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."

  • It Is No Longer About Same Sex Marriage

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:05 am, June 29th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    On Thursday we noted that the Prop 8 ruling by SCOTUS was a “baby splitter” and that its effectiveness relied on both sides having mutual respect for each other and the law.  As same sex marriage resumed in California yesterday, it is clear such is not the case.  News about the legal problems are hard to find.  From the article just linked:

    John Eastman, a professor of law at Chapman University and the director of the Center of Constitutional Jurisprudence, told KPCC’s Nick Roman that the appeals court jumped the gun Friday. Under Supreme Court rules, a 25-day period is normally required to allow the losing party to petition for a rehearing.

    “I’ve had a number of people asking me about legal recourse and quite frankly I’ve been telling them it’s hard to recommend legal recourse when what’s happening here is just such utter lawlessness,” Eastman said.

    “There’s a reason we have a petition for rehearing. Sometimes courts get decisions wrong, and a petition for rehearing can point out errors in the court’s decision,” Eastman said.

    And from CNN:

    But there is legal uncertainty whether the high court’s ruling could be enforced statewide, or limited to only a few jurisdictions.

    A bit of explanation may be in order.  Firstly, what cleared the way for the marriages to occur yesterday was that the appeals court lifted the order stopping same-sex marriage, that it issued in the wake of the controversial district court ruling.  This is what Eastman is talking about.  The second point is a bit more complex.  A federal district court has limited jurisdiction, over only part of the state – it has no authority to make a ruling over all of California.  This means that when Jerry Brown ordered the resumption of same sex marriage statewide, those portions of the state not under the jurisdiction of the district court that issued the ruling are technically in violation of the California State constitution.

    What’s going on, effectively, is exactly what Eastman said – lawlessness.  No one is respecting the law right now.  It simply does not matter.

    The closest analogy that I can come up with to where we are right now is Prohibition.  But even then government officials who very well may have had a drink in a speakeasy the night before went through the motions of enforcing and respecting the law – they did not openly defy it.  They may have personally and clandestinely disobeyed it, but their public and office actions DID NOT hold the law in disregard.  What is happening in California right now does just that – it holds the law and legal procedure in utter and complete disregard.

    And bear in mind, the law that has been summarily dismissed here is not mere legislative action, something of which one could reasonably assert the actions of an out-of-touch ruling class.  Rather this is foundational, constitutional law passed by a direct vote of the citizenry.  The proposition process has resulted in all sorts of nonsense over the decades – the legalization of marijuana being the latest.  But ask yourself this question – suppose the sheriff in county x in Colorado decided he disagreed with the proposition as passed and continued to bust dopers with much public fanfare and energy.  Would the state police arrest the sheriff?  What if the governor agreed with the sheriff and ordered no action on the part of state officialdom.  Would the dopers go to war with the sobers in the county?

    The question now is what other law shall we decide, without process, may be disposed of?  Given the parties and issues immediately involved, one fears deeply about the laws regarding religious freedom.

    The nation faces a deep and fundamental crisis.

    I have been reflecting of late on how we got here.  We got here in no small part because conservatives deeply respect reason and the law while our opponents are willing to push the boundaries of those things beyond recognition.  To respond in kind is, on our part, to cease to be conservative.  Meeting our opponents on their own terms, tempting though it is, means they win.  We cannot go there.  And yet, as Eastman points out, legal recourse seems to evade us.  Can we allow mob rule?

    Of course not, but we may very well have to let the energy of this particular mob dissipate of its own accord.  Patience is a virtue, and there may yet be method to the Supreme Court’s seeming madness.  It may be that California will serve, as it has so often in the past, as exemplar for the rest of the nation – even if this time it is in the wrong direction.

    In the book “World War Z” (the movie was nothing like the book), it is eventually decided that the only way to save the world is to withdraw to defensible positions, and that they cannot try to take everyone with them.  If people can make it to the safe zones they are welcome, but they get no help in getting there. – all energy must be poured into establishing and maintaining the safe lines.   It is only after years of reorganizing, of re-establishing law in what had become a lawless world, behind the lines that the world can return to the offensive.  One must wonder if SCOTUS has not just drawn such a defensible line at the California border.  (Before everyone abandons California, there were smaller safe zones in the abandoned parts of each nation – outposts that proved invaluable when the world returned to the offensive.)

