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."

  • A Curious Phenomenon

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 07:17 am, November 13th 2013     —     1 Comment »

    Before I say anything else, I’ll say this: At this point I’m not offended, just bemused.

    About what, you ask? Well, take a look at this morning’s Wall Street Journal piece on the Arizona governor’s race and possible successors to current Governor Jan Brewer:

    On Tuesday, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett threw his hat into the ring for the governor’s seat. Mr. Bennett, a Mormon who experts say is popular among conservatives, joins a crowded field of candidates vying to lead the independently minded border state, whose politics in recent years have been synonymous with its tough immigration crackdown.

    Three other potential candidates are mentioned, not including Governor Brewer.  Nothing is said about their religion. Instead, only their business and political backgrounds are noted:

    The Republican primary, set for Aug. 26, is expected to be closely watched. Political observers are casting it as a three-way contest between Mr. Bennett; state Treasurer Doug Ducey, formerly chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, an ice-cream-shop chain based in Scottsdale; and Christine Jones, a political novice who is a former executive and general counsel of Internet-domain-name website GoDaddy Group Inc., also based in Scottsdale.

    Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, a suburb east of Phoenix, is also considered a formidable potential GOP candidate, experts said, though he has declined to state his intentions.

    In some ways this tendency among the news media is understandable because of all the attention given to Mitt Romney’s faith in the 2008 and 2012 cycles.  In other ways it’s a bit creepy.  I personally don’t mind a bit if people know I am a Mormon.  But if I am in a crowd of people and I am the only one described in terms of my religion, that begins to feel weird.

    What do our readers think?

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    Posted in News Media Bias, Prejudice | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Dear Mr. President –

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:41 am, November 9th 2013     —     3 Comments »

    I went down the rabbit hole this week.  Not literally, of course.  My entrance to Wonderland came in the form of a letter from my health insurance carrier with whom I have done business for decades telling me that the health insurance that has served me so well for all these decades did not suit the King of Diamonds and had therefore had its head removed.  The insurance carrier, until recently a reasonable and reliable provider has apparently been stuck in Wonderland for several years now as they have come to resemble The Mad Hatter:

    The Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at her celebration, she sentenced him to death for “murdering the time,” but he escapes decapitation. In retaliation, Time (referred to as a “Him”) halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever. The tea party, when Alice arrives, is characterised by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away.

    My letter directed me to a wealiceinwonderlandb site.  Not the non-functioning federal web site of now infamy, but one of their own devising that was, they assured me, fully functional.  I was offered a variety of plans and quickly found one that matched my current coverage in cost, but the precise nature of the coverage was unclear, even though it seemed to resemble what I currently had.  So at the advice of said web site, I picked up the phone.

    After the usual and irritating computerized phone tree I got to talk to a “Licensed Healthcare Adviser.”  This is a term that I came to learn over the course of the week meant “Hired in front of Home Depot last week, made to watch a 15 minute video and given a piece of paper.”  I immediately learned that the plans offered were not the “PPO” that I had come to love all these decades, but an “EPO.”  Which as best as I can determine means “Use the doctor we tell you to or you are ‘SOL.’”  And then of course arose the quite natural question of “What doctors are you telling me to use?’

    That’s when I learned the “Find a doctor” web site was non-operational and that question could not currently be answered.  But I was assured it would be operational in a couple of days.  And so I returned to the real world for a period.

    A few days later I tried the “Find a doctor” web site only to learn that it was still non-functional, but I was directed to down load a document that contained the names of all contracted providers in my county. It was only 800 pages long.  The first 13 pages were devoted purely to acupuncturists.  That’s right, acupuncturists.  I went looking for Christian Science practitioners, but none were available.  Apparently Chinese voodoo is medicine, but prayer is not.

    Anyway, it took only about three minutes of searching the 800 page document before my computer – a device that approximates the computing power of NASA – was beginning to choke on the size of the document and its utterly flawed design.  And since I do not currently own a forest to chop down to make paper to print the thing, I abandoned this effort, returned to the real world and waited again for the “Find a doctor” site to obtain functionality.13708288-executioner-argues-with-king-about-cutting-off-cheshire-cat-s-head--alice-s-adventures-in-wonderland

    As I waited, some new questions occurred to me, and a couple of days later, I once again picked up the telephone and ventured down the rabbit hole.  At first I was simply assured that I should put aside my questions because an EPO was just like a PPO except a “slightly smaller network.”  When I told the March Hare that such was not what was represented to me previously, he put me on hold and apparently went to consult the Cheshire Cat who only smiled benignly and said, “Well that all depends on what ‘just like’ means.”

    When I muttered that I apparently had to buy the insurance to find out what was covered, the March Hare seemed not to understand a word I was saying.

    And so I pressed ahead with my questions.  First question, “I travel extensively on business, suppose I am struck by a bus next time I am in New York?  New York is clearly outside of California where I live.”  Quickly the answer came, “Why sir, just call the local hospitals and ask if they are in our network.”  When I pointed out that I was hit by a bus and in no shape to use a telephone, the March Hare magically turned into a geyser with too little steam pressure and sputtered.

