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."

  • All Good Things Must End – Kinda

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, February 19th 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    It is hard to believe that this blog has been around for a little under 9 years.  That’s forever in blogging life.  And with Mitt Romney deciding not to run, now seems like a good time to call it a day.  The issue that has driven this blog for those nearly nine years – the place of the a Mormon on the grandest electoral scale in our nation – does not appear to be an issue for the upcoming election cycle.Hewitt210x174

    But fear not faithful fans – Lowell and I have a new home.  One that most of our readership will be quite familiar with.

    Our friend Hugh Hewitt has asked us for become regular contributors to his blog.  Chances are good if you are reading here you are already regular readers of Hugh’s blog so this will change your reading habits almost nil.  We look forward to continuing to contribute to the national conversation from our new home.

    Thank you for your faithful readership over the years.

    Lowell adds:  John joked to me that he played “Taps” while writing the post above, so that tune is in the back of my mind right now.  Still, it’s appropriate only in the sense that we are moving on.  It’s been a pleasure more than a labor to work on the “Article 6 issues” with John since 2006.  John has pulled the laboring oar for most of those years, and which I thank him.  I’m grateful also for his friendship.  Our readers and contributors have been thoughtful and interesting.  Thank you.  Dale Baker, our blogmaster, has donated his widely-respected professional services and talent to this efffort,   We thank him for that.

    I’d be grievously remiss in not thanking Mitt and Ann Romney for being who they are and giving so much of themselves to the country.  Godspeed to them and their family.

    But we are not going away.  You;ll hear from us regularly on Hugh’s blog.  I’m looking forward to that.  Onward and upward.

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    War and Religion

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:27 am, February 13th 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    Our nation, at its best, really is a nation of the people.  We have accomplished things unprecedented in history when this nation has put its mind to it.  The trick for a nation like ours is to build the national will to do that.

    Religion, a force in society separate from government, is one of the ways national will has been built.  Traditionally when the nation set out to do things good and just, religion could be relied upon to promote the goodness and the justice, which was the base upon which the national will could form.  Historically in the United States religious power rested in the Protestant mainlines.  As they have liberalized in recent decades they are no longer useful at this task.  Rising in the void has been Evangelicalism, but it is both so fractured and so ghettoized as to be ineffective in building a base upon which national will can be formed.

    No national endeavor takes full national will like war.

    Two things collided yesterday to make this obvious to me.  One, I saw “American Sniper.”  A great movie.  In that movie, on his first return from a tour in Iraq, Chris Kyle is deeply troubled by the fact that while he has fought hard and has many friends that are fighting and dying, the nation is taking little or no notice.  The war is not predominantly in the news nor widely discussed outside of military circles.  It seems clear to me that the troubles Kyle suffers whenever he returns home are related to the isolation from the general populace that he feels and the lack of a sense of mission that comes with life in America today.  One cannot help but ponder if such is not an important factor in thousands of PTSD cases amongst our returning military.  The isolation and lack of a sense of mission that Kyle experienced both lie in our government’s efforts to wage war without building national will.

    The other thing that collided yesterday was this column from Hugh Hewitt:

    So what’s a Congress to do?

    Use this moment to educate the American public about the enemies we face and the nature of the conflict we are in.

    Convene a Joint Select Committee for the consideration of the president’s request, hold hearings with the very best minds on the ongoing conflict testifying, and then more hearings with witnesses drawn from the very best authorities on war and the Constitution’s requirements regarding how to authorize the necessary and many uses of forces in and over the many places where the conflict is likely to carry –from Syria and Iraq, to Yemen and other parts of the Arab world where Islamist extremism spreads, to the parts of Lebanon where Hezbollah holds sway, to Nigeria and Somalia, and of course to Afghanistan and the ungoverned areas of Pakistan, and –if necessary– to Iran where the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror is pretending to dance with America while working away at its terror network spread through Syria, Lebanon and beyond even as it sprints towards nuclear breakout.