    This much I do know.  If Justice Roberts is playing a “long game” with the Supreme Court, God’s game is much, much longer.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, News Media Bias, Proposition 8, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Sometimes You Cannot Split The Baby

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:34 am, June 27th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Yesterday, K-Lo at the Corner, quoted Ross Douthat:

    The future of religious liberty on these issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters — the extent to which they are content with political, legal and cultural victories that leave the traditional view of marriage as a minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society, versus the extent to which they decide to use every possible lever to make traditionalism as radioactive in the America of 2025 as white supremacism or anti-Semitism are today.

    The Supreme Court tried to split the baby yesterday.  The problem in this case, as opposed to when Solomon threatened it, is that the tactic relies on the good will of both sides.  Yes, he knew the natural mother would save the life of her child, but she would also have lost that had the “adoptive”mother not also had the child’s best interest at heart.  For the ploy to arrive at truth, both sides had to have other than self-interest at heart.   Lopez and Douthat are worried that such goodwill does not exist on the pro-gay-marriage side.  After reading the news this morning, I agree.  Consider this from an “alternative” lifestyle outlet:

    A Ventura County man was ordered to pull the plug on his flashing neon anti-Mitt Romney sign in his front yard today or go to jail.

    Steven Showers, who first put up the sign last August in front of his home in Newbury Park, said he intends to comply with the order issued by a Ventura County Superior Court judge. According to the Ventura County Star, Showers has until 5 p.m. today to take down the sign or he’ll be facing up to 45 days in jail.

    Last week, a jury convicted Showers of eight misdemeanor code violations. Showers, 60, represented himself at the trial.

    Showers insists he has a First Amendment right to display the sign, which says “Romney’s Racist Heart Dotcom. Save the GOP.” He installed it back when Romney was still running for president, and refused to remove it even though the GOP candidate lost the election.

    His issue with Romney is that he’s a Mormon. As Showers said to the Ventura County Star last year, “I was stunned to find out that the Mormon religion is a white supremacist, anti-black, racist ideology.”

    That sounds like a take no prisoners attitude to me.

    We’re in trouble.

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    Posted in Religious Freedom, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Missing The Point Entirely

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:00 am, June 20th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    At “The Fix” Chris Cillizza writes that Americans don’t believe in much of anything anymore.

    What’s the upshot for politics of this faltering confidence in these sorts of “pillar” institutions on which American society was built?

    The simplest answer is that there are no more trusted referees.  Everyone of them is viewed suspiciously and their motives for acting tend to be regarded through a cynical lens.

    What that suspicion and cynicism produce is a huddling effect among partisans. Convinced that the honest brokers simply don’t exist, they tend to seek political sustenance from those who affirm their points of view. They watch the same TV shows, listen to the same radio stations, shop at the same places and live in the same neighborhoods as people who believe like they do.  Interactions with people with which they disagree  and entities like Congress or the news media dwindle.

    Among people loosely or not-at-all aligned with a major political party, the erosion of confidence in institutions leads to a sort of throwing up of the hands and a disinterest, broadly, in what government and politics can (or will do) in their lives.  Why care about Congress if you don’t trust in their motives? Same goes for the news industry.

    The declining belief in institutions is — surprise, surprise —  a very difficult reality with which politicians (and the broader world of government) have to grapple. How do you get people to vote for you who simply don’t believe you know or want to do the right thing for the country?  How do you get people to read you if they think you are pushing an agenda? How do you get the public to follow your legal decisions if they are skeptical of why you made it?

    We — and by that I mean the political-media complex — haven’t happened on an answer. One intriguing counter-narrative to the broad distrust in national institutions though is that people tend to still trust/have confidence in their local politicians and local news outlets. There’s a kernel of an answer (or at least some hope) there — that the suspicion/cynicism isn’t pervasive and, the closer people are to an institution, the more likely they are to express some confidence in it.