    I was told I would have to talk to a coverage specialist and took a delightful journey through on hold music land.  Once there I was informed that the coverage specialist could only answer questions about current coverage not the new and marvelous plans of Wonderland.  I was assured that the “Licensed Healthcare Advisers” could answer all my questions, and back through on hold music land I ventured.

    I posed a new question.  “I travel outside the US generally on an annual basis.  Surely that is out of network.  What happens then?”   The March Hare assured me that the EPO would cover me in emergencies, regardless.  I asked “What’s an emergency?”  The first answer I got was “Why if you got to the Emergency Room, it’s an emergency.”  I quickly retorted, “So if I have a hangnail, I can go to the ER of any hospital I want and its covered?”  Then the geyser returned.  I felt sorry for the geyser and tried to calm things down.

    I made my inquiry a bit more specific.  “Suppose I am in Rome – Italy – and I contract pneumonia.  This is a very serious illness, but not imminently life threatening.  Am I covered in an Italian hospital or must I board a plane, expose 3-400 other people in a small air recycled box to my communicable disease, and return to the United States in long neck alice lennyorder to be covered?”

    “You would have to come home, sir” was the response.

    At this point I began to feel my head grow uncontrollably.  Worried that it might pop like a balloon, I quickly left Wonderland and started looking for some other place where I could find health insurance.  At this juncture I have no idea if I will find such a place.  And if I do if that insurance will resemble anything close to the insurance that I have loved and that has served my so well for decades.

    Anyway Mr. President, I wanted to write you and thank you for this marvelous journey to a land where wishes become some sort of warped reality.  I may die or go broke, but isn’t a trip to a land of fantasy, where those awful rules of reason and sanity don’t apply, worth it?

    All the best,

    John

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    Posted in Issues, leadership | 3 Comments » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    Salting A Wound

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:17 am, November 7th 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    Let’s not deny the fact that there are divisions inside the Republican party.  It’s too big a thing for there not to be.

    But make no mistake, stories like this from the NYTimes and this from a WaPo blog are designed to tear those natural divisions into gaping wounds.

    We cannot fall for it.  We cannot fall for it especially now when the Democrat party is trying to eat itself alive over the disaster that is Obamacare.

    Yeah, I know the elections are just over, but you have got to ask yourself why these stories now?  Republicans had a great day Tuesday.  Cuccinelli was the only major loss and that was, in the end, a win when compared to expectations.  There were no signs of vast rifts n Tuesday’s results.

    But then perhaps that answers the question of why these stories are appearing now.

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

    “…Sometimes gives the impression of being a charter member of the cast-the-first-stone coalition…”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:20 am, November 6th 2013     —     1 Comment »

    That’s how the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page described Ken Cuccinelli this morning in the wake of his very near miss.

    I think it clarifies a message problem that confronts the politically active of faith.  Mark Levin did not help matters when he said, “…GOP ESTABLISHMENT AND DONORS LEFT THE FIELD.”  But he does illustrate a point.

    The word that keeps running through my mind is “winsome.”

    generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence

    Somewhere, somehow, those of us on the conservative side of the social issues have lost that.  This is a communications concern, not a policy/position concern.  Yes, our opposition wants to act like anyone that holds a position contrary to theirs is definitionally not winsome, but they can only get away with that if our approach and personality permits them to.

    I need to slip into preacher mode for one paragraph – it is also a spiritual issue.  If we are not winsome, then somehow we are not reflecting the God we worship because He is – by definition – winsome beyond description.  Think about the story to which the WSJ’s description alludes, there is no condemnation from Christ; He in fact saves the accused from condemnation.  There is only an urge to “go and sin no more.”  A lesson in winsome that.  Now back to the politics.

    The “GOP Establishment and donors,” if dollars are the best measure, did not support Cuccinelli nearly as much as his Republican predecessor – but that does not necessarily mean they are “RINOS” or that they have abandoned socially conservative issues.  It means they are searching for the right way to approach those issues and they knew that Cuccinelli was not the right way.

    History never repeats itself in as much detail as we like to think it does, so Reagan nostalgia sometimes troubles me.  Reagan would have likely found the current environment far more frustrating than the one he operated in.  But he did have the particular thing we are talking about here absolutely right on.  He made friends of his opponents and managed to stay friends with them, even when they disagreed.  They liked him, even when he disagreed with them.

    If there is a lesson to be learned from yesterday’s results that’s it.  Chris Christie has a number of vulnerabilities as a candidate, but he is likable.  He manages to be quite charming in the middle of his combative bombast.

    Much has been made of the fact that Mitt Romney is also a very charming guy.  I certainly experienced that in my meetings with him.  But the public never got that image.  We are quick to blame the MSM, but there are certain preconditions that make it so the MSM can get away with that.  Primary among those preconditions is that Romney’s supporters were often precisely as dour and condemning as the media painted Romney.  Not everybody gets to meet a presidential candidate, but everybody does get to meet a supporter of a presidential candidate.  People will inform their impression of the candidate on their impression of his/her supporters.

