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."

  • Absolutely Totally And Completely The Wrong Tone

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:55 am, March 30th 2012     &mdash      17 Comments »

    Rick Santorum is as over as the Monkees.  Covering him is like covering last week’s news.  However, the real beat of this blog is religion and politics and he keeps stepping on that ground.  He is clearly having trouble accepting the fact that it is over, so he keeps swinging.  In his latest effort at campaign CPR, in an apparent attempt to capture the Catholic vote (his native vote that he has continually lost to Romney), he takes to Real Clear Religion with an op-ed entitled:

    It Is Hard to Be Catholic in Public Life

    What’s wrong with this picture?  For one thing, this is not exactly an outlet that will attract a lot of attention – more indication that Santorum is done.  But let’s focus on substance; its narrow Catholic focus could be one part of the issue.  If you want to be president, you have to president for everybody, that means to some extent you have to do away with labels.  In an identity conscious age, defining too tight an identity will send away more voters than it will capture.  This sort of thing works on a local level, but nationally, not going to happen.

    Santorum rightly goes on to decry many of the Obama administration’s assaults on religious liberty.  But in making his case strictly Catholic, in forgetting to be inclusive of all religious expression, he seems to imply that the rest of us do not have problems.  Nonsense.  Indeed the latest Obama raid is against Catholics, but in such Catholics represent all of us of faith – just as Mormons represent all of us of faith as they are particularly under assault from the gay community.

    Then Santorum moves into a detailed refutation of JFK’s 1960 Houston speech:

    Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy and I remember them well — Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy. The president was a source of great pride and a symbol to Catholics that all barriers had finally been broken. What my family and maybe even candidate Kennedy at the time didn’t realize was that in a key moment in that election of 1960 in Houston, Kennedy helped began the construction of another, even more threatening wall for our society — one that sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse.

    JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the Catholic church might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let’s make no mistake about it — Kennedy was addressing a real issue and real prejudice at the time. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith. Let me quote from the beginning of Kennedy’s speech:

    “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

    The problem here is that Santorum is shooting at the wrong target.  The problem is not, nor has it ever been, Kennedy’s speech.  The problem has been how the left has warped that speech over time.  No church may dictate national policy – that is pretty doggone absolute.  “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”  That is about as definitive and absolute a separation as you can get.

    The problem is that people confuse church and religion and morality.  Church is an institution – religion is a belief system – and morality is a code of ethics.  These are different things.  These three things tend to mutually reinforce each other, but they are distinct.  The left has sought to blur the distinction between these things in order to drive simple morality, primarily in the realms of sexual behavior, from the public square.  There is no constitutional requirement for a separation of morality and state, but if one thinks morality and religion and church inseparable, well….

    And this is the problem with Santorum’s argument – it plays into the lack of distinction of these three things – and in doing so he buys into the essential argument of the left and ends up weakening the nation as a whole.  A free nation like ours, requires a people of moral character. For many of its citizens that morality is reinforced in religion, and that religion is institutionalized in church – many different churches, and several different religions.  All of us that share that morality should rise together in its defense because without it our nation will descend in the chaos that has plagued many a great nation before us.  If we grant the left their argument that there is no distinction between church, religion, and morality then we grant them the argument that allows our voice to be squelched in the public square.

    Now, indeed, Catholic doctrine is that religion and church are inseparable, but morality is not.  That means that within the coalition of those of us that wish to defend this morality publicly, we will have some heated discussion – but we have to keep such internecine debate to ourselves.  I honestly cannot tell if Santorum thinks he is speaking for all of us of faith by speaking of the problems from a uniquely Catholic perspective, which would be an expression of this Catholic doctrine, or if he is just being close minded about the rest of us.  But let’s grant him the nobler motive for the sake of this discussion.

    There are two problems with the way he advances his argument.  For one – the rest of us do not necessarily share that Catholic doctrine.  In fact Protestantism, and its child Evangelicalism, are born pretty much out of the realization that church and religion are in fact separable.  So, while Santorum may indeed be arguing inclusively from his own perspective, he is being exclusive from the perspective of the rest of us.  And considering that the only vote he has consistently won is the evangelical vote that sounds like an enormous political mistake to me.

