Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • The Great Divide

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:15 am, October 16th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    From William Galston in this morning WSJ:

    The tea party is Jacksonian America, aroused, angry and above all fearful, in full revolt against a new elite—backed by the new American demography—that threatens its interests and scorns its values.

    This is more than a columnist’s speculation. Stan Greenberg, a Democratic survey researcher whose focus groups with Macomb County Reagan Democrats in Michigan transformed political discourse in the 1980s, has recently released a similar study of the tea party. Supporters of the tea party, he finds, see President Obama as anti-Christian, and the president’s expansive use of executive authority evokes charges of “tyranny.” Mr. Obama, they believe, is pursuing a conscious strategy of building political support by increasing Americans’ dependence on government. A vast expansion of food stamps and disability programs and the push for immigration reform are key steps down that road. [emphasis added]

    Yesterday on The Hugh Hewitt Show Congressman John Campbell reported the the breakdown in the House came when those with religious objections to Obamacare objected to any funding deal that extends past the end of the year when rules requiring religious institutions to provide coverage for abortifacients would kick in.   As we said yesterday, religion is the elephant in the room.

    There are very real and extraordinarily serious religious issues facing the nation.

    Some comments need to be made.

    Firstly, these issues are too serious and way too deep to be resolved in the current crisis.  The best anybody could hope for is an extension in the delay of the implementation of the abortifacient rules.  Crisis’ like this are great messaging (up to a point) and they provide strong negotiating leverage for resolving very specific and well-defined policy differences.  But they do not and cannot resolve fundamental differences in philosophy, ideology and worldview – within a party or between the parties.  This point applies to all the practically innumerable objections to Obamacare.  It’s not going away, at least not right now – get specific and get real.

    Secondly, being in the minority and in opposition to governance is hardly new to the church.  The church in fact arose out of just such a state.  It is important to remember that Constantine was not regulated or legislated to Christianity, he converted.  Our faith is not defined by our governmental status.  Yes, there will be grave consequences to Obamacare’s regulations, but we have suffered many grave consequences throughout history.  We are still here, the Roman Empire (among others) is not.  We must bear that in mind as we conduct this fight.

    Finally, this old Emo Phillips joke too often describes how the church in America resolves its issues.  Res Ipsa Loquitor.



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

    We Are Not A Cartoon! (or a demon)

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, October 1st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    There is a new thing happening in media and we need to tread smartly as we deal with it.  My latest peek at this phenomena comes from this HuffPo piece by Franky Schaeffer.  The son of renowned evangelical thinker Francis Schaeffer, Franky (little known but often referred to on this blog, here, here, and here)  has been on a crusade for quite sometime now to paint religiously motivated conservatives as somehow having compromised their Christian faith.  While I agree that it is possible for political activism to become an idol that blocks our true deep spiritual development, Franky seems to think that if your faith has political ramifications at all you’re somehow compromised – at least if those political ramifications are conservative.

    In the latest HuffPo piece he picks up a drum beat that he has used before that now seems to be gaining momentum.  Ostensibly he is promoting a documentary, but consider:

    As my dad’s sidekick schmoozing with congressmen, famous preachers and even US presidents, I watched and participated during the 1970s and 80s as fundamentalist religion shaped American politics.

    Note that term, “fundamentalist.”  It is showing up more and more and more in any MSM discussion of religion.  The term Evangelical is disappearing rapidly.  This is not all bad as that word has been beaten out-of-shape so badly has to no longer have meaning.  But “fundamentalist” is no substitute.  Modern Evangelicalism largely arose as reasonable response to the hyper-conservative, often unreasonable. rise of Fundamentalism.  Modern Evangelicalism arose and came to be the mainstream of Christianity in America, consigning the Fundamentalist to the corner with the crazy uncles where they belonged.  But more and more it seems that if you are religious and politically active, you are “Fundamentalist.”

    This relabeling has arisen for numerous reasons.  Two important one comes to mind.  One, Evangelicals are largely spent as a political force – they have not gone away mind you, they just are no longer much of a political movement.  (This is a story all to itself and for another time.)  Secondly, the rise of terrorism by fundamentalist forces in Islam has created a convenient association between the word “fundamental” and extremism.  Attaching such a label to reasonable domestic religious forces recasts them not as political opponent, but as enemy.  The net result is that in the mind of the average liberal, religiosity of any sort, because it is all somehow “fundamentalist,”  can simply be disregarded.

    There was nothing fundamentalist at all about the religiously motivated political action that arose in the 70′s and reached its peak of influence during the Reagan years.  It was conservative, but hardly fundamentalist.  Fundamentalism is marked by such things as young-earth creationism and a condemnation of virtually all divorce.  That is far to the right of the abortion and same-sex marriage opposition of the modern Evangelical.  But there is that label being stuck to us.

