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."

  • War and Religion

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:27 am, February 13th 2015     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Our nation, at its best, really is a nation of the people.  We have accomplished things unprecedented in history when this nation has put its mind to it.  The trick for a nation like ours is to build the national will to do that.

    Religion, a force in society separate from government, is one of the ways national will has been built.  Traditionally when the nation set out to do things good and just, religion could be relied upon to promote the goodness and the justice, which was the base upon which the national will could form.  Historically in the United States religious power rested in the Protestant mainlines.  As they have liberalized in recent decades they are no longer useful at this task.  Rising in the void has been Evangelicalism, but it is both so fractured and so ghettoized as to be ineffective in building a base upon which national will can be formed.

    No national endeavor takes full national will like war.

    Two things collided yesterday to make this obvious to me.  One, I saw “American Sniper.”  A great movie.  In that movie, on his first return from a tour in Iraq, Chris Kyle is deeply troubled by the fact that while he has fought hard and has many friends that are fighting and dying, the nation is taking little or no notice.  The war is not predominantly in the news nor widely discussed outside of military circles.  It seems clear to me that the troubles Kyle suffers whenever he returns home are related to the isolation from the general populace that he feels and the lack of a sense of mission that comes with life in America today.  One cannot help but ponder if such is not an important factor in thousands of PTSD cases amongst our returning military.  The isolation and lack of a sense of mission that Kyle experienced both lie in our government’s efforts to wage war without building national will.

    The other thing that collided yesterday was this column from Hugh Hewitt:

    So what’s a Congress to do?

    Use this moment to educate the American public about the enemies we face and the nature of the conflict we are in.

    Convene a Joint Select Committee for the consideration of the president’s request, hold hearings with the very best minds on the ongoing conflict testifying, and then more hearings with witnesses drawn from the very best authorities on war and the Constitution’s requirements regarding how to authorize the necessary and many uses of forces in and over the many places where the conflict is likely to carry –from Syria and Iraq, to Yemen and other parts of the Arab world where Islamist extremism spreads, to the parts of Lebanon where Hezbollah holds sway, to Nigeria and Somalia, and of course to Afghanistan and the ungoverned areas of Pakistan, and –if necessary– to Iran where the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror is pretending to dance with America while working away at its terror network spread through Syria, Lebanon and beyond even as it sprints towards nuclear breakout.

    What Hewitt is calling for here is the use of Congressional hearings to educate the public and build the national will for the war we fight with Islamic extremism and terror.  He is asking the government to step into the void that the church has abandoned.  That is absolutely necessary, but it is frightening in terms of balancing the nation.  While our war with terror and Islamic extremism, is just and good, once the government has appropriated such authority to itself it will not give it back and it could be used to build national will for something unjust and evil.  At least the church, when it exercised such sway, could be counted on to check the goodness and justice of something before it acted.  The government has not such checks.

    One of the reasons Evangelicalism has failed to fill this void in building national will left behind by the Mainlines is becasue of its focus on individual salvation and fulfillment.  These are not bad things of themselves, but unless they are coupled with an examination of and action for the greater good they can produce very bad results.  These unhappy results happen on the individual level as we see in the case of our returning military and they happen on the grandest of scales as we see in the Hewitt piece.

    America has never been a perfect nation – no nation can be because we are, after all, all sinners.  But The United States of America has been, far and away, the best nation history has ever seen.  This is in no small part doe to the role religion has played in forming our national will.  With the church in hurried retreat from that role, the nation stands poised to sacrifice all the good it has accomplished in its history and to experience its demise in shame.  The church can prevent both that demise and that shame if it will but reverse its retreat.  It is time those of us that call on the name of Christ stop worrying about our own salvation and start worrying about the nations.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, Film Reviews, Social/Religious Trends | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    First They Came For The Mormons…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:23 am, January 30th 2015     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Among the ugliest Mormon memes under which Romney has had to suffer is the charge of racism.  This charge is made because the CJCLDS was a bit later than the rest of the Christian church in emerging, officially, from its segregationist/racist past.  We all did it, we all got over it (at different rates), and it is now an artifact, not a current reality.  But in a campaign permeated with considerations of race Romney found himself painted with this entirely inapplicable and invalid brush.  There is not a racist bone in the man’s body, stories about his gardeners notwithstanding.

