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."

  • There Is A Cure

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:52 am, March 27th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Daniel Henninger in this morning’s WSJ wonders why liberals can get elected, but not govern.  He uses action on climate change as an example as says:

    Put differently, it’s not about doing something serious about global warming. It’s really all about them (a virus threatening American conservatism as well). The “them” at the U.N. summits included not just the participating nations but a galaxy of well-financed nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.

    Not a particularly insightful conclusion really, but that parenthetical shot at conservatives is what really bothers me.  You see, if we have the same issue then I must conclude we have abandoned religion just as surely as the left.  Oh to be sure we remain clothed in our religious garb, but if we are “threatened by the same virus,” then it would seem our religiosity is in garb only.

    Regardless of your particular brand of of faith, there are two lessons you can draw from faith that sink deeply into the Great American Civil Religion.  Lesson One – there is something much bigger than the self at play.  Lesson Two – It’s about service, not self.

    Before this turns into a sermon, I would simply suggest that the key to our recapturing the Senate this year, to winning the White House in 2016, but most importantly to setting the nation back on the right course are those lessons.

    That most likely means careful and deep re-examination of our religious lives and the institutions that support them.   Take your faith seriously first and the rest will follow.

     

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, character, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Governance, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    So, Who Is The Bad Actor In This Drama?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:56 am, March 19th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Neil J. Young pens a review of a new book, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception, by J.B. Haws. (HT: Ed Stetzer).  I quote from the review with emphasis added:

    Growing up in central Florida, I did not go to the beach for spring break. Instead, nearly every March my family would escape the swampy humidity of Orlando for the crisp mountain air of Utah. Skiing throughout the week, we’d often take one day from the slopes to rest our legs and explore Salt Lake City—which usually meant a visit to Temple Square, the institutional and symbolic heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There, earnest missionaries would bear their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ brought about by the prayerful seeking of a young Joseph Smith. We’d exchange knowing glances at these moments; we were Southern Baptists, and we knew a lot about Mormonism. A good bit of that knowledge, it turned out, was erroneous, but it was the product of a concerted effort begun by the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s to make its members more mindful of Mormonism, a “heretical” faith that was gaining sizeable Baptist converts.

    [...]

    The Mormon Image is bookended with the tale of two Romneys: George Romney’s 1968 run for president and his son Mitt’s 2008 and 2012 bids for the White House. In 1968, George Romney faced hardly any questions about his faith, a fortunate inheritance from JFK’s history-making victory eight years prior. If anything, Americans saw Romney’s Mormonism as an asset, proof that he was a trustworthy and upstanding man. A 1967 Gallup poll found 75 percent of voters had no hesitation voting for a Mormon for president. Yet forty years later, Mormonism likely prevented Mitt Romney from capturing his party’s nomination. In 2007, 29 percent of Republicans had indicated they “probably or definitely” would not vote for a Mormon. As Haws writes, “being a Mormon in the public eye meant something different in 2008 than it did in 1968.”

    And so, confronted with America at its weakest internationally since before WWII made us a superpower , Obamacare wrecking untold medical and financial havoc at home, a President that thinks he can pick and choose which laws he wants to obey, and an American public demoralized, who has helped and who has hurt the nation?

    It is a question worth very serious consideration by very many parties.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Worse Than Nixon?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:44 am, March 14th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Howard Kurtz this morning objects to Victor David Hanson’s portrayal of Obama as “Nixonian,”  Kurtz’ objections are summed up in this sentence:

    The problem with most of these examples is there’s no evidence that Obama ordered, or knew about, these efforts. And that’s very different from Nixon, who as we know from the secret tapes, would talk about breaking into the Brookings Institution.

    So, what we learn from Kurtz is that not only is the Obama administration engaged in unconstitutional and illegal activity, but that the president has little control over his own administration.  To my mind this makes Obama a worse president than Nixon – unconstitutional crook AND bad manager.

     

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    “…Sometimes gives the impression of being a charter member of the cast-the-first-stone coalition…”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:20 am, November 6th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    That’s how the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page described Ken Cuccinelli this morning in the wake of his very near miss.

