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."

  • Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:55 am, June 30th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    The Supreme Court of the United States decided this morning that The federal government cannot force an employer to provide birth control if doing so violates the religious beliefs of the owners. Here’s a brief summary.

    You may recall that the Hobby Lobby case arose from Obamacare. The federal government issued a regulation requiring all employers to provide health insurance coverage to the employees for birth control services, including abortifacients (e.g., the “morning after” pill), even if doing so would violate the religious beliefs of the owners. Objections from conservatives led to the Democratic Party’s “war on women” theme, which the Democrats used to attack any Republican candidate who disagreed with the regulation. It was a brilliant and deeply cynical political ploy: Impose a requirement that had never been required before, then attack anyone who opposes that expansion of government as someone who is waging war on women.

    Here’s a short video that Hobby Lobby produced, explaining its position:

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    Posted in Doctrinal Obedience, Religious Freedom | 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     —     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

    Unless Gov. Romney is a Blatant Liar…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:33 am, June 20th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    and he most assuredly is not – then this story represents some sort of agenda on the part of the press.  It bounced around the political press all day yesterday, it is “data’ to follow-up all the “they still love Romney” stories that have been on the blogs of late:

    He’s said over and over that he won’t run for the White House a third time, but a new poll indicates that if Mitt Romney changed his mind and made another bid for president, he’d be the frontrunner among Republicans in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire.

    The poll result is entirely unsurprising; polls at this stage of the game are all about name recognition and Romney would naturally have the most as the last candidate with no clear choice coming in the next cycle.  So why is this news, at least in political geek land?

    The last election was identity politics – the evil, bigoted, moralistic Mormon versus the oppressed, open-minded, liberal black man. On the Democratic side (which means the press) they want more of same.  Substitute “woman” for “black man” and they figure Mormon again is easier to beat than simply religious – even if they have spent the entirety of the Obama administration wrongfully turning religion into the most evil force on the planet.

    We fell for it last time, even played into it, with our own concerns about Romney’s faith, though on an entirely different basis.  We were silly.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, character, Electability, Evangelical Shortcomings | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Liberalism and Fascism

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 06:49 am, May 31st 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    I happened across this clip of a Mike Wallace “60 Minutes” interview with Ronald Reagan from the 1970s:

    I miss the clarity with which Ronald Reagan expressed the conservative point of view.

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    This Is How History Is Rewritten

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:44 am, May 28th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Politico Magazine has published a featured piece by Randall Balmer entitled “The Real Origins of the Religious Right,” that illustrates first hand how history gets rewritten.  His thesis:

    One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.

    This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.

    Some of these anti-Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves “new abolitionists,” invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.

    But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.

    His evidence is, that a) Evangelicals were slow to wake up to the problems inherent in the Rose v. Wade decision, and b) that some began organizing in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that removed tax-exempt status from some church related schools in the south that were segregated.  This are both facts long in evidence and denied by no one.  However, Balmer weaves these facts, along with some others, into a narrative that makes the rise of the religious right appear to be some Machiavellian scheme, foisted upon gullible, thoughtless Evangelicals solely in order to preserve segregation.

    What does Balmer not consider? Well, for one, Green v Kennedy (the SCOTUS segregation/tax case) and Nixon’s subsequent policy decisions for the IRS represented a significant step by government into defining what was and what was not religion and religious training.  Having much family in Mississippi, I am well aware that many of the church schools that sprang up in South in the wake Brown were racist to their core, but that does not change the fact that these moves represented a significant move on the part of the federal government from telling public institutions what to do to telling private and ostensibly religious institutions what to do.  These moves represented as big an (or perhaps a bigger?) intrusion by government into religion as the intrusion posed by Obamacare’s abortion coverage provisions today.  While the racial admission practices of these schools was not highlighted, the legal ramifications of these decisions was widely discussed and to my memory played a role in galvanizing religious people across the nation to political action.  Abhorrent as the racial admission policies of these schools were, if the government could attack their tax exempt status based on that policy, what other policy might they also someday decide warranted such an erosion of the separation of church and state?  There was a very real danger in these decisions and Obamacare’s abortion coverage provisions are front-and-center example one.

    Balmer makes this sound sinister:

    Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.

    Balmer adds no facts to the historical records here.  All he does is assert motivation and weave a narrative worthy of a Bilderberger theorist.  Religious freedom was, and remains, a very real issue in all of this.

