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.

    Share

    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

    The Nation Is Not Secular – Obama Lied

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:16 am, February 11th 2015     &mdash      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.

    Share

    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Culture Wars, Political Strategy | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Why Do People Want To Change Religion Rather Than Change Religions?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:51 am, December 13th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Last Wednesday I ranted about Ben Carson’s pet newspaper, the Washington Times, carrying a disingenuous Mormon cheap shot that had to be motivated by fear of substance to the Romney 3rd run rumors.  (Note the sourcing on the latest round of rumors – Romney backers.  The vast majority of these stories are placed by people trying to put pressure on Romney to run again; they are not based on anything Romney is saying.  So how informative are they really?)

    Another story line has appeared, this one emerging on the left, that has the same feel to it.  A left wing Mormon blogger noted from Dianne Feinstein’s attempt to total disrupt national security that some of the key people that engaged in the enhanced interrogation program were Mormon.  It has echoed elsewhere in the Mormon blogosphere.  It even made the big time press a bit.  But really I think this story is not about ginning up “Mormon” to dissuade Romney at all – this is about the rather large battle of left v right inside the CJCLDS.

    The Latter Day Saints are hardly the first church to see this battle.  It is over in the Episcopal Church and the liberals have won.  The Presbyterian Church in The United States of America, PC(USA), is in the mop up phase as the right wing congregations are fleeing the denomination as fast that the convoluted bureaucratic process will allow them.  The Methodists seem next up to bat for the final showdown.  Pope Francis seems to have opened the door for the beginning salvos inside Roman Catholicism.  It is interesting to see it in the CJCLDS; however, because the process is seriously compressed.  The protestant churches previously mentioned have been through a liberalization lasting many decades.  If it proceeds in the Roman Catholic church, it’ll last centuries.  This liberalizing process typically begins with a growing acceptance of divorce, moves through the ordination of women to ruling office in the church then to various expressions of “peacemaking” agendas, and advances to the LGBT agenda (with many small steps in between)  which seems to be the final battleground.  The liberal Latter Day Saints seem to want to address all these issues in a very short period of time.

    But unlike in, say, the 1950′s, when moving from Baptist to Methodist to Presbyterian was more like changing decor than moving to a new city, nowadays there is a huge diversity of stands on all these issues spread throughout churches across the land.  Are you gay and feel unwelcome in Church X?  Well, Church Y down the street would certainly welcome you with open arms.  So why do people seem so he%$bent on changing  Church X instead of just going to Church Y?

    There are probably as many motivations as there are people involved in the process, but there is one thing about which you can be certain.  It is testament to the power the church has in forming culture.  If the church were as irrelevant as the atheistic left would have us think this would all be silly little tiffs that we would never read about in the papers.  But this is big news with ramifications for presidential elections.  People are interested in changing Church X becasue they want to change the nation as a whole and as long as Church X is holding out they have failed in their mission.

    It is irritating that so many churches seem to cower under the assault.  The assault is testament to the power the church has to shape things and yet rather than try to shape things, the church usually tries “not to offend.”  (Can anyone say “peacemaking agenda?”)  The church is a potent force in society, which ripples out into everything from music videos to presidential elections.  It is time we acted like it.

    Share

    Posted in Culture Wars, Religious Freedom, Social/Religious Trends, The Way Forward, Uncategorized, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Ignorance and Privilege, Privilege and Ignorance

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:52 am, December 4th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Here we go again – “protests” over a grand jury decision involving a police officer and an arrest.  One wonders about the spontaneity of these demonstrations, and their true purpose; particularly when one reviews the source materials.  That is to say if you look at the evidence related to the Michael Brown incident or the Eric Garner incident. you can understand why there are questions.  However, given that a grand jury is designed precisely to answer such questions, you are forced to conclude there is something else at play when people are so distrustful of the results of that process.

    This is culture war.  It is not the culture war we usually think of, about abortion and marriage and religious identity, this is a culture war based on different identities.  But more, it is a culture war based on ignorance.  It is clear that the general public, and apparently a good deal of the media, is ignorant of the grand jury process.  Many seem to think it some sort of pro forma butt covering for a prosecutor, when in reality it is a fact finding panel just like a jury in a trial.   People seem to think it is easy to “fix” a grand jury – the whole “indict a ham sandwich” thing.  The burden of proof for a prosecutor is much lower in a grand jury than in a criminal trial, but that also means that when a grand jury fails to return an indictment, there is practically no evidence of a crime.  People seem to be ignorant of the fact that a tragedy is not always a crime.

    It seems clear to me that at least within a large swath of our population there is a general ignorance, despite seemingly 100′s of TV “procedurals” called “Law and Order,” of the role of police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.  Police officers collect evidence and keep the peace.  Police officers are not the people you argue with when you are accused of something – you argue with prosecutors and hopefully you have a defense attorney to help you do so.  Both Brown and Garner were arguing with police officers.  As a part of their peace keeping function police have to control such situations and argumentation can and often does escalate into a less than peaceful confrontation.  One should always cooperate with the police.  If that cooperation, but generally the lack of it, results in a detention it is highly inconvenient, but you will have opportunity to argue with someone who can respond reasonably to your argument.  However, such response is not a police job.

