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."

  • Civic Religion and How To Lose

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, August 31st 2010     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Everybody has an opinion about what went down at the Glenn Beck promoted rally in Washington last weekend.  Was it political?  Or was it religious?  Rally or revival?

    Well, frankly, it was all of the above.

    The United States of America has always been a religious nation without a specific religion.   We have always had something variously called the “civic” or “civil” or “public” religion that was pious, moral, believed in a supernatural and an objective good, but was insufficiently defined ever to rise to the level of an actual, organized religion.  It was a banner under which many religions united to work together as a nation.  This compromise has served us well because religion has flourished in our nation like no other place in history.

    The civic religion has served as “battleground” that defined the rules of conflict between competing specific religions, and by keeping that conflict civil, forces that have ripped apart virtually every nation in history have been held at bay.  But some aspects of the civil religion are beginning to fray.  The belief in a supernatural and objective good seems no longer to be part of the common understanding of our nation.  One would think that in such a circumstance those of us that still hold such would unite under a banner to restore it – if we do not, the consequences would be disastrous.  NO religion will survive.

    Ross Douthat’s analysis of the Beck rally is both insightful and problematic.  Insightful in this:

    Latter Day Saints and evangelical Christians arguably share enough affinities to belong in the same “cultural family,” as Weigel puts it. But you’re more likely to find them in competition, from the streets of American suburbia to the mission fields of the developing world to the 2008 election’s great Mike Huckabee-Mitt Romney throwdown. It’s a case of theological differences trumping cultural commonalities: The two faiths occupy opposite sides of a theological chasm that makes the gulf between Catholics and Protestants look narrow by comparison, and many evangelicals bristle with hostility for what they regard as Mormonism’s cultish pseudo-Christianity.

    The problems arise when he then goes on to seemingly fan the flames of the conflict rather than try to quell them.  Yes, we do compete in the mission field, but if our nation cannot maintain its civil religion and accompanying religious truce in governance, there will be no mission field on which to compete – all religion will find itself banned, or an “official” religion will squeeze the rest of us out.

    Some, worried that capitalism and politics will become a god, sound warnings that lead others to send for the wrong message at the wrong time. The forces that deeply oppose, those that do not believe in the supernatural and objective good, will – when they get the story straight – use our religious differences to split a coalition that could otherwise preserve the civic religion.  They will try to make us look foolish.  They will look calm and cool and collected while we will look like religious thugs.

    The analogy is old and tired, perhaps to the point of triteness, but that does not rob it of its essential truth – It was necessary to ally with Stalin to defeat Hitler.  There was an imminent and violent threat that had to be dealt with before the subtle and quiet threat of communism.

    There is an imminent and violent threat to religion in America right now – and it must be dealt with before the religious “cold war” between the faiths can be fought.  The Beck rally in Washington this weekend past was about that pressing threat.  I’ll take any ally I can get.


    Posted in News Media Bias, Reading List, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    News Of The Week – Romney and The Field, Presidential Religion, Rallies, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:35 am, August 30th 2010     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Beck, King, Rallies…

    I am entirely unsure how to untangle this mess.  Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech may very well be one of the finest pieces of oratory in our nation’s history.  That King and many of his supporters of all colors were motivated by their faith is unquestionable.  That speech serves as the pinnacle of one of the shining moments of religiously motivated activism in our nation’s history.  However, make no mistake: Oratory and demonstrations are stirring and exciting, but there are limits to what they can accomplish.  It took legislation to break Jim Crow and segregation.

    In part because of the religious motivation of so many of the players; in part because of the religious cadences and structure of the speech itself; and in part because the issue tugs at us so viscerally, the speech is viewed more as sermon than political rhetoric – and in many ways it was.  But that creates a ball of semi-religious fervor around the issues of civil rights that spreads out with a force that, as religion itself, often defies reason and does not tolerate disagreement.

