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."

  • Will Churches Be Far Behind?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:54 am, May 31st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Washington Times reports:

    California senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would strip the Boy Scouts of America of its tax-exempt status in the state.

    They’re not happy with the group’s recent vote on gay membership, saying it didn’t go far enough.

    [...]

    The bill passed the Senate 27-9.

    Welcome to the chilling new age.

    Coercion has replaced convincing.  Decades upon decades of good acts and making good people is to be punished over a legitimate disagreement on a single issue!?  This is abuse of government at its absolute worst.  How can a government even dream of singling out an organization in this fashion?  One organization!  The power of government is being used not on a policy basis, but on a punitive, highly aimed basis.  Was it not opposition to such government action that our nation was founded upon?

    The threats of this action I have understood.  Such threats are powerful rhetoric and policy changes are wrought in rhetoric.  But to actually pull the trigger and act, and to do so based on a compromise action is frightening.  This is political violence, make no mistake.  We are unleashing forces that we may not be able to control.

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    Posted in Religious Bigotry, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    With friends like these…

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:35 pm, May 30th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    This is the kind of thing that tells us there is more work to do if politically conservative Evangelicals and Mormons are really going to link arms on important issues.

    We will probably never know if significant numbers of Evangelicals stayed home on Election Day 2012, or refused to vote for Romney, based on the GOP candidate’s religion. If they did, it was because of nonsense like this.

    John adds…

    Fischer is a known dummy and worked hard against Romney because, Fischer so stated, of Romney’s religion.  He is was one of the Iowa ringleaders and he gladly takes credit for 2008.  I believe Romney effectively neutralized him in 2012.  This sort of thing, odious as it is, is relatively isolated.

    We will never know for certain if Evangelicals stayed home in 2012, but the evidence is awfully strong that they abstained from voting for Romney in significant numbers.  My personal theory is that Evangelicals 1) are dissatisfied with “the establishment” generally and 2) were, we now know, actively suppressed from organizing.  Put those things together and you have a very close race, when the president’s record should have had him far behind Romney.  I believe that the steps Romney was forced to take to neutralize guys like Fischer contributed to the Evangelical ennui.

    Under these circumstances is does not take “significant numbers” to make a difference.  Very small numbers will do the trick if they are strategically located.  But it is the combination of these factors that set the table for this sort of nonsense to make a difference.  Absent the scandalous intimidation of the the Obama administration, most notably from the IRS, this stuff would not have been enough of a blip to matter.

    Fischer should not have mattered, but he did because this administration, if not the most corrupt, is certainly shaping up to be the most unethical in history.  The scandalous and the stupid – and effective, if disappointing combination.

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

    Is Religion Done in America?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:50 pm, May 29th 2013     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Well, at least as a cultural/political force?  Apparently a lot of people think so.  According to a Gallup poll recently released:

    Over three-quarters of Americans (77%) say religion is losing its influence on American life, while 20% say religion’s influence is increasing. These represent Americans’ most negative evaluations of the impact of religion since 1970, although similar to the views measured in recent years.

    Americans over the years have generally been more likely to say religion is losing rather than increasing its influence in American life. In addition to the previous peak in views that religion was losing its influence measured in 1969 and 1970, at least 60% of Americans thought religion was losing its influence in 1991-1994, in 1997 and 1999, in 2003, and from 2007 to the present.

    Americans were more likely to say religion was increasing rather than decreasing its influence when the question was first asked in 1957, in 1962, at a few points in the 1980s during the Reagan administration, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in late 2001 and early 2002, and in 2005. The high point for Americans’ belief that religion is increasing its influence, 71%, came in December 2001.

    I am certainly not surprised that people are thinking this way.  Commented Ed Morrissey:

    Why, then, are Americans both overwhelmingly positive about religious influence and overwhelmingly negative about the direction of the US in this regard?  My own personal experience makes me believe that people feel intimidated in discussing their religious values in terms of culture and politics, and that the retreat on this ground has become significant enough to make even those who are less inclined to discuss faith worry about the direction in which we’re heading.

    That makes sense to me, especially in the current situation where religious expression in the public square is under serious and direct attack by the administration.

    It is also not helpful that increasingly people are not very thoughtful about faith and the public square.  This tidbit from a couple of weeks ago is a real stunner:

    Top Romney strategist Stu Stevens said today that, in the aftermath of the contentious GOP primary, many Americans thought that Mitt Romney opposed the use of contraception.

    “We found that some incredibly high percentage of people coming out of the primary thought Mitt Romney was a Catholic against contraception,” Stevens said at a National Review briefing. (He could not recall the specific percentage.)

    Stevens compared the situation voters were in after the primary to that of diners at a restaurant who only overhear snippets of an argument at another table. “A lot of the electorate, that’s how they’re experiencing the primary at the end,” he said. “There was a lot of confusion. And the Obama campaign capitalized on that.”

