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."

  • How We Lose

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:20 am, November 4th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    It is election day and if the polling holds it looks to be a very good one for Republicans.  Come tonight we should have very good reason to be celebratory.  And yet I find celebration hard to come by – and not just becasue the most hard-headed presidency in history will fail, utterly, to receive the message being sent today.  No, the ennui I experience today is born of a story that has ridden pretty high, but just off the main radar, amidst the closing arguments, the final pushes and the last gasps of Campaign 2014.

    A young, beautiful and struggling with a major health issue woman killed herself last Saturday.

    Yes, she was dying.  Yes, she was looking at a great deal of suffering before her inevitable demise.  But regardless, her decision, and the rush to support it, takes something extraordinarily tragic and makes it indescribably saddening.  Life, even a life lived with extreme difficulty and pain, is too precious to waste in this manner.  Life is given by God, it is not ours to take away.

    Yet as I read piece after piece about that call to support the “right to die with dignity,” I cannot help but wonder where is the religious outrage at this act that so clearly defies centuries of religious teaching.  Is the press not covering it?  Google is not revealing much of anything, even press releases from religious organizations that have gone unreported.

    This is how we lose.

    Compassion for an awful situation demands some decorum, but the -pro-death people are busy making political hay and we allow our compassion to silence us when it should force us merely to temper our pronouncements and thus illustrate the incredibly poor taste of our opposition.  This is hard to message.  The difference between pulling the plug on a person already dead save for human intervention and a person not yet dead from disease is too subtle for Twitter and the TV sound bite.  We let this messaging difficulty silence us.  Medical science has forced most of us, or someone very close to us, to make life or death decisions and so we remain silent lest we be called hypocrite, or becasue it is too painful to face our own, perhaps wrong, calculations.

    We cannot be so silenced.  We have to find a tasteful, decorous, effective way to talk about this or we will be facing medically assisted suicide on demand  as we now face abortion on demand.  Our culture no longer bows to a greater power, it is inevitable if we are silent.

    But more important than the political opposition and the media messaging is what is going on in our churches.  That is what prepares the battlefield and sets the cultural agenda so that political and media messaging can have traction.  Politics follows culture.  And yet, as I drive around I have not seen church signs with sermons on this issue.  Of the myriad church social media streams I follow I have not seen any mention of discussion groups or youth events to deal with this situation.  The silence seems to be pervasive, not just in the media.

    This is how we lose.  I do not want to lose this one.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Doctrinal Obedience, Evangelical Shortcomings, leadership, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Catholic Voice: “Test of Fire 2012″

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

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

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    Posted in Political Strategy, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Left Is Trying To Play Us!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:18 am, September 15th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Some day, Evangelicals will figure out that the Left and it’s media allies played on our theological differences to defeat Mitt Romney and re-elect Barack Obama – and now we watch the world burn.  All while Nero Obama fiddles golfs.

    But hey, if your opponent has a weakness, you exploit it – right?  Well that seems to be the case with a Salon piece that crossed my desk this morning – “How the Catholic Church masterminded the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby debacle.”  The subtitle is fascinating -

    While evangelical Christians ultimately brought down the contraception mandate, they had big help from Catholics

    Does anybody recognize a pattern here?  Do you remember when Prop 8 passed in California and it opponents rioted at Mormon sites in the state, engaging in property damage and intimidation?  Do yo remember when they boycotted businesses where it was known that the owners backed the proposition?

    What was a great example of religious cooperation in pursuit of shared political goals quickly became “a Mormon” thing and shamefully Evangelicals, who should have been helping Mormons protect their property, their reputation and their right to approach their houses of worship, seemed more than glad to let Mormons take the hit.  The Left successfully played on our theological differences to make one of our best shared victories into a separating lever and Prop 8 stood for a very short time.

    This nasty Salon piece by Patricia Miller seems to want to make the same maneuver between Evangelicals and Catholics over Hobby Lobby.  Ostensibly a piece reporting on the role of the Catholic College of Bishops in the whole affair, its tone and language seek to demonize the Bishops and turn them into some sort of religious Bilderberger or Rothschild.  The piece features a side-by-side photo of New York Archbishop Dolan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as if they formed some sort of cabal.  This piece has little relation to reporting and much to propaganda.  But then it is Salon so I am not entirely surprised.

