John and Lowell traveled to the Bush Library in Texas for Governor Romney’s historic
speech December 6, 2007. It was there we met and discussed their work and our hope of a Romney presidency.
Following is a candid view into John’s childhood, youth, and adulthood that I found most revealing – especially as relates to his arriving to understand Mitt Romney’s tremendous leadership skills and experience. I am grateful to him for this guest contribution to Mitt Romney Central.
From Protecting The Church To Electing A President — This Evangelical’s Story
By: John Schroeder
The story is now old about how Article VI Blog got started. We have grown from the original team of me, an evangelical Presbyterian, and my Mormon partner Lowell Brown to include John Mark Reynolds, notable Greek Orthodox academic and scholar. All three of us have our individual reasons to be there; let’s talk about mine.
When I started, I really did not care much for Mitt Romney, but I also hated bigotry. Frankly, one of Romney’s key talking points for the ’08 election was what has now come to be called “RomneyCare” and I was aghast. When Article VI Blog started I was in the process of losing about 200 pounds. That gave me a unique view of the health care system – the last thing I wanted was to give the government the power to tell me about my weight, and let’s face it, you put someone in charge of your healthcare, and that is where they are going. But again, I hate bigotry.
See, I am a son of the Deep South. I was born in 1957 in Oxford, Mississippi. My father soon finished law school and we left Mississippi, but my mother’s entire extended family was there so rarely a year has gone by in my life that I have not spent some time in the state. I grew up with “Whites Only” signs, and segregated water fountains. Most importantly, I saw the racial prejudices of the Deep South routinely turn some members of my loving and wonderful family suddenly ugly. We could be having the most wonderful evening in a household full of love and good cheer and the topic would come up and well, let’s just say I saw the good cheer leave the room.
So, on that fateful day when Hugh Hewitt introduced me to the idea that Evangelicals would oppose Romney, not because of something like RomneyCare, but because of his faith, I did not want to see the good cheer leave the “evangelical room” and decided to get involved. Right up until the day before Super Tuesday in the 2008 primary campaign, I worked hard to fight the religious bigotry that was so obviously aimed at Romney, but that did not mean he had my vote. He ended up with it, but he had to earn it.
So-called RomneyCare really was the only serious obstacle to his having my vote. John McCain was, well, not a team player with Republicans, and governance is a team game. Rudy Giuliani was waaaay too far left. Fred Thompson was a joke, and Mike Huckabee really did take the good cheer from the evangelical room. But….
In ’08 Romney ended up with my vote largely because as I studied the RomneyCare issue I came to discover that what was passed in Massachusetts was a far cry from what Romney proposed. What Romney proposed was a hybrid system between private enterprise and public health care. Most importantly it offered subsidies for people to get private healthcare; the government never became the provider. Not ideal from my perspective, but enough to make him far more palatable than the alternatives, particularly when you consider that the public, showing a lack of wisdom in my estimation, was demanding something. A reasonable politician has to act when the citizenry demand, even if the result is less than ideal. Those in elected office are, after all, servants of the people, not rulers.
Since ObamaCare has come to pass, RomneyCare is no longer an issue for me. There are many similarities in the Massachusetts healthcare system and that which ObamaCare shall bring to pass, but in the end there is no comparison. Many legal scholars think ObamaCare is unconstitutional – I am inclined to agree with them. States have a lot of power that the federal government does not. But more importantly to my mind Massachusetts healthcare now has little resemblance to what Mitt Romney originally proposed. He had some vetoes overridden and has been out of office for quite some time now, giving that heavily liberal legislature, and governor, plenty of time to fiddle about. What Mitt Romney wanted, and what Barack Obama shoved down our gullets is radically different. Romney has promised to minimize the impact of ObamaCare as much as the power of the presidency will allow and to make repeal of it a priority in his agenda. That’s all I can ask.
Let’s get back to my youthful sojourns to Mississippi and to bigotry. You cannot be about in Mississippi and not know African-Americans, lots of them. One of the reasons things seemed to turn so ugly in the family gatherings when it came up was because the blacks that I knew in Mississippi were certainly poor and generally undereducated but most of them were decent good people. As an infant, I was cared for by a woman (my mother worked while my father was in law school) who remained in service to the family her entire life, as did several of her children. Now my parents were dirt poor at the time. Mom made a pittance as a production assistant at a Memphis television station and Dad had the GI bill. That they could afford a caretaker for me explains a lot of the poverty in the African-American community of the time. Regardless, I saw that woman (Fannie was her name) on every visit I made to Mississippi until she passed away, which was about the time I graduated high school. She could not read or write, but she was a good woman – having cared not only for me, but for many of my generation. She was a decent person. But the things some of my family members would say when she was out of earshot…. Their words simply did not match the reality I witnessed, and it made some loving, beautiful people look very ugly.
Schroeder & Brown at Faith In America Speech
You cannot live in southern California, one end of the so-called “Jello Belt,” and not know Mormons – lots of them. When I contemplated my evangelical brethren discarding a candidate for POTUS because he was a Mormon, it just looked ugly to me. They were good, decent people. Politically most that I know stand right where I do. They are contributing members of the community, often leading on things that my brethren seemed too pre-occupied to tackle. As the African-Americans of the Mississippi of my youth were poor and under-educated, the Mormons of my adulthood were theologically misguided, but they were good people, even preferable as neighbors. To discard Romney on the basis of theological wrongness reflected very poorly on my evangelical brethren.
I am tempted at this point to go on about the proper relationship of theology and religious affiliation to our citizenship, but that is a scholarly topic, and this is a personal reflection. Besides, it’s getting too long anyway.
I grieve for all those that would discard Romney, or Jon Huntsman for that matter, on the basis of their Mormon faith. To do so, from my perspective, shows little faith in the God who saved me and whom I claim to serve. The New Testament is full of the message that Christ came to free us from the drudgery and ugliness of legalism. Such is not license for debauchery, but rather a reflection of the fact that Christ’s ministry transforms us. We are changed from people who obey the law out of obligation, fear and tenacity to people from whom behavior in compliance with the law flows as a natural consequence of who we are.
If we still operate out of a mindset that demands strict compliance in an obligatory and tenacious manner, then we have yet to experience the deep reality of what Jesus can do for us. Christ, it must be remembered, chose the company of sinners over the religious elite of his day. In plain speak, it is not about theology or membership, but character.
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke some of the most profound words of the last century:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The years since Article VI Blog started have been very interesting years in my life. Among the more interesting occurrences has been the opportunity to get to know Mitt Romney just a little and some of his extended family quite well. These are people, who when judged by the content of their character, deserve the same shot at the White House, or any other part of the American dream, that the rest of us enjoy.
I do not pretend to know what God thinks of Mormons or Mormon theology – I do not know what will happen to any individual Mormon in eternity, or anyone else for that matter – I am no where near that smart. I know what I believe and what my prayer and study has taught me, and yes, it is quite different than what they believe. But I also know that to deny them their place in our nation, based on that difference, reflects far more poorly on me than it does on them.
All said and done, that is why I started with Article VI Blog. I did not want the prejudices of some in the Evangelical community to reflect poorly on all of us. I wanted anybody that bothered to listen to know that we’re not all that way.
Some six years later the only thing that is different is that Mitt Romney is now unquestionably the best candidate qualified to steer our nation back in the proper direction. Economically, his skill is unrivalled. As an executive, his experience is unmatched. As a politician, his current victories speak for themselves – as does his character. This cycle Mitt Romney has more than earned my vote. I am proud to be behind him – 100%.
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