    This past weekend has seen that speech raised in the context of the Ground Zero Mosque (GZM) controversy.  But it is Glenn Beck’s rally that has really pushed the hot buttons on this one.   There is analysis of all sorts, some of it reasonable if left-leaning, and some just flat-out conspiratorial.

    But now that the rally is over, here is the space to watch:  CNN’s “belief blog”:

    On Friday night, Beck held a religion-focused event at the Kennedy Center that was billed as Glenn Beck’s Divine Destiny.

    Beck’s speech Saturday also evoked the feel of a religious revival.

    “Look forward. Look West. Look to the heavens. Look to God and make your choice,” he said.

    Beck has also begun organizing top conservative religious leaders – mostly evangelicals – into a fledgling group called the Black Robed Regiment.

    The organization, whose charter members convened in Washington this weekend, takes its name from American clergy sympathetic to the Revolution during the 1700s.

    Beck’s emerging role as a national leader for Christian conservatives is surprising not only because he has until recently stressed a libertarian ideology that is sometimes at odds with so-called family values conservatism, but also because Beck is a Mormon.

    The need to organize Evangelicals and Mormons together politically has been noted on this blog for a long time.  But Beck’s penchant for  self-promotion built on controversy makes me wonder if this will really work.  I am sure there will be some push-back from religious/political figures that stand to lose in a deal like this, and of course the Mormon-haters out there, but will it have traction?

    My advice to Beck would be this:  Work to solidify the coalition that is emerging and then step aside and let more serious people run with the ball.  I am not, however, at all sure that Beck has the discipline to do that.  In which case it is my hope that something useful can arise from the smouldering mess he will leave behind.

    Watch this space.

    Obama’s Faith

    This has got to stop – we are supposed to be the nation that has figured out religion and politics, and yet we seem to be sinking into a morass of religious identity bickering that it unbecoming to say the least.  The policies of this administration that I support can be numbered on a single hand, so rising to Obama’s defense is not something I do easily, but this really does have to stop.  The policies are the problem, not the religion.  Now, we are arguing over how to even identify someone as a Christian.  (I say we take them at their word and let their pastor call them to account if they are not quite cutting it.)

    Now, we are polling about it, and analyzing the polls.  It’s gotten so bad, Christian leadership is trying to quell the tide.

    Bottom line is this.  Obama is deeply unpopular at this point in his administration and people, many of them who don’t pay much attention, are saying all sorts of ugly things to try and justify their general unhappiness and distaste for the man.  There are ALWAYS such undercurrents in our nation.  We as a nation – and especially the press – have a choice: fan the heat in hopes that it will turn into a conflagration, or leave it be.

    The tradition in this nation has been to leave it be, because anything else will only tear us to shreds.  The forces at play here are not to be messed with.  That’s the great compromise that is America.  Freedom means there will be ignorance and distrust just as much as there is  goodness and light.  We try to keep the ugliness in a corner – bringing it to light does not destroy it – it turns it loose.

    Romney On The Road…

    He’s going to 25 states, but everybody is talking New Hampshire and pick-up trucks!?!?!  You know, it may just be possible he is genuinely interested in helping Republican candidates in the states he is visiting.  Yes, he’s gonna punt Iowa, if it took until now to figure that out then you weren’t paying attention.  And as to imitating Scott Brown with the whole pick-up truck thing – where do you think Brown got the idea?  Sometimes political analysis is just downright silly.

    But some of it is ugly and untoward, as in this Boston Globe editorial, reprinted in the SLTrib:

    Thus, one would expect Romney to stand against those who, seeking a “wedge’’ issue, are making a cause out of the plans for a mosque to be built in Lower Manhattan. They are playing on ignorance — the notion that all Muslims somehow share responsibility for Al Qaeda — and intolerance. As a very small minority religion in the United States, Islam can be easily stereotyped by self-proclaimed experts, and maligned by every crank who has access to email. Just as Romney’s critics took pieces of Mormon doctrine and twisted them to create rumors of current-day polygamy and rejection of Jesus Christ, some critics of the mosque in Lower Manhattan have sought to portray all of Islam as warlike, and the decision to build a mosque as an act of triumph.

