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."

  • Same Sex Marriage – There Is Something Different Here

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:24 am, October 22nd 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    One tends to think of the progression of same-sex marriage as an accelerated version of how abortion came to be legal in the land.  People started to clamor for it.  Some states started to look into it, some states legalized it and then SCOTUS stepped in and made it so.  Certainly proponents of same-sex marriage are trying to drive such a narrative, but something different is going on.

    For one thing it is more than a little “accelerated” in comparison of abortion.  It is downright forced.  This was illustrated strongly in a talk radio event I attended this past weekend.  The very conservative panel split along interesting lines.  On the one hand  there were the younger people, and one older ally, that pointed out their generation simply was not fired up about it.  The older ally pointed out that the issue of religious freedom was distinct and had political traction even is same sex marriage did not.  On the other hand most of the older people on the panel were making slippery slope arguments that same sex marriage was just the latest attack on not merely religious freedom, but religion generally, and that despite the ambivalence of the younger generation, we had to fight and fight hard.

    The talk radio audience is largely older, so it is not surprising that that latter view resonated with the room.  Certainly things like what is happening in Houston and Coeur d’Alene would add credence to the latter view.  But what we really have here is not an issue problem, but a messaging one.

    The younger argument is, for their generation, well framed.  They are libertarian with regards to same-sex marriage, as my generation was about abortion.  But the over reach that is happening in places like Houston and Coeur d’Alene really are religious freedom questions, not same sex marriage questions.  They can get traction across generational lines.  But it was also clear from the room at the event that such subtle messaging is a bit too subtle for the older generation.

    Aside from the speed and overly judicious means by which same sex marriage is spreading, this is where the abortion analogy begins to break down.  Abortion really was the dirty little secret of history.  While often illegal or illegitimate it has been practiced in various forms pretty much forever.  Most people, rightly, think that the same thing is true about homosexuality.  But same sex marriage is something quite different from simple homosexual activity.  It is without historical precedent.  Many other of what we consider aberrant forms of marriage (polygamy, for example) have historical antecedents, but there are simply none for same-sex marriage.   From the perspective of the older generation which has learned history not merely propaganda, the idea of same-sex marriage is so outside of human practice as to be unworthy of discussion, let alone serious consideration.

    One of the younger members of the panel pointed out that same-sex marriage is advancing because no one is arguing against it.  He was sympathetic that in light of history, we were caught flat-footed, but that we had to respond.  What I heard when I heard that was a young man asking to be parented.  Of course this guy is married with small children of his own, but from the perspective of my age that’s what it sounded like.  Some things are so rudimentary, so fundamental to human functioning that they should not be argued for or against.  To argue is to admit that the opposing view has some merit.  Somethings are dismissed, not argued.  For the younger generation to give credence, not dismissal, to arguments for same sex marriage is a lack of parenting, not rhetoric.

    Of course, at this juncture there is an enormous amount of cultural analysis that could and should take place.  But from a purely political standpoint, can parenting be accomplished in political messaging?  And if so, how?

    I am not smart enough to figure out the complete answer to that question, but there is one component of it that I know is necessary.  Our political leadership has to begin again to lead, not merely cater to the voter.  Much of the urgency that we see on the same sex marriage issue right now is because the lack of political leadership in the nation is so painfully obvious that almost anyone can figure out that the next administration will be better at it, regardless of who is elected.

    But this also sets an agenda for the next Congress.  Should the polling hold and the Republicans gain both houses, they have got to lead, not merely pander for votes.  Because of the administration their leadership may be fruitless, but they have to be seen to lead.  Generals in losing battles are still leaders – winning is not the point right now – leadership is.  Such leadership will embolden the older generation to do the same in small ways throughout the nation and the cultural tides may begin to shift.  If a Republican Congress fails to lead they will be just as to blame for the cultural degradation of our society as those that openly call for so much that is symptomatic of the decline.

    It is high time we older folks acted like it.

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    Posted in Evangelical Shortcomings, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Same-sex marriage | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    If It Is To Be, Must It Be With The Same Old Cliches?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:25 am, October 2nd 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    FACT:  Mitt Romney insists that he is not going to run in 2016, publicly and privately.

    Fact: The press is full of speculation that Romney might run in 2016.

    Fact: Romney is in high demand as a spokesperson/endorser in mid-term elections.  As the last presidential candidate for the party, he is its senior statesmen, save for the former presidents and tradition holds them above politics.  (Except, of course, for Bill Clinton which is a matter for another time.)