    This is also a culture war based on a presumption of privilege.  I have had the “honor” of serving on a condominium Board of Directors.  One year a small group of disgruntled owners used a technique called “cumulative voting” to put one of their own on the Board.  It was a problem from the get-go.  When the confrontations reached their zenith, the individual finally revealed the heart of the issue.  This person was under the assumption that Board members were skimming and that was why the Board seemed to be perpetually short of funds to address situations that the cabal thought were of dire and immediate importance.  This person finally agreed to stop being obstructionist if granted “a cut.”  Needless to say, the rest of the Board was flabbergasted.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

    I do not think it coincidental that these incidents, always involving race, are occurring in the last days of the Obama administration.  It has long been the source of race-based comedy that white people shared some sort of “code” so that when  police confronted whites over minor infractions they allowed them to go on unscathed, while people of color were arrested, or otherwise abused – the so-called “white privilege.”  While video of the Brown confrontation does not exist, watching video of the Garner confrontation it seems clear to me that Garner expected some sort of privileged treatment.   Anyone that has ever watched “COPS” knows that if you argue with police in that fashion you will get detained, regardless of color. But Garner seemed to expect that because a man of color was now in the White House, he could expect to walk away like he assumed white people always had.  And when he was detained, his protestations escalated the force police used to enforce the detention – with most unfortunate outcome.  All of this based, like my HOA Board experience, on an assumption of privilege that does not really exist.

    There is no question that historically there has been identity group discrimination in our nation.  Being born at the University of Mississippi in 1957 and returning to that state annually for most of my life, I have seen first hand what has gone on.  But negative discrimination is not the same thing as privilege.  The same Southern bigots I knew so well as  a youth were as quick to dismiss “white trash” as they were people of color.  There was no privilege of color.  There may have been privilege based on membership in the Klan or other fraternal organizations, often shared with police, and that of course involved race, but it was not based on race proper.  And even then privilege was limited to Klan interests only.  In the day, your Klan brother cop may look the other way about a cross burning, but not about a robbery or assault.  But that is also history and that is also the South.  That privilege just does not exist today and certainly not in New York City.

    Culture war is corrosive enough in this nation.  It becomes intolerable when based on ignorance and presumption.  Some in our political class have chosen to play upon the cultural divides discussed here for their own political, and in some cases financial, benefit.  As we have seen it seriously, and in some incidences fatally, threatens the peace.  Moreover, it threatens the very cultural glue of our nation.  Generating and amplifying such divisiveness may be the most heinous acts of all these sad episodes – particularly when doing so enhances, not cures, ignorance and presumption.  I wonder what the nation would look like if the media shamed such acts instead of broadcast them?

    Share

    Posted in Culture Wars, News Media Bias, Prejudice, Religion and Race | 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.

    Share

    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

    President Hardhead or Cultural Portent?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:32 am, November 7th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The punditry in reaction to the presidents reaction to Tuesday seems to be pretty unanimous.  The Washington Examiner says, “It’s still Obama’s way or the highway.”  Howard Kurtz surveys the pundits and writes, “Still, the media consensus was that the president had blown it.“  Leave it to Peggy Noonan to quote Chris Matthews:

    This is not just poor strategy, it seems to me to be mildly delusional. Chris Matthews erupted on MSNBC: “There’s something in this guy that just plays to his constituency and acts like there’s no other world out there!”

    One must ask in the wake of this utter repudiation how the man got reelected.  We know how he got elected, he lied.  But his character was obvious even before his reelection (remember “I won”?) though less blatantly so than the last two years.  His crack about the two-thirds that did not vote reveals much not only about his character, but about the nation.  His much vaunted GOTV effort was very much cult-of-personality based and definitely attracted the low information types.  And that, frankly, is what scares me.

    Many of the low information types also reflect a personality type that is so self righteously self-absorbed that they rise to the level of “mildly delusional.”  Obama is, in more ways than I really want to contemplate, representative of his core constituency.  “I do not care what the facts are, I want (am entitled to,  should have)….”  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced this sentiment in so many big and small ways in my daily life of late, that with a president that loudly proclaims it I must conclude what I am experiencing is more than purely anecdotal – it is a serious societal trend.

    It’s a recipe for chaos.  From the very small things (barging in line, for example) to the very large (Obamacare being Exhibit A) our society cannot survive if everyone thinks the way they see things is the only way, and their desires are the only desires that matter.  Anyone with any Christian insight should have alarm bells ringing right now; Christian thought being full of everything from wisdom sayings, to admonishments, to outright commands to “regard one another as more important than yourselves.”  That being true, our nations troubles run much deeper than politics.

    This election tells us that the nation clearly wants something different than what it is getting, but an election will not fix it.  Yes it may fix some of the big things but until the little things get fixed, this ugly, unsurvivable viewpoint will lie there, just below the surface waiting once again to assert itself in large and unhappy ways.  It takes more than politics to fix this.

    Education and religion are the two great cultural shaping institutions in our society.  They affect the little things in ways that politics just cannot address.  They cannot be turned as quickly as politics.  It takes far more energy, effort and commitment to fix our educational and religious institutions than it does our political institutions.

    We should enjoy the hard fought victory from Tuesday night through the weekend.  But come Monday there is much to be done.

    Share

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

    « Previous« How We Lose  |  Next Page »Very Confused Thinking In Opposition to Traditional Marriage »