    That is so full of straw men and hot-button pushing as to defy analysis.  First Romney was criticized by these same sources for not taking a stance of a LOCAL Issue and then when he does, he is excoriated for the stance he took.  Talk about playing “gotcha.”  The GZM issue has nothing to do with religious freedom or “twisting doctrine.”  Rather, it has to do with taste, respect and class.  There was a movie martial artist by the name of Sammo Hung.  His gimmick was he could make a weapon out of anything at hand.  That seems to be the game the Globe (& Trib) wants to play here.  “We’ll hammer Romney with any issue we can trump up.”  Others are picking up the meme.

    By the way, note that through all this, they get to hammer on the Mormon issue one more time.  Coincidence? I think not.  They will take any shot they can get – no matter how far they have to stretch a point.

    Reviewing The Field…

    …Mitch Daniels. Have we added him to our masthead too soon?  We said when he tested the press waters that he did not seem to pass the audition.  He may have agreed with us.  MSNBC’s “First Read” reprints an interview he did with the Louisville Courier-Journal in which he says, “This is nothing I have started, encouraged,…People have asked, ‘Please don’t absolutely close your mind’ and I have said I’ll think about it.”  Now, very early in the game that’s how we analyzed the Daniels talk, but then between whisperings from our Indiana Statehouse contacts and the big press roll out we figured he was actively pursuing it.  Of course most guys considering a run deny it until they can’t.  Stay tuned.

    …John Thune. He is running unopposed, but spending like there’s a lot at stake.  Does not take a psychic to read those tea leaves.

    …Tim Pawlenty. His hometown paper says, “”Mapping out a route to the White House, Gov. Tim Pawlenty appears headed for a fork in the road: One way goes through fiscally conservative New Hampshire, the other through socially conservative Iowa,….”  (HT: Taegan Goddard)  Let’s see, the last winner skipped “socially conservative Iowa” and headed straight to New Hampshire.  Just sayin’.

    …Sarah Palin. Gee, ya think:

    But while the former Alaska governor often sounds and looks like a presidential candidate, her failure to pursue other aspects of the presidential playbook has created significant doubts about her intentions.

    We’ve been sayin’….

    In the World of Religion and Politics…

    Jim Wallis apologizes to Marvin Olasky, but remains amazingly ungracious to Glenn Beck.  Better, but not enough in my opinion.  Wallis’ continued slams of Beck lack graciousness.  If Wallis wants to be a Christian voice in politics, he would do well to remember that grace is one of the hallmarks of a Christian, even towards someone with whom you vehemently disagree.  Although there are some much uglier than Wallis when it comes to Beck.  (Set-up for a Romney attack? – time will tell.)

    Ramesh Ponnuru continues the discussion on identity politics and religion.

    Not smart.  But then I am fairly sure that is why TPM brought it up to begin with.

    Lowell adds . . .

    Gee, next thing we know there will be stories about pickup trucks in Mormon culture…. The CNN piece seems pretty balanced to me.  This bit of reporting/analysis caught my eye:

    “There’s a long history of tensions between Mormons and evangelicals and some of that is flat-out theology,” says John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron. “Mormons have additional sacred texts (to the Bible) and a different conception of God.”

    “It’s also competitive,” Green said, “because evangelicals and Mormons are both proselytizing in the U.S. and around the world.

    I’d like to see more of that clear-eyed discussion. We ought to be able to say, simply, that religions will always compete – whether the fight is over converts or over debates on baptism by immersion or the nature of God – and that those discussions don’t belong in politics and elections.


