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."

  • The Left Is Trying To Play Us!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:18 am, September 15th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Some day, Evangelicals will figure out that the Left and it’s media allies played on our theological differences to defeat Mitt Romney and re-elect Barack Obama – and now we watch the world burn.  All while Nero Obama fiddles golfs.

    But hey, if your opponent has a weakness, you exploit it – right?  Well that seems to be the case with a Salon piece that crossed my desk this morning – “How the Catholic Church masterminded the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby debacle.”  The subtitle is fascinating -

    While evangelical Christians ultimately brought down the contraception mandate, they had big help from Catholics

    Does anybody recognize a pattern here?  Do you remember when Prop 8 passed in California and it opponents rioted at Mormon sites in the state, engaging in property damage and intimidation?  Do yo remember when they boycotted businesses where it was known that the owners backed the proposition?

    What was a great example of religious cooperation in pursuit of shared political goals quickly became “a Mormon” thing and shamefully Evangelicals, who should have been helping Mormons protect their property, their reputation and their right to approach their houses of worship, seemed more than glad to let Mormons take the hit.  The Left successfully played on our theological differences to make one of our best shared victories into a separating lever and Prop 8 stood for a very short time.

    This nasty Salon piece by Patricia Miller seems to want to make the same maneuver between Evangelicals and Catholics over Hobby Lobby.  Ostensibly a piece reporting on the role of the Catholic College of Bishops in the whole affair, its tone and language seek to demonize the Bishops and turn them into some sort of religious Bilderberger or Rothschild.  The piece features a side-by-side photo of New York Archbishop Dolan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as if they formed some sort of cabal.  This piece has little relation to reporting and much to propaganda.  But then it is Salon so I am not entirely surprised.

    However, there are two take-aways that need careful reflection by those of religious bent.

    The Left no longer opposes us, they hate us.  It would be easy to weave all sorts of narratives about where such hatred could lead.  But such narratives would all be based on the Left retaining the levels of power it has enjoyed for the last few years.  Fortunately, that is already slipping from their grasp because they have overplayed their hand.  Nonetheless, we should take great caution in how we proceed.  Such hatred creates peril for its object, regardless of the political balance.

    Secondly, we cannot let our fear of demonization cow us into separating ourselves from the religious herd. Not only because such separation means we will ultimately lose the battle on our issues – as was the case with Prop 8 – but because it means we will lose our some part of our souls as we let others sacrifice for our sake.

    This is not a time for timidity.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Proposition 8, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Staring At Evil or What Makes the U.S. a “Christian” Nation

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:27 am, September 11th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    The nation is unhappy.

    This is an anniversary date  on which we should remember the evil that was enacted upon us and the justice we brought to the world.  Instead we find that many do not remember (because they were not taught) and the evil is closing in on us once again.

    The president tried to turn that mood around last night and failed, utterly.  My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of memories and disappointments.  Hugh Hewitt rounds up just a small sampling of the disappointed reaction to the president last night.

    No wonder we are unhappy.

    Much of the failure of this administration lies in its inability, perhaps unwillingness, to recognize some essential tenets of the American character.  These tenets are deeply rooted in Christianity; they are in large part what makes us a Christian nation.  I can hear The Left screaming charges of “theocracy” right now.  Nonsense , this is not about theology in any serious fashion.  Those of us on The Right look at the moral/social place we find ourselves and wonder if we really are a Christian nation anymore.  I would argue that in many important ways we still are.

    Americans recognize evil when they see it. Christianity recognizes evil when it sees it.  We don’t parse it, we don’t split hairs, we name it for what it is.  In order to fight it, you have to look it square in the eye and recognize it.  We believe evil can be redeemed, but generally there is a penance to achieve that redemption.  Without the penance, we can never be sure the evil will not return.  This is not theological (Evangelicals and Catholics will argue eternally about the role of penance) this is practical.  Practically speaking you do bad, you suffer consequences so I can know you have learned not to do bad again.  You don’t renounce the bad, the consequences keep coming.  This president truly does not get that.

    Americans worry about more than just themselves.  Christians are commanded to do this.  Few passages galled me more in the president’s address last night than this one, “American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves,….”  In other words, “Not my problem, really.”  That is remarkably self-centered, even selfish.  In the preceding paragraph of the speech was this gem, “While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland,….”  In other words, “Evil does not really matter unless you perpetrate it on me.”  Well, you know, we weren’t gassing Jews here in America way back in the day, so why did we bother with Europe?  It was the Japanese that hit Pearl.  We fought in Europe because it was the right thing to do.  But then if the president cannot recognize evil, then he cannot really recognize “right” either.