    But far worse are those in our nation that hold to our shared morality from an areligious, or only nominally religious, perspective.  His uniquely Catholic argument is on its face exclusive of such people.  When our moral coalition is divided, the left wins.

    Thus once again, Santorum fails to advance that which he claims to want to advance.  It is this failure more than any other that makes Santorum unsuitable as a national leader, let alone president, for the social conservative movement.  It is a shame for a good man.  I hope he has a good media career because his political one is over.

    Afternoon Update: Catholic blogger Wesley J. Smith picks up on another problem with Santorum’s piece:

    I certainly agree that about our founders’ “inspired brilliance and agree that the USA is a nurturing home for faith.  But, faith certainly does not require freedom.

    In fact, freedom can lead to a weak faith because it remains untested.  Indeed, the strongest and most enduring faith is often forged in the hottest fires of oppression. Consider, for example, how the Church was persecuted by Rome.  Those martyrs eaten alive in the arena were hardly free.  But they sure had faith!  And because of their sacrifices, the Church grew.

    Faith has historically thrived in the face of tyranny and deadly persecution wielded against it.  Look at how the Russian Orthodox Church survived what may have been the worst religious oppression in history during the Soviet era–only to emerge and rebound strongly from its grievous wounds.  Look at the Buddhists in Tibet who today maintain their faith in the face of Chinese occupation and oppression.  Good grief, look at the history of the Jews!

    Agreed – that is gross misspeak – Faith DOES NOT require freedom.  However, I think it is fair to say that real freedom requires faith.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Political Strategy, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 17 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    It’s Over – So Here It Comes

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:59 am, March 29th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    I think the headlines tell the tale.  Fox News:

    Rubio endorses Romney, saying he’s ‘earned’ it

    Well, that is certainly a big fish.  But like the Jedi said to Jar-Jar – “There is always a bigger fish.” Bloomberg:

    George H.W. Bush to Endorse Romney Thurs.

    Which brings us to the New York Daily News:

    GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney moves into mop-up phase of race for Republican presidential nomination

    Clear indications that the tone around here is going to change.  As the Romney campaign pivots, so does the press.  USAToday:

    Before politics, Mitt Romney was a Mormon bishop

    Yep folks, in the “mop up phase,” we will be treated to numerous background analysis pieces, like there have not been thousands written already, and they will open the door to the Mormon chatter.  Sometimes sarcasm can be used to answer the charges:

    The operation is so slick, in other words, that the politicians who are being controlled by the Mormon Church don’t even know that they’ve been lobbied. Ingenious.

    Of course not, didn’t you see “The Manchurian Candidate?”  You see, during his mission in France, Romney was secretly brainwashed….  I should not write that, someone will think I am serious.  It is going to get weird though.  Did you know some Mormons disagree with Romney?

    Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith isn’t enough to persuade all his coreligionists to vote for him….  “I personally think Mitt Romney’s foreign policy is egregious and at odds with the principles of his faith,” said the group’s organizer. “One can look at these talks from prophets and see that Romney is out of touch with them.”

    Man they are devious – they brainwashed people to all sides of the political spectrum just to cover their tracks.  Again, I should exercise care, someone will think I am serious.  Which brings me to the funniest piece I have read in a while:

    How Mitt Romney Is the Second Coming of Barry Goldwater

    In case you missed the primary campaign just concluded, which this writer clearly did, Romney was not “conservative enough” to win the nomination.  They do not come any more conservative that Barry Goldwater.  But of course, now that Romney is the presumptive nominee, the liberals will need to make him the most ultra-right, mouth-breathing neanderthal in history.

    Maybe we should call the “mop up phase ” “silly time?”

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    Posted in Political Strategy, Reading List, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 4 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    In Which I Discuss an Open Convention

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 02:24 pm, March 28th 2012     &mdash      1 Comment »

    My family follows politics for two reason: we care about our nation and we enjoy the game.

    The second motive is not a noble one, but politics is entertaining.

    Nothing would be more thrilling to the political fan than an open convention where anyone could become president. A boy-orator like William Jennings Bryan could electrify the convention with a speech .  . . if he came with support already. A Dick Cheney-type, too grumpy to run in the primaries, could be the nominee as a senior statesman. Delegates can vote the man or woman they wish to be President of the United States and nobody can be sure what would happen.

