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."

  • 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.

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    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

    The Ugliest Statistic

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, June 26th 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    The Wall Street Journal:

    In the first quarter of 2014, GDP in the U.S. plunged at a 2.9% annual rate, and productivity—the inflation-adjusted business output per hour worked—declined at a 3.5% annual rate. This is the worst productivity statistic since 1990. And productivity since 2005 has declined by more than 8% relative to its long-run trend. This means that business output is nearly $1 trillion less today than what it would be had productivity continued to grow at its average rate of about 2.5% per year.

    Lagging productivity growth is an enormous problem because virtually all of the increase in Americans’ standard of living is made possible by rising worker productivity.

    They go on to cite a lack of new business formation as the largest single contributor to this trend.  They also mention some policy choices that could help reverse it.  Fair enough, but I look at those stats and I see a problem that cannot be fixed by simply changing a few policies.   When Ronald Reagan reversed a similar downward spiral in the 1980′s he did so leading a nation that acted constrained by the bad policy of his predecessor.  Numerous people wanted to start businesses or make other changes that would result in enormous productivity increases, all they needed was a little boost by reversing some policy obstacles.

    I see a very different picture today.  I do not see a nation chomping at the bit waiting for some sort of “go” signal.  I see a nation that honestly does not know if there is anything better.  Note that the trend cited started not with the Obama administration or even the financial disaster of 2008, but way back in 2005.  The nation started losing hope before it elected a government that piled policy disaster on the hopelessness.  Where did the hope go?  (New business start up is practically a function of ideas, the availability of capital, etc.  But fundamentally it is a reflection of hope in the risk taker.)

    Government cannot instill hope in people.  It acts upon it, and it amplifies its presence, but it does not create it.  Part of the genius of America is that it relies on non-governmental forces to create the hope that is absolutely necessary for democracy, and capitalism, to succeed.  The primary non-governmental hope creating force in America is religion.  Government can destroy hope because it can limit religion.  This is the root of the much cited “separation of church and state.”  The separation is designed not to keep religion out of the public square to to permit it to flourish and generate the hope that makes the nation work well.  The founders had seen Europe and its state sanctioned religion and had seen how ties too close to government tended to turn religion into an instrument of government rather than allow it to be religion – to be a hope creator.

    The concerns of the WSJ are far more profound that just the downturn in productivity and causal slowness in business formation.  (Something that, by the way, if not reversed will mire the nation in the debt this administration has buried us under forever.)  It is a reflection of the secularization of the nation – it is not a business problem, it is a soul-sickness.  Elections can change politicians that can change policies.  That’s a good thing and it should happen.  But if the hope does not exist to take advantage of those policy changes, the nation will remain on this downward trend economically.

    Political victory that is not accompanied by religious reform and revival will at best be fleeting.  If our hope is only in that political victory it can be taken from us as easily as it was won.  Real and lasting hope comes from something far larger and far more eternal that our politics.  Our churches, synagogues, and other houses of prayer and worship need to step up here.  Some churches today are becoming hope stealers and breakers.  They are failing to be at least one important part of what the church should be.  Some churches simply sound the bell of judgement and doom, which also does not create hope.  The wall of separation has fallen in ways far more subtle than the coercive forces of law and courtroom.

    It is time for the religious folk of America to stand up and be counted.  Not so much on issues and policy, but on the three things that abide – faith, hope, and love.  If we of deep and heartfelt religious conviction can stand up for these things, I think the issues and policies will right themselves in good order.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Governance, Religious Freedom, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Blame Bill Clinton

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:54 am, May 10th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Another decade – another Clinton scandal – Benghazi.

    How did Bill Clinton survive impeachment?  Pretty simple really.  With the deft aid of partisan allies in Congress and a willing press, he managed to turn what was a perjury trial into a referendum on the “right” of a guy to mess up in his marriage from time-to-time.  I find it fascinating the Monica Lewinsky pops up her head when Hillary Clinton – and the president – find themselves in a bind worthy of Congressional investigation.  Sometimes I wonder if it is not a signal to run the same play?

