspirations? (Does he really have them?)  Actions like this are highly controversial in the creedal Christian community for theological reasons I will not go into here.  How about the Mormon community?

    Can I set aside my now natural and ingrained cynicism about all things Huckster and comment on this without expletive or vomit?  Probably without vomit, but maybe not expletive, which is why we seek reader reaction.  Have at it.

    Lowell chimes in:  In Mormonism the type of referral scheme in which Huckabee has gotten involved does not necessarily raise doctrinal issues; it is just not the way we do things.  Our church’s financial and welfare system is large and complex, but based on simple principles:  personal sacrifice (through tithing); reliance on family first, then the church; volunteer labor to produce goods and services for the needy; no dole, but a “hand up, instead of a hand out;” and no overhead costs for assistance to the poor.  Huckabee’s plan looks more like mutual back-scratching among members of a faith community.  I am not sure that is a good idea, especially on an organized basis, but it doesn’t bother me theologically.  Economically it looks a little like a scam because nothing of value is being created, simply referral fees.  What it doesn’t look like is something “God has established.”

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Miscellany, Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | 8 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Press, Religion and The Uphill Battle

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:45 am, March 25th 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    William Schneider, the CNN political commentator, once declared, “The press . . . doesn’t get religion”…

    Read this rest of this fascinating First Things piece here.  There are few areas where blogging is more important.  This is just proof of that fact.  Please read.

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    Fine Lines

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:07 am, March 21st 2009     &mdash      3 Comments »

    The former Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, an admitted supporter of same-sex marriage, predicts the California Supremes will uphold Prop 8 and says it is a good thing.

    In fact, the current status of the same-sex marriage issue in our society is largely the product of a critical distinction between state constitutional law and federal constitutional law. Simply put, state constitutional interpretation is not reserved exclusively for judges. The methods by which voters may amend state constitutions, although varying from state to state, are far more flexible than the process by which the U.S. Constitution may be amended. A decision of the U.S. Supreme Court may be “overturned” by constitutional amendment, but that event is rare. It has happened only four times in our nation’s history, and once, it required a civil war. In contrast, in the past decade, citizens in more than two dozen states have amended their constitutions through popular vote to reverse or forestall favorable consideration of gay marriage claims. State courts stand at the intersection where constitutional law meets direct democracy. Indeed, the progressive movement engineered the traffic pattern. The road may lead to direct judicial recognition of same-sex marriage, unencumbered by voter amendment, as in Massachusetts and Connecticut, or it may lead to court decisions — such as those in Vermont, New Jersey and California — that find a constitutional right to all the rights and benefits of marriage. But every state constitutional court must acknowledge that in a system that preserves the right of citizens to amend their constitutions, a judicial decision may be the opening argument in a process that preserves the ultimate constitutional authority of the people. 

    One is tempted to like what one reads here, but it is also an argument for progressives for the federalization of marriage regulation – which strikes me as a terribly bad idea.  And then, a LDS member in Iowa comments on what he sees as anti-Mormon bigotry endemic in . . . Utah?!

    I noticed that after Utah and BYU athletic events, many bloggers simply use the occasion to display anti-Mormon hatred that had little relevance to the actual game. After a recent BYU loss, readers wrote items such as: “The Angel Moroni must have been taking a smoke break to allow this to have happened!” “On the bright side, Coug fans . . . at least you’ll have your whole Saturday to gamble, drink and hit the strip clubs before you go to church tomorrow.” A common assertion is that “BYU is the most hated team in America.” This is an irrational but characteristic statement of those who think like bigots.    

    Fascinating observations, and I am struck with two contrary reactions.  The one observation is that is pretty ugly stuff, really nasty and bigoted (but also common to comments made about almost all religion-based schools) and the other is the caution that we have discussed here before that it is easy for Mormons to overplay the victim card after the last election cycle.The author observes parallels between Utah and the deep South.  I have a lot of experience in the South (born at the University of Mississippi in 1957 ) and have travelled rural, southern Utah quite a bit, although Salt Lake City and environs not so much.  I see the parallels in that there is a real sense of segregation in Utah, but how much deeper it goes, I am not sure.In the modern South, the segregation is accomodated by both sides.  The real barriers are down, but few African-Americans choose to cross the border, thus it remains somewhat segregated if not institutionally so.  My point is that attitudes, on both sides, are what maintain towns that you can draw a line through and divide.  In such situations, is it better to cry “bigotry,” or take the risk and cross the border?Two stories…two fine lines…one legal the other attitudinal.  Tough decisions all the way around.

    Lowell adds:  Regarding the so-called bigotry in Utah, it is difficult to compare that state to the rest of the USA.  The “us” and “them” problem is one everyone there has stuggled with for 150 years.  Add in the often bitter BYU-University of Utah sports rivalry, and you have a subject that encompasses much more than simple religious bigotry.  There are idiots involved in every sports rivalry, and the Utah-BYU rivalry is no exception. (Full disclosure:  I am a Utah grad and avid sports fan of that fine institution.  I also recognize that there are probably more rivalry-related idiots on my side than on the BYU side.  But we don’t have the exclusive franchise on such folks, I’m afraid.)  Bottom line:  There may be bigotry, but the sports rivalry is not the place to hunt it down or stamp it out.    

