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."

  • Worth Remembering…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:23 pm, January 21st 2014     —     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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    Things You Should Be Reading

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:12 am, January 20th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    If you are not following us on Twitter (@Art6B) you should be.  We are making increased use of it.  It is a great way to pass along things that are worth reading; however it is not a great way to make much comment on same.  Hence we are going to pass on a few links here of article that need a little comment, in no particular order.

    Violence and discrimination against religious groups by governments and rival faiths have reached new highs in all regions of the world except the Americas, according to a new Pew Research Centre report.

    - from a Reuters story.  I found that tid-bit really interesting in light of this op-ed out of Zimbabwe:

    While the constitution states that no person can be hindered from the enjoyment of his or her freedom of religion, it also states that in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health the law in can limit the freedom of religion.

    However, the danger of enacting a general law which allows for the infringement of religious freedom is that such a law could be used as a political tool, even to the detriment of sincere and law-abiding believers as is the case currently in tumultuous Egypt.

    To maintain the rift between the church and the state, the only reasonable way of monitoring religion would be through a statutory religious ombudsman consisting of respectable and impartial citizens and mandated with the two-fold functions of protecting the public from pulpit predators, and keeping politics and state separate from issues of faith.

    That’s just fascinating is it not?  Note that a) the public cannot be trusted to decide the issue (that would be competition) and b) how precisely is the ombudsman going to enforce its rulings?  Is religion really free under the circumstances here described?  Sounds like a formula to enhance Mugabe’s dictatorial hold to me.  Which is why, as Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett argue on CNN today, religious freedom is an important matter to foreign policy.

    Said so often it is now trite, “freedom of religion is not freedom from religion.”  The key seems to be to not merely create adherents to a religion but to actually make religious people – there is a difference you know.  Religious adherents follow blindly their leaders.  Religious people allow themselves to be shaped by their religion into people that can argue and discuss with their religious leaders.  Religious adherents are kept ignorant, religious people thirst for learning.

    As we said repeatedly during two election cycles, there is more to religion that merely identity.  Evangelicals are starting to see how this really works.  That does not mean there will not be liars in the whole thing – people that try to take advantage.  But the answer is not to divorce yourself from religious institutions.  That is really how Evangelicalism was born and we have just seen how that is coming full circle.

    Answers lie in the many, many checks and balances of our system.  This is pointed out quite adroitly in an article we did tweet out last week:

    The democratic truth is that we’re all created equal, but truth, by itself, easily morphs into apathetic passivity and material self-indulgence.  The aristocratic truth is that to be human is to have a singular greatness (and misery) not shared with the other animals.  The Christian truth is that all men were equally created to display the greatness of unique and irreplaceable individuality, and part of that greatness is the truth about who we are that we can joyfully and responsibly share in common.  The danger in democracy is that Christian churches lose their capacity to be genuinely countercultural—or teach the truth that will be neglected “on the street” in middle-class democracy.  And so the separation of church and state is to keep the church from being corrupted by excessive concern with endlessly egalitarian justice and the logic of the market.  The separation is for the integrity of the church by limiting the claims for truth and morality of the democratic “social state,” which includes the democratic state

    Oh yeah, and on a closing note, the president remains and unthoughtful, silly, self-involved twit.

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    Quote Of The Week

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:46 am, January 14th 2014     —     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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    A Question For Our Readers

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:36 am, January 10th 2014     —     1 Comment »

    On Hugh Hewitt yesterday Mark Steyn said this discussing Chris Christie:

    “The bigger lesson of this is there is a kind of permanent political class of operatives, who regardless of the front man at the top of the pyramid, carrying on, pulling a whole lot of stunts – regardless of whether it’s a focus grouped blow-dried phony politician at the top of the pyramid, or Mr. Authentic, like Chris Christie,” Steyn said. “And that gets to an interesting question about American politics – what’s the point of having a super-authentic candidate if he just hires the same old lousy campaign operatives as everybody else?”

    Do you know enough about how the campaign operates to know what were operatives and what was the candidate?  Do you think Romney’s selection of operatives hurt him in the last cycle?  Other comments?

    Comment moderation remains in place because some of those operatives might just try to involve themselves in this discussion, but I’ll try to stay on top of it and get comments through quickly.

     

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    Frenemies?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:22 am, January 9th 2014     —     Comment on this post »

    When last we visited the writings of Albert Mohler, he was speaking at BYU.  He went out of his way there to make sure that while we were making common political cause with Mormons, they were theologically quite distinct – like everyone in the room and the world did not already know that.

    Well, Albert is at it again, and this time his target is the Roman Catholics.  In a post on his blog he goes to great length to describe the cultural and political stakes, but then asks:

    So, are the other enemies of our enemies our friends? Mormons, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews, and a host of others share many of our enemies in this respect. But, to what extent is there a unity among us?

    He mentions that of course we ‘ll work with anyone to save a life from a “burning house,” and that many of the social/cultural crisis facing the country are indeed on such a life saving level, but concludes these few paragraphs by saying, “And yet, our worldviews are really quite different.”  And then he turns ugly:

    With the Roman Catholic Church, our common convictions are many, including moral convictions about marriage, human life, and the family. Beyond that, we together affirm the truths of the divine Trinity, orthodox Christology, and other doctrines as well. But we disagree over what is supremely important, the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that supreme difference leads to other vital disagreements as well: over the nature and authority of the Bible, the nature of the ministry, the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and an entire range of issues central to the Christian faith.

    Christians defined by the faith of the Reformers must never forget that nothing less than faithfulness to the gospel of Christ forced the Reformers to break from the Roman Catholic Church. Equal clarity and courage are required of us now.

