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 Roots Of The Divide

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:33 am, October 15th 2013     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Conor Friedersdorf @ The Atlantic is best described as a leftie provocateur.  His writing and arguments, while left-leaning, are generally cloaked sufficiently in reason to warrant a read.  And he usually gets read because his real stock in trade is to take on right-leaning media icons, thus “stealing” their audience, at least for the life of his most current piece.  He is the consummate counter-puncher.

    That is again the pattern in his latest:

    The Tea Party Gets Its Information from Enablers of Bushism

    This piece, cloaked in reason (and a discussion of a recent Ross Douthat piece) if not necessarily born of it, is really two things.  First it is a shot at Rush Limbaugh.  Not much of a surprise really – now he has the attention of all those Limbaugh listeners out there and his click rate skyrockets.  Secondly it is an attempt to separate the “Tea Party” from the “Republican Establishment.”  Which is, of course, an effort to permanently weaken the Republican party, turning the natural factions inside any party into mortal enemies.

    But inside this piece is a question worth examining.  Consider:

    Yes, Tea Party supporters regard the Republican establishment as having been thoroughly discredited during the Bush years. Yet they’ve continued to vest extraordinary trust in the cable news and talk radio personalities who spent the aughts slavishly supporting the GOP establishment. They get their information from erstwhile purveyors of pro-Bush propaganda, taking their cues come from the same people who enabled George W.  

    If the White House staffers, Washington, D.C., think tanks, and establishment media figures who enabled Bush-era excesses have all lost credibility, why not the movement conservative talkers who carried water for the same flawed governance?

    Let me rephrase this observation a bit.  “Gosh darn it, the ‘Tea Partiers’ just are not turning as whacky or moving away from the mainstream of American as much as I would like.”  Yet I must agree with Friedersdorf that there is a certain level of irrationality to the divides inside the Republican party.  The internal party conflicts seem out of proportion with the actual differences between the factions.

    Some of that sense is, of course, the MSM portraying it that way in an effort permanently cripple Republicans.  But I think there is an elephant in the room that no one is discussing.

    Religion.

    The Tea Party was born out of one really bad presidential candidate (John McCain) losing the election and in protest to the incredibly left leaning policies of the victor of that election.  McCain is no friend of the Religious Right.  What we are now seeing, which is a bit ugly but not nearly so ugly as the MSM would have us think, is born of a candidate that many of the Religious Right viewed as antithetical to their faith.   This latter fact is a crying shame because Mitt Romney, while a Mormon, came much, much closer to representing the Christian Right than John McCain could ever dream of.  But because he was a Mormon, many viewed him as McCain writ large.

    Religious talk was suppressed in the last election.  It was destructive to Romney in the 2008 primary and therefore sidelined in 2012.  The opposition left it lying because suppressed it provided a hidden lever that could be used in the general.  Even after the Civil Rights movements and its legislative results, African-Americans in the South had a difficult time obtaining office because while race was never discussed, it was whispered.  Romney’s Mormon faith was whispered throughout 2012.  Many a conservative vote was idle when it got to the presidential portion of the ballot.

    The reason the divide inside the Republican party seems irrational is because no one is willing to discuss its roots.  The current crisis is too immediate and too consequential for such a discussion now – but once past, the discussion must begin.  You cannot solve problems that you are not willing to stare in the face.

    Tradition holds that a failed candidate like Romney is supposed to fade into the woodwork, but maybe he is the only one that can start this discussion?  Maybe the Limbaughs of the world that Friedersdorf paints as the irrational bridge between the two factions can get the job done?  I am sure there are other and better ideas on how to get this working again, what I know is we have to acknowledge the elephant.

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    Posted in Analyzing 2012, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, The Way Forward | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    A Bad Taste In My Mouth

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:31 am, October 13th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    As Congress hurtles towards a lack of resolution, I found this headline amusing:

    Allen West: Obama is a Spoiled Brat, Don’t Reward Bad Behavior

    and I found my morning newsletter from the Washington Times this morning most troubling. (depicted here).  Obama does indeed leave no impression more than that of a spoiled brat.  Here’s a fuller West quote:

    “We gave him a state senator position in Chicago, we gave him a U.S. Senate position out of the state of Illinois, unproven, untested, no resume, we gave him the presidency — twice. So if you continue to reward bad behavior, you’re going to get more of that bad behavior.”