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    What Might Have Been

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:27 am, March 18th 2009     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Romney Speaks.  Read it – sigh heavily – move on.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Miscellany | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Beating A Dead Horse?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:10 am, March 17th 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Why was this written?  Jeremy Lott, writing at the very conservative American Spectator, compares Dr. Manhattan of the newly released Watchmen fame to the Mormon idea of elevated humanity?!  If you know me you had to know this one was going to catch my eye. I’m an owner of an original set of comic books comprising the now classic Watchmen graphic novel (along with a large collection of other comics) and a purveyor of all things Mormon in the public eye – I cannot let this lie.

    This piece came out yesterday – a week after the movie’s opening.  The movie had a good opening weekend and will do well over time (DVD sales will be killer), but it is not the blockbuster the advertising build-up tried to create.  Big talk about what Mormons believe died when Romney withdrew.  So again, why this now?

    Well, if you are really watching there is little doubt there are a bunch of people jockeying for position in the GOP – Romney among them.  Could Lott be trying to subtly influence that jostle by sawing on what should be a dead horse?  Comparing a religion to a comic hero is hardly complementary; it reduces the faith the the purview of fan-boy geekdom (guilty of fan-boy geekdom though I may be).   You would think with Mitt Romney being THE preeminent economy candidate Republicans would be lookng to shove him front and center – or at a minimum let those far more salient factors decide things rather than this nonsense.

    Or is Lott trying to “mainstream” Mormonism by the comparison?  I vividly recall the absolute wave of literature in the wake of the original Star Wars movie (yes, I’m that old)  in which primarily Evangelicals, but really the religious of many stripes, tried to show how “the force” was indicative of their faith.  My opinion, it was a bad idea for Evangelicals then and, if that is the game Lott is up to, bad idea for Mormons now.

    Or another theory – if you hang around in comic book shops (guilty!), they are festooned with all things Obama.  Missed me, during the election my hobby was on a bit of hiatus,  but apparently Obama had a whole “new media” outreach to the comic book community – a burgeoning demographic.  Apparently we are supposed to think we have a true comic geek in the white house.  (Call me when he has original Jack Kirby art hanging in the Oval Office, until then, I am going with marketing ploy here.)  Could Lott be trying to do the same thing for Romney?  If so, this is not the way to do it.  Marketing Romney based on his faith is a proven loser.

    Chances are good this is just a writer having a dry spell and a deadline, but there is the law of unintended consequences.

    Lowell adds:  I vote for the “dry spell and a deadline” explanation.  Lott describes himself as a protestant convert to Catholicism, and he has written about Romney’s religion before as in this piece about Romney’s big speech in December 2007.  His prior work seems fair to Mormons, and he seems to have a fairly decent grasp of Mormonism.  Even so, in the Spectator piece John links to Lott gets Mormon doctrine wrong in a few places and the whole thing seems a little silly.   I think Lott was just musing about things.

    UPDATE:  Our reader Lee Allred comments:

    I read the Jeremy Lott aricle and thought it a bit off the mark, but otherwise quite benign.

    Having said that, Lott does miss the big picture in his comparison.  The salient fact about Dr. Mahattan is that his ascendency to ‘godhood’ has had the effect of removoing him from the affairs of humanity entirely.  He neither cares for, of, or about humankind.  Or even spares us much thought at all.

    Nothing could be further from the Mormon concept of God.  If anything, Mormons take flack for believing that God is too involved with, too caring of modern mortal men on a continual and day-to-day basis.

    Lott didn’t mean ill, he just missed the big picture.

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    “Big Love:” A very appropriate piece by Orson Scott Card

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 01:22 pm, March 14th 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Orson Scott Card writes in National Review about this weekend’s much-ballyhooed “Big Love” episode.  Much of what he says might as well have been an Article VI Blog post.  For example: 

    [W]hile we [Mormons] don’t like what Big Love is doing, we’re not doing much about it. We’ve learned by observation that protests and boycotts merely increase the publicity, and therefore the viewership, of such hostile productions as the Big Love temple episode.

    So the church’s official advice to its members is: Ignore it. (See this, for more.)

    . . .

    Most Mormons are seeing the Big Love temple episode in the context of the recent outpouring of hatred and bile from those who most vehemently opposed Proposition 8.

    Mormons have been targeted for business boycotts; some have lost their jobs because they contributed to the campaign to defend marriage.

    The result is that few of us have any desire to act as the worst of our opponents have acted. After someone has boycotted a friend’s business, it makes it a bit harder for you to want to call for a boycott.

    By and large, while we’d prefer that everybody handle differences of opinion peacefully, we’d rather be persecuted than be the persecutors. The few times in our history when we have departed from that principle, the results have shamed us for generations. Tolerance works better.

    I agree with Card, by and large, but I think the difficulty lies in knowing when to speak out, and how loudly, in response to attacks.  In politics, for example, a candidate cannot often turn the other cheek when religiously-based whisper campaigns are under way. 

    As far as the HBO show goes, my guess is that this latest kerfluffle will pass without much impact on anyone or anything.

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