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."

  • Politcal Destiny

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:37 am, January 31st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Karl Rove in this morning’s WSJ:

    Many are arguing these days that President Obama has forged a new majority coalition of women, minorities, young people and upscale cultural liberals so large and durable that he can do what no president has done before—pursue a very liberal agenda without serious opposition or defections from his own party. Demography is destiny, this argument holds, and it is irrevocably on the side of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party.

    Demography as destiny certainly seems the principle behind he current push on immigration.  It is almost naked in its efforts to capture a voting bloc.  But as Rove concludes:

    Demography isn’t destiny because nothing is permanent in politics…

    So, what changes things?  Well Hugh Hewitt is on to something in his push to link immigration reform with school choice and education reform.  More here:

    Third, as Arthur Brooks has repeatedly argued, conservatives have to be for the poor –really be for them—if we want to make the best case, which is the moral case, for free enterprise.

    A grudging acceptance of immigration reform does nothing to communicate the reality of the conservative hope for immigrants. Putting the education of the newly regularized immigrants at the heart of the GOP response to immigration reform puts a moral response at the center of the conservative contribution to the debate.

    Hewitt’s point is vitally important.  Education and social morality changes, and this is a smart way to lead that change.  And yet I am uncertain of the potential for success of these endeavors.  For one thing, as Daniel Henninger pointed out this morning, Obama is playing for serious keeps:

    Marcuse called this “the systematic withdrawal of tolerance toward regressive and repressive opinions.” That, clearly, is what President Obama—across his first term, the presidential campaign and now—has been doing to anyone who won’t line up behind his progressivism. Delegitimize their ideas and opinions.

    A Marcusian world of political intolerance became a reality on U.S. campuses. With relentless pushing from the president, why couldn’t it happen in American political life? Welcome to the Thunderdome.

    I am concerned that we are playing subtle long term strategies while Obama seeks to obliterate us.  I am worried that we do not have the protection of the English Channel while Obama blitzkriegs his way through the nation.  Can we marshal our forces before they are overrun and conscripted?

    But I also have deeper concerns.  Moral and cultural change must precede political change.  And while education is one institution to produce such, religion is the other.  Hewitt is rightly promoting a way to try and recover one of those institutions, but what about religion?  Can it recover?

    There remains serious infighting amongst religious groups.  The argument about who is and who is not a “Christian” continues unabated – in some cases exacerbated by the results of the last election when it should have been truncated by it.

    The majority of churches today, particularly Evangelical megachurches which are the growing edge of faith at the moment, focus on TV show like worship services and do not build the sorts of infrastructures (schools, community centers, etc.) that can truly affect culture.  I worry that if Hewitt’s goal of vouchers for normalizing immigrants comes to pass there will not be the necessary capacity in educational alternatives to public schooling to put those vouchers to use.  And if there is such capacity, I wonder what the quality will be.

    When busing was ordered in the south, private schools sprang up like weeds.  Because the best teachers wanted out of the public schools as well, these private schools tended to be pretty good.  I wonder if that will be the case should this come to pass.  With the teachers unions being as strong as they are will the best educators want to make the move?  Moreover, will the private schools be able to compete in salary and benefits?

    These are questions that need to be answered now and in conjunction with efforts like Hewitt’s.  Churches should be forming educational committees right this minute and beginning to explore the possibilities.  The massive facilities that have come to exist around the megachurch phenomena need to be put to this use, and it won’t be easy.  You can bet your bottom dollar the teachers unions will make licensing and permitting for such private endeavors as hard as possible.  If they do not already exist, regulations will rapidly come out that will make the overhead of such an operation huge.  BIG money will be needed.

    BIG money takes time to accumulate and in this situation, continued flow of money will be needed – that’s even harder to set up.

    And that may very well mean that we have to set aside our theological differences to pool our resources to get the job done.  The Roman Catholics, and to some extent the Lutherans have well developed educational systems.  The Mormons have well-developed supplemental education.  There’s some great shortcuts.  Do we have the wherewithal to take them, or will we be too busy decrying their theological impurity?

    We’re in Thunderdome folks.  I, for one, want to leave.

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    A Challenge To My Mormon Friends

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:53 am, January 29th 2013     &mdash      4 Comments »

    I know more Mormons in scouting than any other single group.  I do not know the statistics, I doubt the majority of Scouts are Mormon, but I am betting that many if not most Mormons are or were Scouts.  That’s a big bat to swing as the BSA considers lifting it’s ban on gays.  Here’s the key graphs:

    “The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” said Herndon Graddick, the president of Glaad, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “Scouting is a valuable institution, and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect.”