    As we watch the White House compare Republicans to bomb vest wearing terrorists and say they do not have to give anything, we see the game that is afoot.  We are being demonized.  It is just that simple.

    We have to make our stands on the issues known – REPEATEDLY, but you cannot argue with demonization.  “You’re a jerk” – “No I’m not” is not much of an argument.  We need to do more.

    Now, more than ever, we have to be good people of reason.  Who we are in our political conduct and in our personal lives is the only thing that can put to the lie the charges being hurled at us.  Now, more than ever, our faith has to be evident not just in our words or even in our stances on the issues, but in our bearing, our conduct and our families.  Now, more than ever, we have to be the shining city on a hill.


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

    Genuine Reasons To Separate Church And State

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:34 am, August 1st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Our founders were wise men.  They looked at the problems of Europe very carefully and tried to design a government that did not share them.  We have discussed here often how governmental power was destructive with regards to religion in Europe – that our much-misunderstood separation is to help the church be the church.  We have also discussed how religious diversity in the nation forced the issue.  But there was another very wise reason for the separation.  That reason is the character of man.

    European monarchs, when they held the power of both church and state in their hands, tended to become a bit full of themselves.  Not all of them mind you – monarchy worked quite well with a monarch of sufficient character and wisdom.  But such people are very hard to find and as the cliche goes, “absolute power….”  Monarchs that were both head of state and head of the church often began to confuse themselves with God.  Whatever their theological leanings may have been, our founders acted on a practical level as if the doctrine of original sin was operative.  The checks and balances of the constitution and the separation of church and state are both part of helping our executive leader to understand that his/her role is limited, and most assuredly not divine.

    Daniel Henninger in this morning’s WSJ sounds a warning that should be apparent to any watching this president closely.

    If we learned anything about Barack Obama in his first term it is that when he starts repeating the same idea over and over, what’s on his mind is something else.

    The first term’s over-and-over subject was “the wealthiest 1%.” Past some point, people wondered why he kept beating these half-dead horses. After the election, we knew. It was to propagandize the targeted voting base that would provide his 4% popular-vote margin of victory—very young voters and minorities. They believed. He won.

    The second-term over-and-over, elevated in his summer speech tour, is the shafting of the middle class. But the real purpose here isn’t the speeches’ parboiled proposals. It is what he says the shafting of the middle class is forcing him to do. It is forcing him to “act”—to undertake an unprecedented exercise of presidential power in domestic policy-making. ObamaCare was legislated. In the second term, new law will come from him.

    didn’t see it coming. As always, Mr. Obama states publicly what his intentions are. He is doing that now. Toward the end of his speech last week in Jacksonville, Fla., he said: “So where I can act on my own, I’m going to act on my own. I won’t wait for Congress.” (Applause.)

    The July 24 speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., has at least four references to his intent to act on his own authority, as he interprets it: “That means whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it.” (Applause.) And: “We’re going to do everything we can, wherever we can, with or without Congress.”

    Henninger is absolutely right and if you stop and think about it for just a minute – it is a terrible to contemplate.  It is not even necessarily what he will do, but how he will do it.  Bad policy creates much pain, can be undone.  It is very difficult to undo power shifts of this sort.

    Heninger’s solution:

    A principled opposition would speak out. Barack Obama is right that he isn’t running again. But the Democratic Party is. Their Republican opponents should force the party’s incumbents to defend the president’s creeping authoritarianism.

    If Democratic Senate incumbents or candidates from Louisiana, Alaska, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, Montana and Iowa think voters should accede to a new American system in which a president forces laws into place as his prerogative rather than first passing them through Congress, they should be made to say so.

    And to be sure, the other purpose of the shafted middle-class tour is to demolish the GOP’s standing with independent voters and take back the House in 2014. If that happens—and absent a more public, aggressive Republican voice it may—an unchecked, unbalanced presidential system will finally arrive.

    To this I would add another.  We need a loud and active voice of religion in the public square.  They are trying to cow us and we cannot let it happen.  We have to be smart about it; we cannot simply declare “God’s desire” and demand action.  We have to start by being better people and better citizens.  We have to demand character in our officials not merely effectiveness, and certainly not theological solidarity.  We have to teach our children about the checks and balances of the constitution and about all aspects of the separation of church and state.

    Henninger notes that there are few checks on a president that simply refuses to execute the laws passed by Congress.  (If California is to be believed, laws passed by the people either.)  But the people – that’s us – remain the ultimate check.  We check with our votes, but we also check with our voices and our character.  It is one of those times in history where we have to step up.

    The nation as we have understood it is at risk.


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

    Coming For Religion

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:28 am, July 31st 2013     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    We have covered here before the Venture man and his ugly, nasty sign.  That story has now broken big – New York magazine.  The story is about a Ventura, California nutcase that erected an enormous neon sign in the build up to the election proclaiming Romney a racist because of his Mormon faith.  Post election local authorities have tried to force him to take it down.  It is, after all, one heck of a zoning violation.  The guy won’t do it and is now doing a little jail time.