    I think it clarifies a message problem that confronts the politically active of faith.  Mark Levin did not help matters when he said, “…GOP ESTABLISHMENT AND DONORS LEFT THE FIELD.”  But he does illustrate a point.

    The word that keeps running through my mind is “winsome.”

    generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence

    Somewhere, somehow, those of us on the conservative side of the social issues have lost that.  This is a communications concern, not a policy/position concern.  Yes, our opposition wants to act like anyone that holds a position contrary to theirs is definitionally not winsome, but they can only get away with that if our approach and personality permits them to.

    I need to slip into preacher mode for one paragraph – it is also a spiritual issue.  If we are not winsome, then somehow we are not reflecting the God we worship because He is – by definition – winsome beyond description.  Think about the story to which the WSJ’s description alludes, there is no condemnation from Christ; He in fact saves the accused from condemnation.  There is only an urge to “go and sin no more.”  A lesson in winsome that.  Now back to the politics.

    The “GOP Establishment and donors,” if dollars are the best measure, did not support Cuccinelli nearly as much as his Republican predecessor – but that does not necessarily mean they are “RINOS” or that they have abandoned socially conservative issues.  It means they are searching for the right way to approach those issues and they knew that Cuccinelli was not the right way.

    History never repeats itself in as much detail as we like to think it does, so Reagan nostalgia sometimes troubles me.  Reagan would have likely found the current environment far more frustrating than the one he operated in.  But he did have the particular thing we are talking about here absolutely right on.  He made friends of his opponents and managed to stay friends with them, even when they disagreed.  They liked him, even when he disagreed with them.

    If there is a lesson to be learned from yesterday’s results that’s it.  Chris Christie has a number of vulnerabilities as a candidate, but he is likable.  He manages to be quite charming in the middle of his combative bombast.

    Much has been made of the fact that Mitt Romney is also a very charming guy.  I certainly experienced that in my meetings with him.  But the public never got that image.  We are quick to blame the MSM, but there are certain preconditions that make it so the MSM can get away with that.  Primary among those preconditions is that Romney’s supporters were often precisely as dour and condemning as the media painted Romney.  Not everybody gets to meet a presidential candidate, but everybody does get to meet a supporter of a presidential candidate.  People will inform their impression of the candidate on their impression of his/her supporters.

    We need, desperately, to find our “happy place” again.  We cannot wait for things to get better.  If they are going to get better it is because we have found our way back to winsome.  Not our candidate – us.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Social/Religious Trends, The Way Forward, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    An Interesting Reflection – Defining A Fundamental Problem

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:24 am, November 4th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Peggy Fletcher Stack of the SLTrib was one of the better reporters on the Romney/religion angle.  She was a friend of this blog, and Lowell interacted with her frequently – I only on occasion.  She has recently put up a long “reminiscence” of both campaign cycles at “ABC Religion and Ethics.“  It is a great and worthy read.  I found one paragraph most interesting:

    Again, as a journalist, it was not my agenda to support or defeat Romney, only to help explain his frequently misunderstood faith to a public eager to know something about his church. Another task I took on during his campaign was to correct misinformation about Mormonism, mostly made by secular journalists unfamiliar with religion. (Mind you, the country’s religion writers at major newspapers did an excellent job of explaining some elements of the candidate’s faith.) I did this by blogging or tweeting about the errors, knowing that or readers would be amused or outraged.

    That is a fascinating view of the job for a journalist to do in a presidential campaign.  It raises a number of fundamental questions.  Should the religion of a presidential candidate need to be explained?  How much of the religion of a candidate can be explained without discussing it with the candidate personally.  (Stack admits Romney never sat for an interview with her.)  In any religion there is faith, belief and practice.  Which of that is “fair game” and which is not?

    Religious practice, that is to say behavior, has always been fair game in reporting on a candidate for any office.  How a candidate behaves, what he/she will do is perhaps the most vital question to ask.  But faith and belief?  When we step into that realm, things become highly problematic.  Some beliefs, or theological precepts, just don’t matter.  For example the Mormon concept of the Godhead is at the heart of the theological question of whether they are Christians or not.  But that theological formulation makes virtually no difference in the behavior of any believer of Christian tint, orthodox or heterodox.  So why does it matter when electing a president?  And then there is the fact that not all adherents to a particular flavor of Christianity hold faithful to each theological precept of that flavor.  Just because the PCUSA, my church, ordains practicing homosexuals to holy office does not mean I agree with that.