    How are brats made?  They are made when they do not earn what they get and when they are given an outsized sense of importance.  That’s why I had a problem with the newsletter this morning.  With governmental negotiations in the state they are in, with portions of the Middle East in chaos and the whole region threatening to completely destabilize, with earthquakes, fires, flood and storms battering the world and taking live, the Washington Times sees fit to lead with the Value Voters Summit?!

    Now, I want to make it clear, this rant is not about Ted Cruz.  He is a good man, and he is certainly more qualified for the White House than its current occupant – this is about Evangelicals.  Were this a presidential  election season the VVS Straw Poll would have some importance, but right now?  It’s worthless.  For the last couple of cycles in off years it was usually won by Ron Paul.  We have already made it plain that we think Evangelicals behaved like brats in 2012.  Coverage like this is how such brattiness is created.

    And what really bothers me is that the humility that Christianity should engender in us should prevent such an attitude from developing.

    *SIGH*

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

    Common Decency

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:19 am, October 8th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    That the Obama administration is making the kinds of decisions it is making in the “shutdown” is not surprising.  They have acted like petty, petulant children for quite  a while now – this is simply in character.  What I find troubling is that they are finding sufficient help inside the federal government to get the job done.

    There has always been a divide between the bosses and the workers.  Bosses have issued silly orders many times and in many situations in the past.  Workers tend to find a way to smooth them out.  Sure they cannot be openly defiant, but they can often be lackadaisical and ineffective in the execution of silly orders.  They also can remain remain decent towards the public.  And yet we are treated to stories that seem just the opposite.

    Maybe it’s media?  All the MSM wants to do is paint this as mean Republicans and all the New Media wants to do is show Obama for the petty man he so obviously is.  I am certain that is part of what is happening here. But there remains a meanness in the air that I find deeply troubling.  There is something about the spectacle of barricades and cones that makes this situation disturbing.  It is not enough to hang out a “Closed” sign and then let the chips fall where they may.  “Closed” in this instance seems to mean “Don’t you dare think about coming here.”  And the rank-and-file civil servant seems to share that attitude.

    I can remember many times in my life when I came up against a silly government imposed obstacle and as I stood there somewhat dumbfounded along came the civil servant of the moment who moved the barricade aside and whispered “Don’t tell anybody.”  It was just decency.  I am not hearing stories like that.  Instead it seems like the workers are relishing all this as somehow retributive for the American public being too cheap to support them individually.  “I’ll show you” is not just the unsurprising attitude from the White House, but it seems to run all the way down to the janitor at federal building X.

    That’s real change in this nation and it is not for the better.  That’s not something that can be fixed by a change in Administration – that is deep in the character of the nation.  It takes more than winning a few elections to fix a problem like that.

    What concerns me is that the institutions that can fix a problem like that seem to be waiting for electoral results instead of simply forging ahead.  Like the civil servant moving the barricade aside and whispering, we should be finding a way to be decent, even when all around us are not and we are being told not to be.  Simply put, we are better than that.

    At least we are supposed to be.

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    Posted in Governance, leadership, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Stubborn and Ego Driven Pursuit of Failure

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:26 am, October 3rd 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The political theater that is the shutdown show is one of the most amazing things this observer has seen in a very long time.  From “I don’t have to offer anything” to “anarchist” to “the Showdown at the WWII corral,” to any one of the other now almost countless inanities that have marked the Obama administration’s attempts to define essential and non-essential government service we are being treated to something rare.  And if one can remain sufficiently objective, something quite entertaining.

    But the lead story in this morning’s New York Times, moves this bit of political theater from rare to frightening:

    A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance, the very kinds of people that the program was intended to help, according to an analysis of census data by The New York Times.

