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."

  • A Curious Phenomenon

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:17 am, November 13th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Before I say anything else, I’ll say this: At this point I’m not offended, just bemused.

    About what, you ask? Well, take a look at this morning’s Wall Street Journal piece on the Arizona governor’s race and possible successors to current Governor Jan Brewer:

    On Tuesday, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett threw his hat into the ring for the governor’s seat. Mr. Bennett, a Mormon who experts say is popular among conservatives, joins a crowded field of candidates vying to lead the independently minded border state, whose politics in recent years have been synonymous with its tough immigration crackdown.

    Three other potential candidates are mentioned, not including Governor Brewer.  Nothing is said about their religion. Instead, only their business and political backgrounds are noted:

    The Republican primary, set for Aug. 26, is expected to be closely watched. Political observers are casting it as a three-way contest between Mr. Bennett; state Treasurer Doug Ducey, formerly chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, an ice-cream-shop chain based in Scottsdale; and Christine Jones, a political novice who is a former executive and general counsel of Internet-domain-name website GoDaddy Group Inc., also based in Scottsdale.

    Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, a suburb east of Phoenix, is also considered a formidable potential GOP candidate, experts said, though he has declined to state his intentions.

    In some ways this tendency among the news media is understandable because of all the attention given to Mitt Romney’s faith in the 2008 and 2012 cycles.  In other ways it’s a bit creepy.  I personally don’t mind a bit if people know I am a Mormon.  But if I am in a crowd of people and I am the only one described in terms of my religion, that begins to feel weird.

    What do our readers think?

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    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

    What The Absence of Religion Hath Wrought

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:55 am, June 3rd 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    A columnist in the London Guardian, writing under a psueodnym, asks:

    Why is it that liberals feel no qualms about being rude? Far too many people who are perfectly polite and courteous, otherwise, think nothing of insulting you for not sharing their political opinions.

    Pretty good question, is it not?  He cites example after example.  Here’s a couple:

    Liberals have no shame. A dinner guest in our home stood up at the table, clinked his wine glass and said, “It shows how stupid the American people are, they voted for Bush twice.” He turned to me, smirking, and said, “I know you voted for him.” A biochemist who had been too busy learning liberal doctrine instead of the basic manners of being a guest.

    We also had dinner with a couple who spent the evening trashing Rudy Giulliani, claiming that the former mayor of New York had nothing to do with turning the city around, even though he took office in a crime-ridden city and stepped down when it was safe. It would have happened anyhow, they said. As we said goodnight in the driveway, one said with a grin, “We like you even if you are Republicans.”

    and he concludes:

    President Nixon proposed a healthcare plan that was blocked by Senator Ted Kennedy, and the senator later apologized for putting political interests ahead of the good of the country. He had not wanted Republicans to get credit for accomplishing something positive.

    This is a critical time in America. Instead of taking sides we should be working together. Now is the time for liberals to emulate Ted Kennedy and, instead of automatically ridiculing conservatives for digging into questions about Benghazi, the IRS and the seizure of press records, help us find the truth – no matter what that might turn out to be.

    That conclusion shows what results from such an approach – it forces one to embrace corruption for political survival.

    But let’s return to his opening question – WHY?  Every rude liberal you know will have a different answer.  Most you will find, I think, are deeply personal.  “I and those like me have been oppressed…” – “Well, I was treated like this….”  And there in lies the rub – the left makes the personal political and vice-versa.  Such is a result of absenting religion from public discourse.  There are two ways in which this is easily demonstrated.

    For most who are serious about their faith, religion is a personal balm.  It is a place where one takes one’s feelings and finds comfort and solace when the world is unjust.  Much of the great sacred music of the last 200 years or so came out of the slave camps of the old south when the slaves turned to faith in their very real and very genuine oppression.  The world is neither fair nor just.  Religion teaches us that we are “sinners” and that as such we will always mess up.  Faith teaches us how to cope with a world of sinners, we don;t always need to try and fix it.

    Which leads me to the second way that religion helps.  Faith allows us to see beyond ourselves and our needs.  For example – it allows us to see a world of sinners, even if we are unable to confront our own sin.  By acknowledging a greater power, usually the God of Christianity, we gain a perspective on a problem that allows us to understand that our own personal concerns, painful though they may be, are not the definitive issue in the problem.

    A personal view of the political allows for rudeness.  When it is personal, disagreement is not with ideas, but with the person holding the ideas.  Thus disagreement is insult and rudeness seems a reasonable response to insult.