    Which brings me back to journalism.  Journalism serves a role in our national fabric.  It is not merely to tell people what they want to know, but by not necessarily telling them everything, telling them what matters.   Journalism is one of the checks and balances in our nation.  A journalist must keep that in mind when they write.  (I make no judgement on Stack here, I only use her piece as a springboard for this discussion.)  I am not talking about spin here, I am talking about things that matter and things that don’t.

    I do not think we were well served in this arena in the last few election cycles.  Candidate reporting now resembles People magazine more than the great journalism of my youth.  In their print editions, the greats of old are highly partisan, but they have yet to dip into this well.  However, online, their blogs and Tweets are as salacious as the rest.  At one point People was a sideline at Time, now it is the other way around.

    As usual, this says more about the American people than anything else.  Why has journalism gone this way?  It’s what sells.  But a little push back against the market would certainly be a breath of fresh air.  Who knows, it might even help.

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    The Adolescent President

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, October 29th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    In this age when news outlets have viewpoints and spin is often confused for news, how do you know when a story is solid fact?  Well, how about when MSNBC and FOXnews carry essentially the same story?  The lede from the MSNBC story:

    President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

    And thus the cries of “He lied, he lied” begin to echo through the nation.  And yet, opposed to virtually all this administration has done as I am, I do not believe that Obama lied about this.  He just did not know any better.  Hugh Hewitt wrote this morning about how little Hillary Clinton accomplished as Secretary of State, or Obama’s “lie” on this matter and links to a most revealing Wall Street Journal op-edBret Stephens wrote just 64 words for his op-ed this morning @WSJ, the rest is quotes of old news stories about how uninvolved the president has been in the actions of his administration.

    As someone who has on occasion managed very large projects watching the debacle that is the health insurance exchange roll-out, I see very classic, very predictable project management fails.  Everybody running around doing their piece of the puzzle, usually quite well, but no one keeping an eye on the big picture making sure the pieces fit together as they should.  No vision and no organization.  It is reminiscent of the time in junior high we decided we could put the dance together without faculty help.

    We have a president who thinks getting elected is enough.  Not exactly a new insight that.  The foremost news here is that as Hewitt and Stephens discover, this adolescent “made it” syndrome seems to have affected senior administration officials as well – specifically both people to occupy the SoS slot under Obama.  The other news is my junior high reminiscence.

    Maybe it is because a morning devotional is designed to shape your thinking for the day, but I read all of this after I read mine this morning:

    Becoming a Christian by accepting God’s grace through faith is the beginning of lifelong growth in Christ, or at least that’s the way God has planned it. Unfortunately, many Christians have chosen the path, not of growth to maturity, but of Peter Pan Christianity: “I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!” Perhaps we have been led to believe that being a Christian is mainly about going to heaven after we die, rather than living as citizens of God’s kingdom both now and forever.

    What Mark Roberts points out here seems to mark so much of the cultural milieu that we live in.  From the youth orientation of our entertainment to our religious expression to our governance, Peter Pan seems to be our model on which we choose to base our lives.  You could see it happening for decades, but until this administration there were always enough adults in the room to keep things functioning.  Now it looks like the kids have voted the adults out.  The student council managed to hide its incompetence enough to get reelected, but people are now starting to show up for the dance and the incompetence is becoming all too apparent.

    What truly troubles me is that religion has traditionally been the force in our society that called us to maturity, yet as Roberts points out, way too much religious expression is letting us get away with staying immature.  The great Evangelical “stay-at-home” that marked the last election is part of that immaturity.  It is “take my ball and go home” when a more mature compromise is called for.

    But however this plays out in religious circles one thing is for sure – we need to elect an adult in the next cycle.  And we cannot hamstring the candidate once in office with campaign messaging that appeals to the adolescent in the culture, or else they may not be able to govern as an adult.

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