Saturday, May 9, 2009

Greetings from the Republic of California

Posting on the weekend is a bit like advertising on late-night television. You better understand the type of audience you're going to attract...

With that, I'd like to publicly thank the Editors (not those The Editors) for inviting me to post on this blog. Hopefully something I say will prevent you from spending too much time actually working, after all this life is way too transitory for paid labor. We should all be able to subsist off of blog advertising. Think of it as the Internet version of Amway.

My name is Andrew. I live in Southern California although I grew up in Utah and still visit from time to time (have they arrested Rick Koerber yet, btw?). I studied international relations in college, with an emphasis on African politics, especially Portuguese colonial history and the chaos that followed. Since then I've put my degree to proper use as a computer programmer. In my free time (and paid time, but don't tell anyone) I think about politics, math, religion, and so forth. Thus I am thoroughly qualified to comment on current affairs; definitely on the same level as, say, David Brooks or David Broder (only hopefully not as annoying, and a lot cheaper).

Since we all have opinions, I'll share one of mine -- immigrants rule in America. As the demographics of the U.S. change, so do our politics as we import the views of various immigrant populations. This has always been the case; after all, our own Constitution was written by immigrants eager to cast off British colonial power. It is a testament to its durability that it has provided shelter to vastly different populations who've come here seeking its protection. In California there are a number of these groups -- Vietnamese and Koreans who fled from conflicts in their respective countries, Central and South American immigrants fleeing the effects of the "Cold" War, Ethiopians and Eritreans doing the same, and so forth. Many of these groups helped place California in the Republican column during the Reagan years. Now the opposite is happening as Immigration itself is a hot-button political topic. We've seen sometimes dramatic shifts to the Right in Europe over the issue; what will happen here? Considering our history, I'd bet against the nativists.

16 comments:

Steve said...

To answer one of your questions, no they haven't arrested Rick Koerber yet, although I've noticed his billboards aren't as ubiquitous as they once were.

Regarding your main point, I was listening to James Carville on NPR the other day. Normally I think Carville is as much of a blowhard as Limbaugh or Hannity, even though he's on the other side of the spectrum, but he brought up an interesting point. In his book, he argues that the country is starting to shift leftward and that immigrants are a main reason why. He said had we had the same demographics that we had in 1992 and all demographic groups voted the same way they did in 1992, McCain would've won.

I agree with his premise. Multiculturalism is quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception just about everywhere except the Mormon belt and the deep south. Even though Utah is slowly becoming more diverse, it's still mostly white bread conservatives in my southwest SL county neighborhood.

Jacob S. said...

Welcome to Andrew, we're glad to have him posting with us.

Randall said...

THE MOST IMPORTANT DISCUSSION OF THIS SITE, AND THE CULMINATION OF ITS ESSENTIAL PURPOSE.

I have bounced around in my response to may of these postings, responding to some, spinning of others into my own diatribe, etc. What ensued was the classical eternal tennis match between the liberal and conservative paradigm. I think that everyone is well versed on the talking points of this debate generally, so I don’t see much point.

Then it occurred to me, the reason I am compelled to respond to this liberal website among so many, is the title “The Mormon Left.” It is the fusion of the liberal ideology with Mormonism that compels me to respond with such urgency. Jacobs’s central hypothesis, of course, is that Mormonism is not just barely compatible with modern liberal ideology, but that the principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compel one towards liberalism.

It is this point to which I will address all further conversations postings on this site, as it is the largest and most important question at hand. I assert, of course, that the principles, policies, and practices of the Mormon Church are utterly incompatible with the ideology of contemporary liberalism. In most aspects, in fact, I assert that these ideas are mutually exclusive. This is not a conservative observation, as I’m sure that most adamant liberals would be surprised to hear the Mormon Church considers itself and its membership, fellow liberals. I think that would as shocking news to ACLU members as it would be to most Latter Day Saints.

As a note: I intent to use the word left, liberal, and liberalism interchangeably. As the author of the site uses the word “liberal” in his subtitle, and describes himself as such, I am confident that this is not an issue. Inversely, I will use the terms the right, conservative, and conservatisvism interchangibly as well.

It’s important to note that this is not a partisan discussion. The author did not call his site “The Mormon Democrat,” in which case we would be examining only the political and legislative questions at hand. The Author used the tern “the left”, which covers a broad range of political, social, and cultural ideas which involve the democratic party in some aspects, but move beyond politics into deeper questions of religion, morality, justice, education, and the deepest aspects of our civilization.