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    Crossing Weak Bridges and Blaming The Wrong Party

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:13 pm, August 25th 2010     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This morning at First Things‘ “On The Square” blog, editor Joe Carter attempted to use his recent reading of William F. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale” to excoriate the current state of the conservative movement.  Before I launch into my critique, I must first plead guilty to Carter’s initial charge that few have read the book – I have not.  I will work very hard here to limit my critique to Carter’s post and not the underlying book.  I have today ordered the book and you can rest assured it will move to the top of the reading list when it arrives.

    I want to address Carter’s comment on three levels:

    There is a big difference between the university and the conservative political movement.

    Carter seems to think that arguments Buckley applied to Yale University somehow apply with equal force and reason to a political movement:

    God and Man is a polemic with a simple, inflammatory proposal: Because Yale actively undermines the students’ faith in Christianity and the free market, the alumni should withhold financial support from the university. The corollary was obvious: Yale should do something about these professors.


    How remarkable that the thesis of a book that helped launch the conservative movement could, less than half a century later, be completely repudiated by people who claim to be the author’s intellectual heirs. But that is not quite true. It would be more accurate to say that they repudiated only part of it. They’ve foolishly discarded Buckley’s emphasis on Christianity but retained, as they should, his love of free enterprise.

    A university is intended to be both an educational and an ideological institution.  One reason universities are founded is to preserve and expand an ideology, and in some cases a religion.  Our government is designed to be without inherent ideology, and it certainly is not purposed to preserve any particular ideology or faith.   It is intended instead to be the battlefield on which ideologies compete and to preserve the rules of that battle so that it does not result in the abuses and failings that the Founders had seen in the colonial era.  Our nation is an experiment to find out if those of differing ideologies can exist as a nation and have that nation continue to function well.

    One cannot simply assume the same roles and purposes for a university and our government.  That our government did, for a lengthy period of time, serve to preserve and promote a specific Christian ideology is a function not of the government itself, but of the citizenry it serves.  The fact of the matter is that the specific Christian ideology that the government did preserve for all those years won, over and over, the battle the government was designed to host.  Simply put, most Americans subscribed to the Christian ideology that the government preserved and promoted.  They also managed to apply pressure by many means – some of which Carter rightly names – to their ideological opponents not to fight back

    That simply is no longer the case.  Polling shows that most people still claim an adherence to Christianity in one form or another, but what it means to be Christian has grown expansive and those that do not claim to be have become increasingly adept at fighting on the governmental battlefield.  Which brings me to the second level I want to address.

    The failures of faith that Carter rightly points out are better laid at the feet of the church than at a political movement.

    Carter seemingly makes this point himself:

    Buckley understood that Truth not only does not always trump falsehood, but it can never win unless it is promulgated.

    Indeed, Christianity must be promulgated, over and over and over again – but that is not, nor was it ever, the job of government.  Such promulgation is, however, the job of the church and the university that Buckley was battling for in his book.  The fact that Christianity’s authority in public debate has waned so lays at the feet of the church failing to maintain it as the prevailing ideology of the land.

    The church has done so in many ways, and this blog is not the appropriate place for me to air my many criticisms of how the Christian church generally has abandoned its duties in this age.  However, among those abandonments is the large scale abandonment of responsibility for education.  My own alma mater gave up its church foundations many decades before I attended – Why did the church let that happen?

    Politics, the necessary first step of governance in our nation, demands the building of a coalition sufficiently large to prevail at the polls.  If that coalition is to be exclusively, or even predominantly, of the Christian ideology then it is up to the church and its many arms like the university to see to it that there are enough people holding that ideology to constitute a majority.  The fact that such a majority cannot be pulled together now means the church has fallen down on that job.

    The question becomes what to do in light of the current political realities.  You see, the fact is that as our ideological opponents continue to get better at the battle, they are using their increasing political power to remove our opportunities to even enter into the debate.  Whereas we historically applied pressure in many social and educational ways to suppress opposition, they appear unafraid to use the power of law to completely eliminate opposition.  If those in politics and governance that adhere to our Christian ideology must remain meek about that ideology in order to build the necessary coalitions, then so they must to even have the opportunity to preserve our ability to fight back.