    The story – nutcase violates zoning laws, ends up in jail due to eccentricity – is not uncommon.  It is usually fodder as a local feature and everybody gets to chortle a bit at the odd and colorful local strange guy.  But for such a story in a small California community to make news in a major New York outlet, well, that is extraordinary.  Why is it happening?  It cannot be a Romney angle really, he is done politically.

    Is it a Mormon thing?  Liberals, especially the same-sex marriage advocate arm thereof, bear a deep and abiding animus towards Mormons for their role in the passage of Prop 8.  So accusing a prominent Mormon of being racist is something liberals are going to latch onto – it seemingly helps make their point that opposition to same-sex marriage is robbing someone of a fundamental right.  I think there is something here – but even that, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decisions does not seem like enough to drive this story onto the national stage.

    Of course there is the “freedom of speech” angle.  But that is long settled law when it comes to zoning issues and local neighborhood covenants.  That angle is usually reserved for the fellow-nutcase sections of the Internet.  That is certainly ot enough to drive this to this someplace like New York Magazine.

    Buried deep in the story is this goody:

    Showers, a surprisingly soft-spoken 60-year-old white Christian Republican…

    And there dear friends is the heart of the matter.  This is intrareligious conflict threatening to explode into “sectarian violence.”  Not to mention it paints religious people as unreasonable and bad neighbors.  That’s what this story is about – it is a chance to paint religious people of several strips as bad.  They quote Showers extensively in his accusations of racism inherent in Mormonism.  And while he, the Evangelical, does so he makes Evangelicals look bad too.  Why, it’s just like the Shi’a/Sunni conflicts in many Islamic nations.

    Any opportunity to paint religion as unreasonable and discriminatory and wrong is the order of the day in the mainstream media.  This unremarkable, ancient history, local story gives them an opportunity so we read about it in the pages of New York magazine.  Showers bona fides as a traditional Christian are not really established – no church affiliation is mentioned, no training, just an assertion.  But that makes little difference in a an age of dying denominations and “spiritual but not religious.”  The quality of the journalism is not the issue, religious intolerance is.

    It is going to get ugly for those of us of faith and we have got to get smart about how to respond.


    Posted in Evangelical Shortcomings, Religious Freedom, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Sometimes You Cannot Split The Baby

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:34 am, June 27th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Yesterday, K-Lo at the Corner, quoted Ross Douthat:

    The future of religious liberty on these issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters — the extent to which they are content with political, legal and cultural victories that leave the traditional view of marriage as a minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society, versus the extent to which they decide to use every possible lever to make traditionalism as radioactive in the America of 2025 as white supremacism or anti-Semitism are today.

    The Supreme Court tried to split the baby yesterday.  The problem in this case, as opposed to when Solomon threatened it, is that the tactic relies on the good will of both sides.  Yes, he knew the natural mother would save the life of her child, but she would also have lost that had the “adoptive”mother not also had the child’s best interest at heart.  For the ploy to arrive at truth, both sides had to have other than self-interest at heart.   Lopez and Douthat are worried that such goodwill does not exist on the pro-gay-marriage side.  After reading the news this morning, I agree.  Consider this from an “alternative” lifestyle outlet:

    A Ventura County man was ordered to pull the plug on his flashing neon anti-Mitt Romney sign in his front yard today or go to jail.

    Steven Showers, who first put up the sign last August in front of his home in Newbury Park, said he intends to comply with the order issued by a Ventura County Superior Court judge. According to the Ventura County Star, Showers has until 5 p.m. today to take down the sign or he’ll be facing up to 45 days in jail.

    Last week, a jury convicted Showers of eight misdemeanor code violations. Showers, 60, represented himself at the trial.

    Showers insists he has a First Amendment right to display the sign, which says “Romney’s Racist Heart Dotcom. Save the GOP.” He installed it back when Romney was still running for president, and refused to remove it even though the GOP candidate lost the election.

    His issue with Romney is that he’s a Mormon. As Showers said to the Ventura County Star last year, “I was stunned to find out that the Mormon religion is a white supremacist, anti-black, racist ideology.”

    That sounds like a take no prisoners attitude to me.

    We’re in trouble.


    Posted in Religious Freedom, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Speaking of Religious Tests…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 02:16 pm, May 17th 2013     &mdash      2 Comments »

    From Chris Moody (HT: Jim Geraghty):

    On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio, that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are “considered educational.”

    “Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3),” reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.”

    Geraghty said, “Today’s hearing on IRS abuses had a lot of “are you kidding me?” moments….”  That is frankly – understatement.  I find myself praying for the patience to let the system work.  That is simply contemptible.  Not to mention utterly chilling.


    Posted in character, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom | 2 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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