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."

  • Romney’s life as a Mormon: News media interest grows, and the future gets a little clearer

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 03:00 pm, October 31st 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    CNN delves into Romney’s Mormon life, and does a pretty good job

    CNN yesterday decided to report in some depth on Mitt Romney’s extensive service as a lay leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think Jessica Ravitz’ piece, ” The Shaping of A Candidate: A Look at Mitt Romney’s Faith History,” is quite fair.  It’s also fascinating on at least two levels.

    First is the understandable curiosity underlying Ravitz’ story.  What does it really mean to be a Mormon – and beyond that, what does it mean to be a Mormon lay leader at  a high level?  Mitt Romney has been a Mormon bishop and a stake president, positions of the highest honor and responsibility in our faith.  Ravitz does a pretty good job of laying out the basic of what those jobs entail.

    If Romney were Catholic and had been a lay leader in that church, or had been a Presbyterian Elder, we would not see much curiosity about what that means.  That’s because Catholicism and Presbyterianism are well-known faiths in America.  I don’t know what a Catholic lay leader does, or even what lay positions exist  inside that church.  But Catholics and Catholicism are old hat.  Americans are not unfamiliar with them, even though we don’t know many details about them.

    But Romney’s a Mormon, and his church has existed for only 181 years.  It’s growing rapidly but neither the faith nor its practitioners are familiar to many Americans.  And that’s where the peril lies for a Mormon presidential candidate.  He doesn’t want to become a spokesman for his church and its many distinctive beliefs.

    Imagine that Catholicism were only 181 years old and a Catholic candidate were asked to explain transubstantiation, or immaculate conception, and that the latter concepts were relatively new and widely unknown.  Wouldn’t the candidate’s opponents and the news media have a field day with those teachings?

    That’s why, when Jessica Ravitz approached the Romney campaign about her story, she got this response:

    “What makes no sense to me is how you continue to push forward in writing about Gov. Romney’s faith journey when we’ve made it clear in every way possible that this is not a story we want to participate in,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in an email.

    Second, the reality is that CNN’s story foreshadows many others like it if Romney continues to be the front-runner.

    Romney, like the other prospective candidates for president, will remain under the microscope in the months ahead.

    His past will be combed, his policies scrutinized, his record examined.

    How much his Mormon faith plays into his political journey remains to be seen. But whether he likes it, whether his campaign can control it, the fact that he may be on track to become the first Mormon president in U.S. history will garner attention.

    It’s a reality that Romney friends like McBride acknowledge, even if it disappoints them.

    “The issues of his church are not the issues of this country. Those are personal issues,” he said. “I hate to see further articles [about his faith], but, on the other hand, what do you do?”

    Both the story’s video and text are available here.

    Where we think this is going

    A friend reminded us of this piece byJay Nordlinger, who sounds a warning that I think we’ll be hearing and reading many times in the coming months:

    Barry Goldwater once hollered, “Grow up, conservatives!” I sometimes feel the same way. We who are conservative aren’t meant to be 100-percenters. That’s more a Bolshevik trait: “What, you favor a lower grain quota? Up against the wall!” Politics is not for the pure, and ideologues are a nuisance. The American electorate is bigger than National Review Online (unfortunately).

    I hope that Republican primary voters will not throw away our chances next year. And I believe that, if Romney is the nominee, virtually everyone right of center will rally ’round.

    Before he became our standard-bearer, John McCain was pretty much the media’s favorite Republican. He was Mr. Amnesty, Mr. Global Warming, Mr. Anti-Religious Right, Mr. Reach Across the Aisle. The second he was nominated, he became Attila the Hun to them. He was the obstacle to Obama, the One.

    The second Romney is nominated — if he is nominated — he too will be Attila the Hun. And the anti-Mormon stuff will be absolutely ferocious. It will come from the Left and it could come from some quarters of the Right, too. Buckle your chin strap. (Emphasis added.)

    We think Nordlinger’s right. We aren’t naive enough to think the coverage will all be fair, but at the end of the process — regardless of who wins — if there are enough balanced pieces like the one Ravitz did for CNN, maybe the country will come out ahead, and little more grown up.