    But those in politics and governance should not be fighting alone.  As they fight to preserve our access to the battleground, we should be working to promulgate our Christian ideology – different fronts and varied battle plans, but the same war.  They can only do their job if we do ours.

    Veiling personal attacks makes them no less personal.

    Finally, Carter’s previously quoted sentence:

    How remarkable that the thesis of a book that helped launch the conservative movement could, less than half a century later, be completely repudiated by people who claim to be the author’s intellectual heirs.

    cannot be interpreted as anything else than a direct swipe at the good people of National Review – the magazine started by Buckley.  The magazine is known for its fiscal conservatism, but its faith is equally apparent.  It is ironic that Carter’s post appeared on the same day as NRO editor Kathryn Jean Lopez’s “God and Women at Harvard” appeared at that site.  K-Lo’s interview with a female Harvard grad entering a convent is quite spiritually uplifting and does not in any way shy from being a bold pronouncement of faith.

    Carter comes dangerously close to calling into the question the genuineness of the faith of those at NRO and those that agree with them.   What political issues one considers most important and the political strategies one employs to carry the day simply is a not a measure  of one’s commitment to his or her religion – any more than it would be reasonable to say that the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl under Tony Dungy because of his very vocal commitment to his faith while they lost under Jim Caldwell because he was not so loud about his.


    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Mitt, Mosques, Mormons, Obama’s Religion, Also-Ran’s and More…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:30 am, August 23rd 2010     &mdash      1 Comment »

    A Volatile Mix…

    What mix?  Well for starters, Mitt Romney (God forbid anyone would be allowed to forget he’s a Mormon!) is polling very well and came out with an awesome op-ed in the Boston Globe.  Secondly, the religious angle to the Nevada Senate race is getting really ugly. (Pun intended – and for the record, while Sharon Angle did pathetically open this can of worms, it’s Reid that has gone all “attack dog” over it.)  There are religion angles in other mid-term races as well.  And finally, the Ground Zero Mosque controversy just keeps rolling along, despite some enormously silly comparisons. (I don’t get the comparison at all, frankly.)  So, what do we get out of all of this?  (I am not going to go near the “Obama’s a Muslim” meme – it’s just silly.  See some reasonable commentary from Slublog and a CSM blog points out that the man’s lack of convictions creates a vacuum that needs to be filled – but give me a break, some vacuums need to remain empty.)

    There are a lot of cries that Romney should be be “out front” of the GZM issue.  After all, he’d be a “hypocrite” otherwise.  Funny how all these calls have come from the left, like Newsweek and CNNAllahpundit looks wisely at the political wisdom of Romney’s play hereRamesh Ponnuru used the controversy to point out that Evangelicals are not really biased against Mormons so much as they are identity voters.  (Not sure that’s true in Iowa, Ramesh, but you are probably right about the rest of the country.)

    The point Ramesh makes is applicable here as well, there is no bias at play in the GZM controversy – it’s not a First Amendment issue at all, it’s a land use/zoning issue.  No one is saying that Muslims cannot worship freely and openly in Manhattan, just not on that spot in Manhattan.  In the ’08 cycle, so many were quick to point out that despite Article VI of the constitution they were free to exercise their privilege in the voting booth as they saw fit.  That’s something we never contested.  We, like Ramesh, wondered about the wisdom of voting by identity, but never abouit the right to do so.

    There is little Romney can do to help himself here.  Should he step out on GZM on a Constitutional level he will elevate the issue to a place that it clearly does not belong and blow his excellent conservative credentials on matters legal and constitutional.  Should he attack it on a zoning/land use level he will fuel those that did exercise anti-Mormon bigotry last time to do so again.

    Besides, it’s really a local matter, not a federal one.


