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."

  • Pews “Religion In Public Life” Speaks Again

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:25 am, September 25th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    It’s that time of year again, and we get another headline grabbing poll from the Pew Forum, “Religion in Public Life.“  I have only had time to skim this, but here is what Pew headlines:

    Nearly three-quarters of the public (72%) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade. And most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing.

    Perhaps as a consequence, a growing share of the American public wants religion to play a role in U.S. politics. The share of Americans who say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues is up 6 points since the 2010 midterm elections (from 43% to 49%). The share who say there has been “too little” expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders is up modestly over the same period (from 37% to 41%). And a growing minority of Americans (32%) think churches should endorse candidates for political office, though most continue to oppose such direct involvement by churches in electoral politics.

    As I skimmed the rest of the prose, I think they have chosen the right thing to emphasize.  But as I read through it, I cannot help but note that in many ways it does not “get” religion.  Or maybe it is those of us that hold our religion dearly that do not “get” the affects of survey’s like this.  I’d have to go through this and past surveys to prove my point, but as I read the summary and reflected on the current state of things, I was struck by the impression that people seem want the good that religion has to offer, but they want to outsource it somehow.

    The survey treats religion as a social force (which it is) and acknowledges that as a social force it is somehow different from MTV or the Elks club, but no survey of this type can consider the very unique nature of religion as a social force.  Most social forces try to change society as a thing.  Religion is unique in that it tries to change the individual members of society thus changing society.  The action of religion on a societal level is indirect.  We have discussed that here many times before.

    But consider these findings from the poll:

    It finds a slight drop in support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry, with 49% of Americans in favor and 41% opposed – a 5-point dip in support from a February Pew Research poll, but about the same level as in 2013. It is too early to know if this modest decline is an anomaly or the beginning of a reversal or leveling off in attitudes toward gay marriage after years of steadily increasing public acceptance. Moreover, when the February poll and the current survey are combined, the 2014 yearly average level of support for same-sex marriage stands at 52%, roughly the same as the 2013 yearly average (50%).

    The new poll also finds that fully half (50%) of the public now considers homosexuality a sin, up from 45% a year ago. And nearly half of U.S. adults think that businesses like caterers and florists should be allowed to reject same-sex couples as customers if the businesses have religious objections to serving those couples.

    If one uses the stPR_14.09.22_religionPolitics-04ance on same-sex marriage as a barometer of personal religious devotion (debatable I know, but it is the data at hand) , and one assumes this poll an outlier since the trend in support of same-sex marriage continues upward, one begins to sense that people know things aren’t going well, and they know religion could probably help, but they do not necessarily think that religion is for them.  They are hoping the other guy who takes his religion really, really seriously will get this straightened out.

    This sense is only heightened when one look s at the polarization evident in the poll.  As always what is being seen here is the middle of the political spectrum, where the fight always occurs, is shifting towards the right and in slight favor related of religion, but no way they are going to take this religious stuff too seriously.

    Those of us that take our religion seriously know that the only way things will get really better is if such people start themselves to take religion seriously instead of just lean towards those of us that do.  So how do we react?  Do we simply take advantage of the votes that are offered to us, or do we try and get these people to take religion seriously?

    Because religion acts indirectly, as we have discussed on this blog endlessly, we can only be permanently politically successful if we are successful in making converts.   What this data indicates to me is evangelical opportunity.  In other words, there is a group of people out there that is ripe to hear WHY religion can make things better right now, something they already sense, as an apologetic for actually joining that religion.

    Now here is the good part.  If we do that, if we take evangelical advantage of this circumstance, they become solidly on our side and we move the great middle to another group.  We start to win again consistently.  Our opportunity s more than just political.  Are we prepared to take advantage?

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    The Catholic Voice: “Test of Fire 2012″

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 03:29 pm, September 19th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    I wonder if The Catholic voice will be heard in this next election with the same clarity as in 2012? They are very good at making that happen:

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    The Left Is Trying To Play Us!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:18 am, September 15th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    Some day, Evangelicals will figure out that the Left and it’s media allies played on our theological differences to defeat Mitt Romney and re-elect Barack Obama – and now we watch the world burn.  All while Nero Obama fiddles golfs.

    But hey, if your opponent has a weakness, you exploit it – right?  Well that seems to be the case with a Salon piece that crossed my desk this morning – “How the Catholic Church masterminded the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby debacle.”  The subtitle is fascinating -

    While evangelical Christians ultimately brought down the contraception mandate, they had big help from Catholics

    Does anybody recognize a pattern here?  Do you remember when Prop 8 passed in California and it opponents rioted at Mormon sites in the state, engaging in property damage and intimidation?  Do yo remember when they boycotted businesses where it was known that the owners backed the proposition?

    What was a great example of religious cooperation in pursuit of shared political goals quickly became “a Mormon” thing and shamefully Evangelicals, who should have been helping Mormons protect their property, their reputation and their right to approach their houses of worship, seemed more than glad to let Mormons take the hit.  The Left successfully played on our theological differences to make one of our best shared victories into a separating lever and Prop 8 stood for a very short time.

    This nasty Salon piece by Patricia Miller seems to want to make the same maneuver between Evangelicals and Catholics over Hobby Lobby.  Ostensibly a piece reporting on the role of the Catholic College of Bishops in the whole affair, its tone and language seek to demonize the Bishops and turn them into some sort of religious Bilderberger or Rothschild.  The piece features a side-by-side photo of New York Archbishop Dolan and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as if they formed some sort of cabal.  This piece has little relation to reporting and much to propaganda.  But then it is Salon so I am not entirely surprised.

    However, there are two take-aways that need careful reflection by those of religious bent.

    The Left no longer opposes us, they hate us.  It would be easy to weave all sorts of narratives about where such hatred could lead.  But such narratives would all be based on the Left retaining the levels of power it has enjoyed for the last few years.  Fortunately, that is already slipping from their grasp because they have overplayed their hand.  Nonetheless, we should take great caution in how we proceed.  Such hatred creates peril for its object, regardless of the political balance.

    Secondly, we cannot let our fear of demonization cow us into separating ourselves from the religious herd. Not only because such separation means we will ultimately lose the battle on our issues – as was the case with Prop 8 – but because it means we will lose our some part of our souls as we let others sacrifice for our sake.

    This is not a time for timidity.

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    Posted in character, Culture Wars, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Proposition 8, Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom | 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     —     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

    How long has it been since we heard thoughts like these from a national Democrat?

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 10:34 am, August 13th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    One wonders: How would John F. Kennedy have responded to the nonsense that was thrown at Mitt Romney in the 2008 and 2012 presidential election cycles? Here’s a clue:

    HT: Dan Peterson

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Religious Bigotry | Comment on this post » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Battles and Wars

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:07 am, August 4th 2014     —     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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