    Mr. Smith, the Scouts spokesman, said that under the proposed policy, “the B.S.A. would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.” He said that members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best met the needs of their families.

    I have been down this path.  I am watching my church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), disintegrate along this very path.   This sort of “local option” approach that seems, on the surface, to be so reasonable really just erodes the bindings of the institution until the institution itself becomes essentially nothing.  Over at First Things, Matthew Franck quotes Richard John Neuhaus:

    This is a perfect occasion for a reminder of Neuhaus’s Law, named for First Things founding editor Richard John Neuhaus, who coined it in a “Public Square” entry in the January 1997 issue titled “The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy.” Here is the Law as Fr. Neuhaus himself stated it: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

    As Neuhaus went on to explain, with his usual trenchant insight:

    With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps.

    I know that the CJCLDS is of late reaching out to the homosexual community, but as far as I know this outreach does not mean they are changing their standards.  I do not think I will be meeting homosexual Mormon bishops anytime soon.

    I think it would be in keeping with that stance for Mormon scouts to actively engage and organize in opposition to this proposal, and I would challenge them to do so.  Churches everywhere, including the Mormon church, rely on scouting as an essential tool in the formation of the character of its youth.  As such, standards are appropriate.  That does not mean young men that feel homosexual attraction may not come and explore character there, but it certainly means that leadership roles for practicing homosexuals should be out of the question.  That’s not mean, nor demeaning.

    Institutions are worth preserving.

     

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    Disturbing Irony…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:27 am, January 28th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Chris Cillizza on The New Republic interview with Obama:

    In a revealing interview with The New Republic that published over the weekend, President Obama laid plain the strategic choice that he believes faces the Republican party heading into 2014 — and beyond.

    “Until Republicans feel that there’s a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you’ll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it,” the president said. “It worked for them in the 2010 election cycle, and I think there are those who believe that it can work again.”

    While GOP strategists might dismiss Obama’s analysis of the way forward for their side as overly simplistic, there is considerable truth in what he says.

    After some thought, I find myself agreeing with the president and Cilizza.  That is indeed a disturbing irony. Why? – we’ll get there.   And speaking of irony, what about this:

    Life begins at conception, according to the Catholic Church, but in a wrongful death suit in Colorado, a Catholic health care company has argued just the opposite.

    A fetus is not legally a person until it is born, the hospital’s lawyers have claimed in its defense.

    Frankly, that’s not really ironic, it’s genius.  The next sentence is, “And now it may be up to the state’s Supreme Court to decide.”  The same people that want abortion on demand want people that feel injured to be compensated, but now their bluff has been called.  They cannot have it both ways.  There is no wrongful death of what the law does not consider a life.  It is perhaps ironic that the Catholic Church has chosen this argument, but in so doing they are forcing an issue that needs genuine resolution.  That is wisdom.

    Which brings us to Dr. Charles Kenney @ American Thinker:

    During the presidential campaign, Romney did talk about what he could do and what he would do as president, but he never presented his ideas and policies in the context of conservative principles. Nor did he paint a picture of how his ideas and policies would work better than what Obama has done and will do.

    That is because Romney could not discuss principles.  You see, if Romney brought up principles, he would have put his faith into play, and the overwhelming lesson of 2008 was that his faith would not play well.  Which brings us full circle back to my agreement with the president.  Absent principles, the president is absolutely correct about what will win elections.  Therein lies the irony.  I consider myself a man of deep principle.  And I find myself agreeing with a political strategy that relies on being unprincipled.

    The disturbing part is that we are in this position based on religious bias.  Obama, folks, has called our bluff.  The question for us, as it is for the Colorado Supreme Court, is how will we respond?  Will we continue to hold that only our personal flavor of faith and theological formulation can possibly sustain the principles necessary maintain a healthy America?  If so, we lose.

    Or will we come to understand that those principles which our faith support are also supported by many other faiths, and varying expressions of the same faith?  With this understanding, some one of faith other than our own precise formulation can then articulate those principles and perhaps the outcome of the next election will be quite different.

    I hope we, and the Colorado Supreme Court, decide wisely.

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    Beyond Moralism and Salvation…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:27 am, January 25th 2013     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Instapundit linked this morning to a story about a call to shun obese people.  As a formerly morbidly  obese person such things catch my eye.  I will resist the temptation to go on about that issue specifically, but I was stunned by the fact that we are now being called upon to shun smokers and the obese while embracing the homosexual.  That is a massive moral shift.  Not that smoking or obesity are good things, but are they worthy of the outcast status being thrust upon them?  There are gradations of bad.

