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."

  • President Hardhead or Cultural Portent?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:32 am, November 7th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The punditry in reaction to the presidents reaction to Tuesday seems to be pretty unanimous.  The Washington Examiner says, “It’s still Obama’s way or the highway.”  Howard Kurtz surveys the pundits and writes, “Still, the media consensus was that the president had blown it.“  Leave it to Peggy Noonan to quote Chris Matthews:

    This is not just poor strategy, it seems to me to be mildly delusional. Chris Matthews erupted on MSNBC: “There’s something in this guy that just plays to his constituency and acts like there’s no other world out there!”

    One must ask in the wake of this utter repudiation how the man got reelected.  We know how he got elected, he lied.  But his character was obvious even before his reelection (remember “I won”?) though less blatantly so than the last two years.  His crack about the two-thirds that did not vote reveals much not only about his character, but about the nation.  His much vaunted GOTV effort was very much cult-of-personality based and definitely attracted the low information types.  And that, frankly, is what scares me.

    Many of the low information types also reflect a personality type that is so self righteously self-absorbed that they rise to the level of “mildly delusional.”  Obama is, in more ways than I really want to contemplate, representative of his core constituency.  “I do not care what the facts are, I want (am entitled to,  should have)….”  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced this sentiment in so many big and small ways in my daily life of late, that with a president that loudly proclaims it I must conclude what I am experiencing is more than purely anecdotal – it is a serious societal trend.

    It’s a recipe for chaos.  From the very small things (barging in line, for example) to the very large (Obamacare being Exhibit A) our society cannot survive if everyone thinks the way they see things is the only way, and their desires are the only desires that matter.  Anyone with any Christian insight should have alarm bells ringing right now; Christian thought being full of everything from wisdom sayings, to admonishments, to outright commands to “regard one another as more important than yourselves.”  That being true, our nations troubles run much deeper than politics.

    This election tells us that the nation clearly wants something different than what it is getting, but an election will not fix it.  Yes it may fix some of the big things but until the little things get fixed, this ugly, unsurvivable viewpoint will lie there, just below the surface waiting once again to assert itself in large and unhappy ways.  It takes more than politics to fix this.

    Education and religion are the two great cultural shaping institutions in our society.  They affect the little things in ways that politics just cannot address.  They cannot be turned as quickly as politics.  It takes far more energy, effort and commitment to fix our educational and religious institutions than it does our political institutions.

    We should enjoy the hard fought victory from Tuesday night through the weekend.  But come Monday there is much to be done.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Governance, Identity Politics, Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    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

    Pews “Religion In Public Life” Speaks Again

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:25 am, September 25th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    It’s that time of year again, and we get another headline grabbing poll from the Pew Forum, “Religion in Public Life.“  I have only had time to skim this, but here is what Pew headlines:

    Nearly three-quarters of the public (72%) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade. And most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing.

    Perhaps as a consequence, a growing share of the American public wants religion to play a role in U.S. politics. The share of Americans who say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues is up 6 points since the 2010 midterm elections (from 43% to 49%). The share who say there has been “too little” expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders is up modestly over the same period (from 37% to 41%). And a growing minority of Americans (32%) think churches should endorse candidates for political office, though most continue to oppose such direct involvement by churches in electoral politics.

    As I skimmed the rest of the prose, I think they have chosen the right thing to emphasize.  But as I read through it, I cannot help but note that in many ways it does not “get” religion.  Or maybe it is those of us that hold our religion dearly that do not “get” the affects of survey’s like this.  I’d have to go through this and past surveys to prove my point, but as I read the summary and reflected on the current state of things, I was struck by the impression that people seem want the good that religion has to offer, but they want to outsource it somehow.

    The survey treats religion as a social force (which it is) and acknowledges that as a social force it is somehow different from MTV or the Elks club, but no survey of this type can consider the very unique nature of religion as a social force.  Most social forces try to change society as a thing.  Religion is unique in that it tries to change the individual members of society thus changing society.  The action of religion on a societal level is indirect.  We have discussed that here many times before.

    But consider these findings from the poll:

    It finds a slight drop in support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry, with 49% of Americans in favor and 41% opposed – a 5-point dip in support from a February Pew Research poll, but about the same level as in 2013. It is too early to know if this modest decline is an anomaly or the beginning of a reversal or leveling off in attitudes toward gay marriage after years of steadily increasing public acceptance. Moreover, when the February poll and the current survey are combined, the 2014 yearly average level of support for same-sex marriage stands at 52%, roughly the same as the 2013 yearly average (50%).

    The new poll also finds that fully half (50%) of the public now considers homosexuality a sin, up from 45% a year ago. And nearly half of U.S. adults think that businesses like caterers and florists should be allowed to reject same-sex couples as customers if the businesses have religious objections to serving those couples.

    If one uses the stPR_14.09.22_religionPolitics-04ance on same-sex marriage as a barometer of personal religious devotion (debatable I know, but it is the data at hand) , and one assumes this poll an outlier since the trend in support of same-sex marriage continues upward, one begins to sense that people know things aren’t going well, and they know religion could probably help, but they do not necessarily think that religion is for them.  They are hoping the other guy who takes his religion really, really seriously will get this straightened out.

    This sense is only heightened when one look s at the polarization evident in the poll.  As always what is being seen here is the middle of the political spectrum, where the fight always occurs, is shifting towards the right and in slight favor related of religion, but no way they are going to take this religious stuff too seriously.

    Those of us that take our religion seriously know that the only way things will get really better is if such people start themselves to take religion seriously instead of just lean towards those of us that do.  So how do we react?  Do we simply take advantage of the votes that are offered to us, or do we try and get these people to take religion seriously?

    Because religion acts indirectly, as we have discussed on this blog endlessly, we can only be permanently politically successful if we are successful in making converts.   What this data indicates to me is evangelical opportunity.  In other words, there is a group of people out there that is ripe to hear WHY religion can make things better right now, something they already sense, as an apologetic for actually joining that religion.

    Now here is the good part.  If we do that, if we take evangelical advantage of this circumstance, they become solidly on our side and we move the great middle to another group.  We start to win again consistently.  Our opportunity s more than just political.  Are we prepared to take advantage?

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    The Catholic Voice: “Test of Fire 2012″

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 03:29 pm, September 19th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    I wonder if The Catholic voice will be heard in this next election with the same clarity as in 2012? They are very good at making that happen:

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    Posted in Political Strategy, Religious Freedom | 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

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