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    Emerging Memes, Understanding Hardcore Baptists, The Same Old Same Old

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, October 31st 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The entire Mormon discussion is starting to get a little old already.  But there are, coming out of the din, obviously plowing the rows for the general election, some…

    …Emerging Memes

    Weird.  Hey the president’s people said they were going this way and the press is right there laying the groundwork.  Unsurprisingly, it is mostly from the newspaper that has drunk most deeply of the Obama Kool-Aid – the NYTimes.  The first was on The Caucus blog about Romney’s “fondness for rules:”

    On a ferry ride over to a Republican conference on Mackinac Island, Mich., last month, Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, found themselves on board with a small group of reporters. Mackinac was where Mr. Romney had taken Ann, then his high school sweetheart, to celebrate her 16th birthday, and the two began fondly reminiscing about their date.

    “Separate bedrooms!” Mrs. Romney explained.

    “It goes without saying,” Mr. Romney added. “We’re from the 1960s.”

    Secretly bunking up, of course, would have been breaking the rules.

    It is a strange world indeed where decency and order can be portrayed as a deficit.  Of course, this president was unafraid to break every standard in the book to achieve his agenda (think Obamacare) so I guess it should not be surprising that his supporters (there is no other word for the NYTimes at this point) would find rules and order somehow disdainful.  Note that by taking on the religious imperative of sex inside the bounds of marriage, the Times is taking a shot a religion as well.

    Then there is the piece about “young, hip Mormons.“  As GetReligion points out, it is not really about religion at all.  The article is about those inside Mormonism struggling to be “cool” when there is, apparently a tradition of “uncoolness” in the faith.  Of course, the whole thing just implies that Mormon candidates are not cool, while Obama is the epitome of cool.   It’s like these people want to live 1968 all over again.  Despite the impressions of the youthful, there are many of us around that were around in 1968 – it wasn’t good and it should not be revisited.

    Ethnicity. So, the BBC asks how Hispanic Mormons will vote and NPR does the same about black Mormons.  This stuff scares me a bit.  Not satisfied with ripping up the country along religious lines, some are apparently ready to inflame racial divides that we have worked for decades to heal.  But then it must be remembered that this president is essentially a thug.

    The Mormon past with race is no more troubled than any other faith’s past with race.  They were, however, about a decade later than most (but certainly not all!) in coming to terms with the issue.  That is really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is exploitable by an opposition candidate of color.  That’s tragic.

    The one good thing this president is still capable of doing is healing whatever racial rifts may remain in the nation.  Yet he, and his MSM allies, seem bound and determined to exploit race for their own political gain.  I wonder how far they will go.  With the Occupy Movement and the 1968 vibe floating about one begins to wonder about rioting and other less seemly forms of civil unrest.  I lived in LA for the Rodney King riots – not something I want to experience again.

    Understanding Hardcore Baptists

    Just remember Robert Jeffress is a Baptist.

    So, the “Are Mormons Christians” discussion continued this week.  It got kicked up a notch when televangelist and leader of the largest congregation in North America, Joel Osteen, declared that Mormons are in fact Christians.  Well this caused our old acquaintance Al Mohler (Baptist), who is on many other fronts defending faith admirably, to have a bit of an apoplectic seizure.

    Then we learn that the Baptists are also fighting hard against the intrusion of – GASP – Calvinism! It would take an extensive lesson in systematic theology to explain what Calvinism is, and its theological opponent (Armenianism), but suffice it to say that I am a Calvinist.  Calvinism is pretty mainstream Protestant stuff.

    And then we learn that in history Baptists sided with atheists when their religious liberty was at stake.

    So I think we have learned what we really need to learn about Baptists – THEY LIKE A FIGHT.  I am not sure it has to be any more complex than that – they seem to be a church that runs around looking for fights to pick.  Speaking of which, I could not find this guy’s specific denominational affiliation, but if it’s not Baptist, it ought to be.

