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."

  • The Price Of Being Who We Are

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:04 am, June 25th 2009     &mdash      5 Comments »

    As the Sanford thing unfolded yesterday, I was “itchy.”  I just knew this was gonna leave a mark somehow.  Last night, my wife and I sat in a small teriyaki place, a place that always has one TV on CNN and one on ESPN, having something akin to dinner.  CNN was having a great deal of fun at the expense of social conservatives.  Sometime during Larry King they ran of litany of “the fallen.”  Oh sure, John Edwards and Bill Clinton flashed by, but they dwelled on Sanford, Gingrich, and other Republicans.  But then it is not surprising from CNN.  (I could not get near MSNBC, I just knew it would be vile.)

    But scanning the news this morning has come close to breaking my spirit.  The daily headlines I get from the Washington Times, a purposefully conservative newspaper, were lead by this:

    Social conservatives fall from moral high ground

    Republicans retreat from values claims

    That, dear friends hurts a lot coming from that source.  Two thoughts cross my mind.  The first is that social conservatives, in a sense, deserve this.  We do attempt to stand on high moral ground.  And while we hold a religious belief that relies on grace, the world does not share that belief.  In such a circumstance, when we stand on that high ground, we are obligated to live up to it.

    I have said in the church for years that the scandals that plague TV preachers do the cause of Christianity real harm.   The same applies in this situation. As morally based political activists, our cause is hurt tremendously by scandals like this.  We are now in the unfortunate and unappealing situation of having to throw Sanford under the bus.  At a time when he and his family have much need, and all our instincts as people of God is to give it, we have no choice but to denounce him as a part of our movement.

    This is why, much as he has worked to regain our trust and redeem himself, there are limits to how high Newt Gingrich can be allowed to climb again.  This is also why, as appealing as she appears. there are limits to Sarah Palin too. While the issue of her daughter is just her daughter and not her, and her daighter made heroic choices in the face of the circumstance, it taints, and we cannot at this juncture afford even a taint.

    This is why we have to exercise much care, much more than we historically have, in who we choose to lead and represent us.

    The second point that comes to mind is that this headline may be the result of Republican infighting.   With Huckabee’s antics and Palin’s divisiveness, social conservatives have been under much fire inside the party since the last cycle.  It would not surprise me if fiscal and defense conservatives were using this scandal to shore up their positions in the party.

    Such is unseemly and simply cannot be tolerated.  We cannot win anything unless all three legs of the movement can restore the coalition.  Any Republican using this scandal sides with the liberal Democrats.

    Prayers for the Sanford family and prayers for the party.

    Postscript:  Jonathon Martin has a more sober analysis of the damage this causes Republicans.   Although, his lack of mention of Romney as one of the new generation of leaders is puzzling.  And Dan Gilgoff piles on.

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    Posted in Issues, Understanding Religion | 5 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Go Join The Discussion

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:17 am, June 17th 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Dan Gilgoff is trying to get some discussion going at his blog about this quote from Newt Gingrich:

    I happen to favor traditional marriage and suspect in the long run we’ll go back to traditional marriage. I don’t believe we’re going to follow Europe down the road of a secularized, nonreligious society. If anything, I suspect that in the next 30 years Europe will become dramatically more religious because what it will find is that a secular society is stunningly sterile and has no natural base on which to organize civilization.

    Please go join the discussion there.  It would be bad form for us to co-opt it here, but I will make my comments in this forum.

    First of all, it is a near certainty that Europe will become “dramatically more religious” in the next 30 years.  The real question is “what religion?” and “why?”  The answers I see are, “Islamic” and “demographic.”  See here.   Europe’s native birth rate is so low that they are importing Islamic workforces in droves.  They will soon overwhelm the native population.  This is one of the reasons that our efforts in the Middle East and the GWOT in general are so important.  It probably is not a war we can ever win in the sense of defeating the enemy.  But if we can apply enough pressure that Islam will reform in a sense similar to what happened to Christianity a few centuries ago, we can avoid global religious conflict.

    Even if Europe were to return to Christianity in the Gingrich predicted fashion, it would be a bit of an ugly thing.  That is not serious religious conversion – its societally-imposed and for reasons other than religious ones.  It would be a pretty sterile religion too.  Which means I am not at all certain how helpful it would be.  Religion changes people, who become; therefore, better people – who in turn make a better society. Using religion as a tool to enforce social mores is the root of the rebellion that created our nation.  People need to choose religion for personal reasons, or it turns ugly fast.  Hence the state of Islam today, or Christianity a few centuries ago.  (Oh, by the way, this paragraph is a clarion call to missionaries of all sorts.)

    Finally, the nation can return to traditional marriage without returning to religion.  That will probably happen.  Same sex marriage is a recipe for societal decay with or without a religious component.  Hence the reason every society in history regardless of religion or lack thereof rejected it.  Even the devotedly secular communist regimes of recent times have rejected same sex marriage.

