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."

  • Ignorance and Privilege, Privilege and Ignorance

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:52 am, December 4th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Here we go again – “protests” over a grand jury decision involving a police officer and an arrest.  One wonders about the spontaneity of these demonstrations, and their true purpose; particularly when one reviews the source materials.  That is to say if you look at the evidence related to the Michael Brown incident or the Eric Garner incident. you can understand why there are questions.  However, given that a grand jury is designed precisely to answer such questions, you are forced to conclude there is something else at play when people are so distrustful of the results of that process.

    This is culture war.  It is not the culture war we usually think of, about abortion and marriage and religious identity, this is a culture war based on different identities.  But more, it is a culture war based on ignorance.  It is clear that the general public, and apparently a good deal of the media, is ignorant of the grand jury process.  Many seem to think it some sort of pro forma butt covering for a prosecutor, when in reality it is a fact finding panel just like a jury in a trial.   People seem to think it is easy to “fix” a grand jury – the whole “indict a ham sandwich” thing.  The burden of proof for a prosecutor is much lower in a grand jury than in a criminal trial, but that also means that when a grand jury fails to return an indictment, there is practically no evidence of a crime.  People seem to be ignorant of the fact that a tragedy is not always a crime.

    It seems clear to me that at least within a large swath of our population there is a general ignorance, despite seemingly 100′s of TV “procedurals” called “Law and Order,” of the role of police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.  Police officers collect evidence and keep the peace.  Police officers are not the people you argue with when you are accused of something – you argue with prosecutors and hopefully you have a defense attorney to help you do so.  Both Brown and Garner were arguing with police officers.  As a part of their peace keeping function police have to control such situations and argumentation can and often does escalate into a less than peaceful confrontation.  One should always cooperate with the police.  If that cooperation, but generally the lack of it, results in a detention it is highly inconvenient, but you will have opportunity to argue with someone who can respond reasonably to your argument.  However, such response is not a police job.

    This is also a culture war based on a presumption of privilege.  I have had the “honor” of serving on a condominium Board of Directors.  One year a small group of disgruntled owners used a technique called “cumulative voting” to put one of their own on the Board.  It was a problem from the get-go.  When the confrontations reached their zenith, the individual finally revealed the heart of the issue.  This person was under the assumption that Board members were skimming and that was why the Board seemed to be perpetually short of funds to address situations that the cabal thought were of dire and immediate importance.  This person finally agreed to stop being obstructionist if granted “a cut.”  Needless to say, the rest of the Board was flabbergasted.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

    I do not think it coincidental that these incidents, always involving race, are occurring in the last days of the Obama administration.  It has long been the source of race-based comedy that white people shared some sort of “code” so that when  police confronted whites over minor infractions they allowed them to go on unscathed, while people of color were arrested, or otherwise abused – the so-called “white privilege.”  While video of the Brown confrontation does not exist, watching video of the Garner confrontation it seems clear to me that Garner expected some sort of privileged treatment.   Anyone that has ever watched “COPS” knows that if you argue with police in that fashion you will get detained, regardless of color. But Garner seemed to expect that because a man of color was now in the White House, he could expect to walk away like he assumed white people always had.  And when he was detained, his protestations escalated the force police used to enforce the detention – with most unfortunate outcome.  All of this based, like my HOA Board experience, on an assumption of privilege that does not really exist.

    There is no question that historically there has been identity group discrimination in our nation.  Being born at the University of Mississippi in 1957 and returning to that state annually for most of my life, I have seen first hand what has gone on.  But negative discrimination is not the same thing as privilege.  The same Southern bigots I knew so well as  a youth were as quick to dismiss “white trash” as they were people of color.  There was no privilege of color.  There may have been privilege based on membership in the Klan or other fraternal organizations, often shared with police, and that of course involved race, but it was not based on race proper.  And even then privilege was limited to Klan interests only.  In the day, your Klan brother cop may look the other way about a cross burning, but not about a robbery or assault.  But that is also history and that is also the South.  That privilege just does not exist today and certainly not in New York City.

    Culture war is corrosive enough in this nation.  It becomes intolerable when based on ignorance and presumption.  Some in our political class have chosen to play upon the cultural divides discussed here for their own political, and in some cases financial, benefit.  As we have seen it seriously, and in some incidences fatally, threatens the peace.  Moreover, it threatens the very cultural glue of our nation.  Generating and amplifying such divisiveness may be the most heinous acts of all these sad episodes – particularly when doing so enhances, not cures, ignorance and presumption.  I wonder what the nation would look like if the media shamed such acts instead of broadcast them?

