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 Said It All

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:03 am, August 31st 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Honestly, what more needs to be said that this paragraph from the text of Romney’s acceptance speech last night:

    We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan; that might have seemed unusual or out of place but I really don’t remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to.

    Well, maybe there is one more thing to add, this headline:

    Romney takes lead over Obama…

    Share

    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Religious Freedom | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    By George, I Think It Is Working

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:12 am, August 30th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    About a week ago, I expressed my concerns regarding Romney opening up the religion issue.  As I have said repeatedly, he is not opening up the religious belief question, he is simply placing Mormonism in its rightful place as a religion that participates properly in the great American civil religion.  But in so doing he is opening the door to people trying to pull the conversation into the old canards – “cult” from the right and “weird” from the left.

    The right does not even seem to be trying very hard to shift the conversation (Thanks I am sure to Obama’s hideous years of pretending to govern)  and the left’s attempts seem to be in vain, whether they are gentle and somewhat reasonable (such a piece would be downright good if it had a single source from the right) or just bizarre.  Even the New York Times is starting to sound like this “rolling out” is not such a bad thing.

    The meme of humility is working quite well, I think.  I loved Tagg Romney’s interview from the other day:

    Tagg Romney on Tuesday sought to explain why his father rarely discusses his Mormon faith in public, saying that a fundamental principle of the Church of the Latter-day Saints is to not “brag” about one’s good deeds.

    “One of the tenets of our faith and of many faiths is that you do good works. [But] you don’t want to brag about things,” Mitt Romney’s oldest son told Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen on the “Newsmaker” set of the POLITICO Hub. “He’s done his best, he’s led his life that way. He’s willing to talk about the fact that he was in that role but he doesn’t want to talk about the people he helped.”

    Tagg is right – it is not something one should brag about, and I think most Americans know it and most Americans are really tired of hearing the current president yammer on about what he has done, or at least thinks he has done.  When this meme was started with regards to Romney’s tax returns, I said:

    And so he is betting that the religious sensibilities of the nation are stronger than its economic jealousies.  Five to ten years ago that would have been an utterly safe bet.  Now it is a test of just how far the nation has shifted.

    I applaud Gov. Romney for his confidence in the American people.

    This convention is convincing me that the nation has not shifted as far as I feared, and Romney is actually restoring my faith in the American people.  Ronald Reagan was the last guy to get that job done.  We are watching Romney step into some pretty big shoes here and they seem to fit quite well.

    Paul Ryan got it absolutely correct last night.  One passage of his speech in particular rang loud in the halls of this blog because it perfectly captured why we started it, and for the first time in a long time, I am starting to think America still understands it – it was Ryan’s biggest applause:

    Mitt and I also go to different churches. But in any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example. And I’ve been watching that example. The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best. Not only a fine businessman, he’s a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.

    Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life.

    We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.

    Each of these great moral ideas is essential to democratic government – to the rule of law, to life in a humane and decent society. They are the moral creed of our country, as powerful in our time, as on the day of America’s founding. They are self-evident and unchanging, and sometimes, even presidents need reminding, that our rights come from nature and God, not from government.

    Share

    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Political Strategy, Reading List, Understanding Religion | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Evangelical Mistake

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 pm, August 29th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    It was a hard morning to be an Evangelical and read the Romney/religion/convention news. This week should be a week of celebration – we have a candidate of good character, smarter than most, a devout family man, and a greatly weakened opponent. The economy is going to get turned around and we are in good shape to definitively slow, if not stop, the general cultural slide that the nation is experiencing, and with a majority in Congress perhaps even begin to reverse the slide. And yet, when I read the news, Evangelicals, who should be leading this parade, are in point of fact (and pardon the “French” here) sucking hind tit.

    They are talking about Mike Huckabee, who with his endorsement of Akin has rendered himself a non-player. Even with Huckabee saying the right things about Romney, who cares? More importantly the fact that it is necessary, at this juncture, for anybody to say anything of that sort is pathetic.

