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."

  • War and Religion

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:27 am, February 13th 2015     &mdash      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.


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

    Root Questions

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:39 am, November 21st 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Perusing the headlines this morning, the presidents unprecedented power grab last night was a yawner.   There is the appropriate outrage from the usual conservative sources, but even that is well-tempered in order not to give Obama the political advantage he seeks with this stunt.  Very, very few dare laud this terrible misbalancing of the constitution; therefore, it is treated as a matter or course and little consequence.  As far as the general public goes, this is almost a non-event.  That would be stunning were it not for two very important facts; a) the MSM remains deeply devoted to this president, facts not withstanding and b) the general public is not well enough read, sufficiently educated, nor deeply thoughtful enough to understand the subtle yet massive shift of power the president is trying to pull off here.

    There is a temptation to cast this as a matter purely of political optics.  The president is messaging to the feelings of the American populace to overcome an intellectual and legal hurdle to achieve his goals.  In doing so he casts his opposition as mere political opportunists, hungry for power, while he simply wants to solve the problem.  This appeals to the pragmatic nature of most Americans, even if this messaging attempts to mask a power grab on a level far beyond the imagination of his opponents and destroys the opportunities to exercise the pragmatism that makes the nation work.

    This is terrible and destructive legally and its is, at best, propagandist politically – though I am far more inclined to declare it a lie.  It is tempting to want to analyze the president and try to understand what drives a man to do things like this.  And yet, history is replete with individuals that have sought, and in many cases gained, absolute or near absolute power.  It is a story as old as time itself and the motivations of each are highly varied and yet fundamentally consistent – an undying belief in their own rightness.  In the end it is not worth trying to analyze beyond trying to figure out how to defeat it.

    The pragmatic nature of the American public has seen that what this president attempts does not work.  Hence the results of the last election.  That is a good reason not to get too exercised about this – this will fail like everything else he has tried.  But as Obamacare before it, this will create a trail of destruction on its path to failure that will leave the nation irrevocably altered, and quite possibly worsened.  It will require remarkable will, energy, thought and morality on the part of the American populace to recover from this impending failure and be as before.

    What we have on our hands is, quite simply, a crisis of leadership.  Instead of a leader that leads us to be better people, we have a leader that cows us by offering “bread and circuses” in the form of apparently compassionate policies and promises of grossly expensive free healthcare.  (Yes, I wrote that totally oxymoronic phrase on purpose.)  The troubling question in all this is how the populace has come to the point where they lack the innate desire for self-improvement that would normally see through this blatant pandering.  The troubling thing about the last election is that while it did seek to “throw the bums out,” one does sense that it was looking for different bums, not for the bums to get out of the way.

    Before politics will produce a leader that calls us to be a better people we have to want to be a better people.  That is not something politics can produce.

    So, the root question in all of this is:  How can an American church, which in its most numerous and populated expressions seeks not to call the congregant to improvement, but to reassure them of their salvation, move us to the point where we desire a leader of the type that the nation now so desperately needs?  Maybe churches ought be asking themselves that question.


    Posted in character, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, The Way Forward | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    “Obamacare Thinking” and the Ebola Crisis

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:36 am, October 17th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    My father, a CPA and an attorney, used to tell me, over and over and over again, “You get what you measure.”  This is an accounting adage that refers to the fact that the company that focuses on gross sales may get huge gross sales, and yet no profit.  If a company focuses on profit, they may make them, but at the expense of growth.  You get what you measure.

    I recently spent a good deal of time in an airport restaurant surrounded by doctors returning home from a  convention of some sort.  One thought struck me as I listened to their conversation – “These are not professionals.”  When I was a child physician and attorney were considered the highest of professions.  And yet these conversations were not learned men discussing the limits of knowledge in their field and how to advance it.  They were not discussing how to save more lives or invent new techniques.  They were discussing insurance coding and receivables timing.  They were discussing procedures for insurance filing and how to maximize payment.  These were clerks, not professionals.  They were not exercising judgement based on a great reserves of knowledge and expertise, they were trying to figure out their place in a vast bureaucracy.

    Physicians are no longer professionals, they are ordinary labor in an immense third-party payer system of which Obamacare represents the acme of current evolution.  This system and thinking did not start with Obamacare, but it certainly represents the pinnacle of such an approach in the United States.

    Think about the much discussed second nurse.  Clearly her professional judgement thought it might not be a good idea to get on an airplane, or else she would not have called.  But trained and paid by the bureaucrats, when they told her it was OK to fly, she flew.  The narrative around the Ebola crisis is not one of the valiant professional seeking to control virulent disease, rather it is one of protocols, procedures, and systems.  It is the narrative of a bureaucracy, not a profession.  It is the narrative of how Obamacare handles a health crisis, not how professionals would.

    Obamacare has set the measurement for medicine – procedures, codes and protocols, and that is what we have gotten.  It currently appears to be failing us.

    Lest the reader think I have left the religious roots of this blog in the dirt, there is a religious tie-in.  Christianity represented something quite unique from Judaism.  The Judaism of Christ’s time was a system of rules, procedures and protocols to achieve goodness.  Christ came and preached a message that goodness cannot be achieved merely by following the rules, but that real fundamental change in a person has to happen for the rules to even have a chance.  How that change happens is supernatural and too theological for this blog, but the idea is remarkably parallel to the difference between labor fitting into a system and a professional.  Labor tries to follow rules and procedure; a professional uses his or her judgement which has been developed through education and experience.

    Leaving faith behind as our nation “advances” is having consequences far beyond simple moral decline.  Absent the predominant Christian thought that founded the nation, we no longer think in terms of individuals reaching their highest potential, we think of the rules and procedures for each individual to achieve their place.   In this case, because we have turned medical professionals, everyone really, into mere labor there are simply too many moving parts for the system to respond with the speed it needs to in a crisis like this.

    You want someone to blame for the Ebola crisis?  Blame modern areligious thought and the Obamacare it has wrought.


    Posted in character, Culture Wars, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Left Is Trying To Play Us!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:18 am, September 15th 2014     &mdash      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.


    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     &mdash      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.


    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

    Unless Gov. Romney is a Blatant Liar…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:33 am, June 20th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    and he most assuredly is not – then this story represents some sort of agenda on the part of the press.  It bounced around the political press all day yesterday, it is “data’ to follow-up all the “they still love Romney” stories that have been on the blogs of late:

    He’s said over and over that he won’t run for the White House a third time, but a new poll indicates that if Mitt Romney changed his mind and made another bid for president, he’d be the frontrunner among Republicans in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire.

    The poll result is entirely unsurprising; polls at this stage of the game are all about name recognition and Romney would naturally have the most as the last candidate with no clear choice coming in the next cycle.  So why is this news, at least in political geek land?

    The last election was identity politics – the evil, bigoted, moralistic Mormon versus the oppressed, open-minded, liberal black man. On the Democratic side (which means the press) they want more of same.  Substitute “woman” for “black man” and they figure Mormon again is easier to beat than simply religious – even if they have spent the entirety of the Obama administration wrongfully turning religion into the most evil force on the planet.

    We fell for it last time, even played into it, with our own concerns about Romney’s faith, though on an entirely different basis.  We were silly.


    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, character, Electability, Evangelical Shortcomings | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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