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."

  • Jason Collins Just Made The Supreme Court’s Job A Whole Lot Easier

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:33 am, April 30th 2013     &mdash      3 Comments »

    First Fact: Jason Collins “came out” as gay in Sports Illustrated yesterday.

    Fact Two: SCOTUS is currently trying to decide two cases related to same-sex marriage, one on DOMA and one on California’s Prop 8.

    These are essentially discrimination cases.  The claims center on the fact that it is discriminatory to forbid same-sex marriage.  But if you think about it, we discriminate everyday; otherwise, there could be no criminal or non-criminal, no good or bad.  Discrimination is not, of itself, wrong.  It is only wrong to discriminate in certain situations.  Legally, these “certain situations” are defined as a “protected class.”

    Protected class is a term used in United States anti-discrimination law.[1] The term describes characteristics or factors which cannot be targeted for discrimination and harassment.

    So, what are the protected classes in the United States?  Wikipedia (linked above) provides a list.

    Now, examine that list of characteristics carefully.  It can be divided into two categories.  Let’s call one “Attributes” and the other “Choices.”  Attributes are those characteristics that we have no control over – they are essentially accidents of birth.  So, the protected classes in the category of Attributes would be, race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability and genetic information.

    Choices as a category is a different matter.  These are characteristics over which we as individuals do have control. The characteristics on that list that fall into this category are religion, familial status, and veteran.

    Now the first thing we have to ask ourselves is if they we are to judge same sex marriage as discriminatory, into which category would we fit homosexuality?  This is where Jason Collins comes in.  Jason Collins is an identical twin:

    Something in the media guides did not compute.

    Jason Collins is listed at 7-0 and 260 pounds in the New Jersey Nets media guide, while the Utah Jazz media guide lists twin brother Jarron at 6-11 and 255. Aren’t they identical twins?

    Yes, responds Portia Collins, the mother of the first set of identical twins to play in the NBA since Harvey and Horace Grant.

    So, is Jason taller than Jarron?

    After a bemused pause, the answer we knew was coming finally arrived: “Noooo.”

    “They filled out questionnaires and have a media archive at their respective schools [high school and Stanford University]. Jarron and Jason let it continue. I don’t think they let it bother them.”

    His brother Jarron is married, with kids; by all appearances quite heterosexual:

    Late last summer Jason called and said that he was coming over because he had something to tell me. This was nothing new. We speak multiple times a day, always have. He’s Tio Jason to my three kids. He’s like a brother to my wife. He’s my twin, eight minutes older. We live only a few miles apart on the west side of L.A. But while most of our conversations are quick and light, this one was different.

    So, here we have two men, genetically identical, that grew up together, were afforded all the same opportunities, went to high school and college together.  They seem as close as brothers can be.  Yet one is homosexual and one is heterosexual.  Clearly then, Jason’s homosexuality is a choice, or perhaps a series of small choices over the course of many years, but it is certainly not an Attribute, as we defined it above.

    Many are the claims that homosexuals are “just born that way.”  How many times have I heard, “That’s just the way I am.”  Well, clearly it is not, as so well illustrated by the Collins twins.  Physically identical and walking nearly identical paths until well into adulthood,  one made choices that lead to a traditional lifestyle and the other made choices that lead down the path that was exposed yesterday.

    Jason Collins “coming out” should make it crystal clear to SCOTUS that if they are to award “protected class” to homosexuals it will be in the Choices category, not the Attributes one.  But examine carefully that short list in the Choices category.  Religion is set aside as a protected class within the body of the constitution proper, and it is plain letter in the Bill of Rights.  Veteran only makes sense – this is another means of honoring those that have served the nation at the highest risk.  It seems commonsense enough.

    Familial status is where the rub lies.  But note, this is not an absolute when it comes to the protections.  The protections are limited purely to housing matters and furthermore, there are notable exceptions.  While it could be argued that same-sex marriage is, in some sense, a “familial status,” it falls so far outside the existing protection limits as to make it plain to the court that they will be creating a whole new protected class should they go that direction with these cases.

    Does the court have the power to create a protected class?  Note that each of the classes on the list above were created by legislative action, as cited.  When it comes to Attributes, it could be argued that the court might create, and/or expand a category based on “…the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…,” in the Declaration of Independence.  But as the case of the Collins twins makes so transparent – this is no Attributes situation.