    That is about as shallow an analysis of this startling trend as I can imagine.  First of all, no where amongst the “pillar” institutions he analyzes in the paragraphs preceding these just quoted are religious institutions.  He talks about legislatures and court and print and broadcast media, but no churches, synagogues, temples or houses of worship.  Even if you are not a religious believer yourself, to ignore such institutions in this sort of analysis is to ignore American history and the vital role they played.

    Not to mention the fact that by ignoring religion, the answer he claims they have not “happened” upon will never present itself.  It is evident in his “counter-narrative” wherein trust resides in individuals, not institutions.  Religion is the pillar that pulls us out of ourselves, that teaches us there is something more, bigger than our own will and desire.

    For over a month, I have been sitting on short Pete Wehner piece from Commentary, waiting until time and situation would allow me to do it justice.  Now is that time:

    It strikes me that this ancient insight–of how we do not live in isolation, that we are part of a continuum–has been a bit neglected by American conservatives in recent years. The emphasis one hears these days has to do almost solely with liberty, which of course is vital. But there is also the trap of hyper-individualism. What’s missing, I think, is an appropriate appreciation–or at least a public appreciation–for community, social solidarity, and the common good; for the obligations and attachments we have to each other and the role institutions play in forming those attachments.

    [...]

    Self-reliance surely has a place in our lives. But we also rely on families and friends–and for many of us, on a community of fellow believers–to help us walk through periods of doubt and hardship and failure, as well as to share in our joys and achievements and milestones. We are a part of the main. And I imagine most of us are far more dependent than we ever fully admit on the grace and generosity, the sacrifice and love of others.

    Less often than I should, when recalling the most important and supportive people in my life–the ones who have left an imprint on me that will never fade and blessed me in ways I can never fully repay–I have thought back to the words of St. Paul, in his letter to the saints at Philippi: “I thank my God upon my every remembrance of you.”

    The human loves, C.S. Lewis said, can be glorious images of Divine love. We depend on both, and we should probably say so more often than we do.

    Much of the blame for this conundrum we find ourselves in lies with the church itself.  As the culture has become more self-focused, the church – in an effort to stay “relevant” – has emphasized personal salvation at the expense of institutional and ideological loyalty and conformity.  The Reformation has perhaps gone a bit too far.

    Politician and media types are not going to ever stumble upon the answers Cilizza seems to think they need.  They never had those answers to begin with – they were a part of the American ethos and they were born of the “separate” values of the church.  Religious institutions are the only institutions that can lead us out of this morass.

    I am sure those of faith will counter that the politicians avoid them and the media ignores them.  (Cilizza certainly did.)  Yet I cannot help but think that true faith, deeply held and to which we are utterly committed will prevent them from being able to avoid and ignore.  Moses got Pharoah’s attention and Jesus got Caesar’s.  The answers stares us in the face – all we have to do is take it seriously.

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    It’s Not About Our Agenda – It Is About Our Service

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:25 am, June 13th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Two articles appeared this morning that when read side-by-side, paint a pretty clear picture of why the last election went so poorly.  From South Carolina’s “The State” come s a piece entitled “4 reasons why Republicans are rekindling evangelical outreach.”  The piece is attempting to describe how everybody is working things out, but within is this most telling bit:

    Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, told social conservatives in April to stop contributing to the party until leaders “grow a backbone and start defending core principles.” As the party adjusts to cultural changes, Connelly says Republicans might see it communicating a bit differently in coming elections, and evangelicals will need to adjust.

    [...]

    Some social conservatives have threatened to leave the party if it shifts its position against same-sex marriage. As some have suggested recalibrating the marriage message to reach younger voters, Connelly says the party’s stance is firm.

