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."

Did Not Take Long For Things To Get Really Ugly…

Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:29 am, March 15th 2010     —    21 Comments »

As Romney has re-emerged with his book tour, we have seen some efforts to put him in the “Mormon box,” but in general things have been much, much quieter than last time around.  No major pieces on Romney’s “evangelical problem,” none of that.  But last Friday Bill Maher decided to turn the heat to levels we have not seen since Weisberg and “the founding whoppers of Mormonism” slam.  In discussing the airplane incident, Maher said:

“I just couldn’t help but think maybe this has something to do with the fact that the Mormons traditionally have not had a great relation with the black people.”

So, now by religious implication, Romney is a racist.  There are no words to describe this but “despicable.”  The Mormon church has worked very hard to undo  the racial injustices that were a part of its history, as frankly have all churches.  My own Presbyterian church actually went through a northern/southern split (in later years the split was more about the role of women in the church, but its roots were in the Civil War)  and did not manage to pull itself back together again until the 1980′s – 10 years after the Mormons fixed their racial issues.

These comments by Maher are an outrage.  Sadly there is nothing new in Maher being outrageous, particularly about Mormons, but this one just cuts too close.  This is a not a stereotype – this is an implied accusation that Mitt Romney, and all Mormons, are racists.  Such cannot and should not be suffered.  The Newsbusters piece linked show the paucity of the evidence that Maher brings to bear, which is fine, but that is not the issue.  This is simply not a charge to be leveled without DIRECT evidence concerning the individual.

But I have already given this more attention than it deserves because no one really listens to Maher anymore, at least no one serious.  That he has a TV show, even one that only like 6 people watch. is criminal but in this day and age we have more television distribution capability than we have decent programming so fools are going to get outlets.  That’s what Bill Maher is – a fool.

And while we are discussing outrages – you remember Joe Carter.  Joe is a leading Evangelical blogger, now serving as blog editor at First Things.  You’ll also remember that Joe seconded, loudly and influentially, Joel Belz’ utterly bigoted “Mormons lie” piece last cycle.  Well, writing last week about the religious affiliation of recent Supreme Court nominees (it has been tilting very Catholic of late) Joe said this:

I think I can speak for many of my fellow conservative evangelicals, however, in saying that even if the quota wasn’t going to go to another mainline Protestant WASP, we wouldn’t have much interest in a religious affirmative action program. Personally, I’d rather have someone on the bench like Scalia, Thomas, or Roberts who shares my judicial philosophy than have  a quota for someone merely because they can share a pew with me on Sunday morning.

[Emphasis added.]  Gee Joe – when it comes to Catholics you are willing to judge them by their stances on issues, but when it comes to Mormons you are not?  When you examine Carter’s body of work here you discover nothing more than simple, base discrimination, and that is outrageous.  For one group he will judge the individual, but another group is beyond such evaluation and simply discarded.

Who knows, maybe Carter’s comments here are evidence that he is learning, even changing his mind, but he needs to write about that if such is the case. UPDATE LATER THE DAY OF PUBLICATION: Joe Carter has, as of this date, in the post in question, retracted his endorsement of the Belz’ piece – indicating that he has indeed changed his mind about the role of Romney’s religion. Based on that I will withdraw my accusation of “base discrimination” made above. Though Carter’s distaste for Romney remains evident, that such not be based on a religious charge is all we ask in this blog. Back to the original post.

And speaking of Carter’s writings, another piece he did at the “First Thoughts” blog illustrates part of the problem when many evangelicals approach politics.  He works very hard, in the tall grass, to distinguish Rousseau’s “civil religion” from Ben Franklin’s “public religion.”  There are a couple of comments to be made here.  In citing “public religion,” Carter relies on Jon Meacham.  I know for a fact that Mecham’s book was one of the major sources Romney used in preparing his “Faith in America” speech – talk about sharing public philosophy!  Secondly, the distinction Carter is making here, while intellectually valid, is so far past the average voter that it can only serve to confuse matters.  In the modern era, when discussing retail level politics, messaging matters almost as much as message.

