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."

  • How We Lose

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:20 am, November 4th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    It is election day and if the polling holds it looks to be a very good one for Republicans.  Come tonight we should have very good reason to be celebratory.  And yet I find celebration hard to come by – and not just becasue the most hard-headed presidency in history will fail, utterly, to receive the message being sent today.  No, the ennui I experience today is born of a story that has ridden pretty high, but just off the main radar, amidst the closing arguments, the final pushes and the last gasps of Campaign 2014.

    A young, beautiful and struggling with a major health issue woman killed herself last Saturday.

    Yes, she was dying.  Yes, she was looking at a great deal of suffering before her inevitable demise.  But regardless, her decision, and the rush to support it, takes something extraordinarily tragic and makes it indescribably saddening.  Life, even a life lived with extreme difficulty and pain, is too precious to waste in this manner.  Life is given by God, it is not ours to take away.

    Yet as I read piece after piece about that call to support the “right to die with dignity,” I cannot help but wonder where is the religious outrage at this act that so clearly defies centuries of religious teaching.  Is the press not covering it?  Google is not revealing much of anything, even press releases from religious organizations that have gone unreported.

    This is how we lose.

    Compassion for an awful situation demands some decorum, but the -pro-death people are busy making political hay and we allow our compassion to silence us when it should force us merely to temper our pronouncements and thus illustrate the incredibly poor taste of our opposition.  This is hard to message.  The difference between pulling the plug on a person already dead save for human intervention and a person not yet dead from disease is too subtle for Twitter and the TV sound bite.  We let this messaging difficulty silence us.  Medical science has forced most of us, or someone very close to us, to make life or death decisions and so we remain silent lest we be called hypocrite, or becasue it is too painful to face our own, perhaps wrong, calculations.

    We cannot be so silenced.  We have to find a tasteful, decorous, effective way to talk about this or we will be facing medically assisted suicide on demand  as we now face abortion on demand.  Our culture no longer bows to a greater power, it is inevitable if we are silent.

    But more important than the political opposition and the media messaging is what is going on in our churches.  That is what prepares the battlefield and sets the cultural agenda so that political and media messaging can have traction.  Politics follows culture.  And yet, as I drive around I have not seen church signs with sermons on this issue.  Of the myriad church social media streams I follow I have not seen any mention of discussion groups or youth events to deal with this situation.  The silence seems to be pervasive, not just in the media.

    This is how we lose.  I do not want to lose this one.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, leadership, 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.

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    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

    The Internet and Authority

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:42 am, July 19th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    We’ve been thinking a lot around these parts about the fact that religion is losing currently because it has quit leading culture and started catering to it.  This is especially true in Evangelicalism, but I have Catholic friends that would argue Vatican II is pretty much the same thing.

    An interesting back and forth between Damon Linker and Rod Dreher contends that the Internet is contributing to the problem as well – especially for Catholicism.  The contention is, in essence, that you can no longer “cover-up” the scandal.  Linker puts it this way:

    Stated simply, the problem is this: Traditionalist churches preach a moral outlook that diverges sharply (especially in sexual matters) from the latitudinarian and egalitarian ethic of liberalism that increasingly dominates the lives of 21st-century Americans. When a scandal reveals that those who preach the stringent traditionalist view of morality fall far short of the standards they publicly demand of others, it makes them look like hypocrites and the church’s teachings look like a cruel sham concocted by psychologically unbalanced clerics.

    But that’s not even the heart of the problem. To become a potentially church-destroying trend, which is what I think it could develop into over the coming decades, it must be mixed with one additional ingredient: The technologies of publicity (email, instant messaging, social media, news sites greedy for clicks) that have proliferated in the past generation.

    Both admit, as I would be quick to point out, that scandal in church is as old as church.  I know of no one that takes their faith seriously that has not had to deal with how to relate to the institution that they believe is God’s representative on earth when that institution fails.  Anybody that has done serious work in a religious institutions has run into a scandal.  It is the nature of the beast.  And there have always been elements that sought to cover such up.  But religious institutions, even the Roman Catholic church, are all about people knowing other people’s business.  Every scandal I have ever run into everybody knew about, just nobody talked about it much and thus maybe those not paying attention (the irreligious) did not know, but that does not mean the information was not readily available.

    Word of religious scandal may spread a bit faster and seemingly less gossipy than it once did, but that only reinforces the church’s lack of authority with those that already doubted its authority.

    Scandals hurt the church’s authority more than they used to because the church no longer responds to scandal authoritatively.  “Gotchas” rarely remain a problem if the situation is dealt with swiftly and definitively.  The current crisis over the jetliner shoot down in Eastern Ukraine is a perfect example.   Our president has chosen to declare it, unacceptable, but he brings no consequence to bear on the situation.  Thus Obama only looks more weak and powerless than he did before.  And so, anymore, churches respond to a scandal.  They declare it bad, but there are no genuine consequences.  Pastors and priests are counseled and restored; no longer are they defrocked and shamed.

    The roots of these issues are deep in theology and psychology and they are not for this blog – they are for each church to struggle with.

    What is for this blog to say is that if a priest is caught in sexual impropriety and the word goes out over Twitter, “See we told you the church were liars,” and the particular diocese in question responded repeatedly with a tweet, “Priest X is no longer is a priest of the Roman Catholic Church,” the “liar” meme would die in a big hurry.  That is an authoritative response using the internet.  The internet is not the issue.

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    Worse Than Nixon?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:44 am, March 14th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Howard Kurtz this morning objects to Victor David Hanson’s portrayal of Obama as “Nixonian,”  Kurtz’ objections are summed up in this sentence:

    The problem with most of these examples is there’s no evidence that Obama ordered, or knew about, these efforts. And that’s very different from Nixon, who as we know from the secret tapes, would talk about breaking into the Brookings Institution.

    So, what we learn from Kurtz is that not only is the Obama administration engaged in unconstitutional and illegal activity, but that the president has little control over his own administration.  To my mind this makes Obama a worse president than Nixon – unconstitutional crook AND bad manager.

     

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, leadership | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    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

    And So It Begins

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, November 22nd 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This weeks editorial page of the Wall Street Journal featured op-eds from Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, chronologically ordered.  Make no mistake, these are two men testing the waters for potential national leadership of the party and the government.  This is how it starts.  It is upon us. Read these pieces carefully, and those that follow from other possibles.  The decisions before the party and the electorate in ’14 and ’16 are of more importance than any that have been taken since WWII.

    This is no time to choose lightly.

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    Posted in Electability, leadership, Political Strategy | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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