    From the standpoint of the non-Mormon writer on this blog, one of its chief reasons for the blog to exist is becasue you can bet if it works against Romney, they’ll use against  more mainstream Christian expressions next.  Yesterday, in The Atlantic, reliable lefty Peter Beinart did not disappoint.  Beinart accuses Bobby Jindal of bigotry because he promotes a passive cultural resistance among Christians but faults Muslims for failing to adapt to new cultures when they move to the West.  On first blush playing “semantic gotcha” comparing speeches separated by more than eleven months and thousands of miles is a game unworthy of an intellect as well formed as Beinart’s.  Beinart attempts to validate his claims here:

    Jindal supporters might resist the analogy. Christians, they might argue, don’t kill cartoonists or establish their own separate legal systems. But Jindal’s point in London was that the problems with Muslim immigrants go beyond issues of violence and law. The core danger, he insisted, is their refusal to assimilate into the culture of the countries to which they immigrate. And since Jindal has already declared that American (let alone European) culture is secular, any immigrant who refuses to assimilate into it is, by his definition, a threat.

    Except, of course, for one very pertinent fact – Christian culture is inherently non-violent while Muslim culture, at least its extreme Islamist wing which is a significant portion of Muslim culture generally, is inherently violent.  Issues of violence and law are matter of culture.  But this remains merely semantic.  That said, if we allow mere semantics to control a serious discussion about serious issues in which real people are dying then we have lost all sense of what is and is not important.

    What is plain here when one looks under the semantics is the lefty contention that religion, by virtue of having a clear and defined picture of right and wrong, is inherently bigoted.  In other words, “That worked on Romney, let’s aim broader.”

    We have seen more Mormon attacks on the undeclared candidacy of Romney in the last couple of weeks than we saw the entire last cycle.  And now we are seeing those attacks broaden to candidates of faith generally.  Some of that is due to Romney’s more open approach to his own religion in the build up.  But much of it is due to the obvious, if undeclared, battle that the current administration has fought against religious interests and concerns.  It seems clear, even before the campaign has started, that the free-for-all of a Republican primary season ahead best circle the religious wagons.  If we fight each other on those grounds, the left wins.

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Social/Religious Trends, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Why Do People Want To Change Religion Rather Than Change Religions?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:51 am, December 13th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Last Wednesday I ranted about Ben Carson’s pet newspaper, the Washington Times, carrying a disingenuous Mormon cheap shot that had to be motivated by fear of substance to the Romney 3rd run rumors.  (Note the sourcing on the latest round of rumors – Romney backers.  The vast majority of these stories are placed by people trying to put pressure on Romney to run again; they are not based on anything Romney is saying.  So how informative are they really?)

    Another story line has appeared, this one emerging on the left, that has the same feel to it.  A left wing Mormon blogger noted from Dianne Feinstein’s attempt to total disrupt national security that some of the key people that engaged in the enhanced interrogation program were Mormon.  It has echoed elsewhere in the Mormon blogosphere.  It even made the big time press a bit.  But really I think this story is not about ginning up “Mormon” to dissuade Romney at all – this is about the rather large battle of left v right inside the CJCLDS.

    The Latter Day Saints are hardly the first church to see this battle.  It is over in the Episcopal Church and the liberals have won.  The Presbyterian Church in The United States of America, PC(USA), is in the mop up phase as the right wing congregations are fleeing the denomination as fast that the convoluted bureaucratic process will allow them.  The Methodists seem next up to bat for the final showdown.  Pope Francis seems to have opened the door for the beginning salvos inside Roman Catholicism.  It is interesting to see it in the CJCLDS; however, because the process is seriously compressed.  The protestant churches previously mentioned have been through a liberalization lasting many decades.  If it proceeds in the Roman Catholic church, it’ll last centuries.  This liberalizing process typically begins with a growing acceptance of divorce, moves through the ordination of women to ruling office in the church then to various expressions of “peacemaking” agendas, and advances to the LGBT agenda (with many small steps in between)  which seems to be the final battleground.  The liberal Latter Day Saints seem to want to address all these issues in a very short period of time.

