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."

  • 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.

    Share

    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

    The Problematic Spin

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 12:15 pm, January 28th 2015     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Yesterday, I tweeted out a WaPo piece that rang very much like the NYT piece we dealt with Monday.  That’s why I tweeted it with a snide comment rather than take the effort to dig through its inanity.   But today Chris Cillizza, in an obvious bit of intra-brand cross promotion, uses it as a springboard to make some points that I think need analysis:

    Mitt Romney still has a Mormon problem

    Cillizza digs up the usually cited stats and figures from ’08 and ’12 to make his case.  And it is a fine case indeed.  I would tend to agree that the issue this blog has focused on since ’06 will be as real in the cycle, if Romney gets in, as it has been since Robert Novak publicly acknowledged in back in ’06.  But there are two important things to note from the Cillizza piece.

    Start with this paragraph:

    Four years later, even as Romney was on his way to becoming the nominee, that skepticism among evangelicals was readily apparent. Romney lost every primary in 2012 in which exit polls found evangelical Christians comprised a majority of voters. In South Carolina, evangelicals were the decisive vote; they went for former House speaker Newt Gingrich by 22 points over Romney.  Across all primary contests in 2012, Romney did 13 percentage points worse among evangelical Christians than non-evangelicals. (Is it possible that evangelicals were reacting to something other than Romney’s Mormon faith when they voted for other candidates? Sure. But, it seems very unlikely.)

    What does that say about Evangelicals?  Looks to me like it says they are pretty close-minded.  We are currently in the midst of a cultural war over marriage in which the accusation of bigotry is being thrown at us with a particular vigor.  These kinds of statistics do not help us counter that accusation.  Sometimes we truly are our own worst enemy.

    And speaking of “own worst enemy” let’s turn to the second point, which comes from this paragraph in the Cillizza piece:

    I get Romney’s decision.  I was one of the people who thought he should talk more about his faith in the 2012 general election campaign as a way to counter the perception being pushed by the Obama campaign that he was a flip-flopping plutocrat with no core beliefs. His Mormon faith has always been central to Romney’s private persona so if the goal is to run the “real Romney” this time, then it’s the right move.

    Does “real Romney” trouble you as much as it troubles me?  The underlying WaPo piece contained this similar gem:

    “He feels very at home here,” said John Miller, a close friend in Utah who has been talking with Romney throughout his recent deliberations. “This is a very prayerful thing. . . . In the end, it’s really a decision between he and Ann and their belief system, their God. That’s the authentic Mitt.”

    “Authentic Mitt” sounds a lot like “real Romney.”  Lying at the bottom of most Evangelical objections to Mormons is a distrust.  They feel like the fact that Mormons redefine a lot of commonly used theological terms is somehow disingenuous.  (it’s a thing that goes on in theology discussion all the time, but when it involves Mormons….)  Remember the heinous “Mormons lie” meme from 2008?  Terms like “real Romney” and “authentic Mitt” do nothing but feed that suspicion.  They imply that in the last two cycles Romney was being disingenuous about himself, his policies, his inspirations and his intentions – just like the Evangelicals that created the statistics Cillizza cites suspect Mormons do.

    Two election cycles now have shown that these Evangelicals may not be able to win elections, but they sure can make sure those they distrust do not win either.

    It is smart for Romney to be more upfront about his faith this cycle if he indeed runs.  But he has got to find a better way to do it.  If he does not this “authentic” and “real” stuff is going to make “47%” look like a walk in the park.  Romney’s political strategy vis-a-vis his faith has to change this time, but Romney himself cannot.

    Share

    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, 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.

    Share

    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

    President Hardhead or Cultural Portent?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:32 am, November 7th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The punditry in reaction to the presidents reaction to Tuesday seems to be pretty unanimous.  The Washington Examiner says, “It’s still Obama’s way or the highway.”  Howard Kurtz surveys the pundits and writes, “Still, the media consensus was that the president had blown it.“  Leave it to Peggy Noonan to quote Chris Matthews:

    This is not just poor strategy, it seems to me to be mildly delusional. Chris Matthews erupted on MSNBC: “There’s something in this guy that just plays to his constituency and acts like there’s no other world out there!”

    One must ask in the wake of this utter repudiation how the man got reelected.  We know how he got elected, he lied.  But his character was obvious even before his reelection (remember “I won”?) though less blatantly so than the last two years.  His crack about the two-thirds that did not vote reveals much not only about his character, but about the nation.  His much vaunted GOTV effort was very much cult-of-personality based and definitely attracted the low information types.  And that, frankly, is what scares me.

