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."

  • Finding Gratitude This Thanksgiving

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:02 am, November 26th 2013     &mdash      1 Comment »

    I cannot find anyone who thinks the deal with Iran concluded over the weekend does anything other than brings the world closer to nuclear war.  Honestly the consensus is overwhelming, the only debate is in how bad the deal really is.

    Abounding are comparisons to Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich deal with Hitler.  A deal that Chamberlain said achieved “peace for our time,” when all it really did was pave the way for Hitler’s takeover of Czechoslovakia.  The comparisons are apt.

    Bret Stephens points out this morning that this deal is much worse than Munich.

    Consider: Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.

    That certainly jives with my understanding of the events of that time and now.  But there is one difference Stephens does not discuss that I find truly terrifying.  When World War Two broke out in the wake of Munich, Chamberlain had enough common sense to appoint Winston Churchill as the First Lord of the Admiralty.  When, mere months later, Chamberlain’s inability to lead the nation in a war was boldly demonstrated he resigned in the wake of a no confidence vote and Churchill became Prime Minister.

    My concern is that as the crisis just worsened reaches its apex I do not think this administration has enough common sense to make the appropriate changes in its composition to change the tide.  Nor would the resignation of the President (which the ego of the current President would never grant) greatly improve matters, our succession rules to the office being what they are.

    It is one of those times when I am most grateful to have faith to rely upon.  If you read this blog you may express your faith in a quite a different way than I do.   But I bet we share this gratitude.  We find it much more difficult to change the tide of events than even the British did in the late 1930′s.  But we, because of our faith, have another place to turn to try and shift the tide.

    This is what I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

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    Charity

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:00 am, September 24th 2012     &mdash      5 Comments »

    Romney released his latest tax returns over the weekend.  The picture that emerged is that Romney is extraordinarily charitable:

    So, to recap: Mitt Romney has, in the past two years, paid almost $5 million in taxes while giving away $7 million. And, as he said, he has paid the taxes he was supposed to pay according to the laws of the United States, which is all that is required — legally, morally and practically — of anyone.

    If you’ve been reading my columns for the past couple of years, you know I’m perfectly capable of being critical of Romney. I did so the other day, and radio host Mark Levin called me a “trash-mouther” who was “giving aid and comfort to Obama.”

    But the release of these tax records leaves no doubt about one thing: Mitt Romney is an extraordinarily, remarkably, astonishingly generous man. A good man. Maybe even a great man.

    And that Obama is just figuring the whole charity thing out:

    Mr. Obama and wife Michelle gave $172,130, or roughly 21.8% of their income, to charity in 2011, and about 14.2% in 2010. That was up from 5.9% in 2009. The Obamas gave between 4.7% and 6.5% of their income to charity between 2005 and 2008. The Obamas’ income shrank in 2011, to about $790,000, compared to earlier years, helping to boost their percentage.

    You can draw your own conclusions about the causation of the percentage changes for the Obama’s, but those dates…

    Charity gives insight to character.  The more charitable one is with their money, the more charitable one is likely to be with their service, including service in the highest office in the land.  Some people seek the presidency because of what it says about them personally, others seek it because they choose to work towards making the nation a better place.  Of course, no one is at either of those extremes totally, but I’ll let you figure out where the two current candidates sit relative to each other one that spectrum.

    Character also matters because our nation runs on truth, it cannot function on lies.  While con men and scofflaws lie purposely to deceive and profit at the expense of others, most people lie, and we all do sometimes, to escape culpability or to avoid some terribly unflattering self-realization.  Often these two reasons are basically the same.  But even this less purposeful motivation is not charitable.  Others end up receiving the blame, or they end up suffering our lesser developed personalities that would greatly benefit from a bit of self-realization.  And sometimes the nation suffers – consider this piece from Mark Steyn:

    On the latter point, after a week and a half of peddling an utterly false narrative of what happened in Libya, the United States government is apparently beginning to discern that there are limits to what even Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice can say with a straight face. The official line — that the slaughter of American officials was some sort of improvised movie review that got a little out of hand — is now in the process of modification to something bearing a less patently absurd relationship to what actually happened. That should not make any more forgivable the grotesque damage that the administration has done to the bedrock principle of civilized society: freedom of speech.