    In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    You know, the first thing that strikes me is how utterly self-contradictory the post really is.  He starts with the common illustration of our and England’s alliance with the Soviet Union in WWII.  But the rest of his post reveals his apparent lack of deep understanding of the history of that “alliance.”  It was not until after the Battle of the Bulge that there was any sort of communication on a military level between the western allies and the Sovs.  Political communication was quite scant.  There is massive historical documentation on our side about how carefully to deal with and handle the Soviet Union and how best to position the end of the war for the inevitable conflict we would have with them.

    But, and this is a huge “but,” it was all classified material until well after the war.  As far as the public knew we were bosom buddies with the Stalin gang.  That first military mission to Moscow during/after the Bulge by western military leadership was kept secret for fear that the public learn there had been no prior military communication!  In order to win the war, it was necessary to maintain an appearance of unity.  Anything less would undermine the needed resolve on the part of the public.

    Mohler, by declaring a partnership of sorts and then making sure everybody understands its a business only deal undermines the success of the enterprise.

    In so doing he practically guarantees its failure.  The last election was really a matter not of turnout, but enthusiasm.  We have examined at length on this blog the fact that religiously motivated voters participated in the election but went through many contortions to avoid voting for Romney.  The significant portion of the Republican base that is known as “Evangelical” seemed to accept Romney as the nominees, but they did not wholly embrace him, and that spelled the difference.

    And now, Mohler wants to turn back the clock significantly and make sure that Evangelicals have the same sort of “Air Kiss” relationship with Roman Catholics?!  That is even more troubling than the failure to elect Romney.  Virtually all of the significant intellectual work being done on the religious/political front is being done by the Catholics.  There are any number of religious drum beaters out there in the Evangelical political world (think FRC, et. al.) but can anyone doubt that the serious intellectual enterprises are centered on National Review?  National Review has its share of non-Catholic contributors, but its heart belongs most definitely to Rome.

    When the Republican party is working hard to pull itself together Mohler seems to want to make sure it is poorly stitched.

    Finally, there is this to note.  To have the sort of theological certainty about who is and who is not going to be with God in eternity that Mohler expresses is to my ears pharisetical and graceless.  I have deep theological differences with my Mormon friends. I find myself increasingly compatible with my Roman Catholic friends, but cannot overcome some of the theological barriers that would permit me to affiliate with that church.  But to declare that those theological differences hold those friends eternal fates somehow at stake is to make judgements that are reserved only for the Almighty.

    Do I wish to convince my friends of differing theological views of the correctness of my own?  Of course I do, but that does not prevent me from calling them good friend and deep ally.  No “frenemies” here, only friends.

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    How Do We Change Thinking?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:28 am, January 6th 2014     —     1 Comment »

    Very interesting profile of Frank Luntz by Molly Ball in The Atlantic today.  The piece is two things really – one is a description of some deeply personal and emotional stuff that Luntz is dealing with and the other is a look at some serious problems facing the nation that no one is much talking about and no one at all seems to have a solution for.

    The first comment I have to make about this is that to approach the subject as a personal profile is part of the problem.  It describes Luntz’ reaction to the last election as a deep depression and says this:

    It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”

    I cannot help but reflect on the fact that part of the reason people are not “interested in hearing other points of view,” and “want to impose their opinions rather than express them: is because everything has become personal.  Those are indications that personal desire has become paramount – nothing matters but what “I” want.  By making this article about Luntz’ personal struggle instead of about the ideas at stake is to make the individual more paramount than the ideas, which is the problem being described.

    Luntz’ solution; however seems awful:

    Most of all, Luntz says, he wishes we would stop yelling at one another. Luntz dreams of drafting some of the rich CEOs he is friends with to come up with a plan for saving America from its elected officials. “The politicians have failed; now it’s up to the business community to stand up and be heard,” he tells me. “I want the business community to step up.” Having once thought elites needed to listen to regular people, he now wants the people to learn from their moneyed betters.

    That seems like an amazing disconnect to me.  Business’ objective is to fulfill personal, individual desire – what can it possible teach someone about subjecting personal desire for the sake of the whole?  Furthermore, are people really taking these discordant cues from DC?  Or has something changed in the American people to make them more susceptible to the discord that has always been the case there?

    Certainly the ever increasing media presence in DC has revealed the discord more and more which has served to then increase that discord, but can we even blame this entirely on the media?  As an avid consumer of the political rag sheets, what’s actually amazing is how few people really do consume them.  No, it’s not just that.

    This is nothing short of a spiritual crisis in the nation.  Churches are better organized for political action than they have ever been in our history, but are they anymore organized to build the kind of people that a nation like ours needs to really function?  Big swaths of America Christianity are now dedicated to  a model of the church based on a model as service provider not person builder.  Vast portions of the faith in this nation follow – they do not lead.  Large chunks of Christianity have absorbed the lessons of business and the result has been the crisis in which we now find ourselves.

    No, the solution to the problem that Luntz’ correctly senses will not come from his business cronies.  It will come from the church reclaiming its rightful place in the American culture.  Political action on the part of the church may happen from time to time, but it is not how the church is best suited to change things.  Rather the church is at its best when it is a culture maker, not a culture follower.  When the church makes the culture then the politics will follow.

    And it should be noted that making culture is not simply a matter of having the majority of people stand in the right place on the issues of the day – that’s just more politics.  It is about the very hard work of building people of sufficient character that they arrive at political stances without direct church intervention.  It is about the church building leaders that fan out through the community (not just keep the church running) and help others arrive at the same point.

    Making culture is about making people, for example, that do not watch soft porn on cable TV because they do not like it, not because they are told it is bad for them or because it violates religious teaching.  This is what the church was designed and ordained to do.  If the church does this, culture and politics will follow as naturally as the dawn comes each day.

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