    What Hewitt is calling for here is the use of Congressional hearings to educate the public and build the national will for the war we fight with Islamic extremism and terror.  He is asking the government to step into the void that the church has abandoned.  That is absolutely necessary, but it is frightening in terms of balancing the nation.  While our war with terror and Islamic extremism, is just and good, once the government has appropriated such authority to itself it will not give it back and it could be used to build national will for something unjust and evil.  At least the church, when it exercised such sway, could be counted on to check the goodness and justice of something before it acted.  The government has not such checks.

    One of the reasons Evangelicalism has failed to fill this void in building national will left behind by the Mainlines is becasue of its focus on individual salvation and fulfillment.  These are not bad things of themselves, but unless they are coupled with an examination of and action for the greater good they can produce very bad results.  These unhappy results happen on the individual level as we see in the case of our returning military and they happen on the grandest of scales as we see in the Hewitt piece.

    America has never been a perfect nation – no nation can be because we are, after all, all sinners.  But The United States of America has been, far and away, the best nation history has ever seen.  This is in no small part doe to the role religion has played in forming our national will.  With the church in hurried retreat from that role, the nation stands poised to sacrifice all the good it has accomplished in its history and to experience its demise in shame.  The church can prevent both that demise and that shame if it will but reverse its retreat.  It is time those of us that call on the name of Christ stop worrying about our own salvation and start worrying about the nations.

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    The Nation Is Not Secular – Obama Lied

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:16 am, February 11th 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    So, last week the president deigned to tell all the religions of the world their place.  And this week we learn that, according to the wise and all knowing Obama, climate change is a bigger concern than terrorism.  No slip this rather astonishing utterance, his press secretary doubled down.  It has taken me a while to digest all of this.  Even if one buys all the climate change hype (which no serious, reasonable person does), how to you make a case that problems out in the future are a bigger deal than people burning people to death or beheading them, recording the dastardly act and sending it out for all to see?  Again, assuming you think like Al Gore (which only Al Gore does), how do you think that societal upheaval in the future is bigger deal that the murder of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands RIGHT NOW through acts of violence?

    For starters one has to be terribly cold-hearted.  Just imagine watching the recent video of the burning of the Jordanian pilot and being able to think that a white paper on your desk with a bunch of mathematical models about the climate is a bigger deal.  That requires an almost total ability to shut out the pain that you witness in another before your very eyes.  It is a lack of compassion on an epic scale.  Such a response requires such a high level of calculation as to be more mechanical than human.  It’s like the worn out scifi plot where the sentient computer decides that humanity is the problem as sets out to destroy it.

    As I digested all of this an ugly screed began to form in my mind.  I was on the verge of berating the state of a nation that selected Obama over Romney. I was concluding there was something fundamentally and dangerously wrong with a nation that would select such an inhuman automaton over a a decent man that holds a religion somewhat out of the mainstream.  Had we taken complete leave of all moral reason and compassion?

    Thanks goodness, Scott Johnson at Powerline is watching coverage of David Axelrod’s memoirsJohnson writes under the title “The Lebron James of BS”: (foul language warning)

    Barack Obama is not just a BS artist of the first rank; he is the gold standard in BS. He’s not so good that anyone who knows what Obama is talking about would fall for his act, but we must give credit where credit is due. When it comes to BS, he never lets his guard down. Thus he told political adviser David Axelrod after an event where he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage: “I’m just not very good at bullshitting.” BS!

    Time picks up on the account lifted from Axelrod’s memoir in Zeke Miller’s “Axelrod: Obama misled nation when he opposed gay marriage in 2008.” Hey, Obama’s misrepresentation of his views on gay marriage are the least of it. Any fool could see through that. Axelrod provides an Obama man’s modified limited hangout.