    The Same Old Same Old

    Mormon this, religion that – when you consume as much of this stuff as I do, you begin to wonder how much originality there really is in journalists.  For every piece I link here, there are probably a dozen from the “Town Too Small To Be On The Map Weekly,” but in the internet age, they all circulate.  Anyway…

    Romney’s not the first Mormon to run. (Duh!)  Not to mention, Mormons are not the only “odd man out” faith in American politics.  And remember, no matter how “far out” you think Romney is religiously, there are those that go farther.  (A story clearly written to establish guilt by association.)

    Shockingly, Evangelicals are a big deal in Iowa and that presents Romney with some problems.  (The people writing these stories clearly did not read any news about the 2008 primary!)

    And then there are polls.  Turns out most Americans do not know Romney is Mormon.  (Despite appearances, that links to a Perry watching blog of the Houston Chronicle – NOT a Perry campaign blog, but then….)  However, Evangelicals are more aware than the average citizen.  This should emphasize that religion generally has a problem in the nation, but doggone it, there’s a election to win.

    And then there is yet more attempts, amongst endless attempts, to figure out how being Mormon affect a politician’s stances. That first link is kind of interesting, but should be discussed by a Mormon, not me.  I hope Lowell has a few minutes on his hands to address this.  The second one, well… this pullquote says it all:

    “What makes no sense to me is how you continue to push forward in writing about Gov. Romney’s faith journey when we’ve made it clear in every way possible that this is not a story we want to participate in,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in an email.

    You know, it is hard to write about stuff like this without the focus of the piece joining the discussion.  Funny though how Hugh Hewitt was able to get him to talk about it.  Of course, Hewitt likes religion  and does not attempt to use it as a cudgel – could be a hint there for you, CNN.

    Politics and Religion News

    Romney’s New Hampshire numbers look insurmountable.  Not to mention he is the clear insider favorite (well except for George Will).  Shockingly, the Wall Street Journal had something nice to say about Romney.  But most amazingly, particularly for those that think Romney has a Southern problem, he leads in donations in Alabama!

    But in the middle of all this comes a piece, “Do science and politics mix?” concerning Romney and climate change.  For those that doubt science has gained religious significance among some in the nation – do you really need more evidence?  There is no way you can say science is religion neutral when you see stuff like that.

    And yet, hiding behind science and religious neutrality assaults on faith continue.

    Turns out Catholics matter a lot.  Yeah, they are a bit better organized than Evangelicals.

    And finally, everybody is trying to cash in on all this talk, which goes a long way to explaining all this talk.

    Lowell adds . . .

    The Atlantic post to which John links, “How Mormonism Has Moderated Romney’s and Huntsman’s Politics,” actually seems like an attempt at fairness.  The author’s slip-ups are not huge howlers and are mainly mistakes of proportion that reflect a lack of insight.  For example, to say that Non-Mormons are “banned” from weddings in the church’s temples simply strikes a false note.

    In the end the writer seems to get it mostly right:

    Acknowledging the complexities of Mormon cultural life, we should also be more careful about projecting our own images of Mormonism upon Romney and Huntsman. Their loyalty to the faith community they grew up in doesn’t necessarily translate into strict observance of its rules. That’s one more reason why the attacks on Romney’s faith are so distasteful. They imply that a man can’t be loyal to his Church while also being thoughtful and progressive. That’s not how faith works in modern America.

    How Mormonism Has Moderated Romney’s and Huntsman’s Politics

    First, it is specious to suggest that “thoughtful” and “progressive” are inseparable virtues. I know lots of thoughtful non-progressives (keeping in mind that “progressive” is another perfectly fine word that the left has appropriated to described liberalism – but I digress).   Second, I don’t know how strictly Mitt Romney observes Mormonism’s “rules” (we tend to think of them as commandments from God), but I suspect he’s pretty orthodox about the central tenets: paying tithing, not drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco, and chastity, to name a few.

    But how much does that really matter, in light of the personal behavior of recent presidents? And how much detail do voters need about such minutiae? Some Mormons drink Coca-Cola and some do not. Do we need to know into which group Romney falls? Some Orthodox Jews are Glatt Kosher and some are not, but I have no idea which approach Joe Lieberman has adopted.

    And I don’t care.  Neither should you.

