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."

  • Salting A Wound

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:17 am, November 7th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Let’s not deny the fact that there are divisions inside the Republican party.  It’s too big a thing for there not to be.

    But make no mistake, stories like this from the NYTimes and this from a WaPo blog are designed to tear those natural divisions into gaping wounds.

    We cannot fall for it.  We cannot fall for it especially now when the Democrat party is trying to eat itself alive over the disaster that is Obamacare.

    Yeah, I know the elections are just over, but you have got to ask yourself why these stories now?  Republicans had a great day Tuesday.  Cuccinelli was the only major loss and that was, in the end, a win when compared to expectations.  There were no signs of vast rifts n Tuesday’s results.

    But then perhaps that answers the question of why these stories are appearing now.

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    “…Sometimes gives the impression of being a charter member of the cast-the-first-stone coalition…”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:20 am, November 6th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    That’s how the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page described Ken Cuccinelli this morning in the wake of his very near miss.

    I think it clarifies a message problem that confronts the politically active of faith.  Mark Levin did not help matters when he said, “…GOP ESTABLISHMENT AND DONORS LEFT THE FIELD.”  But he does illustrate a point.

    The word that keeps running through my mind is “winsome.”

    generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence

    Somewhere, somehow, those of us on the conservative side of the social issues have lost that.  This is a communications concern, not a policy/position concern.  Yes, our opposition wants to act like anyone that holds a position contrary to theirs is definitionally not winsome, but they can only get away with that if our approach and personality permits them to.

    I need to slip into preacher mode for one paragraph – it is also a spiritual issue.  If we are not winsome, then somehow we are not reflecting the God we worship because He is – by definition – winsome beyond description.  Think about the story to which the WSJ’s description alludes, there is no condemnation from Christ; He in fact saves the accused from condemnation.  There is only an urge to “go and sin no more.”  A lesson in winsome that.  Now back to the politics.

    The “GOP Establishment and donors,” if dollars are the best measure, did not support Cuccinelli nearly as much as his Republican predecessor – but that does not necessarily mean they are “RINOS” or that they have abandoned socially conservative issues.  It means they are searching for the right way to approach those issues and they knew that Cuccinelli was not the right way.

    History never repeats itself in as much detail as we like to think it does, so Reagan nostalgia sometimes troubles me.  Reagan would have likely found the current environment far more frustrating than the one he operated in.  But he did have the particular thing we are talking about here absolutely right on.  He made friends of his opponents and managed to stay friends with them, even when they disagreed.  They liked him, even when he disagreed with them.

    If there is a lesson to be learned from yesterday’s results that’s it.  Chris Christie has a number of vulnerabilities as a candidate, but he is likable.  He manages to be quite charming in the middle of his combative bombast.

    Much has been made of the fact that Mitt Romney is also a very charming guy.  I certainly experienced that in my meetings with him.  But the public never got that image.  We are quick to blame the MSM, but there are certain preconditions that make it so the MSM can get away with that.  Primary among those preconditions is that Romney’s supporters were often precisely as dour and condemning as the media painted Romney.  Not everybody gets to meet a presidential candidate, but everybody does get to meet a supporter of a presidential candidate.  People will inform their impression of the candidate on their impression of his/her supporters.

    We need, desperately, to find our “happy place” again.  We cannot wait for things to get better.  If they are going to get better it is because we have found our way back to winsome.  Not our candidate – us.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Social/Religious Trends, The Way Forward, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Christians, Politics and Managing the Media

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, October 24th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Wall Street Journal says the Southern Baptist church is pulling away from political activism.

    Russell Moore, the centerpiece of the WSJ piece, denies it:

    Don’t call it a pullback; we’ve been here for years.

    The recent profile in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a generational change in terms of the way evangelicals approach cultural and political engagement: toward a gospel-centered approach that doesn’t back down on issues of importance, but sees our ultimate mission as one that applies the blood of Christ to the questions of the day.

    The headline, as is often the case with headlines, is awfully misleading. I am not calling, at all, for a “pullback” from politics or engagement.

    If anything, I’m calling for more engagement in the worlds of politics, culture, art, labor and so on. It’s just that this is a different sort of engagement. It’s not a matter of pullback, but of priority.

    [...]

    Pullback? No. Unless, that is, we mean pulling back to the ministry of Jesus-who addressed everything, body and soul, public and private, political and personal, but who did so with the cross in his vision at every point. That’s what the church has done in every era.

    We want to see our so-called enemies out-voted when they’re doing harmful things, unelected from office when they’re hurting the common good. But we don’t stop there. We want to see them transformed by the blood of Christ. We don’t only want to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching As to War.” We also want to sing “Just As I Am, Without One Plea, But That Thy Blood Was Shed for Me.”

    There are two essential lessons in this pair of very interesting reads.

    There first is that you can bet your bottom dollar that if you are discussing sophisticated Christian thought, the mainstream media is not going to get it.  Even a conservative outlet like the WSJ does not understand what Moore is really trying to do.  One is tempted to talk about the fact tat you have to be religious to get religion (That, by the way, is one of the things Moore is saying needs to be understood in the recalibration of approach) but there is something else at play here.

    Most media outlets write at an eighth grade level or below.  That’s because that is where the audience is – that’s the level most of the nation operates at.  Moore is making essentially the same argument we have made here over and over and over again.  To really be politically effective, we have to first be effective as a church.  If enough people are deeply genuine in their commitment to Christ, the political ramifications will flow naturally from them.  In other words, Moore is more worried that the church is failing to be the church as younger Christians fail to understand some of the imperatives that are so important to their parents generation.

    That is a very sophisticated argument, one not likely to be properly understood at the level where the media operates.  Somehow, we have to learn how to communicate graduate level arguments at eighth grade levels.

    The second lesson is related. Politics is done in a very specific way and to attempt to change that way is to not really do politics.  Here I think Moore does not get it.  Moore is playing a long game, and I think the right one for a person affiliated with a denomination or church.  But politics is about the immediate.  It is about organizing and fundraising and voters guides and phone banks and direct mail and so the list goes on.  Moore does seem to be taking the Southern Baptist Convention out of that game.  So in a very real sense, the WSJ piece is correct – it is a pullback.

    So, what future for religiously motivated political activism?  From my perspective we need both things going on.  Moore is right, the church needs to fix its priorities and concentrate on being the church.  It needs to make political professionals of deep and genuine faith that go out and use related, but different, organizations to do the stuff of politics.  Of course, that is probably more sophisticated than the media can deal with too.  Which means those political professionals are going to have to be very sophisticated communicators – perhaps even more sophisticated than the preachers that breed them.  The media will never “get” the church, but we have to figure out a way for them “to get” our political arms.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, News Media Bias, The Way Forward | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    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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    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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    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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