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."

  • Battles and Wars

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:07 am, August 4th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    A recent article in Roll Call a couple of weeks ago points out that that a lot of former megachurch staff members seem to be winning the low-turnout elections this summer:

    Their victories come as public opinion has shifted dramatically on some social issues, notably same-sex marriage, denounced by most religious conservatives. The rise of the tea party and libertarian factions in the Republican Party has also diluted the influence of social conservative activists in the GOP.

    But in the case of these faith-figures-turned-pols, the candidates’ close relationships to their churches played a factor — perhaps the deciding one — in their victories.

    “People generally like their pastor, and in politics it’s always good to be liked by voters,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon.

    This cycle’s successful religious leaders include Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., who recently won a primary in the special election to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Coburn.

    They cite organizational skill as the primary reason fort this trend:

    From a political perspective, operatives cite organizational abilities as a religious leader’s No. 1 strength in campaigns. In low-turnout summer contests, that often leads to success.

    “Churches do a good job of mobilizing and getting their people out because they’re organized, there’s phone trees, there’s a registry, and they certainly use that to get the word out,” said GOP ad maker Casey Phillips.

    Makes good deal of sense to me.  We have discussed a lot on this blog that the diverse and fragmentary nature of Evangelicalism has blunted its political effectiveness.  But there is an issue that flows from this.  The church is not an inherently political organization.  A megachurch may be well organized for political action, but is it well organized for doing what the church is supposed to do?

    I do not want to attempt to answer that in this post, but I do think it is worthy of discussion.  Too many churches automatically think bigger is better without thinking about why and how they get bigger.  What do you think?

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    Progress?!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, July 15th 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Regular readers know that I am Presbyterian.  Most do not know, nor care really, that I am Presbyterian Church in the United States of America – PC(USA).  There are many Presbyterian denominations in the US and the world.  PC(USA) is the largest in the United States.  It is also the most liberal.  At its last General Assembly, the highest governing body in the church, it voted, among other things, to divest from Israel for the sake of peace and to allow pastors moved by conscience to perform same-sex marriages.

    I find myself in the rather unusual position of having the church I was raised in and that inculcated me with my sexual mores calling me a bigot because I believe homosexual practice is outside of God’s will.  People of many different faiths read this blog.  One thing we all share is the idea that what is good, typically defined by divine order, is static, not subject to whim, fashion, or even time.  It is strange indeed to have gone from faithful adherent to bigoted old fart without ever changing my view.  It is also rather unusual when I have visited Israel and been under rocket fire from the Gaza to be told by people that have never left the Midwestern United States that I have no understanding of peace and war and the situation in the Middle East.   It is as if reality is warping around me.

    People are deriding the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints for standing firm on things that have been a part of it from the beginning:

    The true legacy of the Mormon Moment might just be that the church was given the chance that many religious institutions desperately need to stay relevant in the 21st century: the opportunity to open itself to criticism and inquiry. The church has chosen not to. And it has killed its own moment by doing so.

    Note that phrase “stay relevant,” we will return to it momentarily.

    Dennis Prager has written of how upside down the anti-Israeli view has become in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas playing out in the Gaza region:

    And what is the primary concern of the United Nations, nearly all the world’s media, and nearly all the world’s intellectuals? That Entity B, while hundreds of missiles are launched at its most populated cities, not kill any of the civilians among whom Entity A’s leaders hide.

    The moral gulf between Israel, our Entity B, and Hamas, our Entity A, is as clear and as great as the one that existed between the Allies and Nazi Germany. It is one of the few instances in today’s world when the Nazi analogy is accurate.

    It is clear that while free and democratic countries such as those in Western Europe value the freedoms of speech, assembly, and press for themselves, the absence of these freedoms among Israel’s enemies means nothing to the Europeans in morally assessing the Middle East conflict.

    The news media, too, have no moral focus. They are preoccupied with Gazans who have died, and with the disparity between the number of Gazans killed and the number of Israelis killed — as if that is morally dispositive. Imagine that during World War II, the Western press had converged on German hospitals and apartment buildings and repeatedly announced the huge disparity between German civilian deaths and British civilian deaths. More than 10 times the number of German civilians were killed as were British — but did that have anything at all to do with the morality of the British war against Germany?

    There are voices pointing out that  sometimes we have to “go against the grain:”

    So if there is one thing we can learn from Glenn Beck (and subsequently Jesus) it is that we must be willing to go against the grain to stand for what we know to be right, even if it costs our job, wealth, power, position, or privilege. We must be willing to stick our necks out and seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. If we do, God will take care of everything else.

    Note that Beck is going against a conservative grain here (humanitarian aid to illegal immigrant children), not a liberal one.  Which raises some interesting points.

    One is that Mormons seem to be standing firm more than others.  And yet we were worried about Romney’s Mormon faith?!  I am sorry, there is a lot of sour grapes in that – which is unbecoming, but gosh darn it – I told you so.

