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."

  • Some “Light” Holiday Reading

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:36 am, December 28th 2009     &mdash      3 Comments »

    The holidays are in fullest swing as far as we are concerned, but the “pile of stuff” is getting deep so we are going to pass it on to you – much with minimal comment.  Keep enjoying your holidays!

    About Idaho . . .

    Wednesday, we called to task some guy that is running for Governor in Idaho for invoking his Mormonism in the race.  Looks like the LDS church has joined us.  That’s the end of that issue.

    Spotlight on Evangelicals . . .

    Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemies.  Just when we start to get some press, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, about the burgeoning intellectualism in Evangelicalism, we do things that seem to defy that.  Our media produces fear mongering pieces about very real problems instead of helping people to get their heads around the depths of the problem and how to combat it – or at least producing something a bit more sober.  We reduce a faith system to a media image thing.

    Some things to remember – As Ryan Anderson points out at The Corner, writing about a NYTimes Magazine article in the same vein as the WSJ piece, and Matt Anderson considers about the WSJ piece, there is nothing really new about intellectualism in Evangelical circles.  Not to mention that much of the intellectual work from the left is, well, bunk.

    We seem to be at war with ourselves.  Even leftie Garrison Keillor is in on the act.  Although some wonder if he is kidding.

    I like this approach better:

    In the first centuries, the church found itself with a rich array of religious writing. Gnosticism was a heresy produced a great deal of writing. The popular conception is that the early church repressed gnostic writings. While they early church wrote much against these heresies … the repression charge is somewhat hard to sustain given that the extant surviving gnostic literature is found in monastic libraries. The Early church theologians and monastics did not discard these writings because while much in them was heretical and wrong … you could find in them valuable alternative ways of writing about or thinking about the Gospel and God. To put it crudely, they panned and filtered these for the gold they contained discarding the dross. This might be a better analogy when approaching another tradition. Let, “Look for the gold” be your motto.

    We’ve thought for a long time that the usefulness of the term and category “Evangelical” was about over.  This seems to be proof.  Everybody wants to appropriate it for their own, which means it means or stands for nothing other than what the current speaker wants it to.  That’s a pretty useless word.

    The Political/Religious Landscape . . .

    Some sins continue to haunt, and should.

    Meaningless at this juncture, but fun to consider.

    Somehow a feature story in Newsweek disqualifies one as “unknown.

    Interesting, but possibly problematic in the future.

    You know, I was born in Mississippi, I wonder what this says about me?  (Pure aside involving the University of Mississippi [Ole Miss] where I was born: go see The Blind Side before the holidays are over – please.  You’ll thank me.)

    What’s going on with some once great political sites?  Red State and Free Republic have gone over some conservative edge.  Red State has gone Tea Party “purgist” and Free Republic?  Well, their hatred of Romney is religious in its intensity, if not at its root.

    This’ll never happen – but I will bet you even money that places like the aforementioned Red State and Free Republic will start seeing conspiracy theories in it.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

    Lowell adds . . .

    The LDS Church’s statement, which is clearly directed at Rex Rammell, deserves a couple of comments:

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is politically neutral and does not endorse or promote any candidate, party or platform.  Accordingly, we hope that the campaign practices of political candidates would not suggest that their candidacy is supported by or connected to the church.

    “The so-called ‘White Horse Prophecy’ is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine.”

    (Emphasis added.)  First, although I haven’t done any research, I think an official statement of  this nature is unprecedented.  It seems to me that the Church is actively protecting its image from those who would use it to their own ends.  According to the article Rammell plans to go ahead with his meeting.  I predict that the attendance of LDS members, which might not have been all that high anyway, will be down.  The percentage of politically very extreme members – not representative of the overall U.S, membership at all – will still be quite high.

    Second, the statement asks candidates to refrain from claiming not only that their campaigns are “supported by” the Church, but also that they are “connected to” the Church.  That is quite significant.  I take it to mean that the Church doesn’t want candidates running around emphasizing their LDS membership and implying that their candidacy is consistent with or supported by Church principles or doctrine.  That’s exactly what Rammell tried to do, and I am one Mormon who is glad he did not get away with it.  More about all this, and additional links, here.

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    Christmas Thoughts

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:43 am, December 25th 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Michael Novak at “The Corner” (reprinted in total because it is too good not to)

    Those of us who are of Catholic mind do not believe that the Enlightenment began with Kant (“What is Enlightenment?”), or Locke or Newton, or even with Descartes. We cherish Plato, Aristotle, Cicero. But the first Enlightenment began with Christ Our Lord.