    I have many stories of such rudeness that I could share as well.  There is one thing I know – we can ill-afford to respond in kind.  If we dip into the game of dismissal, insult and rudeness, tempting though it is in the face of the onslaught, then we are playing on their turf, not our own.  But more importantly, to do so is to abandon the perspective that our faith gives us, and therefore in some sense to hold less of our faith.  We lose when that happens.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Prejudice, Religious Bigotry, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Jason Collins Just Made The Supreme Court’s Job A Whole Lot Easier

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:33 am, April 30th 2013     &mdash      3 Comments »

    First Fact: Jason Collins “came out” as gay in Sports Illustrated yesterday.

    Fact Two: SCOTUS is currently trying to decide two cases related to same-sex marriage, one on DOMA and one on California’s Prop 8.

    These are essentially discrimination cases.  The claims center on the fact that it is discriminatory to forbid same-sex marriage.  But if you think about it, we discriminate everyday; otherwise, there could be no criminal or non-criminal, no good or bad.  Discrimination is not, of itself, wrong.  It is only wrong to discriminate in certain situations.  Legally, these “certain situations” are defined as a “protected class.”

    Protected class is a term used in United States anti-discrimination law.[1] The term describes characteristics or factors which cannot be targeted for discrimination and harassment.

    So, what are the protected classes in the United States?  Wikipedia (linked above) provides a list.

    Now, examine that list of characteristics carefully.  It can be divided into two categories.  Let’s call one “Attributes” and the other “Choices.”  Attributes are those characteristics that we have no control over – they are essentially accidents of birth.  So, the protected classes in the category of Attributes would be, race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability and genetic information.

    Choices as a category is a different matter.  These are characteristics over which we as individuals do have control. The characteristics on that list that fall into this category are religion, familial status, and veteran.

    Now the first thing we have to ask ourselves is if they we are to judge same sex marriage as discriminatory, into which category would we fit homosexuality?  This is where Jason Collins comes in.  Jason Collins is an identical twin:

    Something in the media guides did not compute.

    Jason Collins is listed at 7-0 and 260 pounds in the New Jersey Nets media guide, while the Utah Jazz media guide lists twin brother Jarron at 6-11 and 255. Aren’t they identical twins?

    Yes, responds Portia Collins, the mother of the first set of identical twins to play in the NBA since Harvey and Horace Grant.

    So, is Jason taller than Jarron?

    After a bemused pause, the answer we knew was coming finally arrived: “Noooo.”

    “They filled out questionnaires and have a media archive at their respective schools [high school and Stanford University]. Jarron and Jason let it continue. I don’t think they let it bother them.”

    His brother Jarron is married, with kids; by all appearances quite heterosexual:

    Late last summer Jason called and said that he was coming over because he had something to tell me. This was nothing new. We speak multiple times a day, always have. He’s Tio Jason to my three kids. He’s like a brother to my wife. He’s my twin, eight minutes older. We live only a few miles apart on the west side of L.A. But while most of our conversations are quick and light, this one was different.

    So, here we have two men, genetically identical, that grew up together, were afforded all the same opportunities, went to high school and college together.  They seem as close as brothers can be.  Yet one is homosexual and one is heterosexual.  Clearly then, Jason’s homosexuality is a choice, or perhaps a series of small choices over the course of many years, but it is certainly not an Attribute, as we defined it above.

    Many are the claims that homosexuals are “just born that way.”  How many times have I heard, “That’s just the way I am.”  Well, clearly it is not, as so well illustrated by the Collins twins.  Physically identical and walking nearly identical paths until well into adulthood,  one made choices that lead to a traditional lifestyle and the other made choices that lead down the path that was exposed yesterday.

    Jason Collins “coming out” should make it crystal clear to SCOTUS that if they are to award “protected class” to homosexuals it will be in the Choices category, not the Attributes one.  But examine carefully that short list in the Choices category.  Religion is set aside as a protected class within the body of the constitution proper, and it is plain letter in the Bill of Rights.  Veteran only makes sense – this is another means of honoring those that have served the nation at the highest risk.  It seems commonsense enough.

    Familial status is where the rub lies.  But note, this is not an absolute when it comes to the protections.  The protections are limited purely to housing matters and furthermore, there are notable exceptions.  While it could be argued that same-sex marriage is, in some sense, a “familial status,” it falls so far outside the existing protection limits as to make it plain to the court that they will be creating a whole new protected class should they go that direction with these cases.

    Does the court have the power to create a protected class?  Note that each of the classes on the list above were created by legislative action, as cited.  When it comes to Attributes, it could be argued that the court might create, and/or expand a category based on “…the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…,” in the Declaration of Independence.  But as the case of the Collins twins makes so transparent – this is no Attributes situation.