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    To a Thoughtful Critic: A Plea for Justice

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 12:23 am, October 31st 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Don’t Let Evil Triumph: In Which I Respond to a Thoughtful Critic and
    Plead for Romney (more…)

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    What The Future Could Hold

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, October 26th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    I wondered yesterday as I listened to the radio if I was hearing the future.  I was listening to Dennis Prager discuss the Middle East.  He was discussing whether Muslim Shia Arabs would be more loyal to their Arabness or to their Shia-ness.  I other words, would Shia in an Arab country back Shia in a non-Arab country even at the expense of their own nation, purportedly held together by Arab identity?  I was stopped short as I considered yet another bit of nonsense that came from our old “friend” Joel Belz yesterday:

    What’s slipped out of focus here is what entity is prohibited from having such a test. It’s Congress, or some official representative of government, that is absolutely barred from making any kind of religious test for office-holding.

    Individuals, meanwhile, are free to establish such preferences, and to advocate them to others. Individuals can’t restrict the appointment of a particular governmental employee, but they have full liberty to claim they’ll never vote for a Hindu, or will vote only for a Unitarian.

    [...]

    So the issue is both slippery and tricky—in spite of the simple, direct language of Article VI, par. 3. That which is theoretically on target may well not be politically astute. It won’t usually be necessary for us to say everything we’re free to say! And if we’re intent on being politically effective in today’s pluralism-is-everything culture, we’ll probably have to learn not to come across as crassly exclusionary.

    That doesn’t mean, though, that we need to bury our differences—not even our religious differences. We need instead to learn new ways of discussing them. So instead of training our focus on groups and categories, which are easily caricatured, let’s move concretely to specific issues and ideas. Instead of saying simplistically that I could never vote for a Mormon, maybe I’d be better off publicly but politely asking my Mormon friends a few of the questions that trouble so many evangelicals. Why are Mormons so secretive about so many of their ideas and practices? Why, when I go to Salt Lake City, are so many places out of bounds for me to visit? Am I wrong to be a little spooked by a candidate whose church hides so many of its doctrines and practices? How do I interpret the testimony of a formerly Mormon friend who tells me how she was taught through all her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood that shading the truth for a good end is a healthy thing?

    Secretiveness and truth-telling—aren’t these pretty basic, legitimate, and crucial issues in a campaign for high office?

    All this calls for the hard work of research instead of cheap and easy shots. It calls for civility and Golden Rule kindness—even while we’re digging hard to discover the truth, and even when differences and disagreements are both big and profound.

    But remember. While you’re doing all this, don’t let anybody accuse you of establishing a religious test for office. You’re not big and powerful enough to do that even if you wanted to. Only Congress can do that—and no one there seems especially inclined in such a direction.

    Who’s making the cheap shot here?  I’ve been to SLC many times and the only place I am not allowed to go is the Temple, and that’s true for every Mormon Temple in the world, not just the one in Salt Lake City.  But then when you have an axe to grind, I guess you’ll be a bit expansive with the facts – or not bother to research them.  And the lying thing again – Sheesh, give it a rest.  It just rings hollow on a day when Romney is taking all sorts of heat for refusing to sound 100% supportive on an issue where it would have been very easy to do so.  If he were trained to “shade the truth” would he take such a political risk?

    What is going on here is Belz’ very lame effort to put his Christian allegiance ahead of what he thinks is his American allegiance, not unlike the Shia/Arab thing.  But I don’t want to get caught up in arguing with Belz, he is not worth the effort at this point.  What I want to talk about is that if we continue to deal in competing loyalties we will end up like the Middle East.  Having been there this summer just past – that is not a good thing.

    Why is Article VI in the constitution?  Well, one way to look at it would be to say that it takes things like religion out of our national identity.  Our identity as Americans is not related to our religious identity because there is no religious test in the federal government. Many of the states that were represented at the Constitutional Convention had official religions, and a discussion of same was problematic when it came to forming a federal government.  The issue threatened to kill the nation before it was ever born.  Article VI was a parliamentary means of setting aside religious identity for the sake of founding a national identity.  Anybody who wants to call themselves a good American can do no less.

