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."

  • Stuff You Have To Read

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:18 am, February 28th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Scott Clement @ The FIX:

    Tuesday’s public spat between an atheist advocacy group and Christian conservatives was full of bluster and drama, all over a CPAC conference booth

    This small theater in the culture wars may be of little consequence beyond Washington, but it highlights a dynamic in which non-religious voters are gravitating steadily away from Republicans, even as Democrats have made few major efforts to galvanize their support.

    Michael Gerson on Thursday:

    The evidence accumulates that the Republican Party is sobering up — cotton-mouthed and slightly disoriented — from its recent ideological bender.


    No political movement can persuade a great democracy without displaying a measure of democratic grace. And any ideological movement that claims to be inspired by faith and morality is discredited by language that dehumanizes its opponents.

    One can hope that Gerson is right, but only time will tell.  I am; however, convinced that much of the ideological battles the party currently face lie in the religious battles that began in 2008 with Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.  It’s just not talked about now because it would simply appear too bigoted, but all this talk of “being true to…” began when a Mormon tried to take center stage and reached its zenith when such was the GOP nominee.

    You see parallels to this discussion and way of thinking inside the Evangelical church when you read about people writing off the decline in church attendance to the loss of “Christmas and Easter only types,” and then contending that such is not really a loss.

    This post is not the forum for deep analysis of this phenomenon, but one must react to it by saying perish the thought.   Huckabee gave air to this stuff and I don’t care how much he moderates, as such he has no business being the nominee.

    Mark Tooley asks, “Was America Ethically Christian for Only 8 Years?.”  I got to be honest – silly question.  Even Christians aren’t ethically Christian much – it’s a foundational concept of our theology called sin.  Christian ethics are not the issue when it comes to national politics and policies.  It is a question of aspiration, not actual practice.  The current apparent ethical pullback that the nation is on is not a the bottom line issue, it is how that pullback is happening that gives one such pause.  It is a discarding of ethical considerations generally that is so problematic.  No longer is the debate about what is the right thing to do, rather is it simply about what people want to do and asserting that they have a right to do whatever they want to do.  We no longer seem to aspire to what is good and then argue about the definition of good – we simply argue about what these people want versus what those people want – good apparently has nothing to do with it.  That’s what makes this cycle amongst the many such historical cycles frightening.

    Things that have a point, even if you don’t agree with the entire piece:

    Yeah, we have to avoid arrogance.

    No, the press is not to blame, but they do pick the scab and can keep the wound from healing.

    The word “cult” can sometimes be useful, but only with great care and this piece shows it more than most, but not sure they are all the way there.


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    Things You Should Be Reading

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:12 am, January 20th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    If you are not following us on Twitter (@Art6B) you should be.  We are making increased use of it.  It is a great way to pass along things that are worth reading; however it is not a great way to make much comment on same.  Hence we are going to pass on a few links here of article that need a little comment, in no particular order.

    Violence and discrimination against religious groups by governments and rival faiths have reached new highs in all regions of the world except the Americas, according to a new Pew Research Centre report.

    - from a Reuters story.  I found that tid-bit really interesting in light of this op-ed out of Zimbabwe:

    While the constitution states that no person can be hindered from the enjoyment of his or her freedom of religion, it also states that in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health the law in can limit the freedom of religion.

    However, the danger of enacting a general law which allows for the infringement of religious freedom is that such a law could be used as a political tool, even to the detriment of sincere and law-abiding believers as is the case currently in tumultuous Egypt.

    To maintain the rift between the church and the state, the only reasonable way of monitoring religion would be through a statutory religious ombudsman consisting of respectable and impartial citizens and mandated with the two-fold functions of protecting the public from pulpit predators, and keeping politics and state separate from issues of faith.

    That’s just fascinating is it not?  Note that a) the public cannot be trusted to decide the issue (that would be competition) and b) how precisely is the ombudsman going to enforce its rulings?  Is religion really free under the circumstances here described?  Sounds like a formula to enhance Mugabe’s dictatorial hold to me.  Which is why, as Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett argue on CNN today, religious freedom is an important matter to foreign policy.

    Said so often it is now trite, “freedom of religion is not freedom from religion.”  The key seems to be to not merely create adherents to a religion but to actually make religious people – there is a difference you know.  Religious adherents follow blindly their leaders.  Religious people allow themselves to be shaped by their religion into people that can argue and discuss with their religious leaders.  Religious adherents are kept ignorant, religious people thirst for learning.