    The Court has little choice but to leave existing law in place.  These are choices by the individuals involved and how to deal with such people is a choice for the people generally.  That is why there are elections and legislatures.  If the Court decides otherwise, it will be a clear and undeniable usurpation of power.  It would be a tyrannical act.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Prejudice, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Joe Biden’s Odd Form Of Racism

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:56 am, April 26th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    So, much and more has been made of Joe Biden’s comment a couple of days ago about the Boston Bombing Boy Band being “knock-off jihadis.”  Said Allahpundit:

    Via NRO, someone didn’t get the memo that liberals are still in “pretend the motive is unclear” phase, the most fun part of which is spitballing about Tamerlan Tsarnaev possibly having brain damage from boxing. Could that be it? Could it be that Bin Laden liked to spar for fun too and finally took one right hand to the face too many circa 2001? What about poor Dzhokhar’s “Holden Caulfield-like adolescent alienation,” a hormone-fueled vortex that had him alternating between cooing over how hot Miss USA is and planting bombs next to eight-year-olds? Will we ever know the answer?

    Yeah. Biden’s comment was all about motivation – or was it?  Implicit in all this discussion of what makes a “genuine jihadi” is that fact that the only people the left are willing to buy as genuine are Arabs.

    I don’t know what’s worse there, the implication that in order to be genuinely evil you must be of a certain ethnicity, or the deep confusion between ethnicity and religion.  Either way, the stereotyping involved in the discussion is such that were it applied to African-Americans the cries of racism would be sufficient to put crowds in the streets.

    Long term, what is more problematic is the confusion of religion and ethnicity.  When religion is reduced to an identity factor it loses its real power, both personally and publicly.  Rather than being something that calls us to better ourselves, it is simply something that we are, and we cling to – sometimes violently.

    But then, I am building this argument by implication and I am probably making a wrong one.  Biden is a man of the left, and racism only exists on the right.  Just ask anyone on the left.

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    Telling the 2012 Story – Part One – The Standard Stuff

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:34 pm, April 23rd 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    The Republican losses in the 2012 general election were some of the most disheartening in memory.   Especially disheartening, particularly for this blog, was the loss in the presidential election.  This disappointment was heightened in that it was very unexpected.  “After all,” we all thought, “the president is doing such a bad job, the American people will obviously vote him out.”  Measured as popular vote it really wasn’t even that close.  If viewed through the lens of the electoral college it was a very near thing; not all that many votes in a few very key states is all that told the tale.  But few people, especially media people, in the post Bush v Gore era pay much attention to the electoral college result.

    Given that the vote seemed and still seems so contra previous understanding of good old American commonsense, one is forced to question if there has not been a fundamental change in the nation:

    • Does the nation now, in majority, hold to the government forced redistribution of wealth?
    • Does the nation REALLY think Obamacare was a good idea? (As opposed to highly partisan legislation forcefully shoved down our throat by parliamentary sleight-of-hand.)
    • Does the nation understand or care about the constitutional limits of governmental power?
    • Does the nation care about the constitution?
    • Have the social issues (abortion, same-sex marriage) finally and totally been lost?
    • Is religion of value to the nation anymore?
    • Is religious freedom dead?

    Needless to say I could go on with many more questions.  These have all been summed up in a question that has been asked over and over and over again,  “Has the culture finally and fully changed?”

    Yet, if one examines history one finds that “good old American commonsense,” the culture if you will, has shifted this radically in the past.  Obama has, especially early in his presidency worked pretty hard to make Americans think that the economic downturn in which he took power was “the worst since the great depression.”  That, to this observer’s eye, very much accounts for the electoral patterns that we saw in the last election.  After all, FDR managed to get re-elected and re-elected again when his policies were exacerbating and prolonging the Great Depression significantly.  One need only read Amity Shlaes’ marvelous “The Forgotten Man” to come to understand this fact intimately.

    There is, seemingly, political magic in hard times for a politician willing to use them.  The magic lies in maintaining a feeling of helplessness in the nation and then offering to help them out.  It is a deep psychological  ploy something like Münchausen syndrome by proxy or it is certainly an effort to turn the nation into co-dependents.  It is this sort of deep psychology that has caused people to wonder about the culture.  After all, there really was no political means by which the FDR stranglehold could be broken.  The war broke it – an event so large and so staggering that it changed the culture out from under the Democrats.

    Since the time of FDR, we have tried on a couple of occasions to slip back into that deep funk (certainly Carter and to some extent LBJ), but when the world smacked us in the face, we pulled back from the brink.