    Steyn then goes on, as only Steyn can, to outline in many ways how this administration has severely damaged the First Amendment, and they are numerous.

    Character matters.  One other illustration, consider the cases on Ralph Reed and Bryan Fischer.  Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition, is enjoying a political revival, largely on Mitt Romney’s coattails, as the NYT piece linked describes.  Fischer, on the other hand, has been one of the most consistent anti-Mormon jerks on the road to this point.  Fischer may very well be the reason Romney did not prevail in Iowa this cycle.  With as few votes as split Romney and Santorum, a radio guy really could make the difference.  Sure, this latest piece just linked by Fischer attempts to carve out space to vote for Romney for his rabid anti-Mormon followers (and himself no doubt) but it is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    Which brings me to an AP piece headlined:

    Amid GOP unease, Romney turns eye to swing states

    I was starting to dismiss that as another MSM attempt to rob the Romney campaign of momentum, but then something clicked.  Is there lingering “unease” from the primary?  Is Fischer’s “hold your nose and vote” approach more widely spread than I thought and could that be the reason Romney has not blown this thing wide open already?  Maybe it is not all about religion – there was also the whole “not conservative enough” thing which was religion code for some, but was also just concern in others.

    Which brings me back to charity.  Would it be charitable? – Would it be of good character to allow four more years of Obama and his damage to our nation’s standing and our constitution?  I don’t think so!

    It is time to put away your personal concerns, your worries about RINO, theology, or whatever else may be sitting in the back of your mind causing you to hesitate.  If you are indeed a charitable person, and I believe most of us are, then we simply cannot afford four more years of this.  Your hesitation is what fuels the MSM  attempts to establish the narrative that Romney’s support is weak.  Momentum matters headed into this final month.  Hesitating now, giving fuel to that false MSM fire is an uncharitable act, for it serves to aid the uncharitable.

    No one contends that Mitt Romney will lead the nation to perfection – but he will assuredly point us in the right direction – something Obama is NOT doing.  That is, in the current circumstance, cause for enthusiasm, not prevarication.  It is simply a matter of service and charity.

    POSTSCRIPT (a couple of hours after initial publication)

    The misunderstandings of those not of faith, regarding matters of faith is astonishing.  MSNBC published this morning on the “economics of pilgrimage.“  First heard about this when I read “Canterbury Tales” in high school.  I have since been to Canterbury, not to mention many other places of religious pilgrimage, most notable, Jerusalem.  Though I would never claim to have been on a pilgrimage myself.  (Though I will say the experience in Jerusalem was extraordinary on so many levels.)  Such mass movements of people will of necessity have an economic impact, but that does not mean they are economically motivated.

    Then there were two articles challenging the generosity of Mitt Romney as we described above.  Both have the same essential argument – Romney is not THAT generous because after all, the tithe is not progressive.  One was by Ben Adler at The Nation, and the other by Conor Freidersdorf at The Atlantic.

    Before I dive into this too much, I want to note that Freidersdorf has hit the map this cycle by using a relatively large platform, The Atlantic, to attack big name right wing pundits, in this case Jon Podhoretz, essentially forcing them to respond to him which results in Freidersdrof garnering far more traffic than his writing actually merits.  His approach seems to be to parasitically suck life blood from the right wing punditry.  Frankly, that’s what second and third level bloggers do, not professional journalists.  But that is an aside.

    What is amazing to me about all three of these pieces are that they measure an essentially spiritual exercise in economic terms.  Charity is about giving, not about the benefit to the recipient of the gift.  The Freiderdorf piece comes dangerously close to paralleling Christ’s “parable of the widow’s mite” (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4) but as is typical for most such scriptural allusion, he fails to take into account the context of the parable.  I do not want to bog down in hermeneutics here – but one cannot fully understand the parable while reading only four verses – something Freidersdorf has clearly done.