    However, there are two take-aways that need careful reflection by those of religious bent.

    The Left no longer opposes us, they hate us.  It would be easy to weave all sorts of narratives about where such hatred could lead.  But such narratives would all be based on the Left retaining the levels of power it has enjoyed for the last few years.  Fortunately, that is already slipping from their grasp because they have overplayed their hand.  Nonetheless, we should take great caution in how we proceed.  Such hatred creates peril for its object, regardless of the political balance.

    Secondly, we cannot let our fear of demonization cow us into separating ourselves from the religious herd. Not only because such separation means we will ultimately lose the battle on our issues – as was the case with Prop 8 – but because it means we will lose our some part of our souls as we let others sacrifice for our sake.

    This is not a time for timidity.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Proposition 8, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Staring At Evil or What Makes the U.S. a “Christian” Nation

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:27 am, September 11th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The nation is unhappy.

    This is an anniversary date  on which we should remember the evil that was enacted upon us and the justice we brought to the world.  Instead we find that many do not remember (because they were not taught) and the evil is closing in on us once again.

    The president tried to turn that mood around last night and failed, utterly.  My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of memories and disappointments.  Hugh Hewitt rounds up just a small sampling of the disappointed reaction to the president last night.

    No wonder we are unhappy.

    Much of the failure of this administration lies in its inability, perhaps unwillingness, to recognize some essential tenets of the American character.  These tenets are deeply rooted in Christianity; they are in large part what makes us a Christian nation.  I can hear The Left screaming charges of “theocracy” right now.  Nonsense , this is not about theology in any serious fashion.  Those of us on The Right look at the moral/social place we find ourselves and wonder if we really are a Christian nation anymore.  I would argue that in many important ways we still are.

    Americans recognize evil when they see it. Christianity recognizes evil when it sees it.  We don’t parse it, we don’t split hairs, we name it for what it is.  In order to fight it, you have to look it square in the eye and recognize it.  We believe evil can be redeemed, but generally there is a penance to achieve that redemption.  Without the penance, we can never be sure the evil will not return.  This is not theological (Evangelicals and Catholics will argue eternally about the role of penance) this is practical.  Practically speaking you do bad, you suffer consequences so I can know you have learned not to do bad again.  You don’t renounce the bad, the consequences keep coming.  This president truly does not get that.

    Americans worry about more than just themselves.  Christians are commanded to do this.  Few passages galled me more in the president’s address last night than this one, “American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves,….”  In other words, “Not my problem, really.”  That is remarkably self-centered, even selfish.  In the preceding paragraph of the speech was this gem, “While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland,….”  In other words, “Evil does not really matter unless you perpetrate it on me.”  Well, you know, we weren’t gassing Jews here in America way back in the day, so why did we bother with Europe?  It was the Japanese that hit Pearl.  We fought in Europe because it was the right thing to do.  But then if the president cannot recognize evil, then he cannot really recognize “right” either.

    Americans die for others, we do not ask others to die for us.  That, dear friends, is the heart of Christianity.  While Obama committed an entire additional  475 troops to non-combatant roles, John Kerry bragged about the “40 nation coalition.” (Talk about herding cats!)  Inherent in every action taken and proposed by the president is an effort not to spend American lives.  No one wants to see an American die, but it is honorable and good, even Godly, when they die in defense of what is right – in the destruction of evil.  But then again, you have to recognize evil to get that.

    No wonder we are unhappy.

    But we will not stay unhappy for long.  Americans hope, and Christianity is the source of our hope.  We will get through this, and eventually we will be accorded the opportunity to rebuild this great nation and to put evil back into its dark places.  Despite this administrations best efforts, we remain rooted in our hope in the ways I have just described and so many more.

    We will be happy again.

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    Posted in character, leadership, Political Strategy, Religious Freedom, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:55 am, June 30th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The Supreme Court of the United States decided this morning that The federal government cannot force an employer to provide birth control if doing so violates the religious beliefs of the owners. Here’s a brief summary.