    It was only with the Christ that EQUALITY meant every human being, barring none. From then on, no one was “barbarian.” Each bore in his own soul the mark of being called to be a dwelling of the Father and the Son — being called beyond all other calls a son of God. Neither mother nor father, neither civil society nor state, can answer to this call for you or me. None has any deeper bond or precedence than the relation of Creator and human creature. It is a bond of Spirit and Truth.

    Thus was revealed each human’s LIBERTY primordial, and in that liberty, EQUALITY with all. No other but self can say to the the Father “No,” or “Yes.” That choice is for each single one of us inalienable. That choice brings each into the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of all who are equal in the sight of God.

    And that is how universal FRATERNITY became a human principle and an object of our striving.

    Moreover, a singular feature of the coming of the Christ is that all have access to him — rich pagan kings riding from the East, Roman centurions (those who would put him to death, even they), Jew and Greek, and those of every nation, station, and state of virtue or of sin. From Bethlehem went out the message of the First Globalization — the global call to become one human family. But only by the narrow path of the free choice of each.

    This was the First Enlightenment. There has been no deeper nor more all-embracing since.

    From the streaming light of the marks of Christ’s coming — LIBERTY, FRATERNITY, EQUALITY — the Second Enlightenment (of Newton, Locke, Kant, Voltaire, and all the others) is derivative. Except that the second one would like to have these ideals, this vision, without God. And, if possible, while destroying the Christian Church. “Strangling the last king with the intestines of the last pope.” A dream of bloodshed. Christophobia.

    And now we enter a period in the United States in which it is no longer true that our courts and laws consider ours a civilization uplifted by Christianity. Hatred for Christianity is running deeper, swifter. The day is upon us in which priests, bishops, evangelicals of all kinds, lay and clerical and of all Christian communities will be sent to jail.

    To vote one’s conscience, or even to speak one’s conscience, on the matter of homosexual “marriage” more and more brings torrents of abuse.

    The day has come, in the minds of some in power, that it is an abuse of human rights to hold abortion wrong. One would have thought that cutting short a life violates the natural right of the independent human being in the womb, just as surely as enslavement used to do. Turning things the other way, today some hold that for a doctor to refuse to take part in the abortion of a living child is to violate a woman’s right to kill the living one she carries.

    If Christians must suffer even for the truths of reason that they hold, how will that be different from the first century after Christ was born, and many more? The world became Christian once by the hearing of the word. That did not prevent every one of the first apostles from being thrown in jail. The tradition may be coming back.

    The cautionary note that Novak sounds is real – but it remains cautionary.  Here at Article VI Blog we are optimistic for two reasons.

    Firstly, Novak’s “first enlightenment” is  supernatural event.  Today we celebrate a supernatural event.  Regardless of your particular religious convictions, it is fair to say there are forces at play here that exceed both our control and our understanding.  In those forces we, and we hope you,  have faith.

    Secondly, while we focus here on the lack of FRATERNITY among those that call on Christ, we witness so much of it every day.  We experience it between the two of us and we see it and experience it in so many others.  Within that FRATERNITY so much good can happen and can be done.

    The soils beneath us are shifting, indeed.  But we know that under it there is a bedrock on which we stand.  Today we celebrate that bedrock.

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    Too important to wait…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:47 am, December 23rd 2009     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Just a couple of quick things before we go too deep into holiday mode – things that strike us as very important.

    Thanks to a regular commenter for this link from Idaho:

    Gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell says he will hold a series of special meetings with men who are active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    The Standard Journal reports that Rammell says the meetings aren’t intended to be secret but he doesn’t want people who “don’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet” to attend.

    That is perhaps the least helpful thing the man could do in terms of advancing the Mormon place in the court of public opinion on a national level.  It feeds every stereotype.  Forgive me, but “durn fool idiot” is about all I can say.

    And forgive us this highly partisan link and pull quote, but it is just too appropriate for the holiday season:

    Governor Romney and his wife Ann have donated nearly $2.9 million to churches and religious organizations, healthcare groups, and schools since 1999, approximately 13% of his earnings during the past decade.

    We’ll let you read the link for the figures for other political leaders, but the Romney figures set an example for all of us to follow.

    Lowell adds . . .

    I don’t know Rex Rammell or much about him. My first two thoughts when I saw John’s link above were, first, “What crazy things to say and do!” and second, “this man is not a serious player.” After a little digging I think both thoughts were right.