    The point of all this is to say that the left clearly misunderstands the religious impulse and the behavior it generates in those that follow it.  They seemingly have no understanding of the submission of worship or the sacrifice of charity and the character that results from such – they seem concerned only with the flow of dollars, what those dollars can buy them or the ones they have decided are worthy.  There is something remarkably sad about measuring the charity and devotion of others in such crass terms.  I cannot bring myself to excoriate them as they clearly deserve politically.  I can only pray for them as such articles demonstrate something much deeper than politics.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Doctrinal Obedience, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom, Violence | 5 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    The Hits Just Keep On Coming

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:43 pm, September 14th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Well, what have we learned to day?  We have learned that the riots/American embassy attacks are spreading throughout the Islamic world – and people, American people, are dying.  We have learned that what occurred in Libya was definitely an attack – designed apparently to gather intelligence and murder people, at best the riots were diversionary.  We have learned that while a bit more restrained, the problems have spread outside of the Islamic world.  Not an easy position for our nation – formulating a response is not straightforward.  So what is the president doing to deal with it?  Well, according to the White House schedule, nothing save for really,  He did receive the remains of our dead from Libya and I suppose those few hours towards the end of the day he could do something, but do we see and intelligence briefing or options meeting with the Joint Chiefs on that 9/14 calendar anywhere?  I can’t find it.

    But then apparently he does not need such meetings because:

    Vietor’s reply is quite revealing. It is apparently a point of pride in the White House that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him.” In the eyes of this administration, it is a virtue that the president does not meet every day with senior intelligence officials. This president, you see, does not need briefers. He can forgo his daily intelligence meeting because he is, in Vietor’s words, “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.”

    Let’s put a bookmark there for a moment, shall we?

    What have we learned about Mitt Romney today?  Well, we’ve learned that the press thinks he’s a doofus, but there is no real shock there.  Well, I learned that Mitt Romney is a man of deep character and charity – but then that is no surprise either.  He is a guy that solves problems, not ignores them.  (Please invest the time necessary to consume that entire last link – it’s important.)

    The contrast in our candidates could not be sharper.  I find myself wondering why.  We have talked about character here before.  But what we have seen this week is much deeper than anything we have discussed before.  Forget policy for a minute.  Compare the charity of Romney described above with the coldness of Obama in speech and action since these events have started to unfold.  There is a very real human cost going on here – people who serve our nation and our president.  It is a measure of a person’s character as to how much compassion they feel in a circumstance like this and I have seen none from the president, nor the press that is so busy attempting to bolster him.

    Something has occurred to me as I have watched the press struggle so mightily to make lemonade out this pile of dung, and as I read of Obama staffers saying things like “the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.”  There is more than support or even admiration for Obama.  There is a steadfast refusal to see the facts for what they are.  There appears to be an effort to shape the world to fit their guy rather than have their guy cope with the world.  That’s certainly delusional, and perhaps even worshipful.  And that is really troubling.

    I am currently reading the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s magnificent biography of LBJ.  This volume marks the transition from Kennedy to Johnson in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.  The cult like status that Kennedy has attained in the American mythos is due to the fact that those closest to him were not merely devoted, but worshipful.  To read of the reactions of some to the assassination is disturbing.  These are not people that lost a leader, a boss, or a friend – these are people that lost a cult leader.  As the presidency of Barack Obama falls apart before our very eyes, and the eyes of the world, I am getting the same vibe.

    I wonder about the character of a man that accepts such adulation.  It seems to me that a man of good character seeks the best for those that support him, not their worship.  A man of good character seeks to help his supporters grow and develop, not stunt that growth and development by keeping them in thrall.

    We have said many times here that only religion can develop character of the goodness and depth that we need in our president at the moment.  One of the reasons I am willing to accept Mormonism into the community of great American religions and even into the family of Christianity, if heterodox, is because of the character that has developed in many of the adherents to Mormonism that I know.   That simply does not happen unless God is at work in that community somehow.

    It is a grim time right now – truly, truly troubling.  The times serve to illustrate character of the men currently seeking the presidency.  One is very well illustrated, the other seem to need a better artist.

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    THIS? Is How Obama Intends To Win The Election

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:42 pm, September 13th 2012     &mdash      5 Comments »

    Two things have become utterly transparent this week

    1. The foreign policy ineptitude – to the point of endangering the lives of non-combatant American citizens – of the current administration.
    2. The willingness of the mainstream media to prop up that ineptitude.

