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."

  • 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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    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

    Dear Mr. President –

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:41 am, November 9th 2013     &mdash      3 Comments »

    I went down the rabbit hole this week.  Not literally, of course.  My entrance to Wonderland came in the form of a letter from my health insurance carrier with whom I have done business for decades telling me that the health insurance that has served me so well for all these decades did not suit the King of Diamonds and had therefore had its head removed.  The insurance carrier, until recently a reasonable and reliable provider has apparently been stuck in Wonderland for several years now as they have come to resemble The Mad Hatter:

    The Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at her celebration, she sentenced him to death for “murdering the time,” but he escapes decapitation. In retaliation, Time (referred to as a “Him”) halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever. The tea party, when Alice arrives, is characterised by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away.

    My letter directed me to a wealiceinwonderlandb site.  Not the non-functioning federal web site of now infamy, but one of their own devising that was, they assured me, fully functional.  I was offered a variety of plans and quickly found one that matched my current coverage in cost, but the precise nature of the coverage was unclear, even though it seemed to resemble what I currently had.  So at the advice of said web site, I picked up the phone.

    After the usual and irritating computerized phone tree I got to talk to a “Licensed Healthcare Adviser.”  This is a term that I came to learn over the course of the week meant “Hired in front of Home Depot last week, made to watch a 15 minute video and given a piece of paper.”  I immediately learned that the plans offered were not the “PPO” that I had come to love all these decades, but an “EPO.”  Which as best as I can determine means “Use the doctor we tell you to or you are ‘SOL.’”  And then of course arose the quite natural question of “What doctors are you telling me to use?’

    That’s when I learned the “Find a doctor” web site was non-operational and that question could not currently be answered.  But I was assured it would be operational in a couple of days.  And so I returned to the real world for a period.

    A few days later I tried the “Find a doctor” web site only to learn that it was still non-functional, but I was directed to down load a document that contained the names of all contracted providers in my county. It was only 800 pages long.  The first 13 pages were devoted purely to acupuncturists.  That’s right, acupuncturists.  I went looking for Christian Science practitioners, but none were available.  Apparently Chinese voodoo is medicine, but prayer is not.

    Anyway, it took only about three minutes of searching the 800 page document before my computer – a device that approximates the computing power of NASA – was beginning to choke on the size of the document and its utterly flawed design.  And since I do not currently own a forest to chop down to make paper to print the thing, I abandoned this effort, returned to the real world and waited again for the “Find a doctor” site to obtain functionality.13708288-executioner-argues-with-king-about-cutting-off-cheshire-cat-s-head--alice-s-adventures-in-wonderland

    As I waited, some new questions occurred to me, and a couple of days later, I once again picked up the telephone and ventured down the rabbit hole.  At first I was simply assured that I should put aside my questions because an EPO was just like a PPO except a “slightly smaller network.”  When I told the March Hare that such was not what was represented to me previously, he put me on hold and apparently went to consult the Cheshire Cat who only smiled benignly and said, “Well that all depends on what ‘just like’ means.”

    When I muttered that I apparently had to buy the insurance to find out what was covered, the March Hare seemed not to understand a word I was saying.

    And so I pressed ahead with my questions.  First question, “I travel extensively on business, suppose I am struck by a bus next time I am in New York?  New York is clearly outside of California where I live.”  Quickly the answer came, “Why sir, just call the local hospitals and ask if they are in our network.”  When I pointed out that I was hit by a bus and in no shape to use a telephone, the March Hare magically turned into a geyser with too little steam pressure and sputtered.

    I was told I would have to talk to a coverage specialist and took a delightful journey through on hold music land.  Once there I was informed that the coverage specialist could only answer questions about current coverage not the new and marvelous plans of Wonderland.  I was assured that the “Licensed Healthcare Advisers” could answer all my questions, and back through on hold music land I ventured.

    I posed a new question.  “I travel outside the US generally on an annual basis.  Surely that is out of network.  What happens then?”   The March Hare assured me that the EPO would cover me in emergencies, regardless.  I asked “What’s an emergency?”  The first answer I got was “Why if you got to the Emergency Room, it’s an emergency.”  I quickly retorted, “So if I have a hangnail, I can go to the ER of any hospital I want and its covered?”  Then the geyser returned.  I felt sorry for the geyser and tried to calm things down.

    I made my inquiry a bit more specific.  “Suppose I am in Rome – Italy – and I contract pneumonia.  This is a very serious illness, but not imminently life threatening.  Am I covered in an Italian hospital or must I board a plane, expose 3-400 other people in a small air recycled box to my communicable disease, and return to the United States in long neck alice lennyorder to be covered?”

    “You would have to come home, sir” was the response.

    At this point I began to feel my head grow uncontrollably.  Worried that it might pop like a balloon, I quickly left Wonderland and started looking for some other place where I could find health insurance.  At this juncture I have no idea if I will find such a place.  And if I do if that insurance will resemble anything close to the insurance that I have loved and that has served my so well for decades.

    Anyway Mr. President, I wanted to write you and thank you for this marvelous journey to a land where wishes become some sort of warped reality.  I may die or go broke, but isn’t a trip to a land of fantasy, where those awful rules of reason and sanity don’t apply, worth it?

    All the best,

    John

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