    Balmer’s “art” sees its highest expression in this paragraph:

    Between Weyrich’s machinations and Schaeffer’s jeremiad, evangelicals were slowly coming around on the abortion issue. At the conclusion of the film tour in March 1979, Schaeffer reported that Protestants, especially evangelicals, “have been so sluggish on this issue of human life, and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? is causing real waves, among church people and governmental people too.”

    “Machinations?” — “Jeremaid?”  My goodness, I had no clue that Hydra had hidden itself inside Evangelicals and Protestants just waiting for the time when it could assert its dangerous philosophy and with the aid of the computerized Armen Zola conquer the world.

    There is no question that the desire to educate their children outside of the presence of African-Americans played an early role in organizing Protestants and Evangelicals to political action.  But the movement that became the Religious Right outgrew that small and particular aspect of its beginning quickly.  Balmer offers no evidence, or even narrative, that connects the religious freedom narrative to the abortion narrative other than chronological coincidence.   (Well, in fairness there are unfootnoted references to the archives of Liberty University)  And yet it was the abortion issue that caught the concern and energy of the religious nation.

    The game that Balmer plays in this atrocious piece could be just as easily played by looking into the Communism derived motives of some early leaders in the liberal movement.  Most people of the left, even those I disagree with strongly, are good people seeking what they view as best for the nation.  The same is true for people of the right.   Every political movement, left, right, and middle, has its opportunists and less than purely motivated players.  They do not define the movement.  The movement is defined by the millions that join it and where they take it.

    Balmer here attempts in the grossest of manners to call into the question an entire movement based solely on sinister assertions surrounding facts known to anyone that was either there, or that bothers to look.  This is not journalism, it’s not spin, it’s not even agenda journalism.  (It is certainly not historical research.)  This is crafting a conspiracy theory – pure and simple.

    Such things are written and published on the Internet daily.  No surprise there.  It is; however, shameful that Politico has not merely published this tripe, but featured it.

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    Posted in Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Prejudice, Religious Freedom | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Blame Bill Clinton

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:54 am, May 10th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Another decade – another Clinton scandal – Benghazi.

    How did Bill Clinton survive impeachment?  Pretty simple really.  With the deft aid of partisan allies in Congress and a willing press, he managed to turn what was a perjury trial into a referendum on the “right” of a guy to mess up in his marriage from time-to-time.  I find it fascinating the Monica Lewinsky pops up her head when Hillary Clinton – and the president – find themselves in a bind worthy of Congressional investigation.  Sometimes I wonder if it is not a signal to run the same play?

    Boehner has named the Republican side of the special investigative committee and Pelosi has balked.  Why has Ms. Pelosi balked?

    In a letter sent Friday afternoon to Boehner, Pelosi rejected committee rules proposed by Republicans, citing concerns that Democrats would be treated no better than on the contentious House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Democrats and Republicans on that committee, under Chairman Darrell Issa, D-Calif., clashed repeatedly over the handling of its Benghazi inquiries.

    “Regrettably, the proposal does not prevent the unacceptable and repeated abuses by committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way, and we find it ultimately unfair,” Pelosi wrote, adding that she hoped a one-on-one meeting with Boehner may produce a way forward. “I am still hopeful we can reach an agreement,” she said. [emphasis added]

    Let’s see, “unfair” – I think that is ringing some bells here.  Let’s face it Affirmative Action was all about righting the ‘unfairness” in hiring practices based on race, gender etc.  So, we have an African-American president and a female Secretary of State under (deserved) fire from a Republican controlled House and we cry “unfair.”  Is it possible that they are trying to turn a straightforward investigation into the politicization of the murder of American diplomats and the potential dereliction of duty by the Commander-in-Chief  into a referendum on race and gender?  Could Ms. Pelosi be sending a signal to the press minions on how to spin the thing?

    It’s the play book the Clinton’s have used before.  Worked then, and if anything the press is even more in the bag now than it was twenty or so years ago.

    I was stunned when Clinton did it and I am more stunned now.  The lack of honor is extraordinary.  Nixon had the decency and honor for the office to resign rather than taint it in this fashion.  This bunch clearly does not – shame on them and shame on us for putting up with it.

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    Posted in character, Governance, Identity Politics, News Media Bias, Political Strategy | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

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