    Boehner has named the Republican side of the special investigative committee and Pelosi has balked.  Why has Ms. Pelosi balked?

    In a letter sent Friday afternoon to Boehner, Pelosi rejected committee rules proposed by Republicans, citing concerns that Democrats would be treated no better than on the contentious House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Democrats and Republicans on that committee, under Chairman Darrell Issa, D-Calif., clashed repeatedly over the handling of its Benghazi inquiries.

    “Regrettably, the proposal does not prevent the unacceptable and repeated abuses by committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way, and we find it ultimately unfair,” Pelosi wrote, adding that she hoped a one-on-one meeting with Boehner may produce a way forward. “I am still hopeful we can reach an agreement,” she said. [emphasis added]

    Let’s see, “unfair” – I think that is ringing some bells here.  Let’s face it Affirmative Action was all about righting the ‘unfairness” in hiring practices based on race, gender etc.  So, we have an African-American president and a female Secretary of State under (deserved) fire from a Republican controlled House and we cry “unfair.”  Is it possible that they are trying to turn a straightforward investigation into the politicization of the murder of American diplomats and the potential dereliction of duty by the Commander-in-Chief  into a referendum on race and gender?  Could Ms. Pelosi be sending a signal to the press minions on how to spin the thing?

    It’s the play book the Clinton’s have used before.  Worked then, and if anything the press is even more in the bag now than it was twenty or so years ago.

    I was stunned when Clinton did it and I am more stunned now.  The lack of honor is extraordinary.  Nixon had the decency and honor for the office to resign rather than taint it in this fashion.  This bunch clearly does not – shame on them and shame on us for putting up with it.

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    Posted in character, Governance, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    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

    Forget The Politics For Just A Minute, And Focus On The Management…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:35 am, December 1st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    …of the building, roll out and incomplete rescue of “Healthcare.gov” in this morning’s NYT account of what is rapidly shaping up as the worst political disaster in governmental history.

    What you will see is a thorough and complete misunderstanding of human beings, how they behave and how they react to different situations.  Christianity starts with the understanding that humans are deeply flawed.  (Yes, we offer a path to get better, but we start with our flaws.)  The utopian visions of the left seem to cheerfully ignore this most fundamental fact.  That ignorance does more to account for the failure of this entire misguided enterprise than any other single factor.

    Once again we learn that faith matters, not religious identity, but something much deeper.  A lesson the nation needs to relearn.

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    Finding Gratitude This Thanksgiving

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:02 am, November 26th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    I cannot find anyone who thinks the deal with Iran concluded over the weekend does anything other than brings the world closer to nuclear war.  Honestly the consensus is overwhelming, the only debate is in how bad the deal really is.

    Abounding are comparisons to Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich deal with Hitler.  A deal that Chamberlain said achieved “peace for our time,” when all it really did was pave the way for Hitler’s takeover of Czechoslovakia.  The comparisons are apt.

    Bret Stephens points out this morning that this deal is much worse than Munich.

    Consider: Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.

    That certainly jives with my understanding of the events of that time and now.  But there is one difference Stephens does not discuss that I find truly terrifying.  When World War Two broke out in the wake of Munich, Chamberlain had enough common sense to appoint Winston Churchill as the First Lord of the Admiralty.  When, mere months later, Chamberlain’s inability to lead the nation in a war was boldly demonstrated he resigned in the wake of a no confidence vote and Churchill became Prime Minister.

    My concern is that as the crisis just worsened reaches its apex I do not think this administration has enough common sense to make the appropriate changes in its composition to change the tide.  Nor would the resignation of the President (which the ego of the current President would never grant) greatly improve matters, our succession rules to the office being what they are.

    It is one of those times when I am most grateful to have faith to rely upon.  If you read this blog you may express your faith in a quite a different way than I do.   But I bet we share this gratitude.  We find it much more difficult to change the tide of events than even the British did in the late 1930′s.  But we, because of our faith, have another place to turn to try and shift the tide.

    This is what I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

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    Posted in Governance, leadership, Social/Religious Trends, Violence | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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