    Now, go to Dan’s post and discuss.

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    “Big Love:” A very appropriate piece by Orson Scott Card

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 01:22 pm, March 14th 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Orson Scott Card writes in National Review about this weekend’s much-ballyhooed “Big Love” episode.  Much of what he says might as well have been an Article VI Blog post.  For example: 

    [W]hile we [Mormons] don’t like what Big Love is doing, we’re not doing much about it. We’ve learned by observation that protests and boycotts merely increase the publicity, and therefore the viewership, of such hostile productions as the Big Love temple episode.

    So the church’s official advice to its members is: Ignore it. (See this, for more.)

    . . .

    Most Mormons are seeing the Big Love temple episode in the context of the recent outpouring of hatred and bile from those who most vehemently opposed Proposition 8.

    Mormons have been targeted for business boycotts; some have lost their jobs because they contributed to the campaign to defend marriage.

    The result is that few of us have any desire to act as the worst of our opponents have acted. After someone has boycotted a friend’s business, it makes it a bit harder for you to want to call for a boycott.

    By and large, while we’d prefer that everybody handle differences of opinion peacefully, we’d rather be persecuted than be the persecutors. The few times in our history when we have departed from that principle, the results have shamed us for generations. Tolerance works better.

    I agree with Card, by and large, but I think the difficulty lies in knowing when to speak out, and how loudly, in response to attacks.  In politics, for example, a candidate cannot often turn the other cheek when religiously-based whisper campaigns are under way. 

    As far as the HBO show goes, my guess is that this latest kerfluffle will pass without much impact on anyone or anything.

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    “Big Love,” Mormons, Politics, and Religion

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 09:32 am, March 13th 2009     &mdash      3 Comments »

    John and I have batted around the idea of commenting on the controversy over HBO’s “Big Love” program, and have decided not to say very much.  I do want to make a few comments about the subject generally.

    I think it is important to note that “Big Love,” which a high-level HBO executive told me was supposed to be the next “Sopranos” for HBO, is struggling, and this may be the show’s final season unless ratings improve.  The same HBO executive told me personally that HBO would be sensitive to Mormon beliefs and would not confuse the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the many polygamous sects in the world today, many of which have historical roots in Momonism.

    I guess HBO forgot those promises.  HBO’s cynical effort to stir up controversy by televising what purports to be a version of the temple ceremonies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which are deeply sacred to committed Mormons, must be seen as what it is:  a ratings ploy.  By outraging Mormons and goading them to complain publicly, HBO hopes more people will watch their show.

    So, in light of the inevitable attention this little flap will generate, here are a few thoughts and related links that may actually be helpful to those unfamiliar with the main issues:

    1.   The relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Mormons”) and the fundamentalist polygamist sects is like the relationship between Catholics and Lutherans.  They are part of the same faith family, but totally distinct faiths.  The Roman Catholic Church has nothing to do with the modern actions and beliefs of the Lutheran Church, and vice versa.  (By making the analogy, I do not intend to equate Lutherans and polygamous sects; Lutheranism is a major world religion, and a major force in history.  The polygamist sects are very small, reclusive groups.)

    2.  As a wise man reminded me yesterday:  ”If you are a Mormon, and you want to be excommunicated from the church quickly,  practice polygamy.  All other sins take longer.”

    3.  Daily Variety, of all places, publishes today a fine commentary by a Mormon reader about the entire controversy. It’s really a must-read.

    What does all this have to do with politics?  Well, as John and I have argued repeatedly, there is a “for whom the bell tolls” aspect to this episode:  When the mainstream news and entertainment media abuse any religion in this manner, they make it harder for people of faith to be visibly active in the public square.  The best thing any of our readers can do to support the principles underlying Article VI of the Constitution is not to watch “Big Love” this Sunday night, and encourage everyone they know to do the same thing.

    Ironically, most Mormons don’t even have HBO – my family doesn’t – because we prefer not to have R-rated programming in our homes.  So if there will be any “boycott” of this Sunday’s “Big Love” episode, it won’t be Mormons who are leading it.

    Watch an ennobling movie instead.  I recommend A Man for All Seasons:

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    Posted in Issues, News Media Bias, Religious Bigotry, Understanding Religion | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    For those interested in political philosophy, I give you . . . Rep. Jeff Flake

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 08:59 pm, March 6th 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Here’s some food for weekend thought:  A brief video of Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, speaking to the libertarian Reason Foundation last November, shortly after the election.  (HT:  Reason.com.)

    It’s kind of interesting to note that Rep. Flake is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I don’t think that ever comes up in his re-election campaigns.  But listen to what he has to say.  Does his religion have any bearing on whether or not you want someone in Congress espousing the views Rep. Flake expresses here?

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    Posted in Issues, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    In Honor of President Obama’s Inauguration

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 12:03 pm, January 19th 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This video is from Catholic Vote and will run during tomorrow’s inaugural:

    It’s a little different from our usual material here, but seems quite appropriate.

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