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."

  • Forget The Politics For Just A Minute, And Focus On The Management…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:35 am, December 1st 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    …of the building, roll out and incomplete rescue of “Healthcare.gov” in this morning’s NYT account of what is rapidly shaping up as the worst political disaster in governmental history.

    What you will see is a thorough and complete misunderstanding of human beings, how they behave and how they react to different situations.  Christianity starts with the understanding that humans are deeply flawed.  (Yes, we offer a path to get better, but we start with our flaws.)  The utopian visions of the left seem to cheerfully ignore this most fundamental fact.  That ignorance does more to account for the failure of this entire misguided enterprise than any other single factor.

    Once again we learn that faith matters, not religious identity, but something much deeper.  A lesson the nation needs to relearn.

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    Finding Gratitude This Thanksgiving

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:02 am, November 26th 2013     —     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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    And So It Begins

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:38 am, November 22nd 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    This weeks editorial page of the Wall Street Journal featured op-eds from Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, chronologically ordered.  Make no mistake, these are two men testing the waters for potential national leadership of the party and the government.  This is how it starts.  It is upon us. Read these pieces carefully, and those that follow from other possibles.  The decisions before the party and the electorate in ’14 and ’16 are of more importance than any that have been taken since WWII.

    This is no time to choose lightly.

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    Remaining In Character

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:39 am, November 21st 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    The latest imbroglio about Obama’s reading of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and the exclusion of references to God is one of those things that while important, we cannot really win fighting over.  That does not mean there is no war on religion, it just means that battle is a loser.  It is one of those “he said/she said”-no winner battles that can only make us look bad even if we “win” the fight.  Nonetheless, in other communications surrounding the anniversary of that ultimate American oratory, Obama makes plain in equating “gay rights” to civil rights that he disregards the concerns and values of the faithful in this nation.  We are in a war, the question is how to fight it.

    By pure coincidence, I ended up watching “Judgement at Nuremberg” on TCM last night.   While I will not equate our current troubles in this nation to those that lead to the rise of National Socialism in Germany, that movie did remind me of the importance of not merely “going along” with trends in a society that seem counter to faith and common sense.  If the fight over the words in the Gettysburg address is a loser, what fights are winners?

    The first and most important fight is to hold to our own personal integrity.  Now, more than ever in our history, we of faith must congregate regularly and devotedly if for no other reason than to shore each other up in our personal convictions.  We cannot allow our own commitment to faith and moral compass to slip.  But that is on a personal level, not a political one.  What do we do politically?

    Well, for one thing, we must keep in mind that politics in  America reflect culture they do not shape it.  At least not yet.  Shaping culture is in the little things, not the big things.  We do little things, the president does big things.  So, my first suggestion is a simple one.  The holidays are upon us.  Do not allow the culture to cause you to shrink from proclaiming Christmas wishes.  Of course, personally, this is not such a big deal.  I wish everybody a “Merry Christmas” when I am out shopping or whatever.  But I always worry about it with business.  I have many clients that are religious, but not Christian.  Mostly Asian, they come from all sorts of places on the Hindu/Buddhist spectrum.  Every year I am concerned I might offend, but every year I resolve to wish them a “Merry Christmas.”  Have not lost a client yet.

    This is a small thing, but it is an important thing.  It has resulted in some unpleasant encounters, but good will seems to carry the day.  Which is another thing of vital importance.  If we are of good will in the pursuit of all that we do, it will go a long a way towards carrying the day culturally.  Who would you rather hire?  The house painter that does an adequate job, but is a pest about a hundred little things and unpleasant to talk to or the house painter that does an excellent job, maybe even goes the extra mile, and greets you enthusiastically each day on the job?  Which one of those do you think describes the atheist and which the Christian?

    Thankfully, we are not in a place in our history where we are being asked to be complicit in atrocities like the defendants at Nuremberg.  We do not, for the most part, have to worry about losing our jobs to retain our integrity or become active agents of resistance, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  In situations like some of the mandates of Obamacare, civil disobedience may be necessary.  We may need to contribute treasure to support those that do so.  But these remain little things, not big things.

    Rome did not become Christian by virtue of war – it became Christian by the accumulation of thousands, even millions of little things.  It began with one man going to Rome to talk about his faith.  That’s all, just talk about it.  We don’t need to pick fights, we just need to talk about our faith.

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    Some Things Matter – Even If We Do Not Want Them To

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 09:04 am, November 19th 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    If you are unaware, Martin Bashir recently set a new low, even for himself.  Certainly the best analysis of this sorry episode that I have seen is from Ace of Spades: (HT: Geraghty)

    Leftist politics, I maintain, are not a politics at all, but a psychological response to one’s shortcomings and feelings of failure. Leftist politics are, simply put, a way of getting even with a world that’s done one wrong — and most people carrying about such grievances against a world that’s done one wrong are psychologically broken.