    Now the story goes on to try and blame Republicans:

    Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid,….

    But come on, we see through this in a blue minute!  Blaming Republicans accomplishes nothing here.  They passed this mess of legislation with but a single goal and they have failed to meet the mark.  They should have either expanded Medicaid in a fashion that was not optional  (they tried, but the Supreme Court told them it was unconstitutional) or they should have exercised some leadership and convinced the Republican states to come along willingly.  Instead they chose, and continue to choose, to shove it down the throat of the American people.

    This entire mess, from the the parliamentary legerdemain that passed Obamacare to begin with to the massive absurdities that have marked this government shutdown, has been in pursuit of a laudable goal.  But this NYTimes story makes it apparent that goal has been missed by a wide margin.   Not only that, any competent administration would have seen this coming back when SCOTUS handed down their decision, and reacted.  Instead we are treated to administration and media driven efforts to hide the ball and forge ahead.  They can blame Republicans all they like, they have still failed to meet the mark.

    One must wonder at what point we slip from the world of partisan battle into the world of the delusional.  With this revelation, what we are witnessing – Obama’s unwillingness to negotiate in any fashion – is not a tough stance but a failure to recognize that he has failed to accomplish that which he intended to accomplish.

    Reality  has left  the building and only ego remains.

    This is not compassionate or equitable or praiseworthy in any fashion.  It is failure compounded on failure.

    Americans won’t stand for it.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, character, Culture Wars, Governance, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, The Way Forward | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    We Are Not A Cartoon! (or a demon)

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, October 1st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    There is a new thing happening in media and we need to tread smartly as we deal with it.  My latest peek at this phenomena comes from this HuffPo piece by Franky Schaeffer.  The son of renowned evangelical thinker Francis Schaeffer, Franky (little known but often referred to on this blog, here, here, and here)  has been on a crusade for quite sometime now to paint religiously motivated conservatives as somehow having compromised their Christian faith.  While I agree that it is possible for political activism to become an idol that blocks our true deep spiritual development, Franky seems to think that if your faith has political ramifications at all you’re somehow compromised – at least if those political ramifications are conservative.

    In the latest HuffPo piece he picks up a drum beat that he has used before that now seems to be gaining momentum.  Ostensibly he is promoting a documentary, but consider:

    As my dad’s sidekick schmoozing with congressmen, famous preachers and even US presidents, I watched and participated during the 1970s and 80s as fundamentalist religion shaped American politics.

    Note that term, “fundamentalist.”  It is showing up more and more and more in any MSM discussion of religion.  The term Evangelical is disappearing rapidly.  This is not all bad as that word has been beaten out-of-shape so badly has to no longer have meaning.  But “fundamentalist” is no substitute.  Modern Evangelicalism largely arose as reasonable response to the hyper-conservative, often unreasonable. rise of Fundamentalism.  Modern Evangelicalism arose and came to be the mainstream of Christianity in America, consigning the Fundamentalist to the corner with the crazy uncles where they belonged.  But more and more it seems that if you are religious and politically active, you are “Fundamentalist.”

    This relabeling has arisen for numerous reasons.  Two important one comes to mind.  One, Evangelicals are largely spent as a political force – they have not gone away mind you, they just are no longer much of a political movement.  (This is a story all to itself and for another time.)  Secondly, the rise of terrorism by fundamentalist forces in Islam has created a convenient association between the word “fundamental” and extremism.  Attaching such a label to reasonable domestic religious forces recasts them not as political opponent, but as enemy.  The net result is that in the mind of the average liberal, religiosity of any sort, because it is all somehow “fundamentalist,”  can simply be disregarded.

    There was nothing fundamentalist at all about the religiously motivated political action that arose in the 70′s and reached its peak of influence during the Reagan years.  It was conservative, but hardly fundamentalist.  Fundamentalism is marked by such things as young-earth creationism and a condemnation of virtually all divorce.  That is far to the right of the abortion and same-sex marriage opposition of the modern Evangelical.  But there is that label being stuck to us.