    We need, desperately, to find our “happy place” again.  We cannot wait for things to get better.  If they are going to get better it is because we have found our way back to winsome.  Not our candidate – us.

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    Posted in Candidate Qualifications, Culture Wars, Evangelical Shortcomings, News Media Bias, Political Strategy, Social/Religious Trends, The Way Forward, Understanding Religion | 1 Comment » | Print this post Print this post | Email This Post Email This Post

    An Interesting Reflection – Defining A Fundamental Problem

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:24 am, November 4th 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    Peggy Fletcher Stack of the SLTrib was one of the better reporters on the Romney/religion angle.  She was a friend of this blog, and Lowell interacted with her frequently – I only on occasion.  She has recently put up a long “reminiscence” of both campaign cycles at “ABC Religion and Ethics.“  It is a great and worthy read.  I found one paragraph most interesting:

    Again, as a journalist, it was not my agenda to support or defeat Romney, only to help explain his frequently misunderstood faith to a public eager to know something about his church. Another task I took on during his campaign was to correct misinformation about Mormonism, mostly made by secular journalists unfamiliar with religion. (Mind you, the country’s religion writers at major newspapers did an excellent job of explaining some elements of the candidate’s faith.) I did this by blogging or tweeting about the errors, knowing that or readers would be amused or outraged.

    That is a fascinating view of the job for a journalist to do in a presidential campaign.  It raises a number of fundamental questions.  Should the religion of a presidential candidate need to be explained?  How much of the religion of a candidate can be explained without discussing it with the candidate personally.  (Stack admits Romney never sat for an interview with her.)  In any religion there is faith, belief and practice.  Which of that is “fair game” and which is not?

    Religious practice, that is to say behavior, has always been fair game in reporting on a candidate for any office.  How a candidate behaves, what he/she will do is perhaps the most vital question to ask.  But faith and belief?  When we step into that realm, things become highly problematic.  Some beliefs, or theological precepts, just don’t matter.  For example the Mormon concept of the Godhead is at the heart of the theological question of whether they are Christians or not.  But that theological formulation makes virtually no difference in the behavior of any believer of Christian tint, orthodox or heterodox.  So why does it matter when electing a president?  And then there is the fact that not all adherents to a particular flavor of Christianity hold faithful to each theological precept of that flavor.  Just because the PCUSA, my church, ordains practicing homosexuals to holy office does not mean I agree with that.

    Which brings me back to journalism.  Journalism serves a role in our national fabric.  It is not merely to tell people what they want to know, but by not necessarily telling them everything, telling them what matters.   Journalism is one of the checks and balances in our nation.  A journalist must keep that in mind when they write.  (I make no judgement on Stack here, I only use her piece as a springboard for this discussion.)  I am not talking about spin here, I am talking about things that matter and things that don’t.

    I do not think we were well served in this arena in the last few election cycles.  Candidate reporting now resembles People magazine more than the great journalism of my youth.  In their print editions, the greats of old are highly partisan, but they have yet to dip into this well.  However, online, their blogs and Tweets are as salacious as the rest.  At one point People was a sideline at Time, now it is the other way around.

    As usual, this says more about the American people than anything else.  Why has journalism gone this way?  It’s what sells.  But a little push back against the market would certainly be a breath of fresh air.  Who knows, it might even help.

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    The Horse Is Dead, Keep Beating The Horse

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 08:20 am, November 3rd 2013     —     Comment on this post »

    The latest Halperin/Heilemann inside the campaign gossip book comes out Tuesday and The NYTimes coverage of the salacious highlights has created some fascinating commentary.

    From the standpoint of this blog, the most interesting tidbit revealed is that Harry Reid’s source on the “Romney paid no taxes” claim is Jon Huntsman Sr.   Not terribly surprising really, the Huntsman Jr. campaign seemed from the beginning an effort to derail Romney and the existence of a Huntsman/Romney feud is old news.

    What is fascinating is the way it is being spun in left wing circles.  So far all the commentary I have seen to date, which is not much, has felt compelled to mention that all the players in that little melodrama are Mormons.  One piece mentioned it but did not make a thing out of it, while the other acted as if it was some sort of CJCLDS inter-gang rivalry:

    Mormon Shivs Mormon with Mormon…

    …read the headline to the piece.  What’s the game here?  It’s simple, the more than can keep us fighting with each other, the less we will fight them.  They constantly portray the Tea Party at odds with the party mainstream – the Evangelicals at odds with the Mormons, the Evangelicals at odds with the Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals at odds with other Evangelicals and now they are going to have the Mormons fighting other Mormons.

    Not all of it is that politically astute, some of it is merely a fascination amongst the irreligious classes as to how religion really works.  They think all of us of faith, and especially Mormons, are culticly enslaved and incapable of independent thought.

    Both of these are questions that we have to answer as we move forward.  Religion is slowly coming to be viewed as “extremest.”  And while we are not actually at each others throats, we are not exactly one big happy family either.

    Oh BTW, there is some good news.

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