    Just as a Constitutional Convention, once called, could do almost anything so could an open GOP convention.

    That’s why most sane Americans oppose calling a Con-Con and all good Republicans dread an open convention.

    Why?

    For the very reason it is appealing: anything could happen and when anything can happen the result is generally worse not better.

    Call me a cynic, but if so the Founders were cynical. They knew that when called to revise the Articles of Confederation, they had gone a bit mad and written an entirely new document. With men like Washington around, they did not go aground, but they might have. Counting on James Madison or George Washington getting the ear of a Convention is like counting on politicians to do the right thing: it happens, but should always make us grateful when it does.

    Mitt Romney will have the most delegates and have received the most primary votes at the start of an Open Convention. If he is denied the nomination, what happens to those votes? Would we really nominate someone who received fewer votes than Romney or someone who received none at all? What would happen to the fourth of the Party that really likes Romney?

    Secondly, primary vetting exposes candidates strengths and weaknesses in ways that a convention would not. Rick Perry was the kind of guy, with his big block of Texas delegates, who might have come out of the Convention. Imagine that first debate with Obama.

    Third, open conventions would be nasty. Romney has built his campaign for years. He would not go down without a fight. That fight would in HD in living rooms all over America.

    Fourth, we are less likely to get a unifying figure than a bland character acceptable to everyone. For every cool (though untested) General Petraeus, there is a Tim Pawlenty waiting to happen. If you think the Romney campaign is dull, imagine being The Guy Nobody Hated running against Obama.

    Finally, an open convention would end up being a brokered convention. Most delegates would find their natural leaders and those natural leaders would meet in caffeine driven rooms (where Mormons would have a disadvantage!) late at night to pick someone. This unseemly method of picking the GOP nominee would be fatal. Picking under pressure usually produces Scott Campbell not Aaron Rodgers.

    For any candidate to run hoping to produce an open convention is to pander to the political junkies watching Cable News while ignoring the regular voters would hate the ugliness on display.

    Santorum should run no further than Pennsylvania. If he doesn’t do as well there as Romney did in Massachusetts (or at least Michigan) . . . then he cannot win. Gingrich has no pathway. Ron Paul has no pathway. Ideally, all three would bow out now so Team Romney can switch to positive ads building up his favorables and negative ads focussed on the President.

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    The Worst Sport/Politics Analogy In History

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:08 am, March 28th 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    PERIOD – BAR NONE

    Yesterday, while writing on matters most serious, Hugh Hewitt said:

    Analogies might work if any of them have basic history down.

    A statement that proved most prophetic as not long after Aaron Blake posted this at The Fix:

    Ron Paul is the Butler Bulldogs of Republican presidential politics.

    I enter into any discussion of Dr. Paul with both fear and trembling.  You have no idea the amount of email we have received here because we have not included the good doctor on our masthead, because we have refused to address him at all.  There is a reason for that – one we will discuss momentarily.  But I could not leave this be.  Blake’s extraordinary ignorance of college basketball make this analogy not merely wrong, but terribly insulting to the Butler Bulldogs.  Long time readers of this blog know that Butler is my alma mater and deep affection for the basketball program resides in this parts.  Such insult may not be allowed to stand.

    Blake’s analogy here consists primarily of saying saying that Butler made a stand but did not win:

    Butler, you may recall, is the second-tier — a.k.a. “mid-major” — college basketball program that made the NCAA Final Four two straight years in 2010 and 2011, only to lose in the National Championship game to storied programs from Duke and Connecticut.

    Similarly, the Texas congressman made the Final Four in the presidential race this year, exceeded expectations, and even came close to winning the big game in Iowa.

    [...]

    Like Butler, Paul wasn’t supposed to win the nomination and basically nobody thought he would, and that lack of an expectation is what makes his campaign a success.

    [...]

    The bad news for Paul is that, like Butler, sustaining the momentum has proven difficult.

    Despite their consecutive national championship game appearances, Butler failed to make the field of 68 teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament this year, finishing the season a very pedestrian 20-14.

    But at least for a few years, when people think of the underdog making a statement, they will think of Butler, who for a couple seasons danced with the big boys.