    Which brings me to Ralph Reed. Reed is a good man, trying to say the right things, but he sure is not helped by a salacious headline from USNews:

    Evangelical Leader Sees Romney as Latest Convert

    Reed, of course, says nothing about Romney changing faith.  This is the headline writer playing on Romney’s change of heart on abortion – which Reed does discuss. And in so discussing, Reed’s messaging is all wrong – I mean really wrong:

    Reed attributed some of this shift to Romney’s changed stance on abortion. When Romney was running for governor of Massachusetts, he promised abortion rights groups he would be a “good voice” for them. By 2005, however, he professed to be anti-abortion. “They are not going to hold it against someone because they had a different view,” Reed says. “The whole Evangelical theology is based on conversions, they are used to making converts. They don’t take converts and kick ‘em in the teeth. They hug them, they love on them.”

    Evangelicals, it seems, are content to treat Romney as their newest convert.

    Come on Ralph, why don’t you put the ball on the Tee for the T-ball league for crying out loud?

    The facts are pretty straightforward – Mitt Romney is the nominee.  It is official now, the convention voted him in formally yesterday.  We don’t talk about what was anymore.  We don’t soul-search about what’s “right” anymore.  We don’t apologize.  Mitt Romney is the man and unless we want four more years of the garbage we have been enduring for the last three-and-one-half we better get busy telling the world how good Mitt Romney is.  No caveats, no exceptions, no “buts.”

    Do I sound a little more edgy than usual with this one?  It’s because I am.  McKay Coppins, doing some very good Mormon reporting for a change, gives us some pretty thorough insight into how Romney has decided on his approach to discussing religion this cycle.  There are two key pulls from the piece.  The first concerns why Romney is talking religion now:

    The official explanation for the sudden shift in strategy is that the campaign was always waiting for Tampa — where they would have tight control over the choreography and the narrative — to start telling Mitt’s Mormon story.

    “The convention is a good platform for telling all the dimensions of Romney’s life — his service as governor, as the head of the Olympics, businessman, devoted husband and father, and as lay leader in his church counseling families facing different hardships,” senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told BuzzFeed.

    Let me translate that for you.  The campaign wants to talk about character and service and the great civil religion.  Mormonism is a part of that tradition, regardless of how you think about Mormonism theologically and ecclesiastically.  During the primary season any such talk would have been pulled, as it was in 2008, into soteriology, the Trinity and talk of “cults.”  In the general election with an opponent actively attempting to squelch religious freedom and the force of Evangelicals, who seem unable to help themselves from talking about the politically unhelpful aspects of religiosity even now, greatly diluted it will be much easier to keep the conversation focused where it needs to be – character and service and the great civil religion.

    Which brings me to the second pull from the Coppins piece:

    The day after Thanksgiving in 2007, Tagg Romney, the candidate’s oldest son, phoned a longtime family friend. They were weeks out from the first primary of the season at the time, and the campaign had determined that his father’s path to victory ran through Iowa.

    As a result, the Romney family had spent several months, hundreds of man hours, and millions of dollars in a desperate attempt to win over the state’s conservative Evangelical base. While the candidate surrounded himself with every culture warrior he could woo, surrogates — including his wife and five sons — fanned out across the state to bring their family-values message home.

    But on the front lines of Iowa’s retail politics, one thing was regularly made clear: There were many Republican voters who held Mormonism in deep contempt. Romney family members were routinely confronted with Bible-bashing Evangelicals on the campaign trail, local pastors spent Sundays sermonizing against “the Mormon cult,” and some voters even refused to shake hands with Romney’s former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey because they thought she was Mormon.

    When the family friend asked Tagg how it was going that day in late November, he sounded dispirited.

    “It’s brutal,” the friend recalled Tagg saying. “It’s just brutal.”

    [...]

    In the end, though, none of it seemed to help. Romney lost Iowa to Mike Huckabee, an insurgent former Baptist minister who had publicly called into question some the candidate’s Mormon beliefs. And while Romney would stay in the race for several more weeks, one adviser who worked for the campaign at the time said the loss was crushing — especially for the candidate’s family, who viewed the defeat, in part, as a referendum on their religion.