    As we said repeatedly during two election cycles, there is more to religion that merely identity.  Evangelicals are starting to see how this really works.  That does not mean there will not be liars in the whole thing – people that try to take advantage.  But the answer is not to divorce yourself from religious institutions.  That is really how Evangelicalism was born and we have just seen how that is coming full circle.

    Answers lie in the many, many checks and balances of our system.  This is pointed out quite adroitly in an article we did tweet out last week:

    The democratic truth is that we’re all created equal, but truth, by itself, easily morphs into apathetic passivity and material self-indulgence.  The aristocratic truth is that to be human is to have a singular greatness (and misery) not shared with the other animals.  The Christian truth is that all men were equally created to display the greatness of unique and irreplaceable individuality, and part of that greatness is the truth about who we are that we can joyfully and responsibly share in common.  The danger in democracy is that Christian churches lose their capacity to be genuinely countercultural—or teach the truth that will be neglected “on the street” in middle-class democracy.  And so the separation of church and state is to keep the church from being corrupted by excessive concern with endlessly egalitarian justice and the logic of the market.  The separation is for the integrity of the church by limiting the claims for truth and morality of the democratic “social state,” which includes the democratic state

    Oh yeah, and on a closing note, the president remains and unthoughtful, silly, self-involved twit.


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    Stuff Worth Reading…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:17 am, August 29th 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Believe it or not, something worthwhile on HuffPo.

    Douglas Wilson writes about being “bad Americans.”  I think (hope actually) that he is being a bit pessimistic.

    Mark Tooley thinks things are not always what they seem.

    But then again, maybe Wilson is not so pessimistic.

    The Islamic political landscape.  I think there are lessons for a diverse Christian nation in there somewhere. Most notably, governing is much harder than complaining.

    If you’re Catholic, contraception is the root problem.  Fascinating view.  Contraception certainly separated sex from physical consequence, but the church had to fail somehow for there to be a separation in moral consequence.  Unless, of course, you believe we really are closer to animals than I like to think we are.

    Wilson again.  (He is the new Richard Land, btw.) He declares Mormonism a religion, not a cult.  Sure needed that a couple of election cycles ago.


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    Worth Reading…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:58 am, March 22nd 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Remember last week when I excoriated Al Mohler?  Well, fortunately some hardcore Protestants “get it.”  Carl Trueman shows us how the seriously Reformed should write about their Catholic brethren.

    Some may wonder what the point of reflecting on Rome is for a Protestant.  At least threefold,I would respond.  First, Protestants benefit from a conservative papacy: on public square issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom, the RCC has a higher profile and more power – financial, legal, institutional – than any Protestant group.  We all benefit from the cultural and legal power of the RCC in these areas.  Second, your neighbours probably do not distinguish between Christian groups.  A sleazy, morally corrupt RCC is like a sleazy, morally corrupt televangelist ministry: we are all marked with the same brush in the public eye and our task of evangelism becomes that much harder.  Third, RC authors often offer more penetrating insights into secular culture than their evangelical equivalents.  Comparing George Weigel to Rob Bell in such circumstances is akin to comparing Michelangelo to Thomas Kinkade.

    And then there is this story.  These stories have become a dime-a-dozen:

    A Florida professor and high-ranking member of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party recently instructed his students to take out a piece of paper, write “JESUS” on it, then put it on the floor and stomp on it….


    Apparently the exercise is a suggestion in the textbook, “Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition,” and the school would not say if Poole would face disciplinary action, WPEC reports.

    I have but one comment, “What the &^% is ‘intercultural communication’ and how does it rate a textbook, let alone the 5th edition of one?”  That sounds like one of the courses I took to pad my hours – you know like “Underwater Basket Weaving 101.”  Can you expect a professor that teaches something like that to do anything serious?  Oh and by the way, I thought the purpose of college was to teach us to use our words and reason, not thrown childish tantrums and stomp on stuff.  This was nonsense long before it was religiously offensive.


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    God Talk – It’s Everywhere…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:20 am, February 8th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    …And None Of It Seems Good

    Took them a while to talk it over, but it sounds like the Catholic Bishops came to the same conclusion we did regarding Obama’s “compromise” on the HHS mandate.  This an oter actions by the administration caused Congressman J Randy Forbes to pen an op-ed for the Washington Times and say:

    The tide has turned, and we have begun to see the emergence of a state-created orthodoxy. It deems support for traditional marriage unacceptable. It discredits those who believe that life begins at conception. It disfavors their faith — held for centuries by their predecessors — and creates a regulatory framework to prevent them from fully participating in the public square.