When it comes to religion and politics and the general public our messaging has to make our message accessible – this sort of stuff is simply off-putting, it practically reeks of “you’re not smart enough to participate in this discussion.”  We need to be searching for language that unites conservatives of faith, not makes distinctions no one wants to bother with.  Recent studies show:

. . . that young adults hold their religious beliefs in abstract, “mentally checked off and filed away.” Doctrine does not determine their lives. Religion is about being good and living a good life, not believing the right things.

Now, the article I just cited goes on to argue  the need for doctrine, but that is a religious argument and we are talking politics here.  Politics are about meeting people where they are in order to get stuff done that needs to be done.  If this is where people are, then when it comes to political activism, that’s where we need to go.

Moving on . . .

That’s a lot of discussion and there is still a lot of news, so let’s go bullet form.

Glenn Beck Is Simply No Help . . .

Because people think “all Mormons are alike,” Glenn Beck matters, but he sure has moved into silly land.  And by the way, it is no more Beck’s business to tell Catholics how to behave than it is my business to tell Mormons what to do.  Here’s the coverage:

“Candidate” News . . .

Romney . . .

Both Politics Daily and the CSM note Romney’s comments about the Tea Party Movement, and seeking to bring it in/keep it in the Republican fold.  That’s ironic, since apparently the movement “scares” evangelicals.  But then Instapundit and Gateway Pundit and GetReligion see through the canard.

If there is a new narrative  meme forming around Romney, it’s Massachusetts health care.  Slate and David Brody have observations.

“Team Romney” continues to advance.

Finally, Romney talks about last time.

Thune takes the first action to demonstrate the rumors are probably real.

Pawlenty is just not getting anywhere, and in this case taking religious punches.

Huckabee continues to poll well in Iowa.  (Gee, there’s a surprise)

Palin continues to have an identity crisis.

Religion In The News . . .

Deep Thoughts . . .

These are all pieces worthy of a lot of discussion, but Maher’s outrage had to consume that, so here they are for your edification and thought.  Feel free to discuss in the comments – or use the discussion center at our Facebook page.

Lowell adds . . .

No one pays much attention to Bill Maher. That’s why he says outrageous things – to get noticed.  Enough said about him.

As for former Huckabee supporter, outspoken Romney detractor and foe of Mormonism generally Joe Carter, his much-labored-over First Thoughts piece is summarized well in one of the comments:

[T]here is too much confusion, in my opinion, in your essay’s articulations of “civil religion” for one even to agree or disagree with it.

And Glenn Beck. Oh, dear, Glenn Beck.  Most Mormons who are not hard-core right-wingers will tell you they wince often when they hear what he has to say (and only the hard-core watch him).  Still, it was interesting to see how some of the commenters to Joe Carter’s piece on Beck took the opportunity to bash Beck’s Mormonism, although his show is political.  I guess those are the kinds of reader Carter attracts.  That’s not the high-minded First Things crowd I have known.

As for the ludicrous notion that the tea partiers scare Evangelicals (doesn’t the MSM love a rift among conservatives?), I liked this quote from Grover Norquist in the L.A. Times:

“The reason why social conservatives and economic conservatives can play well together … is the guy who wants to go to church all day just wants to be left alone. So does the guy who wants to play with his gun all day, and the guy who wants to make money all day,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “They don’t agree on how to spend their time, but they do agree on their central issue: They want to be left alone.”

Well, yes.  Common ground is common ground.  I wish more conservative leaders would talk about this.

And yes, Romney has to come up with a convincing reponse to the claim that RomneyCare and ObamaCare are the same thing.  They are not, but the charge is sticking.  Mitt needs a short, non-wonkish answer to the charge.  If you watch the video just below all the way through, you will see that he is getting closer, but he’s not there.  The right 38 words at the beginning of his answer would have done the trick:

In Massachusetts we imposed a state plan, not a federal one.  Health care should not be reformed at the federal level.  Besides, our plan was based on conservative free-market principles, and you don’t find any of those in ObamaCare.

Somewhat ironically, Romney’s superb intellect is causing him problems. As a health care lawyer I know exactly what he is saying, but most people don’t spend every day in the tall grass the way I do. Romney needs to break this stuff down a little more for people.

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