    “I remember everyone was totally depressed on the plane,” the adviser said, recalling the morning after they lost. “Everyone was exhausted, and Mitt’s going up and down the plane trying to cheer everyone up… It was so hard.”

    Many in Romney’s orbit, including some in his family, considered the entire episode a lesson learned. And as he weighed another presidential bid in the run-up to 2012, some of his sons urged him not to do it. Among other reasons, the detractors in the family cited the anti-Mormonism they had encountered on the trail in 2008, said one person familiar with the situation.

    Let me react to that in the most basic of terms.  We, Evangelicals, hurt these people – deeply.  And of that I am ashamed, even if I fought hard to prevent it from happening.

    Now, let me pose a question here.  Given that we inflicted a wound like that on these people, how far out of their way do you think they are going to go to include Evangelicals in their administration?  Oh, there will be Evangelicals in the administration, make no doubt, many have been very helpful.  But how many more would there be if Evangelicals had boarded the bus early?  And how many more again would be in if at this juncture, rather than still needing to be convinced by guys like Reed and Huckabee, we were busy extolling the virtues of Mitt Romney?  Just how much influence inside the Romney administration do you think we have sacrificed for the sake of religious identity and theological purity?

    So, yeah, I’m edgy.  While Romney will be busy fixing the economy – definitively priority number one – we could have been busy working inside the administration to fix some of the lesser issues that are important to us.  Romney will make the necessary appointments and hires, but he is not going to go out of his way to search our community for the brightest and most motivated – and I cannot blame him one bit – he has bigger fish to fry and we have not earned the consideration.

    I’m edgy because as the candidate I have worked six years to bring to this point finally accepts the nomination, I am confronted with my religious community having sacrificed much opportunity and seemingly working to sacrifice even more.  Who knows if there will be a next time?

    Share

    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Political Strategy, Prejudice, Understanding Religion | 4 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Religion, life and candidacy; and Ann Romney’s speech

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 05:18 am, August 29th 2012     &mdash      4 Comments »

    I’m lucky enough to be an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention and will post from here in Tampa as often as I can.  To the right is a shot I took of Scott Romney casting Michigan’s votes for his brother Mitt, in a sweet and emotional moment.

    Service and Sacrifice vs. Doctrinal Beliefs

    Now back to some substance.  We’re not used to seeing balanced pieces in The New Republic, at least not on the religion issue, but in How Romney’s Mormon Problem Became His Greatest Asset, Nate Cohn makes a pretty good point. Now that Romney is past the primary, his life experiences in Mormonism can help his team present him to voters “in a relatable manner” — in other words, to make him likable, someone who the voters feel understands them, and not just the distant, very wealthy man that the Obama campaign desperately wants to define.

    Referring to recent news media reports about Romney’s 13 consecutive years, between the ages of 34 and 47, as a Bishop and Stake President in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Church”), Cohn concludes:

    [I]f the Romney campaign can execute this properly, Romney might have his first “good guy” moment, since a church leadership role probably involved helping ‘ordinary’ Americans overcome personal hardship. For instance, recent reports have noted that Romney helped the sick and poor. And it’s also important to remember that polls consistently find that most Americans want a president with strong religious beliefs, so Romney’s religious involvement is probably an asset independently from whether it makes him appear compassionate.

    In his own awkward way Cohn makes a point we’ve made here before: although specific doctrinal beliefs aren’t relevant to a candidate’s fitness to serve, the way he has lived his life is.  As the Deseret News piece we linked to earlier lays out, serving as a bishop and stake president in the Church is a big deal.  Doing so requires considerable personal sacrifice and brings no monetary compensation.  Bishops get the calls at 2:00 a.m. when someone’s son has been arrested, or when someone’s loved one has died or suffered a terrible accident; they try to save troubled marriages, find work for the unemployed, and arrange food deliveries to the hungry in their congregations.  Stake presidents supervise the work of many bishops.

    It is important and proper that people know that Romney did all those things for thirteen years.  It tells them something important about him as a candidate.  What he thinks about grace and works, on the other hand, does not.

