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

    “The Flippin’ Mormon…”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:54 am, January 28th 2014     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Last night I was able to watch the newly released documentary on Netflix, “Mitt.”  For anyone that cared about the campaign and even remotely cared about the individuals involved it is a gut wrenching experience.  I told a friend just after I watched it that my Twitter review should be “It tore my heart out and left it beating on the table in front of me.”  These were amazingly decent people, without an ounce of cynicism.  To watch their stoicism in the face of all the assaults, grounded in their faith, was inspiring,  It also made me hurt for the nation.

    Even noted lefties have found the Romney of this film appealing.  A fact that caused me to tweet:

    @NYTimesDowd, It was there if you had just been willing to see it – Peeling Away the Plastic

    Others have noted that it was Romney’s very discomfort with the process that resulted in his loss.  Note how both of these criticisms cling to a narrative that Romney was somehow “false” during the campaign.  There is, of course, some standard film criticism of the documentary.  I would make one brief note – It quickly passes over the primary of 2012, feeling I am sure it was repetitive of the well covered primary of 2008.  The 2012 primary was grueling and ugly.  I really would like to have known more about the family discussions surrounding the many failed “not Romney’s.”

    Which brings me to what I really want to say about the film.  In a sense it is book-ended by comments on Romney’s Mormon faith.  I am not talking about the much discussed scenes of the family praying together.  These were incredibly powerful, but they were a bit voyeuristic.  Romney said on Hugh Hewitt last night that he is not ashamed of his faith or his prayer life, but he has also said he wishes the scenes were not in the film.  I honestly think it would have been enough to show the family briefly at prayer, but exclude the content and depth of the prayer.  Somethings are best left between the family and God.

    No, the bookend’s I am discussing come during the 2008 primary when Romney says quite tellingly, “I’m the flippin’ Mormon…” when discussing the narrative that surrounded him and at the end of the film, after the loss to Obama, when he says to at campaign HQ, “You know, we kind of stole the primary…Our party is southern, Evangelical and populist and I’m northern, Mormon and rich.”

    In the discussion of “flippin’ Mormon,”  Romney says “I can’t change the Mormon part, but I can change the flip-flop.”  I wish he could have changed the “flip-flop,” but I thought when he said it that I wished I’d been there -  The two are deeply linked.   I would never ask Gov, Romney to consider changing his Mormon faith, but the argument that he needed to make was that there is nothing about his Mormon faith that makes him untrustworthy.  His faith sort of sat there at the bottom of everything, a hidden bigotry, giving people a reason to latch onto any narrative that called into question the veracity and genuineness of this most truthful and genuine candidate.

    I doubt that Joel Belz has enough readers to have formed the nucleus of this anti-Mormon sentiment, but he is the only one on the right to give voice to it:

    It’s not a trivial matter that Mormonism, as a cultic movement, has a bad reputation when it comes to getting its own story straight. Check out the public record, if you will, including fairly recent interviews with Mormon officials in venues like Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, and Newsweek. Do these officials hold to the fantastical 1827 golden tablets of Mormon founder Joseph Smith—or not? Well, they seem to say: We believe it when we want to, and we don’t when it’s less convenient. Where Mormonism isn’t shrouded in deliberate secrecy, it is covered with confusion.

    So when folks tell me they’re satisfied that Mitt Romney won’t try to drag his Mormonism into his politics, and that he would never ever impose his theology on the American people, I have to worry whether that’s exactly what he’s already done. When, in a relatively short space of time, he seems to be on both sides of the same issue—and when such a deviously confusing approach seems to be consistent with his faith rather than counter to it—that sets off alarm bells for me.

    Only a few weeks ago, I sat a dozen feet from Romney as he compellingly spelled out his convictions and credentials. He was winsome and persuasive. On the surface, he said almost everything I want to hear my candidate say. On the issues that matter (except for choice in education), he was as convincing as any politician I’ve heard in recent years.

    But still.

    More than anything, I want a president who tells the truth. And I worry deeply when people are overly ready to believe a man whose religious upbringing, of all things, suggests that the truth is a negotiable commodity.

    Belz makes a theological argument that Romney is essentially a liar – because of his faith.  Note how easily this blends with the left leaning narrative which hates his faith simply because it opposes the entire left-leaning social agenda.  The left simply believes that anyone that “straight” must be lying; otherwise, much of their worldview comes crashing in around them.

    The Romney’s never seem to acknowledge this problem directly.  Romney failed to see that “Mormon” made “flippin’” stick and it made “northern and rich” insurmountable.  This, in the end, is what makes Mitt Romney such a compelling and endearing figure.  He simply refused to believe the worst of the American people.

    That’s what makes his loss in 2012 so much more than just another political loss.  That’s what makes some fear that the nation has turned a fundamental corner.  That’s what drives many to their knees in prayer on a regular basis — the fact that we may no longer be able to rely on the right and best in the American people.

    This film is extraordinarily compelling and extraordinarily hard to watch.  My personal acquaintance with many of the players on the screen makes me celebrate with them they fact that they still have each other.  The emotional factor that makes this film so hard to watch is what is says in the larger context.  The nation rejected deep and real decency when it rejected Mitt Romney as its president.


    Posted in Analyzing 2012, Film Reviews, News Media Bias | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Article VI: The Movie – Watch It Now!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 12:22 pm, January 15th 2008     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Last night it was my privilege to make the trek to Newport Beach and attend the premier of Article VI: Faith * Politics * America, a movie that has arisen in the wake of the vast religious discussion in this election cycle. To anyone interested in the stuff that this blog covers, this movie is invaluable.The film is sandwiched between scenes of the LDS semi-annual convention and the creedal Christian street preachers that work it. It starts making them look like ugly shouters and ends up with some friendships developing. In between it features interviews with some of the most important voices in religion, politics, and history today and presents those interviews with skill and interest.

    I particularly enjoyed the historical research in the film especially on Lincoln and the Jefferson/Adams election cycle. Also fascinating was extensive video of JFK’s now nearly cliche 1960 Texas speech. With the video not only of the Kennedy’s speech, but the ensuing Q&A, this event comes much more alive and its import and impact far more apparent. There is also an extensive section on the recent Hindu prayer in the Senate and the accompanying “protests.”

    This movie is so interesting and so good on this subject, that I urge you to get it and watch it. In fact, as a reader of this blog, you probably are really into this stuff, buy several copies and give them to friends. I would even recommend viewing parties, particularly before you vote.

    This film lacks a great deal of exploration of the current election cycle, but the information it contains could not be more applicable. I hope the film makers will come back and add an addendum when this cycle is complete. However, for the moment it is pitch perfect for informing the on-going discussion. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


    Posted in Film Reviews | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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