As indicated earlier, I intend to prove, inexorably, that “liberalism” in its current referenced syntax both by its advocates and its detractors, is utterly incompatible with the principles and practices of the LDS church specifically where policy and ideology converge ( i.e. prop 8) and generally in terms of essential philosophy, cosmology, and world view.

To accomplish this we need to address the question in three sections. Each of these sections will be three specific cycles of dialogue. These three statements stand to stabilize my assertion like a three legged stool.

Let it be known that this entire thread of discussion will be preserved and disseminated via email through a broad network of emails communications. Of course, no one knows how far such communications can spread, but I am aware of at least a hundred people who will actively monitoring the discussion on both sides.

The rules of engagement will be to remain civil, non-personal, but to avoid obfuscation of essential questions or diversionary tactics. In the face of such tactics, we will become more…insistent.

These are the three legs of the stool.

1. An examination of the principles, policies, and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as those principles begin to touch and overlap on social, cultural, or even political considerations. We will be using scripture, quotes of general authorities, and writings from Presidents and Apostles. For the purposes of this discussion we will only use published materials from known church authorities, prophets, or other materials approved by the church.
2. As examination of the principles, practices, and philosophies of contemporary “liberalism” This is a more difficult challenge as there is not central authority of liberalism as an organization. To accomplish this, then, we will use declarations of organizations and institutions who are self described “liberal activist” groups, quotes from “liberal” leaders, official press releases from “liberal” organizations, etc. Despite the lack of one central filter, there is astonishing unity of these factions in their sympathy and resonance with each other, which we will demonstrate. An example of these organizations would be the ACLU, Moveon.org, the NEA, New York Times, NAACP, DNC, etc.
3. A contrasting analysis between the principles, practices, and policies of the LDS church and the collective view of these “liberals” on the same questions and issues. In this section we will juxtapose the two ideologies and see if, in fact, there is this unifying resonance between “liberalism” and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as Jacob asserts.

As noted, the three sections will be produced independently. In each case we will post the analysis of each of these primary questions and invite response. Remember, this is not a discussion of the “content” of these ideas per se, the purpose of this entire enterprise is to discover whether there is or is not this unity between the church and “liberalism” that Jacob so vehemently insists exists, and I vehemently insist does not.

I will post each section at the frequency of once per week. At this point, I am going to challenge Jacob to post the text as an actual posting, with a note as to its origin, and not as a simple comment of one of his posts. This is of course, his choice. He must understand the entire content will be, as described, disseminated independently. I will be happy to forward you the mass emails as they go out if I know your email address.

And so, that said, let us examine this fundamental and interesting question which could not be more relevant than now. Despite Jacobs assertion that there is no culture war, President Eyring writes on the first page of the new Ensign,” There has been a war between light and darkness, between good and evil, since before the world was created. The battle still rages, and casualties seen to be increasing.”

With that urgency, let us honestly examine this critical issue. There will be 4 more postings, one for each of the three legs of the stool, and a final conclusion based on an analysis of the information discovered.

Let us begin.

Randy

Jacob S. said...

Well, you know, we'll see I guess. A couple things though.

First, your premise is flawed. I have explicitly stated that the point of this blog is not to show that Mormonism requires a person to be liberal, but simply that they are compatible. I've never gone further than that.

Second, I have Pres. Hinckley on my side who said, in response to a question of whether or not a person can be a good member of the church and a Democrat (i.e. liberal): "Yes, I don't know why you couldn't. We've got lots of Democrats in the church, lots of them, and they are good people." So in this discussion in which you wish to prove that such a thing cannot exist, you've got a real uphill battle. I'm not saying that you can't prove the prophet wrong on this, but it will take quite an effort.

Let's put it this way. If this were a baseball game, Pres. Hinckley just hit a grand slam for me in the top of the ninth inning, which means you are going into the bottom of the ninth down 4+ runs. Not an impossible circumstance, but pretty daunting.

Finally, I disagree that Pres. Eyring, in speaking of the general struggle of good and evil that has been going on since the beginning of time, was referring to the culture wars, which is a political phrase that came into popularity in the sixties and refers to the recent fightings of two American political parties. I can't know what he was thinking, but I would imagine that he was thinking of something a little more broad than a political catchphrase.

So we'll see where this goes.

Shawn O. said...