    People run for POTUS for a lot of reasons – they want to inject a specific issue into the campaign; they want to accumulate personal power for other political purposes; they want to accumulate public recognition for a career in media in some fashion – the list could go on for a while.  The point is that the simple descriptive “former candidate for president of the United States” buys a person quite a bit.  Right now, the media-discussed Republican “field” is full of such people.

    This can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing.  It is a good thing when they bring something to the campaign that might otherwise not be picked up. That’s probably why a Rick Santorum run continues to become a higher probability.   Santorum will never get elected, but a credible run on his part will keep social issues somewhere in the mix in an election where they could be off the table altogether.  With the economy in the state it is in, they certainly should not be front and center, but they are important.

    The presence of Haley Barbour in the mix may be good or bad.  He is a formidable fund raiser and his presence in the race, at least for a time, can increase that ability – which can certainly aid other more viable candidates.  He also, as Santorum, can serve as a target for some of the more cartoonish attacks from the left leaving the serious players a more open playing field.  However, problems can arise if in his desire to use his fund raising prowess to serve as “kingmaker” he ends up being more self-serving rather than party-serving. (Lowell interjects:  Barbour is a former RNC Chairman who has a history as a party man.  So I like to think – hope? – he would not be self-serving.)

    Need an example of the whole self-serving model?  Look no further than our old “friend” Mike Huckabee.  He is polling well in Iowa, but that is about as surprising as ice in Antarctica.  We will not review here (we’ve done it already) how Huckabee, by hanging around like he did without an iceberg’s chance, mucked up ’08.  Huckabee is currently billing himself as “a preacher who accepts all, a politician that never plays politics and a host unlike any other.”  Do I think he’ll run?  At this point, yeah – I do.  Which means the serious players will have to make Iowa unimportant which will neutralize him for the rest of the campaign.  Huckabee will be aided by a press that desperately wants Iowa to matter – which will be fine for Huckabee since media is really what he is after.  But we cannot let him serve the party another mediocre candidate.

    Inside Evangelical Politics…

    Last week we pointed out that it seems like it is always the left that gets truly rhetorically nasty.  That rule seems to hold true inside Evangelicalism as well as out of it.  Last week Jim Wallis did an interview and he turned absolutely uncharitable on Marvin Olasky.   At the Corner, Jay Richards said:

    What to say at this point? At the very least, Wallis has abandoned even the pretense of civil discourse here. Olasky has evidence of Soros grants to Sojourners, so the most that Wallis would be justified in saying is that Olasky is mistaken and that the evidence is misleading or fraudulent (which seems unlikely). Instead, he says that Olasky is lying for a living.

    Hugh Hewitt said:

    So Marvin Olasky was slandered by Jim Wallis, as was Glenn Beck.  Wouldn’t a man seeking to represent Christians be quick to apologize to both?  If Wallis has done so, I haven’t seen it.

    Wallis has corrected his incorrect factual assertions, but his tone and demeanor have remained unchanged.  Is it any wonder people do not like us so much?

    And while we are on the subject – R.R. Reno had some interesting thoughts on civility.

    Those Mormon Ads…

    Are still being discussed a bit – mostly by bitter, unhappy people.  The CJCLDS continues to make the “Romney denials.“  I do want to comment that it takes a very narrow view of a church, any church, to think that advertisements for the church are about presidential candidates from within the church – or even about Prop 8.  Jan Shipps has argued again and again that while the Mormons were historically more ethnicity than church, they have transformed since WWII with the geographical diaspora it created among them,  into pretty much a standard American “come on in on Sunday” church with some rather idiosyncratic theology.

    Religion Generally…

    …is under attack. (Hey! – we told you so.)  “On Faith” is recycling the same old question in new circumstances.  It’ll be interesting to see how different the answers are with a different person and religion.  The fact that there is a difference is the actual heart of the problem.