    When the government says, “You can believe whatever you want, but you will be penalized if you exercise those beliefs,” we have entered dangerous territory.

    I agree, and more it is a clear violation of church and state.  That “barrier was designed to preserve religion, but it has become a very one way thing.  Government continual intrudes on religion, as the HHS mandate clearly demonstrates, but it religion has to be kept in its box when it comes to forces acting in reverse.

    Take for example this Dan Merica piece at the CNN Belief Blog on Presidents and the use of religious language.  It is essentially apologia for Obama participating in the National Prayer Breakfast, as if that needs apologetic.  On the one hand, religious expression is treated as mere tiechnique:

    Religious and presidential scholars told CNN that while some critics may question whether events like the prayer breakfast blur the line between separation of church and state, the use of religious language helps presidents connect with the people they were elected to lead.

    But some of the experts “get it”

    “The fact that a president alludes to biblical passages or quotes the Bible or overt expression of religious faith, is par for the course,” Smith [Prof at George Mason U] concluded. “It can be both a public ministry of healing and a personal expression of faith that however bad things are now, they are part of a large plan that ultimately is better.”

    I think that encapsulates it pretty well.  The disconnect between Obama’s religious rhetoric and his administrations actions make plain that is rhetoric is mere technique.  But the best of the presidency  has used religiosity as a source of hope that they then passed on to the nation.  Hope is certainly something I could use a bit more of right now.

    The technique we see in Obama is truly troubling.  He only gets away with it because of media bias. And that bias is everywhere.  It has even crept into sports reporting.  Hugh Hewitt’s interview with the reporter that did the SI hit piece on Christianity and football is fascinating.  The guy had some points about football, but so completely misunderstood Christianity and misunderstood how the Christian individual participates in football, that his good points just got lost in the noise.

    But lets go back to hope.  Here is a link to John J Miller’s NRO Interview with Jonathon Last on his new book, “What To Expect When No One’s Expecting.”  I have not had time to watch the Miller interview, but I did hear Last interviewed by Dennis Prager and Last has a startling conclusion.  Of course, the book is about declining birth rates.  Last found that the highest birth rates were amongst the religious.  He pointed to statistics that having a child makes couples demonstrably unhappier and more financially burdened and concluded that only a frame of reference that included something larger than self, which is something only religion can provide, is the only thing that can motivate reproduction.  He went out of his way to say it was not a matter of theological formulation, but simply the understanding that there is more than our individual wants and desires.

    That is something this blog has contended for a long time.

    Turns out hope is a major ingredient of the American success recipe and religion is the best source of hope.  But we cannot sell the false hope that we so often see these days – the hope that WE are good – that’s just more individualism.  We have to sell the hope born of our failure that sees our salvation – for then we are truly reliant on that bigger thing.


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    Things To Watch

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:22 am, January 15th 2013     &mdash      2 Comments »

    When enough is enough:

    Holding aloft ancient flags and young children, hundreds of thousands of people converged Sunday on the Eiffel Tower to protest the French president’s plan to legalize gay marriage and thus allow same-sex couples to adopt and conceive children.

    That’s the French mind you – the French.  The article only quotes native French, which I find fascinating.  Serious Christian French are pretty hard to find.  I’d love to know how much of the crowd was Islamic.  But I think my basic point is it is pretty hard to make the case that such protests in Paris are religiously motivated.  Heterosexual monogamy is one of the chief cornerstones of western civilization.  The pro same-sex marriage crowd has trivialized something deeply fundamental.  This could get interesting.

    When you have Richard Land and Jim Wallis on the same side of an issue, you have to know something very interesting is afoot.  Coverage from CNN and Christianity Today.  From CT:

    More than 150 evangelical leaders have renewed their calls for comprehensive immigration reform by signing on to the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a relatively new initiative that unites, among others, unlikely partners such as Sojourners and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to CNN, a new video launched today will serve as the campaign’s “first concerted push on immigration, with the goal of getting meaningful immigration reform through Congress in 2013.”