    By insisting on a religious identity that is the same as national identity, it will be, as it was when the nation was founded, impossible to hold the nation together.  Israel looks inevitably to split into two states, one Jewish, one Palestinian.  What if that happened in the US?  If we insist on our religious identity being co-equal to our national one we will soon find ourselves multiple nations.  The Jello Belt will be the “Mormon States of America.”  California will be “Like Gaia worshipers, dude!”  Parts of New York will be “Jerusalem West,” and so it will go.  That would be in complete defiance of what it is that has made this nation the most powerful and richest in history.  Read Abraham Kuyper.

    Identity is a powerful psychological force, and that is where things get really tricky.  Even well-meaning attempts to clarify the differences between Mormons and traditional Christians, end up playing the identity card when they are attempting to erase it.  All the continual talk also plays the identity card.  And then there is “weird.”  (BTW, I identify with the particular weird in that link quite well.)

    But the point is when it comes to voting we vote on one identity and one identity only – Citizen of the United States of America.  The constitution gives us the freedom to have other identities, something most other nations do not do, but it takes them off the table in government.  For us as individuals to do anything less is operate outside the spirit of the constitution and more inside the spirit of the Middle East than the Spirit of America.  I don’t know about you, but I like the Spirit of America.

    Lowell with a quick note . . .

    One of our readers, a Mormon like me, noted that many members of his ward (a Mormon congregation) cannot enter our church’s temple because they have not qualified to do so.  Access to our temples, he notes, “is not about secrets, it’s about sacredness and worthiness. “I wonder what Mr. Belz would have said,” comments our reader, “about checking out the Holy of Holies in the days of Moses, Solomon or Herod. Would he be slandering Jesus for not granting him access?”

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    Answering a Thoughtful Critic

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 12:45 am, October 25th 2011     &mdash      6 Comments »

    Two kinds of people write me about Mitt Romney. The vast majority believe me to be in the pay of Salt Lake City and Satan, not necessarily in that order. A few kind Mormons write to encourage me, but none yet have sent me money or orders from my secret leaders in Salt Lake City.

    And yet last week I got the rare email: a critic that was thoughtful, kind, and with ideas that could change my own thinking. With such a critic one can enter into the dialectic, the meeting of minds that is the basis of all education.

    My critic has worked with LDS members politically and is not a bigot (I think). I have deleted only those comments that might be used to identify this person.

    I am thankful for permission from the writer to respond to his email in this forum:

    My critic says:

    With all of that said I was disappointed at your column.  You repeatedly made the argument that if I will accept a Mormon fighting for my freedom I should accept him as a president.  Surely you don’t really believe this logical inference.  I will accept a thief or an alcoholic fighting for my freedom in the military but that doesn’t mean I want my president or even should want my president to be either.  My only point, by analogy, is that simply because someone is qualified for the one doesn’t make him qualified for the other.

    I reply:

    One job a President holds under the Constitution of 1789 is Commander in Chief. Surely if a man is fit to die for the country as an officer and a gentleman, then he is (provisionally) fit to be Commander in Chief.

    While it is not sufficient to be capable of being an officer and a gentleman to be President, surely is it is necessary. If a Mormon can be the first, it is hard to see what about Mormonism makes a man unfit to be the second.

    I would not accept a thief as thief or an alcoholic as alcoholic as a worthy defender of my freedom. If he is not more than a thief and no more than an alcoholic, then he is unfit to serve. If we think of U.S. Grant and imagine him an alcoholic (for the sake of argument), then I would say that Grant was fit to fight despite his alcoholism not because of it.

    On the other hand, I would argue that in my experience Mormonism makes men better and not worse. I vote for a Mormon in part because Mormonism has been good (in my experience) for a man’s civic virtue and not bad.

    In short, Mormonism may be wrong (in my view) about some things, but it gets civic virtue right.

    My critic continues:

    Additionally simply because someone meets all the professional or policy-rendering qualifications doesn’t mean that we should be equally as comfortable with their worldview as we might be of another candidates.  While at this point I do not share Jeffress’ support of Perry I do think he, as a private citizen and as a theologian, has the right and even the responsibility to answer questions honestly.