    Conclusion: Mitt Romney is under enormous pressure from party insiders and money people to run in 2016, hence the massive amounts of press speculation, driven by these people applying pressure as opposed to the Romney himself.  Hence, Romney has begun to soften his public stance ever so slightly.  One would think this softening is more a nod to those that are so loyal than it is any actual change of heart, given the definitiveness of earlier statements.

    All of that is fair enough.  But one would think after two election cycles, the Mormon card would be played out or someone would come up with a far more imaginative way to play it.  But based on this FoxNews story it seems the playbook on this one has not changed at all.

    …a former Mitt Romney ad guru has made little reminders like this the centerpiece of a strange new social media campaign aimed at softening the public image of his Republican Party.

    The campaign is called “Republicans Are People, Too.” Right now, it’s a low-budget endeavor, with an online and social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.

    The man behind the push, Vinny Minchillo, told FoxNews.com he’s trying to “catch a wave” of interest by launching “Republicans Are People, Too” shortly before the midterm elections – though he’s not advocating for any particular candidates.

    [...]

    It also recycles a phrase once used by a pro-Republican drive in the wake of Nixon’s resignation, and bears a striking resemblance to the 2011-2012 “I’m a Mormon” ads, which stressed the ordinary-ness of Mormons — Minchillo said he never noticed the similarities.

    OK – is this mention the “I’m a Mormon” campaign not entirely gratuitous?  Can it serve to do anything other than try to link the Romney campaign of 2012 to the “I’m a Mormon” campaign?

    This Fox story carries a byline for Alana Wise, but googling her turns up almost nothing.  There is a LinkedIn Profile for an NBC Intern, but I have no idea if it belongs to the Alana Wise that wrote this piece, nor do I have anyway to tell the time frame of the profile.  But I am going to guess that Ms Wise is very young, still learning the ropes, and got thrown this story on a lark.

    What is stunning is that the story has garnered more than 2000 comments and seen a little under 1000 social media shares of some sort.  A very quick scan of the comments would indicate that while no one mentions the Mormon shot explicitly, the now equally tired “Romney is not a real Republican” canard (Often the Mormon card in code) does rear its head.  This last observation should go a long way towards explaining Romney’s unwillingness to run again.   Political opinion can shift with a headline, but this kind of bigotry is a deep seated mistrust that cannot be overcome so readily.

    I do not look for Romney to run again unless the party fails to coalesce around someone; leaving him the only individual capable of carrying the party banner forward in some form.  But I am profoundly saddened that given his current status in the party, this kind of stuff still shows up.  It does not bode well for the party or the nation.

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    Posted in Evangelical Shortcomings, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Left Is Trying To Play Us!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:18 am, September 15th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Some day, Evangelicals will figure out that the Left and it’s media allies played on our theological differences to defeat Mitt Romney and re-elect Barack Obama – and now we watch the world burn.  All while Nero Obama fiddles golfs.

    But hey, if your opponent has a weakness, you exploit it – right?  Well that seems to be the case with a Salon piece that crossed my desk this morning – “How the Catholic Church masterminded the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby debacle.”  The subtitle is fascinating -

    While evangelical Christians ultimately brought down the contraception mandate, they had big help from Catholics

    Does anybody recognize a pattern here?  Do you remember when Prop 8 passed in California and it opponents rioted at Mormon sites in the state, engaging in property damage and intimidation?  Do yo remember when they boycotted businesses where it was known that the owners backed the proposition?

    What was a great example of religious cooperation in pursuit of shared political goals quickly became “a Mormon” thing and shamefully Evangelicals, who should have been helping Mormons protect their property, their reputation and their right to approach their houses of worship, seemed more than glad to let Mormons take the hit.  The Left successfully played on our theological differences to make one of our best shared victories into a separating lever and Prop 8 stood for a very short time.

    This nasty Salon piece by Patricia Miller seems to want to make the same maneuver between Evangelicals and Catholics over Hobby Lobby.  Ostensibly a piece reporting on the role of the Catholic College of Bishops in the whole affair, its tone and language seek to demonize the Bishops and turn them into some sort of religious Bilderberger or Rothschild.  The piece features a side-by-side photo of New York Archbishop Dolan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as if they formed some sort of cabal.  This piece has little relation to reporting and much to propaganda.  But then it is Salon so I am not entirely surprised.

    However, there are two take-aways that need careful reflection by those of religious bent.

    The Left no longer opposes us, they hate us.  It would be easy to weave all sorts of narratives about where such hatred could lead.  But such narratives would all be based on the Left retaining the levels of power it has enjoyed for the last few years.  Fortunately, that is already slipping from their grasp because they have overplayed their hand.  Nonetheless, we should take great caution in how we proceed.  Such hatred creates peril for its object, regardless of the political balance.