    Over the years many people have sought office in areas with heavy Mormon populations and have waved the Mormon banner in ways that make them look like, well, crackpots at worst, cranks at best. Usually they run as independents, because no party will nominate them; and they make extreme statements that cause reasonable Mormons to wince and wish the candidate would go away and stop embarrassing the rest of us.

    Sure enough, Rammell seems to fall into those categories. Here’s the flier he sent out to Mormons. For whatever it’s worth, I can say with great certainty that reasonable LDS members will not take this invitation, or Mr. Rammell, seriously at all, and that he bears all the marks of a fringe candidate who represents . . . fringe political beliefs. This is a man who has joked about “hunting” President Obama and still refuses to apologize for that.  As for the “White Horse Prophecy” that Rammell has apparently invoked, we blogged about that here in some detail.  I’ll say again what I said then:

    [M]ost informed observers consider much of this prophecy, known popularly as “the White Horse Prophecy,” to be folklore.  For those interested, there’s an in-depth analysis here; the “Summary and Conclusions” section on page 10 is worth reading.  And, for what it’s worth, as a life-long Mormon I’ve never heard the White Horse Prophecy described as Church doctrine, or indeed, as anything more than an interesting tale.  My personal experience is that when Mormon office-seekers cite that “prophecy” as the reason they are running, other Mormons simply roll their eyes.

    And that’s all we have to say for now about that.  We have presents to wrap!

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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    Holiday Religious Bigotry Special

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:21 am, December 19th 2009     &mdash      6 Comments »

    We said we would not post until unless something big broke, and well, I think it has.  The supposed “War on Christmas” is kind of old news now, and I never could get too excited about the placement of creches at fire houses, or not – that’s not what will kill Christmas.   I am far more worried about stuff that matters more.

    My business life has been awful this Christmas season in the sense that there has been no slow down.  Typically the phone quits ringing and I get to use the later half to two-thirds of December to catch up on all the stuff that has been sitting while I was putting out fires.  Not this year, at least not to date.  As late as yesterday afternoon, I was getting emergency type calls from clients who had one government agency or another breathing down their neck demanding something by Christmas – or else.  And who knows what next week will hold?  In California, much of this is driven by stepped up enforcement intended to pad the grossly depleted state coffers.  The only thing that will kill business faster than over taxation is fines – but that is a story for another time.

    The Christmas spirit has been hard to find this year.  So I sympathized when I read the quote from Senator Jon Kyl that Robert Costa carried on The Corner:

    “Senator Reid is using the Christmas holiday as an anvil to pound people into submission,” says Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) in a conversation with National Review Online. “He’s no longer being realistic.”

    “Harry Reid and the Democrats can’t win this debate on the merits,” says Kyl. “The only way they prevail now is by using the artifice that members supposedly can’t go home until we’re done. For Christians, this is one of the holiest days of the year. We want to be with our families. Reid knows this. It’s a very bad way to make public policy and horrible to use that kind of force to pass a bill of this kind.”

    That dear friends is a war on Christmas that matters – in so many ways.

    I am struck by how it emphasizes the fact that not being a religious bigot means not only not bad-mouthing someone’s religion, but respecting it, even if not believing it.

    I am reminded of a time, a long time ago, I worked for a company in which the entire upper management was Jewish – observantly Jewish.  As the Easter Season approached I requested Good Friday afternoon off for my largely Mexican Catholic crew to observe the Stations of the Cross.  It was granted for a few hours until the company controller handed me the assignments for my crew for physical inventory that day and the president/owner of the company attempted to rescind his granting of time off.   In a display of temper about which I should not be proud I pointed out that the upper management of the company took six weeks aannually off for religious observances and that four hours for my crew was a small request, and certainly a fair one.   I was told by that upper management that as the owners, “They were exceptional.”  I told them they were words-I-will-not-repeat-here (‘bigot’ was the kindest).  This point was accompanied by a physical display (I was much, much younger at the time) that resulted in drywall repairs, and I stormed out.

    Senator Reid is free to celebrate Christmas in any way he sees fit – that is the beauty of America.  But it is a subtle and ugly form of bigotry to use his different and personal view in disregard of that of others.

    I have, as an evangelical Presbyterian, staunchly defended here the rights of Mormons, and we should here remind everyone that Harry Reid is a Mormon, to identify themselves as Christians.  But this is not about his Mormonism (though some schmuck will probably try to make it so), this is about Harry Reid.  So it is with a great deal of hesitation that I will declare that the actions of Harry Reid in this case are decidedly unchristian.  Bigotry, even subtle bigotry of this type, lacks charity – which is the preeminent hallmark of any Christian.

