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"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

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Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:00 am, November 30th 2009     —    4 Comments »

If you do not know who G.K. Chesterton is, you should. He is the greatest British popularizer of Christian faith, save perhaps for C.S. Lewis.  Chesterton’s writings are a source of great wisdom and quotations.  Speaking of which, I recently ran across this one from his book What’s Wrong With The World (p 22-23):

It’s not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay a difference of creed unites men—so long as it is a clear difference. . . .  So a Tory can walk up to the very edge of Socialism if he knows what Socialism is. But if he is told that Socialism is a spirit, a sublime atmosphere, a noble indefinable tendency, why then he keeps out of its way; and quite right too. One can meet an assertion with an argument; but a healthy bigotry is the only way in which one can meet a tendency.

As I reprinted that, it dawns on my that my Mormon readers may take exception to the appearance of the word “creed” and presume I am about to take a swipe at the Mormon lack thereof.  Not at all the case.  My intention in presenting this quotation is to point out that the source of much of the distrust between some Creedals and Mormons is because those Creedals have so little firm understanding of what they believe.  Because their faith has been reduced to a label or brand of some sort, they must defend territory instead of argue reasonably.   That, frankly is why I started with this blog – I knew that prejudice against Mitt Romney was a sign of the decline of my faith and I hope that by fighting it, my faith can be preserved.

Unfortunately, those same people are pretty much the same way about the G.O.P.  Jon Meacham offered a pretty radical solution to that problem over the long weekend – nominate Dick Cheney for president.  Cheney is a great guy and a good man and would frankly make an outstanding president, but the idea is radical because he is more polarizing than Sarah Palin and therefore unelectable; and because as best as I understand it, he would be running serious personal risk given his various health maladies – something I would not ask any candidate to do no matter how good they are.

But alas, I think we are in for more stuff like this . . .

The Manhattan Declaration

Last week saw the release of “The Manhattan Declaration.“  This is a statement of political principles and priorities, signed by almost all of the biggest names in Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical circles, as a joint statement of where we will draw the line on the key social issues of our time.  It’s a marvelous document and you may join the signers online — we urge you to.  As William Murchinson pointed out, it is sad and surprising that such a document is necessary in the United States of America.  But it certainly is something everyone seems to hang their agenda upon.

Interestingly, as was pointed out by the biggest anti-Mormon loudmouth on the left in California (think Prop 8.) it has no Mormon signatories.  You would think that the fact that such a leftie loudmouth was pointing that out would be a clue that someone wanted to drive a wedge between Mormons and the rest of the Christian religious right – to the detriment of the concerns expressed in the declaration.  But some people just cannot help themselves, I guess.

Based largely on the fact that the PR for the declaration is being handled by our friend Mark DeMoss’ (a prominent evangelical Romney backer last time around) firm, a number of what can only be described as the right’s very own nutroots have decided, despite the lack of Mormon participation, that the whole thing is a “front” for a Romney candidacy.  Consider this guythis guythis guy and this thread at Free Republic.  This in spite of the fact that David Frum thinks the thing is exclusionary for Romney.  (Frum’s comment must have been written under the influence of too much Thanksgiving cheer and with little thought – see my comments below Lowell’s)

The claim that it is a front for Romney is so nonsensical that I am not entirely sure where to put a stake in to start arguing about it.  The holiday weekend has put a damper on things a bit, but we have put out a number of phone calls to contacts, many of whom were instrumental in the drafting of the document, or are major signatories.  I doubt seriously that a Romney candidacy even entered into the discussion, but we’ll confirm it.  As to DeMoss’ participation, that’s just silly.  If you want PR in the circles this thing is aimed at, you call Mark DeMoss – he’s the man in that area, it is no more complex than that.

Oh, one more thing before we move on for now.  Many of the prominent signatories are people that we named as “bad actors” on the right in our summary of campaign ’08 series, most notably Joel Belz who wrote the only truly bigoted piece from the right through the entire campaign.