    The Court has little choice but to leave existing law in place.  These are choices by the individuals involved and how to deal with such people is a choice for the people generally.  That is why there are elections and legislatures.  If the Court decides otherwise, it will be a clear and undeniable usurpation of power.  It would be a tyrannical act.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Prejudice, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    When It Is The Only Weapon You Have….

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:00 am, November 5th 2012     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Forgive me an extended metaphor that indulges my personal enthusiasms.

    As a near lifelong fan of the superhero comic, one of the more amazing aspects of comicdom has been the military’s continued efforts to try and beat the Hulk.  They, in the form of “Hulkbuster” General Ross, never quite get the message.  Particularly in the early days.  When I was a kid, month-after-month, Ross would send tanks (the mightiest weapons in the Army’s cache, save nukes and well nukes made the Hulk to begin with, so bad idea.)  out to try and get a handle on the nation’s “Hulk problem.”  Month-after-month, the Hulk would tear through the tanks like a hot knife through butter.  All the tanks would ever end up doing is that their fight would serve to distract the Hulk, momentarily, from the really ginormous super-baddie he was fighting, unbeknownst to the myopic Ross, and thus give that ginormous super-baddie enough of an edge that it would look like he had a shot at beating the unbeatable Hulk.

    Not to mention the fact that watching the Hulk tear through a squad of tanks like they were children’s playthings was just flat out entertaining.  That is the biggest of the reasons why writers and artists put such scenes in the comics month-after-month-after-month.  Despite the fact he was a dullard by even dullard standards, the sub-lingual green-and-purple monster would find the most creative ways to “smash” the tanks.  The Hulk raised tank wreckage to an art form.

    The first modern-era Hulk movie, directed by Ang Lee, was quite a disappointment.  For most it was because it had few echoes of the Bill Bixby starring TV show of the ’70′s, which was how most people knew the character.  I did not think it was a great, even good really, superhero movie, but I was not nearly so disappointed as the average movie goer,  That film contained homage to the old, old comics that fanboys like me just loved – It had a scene where the Hulk did his tank thing.  It was a truly lovely thing to behold – and the lack of such a scene was the biggest weakness in the otherwise much improved Ed Norton-led reboot.  Having gone on for three paragraphs now, I find I must relive that tank smashing scene – it is just too much fun.

    Why, Oh Why Am I Carrying On So About The Hulk?

    Well, I could not help but think about it as I read through things over the weekend.  As it is becoming increasingly apparent that Mitt Romney will be elected president on Tuesday, his opponents are coming at him with the same weapons that have failed repeatedly throughout the campaign.  While a Romney victory is nowhere near as sure as the Hulk against tanks, tank busting images filled my mind as we saw the Mormon issue roll out one more time.  The Mormon “attacks” came in all sorts of forms.

    There was the slightly subtle, as this from CNN:

    Should Mitt Romney win the presidency next Tuesday, it will mark an historic first: a Mormon couple moving into the White House.

    What would this mean and look like?

    Would there be “dry” state dinners, since faithful Mormons don’t do alcohol? Would Secret Service tag along to sacred ceremonies only open to worthy church members? What book would a President Mitt Romney use to take his oath of office?

    We can’t be absolutely sure about all the answers. But if the practices and homes of devout Mormons like the Romneys – not to mention his history as governor of Massachusetts – are any indication, we can begin to paint a picture of what a Romney-inhabited White House might look like.

    This piece is simply inane.  It asks questions about whether the Romney’s will put pictures of Jesus on the walls in the White House, and whether coffee will be served.  That’s just childish – and at this point in the campaign irritating – like such questions have not be asked and answered about a billion and one times.  And the mention of alcohol at state dinners – let me make this very clear.  I have been to Romney events where I have personally handed my scotch to a guy while I went up and had my picture taken with the Governor.  It’s not an issue.

    There are also the less that subtle, but still appearing to be reasonable attacks.  In this case the NYTimes:

    On radio and on his Internet network, the influential conservative pundit Glenn Beck frequently invokes God, religious freedom and the founding fathers, but he does not regularly discuss his own Mormon faith.

    [...]

    But as perhaps the best-known Mormon after the Republican presidential candidate and a major influence on evangelical Christians, Mr. Beck has emerged as an unlikely theological bridge between the first Mormon presidential nominee and a critical electorate.

    This piece is actually nothing short of an effort to undo what Romney has worked so hard to accomplish – to define himself fully – not simply as “a Mormon.”  It is not the kind of sophomoric garbage that CNN engaged in, but it really is too little too late.  The genie is out of the bottle, and they are not going to get to stuff him back in it.  In the end the piece is an attempt to explain the enormous support Romney is getting from the Evangelical community which is something we will return to in a minute.