    You would think success in college basketball can be measured by victory in only one game.  Less than a handful of schools in history have made the Final Four in consecutive years.  The list of those that have defines the elite of college basketball (UCLA, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas to name the biggest) and even excludes a few of the most successful programs in the country (Indiana).  Ron Paul on the other hand is a boutique politician who will be at best a footnote in history.

    In order to get to the Final Four, any team must win four consecutive games against teams that are, by their mere presence in the tournament, among the best in the nation.   Ron Paul has yet to win anything but a congressional election.

    And now to the reason we have never addressed Ron Paul here.  No one has ever expected him to contend for the nomination – he always has been a “statement” candidate – using the free press of the campaign to gain exposure, but never seriously contending.  There was no reason for us to cover him, he was not really running.

    On the other hand, the Butler team of the ’09-’10 season spent the entire season in or very near the top ten in the rankings and was a serious contender from the pre-season forward.  As the ’10-’11 season kicked off, a fan wrote to the USAToday college basketball pre-season supplement and asked “Who will most likely be this years Butler?”  The pundits there answered simply, “Butler.”  Butler’s success of the last two seasons was not unexpected to any serious observer of college basketball.  Nor is a 20-14 season “very pedestrian.”  A 20 win season is the benchmark for success.  Not even the most storied of programs (UCLA) makes the tournament every year.

    And then finally there is this – Ron Paul will end up an historical footnote.  Someone will write a thesis on him at some point that no one will read.  In the end nothing has changed.

    The Butler Bulldogs of the last two years are already the stuff of legend, and they may forever have changed the landscape of college basketball.  One must remember that their semi-final opponent of last year was Virginia Commonwealth – another “mid-major.”  History may yet prove that Butler was not a fluke, but lead the charge.  As the NBA sucks talent into its maw at earlier and earlier ages, the mid-majors with their ability to  keep their players around until graduation may come to dominate the college game.

    Butler is far from done, while Ron Paul is done like an over-cooked turkey.  Paul is too old and too tired to make another run.  With the incredibly young Brad Stevens at the helm and the money and visibility the last two years have brought to Butler, there is nothing but success in their future.

    And if Aaron Blake wants to take this to the next level – a radio or TV debate – I am available.

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    The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:57 am, March 27th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    The Ugly

    Maureen Dowd. As we have noted here a week or so ago, her last foray into Mormon waters was pretty ugly.  Gary Shapiro, writing at HuffPo, agrees:

    Dowd has crossed a line of unacceptable bigotry by castigating a candidate because of his religion. No amount of quotes from other people (including saying that many “others” consider Mormonism a “cult”) makes it better. Holding one person accountable for all acts by their religion is as absurd as holding all Muslims responsible for extreme Islamic terrorists, all Jews responsible for the Jewish Defense League and all Germans for the Holocaust.

    [...]

    To Dowd, the Holocaust lesson was not about the dangers of her type of vitriol, but about protecting the sensibilities of Jews when it suits her purposes. Well, this Jew says it is unethical and un-American to slam a candidate on the basis of the beliefs of and act by those in his religion. Calling it a “cult” doesn’t excuse it either. For shame on Dowd and the Gray Lady – the New York Times.

    It’s going to be a very long general election cycle.  Which brings us to…

    The Bad

    Salon points out Romney’s “evangelical problems.  There has been a lot of buzz, but little reporting about this.  One must wonder why.  I think it is simple – the Obama loving press has been saving their big gun for when it would be most effective.  Look for this story to be hammered and hammered as they try to suppress the evangelical vote for the general.

    Obama carried Evangelicals last time, but this fickle group has also been the first to denounce his far too left wing policies.

    The Good

    Pullquotes that just make my day.  From the NYTimes:

    But Mrs. Willauer, 50, who lives in Annapolis, Md., has decided to support Mitt Romney in Maryland’s Republican presidential primary on April 3. She said she had more confidence that Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, could better manage the economy.

    Besides, she said, Mr. Romney, who is Mormon, appears more tolerant of people of other faiths.

    “While my personal values may align more closely with Senator Santorum’s,” she said, “I feel Governor Romney is more willing to tolerate different views and values, and the president of the United States has to accept and respect the right of every American to believe as they will.”