    The problem is self-evident there, but beofre we get to it, we need to look at the other article.  This one is from the Washington Times and it looks at the upcoming Faith and Freedom “convention.“:

    Yet what will be in dispute among the conference’s rank and file is whether conservative religious voters failed to come out in full force last year for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney partly because of internal evangelical disputes over his Mormon faith or whether the candidate could lay legitimate claim to conservatism. Evangelical voters clearly didn’t come out in big numbers in 2008 for Republican nominee John McCain after he publicly denounced the Rev. Pat Robertson and other evangelical leaders and took policy positions often anathema to traditional conservatives, both economic and social.

    Mr. Robertson will be honored for his work at the summit’s banquet Friday evening.

    Also disputed, mostly in private, will be whether the evangelical movement, especially its younger members, is moving toward a libertarian toleration — but not approval — of homosexuality, cohabitation by unwed couples and other social issues.

    We’ve done the numbers.  Evangelical turnout was decent, but the presidential abstentions were telling.

    On Tuesday, I tried to make the point that the NSA stuff was a distraction.  Here we are again.  Dissing Pat Robertson or marriage purity are important issues to us, but are the important issues to the nation?  And if they are not they are distractions.  That is how our nation works.  What we are seeing now is culmination of liberal efforts that have lasted decades.  Those efforts are to implement ideas that took root long ago.  “The 60′s” were about trying to force those ideas on us.  It did not work.  They then went about taking over the cultural institutions, schools and churches, so that now, several generations later, their ideas are preeminent and they can get the legislation they want.  We cannot FORCE the nation back in the other direction anymore than they could force it in this direction to begin with.

    So, to get where we really want to be we are looking at the work of decades.  What do we do politically in the meantime?

    Staying home and pouting that the world is not right is not an option.  During their decades of culture shaping the liberal were still very active politically.  They learned the value of compromise and the value of the small victory.  The wacko climate change people made peace with the wacko animal rights people both of whom made peace with the sexual liberationists so that as culture changed they had a coalition to push the agenda forward.  They even managed to win quite a few elections in the effort.

    They came to understand that the “core principle” was not controlling CO2 emissions or achieving same-sex marriage – rather, it was simply advancing liberalness on the cultural front in schools and churches and the political front in the form of the Democrat party.   If we insist that our “core principles” are theology and sexual purity then we will never get to a point where our agenda will matter again.  Right now we are sequestering ourselves.

    The path to power in a democracy like ours is service, not agenda.

    Let me repeat that – the path to power in a democracy like ours is service, not agenda.  During the last few decades the liberals have put on the appearance of service to achieve their goals.  In schools, in churches, in the Democrat Party, they have served, often at the expense of setting their specific issues to the side.  The scandals of this administration demonstrate; however, that it was only appearance.

    We can win this fight because for us service is a core principle, not a facade merely to achieve power.  Christ was a servant even unto the cross.  Can we do less?

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    The Seeds of Loss…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:26 am, June 11th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    On Friday, I attempted to make the point that the NSA data collection story was a big deal politically, but was not a serious “issue.”  And yet the story rolls on.  In fact it rolls on enough that the line that the “IRS scandal is solved” has some traction.   We have a new and juicier scandal, or so we think.

    Yesterday, Michael Medved got a tweet half right:

    NSA “snooping” issue is terrible for GOP- divides the base, gives Obama a controversy in which his behavior is entirely defensible

    It is terrible for the GOP and it does divide the base, but the actions are not “entirely” defensible.  (Obama is on defensible ground on this one, but it is a soft position and not therefore “entirely” defensible.)  Were this the Bush administration, I think this would be evident but when we have an administration that we despise to begin with, looks increasingly like it abused the power of office to gain re-election, and is feckless in foreign affairs we are, as we have before, rising to the bait.

    Simply put the story is too complex to ever amount to a useful political tool other than as further evidence that this administration has no veracity.  People are never going to sit through the endless and dull discussions of the differences between data mining and eavesdropping.  The very phrase “complex algorithm,” save as a punch line on “The Big Bang Theory,” is a nap inducer.  And yet we have lost several news cycles on this stuff now, while something everyone can hear “The IRS is going to bully you” has gone unsaid.