    Patheos, the new religion site that has been getting much buzz lately with collections of essays on the future of Catholicism and Evangelicalism has now done such a collection on MormonismThis one seemed particularly interesting.  Patheos may prove to be a great resource, but so far they are resisting our technical attempts to monitor their content remotely – this is not good when you try to track as much info as we do.

    The line between sports humor and religious/political attack is a fine one.  Is Keith Olberman a trailblazer?  Far as I know, he has never been near Portland.

    Some are saying American Protestantism is the most destructive religion in history.  Call me when a Presbyterian flies an airplane into a skyscraper.

    Some say the Shakers are “sinister.“  Wrong on some things – perhaps, but “sinister?!”  Nah, no bone to pick with religion here.

    The courts are at it again.  I wonder if soon we are going to have to disguise churches that can be seen from highways?  And what about this puppy? – I saw it a few weeks ago – it is big!

    And in Australia, the church/state line is getting way too blurry for my taste.

    Lowell adds . . .

    For those who missed it, Hot Air offered an interesting twist last week on the news media’s apparent double standard on presidential religion.  The whole post is worth reading.  A key paragraph:

    As I’ve said, I don’t really care what Obama believes. What bothers me is that the press only seems to think a president’s religion is important when his faith can be used to question his policy priorities. If those priorities go against the views of those in the media, then Christianity is a scary fringe faith that needs examining. If the president is progressive, then his faith is pure and he’s only trying to do what’s best for the country. No reason to ask uncomfortable questions.

    The writer’s  point is that the news media expressed great discomfort, concern, and curiosity about G.W. Bush’s faith and its impact on his actions as president, but seem to think Obama’s Christianity is simply admirable, normal,  and pretty much beyond inquiry.

    I think we see a variation in the same phenomenon with Romney and even Huckabee.  Long-time readers of this blog will remember a news reporter’s confession that while on a visit to Romney’s home she actually snooped around his bathroom, hoping to find a sample of his uniquely Mormon underwear.  (I can tell you it would have been hard for her to tell it from anyone else’s Fruit of the Loom.)   Huck, despite being my least-favorite Republican in the 2008 cycle, drew my sympathy because his Baptist faith was constantly under the microscope and treated as a real curiosity and a matter of serious public interest.

    Which is my way of saying that in the presidential arena, religion has become a reporters’ tool that is too often used to shape the narrative – but mainly by the MSM and the liberal punditocracy, and only when it suits their favored candidates’ purposes.  As we’ve often said here, a presidential candidate’s religion is important only about 10% as often as the news media seems to think it is – and even that may be an exaggeration.


    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Reading List, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    SLATE – Lower Than…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:09 pm, August 18th 2010     &mdash      2 Comments »

    …Well, you can fill in your own metaphor because mine is not suitable for public consumption.

    In the wake of our comments this morning, Hugh Hewitt brought up our old friend Jacob Weisberg of Slate.  You remember good ‘ol Jake?  In our review of the left wing religiously based attack on Romney in ’08 we said:

    Far and away the most bigoted, nastiest religious attack to come from the left side of the aisle was Jacob Weisberg’s December 2006 Slate piece.  This was the piece that included the now infamous phrase, “the founding whoppers of Mormonism.”  This piece went on to become one we cited again and again and again on the blog as pure, unthinking, left-leaning bigotry….

    Hewitt said this morning:

    (I don’t know if Weisberg has denounced opponents of the mosque as bigots,but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.)

    Well, we still have not found Slate or Weisberg calling GZM opponents bigots, but they do seem to have it out for Republicans of faith.  Ramesh Ponnuru points out on The Corner this evening that Slate has run a piece trying to make more of Sharon Angle’s unfortunate religious comments than is really there.

    Angle’s invocation of here faith in a Las Vegas Sun interview may mark the lowest point of a poorly run campaign.  However, despite her missteps and malapropisms she remains a far preferable choice in comparison to Harry Reid.  What is unbelievable is that Slate would pile onto a campaign clearly faltering with an attack of this sort.  She gave them plenty of ammunition without having to stoop to this level of innuendo and sleight-of-hand.  It seems clear Slate, as edited by Weisberg, would agree with the recent Prop 8 ruling that religion causes harm and therefore feels justified in this sort of attack there upon.