    Obama’s attribution of his retrograde views to his own religious faith, though, took it to the next level. Recall how Obama explained his alleged view in 2008 on the nature of marriage as a union of man and woman: “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” he told Rick Warren. “Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

    Only in his second term would Obama counsel Christians to stay off their high horse and recall the Crusades. Only in his second term would Obama instruct us that Christians have a lot to answer for.

    We were lied to people, plain and simple.

    And thus this morning I can breathe a bit easier.  The nation is gullible and inattentive but it has not lost all moral reason and compassion.  That’s still a lot to work on, but it is in the category of fixable.

    By his own admission, Barack Obama is full of, well, you-know-what.  We just have to get the nation to see it.

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    The President’s Prayer Breakfast Remarks – Worse Than You Thought

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:22 am, February 6th 2015     —     3 Comments »

    The President gave talk radio a field day at yesterday’s prayer breakfast.  Punditry had a go too, consider, Paul, John and Scott at Powerline.  Everybody had good point – everybody.  But it seems like everybody missed what I would call the “metapoint.”  Most of the radio commentary focused on this passage from the speech:

    Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.  Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

    So this is not unique to one group or one religion.  There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.  In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.  And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.

    The historical ignorance, moral equivalence and “hipness” (“Gandhji,” really?!) are abysmal.  But consider the theme of the remarks.  He makes his thesis statement in the paragraph just following those much discussed remarks:

    And, first, we should start with some basic humility.  I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.

    That is an astonishing statement!  Think about the utter lack of humility involved in telling religions – all religions – to be humble.   He is in this paragraph telling every religion that they hold only some portion or some version of truth.  Not only is that insulting to any religion listening, one of the purposes of religion being to act as keeper of truth, but it requires a nearly god-like self regard to presume to utter such a statement.

    Again and again his remarks turn to the word “humility” and each time Obama demonstrates an utter lack of the characteristic in himself.  Why would anyone want to be humble in the face of such immense and thoughtless hubris?  This is the kind of talk that comes from the mouths of cult leaders, not genuine religious leaders.

    But then a lack of humility has been the single greatest hallmark of the Obama administration.  We could go on for hours.  Even more stunning  in a call to religious humility is his moral equivalence about religion itself – and specifically about the clash between religions that he so pietistically (well at least with regards to his own self- anointed wisdom) tries to address.  Christianity, almost entirely, and Judaism to a large extent are religions that call people to humility.   Judaism does not really call upon its adherents to proselytize.  Jesus tells his followers, when he sends to to proselytize, that f a place does not hear what they have to offer, to wipe the dust from their feet and move on.  Humble approaches, both.  Islam on the other hand encourages proselytization at the point of a sword.

    Mohammed was a conqueror – Jesus sacrificed his very life.  When it comes to humility there is a marked difference in these religions.  Obama cites historical flaws in Christian practice. Indeed, but aside from the fact that they are historical – they were self-correcting.  It was Christians opposed to these errant Christian practices that brought them to an end.  The humility that Christianity seeks to foster, meant that such in-humble practice had a limited lifetime within Christianity.  Where is such self-correction is Islam?  To draw a moral equivalence between the religions of the West and the Islam of the near-East is to be utterly ignorant of all religions involved.

    And in this speech not only utterly ignorant, but proudly so.

    Much has been made in the punditry of the complete vacuousness and posing of these remarks.  Those things are true, but only because this may be the most powerless “4th quarter” president in American history.  Everything he says is vacuous because in the real world, nothing he says actually matters.  But had this man any actual power, these remarks would be dangerous.  As a Christian I am insulted by his ignorance of my faith and irritated, perhaps even angered, by his proud preening and posing.  If I were Islamic I would take both his ignorance and his stance as a challenge – a call not to less conflict but to more conflict.  In his ignorance of all the faiths in question Obama incites conflict, not tamps it down.

    The big question in my mind is does ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the rest understand how really powerless Obama is?  If they do not, then they will in fact be incited.  This is not a good thing.