    But before we wander too far into the psychological roots of the election, there were some mechanical factors at play as well.  Most widely reported upon were:

    The Tech Effects

    Three articles tell the tale of the great battle between Orca and Narwhal:

    These stories have largely disappeared into the woodwork.  They have done for several reasons.  Firstly, subsequent developments have placed this specific concern into a larger context – that’ll be the next section of this post.  Secondly, this is really tall weeds kind of stuff and most people are just not that interested.  The final reason is that this story illustrate just how tight this election really was the the Obama-adoring MSM wants to paint the picture of an overwhelming mandate for their guy.

    This last reason deserves a little more discussion.  This tech stuff is basically the latest incarnation of GOTV efforts.  GOTV efforts work because the nation really is closely divided.  If the nation were overwhelmingly for Obama, no amount of GOTV effort would have been able to make a difference  There simply would not be enough Romney votes out there to drive to the polls to change the outcome.  As we move forward it is very important that we understand just how close this election really was.

    Efforts to paint this election as an overwhelming victory for Obama is part of an effort to create the impression that the nation really has turned a cultural corner – thus granting momentum to the efforts to get it around that corner, and destroying hope for those of us that do not wish it to do so.  That’s why this story is so very important – but for some computer glitches this presidential election could have gone the other way.

    Nonetheless, this technical issue was part of -

    The Larger Context

    The RNC has done a thorough and complete postmortem that it is keeping largely private.  The best synopsis I have read was at The Weekly Standard:

    Chairman Reince Priebus ran through a five-point “action plan” for moving the party forward. It’s a plan, Priebus said, of “bold strokes” that shows the GOP is “done with business as usual.” Per the recommendations of an internal review of “what went wrong” in 2012, the RNC will be working to improve in five areas: “messaging, demographic partners, campaign mechanics, technology, and the primary process.”

    Note that technology is one of those areas of concern, as just discussed.  But the other four areas are just as important.  Again, The Weekly Standard reasonable job of wrapping things in a nutshell, quoting Priebus heavily:

    Among the problems is the perception that the party is “narrow-minded,” “out of touch,” and “stuffy old men.” Also, rich and (reading between the lines) white. Those findings came from a focus group, Priebus said, and showed how poorly Republicans have communicated their principles. In addition, the party’s not seen as inclusive for people with other viewpoints. “Our 80 percent friend is not our 20 percent enemy,” as Priebus put it.

    That perception is a large part of the psychological ploy that was eluded to earlier. and it is a nice segue into the discussing the psychological issues in more detail – which we will take up in the next post in this series.

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    Posted in Analyzing 2012, Telling The Story | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Character Counts

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:11 am, April 18th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Says Time of yesterday’s presser by the president in the wake of the defeat of a gun control measure in the Senate:

    Calling the defeat of his gun control efforts “a pretty shameful day for Washington,” a defiant and angry President Barack Obama announced in the Rose Garden Wednesday that the fight would go on.

    Stoned faced and curt, the President used unusually pointed words to criticize the 45 Senators, including four Democrats, who successfully defeated the bill, which would have expanded mandatory background checks to gun shows and online sales. Obama said the bill met his own test of worthwhile gun regulation, but “too many Senators failed theirs.”

    Frankly, I think they are being kind. Here’s the video:

    It was a childish, petty and petulant little fit worthy of any toddler that has had his or her toy taken away.

    Says Ecclesiastes:

    The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
    Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
    Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
    For anger resides in the bosom of fools. (Eccl 7:8-9)

    Yesterday, President Obama abandoned all pretext of leadership.  Our nation has to rise above this sort of churlish tantrum and whine fest if things are to truly get better.  A president leads a nation, not merely asks for laws and executes those that exist.  This sort of behavior on the part of the president leads the nation down paths it does not want to proceed.  Much more of this and the nation will resemble nothing so much as a pre-school.

    Not to mention the fact that he threw this little tantrum before the dead of the Boston Marathon bombing have even been buried.  Does the grief of the Newtown families outweigh the grief out of Boston?  And who the h^%$ is he to decide if it does?

    There was shame in Washington yesterday alright.  But I’m thinking Obama tried to lay it on the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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    From Tragedy, Truth….

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:03 am, April 16th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    I spent a good deal of yesterday chastising myself for thinking about the politics of the Boston Marathon bombing.  The human tragedy is is immense.  I prayed and I prayed.  Not only for the victims and their loved ones, but for myself that I could resist the temptation.