    This is supposed to be a season of beauty for all, and one in which many of us celebrate the birth of our Savior.  Well, this is just ugly and it robs all of us of the beauty of the season.  Shame on Harry Reid.

    Lowell chiming in . . .

    Well, we are seeing here a mixture of hard-nosed politics and religion (used as a club). On the political side, Reid does not want his senators going home for Christmas and hearing from constitutents just how unpopular the Senate healthcare bill is. On the religious side, he knows Christmas celebrations are the most sacred of family traditions at one of the two most sacred times of year for all Christians. His behavior is indeed disgusting.

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    Quick Hits Before Christmas

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:34 am, December 17th 2009     &mdash      4 Comments »

    We hope you don’t hear from us for a couple of weeks.  Of course, if news breaks we’ll be here – but it’ll be sad if news breaks.  But then again, something has happened most Christmases ’round here.

    As goes California, so goes the nation?  One would hope not, but things like this and this response thereto have a certain internal logic.  The administration and its Congressional cohorts have moved so far left so fast that Republicans could make historic sweeps in ’10 and ’12.  But, given the forces examined in these pieces, moderate gains are really all we can hope for.  It’s a crying shame how we blow up our best chances to achieve genuine progress rapidly.

    And speaking of shames – this is sad.  Evan’s historic family roots in the Democratic party would prevent him from ever switching sides, which is probably what he ought to do, but as Democrats go he is one of the smarter ones.  It’s funny though how the Democrats can do this stuff without tearing their party apart.

    Mormon Stuff . . .

    Demographics are undeniable.

    Funny or insulting?  That’s the problem with identity humor, hard to tell.

    Definitely insulting.  As insulting as analyzing Palin’s eschatology.

    Obama Stuff . . .

    Now God’s on his sideor not.

    Romney Stuff . . .

    See the third item.  That’s the Mitt Romney I know.

    I wonder what Dick Armey’s beef is?  Haley Barbour’s a great guy, but not running – I hear whispers of too many skeletons.

    When will people figure out that no one will be thinking about health care by the time ’12 rolls around?  Geraghty is usually smarter than that.

    Religion Stuff . . .

    If we’re not careful, it may come down to stuff like this:

    …the British Courts rather than Jewish religious authorities have the right to determine who is a Jew.

    That is something I would certainly like to avoid.

    Closing With A Question . . .

    Prayer always helps.  But does public prayer about politics with full media coverage?  Something to discuss in the comments – or on our Facebook fan page over the holidays.

    Lowell chiming in . . .

    The Conan O’Brien bit is not very funny, I suspect, to most people.  I didn’t find it offensive, just not funny.  Heaven knows there are funny things about Mormons and Mormon culture, but that skit missed them.

    Generally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have laughs at the expense of any faith, unless it is one’s own and the audience is composed either of adherents or “friendlies.”  In other words, I will listen to my Jewish friends tell jokes about their culture, but I won’t tell such jokes myself.

    While I’m thinking about this, I am asking myself:  Is a similar skit about Catholics or Jews conceivable?  I must admit that the answer is yes.  (Think of Father Guido Sarducci of Saturday Night Live fame.)  It’s a little harder to think of a similar Jewish skit, however, and a Muslim skit like that one is simply inconceivable.  Mormons and Catholics do seem to be fair game, and perhaps Evangelicals too.  Theories as to why that may be abound.  My favorite is that those groups are pretty well-established and are largely considered “white” and middle-class.  To me, it’s just part of the landscape.

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    Polls, Mormons In The News, Hatred – All That And More

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:40 am, December 14th 2009     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Polls . . .

    Apparently, the more intense your religious convictions, the more likely you are to be Republican.  Which makes the current “true believer – independent” thing really interesting.  The overwhelming take away form the poll results is that “independents” are powerless – there just are not enough of them.  Eventually they have to make up their mind and connect with one of the parties, or stay home.  The sad part is that tends to hurt Republicans, which can also be seen in the numbers.  What’s sad is that when you stay home, and the party that most closely (not exactly, of course) matches your concerns therefore loses, your concerns lose.  Classic illustration of the best being the enemy of the better.

    Speaking of polls, Jim Geraghty thinks that Huck’s numbers are surprising after the clemency controversy.  Nah, not enough voters paying attention yet.  That’s not going to hurt Huck until (1) he is a candidate and (2) the negative ads start.  Huckabee’s connections to the murders is too deep in the story for general public impact just yet.