    Religion is an excellent analogy here.  Mitt Romney lost in 2008 because people wanted to debate his theology rather than look at his life and the fruits thereof.  He lost in 2012 because a significant portion of the base refused to trust him because, essentially, he would not enter the debate on his theology.   Most of the American people do not care about theology – let alone specific Mormon theology.  And there are a lot of Christians in that group.  But enough people did to swing the election, so Obama’s lapdog media made sure it was a big deal, even though it was not.

    Well, here we are again.  With the IRS, not to mention Benghazi, the DOJ, the EPA and a bunch of other alphabet spaghetti, we have Obama by the short and curlies.  But this warrant and the related issues are, for enough of us, a juicy distraction.  “SQUIRREL!”

    Is the administration well-behaved here?  No, of course not, but there are issues and then there are issues.  If you had a choice of having a little dog doo stuck to your shoes or being dragged out of town, you’re going to take the dog doo.  That’s what’s up here.  The snooping issue is deliberately stepping in the pile of dog doo in hopes that by the time everybody gets through saying “Don’t come in here until you clean that up” and “Ewwwwwwww,” they will have forgotten why they were getting set to lynch you and send you about your business.  For this stratagem to work, we have to be more obsessed with the dog doo that the real and serious issues that got us to this point.

    Squirrel hunting is fun, but I am after big game – which means I have to stay focused, and can’t waste ammo on the squirrels.

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    Underestimating The Power of Religion

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:53 am, June 9th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Over at Powerline this morning Romney speechwriter, Gabriel Schoenfeld, presents a nutshell statement of the thesis of his new e-book – A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account:

    What does Mitt Romney’s defeat last November mean for the future of the Republican party? One’s answer hinges, in large measure, on one’s understanding of what caused Romney to lose to a remarkably vulnerable incumbent….

    …I try to account for a long chain of mistakes that led the campaign to misfire in the middle of the national-security crisis that erupted in Cairo and Benghazi on September 11, 2012. As I attempt to show, the errors made in that episode did not happen in a vacuum. Rather, they were one of the consequences of a vision of American politics embraced by Romney and his top strategists. The problem before them in the quest for the presidency was, at its core, conceived of as an advertising and marketing challenge.

    That vision of politics failed and the consultants Romney hired—if not political consultants as a class—are now fighting for their livelihoods, if not their lives. “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?” was the title of a panel discussion held at a recent conservative conclave. As that blunt question makes plain, at least some Republicans comprehend that turning politics into nothing more than a subsidiary of the advertising and marketing business, as the Romney campaign attempted to do, is the path to repeated failure.

    [...]

    The RNC postmortem does not beat around the bush. Politics, in its vision, is the art of best matching a candidate’s positions to the preferences of voters as those preferences are revealed in polls and focus groups. To this end, great weight is placed in the report on the urgency of gathering ever more information about the electorate. In particular, explains the report, “we need to know what language is most likely to motivate a donor or a voter and convert them into a vote for Republican candidates.” To discover exactly the right collection of words—the magical incantation— for getting votes, the “use of data and measurement is critical.”

    [...]

    The RNC’s quest for better data so that it can have better “messaging” is not a mechanism for leadership. It is a mechanism for following the crowd. There is a notable irony here; the professionals are proposing not only the degradation of deliberative democracy, but also a mechanism for losing race after race. Voters do not need to “run a pretest” to identify and be repelled by a candidate who is painstakingly cleaving to the incantations derived from focus groups and polls.

    Both as a candidate and as a president, George W. Bush had his share of defects. But one of the reasons he twice won presidential elections is that he was exactly who he said he was. Voters could tell, and they liked that in a leader. Both as a man and as a governor, Mitt Romney had his share of virtues, and no doubt they would have been on display had he become president. But one of the reasons he lost twice is that he was often not who he said he was. Voters could tell that, too—the artificiality of his focus-group-chosen language was often striking—and they did not like it at all. A good marketing team would have understood that packaging Mitt Romney as something he was not was a mistake. Indeed, a really good marketing team would not have packaged him at all. They would have let this impressive man be himself.