    I was talking to a friend today who was very worked up about the embassy attacks happening throughout the Middle East.  My friend’s comments were, (paraphrasing to protect the innocent) “Why the ‘heck’ are we sitting on our hands?! – You do not ‘mess’ with the United States like this!”  I remembered the words of George Bush standing in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, “I hear you, the rest of the world hears you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”  What is happening now differs only in location and magnitude from what happened then – “insulting movie” not withstanding.  (If I had a dime for every time I have been insulted in my life, especially about my faith, Warren Buffet would no longer be the richest man in America.)

    Americans know that.  There are a lot of things Americans are inattentive about.  There are some things Americans allow themselves to be fooled about.  But Americans will not be messed with in this fashion, nor will they stand by while a president allows them to be messed with.  Like it or not, this is a campaign issue and Barack Obama and his campaign better get very serious very fast or his days in the White House are numbered.

    It now appears the United States Department of State, that’s a department in the Executive Branch run by the president, did not allow the Marines guarding the embassy in Cairo to carry live ammunition.  They can talk about local control and “not vetted by Washington” and a million other excuses all they want – Barack Obama is in charge so he owns these problems and failures.  Who made decisions about “apologies” and ammunition is not the issue.  As the guy in charge it is up to Obama to delegate his authority to people that will make good decisions when they have to do so – That’s leadership.  (So is knowing the diplomatic status of the major players on the world stage at the moment.)  This is not an “epic fail,” this is a extraordinary, tragic, colossal fail on Barack Obama’s part and the American people know it.

    So, what is the campaign doing to pull its candidate out of the hole?  Well, Obama claims there is a Biblical mandate to send a couple billion in foreign aid to Egypt:

    In a video posted Sept. 10 on the “Catholics for Obama” page on his campaign website, President Barack Obama says that one of the reasons he supports foreign aid is because he is answering the biblical call “to care for the least of these.”

    “When I decide to stand up for foreign aid, it’s not just about strengthening alliances or promoting democratic values, it’s also about the Biblical call to care for the least of these, for the poor for those at the margins of our society,” Obama says on the video.

    OK, he doesn’t mention Egypt explicitly but they are a major recipient of our aid.  And Mr. President, could you please tell me where in the Bible it says to TAKE money from someone  to use to “care for the least of these?”  I think that command is telling me what to do with MY money – not telling YOU what to do with my money.  Not a winning point there Mr. Obama.

    Next up – Bill Clinton is out ringing the Mormon bell:

    Clinton also recalled a moment from his youth in Arkansas being approached by two or three Mormon missionaries in Hot Springs, where they explained the Mormon view.

    Clinton spoke highly of their effort, recounting the different degrees of heaven as was explained to him 50 years ago, describing it as a pyramid with many levels that put Hitler and Stalin at the very bottom, faithful Mormons on top, and everyone else in between.

    Clinton, a Baptist, said the sticking point for him was leaving his friends and family out of the top level of heaven.

    “I didn’t want to leave all these other people behind,” he said.

    Bill, I got news for you – Baptists don’t put Stalin and Hitler in the lowest levels of heaven – they send them to the seventh level of hell.  And as for your friends and family? – I’m betting a few of them are going to find themselves someplace other than where you imagine yourself.  Honestly, I would expect Slick Willie to be a little more, well, slick, at doing the whole Mormon mention thing.

    So, at this point the Obama campaign has two strikes against it in its efforts to dig its candidate out of the deepest hole an incumbent has ever found himself in.  So, Babe Ruth-like they have stepped up to the plate, called there shot, and decided to run on…alcohol consumption, or the lack thereof.

    Last Friday, we called reports on the reliability of the home brewer vote for Obama, “the longest reach for a Mormon shot in the history of Romney seeking national office.”  I guess the campaign liked that award because they keep repeating it.  The Atlantic does the demograpahics.  There are beer spokesmen campaigning for him.  In the Daily Beast they make the case that beer is a selling point for Obama.