    You may recall that the Hobby Lobby case arose from Obamacare. The federal government issued a regulation requiring all employers to provide health insurance coverage to the employees for birth control services, including abortifacients (e.g., the “morning after” pill), even if doing so would violate the religious beliefs of the owners. Objections from conservatives led to the Democratic Party’s “war on women” theme, which the Democrats used to attack any Republican candidate who disagreed with the regulation. It was a brilliant and deeply cynical political ploy: Impose a requirement that had never been required before, then attack anyone who opposes that expansion of government as someone who is waging war on women.

    Here’s a short video that Hobby Lobby produced, explaining its position:

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Ugliest Statistic

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, June 26th 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    The Wall Street Journal:

    In the first quarter of 2014, GDP in the U.S. plunged at a 2.9% annual rate, and productivity—the inflation-adjusted business output per hour worked—declined at a 3.5% annual rate. This is the worst productivity statistic since 1990. And productivity since 2005 has declined by more than 8% relative to its long-run trend. This means that business output is nearly $1 trillion less today than what it would be had productivity continued to grow at its average rate of about 2.5% per year.

    Lagging productivity growth is an enormous problem because virtually all of the increase in Americans’ standard of living is made possible by rising worker productivity.

    They go on to cite a lack of new business formation as the largest single contributor to this trend.  They also mention some policy choices that could help reverse it.  Fair enough, but I look at those stats and I see a problem that cannot be fixed by simply changing a few policies.   When Ronald Reagan reversed a similar downward spiral in the 1980′s he did so leading a nation that acted constrained by the bad policy of his predecessor.  Numerous people wanted to start businesses or make other changes that would result in enormous productivity increases, all they needed was a little boost by reversing some policy obstacles.

    I see a very different picture today.  I do not see a nation chomping at the bit waiting for some sort of “go” signal.  I see a nation that honestly does not know if there is anything better.  Note that the trend cited started not with the Obama administration or even the financial disaster of 2008, but way back in 2005.  The nation started losing hope before it elected a government that piled policy disaster on the hopelessness.  Where did the hope go?  (New business start up is practically a function of ideas, the availability of capital, etc.  But fundamentally it is a reflection of hope in the risk taker.)

    Government cannot instill hope in people.  It acts upon it, and it amplifies its presence, but it does not create it.  Part of the genius of America is that it relies on non-governmental forces to create the hope that is absolutely necessary for democracy, and capitalism, to succeed.  The primary non-governmental hope creating force in America is religion.  Government can destroy hope because it can limit religion.  This is the root of the much cited “separation of church and state.”  The separation is designed not to keep religion out of the public square to to permit it to flourish and generate the hope that makes the nation work well.  The founders had seen Europe and its state sanctioned religion and had seen how ties too close to government tended to turn religion into an instrument of government rather than allow it to be religion – to be a hope creator.

    The concerns of the WSJ are far more profound that just the downturn in productivity and causal slowness in business formation.  (Something that, by the way, if not reversed will mire the nation in the debt this administration has buried us under forever.)  It is a reflection of the secularization of the nation – it is not a business problem, it is a soul-sickness.  Elections can change politicians that can change policies.  That’s a good thing and it should happen.  But if the hope does not exist to take advantage of those policy changes, the nation will remain on this downward trend economically.

    Political victory that is not accompanied by religious reform and revival will at best be fleeting.  If our hope is only in that political victory it can be taken from us as easily as it was won.  Real and lasting hope comes from something far larger and far more eternal that our politics.  Our churches, synagogues, and other houses of prayer and worship need to step up here.  Some churches today are becoming hope stealers and breakers.  They are failing to be at least one important part of what the church should be.  Some churches simply sound the bell of judgement and doom, which also does not create hope.  The wall of separation has fallen in ways far more subtle than the coercive forces of law and courtroom.

    It is time for the religious folk of America to stand up and be counted.  Not so much on issues and policy, but on the three things that abide – faith, hope, and love.  If we of deep and heartfelt religious conviction can stand up for these things, I think the issues and policies will right themselves in good order.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Governance, Religious Freedom, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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