    Jonah Goldberg reflects on a different kind of poll:

    Anyway, reading the snippets on why Democrats and Republicans admire Durbin and Thune respectively, I think you can see some of what I’m getting at. The Democrats like Durbin because of what he gets done, how effective he is. He can corral 60 votes, he must be awesome! Bonus: He may run the show if Reid loses, and power is always cool. Meanwhile, Thune is admired not because he has power, but because he represents core convictions. The Democrat is a hero for what he does, the Republican for what he is.

    That could go a long way toward explaining why the nation keeps moving left.  The best ideas in the world do not matter if you are not able to implement them.

    And then there is this.  Read it – discuss it in the comments.

    Mormons In The News . . .

    The wrong way.

    Harmer said he ran because he was prompted by the Spirit. He said his family is currently studying Captain Moroni, and like Captain Moroni, American Mormons must hoist the Title of Liberty. “Freedom is a pre-condition of everything else God has in his plan,” he said.

    He said running again is a bit like being asked to play the organ at stake conference; if he declined he would feel bad as he believes it is his calling.

    “It is not about me, but it is about someone that is strong raising the Title of Liberty,” he said.

    “Religio-speak” from candidates generally harms their credibility and limits their constituency to those that speak the same jargon.  We kept an eye on the Harmer run, but did not comment on it because no one played the Mormon card.  Now the candidate just laid it on the table for the world to gawk at.  Admittedly, it was a purely Mormon audience and it is out in the purely Mormon press, but in this electronic age, if my evangelical Presbyterian eye caught it, you can sure bet others did.  A warning to politicians of all religious stripes:  In the internet age, safe places for this are harder to find.  [Lowell interjects: I winced when I saw that – and more than once.  I’m calling it a rookie mistake for now.]

    The right way.

    Compassion for the elderly and infirm that has come to characterize Thomas S. Monson’s ministry soon will be embraced more fully by the worldwide church he leads.

    The LDS Church is adding “to care for the poor and needy” to its longstanding “threefold mission,” which is to preach the LDS gospel, purify members’ lives and provide saving ordinances such as baptism to those who have died.

    [...]

    “This is a dramatic move and very important message,” said Jan Shipps, an Indiana-based American religion historian who has spent decades studying the LDS Church. “It’s not that Mormons haven’t already been caring for the poor and needy with its humanitarian program. It’s just that this moves it to the top of their priorities, along with proselytizing and temple work.”

    Smart move, very smart move – It’s a shared value with creedal Christianity and it’s not really theologically based.

    In an unusual context.  In an extended NPR interview about Muslims in America:

    Mr. PATEL: Well, I think that there’s a broader principle here that this caller is very intelligently bringing to the surface, which is that some religious communities have the misfortune of having their public perception characterized by the worst people in their community.

    RYAN: Thank you, exactly.

    Mr. PATEL: Well, Ryan, you said it more eloquently than I did, and I think that we saw this played out in the previous presidential campaign. I was aghast at the way that people went after Obama because of his Muslim grandfather, but I was equally aghast at the way that people went after Sarah Palin because of her Pentecostal faith and went after Mitt Romney because of his Mormon faith.

    In America there is no religious test for office, and in America bigotry or prejudice of any type should not be tolerated. We should be raising a generation of people, as Ryan just said, who have the knowledge base and the courage and the skill set to stand up against religious prejudice and say that’s un-American.

    That’s precisely what Colin Powell did on the Sunday morning talk show, and I think an interesting measure of America’s maturation around religious diversity issues is how we do in the next presidential campaign.

    Let’s say Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney all run again. I would sure hope that we have a generation of interfaith leaders who will say stop when religious prejudice rears its ugly head around the Pentecostal, Mormon and Muslim heritage of those three candidates.

    Irony folks, irony.  Such a clear understanding of how its supposed to work, not from a Christian, but from a Muslim.

    Religion In The News . . .

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has accused the government of treating religious faith as an “eccentricity” practised by “oddities”.

    Which is why various faiths must unite on some political level.  Think about it.

    More on the younger Kennedy/Catholic thing.  If the younger Kennedys had managed to hold as much power as the prior generation, this would be really ugly.

    Only hatred can explain something like this.  It’s not worth enough attention to rebut – just needs to be noted so we have a handle on the fools of the world.

    Finally . . .

    The real work continues.

    And, as some evangelicals continue to debate themselves silly over the whole Manhattan Declaration thing (see the next post down for background) there has been some smarter stuff written.

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