    WaPo is trying to make very old news new again – discussing a Romney radio interview from last cycle.

    Many of those spreading the video were liberals, such as Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who retweeted the link twice and called it “MUST SEE TV.”

    ‘Nuff Said.

    From England we get the not-subtle-in-any-way, maybe even offensive, attack:

    US Elections: How Mormon Mitt Romney overcame the curse of magic underpants

    The piece is yet another attempt to explain Romney’s evangelical support, but with a headline like that, give me a break here.

    Which brings us to the divisive attack.  National Journal attempts to paint the evangelical support as tepid:

    Even some religious conservative leaders came to Romney’s defense, pointing to the stark contrast between him and a Democratic president who champions abortion rights, wants health insurance plans to cover birth control, and backs same-sex marriage. Still, among rank-and-file Christian voters, the default level of enthusiasm and grassroots activity may not be enough to tip the Nov. 6 election. “Social conservatives will vote for him, but I don’t think the passion is there for Mitt Romney,” says Republican strategist Patrick Davis, who lives here. “I’m not seeing as much fervor to make phone calls and knock on doors. He wasn’t their first choice.” The Romney campaign’s challenge is to boost excitement on the Christian Right as much as possible without alienating undecided, more-moderate voters.

    Last Thursday we looked at the differences between who the press likes to call “Evangelicals” in the primary and who are “Evangelicals” in the general.  It seems to me that this piece is written with the primary definition in mind, not the general.  Of course there are Evangelicals that are tepid on Romney, but are they the majority? – Not even close, even if feared whisper campaigns take off.

    One of the things we mentioned briefly last week was the Evangelicalism is a movement inside Christianity, it is not a religion or even a denomination unto itself.  That movement is alive and well inside Catholicism, and as we have said several time, the Catholics have taken the lead in this election cycle over the Focus on the Families of the world.  We see this in little ways like the Conference of Bishops launching a religious freedom website and in bigger ways as Andrew Malcolm documents:

    As a result of what Catholic church leaders regard as some blatant double-dealing by the Democrat president on his ObamaCare regulations, the church has quietly launched a massive national information campaign among millions of church faithful.

    Catholics are famously independent when it comes to their votes. Even if they were voting simply by religion, both vice presidential nominees are Roman Catholics, the first such time in U.S. history.

    However, in such an apparently close contest, the switch of even a few hundred thousand votes in the right states could well suck sufficient ballots away from Obama to swing next Tuesday’s election toward the Republican ticket.

    One of the nice things about having a cross-denominational movement is that such things radiate through the movement and not through more traditional labels the press would have us think about.  The very minority “tepid” Evangelicals have a hard time sharing their movement with Catholics, just like they do with Mormons.  But the vast majority of Evangelicals share a bond with the Catholics through the movement and that is a potent and mighty force indeed.  But Obama, his supporters and his willing allies in the press just do not get this.

    And so, like General Ross, they roll out the tanks one more time and expect them to work because they just do not understand what they are up against.  The Mormon weapon lost its potency once the primaries were over – that is a simple numerical and demographic reality.  Once the primaries were over the vast majority of Evangelicals who are center-right and not the fire-breathing, hell-and-damnation spouting radicals of the imaginations of the fevered left, came into play.   Evangelical energy from this moderate majority, Catholic, Protestant and independent coalesced in light of two enormous strategic mistakes by the Obama administration  – the HHS ruling and support of same-sex marriage.

    But to change tactics and try new and different weapons would mean they would have to admit they were wrong to begin with.  What is Proverbs 16:18 again?  Oh yeah:

    Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

    That was ALWAYS General Ross’ issue.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Prejudice, Religious Bigotry, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Tell Me Again Who Has A Problem With Religious Tolerance!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:16 pm, November 1st 2012     &mdash      2 Comments »

    Fox News:

    The reverend and civil rights advocate who gave the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration suggested at a recent Obama re-election rally that he thinks white people are going to hell — though he later said it was just a joke.

    The Rev. Joseph Lowery spoke at a rally Saturday in Georgia. According to an account in the Monroe County Reporter, “Lowery said that when he was a young militant, he used to say all white folks were going to hell. Then he mellowed and just said most of them were.

    “Now, he said, he is back to where he was,” according to the newspaper.

    A joke?  Really?  Last time I looked it was not funny to suggest people would spend eternity in condemnation.  And just to show the total embrace Obama has given this “gentleman”:

    Lowery was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Obama.

    There you go.  You want awards from the President, just condemn an entire race to hell.  Suddenly Mike Huckabee looks really smart and tolerant.

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    Posted in Prejudice, Religion and Race, Understanding Religion | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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