    More pertinently, this impressive man could himself have chosen to remain himself. David Frum maintains that Romney, one of the Republican Party’s “most articulate and intelligent standard-bearers in decades,” was “forced” by ideological conservatives “to jettison his own best self and best judgment.” There is of course something to this argument. Conservatives in key states, the argument continues, have a lock on the primary process. If Romney had not concealed his true moderate self and tacked to the right, he would have had little chance of capturing the Republican nomination. We cannot rerun history backward to see if such an analysis is correct. But a case can be made that voters of every stripe, including conservatives, would have had far more respect for Romney if he had resisted the conservative Siren calls to sail in their direction and, instead of posing as a “severe conservative,” had stood fast for what he believed.

    [...]

    In the wake of defeat, the Republican Party needs to strike out in a radically new direction—actually, not a radically new direction, but a radically old one–a conservative one, one in which “intuition, gut instincts, [and] ‘traditional’ ways of doing things,” the very things that the GOP professionals would mindlessly toss away, are again properly valued. Recapturing the White House will be difficult, but all the same it is simpler than the professionals would have us believe. We don’t need the APIs and other gizmos and the data analytic institute that they are recommending. What we need is a candidate who understands the country and its problems, is knowledgeable about its history, has a vision for its future, doesn’t buy the snake oil that the consultants are peddling, and unabashedly says what he believes. Mitt Romney could have been that candidate. Sadly, this man of so much promise and ability chose a different path.

    I was neither as close to the campaign as Schoenfeld, nor am I a political pro, nor have I read the book, but reacting to this pocket argument, I think it suffers from two glaring problems.  Problem one is that the candidate that did beat Romney in the last election won precisely because  he did the data stuff that Schoenfeld argues against so much better than Romney.  If you want to talk about a gap between the candidate’s “true” nature and his campaign rhetoric you need look no further than Barack Obama.   Whether Schoenfeld wants to admit it or not, the stuff he says is inadequate just won two presidential elections.  It is infuriating, particularly for conservatives, that image triumphs over substance, but here we are.  Maybe Schoenfeld addresses this in the book, but if he does not, I would have to find the book as woefully short-sighted.

    Now, that said, I too prefer a world where such apparent subterfuge is not the stuff of politics.  And, I cannot disagree that conservatives, far more than liberals, tend to see through such and it can serve as a de-energizer for the base, but one must remember that elections are won by holding the base and winning the middle, not playing to the base.  Barack Obama seems to make it transparent that such is how to win the middle.  From this perspective, that means the base has got to wise up just a bit, Lord knows the liberal base has.

    As to Romney “being himself” – here is where the second issue arises that this pocket presentation does not address.  Conventional wisdom is that Romney lost the 2008 primary precisely because, a) his strategy hinged on winning Iowa, and b)  far right conservatives and Evangelicals in Iowa organized against him precisely because he is a Mormon.  Therefore, one must conclude that even if his strategy in 2012 did not hinge on Iowa, he had to de-emphasize his faith.  And yet, his faith is precisely at the core of “himself” – I do know he and his family well enough to know that to be definitively true.  You simply cannot talk about what Romney “should have done” without a serious discussion of how to handle his faith.  Again, maybe the book does so, but this synopsis does not and therefore makes the book unattractive to this reader.

    There is a two-way street here.  Republican candidates might be more tempted to move to the right if they right were not so fickle, but Romney’s two campaigns seem to illustrate that moving to the right is not enough.  In 2008 he was sincerely himself and could not get out of the primaries because of his ideology.  If Schoenfeld is to be believed in 2012 he tried to be something else and THAT is the reason he lost.  Somewhere in the mess, the right has got to make peace with compromise – move a bit more to the center.  Schoenfeld seems to argue that it is up to the candidate to “lead” them there.  I would challenge Schoenfeld to show me exactly where Obama has lead Democrats and how he has done so.  They just seem to be smart enough to understand that lining up behind a guy, even if he is not ideal, and getting him elected is the best path to their particular agenda.  Is it really too much to ask that of our side?

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