    Americans die for others, we do not ask others to die for us.  That, dear friends, is the heart of Christianity.  While Obama committed an entire additional  475 troops to non-combatant roles, John Kerry bragged about the “40 nation coalition.” (Talk about herding cats!)  Inherent in every action taken and proposed by the president is an effort not to spend American lives.  No one wants to see an American die, but it is honorable and good, even Godly, when they die in defense of what is right – in the destruction of evil.  But then again, you have to recognize evil to get that.

    No wonder we are unhappy.

    But we will not stay unhappy for long.  Americans hope, and Christianity is the source of our hope.  We will get through this, and eventually we will be accorded the opportunity to rebuild this great nation and to put evil back into its dark places.  Despite this administrations best efforts, we remain rooted in our hope in the ways I have just described and so many more.

    We will be happy again.

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    Posted in character, leadership, Political Strategy, Religious Freedom, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    How long has it been since we heard thoughts like these from a national Democrat?

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 10:34 am, August 13th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    One wonders: How would John F. Kennedy have responded to the nonsense that was thrown at Mitt Romney in the 2008 and 2012 presidential election cycles? Here’s a clue:

    HT: Dan Peterson

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Battles and Wars

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:07 am, August 4th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    A recent article in Roll Call a couple of weeks ago points out that that a lot of former megachurch staff members seem to be winning the low-turnout elections this summer:

    Their victories come as public opinion has shifted dramatically on some social issues, notably same-sex marriage, denounced by most religious conservatives. The rise of the tea party and libertarian factions in the Republican Party has also diluted the influence of social conservative activists in the GOP.

    But in the case of these faith-figures-turned-pols, the candidates’ close relationships to their churches played a factor — perhaps the deciding one — in their victories.

    “People generally like their pastor, and in politics it’s always good to be liked by voters,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon.

    This cycle’s successful religious leaders include Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., who recently won a primary in the special election to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Coburn.

    They cite organizational skill as the primary reason fort this trend:

    From a political perspective, operatives cite organizational abilities as a religious leader’s No. 1 strength in campaigns. In low-turnout summer contests, that often leads to success.

    “Churches do a good job of mobilizing and getting their people out because they’re organized, there’s phone trees, there’s a registry, and they certainly use that to get the word out,” said GOP ad maker Casey Phillips.

    Makes good deal of sense to me.  We have discussed a lot on this blog that the diverse and fragmentary nature of Evangelicalism has blunted its political effectiveness.  But there is an issue that flows from this.  The church is not an inherently political organization.  A megachurch may be well organized for political action, but is it well organized for doing what the church is supposed to do?

    I do not want to attempt to answer that in this post, but I do think it is worthy of discussion.  Too many churches automatically think bigger is better without thinking about why and how they get bigger.  What do you think?

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    The Internet and Authority

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:42 am, July 19th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    We’ve been thinking a lot around these parts about the fact that religion is losing currently because it has quit leading culture and started catering to it.  This is especially true in Evangelicalism, but I have Catholic friends that would argue Vatican II is pretty much the same thing.

    An interesting back and forth between Damon Linker and Rod Dreher contends that the Internet is contributing to the problem as well – especially for Catholicism.  The contention is, in essence, that you can no longer “cover-up” the scandal.  Linker puts it this way:

    Stated simply, the problem is this: Traditionalist churches preach a moral outlook that diverges sharply (especially in sexual matters) from the latitudinarian and egalitarian ethic of liberalism that increasingly dominates the lives of 21st-century Americans. When a scandal reveals that those who preach the stringent traditionalist view of morality fall far short of the standards they publicly demand of others, it makes them look like hypocrites and the church’s teachings look like a cruel sham concocted by psychologically unbalanced clerics.

    But that’s not even the heart of the problem. To become a potentially church-destroying trend, which is what I think it could develop into over the coming decades, it must be mixed with one additional ingredient: The technologies of publicity (email, instant messaging, social media, news sites greedy for clicks) that have proliferated in the past generation.

    Both admit, as I would be quick to point out, that scandal in church is as old as church.  I know of no one that takes their faith seriously that has not had to deal with how to relate to the institution that they believe is God’s representative on earth when that institution fails.  Anybody that has done serious work in a religious institutions has run into a scandal.  It is the nature of the beast.  And there have always been elements that sought to cover such up.  But religious institutions, even the Roman Catholic church, are all about people knowing other people’s business.  Every scandal I have ever run into everybody knew about, just nobody talked about it much and thus maybe those not paying attention (the irreligious) did not know, but that does not mean the information was not readily available.

    Word of religious scandal may spread a bit faster and seemingly less gossipy than it once did, but that only reinforces the church’s lack of authority with those that already doubted its authority.

    Scandals hurt the church’s authority more than they used to because the church no longer responds to scandal authoritatively.  “Gotchas” rarely remain a problem if the situation is dealt with swiftly and definitively.  The current crisis over the jetliner shoot down in Eastern Ukraine is a perfect example.   Our president has chosen to declare it, unacceptable, but he brings no consequence to bear on the situation.  Thus Obama only looks more weak and powerless than he did before.  And so, anymore, churches respond to a scandal.  They declare it bad, but there are no genuine consequences.  Pastors and priests are counseled and restored; no longer are they defrocked and shamed.