    Mrs. Romney’s Speech

    The full text and video of Ann’s speech is here. It was received by the overwhelming majority of viewers the same way Brit Hume did:

    The speech alluded to, but did not specifically mention Gov. Romney’s service as a bishop and stake president. For people who know what it means to serve in those callings the speech surely meant a little more — it did for me.

    Ross Douthat saw Ann’s speech a little differently, calling it “The Case for Noblesse Oblige:”

    One useful way to think about Mormon culture is to envision an outpost of old-fashioned Yankees dropped down in the Mountain West. The early Mormons were Anglo-Saxon northeasterners who wended their way west, WASPs who dropped the Protestantism and added polygamy but otherwise kept many of the habits of their New York and New England forebears: A communitarian spirit and a flinty work ethic, and an attitude toward their own success that mixed self-effacement and noblesse oblige.

    Useful? Really? When a candidate’s wife is trying to tell the nation about her husband’s heart, we have to go to condescending academic dissection of her perceived religious beliefs? Maybe Douthat missed this part of the speech:

    I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a “storybook marriage.” Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer.

    A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.

    Does that sound WASP-y to you? It doesn’t to me. It sounds like an experienced wife and mother — one who herself has served for years in her church, caring for other families — speaking from the heart.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what pundits like Ross Douthat — who is always quite fair to Mitt Romney on the religion issue — think. It matters what the voters think. And it seems to me that American women who are wondering “what makes Mitt tick” will care a lot more about what comes from Ann Romney’s heart than about what comes from political analysts’ minds.

    Share

    Posted in News Media Bias, Prejudice, Understanding Religion | 4 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Thank you, Mr. Romney

    Posted by: JMReynolds at 10:48 am, August 28th 2012     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Mr. Romney will soon be the nominee of my party, an honor that eluded him four years ago and that his father never achieved.

    Outsiders think of running for President of the United States as a glamorous job, but Mr. Romney surely has given up more so far than he has gotten from the Grand Old Party.

    First, Mr. Romney did not need to run for office to have a good life. He is at the age when men in his position think of retiring. He is a wealthy, healthy man that turned his attention to public service following the example of his father and the Father of our Country: George Washington. This is surely a commendable thing.

    Second, Mr. Romney’s immediate award for service was abuse. President Obama and former President George W. Bush were examples of the kind of abuse he could expect. Mr. Obama has been denied his birthplace, been the subject of racist attacks, and called “antichrist.” Mr. Bush was compared to Hitler, had his faith questioned, and was compared to a chimp. Mr. Romney knew that he would go from collecting philanthropic awards at adoring “roasts” to this sort of attack.

    In a Republic, this is not altogether unhealthy, we put no trust in princes, but a successful man cannot enjoy it.

    Third, Romney picked Mr. Ryan as his force presidential level appointment. He picked a man to help him govern and not just to win an election. Mr. Romney is a leader unafraid of strong people who might overshadow him. Like William McKinley with Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Romney was aware of the fact that many delegates and voters will prefer Mr. Ryan to him, but Romney has the self-confidence to know if he wins, then he will be President.

    By picking Ryan, Mr. Romney presents Americans with a real choice in this election.

    Fourth, I am thankful that as we have learned about Mr. Romney’s finances, we have been set an example of generosity. From classical times, a good leader was expected to be magnanimous. Romney is. He reminds me to do better.

    Finally, Mr. Romney has forced me to learn more about his church. He knew the hostility and bigotry that Mormons have historically faced. Americans murdered the founder of his faith, after all. And yet, he has been a nearly-perfect representative of how a good American negotiates the tension between faith and patriotism. He has spoken eloquently and well on faith and government in a way far superior to President Kennedy.

    He hasn’t left his Mormon values at the voting booth door. He is forcing American bigots to stop standing in front of the door of the White House.

    Whatever the outcome, Mr. Romney is running a race that should Americans proud that he will be honored with the same nomination as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan.

    Share

    Posted in Electability | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    As the Convention begins, a special request: Coming together in a common purpose

    Posted by: John & Lowell at 07:41 am, August 28th 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Dear readers:

    Today’s post is different from anything we’ve done in our 6 years of existence.  Please read carefully, and know that we make this request cheerfully and humbly.

