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 Importance of Religious Institutions

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:17 am, April 17th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Fascinating story in the Desert News Tuesday and religions, religious affiliation and belief:

    For several years, the United States has seen a decline in religious affiliation. Currently, 20 percent of Americans don’t claim a particular religion or church — up from 15 percent just five years ago. Some worry that this shift into secularism will turn the United States into Western Europe.

    Yet others are more optimistic. They point out that polling data don’t always allow for a nuanced discussion of faith and spirituality, and that many individuals still want to have a relationship with God, albeit on their own terms and with their own timing. These individuals may not relate to specific dogmas or rituals, but they still seek and find solace in believing that God is in charge and that when they put him first, their lives go smoother — an acknowledgement that is at the foundation of most religions and the first of the Ten Commandments.

     ”To argue that America is suddenly becoming vastly secular is not the case,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup. “You can’t say (religion) is fading out of importance when a lot of the central events of our time, for better or worse, are based on strong religious convictions. I think that rather than becoming increasingly more of a straight, old-fashioned secular society, we have the potential to be religious, but in some different ways.”

    As Spock might say, “Fascinating Captain.”  These are the now well discussed “spiritual, but not religious” and comprise many of the so-called “Nones.”  As you read through the entire well-done piece you come to understand that this group of people want to shape a personal religion for themselves rather than allow religion to shape them.  Theologically that is a subject for a series of sermons and a book.  But let’s focus here on what that means for society and politics.

    Politically, it’s significance is straightforward.  Church and para-church institutions can no longer be relied upon to provide a focal point for political action.  What used to be an exercise in herding cats has now become an exercise in chaos.  Churches, parachurch organizations, and other religious institutions have been a traditional organizing advantage for conservative.  Should the trend described in this article continue, that just does not work anymore.  In terms of organizing we begin to look much more like the liberal/Democrat side of the aisle.  They have been at it a lot longer than we have and are therefore better at it.  Big problem.

    Societally, this is an enormous problem.  American government is not designed to shape people.  Its good functioning is conditioned on a nation of good people.  Our government relies on other forces, mostly education and religion, to make those good people.  Education is pretty firmly in government hands, and the only counter-balance seems to be in decline.  The constitution has both internal and design “checks and balances,” it relies on greater societal checks and balances.  These latter checks and balances are on the wane.  Without them the future appears bleak.

    This is a problem for the church, not politics.  I would argue that it is the church relying on political/cultural force, rather than the moral and spiritual force that is unique to it, that has created this trend.  I believe it is time for the church to get serious about fixing it.

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, Political Strategy, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    So, Who Is The Bad Actor In This Drama?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:56 am, March 19th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Neil J. Young pens a review of a new book, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception, by J.B. Haws. (HT: Ed Stetzer).  I quote from the review with emphasis added:

    Growing up in central Florida, I did not go to the beach for spring break. Instead, nearly every March my family would escape the swampy humidity of Orlando for the crisp mountain air of Utah. Skiing throughout the week, we’d often take one day from the slopes to rest our legs and explore Salt Lake City—which usually meant a visit to Temple Square, the institutional and symbolic heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There, earnest missionaries would bear their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ brought about by the prayerful seeking of a young Joseph Smith. We’d exchange knowing glances at these moments; we were Southern Baptists, and we knew a lot about Mormonism. A good bit of that knowledge, it turned out, was erroneous, but it was the product of a concerted effort begun by the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s to make its members more mindful of Mormonism, a “heretical” faith that was gaining sizeable Baptist converts.

    [...]

    The Mormon Image is bookended with the tale of two Romneys: George Romney’s 1968 run for president and his son Mitt’s 2008 and 2012 bids for the White House. In 1968, George Romney faced hardly any questions about his faith, a fortunate inheritance from JFK’s history-making victory eight years prior. If anything, Americans saw Romney’s Mormonism as an asset, proof that he was a trustworthy and upstanding man. A 1967 Gallup poll found 75 percent of voters had no hesitation voting for a Mormon for president. Yet forty years later, Mormonism likely prevented Mitt Romney from capturing his party’s nomination. In 2007, 29 percent of Republicans had indicated they “probably or definitely” would not vote for a Mormon. As Haws writes, “being a Mormon in the public eye meant something different in 2008 than it did in 1968.”

    And so, confronted with America at its weakest internationally since before WWII made us a superpower , Obamacare wrecking untold medical and financial havoc at home, a President that thinks he can pick and choose which laws he wants to obey, and an American public demoralized, who has helped and who has hurt the nation?