    As we watch the White House compare Republicans to bomb vest wearing terrorists and say they do not have to give anything, we see the game that is afoot.  We are being demonized.  It is just that simple.

    We have to make our stands on the issues known – REPEATEDLY, but you cannot argue with demonization.  “You’re a jerk” – “No I’m not” is not much of an argument.  We need to do more.

    Now, more than ever, we have to be good people of reason.  Who we are in our political conduct and in our personal lives is the only thing that can put to the lie the charges being hurled at us.  Now, more than ever, our faith has to be evident not just in our words or even in our stances on the issues, but in our bearing, our conduct and our families.  Now, more than ever, we have to be the shining city on a hill.

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    Posted in News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Attitude and Theology

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:24 am, August 27th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Neil Munro @ Daily Caller:

    The White House’s deputy press secretary today downplayed Muslim attacks on Christians in Egypt, joking about the savagery  that has left at least six Christians dead.

    Press secretary Josh Earnest was asked by Fox News’ correspondent, Ed Henry, if President Barack Obama has a “red line” beyond which he would act against Muslim attacks on Egyptian Christians.

    “Well, I didn’t bring my red pen out with me today,” Earnest joked.

    After making his joke, Earnest said the administration is “outraged… and concerned” about the Muslim attacks on almost 100 churches, monasteries, orphanages and other marked Christian sites. Many Christians’ shops and homes have also been looted and burned by mobs.

    There were a couple of contentions that we held constantly during two election cycles.  One was that Mormon jokes, while not necessarily prejudiced of their own, contributed to prejudicial attitudes amongst the populace.  The other was that if the nation were allowed to be bigoted against the Mormon, more orthodox forms of Christianity would be next.  The persecution of Christians in Egypt is no laughing matter.  Do I really need to rant about this?  Is it not self-evident?

    And while we are dredging up old ideas.  Remember how often we contended here that anti-Mormon prejudice had become codified in the 2012 cycle, still active, but never directly mentioned?  Consider this story out of Turkey:

    For decades, religious minorities in Turkey, especially Christians, have complained that the state assigns them secret identity codes. Christians maintain that government officials use the codes to discriminate against them when it comes to jobs, licenses, building permits, and so on. Of course, such discrimination would be illegal under Turkish law, which has banned religious discrimination since the Kemalist revolution. And complaints about secret identity codes surely must seem a bit paranoid to outsiders, a kind of conspiracy theory–though, given the genocide of Armenians and other Christians in Turkey 100 years ago, one could forgive Christians for being anxious. The rumors turn out to be true, however.

    This month, for the first time,Turkey’s interior ministry acknowledged that the secret identity codes do, in fact, exist.

    Human nature is an amazingly corrupt and predictable thing.  Which brings me to theology.  Consider this from Victor Davis Hanson (HT: Instapundit):

    “The great lesson of the Obama administration is that the abuses of democratic plebiscites abroad are not contrasted, but amplified by the increasingly lawless American model, when it uses the IRS and the Justice Department to go after political opponents, allows senior officials to lie under oath to the Congress, and fails to execute faithfully those laws passed by the legislative branch. If we are to offer America as a model, then there must be some honesty and transparency about the Benghazi, Associated Press, IRS, and NSA scandals.”

    I reflected during my vacation just concluded on how awry so many Christian Americans are theologically.  The Christian message has been reduced to one of mere salvation.  Christ’s statement that He came, “Not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, ” has been misconstrued to the point of meaninglessness.  With denomination after denomination ordaining practicing homosexuals and engaging in same-sex marriage ceremonies, (not to mention the relaxation of views on things like divorce and co-habitation that now seem quaint)  it is almost as if the Law has disappeared.  I am sorely tempted to dive in the the theological and hermeneutical  deep end here, but shall resist.

    Instead, let me say this – if the church has no rules, or fails to lead society – society has no rules.  If society has no rules, democracy breaks down.  So, what is at root in Hanson’s observation?

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, News Media Bias, Prejudice | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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