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    A Fitting End

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:36 am, February 1st 2015     —     1 Comment »

    Needless to say, this blog was as surprised b Mitt Romney’s decision NOT to run on Friday as was the rest of the world.  Yesterday, The Daily Beast published a short piece by the brains behind Romney’s political operation, Stuart Stevens, “Why Romney Didn’t Run.”  It’s closing words are most fitting to Romney, his campaigns and to why this blog has done what it has done:

    It’s an unusual move. Before his call Friday, most political observers were predicting Romney would move forward, which seemed the safe bet. (Though Romney had consulted with a wide range of people while considering the race, only a handful knew of his final decision.) It’s rare that someone who has a very good chance to win a nomination, particularly for an open seat, would pass on the opportunity. But it’s consistent with who Mitt Romney is: a good and decent man, remarkably centered in his family and faith, who really does want what he believes is best for the country. He’s not a candidate driven by some personal anger, desperate to prove himself. If in a wide range of candidates there is a chance for the nominating process to produce a very strong candidate, he doesn’t want to put personal ambition before that possibility.

    Outside the intense partisan fire of the election, hopefully more people have been able to get a better sense of Mitt Romney as a person. Yesterday with a bit of graciousness in our “me first” culture, he gave us a little more insight.

     

     

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    First They Came For The Mormons…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:23 am, January 30th 2015     —     Comment on this post »

    Among the ugliest Mormon memes under which Romney has had to suffer is the charge of racism.  This charge is made because the CJCLDS was a bit later than the rest of the Christian church in emerging, officially, from its segregationist/racist past.  We all did it, we all got over it (at different rates), and it is now an artifact, not a current reality.  But in a campaign permeated with considerations of race Romney found himself painted with this entirely inapplicable and invalid brush.  There is not a racist bone in the man’s body, stories about his gardeners notwithstanding.

    From the standpoint of the non-Mormon writer on this blog, one of its chief reasons for the blog to exist is becasue you can bet if it works against Romney, they’ll use against  more mainstream Christian expressions next.  Yesterday, in The Atlantic, reliable lefty Peter Beinart did not disappoint.  Beinart accuses Bobby Jindal of bigotry because he promotes a passive cultural resistance among Christians but faults Muslims for failing to adapt to new cultures when they move to the West.  On first blush playing “semantic gotcha” comparing speeches separated by more than eleven months and thousands of miles is a game unworthy of an intellect as well formed as Beinart’s.  Beinart attempts to validate his claims here:

    Jindal supporters might resist the analogy. Christians, they might argue, don’t kill cartoonists or establish their own separate legal systems. But Jindal’s point in London was that the problems with Muslim immigrants go beyond issues of violence and law. The core danger, he insisted, is their refusal to assimilate into the culture of the countries to which they immigrate. And since Jindal has already declared that American (let alone European) culture is secular, any immigrant who refuses to assimilate into it is, by his definition, a threat.

    Except, of course, for one very pertinent fact – Christian culture is inherently non-violent while Muslim culture, at least its extreme Islamist wing which is a significant portion of Muslim culture generally, is inherently violent.  Issues of violence and law are matter of culture.  But this remains merely semantic.  That said, if we allow mere semantics to control a serious discussion about serious issues in which real people are dying then we have lost all sense of what is and is not important.

    What is plain here when one looks under the semantics is the lefty contention that religion, by virtue of having a clear and defined picture of right and wrong, is inherently bigoted.  In other words, “That worked on Romney, let’s aim broader.”

    We have seen more Mormon attacks on the undeclared candidacy of Romney in the last couple of weeks than we saw the entire last cycle.  And now we are seeing those attacks broaden to candidates of faith generally.  Some of that is due to Romney’s more open approach to his own religion in the build up.  But much of it is due to the obvious, if undeclared, battle that the current administration has fought against religious interests and concerns.  It seems clear, even before the campaign has started, that the free-for-all of a Republican primary season ahead best circle the religious wagons.  If we fight each other on those grounds, the left wins.

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