    I’m thinking strike three here folks.  Barack Obama has proven himself to be so incapable of the job he was elected to do that we have seen embassies burn and ambassadors killed – and his majesty comes back by offering us a frosty cold one just so we’ll notice that Romney won’t join in.  Right now I don’t care what Mitt Romney drinks – I care that he will not allow Americans to be victimized in foreign lands.  I care that Mitt Romney will restore American to its rightful place as the most powerful and respected nation on the planet.  I am sure the vast majority of Americans share that sentiment.

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    The “War On Religion” Goes Literal

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:34 am, August 16th 2012     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Having spent last weekend in swing state Colorado, I fully understand this statement from Dan Balz (HT: Taegan Goddard)

    “But what is most striking about the campaign at this point is not just the negativity or the sheer volume of attack ads raining down on voters in the swing states. It is the sense that all restraints are gone, the guardrails have disappeared and there is no incentive for anyone to hold back.

    But then I do not think I am as shocked as some.  As Ben Smith reminded us (again, HT: Goddard)

    “But if we didn’t predict this moment, we should have. The logic of President Obama’s campaign has always been, as a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House told me this time last year, that ‘unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney.’”

    The left-leaning press is trying to make it sound like the meanness goes both ways, but I disagree strongly.  In recent days, Romney/Ryan have indeed picked up the volume and the vehemence with which they respond to these outrageous attacks, but they have yet to get personal or “ugly.”  And I do not think it has gotten anywhere near as ugly as it is going to get.  As Victor Davis Hanson pointed out – the race card is already in play, though not too loudly.  We’ve seen that on this blog in religious guises as well.   Such a drum beat is a dangerous thing – it fairs passions and deep seeded resentments.  It is a dangerous ploy.  Some of us are old enough to remember when such a drumbeat, even with the exhortations of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King to the contrary, turned very violent and very ugly.

    The same problem is inherent in casting the same sex marriage question in civil rights terms – something that was brought home yesterday in no uncertain terms as a young man entered the lobby of the Family Research Council, a Christian political action organization, and ended up shooting a guard.  The press is trying to downplay this.  Consider the CNN coverage.  First phrase in the second paragraph, “Police and federal agents were investigating what prompted the suspect,” but then the third paragraph later:

    A law enforcement official said the gunman made some remarks opposing the Family Research Council’s policies before opening fire.

    Oh, let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions here!  Politco reports:

    The gunman shouted comments about the FRC’s positions on issues, according to reports by Fox News and the Washington Post. The shooter, identified as a 28-year-old Virginia man, was carrying a bag that had a Chick-fil-A bag inside it, according to the The Washington Post. NBC said federal sources told the network he “was carrying a backpack containing materials related to Chick-fil-A restaurants.”

    He was a volunteer at the DC Center for the LGBT Community,….

    Police are withholding comment. Hmmmmm.

    I cannot help but reflect that the “no holds barred” approach that Team Obama has adopted in the campaign is feeding the frenzy in already troubled souls.  Of course Team Obama has not resorted to violence nor encouraged it, but they have blasted through the traditional bounds of campaign rhetoric and when one boundary is crossed others, admittedly others with deep mental and emotional problems, are going to crash through other boundaries.  Rhetoric like “kill Romney” from above is bound to stir something up somewhere.  We came close to this in the wake of Prop 8, so as extraordinarily sad as the incident is, it is unsurprising.

    What was surprising, but not really remarkable, was the initial coverage from ABC on the incident.  Mollie at GetReligion tells the story of how ABC reported the attack as being at “the DC Offices of James Dobson.”  Of course, FRC broke off from the Dobson organization in 1992, and Focus on the Family is no longer Dobson’s organization – but what difference does that make?  “Those bigoted, neanderthal Christians are all alike,” he said aping the attitude of some.

    And despite the historic nature, religiously speaking, of the Romney/Ryan ticket, some working overtime to point out old animosities.  On the one hand, we are all alike, but on the other, if difference can be exploited for political gain….

    It seems apparent that Team Obama, and the rabid left that surrounds them, do not see this nation or this election as two parts of the same group trying to reach agreement.  They do not even see it in terms of good and bad, better or best.  They see it in terms of us versus them.  That the nation is at a watershed, most understand.  I do not think until now that I grasped that it was actually physically dangerous.

    It is time for prayer.

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