    Lowell and John

    We, the contributing authors of MittRomneyCentral, the Article 6 Blog and Evangelicals for Mitt have come together in a common purpose today. Many of us consider ourselves religious, but not all of us are comfortable wearing our beliefs on our sleeve. While religion and faith in God are an important part of all of our lives, we do not take the following requests lightly. But we have come together at this time, despite any personal discomfort we may have, with the following:

    We believe this is a time for prayer.

    First and foremost, hurricane Isaac is bearing down on the United States’ gulf coast. New Orleans, a city hard hit by hurricane Katrina seven years ago, appears likely to be affected once again. We believe it is appropriate for all Americans to pray on behalf of those in the storm’s path.

    In addition, in the next two days, tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people across the world will be tuning in to hear Ann and Mitt Romney speak. Many millions more will see the speeches on YouTube or by other electronic means. Ann and Mitt are right now putting the finishing touches on those historic speeches and practicing their delivery.

    Among those who will be watching, many will never have heard Ann or Mitt speak before. Many will be looking to form an opinion, wondering in the tumult of words by both sides whom to believe, whom to trust. Others may have predispositions to discount what Ann and Mitt say as a result of whatever personal biases they may have, whether those biases be political, religious or other. But the significance of Ann and Mitt’s messages, both spoken and unspoken, must come through and touch the hearts of those listening.

    So we think it’s a time for prayer. People will then vote for the person they believe in good conscience represents the right direction for this country. But we all believe that decision should be made on the basis of a firm understanding of the truth.

    All the authors of these three contributing sites feel strongly about the importance of this election. Not just because of the state of the economy or of the many issues that face our country, but because of the state of religious freedom. Never have we, in our collectively long lives, seen the kinds of disdain and bitterness now being directed at religion and at people of faith.

    By way of example, and not political demagoguery, we do not take it lightly that under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) religiously-affiliated institutions are now required to violate their own conscience to comply with the law. We do not take it lightly that the current administration tried to limit a church from terminating its own ministers. We think there are legitimate reasons people of all faiths should be concerned about what we’re seeing. If it’s not your faith that’s threatened by legislation or popular culture today, it may be tomorrow.

    Ann and Mitt are not professional politicians. While both are trying their hardest to convey why Mitt is the right person to be president, they, like all of us, are limited by their human capacities of speech and intellect. As humans we don’t always think of the right things to say. Sometimes we make mistakes in the words we choose. Sometimes the message we intend to convey is lost in our words, despite the sincerity and intensity of our efforts.

    But being people of faith, we collectively believe in miracles. We can say we’ve seen a few. Some involve the power of prayer, and even the power of many people coming together in prayer. We have faith that there is a God, and that he hears and answers prayers. Ann said in April of this year that “the kindest and sweetest of all” things she hears on the campaign trail are women who “tell me how much they care for me and how much they’re praying for me,” and that “I do need everyone’s prayers.”

    So whatever form of God you believe in, Christians, Jews, Muslims, all, will you join us? Ann Romney speaks at 10 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time today. Mitt speaks at the same time Thursday. We invite all who read this post to request the blessings of God on Ann and Mitt as they prepare. We invite all to pray that those hearing them speak will do so with an open mind, and be willing to hear their message. We invite all to take an attitude of prayer throughout the convention, but in particular, at the commencement of each of Ann’s and Mitt’s speeches, at 10 p.m. today and Thursday, to offer a silent prayer in their behalf, and to continue with a prayer in your heart for them and their audience throughout their delivery.

    We don’t ask for a miracle in the form some would expect we might. While many of us will be privately praying the election goes the way we would like, today we ask that all unite in a prayer that God extend his grace to those in the path of hurricane Isaac, that he attend Ann and Mitt, that they will be strengthened beyond their usual limits, and that they and their audience receive the help of God that Ann and Mitt’s message will be understood.

    Please join us.

    –The authors of MittRomneyCentral, Article 6 and Evangelicals for Mitt.

    Share

    Posted in For Discussion, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    « Previous« Trying To Turn A Dotted Line Into A Solid Connection  |  Next Page »Thank you, Mr. Romney »