Once we have heard from our contacts, we’ll likely put this thing to bed as the nut cases getting lose, but until then we’ll keep an eye peeled.

Meanwhile, There Is An “Invisible Primary” Going On…

Sarah Palin’s “anointing” is complete.  Yeah, she met Billy Graham.  Now here is what I am thinking about this.  Graham does not do candidates, has not since Nixon made him look the fool.  Even in his doddering years, Graham has not lost control of his faculties.  He did not “endorse” Palin in any way, but he is not seeing many people in his latter years either, so a lot of people are going to read this as his “endorsement.”  I think the opposite – I think for him to do this, he had assurances she was not going to run.  Just one man’s educated guess.

But I think her book tour success explains this:

MIKE HUCKABEE, on “Fox News Sunday,” told Chris Wallace that a 2012 presidential bid is “less than likely,” and depends on whether Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News, keeps liking his eponymous weekend talk show. “The reason I wouldn’t is that this Fox gig I’ve got is really wonderful, ” Huckabee said.

Pawlenty is having a hard time finding political oxygen.  Heck in some circles with Palin’s book tour going on, even Obama is having a hard time finding political air.  But this idea, that Pawlenty wins by being “least offensive,” completely misreads the base at the moment.  That was last election and the base is just too angry for it to happen again.

Finally, Romney is not polling that well at the moment.  I chalk it up to his actually, you know, working hard to elect other Republicans instead of posturing like Huckabee and media-grabbing like Palin.  Way, way too long until this gets serious to worry about it anyway.

Is The Catholic Church . . .

calling the shots in Washington? — Or Not?  Of course not – what they are doing is what they think is best on an issue-by-issue basis.  That’s the traditional stance for religious organizations in general, but I am beginning to wonder if they ought not get deeper.  In the end its the candidates that matter.  Should the church, any church, endorse?  Worthy of discussion as we move forward here.

Lowell chiming in . . .

I was wondering why the Manhattan Declaration included only Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox signatories, but we have an answer to that question.  In response to a direct question from Hugh Hewitt during Hugh’s show Monday, Nov. 23,  Chuck Colson said that the Declaration’s drafters did not invite Mormons or Jews to join in their efforts because of the doctrinal differences between those faiths and Creedal Christianity.  (No transcript available yet; the pod cast is here; subscription is required.)  The drafters, Colson said, knew that the Mormons and Jews could not sign the Declaration because of those differences, and did not want to “embarrass” them by inviting them to sign.  Having read the declaration, I see Colson’s point: at the beginning the document makes clear that the signers are trinitarian.  Neither Mormons nor Jews could ever sign, as much as they might agree with 95% of what the Manhattan Declaration says.  In short, its drafters decided that the Declaration needed to be a highly doctrinal statement.

We are still learning about the Declaration, so I will reserve judgment on the question of whether it should have been broader-based.  Politically, having made it broader would have made all the sense in the world; but if a doctrinal statement was intended, then I see nothing exclusionary or conspiratorial about leaving non-Creedals out.

John responds briefly: There is a group, particularly inside Evangelicalism, that thinks everything is doctrine.  They are a large part of the “take their ball and go home” contingent amongst the religiously motivated on the political right.

Last cycle we saw a number of people get stuck on making sure we all knew the doctrinal distinctions with Mormons, Jews, and for some even Catholics, seemingly in preparation of saying “Mormons are cool politically; however,”  Although, that discussion never got off square one when Huckabee entered the picture.  My guess is trying to build a political coalition while delineating the doctrinal differences is what is at root here – making this only step one.  Regardless of a Romney candidacy or not, in the end, conservative Mormons and Jews have to a be part of the coalition for us to succeed, as Prop 8 so clearly demonstrated.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all, in the end, plays out.  It may be that the “doctrine is everything” crowd will ally with Mormons only in a way analogous to how we allied with Stalin in  WWII.   We can do better because when it comes to politics, I do not think we need to be that distrusting of Mormons, but maybe it’s a “baby steps” thing.


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