    I could write a sermon, perhaps several, around that.  I will resist and simply point out the fact that some things matter, even if we do not want them to.  All of us fail at some point in our lives.  In religion we call this “sin.”  That’s considered an ugly word anymore, but its not – it is a simple observation of the human condition.  All of us are wronged by someone else at some point in our lives – again a simple observation of the human condition.  In religion, because we are aware of our own “sin” we learn to extend “grace” to the other.

    If you try to eliminate these simple observations and understandings from you life you end up with Martin Bashir saying things like he said.

    When you eliminate them from public discourse you end up with things like Obamacare which is extraordinarily compassionless in the name of compassion.

    I don’t care whether you are Mormon or Moravian – Orthodox, Protestant or Roman – religion understands these simple human truths and religion understands that no amount of desire or policy will make them untrue.  It is becoming abundantly clear that we need such religious understanding on a widespread basis.

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    The Reality of Faith

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:33 am, November 14th 2013     —     3 Comments »

    I likely have a warped perspective on the whole Obamacare thing because I am one of its first victims.  This thing is not only a political and policy disaster for the nation, but a very personal one for me.  In that link I just made I compared it to a trip to Wonderland because as Jonah Goldberg said this morning:

    If you can’t take some joy, some modicum of relief and mirth, in the unprecedentedly spectacular beclowning of the president, his administration, its enablers, and, to no small degree, liberalism itself, then you need to ask yourself why you’re following politics in the first place. Because, frankly, this has been one of the most enjoyable political moments of my lifetime. I wake up in the morning and rush to find my just-delivered newspaper with a joyful expectation of worsening news so intense, I feel like Morgan Freeman should be narrating my trek to the front lawn. Indeed, not since Dan Rather handcuffed himself to a fraudulent typewriter, hurled it into the abyss, and saw his career plummet like Ted Kennedy was behind the wheel have I enjoyed a story more.

    Alas, the English language is not well equipped to capture the sensation I’m describing, which is why we must all thank the Germans for giving us the term “schadenfreude” — the joy one feels at the misfortune or failure of others. The primary wellspring of schadenfreude can be attributed to Barack Obama’s hubris — another immigrant word, which means a sinful pride or arrogance that causes someone to believe he has a godlike immunity to the rules of life.

    However, such mirth was an effort to cope with, not deny, the very real possibility that as I entered the time of life when I most need health insurance I was finding it elusive.  (That and Jonah’s right – this failure is so huge its comic – at those moments when I can remove myself from the personal struggle.)  My personal plight has ended not because Obamacare worked but through the grace of my wife’s employer and so I can turn a bit to objectivity.

    Goldberg’s piece is excellent this morning, as is James Taranto yesterday, if without the mirth:

    So this was a deliberate misstating of the truth. By raising the possibility of “good intentions,” the Post-Gazette editorialists seem to be suggesting that it was a sort of noble lie. “The furor of the supposed great lie is an embarrassment to Mr. Obama,” they concede in conclusion, “but it obscures the larger and more important truth that the Affordable Care Act remains good policy.”

    That evaluation seems increasingly delusional with every passing hour, but let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that ObamaCare was a well-intended policy: that Obama pushed for it out of a sincere desire to help people. That would make its failure an example of what the scholar Barbara Oakley calls pathological altruism.

    That seems to us, however, to give Obama too much credit. For one thing, it takes more than altruistic motives to justify lying. Suppose one could establish that Bernie Madoff sincerely wanted to make his clients wealthier. Would that mitigate his guilt for defrauding them?

    Further, good intentions are not the same as pure intentions. People often have altruistic and selfish motives for the same action. Even if we assume Obama honestly wanted to help people and made his fraudulent promise in pursuit of that goal, it would be silly to deny he also made it in pursuit of his own aggrandizement–of the approbation that comes with a “legacy” of substantial “achievement.”

    Of course, that’s not working out so well for him now. Whether or not this is a case of pathological altruism, it definitely is pathological narcissism.

    What is truly troubling is that the so well diagnosed “pathological narcissism” extends beyond Obama.  The hubris evident in the conception, passage and execution of this monstrosity is deeply troubling.  Vast swaths of our elected officialdom had to suspend reality, or be willfully ignorant to get this to happen to begin with.  Large portions of the administration had to actively conceal problems from the top echelons of our government for them to have any form of denial possible.  (Our arduous and complex civil service rules are designed in part to prevent such things from happening. – That’s another thing that has to come out of all this is a reexamination of how the civil service could be so cowed.)

    As I listened to yesterday’s Hugh Hewitt interview with Obamacare “architect” John Guber, my first thought was that the man was not a college academic but a pure propagandist.  But on relfection I don’t think so.  He is so pathologically narcissistic that he is capable of holding reality at bay.  His ego could not suffer the intrusion of this reality.

    There are two bottom line lessons of faith.  The first is that there is something much bigger than us out there.  The second is corollary – we don’t measure up to that much bigger thing.  That’s reality folks.  We cannot make the world, we can only live in it and play by its rules.

    Government is the accumulation of power.  Religion is the reminder that there are limits to our power.  This disaster contains a lesson not just for Obama, not just for Democrats, but for all of us.

    Faith serves to ground us in reality, not remove us from it.

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