    Many of the low information types also reflect a personality type that is so self righteously self-absorbed that they rise to the level of “mildly delusional.”  Obama is, in more ways than I really want to contemplate, representative of his core constituency.  “I do not care what the facts are, I want (am entitled to,  should have)….”  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced this sentiment in so many big and small ways in my daily life of late, that with a president that loudly proclaims it I must conclude what I am experiencing is more than purely anecdotal – it is a serious societal trend.

    It’s a recipe for chaos.  From the very small things (barging in line, for example) to the very large (Obamacare being Exhibit A) our society cannot survive if everyone thinks the way they see things is the only way, and their desires are the only desires that matter.  Anyone with any Christian insight should have alarm bells ringing right now; Christian thought being full of everything from wisdom sayings, to admonishments, to outright commands to “regard one another as more important than yourselves.”  That being true, our nations troubles run much deeper than politics.

    This election tells us that the nation clearly wants something different than what it is getting, but an election will not fix it.  Yes it may fix some of the big things but until the little things get fixed, this ugly, unsurvivable viewpoint will lie there, just below the surface waiting once again to assert itself in large and unhappy ways.  It takes more than politics to fix this.

    Education and religion are the two great cultural shaping institutions in our society.  They affect the little things in ways that politics just cannot address.  They cannot be turned as quickly as politics.  It takes far more energy, effort and commitment to fix our educational and religious institutions than it does our political institutions.

    We should enjoy the hard fought victory from Tuesday night through the weekend.  But come Monday there is much to be done.

    Share

    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Governance, Identity Politics, Political Strategy, Understanding Religion | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    “Obamacare Thinking” and the Ebola Crisis

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:36 am, October 17th 2014     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    My father, a CPA and an attorney, used to tell me, over and over and over again, “You get what you measure.”  This is an accounting adage that refers to the fact that the company that focuses on gross sales may get huge gross sales, and yet no profit.  If a company focuses on profit, they may make them, but at the expense of growth.  You get what you measure.

    I recently spent a good deal of time in an airport restaurant surrounded by doctors returning home from a  convention of some sort.  One thought struck me as I listened to their conversation – “These are not professionals.”  When I was a child physician and attorney were considered the highest of professions.  And yet these conversations were not learned men discussing the limits of knowledge in their field and how to advance it.  They were not discussing how to save more lives or invent new techniques.  They were discussing insurance coding and receivables timing.  They were discussing procedures for insurance filing and how to maximize payment.  These were clerks, not professionals.  They were not exercising judgement based on a great reserves of knowledge and expertise, they were trying to figure out their place in a vast bureaucracy.

    Physicians are no longer professionals, they are ordinary labor in an immense third-party payer system of which Obamacare represents the acme of current evolution.  This system and thinking did not start with Obamacare, but it certainly represents the pinnacle of such an approach in the United States.

    Think about the much discussed second nurse.  Clearly her professional judgement thought it might not be a good idea to get on an airplane, or else she would not have called.  But trained and paid by the bureaucrats, when they told her it was OK to fly, she flew.  The narrative around the Ebola crisis is not one of the valiant professional seeking to control virulent disease, rather it is one of protocols, procedures, and systems.  It is the narrative of a bureaucracy, not a profession.  It is the narrative of how Obamacare handles a health crisis, not how professionals would.

    Obamacare has set the measurement for medicine – procedures, codes and protocols, and that is what we have gotten.  It currently appears to be failing us.

    Lest the reader think I have left the religious roots of this blog in the dirt, there is a religious tie-in.  Christianity represented something quite unique from Judaism.  The Judaism of Christ’s time was a system of rules, procedures and protocols to achieve goodness.  Christ came and preached a message that goodness cannot be achieved merely by following the rules, but that real fundamental change in a person has to happen for the rules to even have a chance.  How that change happens is supernatural and too theological for this blog, but the idea is remarkably parallel to the difference between labor fitting into a system and a professional.  Labor tries to follow rules and procedure; a professional uses his or her judgement which has been developed through education and experience.

    Leaving faith behind as our nation “advances” is having consequences far beyond simple moral decline.  Absent the predominant Christian thought that founded the nation, we no longer think in terms of individuals reaching their highest potential, we think of the rules and procedures for each individual to achieve their place.   In this case, because we have turned medical professionals, everyone really, into mere labor there are simply too many moving parts for the system to respond with the speed it needs to in a crisis like this.

    You want someone to blame for the Ebola crisis?  Blame modern areligious thought and the Obamacare it has wrought.

    Share

    Posted in character, Culture Wars, Understanding Religion | 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.

    Share

    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

    « Previous« How long has it been since we heard thoughts like these from a national Democrat?  |  Next Page »The Left Is Trying To Play Us! »