    The roots of these issues are deep in theology and psychology and they are not for this blog – they are for each church to struggle with.

    What is for this blog to say is that if a priest is caught in sexual impropriety and the word goes out over Twitter, “See we told you the church were liars,” and the particular diocese in question responded repeatedly with a tweet, “Priest X is no longer is a priest of the Roman Catholic Church,” the “liar” meme would die in a big hurry.  That is an authoritative response using the internet.  The internet is not the issue.

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    Progress?!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, July 15th 2014     —     1 Comment »

    Regular readers know that I am Presbyterian.  Most do not know, nor care really, that I am Presbyterian Church in the United States of America – PC(USA).  There are many Presbyterian denominations in the US and the world.  PC(USA) is the largest in the United States.  It is also the most liberal.  At its last General Assembly, the highest governing body in the church, it voted, among other things, to divest from Israel for the sake of peace and to allow pastors moved by conscience to perform same-sex marriages.

    I find myself in the rather unusual position of having the church I was raised in and that inculcated me with my sexual mores calling me a bigot because I believe homosexual practice is outside of God’s will.  People of many different faiths read this blog.  One thing we all share is the idea that what is good, typically defined by divine order, is static, not subject to whim, fashion, or even time.  It is strange indeed to have gone from faithful adherent to bigoted old fart without ever changing my view.  It is also rather unusual when I have visited Israel and been under rocket fire from the Gaza to be told by people that have never left the Midwestern United States that I have no understanding of peace and war and the situation in the Middle East.   It is as if reality is warping around me.

    People are deriding the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints for standing firm on things that have been a part of it from the beginning:

    The true legacy of the Mormon Moment might just be that the church was given the chance that many religious institutions desperately need to stay relevant in the 21st century: the opportunity to open itself to criticism and inquiry. The church has chosen not to. And it has killed its own moment by doing so.

    Note that phrase “stay relevant,” we will return to it momentarily.

    Dennis Prager has written of how upside down the anti-Israeli view has become in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas playing out in the Gaza region:

    And what is the primary concern of the United Nations, nearly all the world’s media, and nearly all the world’s intellectuals? That Entity B, while hundreds of missiles are launched at its most populated cities, not kill any of the civilians among whom Entity A’s leaders hide.

    The moral gulf between Israel, our Entity B, and Hamas, our Entity A, is as clear and as great as the one that existed between the Allies and Nazi Germany. It is one of the few instances in today’s world when the Nazi analogy is accurate.

    It is clear that while free and democratic countries such as those in Western Europe value the freedoms of speech, assembly, and press for themselves, the absence of these freedoms among Israel’s enemies means nothing to the Europeans in morally assessing the Middle East conflict.

    The news media, too, have no moral focus. They are preoccupied with Gazans who have died, and with the disparity between the number of Gazans killed and the number of Israelis killed — as if that is morally dispositive. Imagine that during World War II, the Western press had converged on German hospitals and apartment buildings and repeatedly announced the huge disparity between German civilian deaths and British civilian deaths. More than 10 times the number of German civilians were killed as were British — but did that have anything at all to do with the morality of the British war against Germany?

    There are voices pointing out that  sometimes we have to “go against the grain:”

    So if there is one thing we can learn from Glenn Beck (and subsequently Jesus) it is that we must be willing to go against the grain to stand for what we know to be right, even if it costs our job, wealth, power, position, or privilege. We must be willing to stick our necks out and seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. If we do, God will take care of everything else.

    Note that Beck is going against a conservative grain here (humanitarian aid to illegal immigrant children), not a liberal one.  Which raises some interesting points.

    One is that Mormons seem to be standing firm more than others.  And yet we were worried about Romney’s Mormon faith?!  I am sorry, there is a lot of sour grapes in that – which is unbecoming, but gosh darn it – I told you so.

    The second interesting point is that religious values and political values do not always align, on either side of the political spectrum.  Beck is absolutely right on this one – as I wrote last week.  The conservative orthodoxy regarding illegal immigration ignores the humanitarian disaster we are confronted with.  Politically, governmentally, we cannot take them into the nation – on that I agree.  But churches, as separate entities, should be offering all the humanitarian aid they can.  To do less only harms the reputation of religious folks.  It makes us look like the beasts the left wants to claim we are.

    Which brings me to my third point.  It is one we have made here over and over and over again.  Democracy can only work with a good and moral populace.  It is the job of the church to help people find that goodness and morality.  Absent divinity, reality can indeed warp.   Some churches seem to be abandoning divinity, the left certainly has.  The question is not relevancy, it is right.  Politics is an expression, not a source.

    Before we can get our politics correct we have to return to our source.

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