    It is a question worth very serious consideration by very many parties.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Rope Bridges

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:13 am, February 26th 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    In October we looked at Al Mohler’s speech at BYU and said:

    What’s the lede there?  Certainly not the shared political concerns, rather it is the theological divide.  Before he can talk about joining Mormons in common political cause he is seemingly compelled to not merely acknowledge the theological differences, but to carefully delineate and explain them.  What could have been glossed over with a few words, consumes an entire paragraph of the pullquote, and several paragraphs in the entire transcript of the speech.  This is the schismatic impulse.  No bridge can be build too permanently – it cannot be shored up – it must be built in a fashion that it can be destroyed in an instant.

    In January Mohler wrote of Roman Catholics and we said:

    When the Republican party is working hard to pull itself together Mohler seems to want to make sure it is poorly stitched.

    Well, ‘ol buddy Al was back at BYU yesterday 2/25/14.  This time we are looking at Tad Walch’s coverage in the Deseret News.  Tad goes on at great length describing how Mohler seems to genuinely be trying to build a political alliance, but then this paragraph appears towards the end of the story:

    As he did in October, Mohler clearly and vigorously expressed the doctrinal differences between evangelicals and Latter-day Saints. He ended with a lengthy witness or testimony of his beliefs.

    There is a gracelessness to that I find deeply troubling.  In October we discussed the lack of permanence in a bridge built in such a fashion – It’s a rope bridge and can be cut with a single swing of the machete.  Aside from the ease with which a rope bridge can be severed, it suffers from a serious drawback; you cannot move very much across it at any given time.  Mohler discusses the urgency we are jointly faced with on the social front, and yet he insists on a bridge across which it will take decades to move the needed material to effectively fight the war.  Rope bridges may be fun on a vacation adventure, but they are useless when it comes to serious commerce and community building.

    Much of this stems from Mohler’s own theology.  He has stated that salvation rests on holding precisely correct theological formulations.  With that view it is natural that he would feel compelled to make a jerk of himself in this fashion every time he steps out this way.  That also means he is not likely to change.

    But these episodes also demonstrate – repeatedly now – the futility in that theological viewpoint.  While Mohler is free to hold that viewpoint, it grows increasingly disappointing that his insistence on it harms the entire social conservative movement.

    I am grateful that my Mormon friends exhibit the grace towards Mohler that he seems to lack towards them.

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Not A Helpful Read

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:25 am, January 22nd 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    So, Michael Beschloss takes to the I-thought-defunk “On-Faith” WaPo space and writes on the how presidents posture about religion.

    In general and throughout American history, presidents—for the most self-protective reasons—not only avoid comments that might offend a vote of faith as sacrilegious, but also tend to exaggerate the depth of their personal religious conviction and practice.

    And so we see we have advanced from arguing which presidents are religious and which are not (this debate about the Founders will probably go on long after all of us are dead) to trying to argue that even those that seemed blatantly religious don’t really mean it.

    President’s posture on things – they always have and they always will.  It is the nature of politics.  It is in fact incumbent on a representative of the people to reflect the thinking of the people, even if that representative disagrees with the general public’s stance.  That’s not lying, that’s serving.  That is how our political system is designed.   As we have said here often, our government is in many ways intended to be a mirror.

    But to dig into “What’s posturing and what’s ‘real’” when it comes to matters of faith is truly problematic.  It cheapens religion.

    All people of faith posture in that faith.  It is part of how that faith changes us.  The alcoholic that has turned to faith to overcome their alcoholism must get up each day and “posture” as a non-drinker.  They may even slip in that effort.  Does that mean they are not sincere in their commitment?  Certainly not if they get up the next day and try again.  Religion seeks to change us at the deepest possible levels – not something that happens overnight  or without missteps.

    Religious expression in the United States is an extraordinarily diverse thing.  Why within single congregations of shared demographics, denominational affiliation and theological perspective there can be massive and sometimes ugly debate about things like what music to sing in the Sunday service.  What an old curmudgeon Presbyterian says is “the right way” to worship can be nearly antithetical to the same thing said by an African-American Evangelical.  In such circumstance within the faith community how can anyone on the outside judge what is sincere religious practice?

    There are many more arguments to be made about how a historian’s judgement on the questions Beschloss has set for himself could be significantly warped and untrustworthy.  But the bottom line is this – to even ask the question in this fashion is to call into question the legitimacy of religion generally.  It lessens religion to something that people put on and take off as circumstance and convenience dictates instead of allowing it to be the path to the supernatural and agent for change that it really is.  It reduces religion from educational and character-building to merely a demographic label.

    This is just one more effort to remove religion from public debate.

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    Posted in Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    And So It Begins

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, November 22nd 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    This weeks editorial page of the Wall Street Journal featured op-eds from Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, chronologically ordered.  Make no mistake, these are two men testing the waters for potential national leadership of the party and the government.  This is how it starts.  It is upon us. Read these pieces carefully, and those that follow from other possibles.  The decisions before the party and the electorate in ’14 and ’16 are of more importance than any that have been taken since WWII.

    This is no time to choose lightly.

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    Posted in Electability, leadership, Political Strategy | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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

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