    But then it requires a great deal of both learning and thought to understand such gradations.

    The I turned to a Scott Johnson post at Powerline discussing at great length the economic and societal ills born of social welfare programs.  My initial, visceral, reaction to it was to be put off.  It seemed somehow uncharitable.  I turned to my Bible and read about how we are called to care for those in need.  I was searching for a response to the piece.  But then it dawned on me, the issue isn’t the charity, but the use  government coercion, to accomplish charitable ends.

    Again, that is a subtle argument and one that has a powerful counter – private charity generally proves insufficient to the poverty it faces.  (Never mind that government coerced “charity” suffers the same issue – but that is off point of this post.)

    One must ask, why is the nation seemingly unable to deal with these subtle argument?  A second question here raised – Why is private charity always insufficient – an be answered at the same time.

    My devotional reading this morning contained this rather astonishing statement:

    We might be tempted to associate feelings with our sinfulness, but to exonerate our thinking. Rationality can seem to be pure, untainted by sin and its corruption. Yet this is not the case according to Ephesians 2:3. According to this verse, we are naturally inclined to gratify the cravings of our flesh, “following its desires and thoughts.” Did you catch that? “And thoughts.” Sin has tarnished, not just our feeling, but also our thinking. Left to our own devices, we are not able to think rightly, discerning without error what is true and false.

    OK, quoting scripture is a bit “too religious” for this blog, but the point made is truly important.  The thinking in the nation is tarnished because the church has not done a sufficient job of fixing the root problem, which Christians describe as “sin.”

    Oh sure the church, and particularly its evangelical expressions, preach salvation and promote a moral code, but does it improve people at their core?  Does it educate them to straighten out their thinking?  Which I think is also instructive on the matter of charity.  Private charity is generally insufficient, as is government coerced charity, because there are not enough charitable people.  Most churches seem very good at promoting charity to the church, but what about charity among individuals?

    It seems that the church today is satisfied with affiliation.  But the job of the church is far more than merely gaining affiliates.  The job of the church is to make good people – rational, charitable people.

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    The Heart Of The Left’s Problem With Religion

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:24 am, January 24th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    It is already infamous.  In the instant media age, it took seconds for Hillary Clinton’s utterance of “What difference does it make?” to rocket around the nation.  I think any thought she may have had of 2016 should now be set aside.  This clip, carefully crafted into ad after ad after ad will just kill her.  In case you missed it, here’s the transcription:

    “The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”

    I am putting the video up here to, just so you get the full impact.  The first thought that went to through my mind was, “It makes a difference because it goes directly to the competency of the administration in which you serve.” The second thought was how utterly oxymoronic her continuing statement about trying to keep it from ever happening again was.  Seems to me that know precisely what happened is a key part to stopping something from ever happening again.

    The best take down I have seen so far is Jim Geraghty’s.  He winds his way through several reactions to the testimony and then draws a line to film making  (“Superman Returns” of all films, certainly catching my attention.) and then concludes this way:

    When we look at how our government has responded to the night of September 11 in Benghazi, Libya, we see there are truly no standards any more.

    If the decision making before, during, and after the Benghazi attack is insufficient to get anyone fired, what decision in government will ever warrant that consequence? If Democrats on Capitol Hill can’t take off their partisan blinders for one day to attempt to hold people accountable for decision-making that resulted in American deaths at the hands of extremists, and then lying to the public about it, then when will they ever? If Hillary Clinton can exclaim that it doesn’t matter that the administration spent five days talking about a video when the video had nothing to do with it, and everyone on her side applauds, why should she or anyone else ever respond to an accusation with anything but audacious defiance?

    This is it, folks. This is the government we have, and the lack of a public outcry about Benghazi ensures this is the government we will have for the foreseeable future.

    I think that is spot on, and I think it is illustrative of so much that we have been noting of the cultural changes that were reflected in the votes cast last November.  Clinton’s “What difference does it make?” sounds as if the job of SOS is hers by divine right and that the rest of us, including Congress, are here to help her do her job better, not decide if she is meeting the standards of the job.  It is completely reflective of that cartoon we put up a couple of weeks ago.

    The more I think about it, the more I think that explains a lot of the so-called “low information” votes that gave us Obama redux.  The voters did not feel it was their place to determine if he was doing the job well – it was simply his job.