    But unlike in, say, the 1950′s, when moving from Baptist to Methodist to Presbyterian was more like changing decor than moving to a new city, nowadays there is a huge diversity of stands on all these issues spread throughout churches across the land.  Are you gay and feel unwelcome in Church X?  Well, Church Y down the street would certainly welcome you with open arms.  So why do people seem so he%$bent on changing  Church X instead of just going to Church Y?

    There are probably as many motivations as there are people involved in the process, but there is one thing about which you can be certain.  It is testament to the power the church has in forming culture.  If the church were as irrelevant as the atheistic left would have us think this would all be silly little tiffs that we would never read about in the papers.  But this is big news with ramifications for presidential elections.  People are interested in changing Church X becasue they want to change the nation as a whole and as long as Church X is holding out they have failed in their mission.

    It is irritating that so many churches seem to cower under the assault.  The assault is testament to the power the church has to shape things and yet rather than try to shape things, the church usually tries “not to offend.”  (Can anyone say “peacemaking agenda?”)  The church is a potent force in society, which ripples out into everything from music videos to presidential elections.  It is time we acted like it.

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

    Very Confused Thinking In Opposition to Traditional Marriage

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:25 am, November 19th 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Religion Dispatches is a web site we have monitored regularly at this web site since its inception.  It has a very liberal agenda and indiscriminately attacks religion in pursuit of that agenda.  It arose after Prop 8 in California.  While it rarely attacked Romney directly, it has been after Mormonism tooth and toenail since its founding.

    A piece appeared there today, that has echoed a bit, that I find stunning.  Using the recent admission by the CJCLDS that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy as a springboard for the discussion, the gang at RD “reveals” that polygamy is still an active part of Mormon theology through the doctrine of celestial marriage.  Therefore, of course, Mormons should be excluded from any serious discussion on marriage – especially the conference that is happening at the Vatican this week, which has featured the likes of Rick Warren and Russell Moore.

    That the Mormon concept of celestial marriage allows for polygamy in the hereafter is not news.  Anybody that takes more than a minute or two to learn about Mormon teaching will know this.  And what, exactly, does what a particular religion believes happens to marriage in the hereafter have to do with a discussion of marriage in the here-and-now?  Many of the  Christian expressions that are participating in the conference do not believe marriage exists at all in the hereafter.  Does that disqualify them from discussing marriage in the here-and-now as well?  The discussion simply is not about eternity, it is about this life and this place and the marriages that are present in it.

    There is one interesting tidbit from the discussion.  It seems clear that they intend to avoid the slippery slope of same-sex marriage leading to polygamy and bestiality and other aberrant forms of marriage by relying on the old tried and true “polygamy hurts women while same-sex marriage produces no harm.”  That is so ignorant of history as to not even be funny.  It must be remembered that historically, marriage was a woman’s means of obtaining property, wealth, standing and security in a society.  Even in our egalitarian age there is no doubt that a successful marriage produces greater economic stability than the alternatives.  Polygamy arose in the Old Testament as a means of providing security to women that otherwise were without prospects.  Polygamy as traditionally practiced in the Old Testament was far from an act of oppression and was instead an act of grace and mercy.

    But then if ones concept of marriage would permit same-sex marriage, this glaring misunderstanding  of historical polygamy is not surprising.  Theirs is a view of marriage based solely on the legitimization of sexual activity, not in the concepts of bonding, covenant, reproduction, or economic activity.

    So let me sum up their argument.  A church that used to, but no longer, practice polygamy (which includes them all by the way) has no standing to discuss same-sex marriage because they still think plural marriage exists in heaven.   That’s not an argument, that’s attempting to play “peek-a-boo” with a ten-year-old.  It’s just not working.  As the aforementioned peek-a-boo game reveals only how little the adult understands of a ten-year-old, this discussion reveals how little these particular proponents of same-sex marriage understand about serious, committed traditional marriage.

    Don’t you think you should fully understand something before you attempt to change it completely?

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    Posted in News Media Bias, Same-sex marriage, Social/Religious Trends | 1 Comment » | 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

    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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