"These three statements stand to stabilize my assertion like a three legged stool."

Just FYI, three points in space describe a plane, which by definition will not wobble. So I guess any three statements could serve the same stabilizing function.

Oh, and a friendly reminder: that you are still too fond of absolutes - "[liberalism] is utterly incompatible with the principles and practices of the LDS church." The only argument we have made is that Mormonism and Liberalism are not mutually exclusive.

Byron said...

Wow, really? Your defense for being a Liberal (not necessarily the same as a
Democrat) Mormon is that Pres. Hinckley didn't openly rebuke his church's Democratic followers in an interview with the press? As usual, a drastic oversimplification of things. Not every word uttered out of a prophets mouth is gospel, nor is it the church's official position. I'm sure you are aware of this as I'm sure you are aware of some of the crazy things uttered out of the mouths of some of the prophets of old. Certainly you can come up with something better than this....

By the way, your people have spoken another word on your behalf: "Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America.”
-- Rosie O’Donnell on ABC’s “The View,” Sept. 12, 2006.

There you go. If one quote is all it takes, then you have been formally denounced by your own people, as Rosie O'donnell considers Mormons to be "Radical Christians" and she has no problem speaking for liberals everywhere. Have a nice day.

Jacob S. said...

First, I cannot imagine a world in which I care what Rosie O'Donnell has to say about anything, particularly politics. If you enjoy her show, though, feel free to continue watching and keeping us updated on all her musings.

Second, perhaps you haven't noticed, but we have entire website consisting of over fifty posts on various topics as our defense of being liberal and Mormon. The only oversimplification going on around here is you calling one quote from Pres. Hinckley our entire defense.

I like that you call a quote that you disagree with from a prophet "crazy." This allows for a certain amount of insight into who Byron really is.

And why does it have to be prophetic for us to give it weight? What if there was a dispute between rifle owners and shotgun owners about who really belonged in the NRA. Then the NRA president came out and said both are good members of the NRA and may peacefully coexist. Would that inform our opinion of the matter? Probably.

So when the leader of the LDS Church makes such a statement, whether prophetic or not (not that we know), it similarly would require us to give it at least some consideration before referring to it as some crazy utterance.

But this isn't even an isolated quote, there are many. Maybe I'll make a post one of these days with some of the quotes from Church leaders expressing that it is perfectly okay, in some cases even encouraging, political diversity in the Church.

Andrew said...

'Wow, really? Your defense for being a Liberal (not necessarily the same as a
Democrat) Mormon is that Pres. Hinckley didn't openly rebuke his church's Democratic followers in an interview with the press? As usual, a drastic oversimplification of things. Not every word uttered out of a prophets mouth is gospel, nor is it the church's official position. I'm sure you are aware of this as I'm sure you are aware of some of the crazy things uttered out of the mouths of some of the prophets of old. Certainly you can come up with something better than this....'


Uh... Whether or not "liberals" can be good members of the Church is beyond debate. You might as well argue that the earth is flat. In fact, any member of any political party (or no political party for that matter) can be a good member of the Church. I'm sure President Faust would have been shocked to discover that his long association with the Democratic party puts his membership into question. Ah, but you'll say, he's not "liberal"! Well, how do you know? The last time he was openly politically active was during the Kennedy administration, where he served with the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights. That seems like a pretty "liberal" association to me.

Andrew said...

'By the way, your people have spoken another word on your behalf: "Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America."'

I don't see anything wrong with this quote. Radical Christianity is a threat, in fact it mirrors radical Islam in how it influences various forms of terrorists (both in this country and abroad). Islam is more of an excuse than a motivating factor amongst "terrorists", in that it provides a very thin justification for violence. In that vein Christianity is twisted beyond its bounds (hence it's called "radical" Christianity) to support bombing abortion clinics, federal buildings, and so forth. Sometimes the divide isn't even between Christians and non-Christians -- in Africa there have been violent conflicts between groups inspired by different strains of Christianity. Ireland is another excellent example; there Christianity is abused by both sides of the conflict to further political goals.

No religion is free of "radical" elements. There will always be people willing to twist theology for their own political ends. It is very important to understand that those who use religion to radicalize are not really interested in religion. Rather, their goals are political (or they want power) and religion is simply a convenient vehicle.

Byron said...