    From a purely sociological viewpoint, religion serves to maintain standards.  When your government is a cultural mirror, as is the case in any democracy, religion and education are the institutions that maintain the cultural standards.   Well, we all know what has happened with education and religion is rapidly joining the pile.  From ordination of practicing homosexuals to same sex marriage to the “prosperity gospel” to a simply lack of emphasis on sin and its consequences and an over emphasis on “Jesus loves you just as you are,” churches everywhere no longer maintain standards.  They hide them away.

    Or, churches engage in misdirection.  They point to Roe v Wade and say, “See – government is undermining us.”  Well, dear religious friends, when the church started the government did a bit more than merely “undermine” Christianity – it actively persecuted and executed Christians.   Not to mention that fact that as hedonistic as we have become we are pikers in that category compared to the Romans of Christ’s time.  And yet, within 400 years, the empire that had once persecuted them was officially Christian.

    The current state of affairs is symptomatic of a church that has much bigger problems than poor political action.  Maybe if we took care of those bigger issues, the political action will follow?

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    Propaganda Escalating The Culture War

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:19 am, January 23rd 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    This morning’s email newsletter from the NYTimes contained an “Op-Doc” (Opinion Documentary?) that led one to this video.  (There is no capability to embed, you’ll have to follow the link.)  It was presented with this written introduction:

    The American evangelical movement in Africa does valuable work in helping the poor. But as you’ll see in this Op-Doc video, some of their efforts and money feed a dangerous ideology that seeks to demonize L.G.B.T. people and intensifies religious rhetoric until it results in violence. It is important for American congregations to hold their churches accountable for what their money does in Africa.

    This is pure propaganda that fails to makes its case, but its effects and conclusions remain frightening.  It deals almost entirely in anecdote, citing but a single statistic. (Uganda is 85% Christian.)  It strings together a series of unrelated facts, leaving out one extraordinarily important fact, to build a case that Evangelicals are try to pass laws in Uganda to kill homosexuals.  What are the facts it presents?

    1. Lots of American Evangelicals give money to African mission, and some specifically target Uganda.  No surprise there, Africa is the poorest continent, of course, Evangelicals give money to help them.
    2. Christianity identifies homosexual practice as aberrant and sinful.  Again, this is not news.  Nor, and this is vital, is it a rejection of the individual that feels homosexual impulses.  It simply asks those with such impulses to control them, as those of us with other sinful impulses are asked to control ours.
    3. Because Uganda is 85% Christian, “God’s law often becomes government policy.”  Uganda is a democracy, more or less – no African democracy functions really well, and as such it will tend to reflect the opinion of the majority.  As the continued liberalization and falling church statistics in this democracy demonstrate.  But that is a far cry from the theocratic accusation this video makes – it is simply democracy at work.
    4. A bill was introduced in the Ugandan Parliament that that provided for the death penalty for serial homosexual practice.  OK, that’s a bit overboard, but not as unreasonable as it sounds if you have the missing facts.  The piece does not in a superimposed written admission toward the end, but not spoken out loud, that the bill in its current form has removed the death penalty provisions.
    5. They then attempt to help us conclude that Evangelicals in America and Uganda seek to kill homosexuals, perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not.

    Now, I trust when it is laid out that way without the stirring music, passionate voice over, and impactful images that absolute absence of a causal relationship between these facts is obvious.

    Its the missing fact that is really troubling to me.  AIDS remains a virulent and massive killer in Africa.  Uganda is one of only two nations on that continent where AIDS is on the rise.  Now, while AIDS can be transmitted heterosexually, it remains primarily and overwhelmingly transmitted by homosexual contact.  Further, while advanced and extraordinarily expensive medical treatment has greatly eased the AIDS issues in this nation and Western Europe, such is often not available in Africa.  In a nation with the AIDS issues Uganda has, it could be argued that homosexual practice is an assault with intent to kill.  Under such circumstances, a discussion of extraordinary penalty, rightly rejected by the democratic process, is not so out of bounds.

    What is truly troubling is that in all this there are very real issues for Christians in Uganda and Evangelicals in America to face.  How do we teach about the dangers, both moral and health related, of homosexual practice while keeping the conversation “in bounds?” How do American Evangelicals give their money which is much needed, and insure that it is not used wrongly?  I could go on.

    But reason is not the goal of this film maker.  The condemnation of Christianity, and especially American Evangelicals seems to be the sole purpose of this video.

    Let the record show that it is not the conservative Christian forces that are escalating the culture war.

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    Posted in Analyzing 2012, News Media Bias, Religion and Race, Religious Freedom, Social/Religious Trends, The Way Forward | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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