    The second interesting point is that religious values and political values do not always align, on either side of the political spectrum.  Beck is absolutely right on this one – as I wrote last week.  The conservative orthodoxy regarding illegal immigration ignores the humanitarian disaster we are confronted with.  Politically, governmentally, we cannot take them into the nation – on that I agree.  But churches, as separate entities, should be offering all the humanitarian aid they can.  To do less only harms the reputation of religious folks.  It makes us look like the beasts the left wants to claim we are.

    Which brings me to my third point.  It is one we have made here over and over and over again.  Democracy can only work with a good and moral populace.  It is the job of the church to help people find that goodness and morality.  Absent divinity, reality can indeed warp.   Some churches seem to be abandoning divinity, the left certainly has.  The question is not relevancy, it is right.  Politics is an expression, not a source.

    Before we can get our politics correct we have to return to our source.

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    A VERY SPECIAL EVENT FOR OUR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA READERS!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:16 am, February 18th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Come hear “blogfather” Hugh Hewitt speak on his latest book ” The Happiest Life” at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church tomorrow, Feb 19 at 7PM.  Details:

    hugh-hewitt-copy

    2902 Montrose Avenue

    La Crescenta, CA 91214

    (818) 249-6137

    Book signing to follow.  A few books available for sale – cash and check only.  I’ll be there too and hope to meet you.

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    Worth Remembering…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:23 pm, January 21st 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Victor Davis Hanson -

    I am not engaging in pop counterfactual history, as much as reminding us of how thin the thread of civilization sometimes hangs, both in its beginning and full maturity. Something analogous is happening currently in the 21st-century West. But the old alarmist scenarios — a nuclear exchange, global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps, a new lethal AIDS-like virus — should not be our worry.

    Rather our way of life is changing not with a bang, but with a whimper, insidiously and self-inflicted, rather than abruptly and from foreign stimuli. Most of the problem is cultural.

    Church/Religion is the leading agent to affect culture, save for the fact we have abandoned that role.  It is time we take it back.

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    Quote Of The Week

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:46 am, January 14th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    from “Socrates Rises With Christ” in Intercollegiate Review:

    Is there any way to bring political philosophy and revelation, Athens and Jerusalem, into a coherent, non-contradictory relation to each other without undermining the integrity of either? The issue is ancient no less than medieval and modern. We need a philosophy that only “searches” for wisdom but did not constitute it. We need a revelation that is open to reason, not based solely on the voluntarist proposition that each existing thing could be otherwise. To consider this relationship, we presuppose that both political philosophy and revelation talk of intelligible things.

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    As Apologies Go….

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:05 am, January 5th 2014     &mdash      1 Comment »

    On New Year’s Eve, I said this about the incidences on Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC:

    Sarah Palin has this one absolutely right – Despicable.  to that I will add – Contemptible – apologies not withstanding.

    At that juncture, Harris-Perry had issued a apology on Twitter “Without reservation or qualification.”

    She has returned to the air this weekend and made further, deep and heartfelt apologies. (See the video.)  As on-air apologies from the left go, this one is by far the least perfunctory and most meaning filled I have encountered.  Harris-Perry is clearly disturbed by what happened and is clearly seeking to right a deep and hurtful wrong.

    It leaves us in a difficult position.  The apology is great as far as it goes.  I do not doubt the sincerity with which it is offered nor the contrition which underlies it.  But here is the thing about confession/apology – sometimes we confess and apologize for lesser crimes in order to redirect focus from the larger crimes.  Usually we do that to avoid facing our own deep demons, not just to deceive those around us – I believe that to be the case here.

    Note Harris-Perry’s focus on the adopted child.  It is clear Harris-Perry relates to the child, has empathy for the child and truly regrets any harm she has caused the child in the conduct of her show.  This is all right and good.

    But what went on on her show the prior weekend, even in the name of humor, was offensive to far more than just that beautiful baby.  Also called into question was the ability of the Romney extended family to properly love and care for that child.  If you know the Romney’s in even the slightest, you would know that nothing could be further from the truth.  It is deeply, deeply offensive the presume that because they are white Mormons, the Romney clan is somehow unable or ill-equipped to care for or parent an African-American child.  Harris-Perry mentions this issue not at all.  She offers no apology to anyone in the Romney extended family.

    Secondly, all of what went on on that show as steeped in racism.  As Harris-Perry explains at length, this was supposed to be a comedic look at interesting pictures from the year just past.  To put up that picture under those circumstances is to imply that whites and blacks generally are somehow incompatible – that there is an absurdity to such a mixture in a family setting.  That implication is purely, unabashedly racist.  Racism is harmful not just to the individuals involved, but to our society as a whole.  Harris-Perry’s apology makes no mention of her own ingrained racial attitudes, nor those of her producers and/or staff.  She barely mentions race in her apology, and when she does it is only in the context of harm to the child.  There is nothing to indicate a rethink on Harris-Perry’s part about the role of race in our society.

    I could go on like this for a while, but it is not my intent to slight Harris-Perry’s apology as far as it goes.  I just want to be clear that in accepting the apology, and it is indeed worthy of acceptance, many problems still remain.  Many underlying issues still need to be addressed.  This incident is past, but the problems that created it are far, far from over.  Those problems remain, as I said originally, contemptible.

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