Jake,

There you go twisting my words again. I did not say that I disgree with President Hinckley's words, nor did I declare what President Hinckley said to be "crazy". Clearly my point was that you can't base your entire defense off of one quotation. You were the one who declared this to be the end of the discussion with your baseball analogy. You were the one who esentially said, "because of this, my position is justified and I don't need to prove it further".

My reference to the prophets of old was that, if you take a quotation of a prophet to be the end of the discussion, then that means no one without multiple wives is getting into heaven (according to Brigham Young). There is obviously a lot more to it than that one simple utterance.

Lastly, I'm not saying his words have to be prophetic to carry any weight. I do think though, that if you are going to use his quotation as the church's official policy towards a political party, it had better be delivered in a conference talk or something.

Please stop twisting my words. You have done it numerous times now and it is aggravating.

Andrew,
Not all democrats are liberal. Why is this issue beyond debate? I think it happens to be an excellent topic for a debate, and I believe Randy's posts on the issue thus far remain unanswered. I look forward to reading your responses.

Byron said...

Andrew,

Obviously I wasn't debating the question of whether radical christianity and radical islam are two entirely different things. Throughout much of our history the terms "Christianity" and "War" are practically synonymous. In fact, one of the favorite liberal talking points is that "more wars are fought over religion than anything else".

I am simply saying that I think it is funny that your own liberal crowd denounces you because a great many liberals see Mormons as radical christians. Get it? Ha ha

Andrew said...

'Not all democrats are liberal. Why is this issue beyond debate?'


That's not the issue I was referring to. You said:

'Your defense for being a Liberal (not necessarily the same as a
Democrat) Mormon is that Pres. Hinckley didn't openly rebuke his church's Democratic followers in an interview with the press.'

Which very strongly implies that you believe "liberals" can't also be good members of the Church. _That_ issue is beyond debate, I know many people who'd characterize themselves as more "liberal" than Nancy Pelosi (I'd put myself in that category on at least a few issues) who are excellent members of the Church (in my view, not being their Bishop or Stake President I'm not in a position to judge their worthiness). Which brings up a very important point -- you aren't in a position to judge anyone's worthiness either.

Andrew said...

'I am simply saying that I think it is funny that your own liberal crowd denounces you because a great many liberals see Mormons as radical christians. Get it? Ha ha'

By that same token, many Bible Belt Christians (mostly Republican) spend an inordinate amount of time distributing and promoting anti-Mormon literature. I think Mormons are misunderstood by members of all political groups, and each has their way of expressing it. I don't know if Rosie meant Mormons specifically, but I do know that when a Baptist preacher shows "The God Makers" there's no question about whom he's trying to attack.

Byron said...

Oh, sorry, I wrote that poorly. I was saying as a statement that not all democrats are liberal. What I meant to say was: why is the issue of whether liberals can be good mormons beyond debate?

I submit that it is not beyond debate, and in fact, I think it is an excellent topic for a debate. So that no implications are necessary, I will state my position openly. I submit that it is not possible to be both a liberal (not a Democrat) and a Mormon. I'm not passing judgement on anyone who is, I'm simply stating that a dichotomy exists between the core tenets of mormonism and the core tenets of liberalism. By advancing the agenda of one, you inhibit the agenda of the other. This is my opinion and you obviously have a different one. That said, simply stating that something is your opinion does not liberate you from your obligation to defend it, which I fully intend on doing. Since I am not a "poster" on this site, I cannot drive the dialoge - I can merely respond to your posts.

My view is essentially the same as Randy's on this question, and he has articulated the position very well, so instead of posting another long blog I will wait for you all to respond to Randy's request and we will go from there.

Andrew said...

"I submit that it is not beyond debate, and in fact, I think it is an excellent topic for a debate."

We will agree to disagree on this point, then, and move on.

Jacob S. said...

Lets put it this way. I have the quote from Pres. Hinckley, I have the fact that Elder Marvin K. Jensen (a member of the Seventy and Church Historian) is a liberal and was specifically sent to the SL Tribune to write an editorial encouraging diversity of political opinion, I have the fact that Pres. Faust was a lifelong Democrat and served on President Kennedy's special committee on civil rights (sounds liberal, this was also during the period of the birth of Randy's culture wars), I have the fact that Harry Reid Tom Udall and Mark Udall are all US Senators and also openly Mormon, I have the fact that no person has ever been disciplined from the Church because they were Democrats or politically liberal. I have all of this direct evidence that the Church, as an institution, has no problem with members being liberal.

On the other side you have produced the following evidence: your opinion.