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    This Is How History Is Rewritten

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:44 am, May 28th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Politico Magazine has published a featured piece by Randall Balmer entitled “The Real Origins of the Religious Right,” that illustrates first hand how history gets rewritten.  His thesis:

    One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.

    This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.

    Some of these anti-Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves “new abolitionists,” invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.

    But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.

    His evidence is, that a) Evangelicals were slow to wake up to the problems inherent in the Rose v. Wade decision, and b) that some began organizing in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that removed tax-exempt status from some church related schools in the south that were segregated.  This are both facts long in evidence and denied by no one.  However, Balmer weaves these facts, along with some others, into a narrative that makes the rise of the religious right appear to be some Machiavellian scheme, foisted upon gullible, thoughtless Evangelicals solely in order to preserve segregation.

    What does Balmer not consider? Well, for one, Green v Kennedy (the SCOTUS segregation/tax case) and Nixon’s subsequent policy decisions for the IRS represented a significant step by government into defining what was and what was not religion and religious training.  Having much family in Mississippi, I am well aware that many of the church schools that sprang up in South in the wake Brown were racist to their core, but that does not change the fact that these moves represented a significant move on the part of the federal government from telling public institutions what to do to telling private and ostensibly religious institutions what to do.  These moves represented as big an (or perhaps a bigger?) intrusion by government into religion as the intrusion posed by Obamacare’s abortion coverage provisions today.  While the racial admission practices of these schools was not highlighted, the legal ramifications of these decisions was widely discussed and to my memory played a role in galvanizing religious people across the nation to political action.  Abhorrent as the racial admission policies of these schools were, if the government could attack their tax exempt status based on that policy, what other policy might they also someday decide warranted such an erosion of the separation of church and state?  There was a very real danger in these decisions and Obamacare’s abortion coverage provisions are front-and-center example one.

    Balmer makes this sound sinister:

    Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.

    Balmer adds no facts to the historical records here.  All he does is assert motivation and weave a narrative worthy of a Bilderberger theorist.  Religious freedom was, and remains, a very real issue in all of this.

    Balmer’s “art” sees its highest expression in this paragraph:

    Between Weyrich’s machinations and Schaeffer’s jeremiad, evangelicals were slowly coming around on the abortion issue. At the conclusion of the film tour in March 1979, Schaeffer reported that Protestants, especially evangelicals, “have been so sluggish on this issue of human life, and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? is causing real waves, among church people and governmental people too.”

    “Machinations?” — “Jeremaid?”  My goodness, I had no clue that Hydra had hidden itself inside Evangelicals and Protestants just waiting for the time when it could assert its dangerous philosophy and with the aid of the computerized Armen Zola conquer the world.

    There is no question that the desire to educate their children outside of the presence of African-Americans played an early role in organizing Protestants and Evangelicals to political action.  But the movement that became the Religious Right outgrew that small and particular aspect of its beginning quickly.  Balmer offers no evidence, or even narrative, that connects the religious freedom narrative to the abortion narrative other than chronological coincidence.   (Well, in fairness there are unfootnoted references to the archives of Liberty University)  And yet it was the abortion issue that caught the concern and energy of the religious nation.

    The game that Balmer plays in this atrocious piece could be just as easily played by looking into the Communism derived motives of some early leaders in the liberal movement.  Most people of the left, even those I disagree with strongly, are good people seeking what they view as best for the nation.  The same is true for people of the right.   Every political movement, left, right, and middle, has its opportunists and less than purely motivated players.  They do not define the movement.  The movement is defined by the millions that join it and where they take it.

    Balmer here attempts in the grossest of manners to call into the question an entire movement based solely on sinister assertions surrounding facts known to anyone that was either there, or that bothers to look.  This is not journalism, it’s not spin, it’s not even agenda journalism.  (It is certainly not historical research.)  This is crafting a conspiracy theory – pure and simple.

    Such things are written and published on the Internet daily.  No surprise there.  It is; however, shameful that Politico has not merely published this tripe, but featured it.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Prejudice, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    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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    Posted in News Media Bias, Prejudice | 1 Comment » | 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

    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

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