    Secondly, we cannot let our fear of demonization cow us into separating ourselves from the religious herd. Not only because such separation means we will ultimately lose the battle on our issues – as was the case with Prop 8 – but because it means we will lose our some part of our souls as we let others sacrifice for our sake.

    This is not a time for timidity.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Proposition 8, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    This Is How History Is Rewritten

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:44 am, May 28th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Politico Magazine has published a featured piece by Randall Balmer entitled “The Real Origins of the Religious Right,” that illustrates first hand how history gets rewritten.  His thesis:

    One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.

    This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.

    Some of these anti-Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves “new abolitionists,” invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.

    But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.

    His evidence is, that a) Evangelicals were slow to wake up to the problems inherent in the Rose v. Wade decision, and b) that some began organizing in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that removed tax-exempt status from some church related schools in the south that were segregated.  This are both facts long in evidence and denied by no one.  However, Balmer weaves these facts, along with some others, into a narrative that makes the rise of the religious right appear to be some Machiavellian scheme, foisted upon gullible, thoughtless Evangelicals solely in order to preserve segregation.

    What does Balmer not consider? Well, for one, Green v Kennedy (the SCOTUS segregation/tax case) and Nixon’s subsequent policy decisions for the IRS represented a significant step by government into defining what was and what was not religion and religious training.  Having much family in Mississippi, I am well aware that many of the church schools that sprang up in South in the wake Brown were racist to their core, but that does not change the fact that these moves represented a significant move on the part of the federal government from telling public institutions what to do to telling private and ostensibly religious institutions what to do.  These moves represented as big an (or perhaps a bigger?) intrusion by government into religion as the intrusion posed by Obamacare’s abortion coverage provisions today.  While the racial admission practices of these schools was not highlighted, the legal ramifications of these decisions was widely discussed and to my memory played a role in galvanizing religious people across the nation to political action.  Abhorrent as the racial admission policies of these schools were, if the government could attack their tax exempt status based on that policy, what other policy might they also someday decide warranted such an erosion of the separation of church and state?  There was a very real danger in these decisions and Obamacare’s abortion coverage provisions are front-and-center example one.

    Balmer makes this sound sinister:

    Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.

    Balmer adds no facts to the historical records here.  All he does is assert motivation and weave a narrative worthy of a Bilderberger theorist.  Religious freedom was, and remains, a very real issue in all of this.

    Balmer’s “art” sees its highest expression in this paragraph:

    Between Weyrich’s machinations and Schaeffer’s jeremiad, evangelicals were slowly coming around on the abortion issue. At the conclusion of the film tour in March 1979, Schaeffer reported that Protestants, especially evangelicals, “have been so sluggish on this issue of human life, and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? is causing real waves, among church people and governmental people too.”

    “Machinations?” — “Jeremaid?”  My goodness, I had no clue that Hydra had hidden itself inside Evangelicals and Protestants just waiting for the time when it could assert its dangerous philosophy and with the aid of the computerized Armen Zola conquer the world.

    There is no question that the desire to educate their children outside of the presence of African-Americans played an early role in organizing Protestants and Evangelicals to political action.  But the movement that became the Religious Right outgrew that small and particular aspect of its beginning quickly.  Balmer offers no evidence, or even narrative, that connects the religious freedom narrative to the abortion narrative other than chronological coincidence.   (Well, in fairness there are unfootnoted references to the archives of Liberty University)  And yet it was the abortion issue that caught the concern and energy of the religious nation.

    The game that Balmer plays in this atrocious piece could be just as easily played by looking into the Communism derived motives of some early leaders in the liberal movement.  Most people of the left, even those I disagree with strongly, are good people seeking what they view as best for the nation.  The same is true for people of the right.   Every political movement, left, right, and middle, has its opportunists and less than purely motivated players.  They do not define the movement.  The movement is defined by the millions that join it and where they take it.

    Balmer here attempts in the grossest of manners to call into the question an entire movement based solely on sinister assertions surrounding facts known to anyone that was either there, or that bothers to look.  This is not journalism, it’s not spin, it’s not even agenda journalism.  (It is certainly not historical research.)  This is crafting a conspiracy theory – pure and simple.

    Such things are written and published on the Internet daily.  No surprise there.  It is; however, shameful that Politico has not merely published this tripe, but featured it.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Prejudice, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | 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

    “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 http://nyti.ms/1cG5CCl

    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.

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

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