    Now in a nation where most people claim religious affiliation of some sort, that level of religious misunderstanding is astonishing.  Romney’s religious affiliation between 2008 and 2012 drew more coverage than probably any other candidate in history.   If you had asked me, the one thing I would have thought people knew about Romney was “Mormon.”  The coverage was extraordinary.  This really is indicative of a populace, including those that claim religiosity,  that considers religion an identity, as opposed to a system of thought, belief, ethics and worldview.

    It certainly seems like the hopefuls are playing Evangelicals that way.  The cure for this problem is not to force society to “accept religion.”  It is for those of us of faith to get smarter – to start acting like people of faith and reason, not merely identity.   We have to refuse to be played like an identity group, which means we have to stop acting like one.  We need to dig into our faith and develop the kind of rational basis for it that has held it up for centuries.

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    Posted in Social/Religious Trends | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    One Of Those Places We NEED Religion w/ UPDATE

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:54 am, May 23rd 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Wall Street Journal ran a powerful editorial this morning.  It concludes this way:

    If the scandal is showing anything, it is that the White House has a bizarre notion of accountability in the federal government. President Obama’s former senior adviser, David Axelrod, told MSNBC recently that his guy was off the hook on the IRS scandal because “part of being President is there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.”

    In other words, the bigger the federal government grows, the less the President is responsible for it. Mr. Axelrod’s remarkable admission, and the liberal media defenses of Mr. Obama’s lack of responsibility, prove the tea party’s point that an ever larger government has become all but impossible to govern. They also show once again that liberals are good at promising the blessings of government largesse but they leave its messes for others to clean up.

    ***

    Alexander Hamilton and America’s Founders designed the unitary executive for the purpose of political accountability. It is one of the Constitution’s main virtues. Unlike grunts in Cincinnati, Presidents must face the voters. That accountability was designed to extend not only to the President’s inner circle but over the entire branch of government whose leaders he chooses and whose policies bear his signature.

    If the President isn’t accountable, then we really have the tea party nightmare of the runaway administrative state accountable to no one. If Mr. Obama and his aides are to be taken at their word, that is exactly what we have.

    I could not help but reflect when I read those words that the scandals are evidence of the need for ultimate accountability.  Yes, the checks and balances of the constitution are a form of accountability, as is the voting booth.  But in the end, and the founders knew this, men are accountable to themselves and to God.  Without the internal ethical and moral compass that good people have, things just go awry.  From pilfering produce in the grocery store to the kind of government scandals we are witnessing to the horrid happenings in London yesterday, good religion is the only force that can keep such things in a reasonable state of check.  Governmental forms of accountability can intercede after the fact, but only a person’s sense of accountability to a just and reasonable God can keep them from acting to begin with.

    As I reflect on the perversity that was the last election campaign, where in some circles a man was depicted as inhuman and uncaring BECAUSE of his faith in God – where is some circles theology was confused with character, I shudder.  The fact that the current president was believed by sufficient numbers to the ethically and morally superior candidate to be elected points to a nation that is horribly confused about morality and ethics and one that is looking to its government for all the wrong things.

    The relative lack of outrage at unfolding scandals of this administration are also reason for concern.  The scandals of the Clinton administration showed a lack of character, but not necessarily a problem of governance.  One must go back to the Watergate scandals of Nixon to see this kind of abuse of governmental authority.  But those scandals created a sense of moral outrage in the press and the people.  These scandals, at least for the moment, have more of an air of “business as usual” than of the horrific violation of trust that they are.  This speaks to not just an administration that does not feel itself under ultimate accountability, but also a nation that does not.

    Our nation has a way of correcting itself – that is what such ultimate accountability can do.  I find myself wondering if a sufficient amount of such accountability still exists within the nation for that self-correction to kick in.  Fortunately,  my faith in placed in higher places.

    UPDATE

    (A few minutes later) Things are worse than I expected.  Check out this from our friend David French:

    Earlier this week, in a feeble attempt at humor on Facebook, I posted: “If you haven’t been audited by the IRS during the Obama administration, can you even call yourself a conservative?”  Given the scale of the abuses, I should probably just shorten it and say, “Only RINOs don’t get audited.” My wife and I got audited in 2011, with the IRS examining every inch of our adoption the previous year. The process was painful, but we got through it, and our refund may have been adjusted by a few dollars (the amount of the adjustment was so small, I don’t actually remember). In other words, the audit was a gigantic waste of time — for the IRS and for our family. A Facebook commenter, however, pointed me to a report that made me rethink the experience.

    As we get word that the IRS has harassed a number of pro-life groups, including at least one alleged demand that a pro-life group not picket Planned Parenthood, check out this statistic: In 2012, the IRS requested additional information from 90 percent of returns claiming the adoption tax credit and went on to actually audit 69 percent.