    Michael Gerson in his WaPo Column:

    Candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have practiced a kind of identity politics, urging evangelicals to support one of their own. Then they reduced the evangelical tradition to a pathetic caricature, defined by support for school prayer or (in Bachmann’s case) conspiratorial opposition to vaccines. Their view of Christian social ethics is strangely identical to the most uncompromising anti-government ideology — involving the systematic subordination of a rich tradition of social justice to a narrow and predictable political agenda. It is difficult to imagine Bachmann or Perry in the same political universe as evangelical abolitionists and social reformers William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury.

    The problem is not, as some have alleged, a secret theocratic plot. It is the regression of evangelical politicians — and politicians appealing to evangelicals — to the worst habits of the religious right circa 1980. They jostle to claim a divine calling. They appear in the pulpit with pastors who talk ignorantly of America as a “Christian nation.” Some, when they lose, hint darkly of anti-religious persecution. This is the behavior of Jerry Falwell on a bad day. Americans are right to find it discrediting.

    [...]

    So maybe the message of Americans on religion and politics isn’t that confusing after all. They don’t like sectarianism. But they also reject secularism. There is, fortunately, a distinctly American alternative: religious pluralism, humanized by tolerance.

    A vote free Tuesday – Enjoy!

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    In Which I Like Etch-A-Sketch

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 01:12 pm, March 26th 2012     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Mitt Romney had an aide describe running in the general election as a reboot of the campaign.

    Stating this obvious truth, that one runs to the right in a Republican primary and to the center to win the general, sent shock waves through the political world comparable to the startling discovery the the movie version of “Hunger Games” contains violence.

    Really?

    What do Republican voters expect? Every candidate, including Reagan, tries to capture as many independent voters as possible. If Romney does not try to do this, he is guilty of political malpractice. There is no great virtue in offending as many voters as possible- though last week Santorum tried that theory out.

    What really stuck was the seemingly unfortunate metaphor used by the Romney aid of the Etch-A-Sketch. You can draw one thing on this delightful toy, shake it, and then draw something else.

    In the hands of a delighted press and his opponents, this became an icon for Romney’s putative desire to be all things to all people.

    Really, however, it is sign that Mitt Romney is wise.

    Why?

    Politics is an art, not a science. Political issues by their very nature rarely have “right” or “wrong” answers. People who think there are confused politics with Truth . . . and end up with bad politics and tyranny. A good politician, like Ronald Reagan, will have core beliefs in areas where Truth is knowable, but recognize that applying those Truths to the broken world is difficult.

    The beauty of an Etch-A-Sketch is that it endures. Unlike a piece of paper that you can only use once, you can draw many wonderful things on an Etch-A-Sketch. Like the American Constitution . . . the Etch-A-Sketch endures through many generations of children. My kids could play with my Etch-A-Sketch and draw things that were not even invented when I got the toy originally. Of course, bad kids might use the Etch-A-Sketch to draw bad things, but bad kids can mess up anything.

    Romney has a fine mind and that means that he is capable of embracing new ideas. He can bend and flex with changing circumstances. He favors small government, but knows that the voters will only tolerate so much cutting.

    This does not mean, of course, that this decent and conservative man will “reboot” his campaign and say the opposite of what he said during the primaries. It does mean he will change the emphasis to issues a broader range of voters find attractive. Primary voters like certain images, general election voters different ones .  . . but they need not be inconsistent.

    Of course, on two or three issues Governor Romney, no saint, has changed his mind. He has shilled for votes at times in an unseemly manner. We are not going to elect Galahad president, but a decent fallible man. He is a man, like the Etch-A-Sketch, with rugged and long lasting design . . . built to be effective over changing times. He can take different ideas and present them . . . but do so within the confines of a set pattern.

    I fear Santorum has a drawn an apocalyptic painting, Durer-like in intensity, and insists everyone look. He will not change . . . he will not show us anything but the one image he believes we need to see. This is possible in a prophet, dangerous in a president.

    Mitt Romney is no ideologue . . . he is a statesman. . . .and the GOP is lucky he is running. I look forward to the ways he presents future possibilities and draws on his team and his life story to create hope and possibilities for the next four years.

     

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