    I reply:

    I agree. As a private citizen, he has a duty to answer questions about his citizenship. As a man, he has a duty to answer honestly. As a theologian, I am interested in his answers.

    The question about worldview is vital.

    Worldview is a big thing . . . civics is a smaller subset of worldview. When it comes to civics, I am more than comfortable that Romney shares my worldview. Romney is thoughtful, rational, changes his mind, argues his point of view. Romney accepts the Constitution of 1789 and is a republican (small “r.”)

    Let me give an example of an important part of worldview that is, in the details, not relevant.

    I think epistemology matters a great deal to worldview and am a committed Platonist. (Some friends would say all Platonists should be committed!) However, I cannot think why I should care what epistemology either Romney or Perry adopts as President if it is at least plausible.

    Perry (in his Birther moments) causes me worry about what is required as a “proof” of a thing in his mind, but I really have given the issue of his epistemology little thought! This seems right.

    Just because an area of worldview is important does not make it important in picking a President.

    My critic says:

    In the article you stated: “he attacked Mormonism for not being evangelical, Romney for not being born again, and Mormonism as a cult. This is bigotry buttressed by irrelevance fortified with invincible ignorance.”

    Bigotry is defined as “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief or opinion that differs from one’s own.”  His statements weren’t intolerant he was merely voicing his perspective of the best candidate available and a part of his reasoning, as he stated, was Perry’s evangelicalism.  Then after the event, when asked by a reporter he just answered the question from an ideological perspective.  How is this bigoted.  Was it bigoted of you to call him bigoted in your article?  It seems intolerant of his opinion.  I will grant you the right to your opinion but you seem condemning of him and his opinion.

    I answer:

    You have given one definition of bigot. Let me suggest that it also applies to a person who applies a standard relevant in one area to another. My favorite example is marriage. Given my inclinations and morals, my spouse must be a woman. It would be bigoted, however, to apply that just test for a spouse to hiring a fellow professor.

    I condemn his opinion, because he brings a good idea into play in an area where it is not relevant. He is not a bigot for preferring Evangelical theology to LDS theology, but for using this preference in picking a Presidential candidate.

    My critic says:

    While I agree that being evangelical may not be relevant criteria on its own for being president can’t we at least acknowledge that it provides an important data point on a resume if the worldview is held consistently by the one running for office.  Much of (Seminary)’s strength and my entire doctoral program is premised on the idea that worldview matters deeply and to act as though religious perspective has a minimal shaping influence on decision making in leadership is ridiculous.  Did you really mean your statement: “The man qualified for the life to come can rule there, but I am looking for a person fit leadership in the world now”?  Surely we don’t have to have a Christian leader and Jeffress said as much when he pointed out that in a presidential race he would vote for Romney over Obama but how can we bifurcate the two worlds of the physical and the spiritual so easily.  Does the latter have no significant import into the vitality of the former?

    I say:

    It does matter.

    It matters a great deal, but then LDS and my own theology do not differ on every point. LDS theology is thoughtful and has much in common with my own theology. The areas it has in common with my theology, supernaturalism and morality, seem the relevant ones.

    While one’s view of the Trinity must have some relevance to politics, I fail to see much relevance. Unless you can show some, I will discard it.

    My critic says:

    Finally you claim that his “bigotry” was “fortified by invincible ignorance.”  But theologically speaking Mormonism is a cult while sociologically speaking it is not (however its roots clearly were).  But you seemed put out by the very idea of that label.  He made that statement to a reporter who asked his opinion as a pastor/theologian.  He wasn’t answering as a politician.

    I say:

    I do not feel that Mormonism is a cult theologically. I think it is wrong. I think it an alternative to my own beliefs, not a “cultic” spin off. If it is true, then I am wrong.

    I would use cult to refer to groups far smaller, more dangerous, more ephemeral, and less open to change than Mormonism.

    I do not think the word “cult” is useful in the public square. People speaking in the public square should know this. Pastors and theologians speaking in the public square should know how they will be heard. He was heard as saying “Mormons are weird, scary, and unserious.”