    David discusses the personal turmoil such wrought in his and his wife’s life with their adoption,  and I do not wish to be dismissive of that personal hardship.  But there is something much deeper here.  This level of discouragement of adoption means the government thinks of children as property – more, government property.  Talk about a broken moral and ethical compass!

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, character, Culture Wars, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    A Random Thought…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:46 am, May 22nd 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    A little over a week ago, Buzzfeed ran a piece on “Christian” bands.  Set me to thinking about the whole idea of Christian music as a genre, and Christian bookstores, and Christian products, etc.  I wonder if people realize that such things are part of constructing a Christian ghetto?  Of course most people that do such things think they are doing them in a counter cultural fashion, but what are they doing to move counter culture to culture?  Worse yet, many people cynically identify themselves with the counter culture just to take advantage of it in marketing and sales.

    If we want to be the mainstream, we need to act like the mainstream.

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    The New Fronts On The Culture War

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:24 am, May 18th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Make no mistake – the Scandalrama that has erupted in DC represents new fronts in the Culture War.  Two fronts to be exact.

    Corporate Culture

    The breadth and scope pf the scandals indicate that this is not a few individuals going rogue.  Think of the number of agencies that we have heard about in the last two weeks that have been involved in corrupt, or at least unethical practices.  IRS leads the pack, but the DOJ, State, EPA, HHS and many others have come up with one problem or another.  THAT is a cultural problem within the government.

    There is an important lesson that can be learned from this – Culture matters more than issues.  This is why litmus tests don’t work.  You see, I have no doubt that Obama knew little of all this garbage going in.  That does not make him any  less culpable, I just think it accentuates his bad management and makes his sins ones of omission, not commission.  I think it is pretty easy to form an image of the president has having hired all his cronies, let them go, and then going off to play golf, assuming the dimbulbs he hired had things well in hand.  I have no doubt everyone he hired was a card-carrying, ticket-punching liberal activist that hit the issue list just right.  But they clearly did not know beans about how to run a government.  (Politics and a campaign they knew how to do in spades, but not governance.)

    Consider the latest response to come out of the White House:

    Struggling to find his footing after one of the most turbulent weeks in office, President Obama’s aides have ordered the White House staff to spend no more than 10 percent of their time on controversies, Mark Landler and Michael D. Shear report. Democratic strategists are now working on a plan to intensify the administration’s focus on revamping immigration laws, reaching a budget deal and implementing the new health care legislation.

    That is not leadership, that is accounting (10% of their time indeed!) and optics.  That approach is denial of the problem, not an effort to change the culture within the executive branch of the government.

    As those of us of faith approach the culture war it is important that we see this clearly.  The culture war is not primarily about abortion and same sex marriage, it’s about a culture where such things do not rise to the level of being issues, just as the corrupt practices of the Obama administration should never have been issues to begin with.  That means we of faith need to learn how to lead the nation, not just complain about its wrong turns.  Which leads me to the second front…

    Character Culture

    One of the questions that has been niggling in the back of my mind for the last week has been, “Where are the careerists?”  The government is full of employees for whom this is a career, not a political appointment.  Think of those that testified about Benghazi, they were pros, not appointees.  Where are such people in the IRS?

    Now, I am guessing based on yesterday’s testimony, that there were some structural hide-and-seek going on.  Miller yesterday tried to hide behind a claim that these applications were grouped for “efficiency.”  I have little doubt that was the internal claim of the agency.  I would suspect that the unit that got these grouped claims was staffed almost entirely by appointees, not career types, and thus they were able to ply their intimidation trade without much scrutiny or counter force.  But even such structural steps would be extraordinary and should have drawn some outcry from the career types.

    Why did that not happen?  Well, for one, I have little doubt that the federal employee unions were pretty active.  But more importantly, I think it is because those career types did not have sufficiently developed character to see this for the problem that it was and then to stand and take the risks involved in crying out.  I think a few may yet appear now that they can count on Congressional cover, but someone should have come forward a long time ago as far as I am concerned.  (Of course what we do not yet know is whether someone DID go forward to, say, the White House where their complaints were greeted with complacency.  Yet another sin of omission.)

    This is why the “religious test” that was so clearly and unambiguously applied to these applications is so stunningly awful.  You see, if religion can be relegated into some box that reads “only for Sunday morning worship” then people of the character that would have come forward won’t exist at all, anywhere.  Such ethics and courage do not grow in the wild; they must be cultivated.  Religion is one of the few forces in our nation that does such cultivation – at least it should.

    The primary front on the culture war is the one where we continue to cultivate and fight for our right to do such cultivation.  If we do that then abortion and same sex marriage will be forgone conclusions, not issues at all.  If we do that then when the inevitable corrupt influences creep into government, people will be in place that will do what is necessary to keep that corruption from becoming endemic.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, Governance, Social/Religious Trends, Uncategorized, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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