    This move clearly signals what we said would happen if religious attacks against Romney were allowed to stand in ’08 – such attacks would broaden to people of all faiths – and so it begins.  We’ll see about the current mid-terms when they turn serious in a couple of weeks – chances are they will just be the preliminaries.  But I think we can be assured that 2012 will be “open season” on faith.  Sadly by failing to defend someone of a different, but closely related, faith, we will have set ourselves up for it.


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    How Come It Is Always The Lefties That Just Get Nasty Ugly?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:00 am, August 18th 2010     &mdash      5 Comments »

    As much as Huckabee’s back-handed play of the Mormon card in ’08 was despicable, it seems like it is always the left that just gets in-your-face nasty on issues like race and religion.  As the Ground Zero Mosque controversy heats up, I guess it was inevitable – and Harry Reid sealed the deal when he came out against it – The Mormon persecution/Muslim persecution comparisons were going to be drawn.  Of course, there is virtually no such comparison, but since when did that stop the rabid left from taking the shot anyway?

    Some of what is going on is so transparent as to not be worth arguing with, like this bit from a Salt Lake City “alternative” (read “gay”) paper.  But it is Jonathon Chait at The New Republic that seems to be really turning up the heat.  His post on Jennifer Rubin’s comments have a barely disguised anti-Semitic tone.  That set loose a torrent of comments that truly are heinous.  Here is the worst:

    I wonder if Romney or Harry Reid would also oppose the building of a Mormon church or Temple near Mountain Meadows.

    As an initial point, the first place I heard the Ground Zero/Mountain Meadows comparison was on the Michael Medved radio show, and I winced at the time – I knew then, and this proves, that all such comments can only serve to provide ammunition to the opposition.  But that said, there simply is no comparison.  No Mormon has ever proposed building a ward or stake house, or a Temple anywhere near the site of that unfortunate incident.  In point of fact Mormons are quite horrified by the entire episode and when it comes up they tend to either deny the participants are “real” Mormons or shrink from the conversation in complete embarrassment.  The Mountain Meadows Massacre is a point of deep shame  for any Mormon I have ever met or read – it is not an “opportunity for outreach.”

    In this instance the comparison serves only to politicize on new levels something that should not be a political argument to begin with.  Ground Zero is about the sense of a national sacred space that most of us share when we visit the places where our fellow citizens lost their lives.  Comparisons have been drawn to Civil War battlegrounds and I find them a far more apt comparison.  Every time I have been to such a battleground I have found myself speaking in unintentional whispers.

    As an Evangelical, by definition, I want to tell others of the amazing experience I have had in my walk with Jesus Christ, and yet to do so when wandering the emplacements of Gettysburg or Vicksburg would be beyond distasteful.  Those places honor those that died in service to others, or as victims of war.  To graft a different agenda onto those spaces, whether it is s religious or a political one,  is to lessen that honor due.  I do not think God expects me to lessen that honor, and my political convictions just are not that important.

    Shame on anyone that uses this issue for their private agendas.

    Lowell adds . . .

    I’ll just drop in for a moment to add to John’s Mountain Meadows analogy, which I’ve actually been using in discussions with friends about the Ground Zero mosque. John’s right: That place, Mountain Meadows, is not one that Mormons are proud of. It is a site on which people closely associated with Mormonism (to say the least) committed horrible acts of murder on other human beings. It is umimaginable that the Church would build a temple, for example, on the edge of that site.  The Church may have the legal right to do so, but as my father used to say,  just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  I am opposed to legal steps being taken to stop the mosque’s construction, but I support efforts to persuade or incentivize the group planning to build the mosque to put it up somewhere else.  I think I have an awful lot of company in my view.


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