    I fear this kind of political “dog whistle” because it will be applied to all religious soon. We agree with Mormons on supernaturalism, divine revelation, and the existence of more than is dreamed of in Richard Dawkins’ philosophy.

    That makes all of us nuts in the present age.

    My Mormon friends are not weird, not nuts, and have interesting beliefs worthy of my deepest consideration and intellectual response.

    You cannot go to a political event and speak a different language and I respect the good doctors intelligence enough to believe he knew what he was doing.

    I like Romney as a candidate, but I hate the demonization of the LDS community even more than I like Romney. It is uncharitable, fruitless, and unChristian.

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    Opening Up New Fronts In The Religion Discussons, OR Revisiting Old Ones

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, October 24th 2011     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Well, the ham-fisted Robert Jeffress has doubled down.  He quotes some of the Founders, ignoring completely that as a group they were as religiously diverse, and diverse on the question of the role of religion in governance as we are now.  He cites the old tried and true “I can do what I want in the voting booth” argument, which at this point is trite, boring, and an excuse for close-mindedness.  He pulls out the standard “religion defines character and character matters” argument which is very true, but somehow neglects to argue how the Mormon faith produces bad character?!  (Put a bookmark here – we’ll be back.)  And then he discusses primaries:

    During this firestorm I’ve reignited over the role of religion in politics, some have quoted Martin Luther as saying he would rather be governed by a competent unbeliever than an incompetent Christian. Yet evangelicals should remember that the purpose of the primary process is to keep us from having to make such a choice. At this point we have the opportunity to select both a competent leader and a committed Christian.

    I guess a primary is not a real election and I guess there is no diversity of religious opinion inside the Republican party?  That idea is just mind-numbingly disconnected from anything resembling reality.  In fact, it is so obscure that by comparison, Obama’s excuse-making disconnects look almost reasonable.  That is the argument of a desperate man who has just wasted all his political capital on an errant shot.  I quite honestly am flummoxed at how to respond to such an argument; it is simply foreign – there is no common basis upon which discussion can be had.  But then, Jeffress is pretty typically Texas.

    What’s amazing is that Jeffress feels the need to say anything – he did his job and he did it quite well.  The religion front in the political battles has been opened up and now new battles are emerging on the front.  Consider what a extraordinary couple of weeks it has been at this blog.  We have written more, done more radio, gotten more correspondence in the last two weeks than in the last two years (he said, being only slightly hyperbolic).

    There are a number of new fronts opening in the religion discussion and the situation is not pleasant.  Sometime, the writers just want to keep the issue alive – I mean a story saying that Romney will not give a speech he has already given – that’s news?  Speaking of “not news,” this ABC piece is truly remarkably uninformative.  But then strategically keeping the issue open allows those new fronts to mature – some are on the anti-Mormon front and some simply left vs. right.  Let’s start with the anti-Mormon front as it is part of what buttresses the general left v. right war on religion.  Fortunately there are still some out there with some common sense.

    People who paid attention last cycle will remember the most hateful argument from the right of Joel Belz.  Belz “argued” that because Mormons had a more fluid view of scripture than traditional Christians; their view of truth was therefore equally fluid – in other words “Mormons lie.”  I guess this is how Mormonism builds “bad character.”  We contended last cycle that it was that argument that gave the flip-flop charge traction against Romney when it had no traction against other candidates that had changed their views.  Well that argument is more or less back, this time offered by Joe Conason:

    In practice, however, the Mormons welcome or at least permit a much broader spectrum of political and ideological affiliations within their ranks, even among the elected officials who share their faith. The highest-ranking Mormon in public office today, for instance, is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a liberal Democrat demonized by the tea party and the Republicans, who spent millions trying to defeat him last year.

    The best example of Mormonism’s political flexibility, of course, is Romney’s own career (and that of his father, the late Michigan governor who was hardly a hardliner), which veered from the most liberal Republicanism to the harsh conservatism he currently espouses.

    That pretty well ties it in a knot in terms of linking Mormonism and flip-flop.  And, of course, this all comes up in the context of discussing Jeffress, etc.  This is a particularly insidious article because it attempts defend Mormons by showing how not-in-lockstep they are politically, but what it really does is assert flip-flop and try to tie it directly to Mormonism, simply skipping over Belz’ scripture linkage.  Ugly, but at least we have seen it before.