    I was not really tempted to “make political hay” of this, but I found myself planning political defenses.  I EXPECTED the political opposition to be opportunistic.  I was pleasingly shocked when the presidents statement was, at least in words, an apolitical statement of sympathy and resolve.  But this president has made so much political hay out of so much tragedy that I could not help but note that his tone and demeanor while delivering those words did not necessarily match them.  Therefore, I expect the hay making to begin soon and in earnest.  This is after all, the administration that famously holds, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

    I then I ran across a piece from Warren Rojas @ Roll Call under the headline:

    No Separation of Church and State When Tragedy Strikes

    The piece reprints eight tweets from Congressman, some of them famously left wing, calling for prayer in the aftermath of the bombing.  There is, of course, no dearth of church-going on the left, they just claim to keep it in “its proper place.”  No doubt these Congressmen will claim they were not acting as representatives of the government, but as individuals moved by what they were witnessing – but these were all on Twitter accounts bearing their offices and titles.  The old adage about there being no atheists in foxholes comes to mind.

    From this there are two important lessons that I think we must make note of right now, if only to preserve them for our future political use.  We are swimming in  a political sea; I do not think it can be avoided.  I do not think we can afford to grant our opposition momentum here.

    Lesson 1 – For our political opposition, religion is a target of opportunity, not conviction.  This means that they often are not attacking religion, but simply attacking our specific religious convictions, often in an effort to divide us one from the other and gain political advantage.  This is bait we swallowed whole in the last election and they reeled us in like catfish.  We have got to get smarter.

    Lesson 2 – There is room to appeal to all but the most hardcore atheists through religion.  But it has to be the right appeal and it has to be sufficiently religiously generic so as to have broad appeal.

    I will not go on about this at length – I will return to praying for those directly affected by this heinous act.  But I will hold onto these lessons.

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    Posted in Religious Freedom, Social/Religious Trends, The Way Forward, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Why We Lose

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:35 am, April 13th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    During the week just past, I ran across this blurb:

    Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said you can have “an honest difference of opinion” of what’s causing climate change without “automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural,” BuzzFeed reports.

    Barton then cited the biblical Great Flood as an example.

    “I would point out that if you’re a believer in in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

    under this headline:

    Congressman Says Bible Proves Climate Change Isn’t Man-Made

    and I thought, “That, in a nutshell, is why we lose.”  I turned to the cited and linked Buzzfeed piece in hopes of finding more, but really did not.  Now don’t get me wrong.  While most people presume the earliest parts fo the Old Testament to be “mythical” there is strong geological evidence of a massive flood in the region from which the Bible came in early pre-history.  Not to mention the fact that other regional religions have similar narratives.  However, the assertion of a Biblical narrative, particularly one from the pre-Abrahamic sections, as fact is asking for ridicule.  Not to mention the fact that a single massive flood inducing storm is not “climate change” in the sense that it is discussed today.  While people today often cite single weather events as evidence of a trend requiring extensive data points over extended periods of time, we should not be guilty of the same logical and scientific mis-reasoning in refutation.

    This is “argument from inside the bubble.”  It presumes that everyone is inside the same bubble with you.

    As I reflected on this story, finally much of what went wrong in 2012 came into focus for me.  Our devoted readers know that after the 2008 election, we wrote an extended series of posts in which we told the story of why, in our opinion and from our perspective, Mitt Romney lost the Republican primaries that year.  We are not political professionals, nor journalistic professionals for that matter, we’re just bloggers.  However, we do have some unique insight and perspective particularly on the religious angles of these campaign.  Since the stunning and disheartening loss of the general election of November 2012 we have been working to get our heads around what happened, again from our particular perspective.  And now, finally, I think I see it.

    It is not a straightforward tale – one deserving many posts.  In point of fact, I envision two series springing from this.  The first is an analysis of the election.  I am not sure we a lot to add to the work that has gone on many other places, but we will make our best efforts.  But one of the the things we will cite in that series is the collapse of Evangelicals as a meaningful political force.  And that will lead to the second series.

    Metaphorically, Evangelicalism these days represents nothing so much as a Gothic cathedral, stripped of the flying buttresses that have held the building up for centuries, and therefore in danger of imminent collapse.  In the second series we will look at the buttresses that Evangelicalism so desperately needs.  They may not be “gospel,” but they are necessary.

    Virtually everyone agrees that the 2012 election has the potential to be a watershed.  It certainly represents a massive shift in national attitude, but such is a fickle thing.  Only history will be able to determine if it represents a permanent shift in the nation.  But there is one thing I know – How history judges it will be based in large part on how Christians respond to it.  In order to respond to it properly we need to know what went wrong – what is still going wrong in some instances.

    Should be an interesting ride.

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    Posted in Analyzing 2012, Evangelical Shortcomings | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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