    I am grateful to see Christians of every political stripe united, on anything.  What this really is an effort to bring compassion to the debate and compassion is a good thing.  But this is an enormously complex issue involving not just immigration, but things like national defense and simply making sure that the law is respected.  I agree, illegals that have been here and been productive members of our society are worthy of compassion, and perhaps salvation from the ultimate consequences of their actions.  But all consequences?  I am not so sure.  By the way, no matter how carefully the laws and regulations are drafted, much injustice will occur because in the end it justice is administered by people in a most frustrating bureaucratic setting.  If justice is the goal, the best thing Christians can do is make sure good, sound Christian people of intellect, compassion and good judgement are in the positions where the decisions are being made.  Both in the drafting of the laws and regulations and in their administration.

    Meanwhile, back in Europe:

    British Airways violated the article of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantees freedom of religion when it stopped employee Nadia Eweida from wearing her cross openly, the court said….

    In its ruling, the court weighed Eweida’s desire to show her religious belief against the airline’s wish to project a certain corporate image….

    However, the court found that three other British Christians who argued they’d been unfairly dismissed from their jobs had not been subjected to religious discrimination.

    They are nurse Shirley Chaplin, who also wanted to wear a cross at work, registrar Lilian Ladele, who declined to register gay civil partnerships, and Gary MacFarlane, a relationship counselor who did not want to give sex therapy to same-sex couples.

    In the case of Chaplin, the court ruled that the concerns of hospital managers for health and safety outweighed the nurse’s desire to wear a cross visibly in the workplace.

    The cases of the registrar and the relationship counselor had been fairly considered in the national courts, the court said.

    “Fascinating Captain.”  The article does not present enough of the legal technicalities to form an opinion on the last two cases, and health and safety concerns are real.  I have personally had to admonish people on the wearing of lose jewelery in machine settings.  In the nurse’s case there are other concerns like lifting patients, cleanliness, etc.  However, when I have done so, I have encouraged the employee to find a more safety suitable means of religious expression.  Be curious about this case…

    Food for thought:

    One of the most important lessons President Barack Obama and his minions must learn as they bask in political success is that humiliation follows hubris – sometimes quickly.

    I am wondering if that is not the lesson for we conservative Republicans.  I think it is clear we assumed the nation was with us and it was not.  We took for granted that which we need to earn.  Isn;t that a form of hubris?

    Finally, Dan Gilgoff reflects on editing CNN’s belief blog:

    3.) Religion reporting shouldn’t be an inside game. “We believe that understanding the role of faith in today’s world isn’t optional or nice to know,” we wrote in our inaugural Belief Blog post, in May 2010. “It’s need to know.” That was true again for many of 2012’s biggest stories, for which understanding forces of faith and faithlessness were crucial to understanding the nominees for president, reactions to July’s deadly Aurora, Colorado, shooting and Whitney Houston’s funeral. You don’t have to be religious to think religion stories matter; you just have to be curious about the way the world works. I believe that more now than I did when we launched the Belief Blog.

    4.) The news media isn’t anti-religion. You hear that from some religious people, particularly those on the political right. Truth is, news organizations such as CNN are fascinated by religion because it yields stories brimming with meaning, controversy and powerful characters. But the religion beat can scare off reporters because it can be so daunting (if you’re a non-Mormon, try wrapping your mind around the Mormon practice of posthumous proxy baptism in time to meet a 5 o’clock deadline). And yet so many CNN Belief stories were born when CNNers across the organization asked basic questions such as, “Will the Catholic presidential candidates don ashes for an Ash Wednesday debate?” and “Why don’t we explain why some American Muslim women wear the hijab?” Many other religion stories came from CNNers who volunteered ideas from their own religious subcultures. CNN forces working against religion coverage? I never encountered any.

    “Not an inside game,” and yet the questions that he praises in the very next point are questions that would only be asked by outsiders and for which insiders have ready answers.  I’m a outsider to Mormonism, but I do not find proxy baptism that hard to understand.  It is controversial only in an cross-religious aspect and then only when people of other faiths fail to understand that it is something substantively different than baptism is in other faiths.  (For most Christians, baptism ushers someone into the faith, for Mormons, posthumous proxy baptism invites others to the faith – big, big difference.)  There I did it in one parenthetical sentence.

    The problem is that the perspective that Gilgoff is upholding here is one that treats religious folk as fundamentally different, even “weird.”  It objectifies the religious as odd specimens for study rather than as people with a different, but worthy, perspective.

    To bring this full circle, I think much of the animus towards the religious community felt by the LGBT community is because they have been objectified rather than humanized.  That is a sin of the religious community.  However, the corrective is not to return the favor.


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