    “Weird” is, as we predicted, starting to creep up in some unusual ways.  And in case you did not know it, FOXNews is part of a Mormon plot.  (Sheesh!)

    There is a new one, though, that is particularly heinous:

    Six Republican presidential candidates are slated to attend Saturday’s gathering of an estimated 1,000 Christian conservatives in Iowa – but not Mitt Romney. His campaign doesn’t feel comfortable “in this arena,” the activist group organizing the event said.

    The Former Massachusetts governor is not coming “because probably he doesn’t want to be there,” Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition that is hosting a presidential forum in Des Moines Saturday, told CNN.

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will be a special guest at the forum, which will be attended by presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

    “Tell me what there is to fear by coming to this event – to making their case?” Scheffler, whose group promotes morality and Christian principles in government, asked, referring to Romney’s campaign. “Why have the six other candidates accepted and the perceived frontrunner decided not to come?”

    So now it’s Romney’s fault!?  This is all headlined “Romney Not Comfortable With Christian Conservatives, Iowa Activist Says”  OK, two comments – last cycle Romney worked his tail off to reach out to Evangelicals in Iowa and they handed the caucuses to Huckabee.  Every Evangelical of import in Iowa knows Mitt Romney – he does not need to reach out to them – been there, done that.  Secondly, this Evangelical has been in the room with Romney several times and even enjoyed brief conversations.  If there is anyone that is uncomfortable, it is NOT Mitt Romney.

    But moving to the bigger left v. right front.  The DNC is trying a faith outreach – watch this space.  But apparently where we are really going to get hit is that Perry has opened up his campaign to a bunch of pretty serious traditional Christian extremists.   And by that, I mean people a lot more extreme than even Jeffress:

    Pentecostals, the spirit-filled worshippers known mostly for speaking in tongues, were at a crossroads, divided over the extent of God’s modern-day miracles. If God made apostles and prophets during the New Testament era, did he still create them today?

    Most Pentecostals said no, and went on to build the movement’s major denominations.

    A minority disagreed — and amazingly, their obscure view is now in the crosshairs of a presidential race. Some critics, fearing these little-known Christians want to control the U.S. government, suspect that Republican Rick Perry is their candidate.

    The Texas governor opened the door to the discussion with a prayer rally he hosted in August, a week before he announced his run for president.

    [...]

    The end of the world is an intense focus of many of the religious leaders involved in the rally. Engle has said that the tornado that leveled Joplin, Mo., last May was evidence of God’s judgment on the country over abortion. Bickle views acceptance of same-sex marriage as a sign of the end times.

    These preachers believe demons have taken hold of specific geographic areas, including the nation’s capital. They also promote a philosophy of public engagement known as the “seven mountains,” which urges Christians to gain influence in business, government, family, church, education, media and the arts as a way to spread righteousness and bring about God’s kingdom on earth. The language seems close to dominionism, the belief that Christians have a God-given mandate to run the world.

    OK – this is a bit of a retread of the Dominionist thing.  We have never said that there was no such movement, we have only said it did not matter – too small, too crazy.  Apparently Rick Perry does not think they are too small or too crazy and is consorting with them.  Once again, we of faith in politics prove to be our own worst enemies.

    In opening up the religion front Jeffress/Perry have now not only injured the party generally, but themselves specifically.  I, and I think the majority of those of us that call ourselves Christians – Evangelical and otherwise,  do not want to be associated with that bunch of yahoos.  We have a better understanding of things than that.  As JMR said last week:

    At one time in the history of the English speaking world, men of good will believed that mistakes about this truth disqualified a man from office. Experience showed that this disqualified good people, facilitated persecution, and corrupted the clergy. As a result pious men became opposed to religious tests for office. This was not the result of impiety, though the impious rejoiced, but due to the overwhelming Christian majority recognizing they had been wrong.

    And now I shall close with the best headline quip of last week:

    GOP speed daters ready to go steady with Romney?

    There is a lot of truth in that one.

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