Monday, November 2, 2009

Unity Despite Political Differences

BYU recently held its "Religion and Politics: The Philosophical Problem and Its Contemporary Implications" symposium. All I can glean so far is what the Deseret News reported, the goal of which seemed to be to lump as many different thoughts from different people into one short column as possible. So I haven't gotten too much information yet and I'm hoping a transcript becomes available soon.

One point I wanted to hit on was from BYU political science professor Ralph Hancock who is paraphrased as saying that we, as Mormons, have three choices when it comes to politics: "claim to be a part of the mainstream, beg tolerance or work to change the mainstream." I take this to mean that if we join the mainstream we do so at the risk of our own principles and beliefs. If we beg tolerance we maintain our integrity but do nothing to become a positive force for good in the nation. That leaves us with the option of going out and trying to change the mainstream.

He went on to say:
We cannot shrink from the challenge of inflecting the majority in as wholesome a direction as might be possible. Neutrality is a lure; it's a trap. There cannot and will not be such a thing. Our task ought to be: make as many of the best kinds of friends as we can to affect the best direction of our … public discourse.
The question, I guess, is whether there is only one way, politically, to be a positive influence on the "mainstream." Do we have to stand together as members of the Church on every political issue to make a positive difference? I've noticed ever since I starting writing this blog how divisive politics is, even among members of the Church. Check out the comments section to newspapers that mix religion and politics to see just how nasty and inhuman and unChristian we can be towards each other over politics. Then remember this commandment: "I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine."

It would be nice, for me, if every member of the Church adopted my politics and was one with me. Unfortunately, I don't believe this was the commandment. I also don't believe that this commandment requires that members of the Church all espouse the same politics. Remember, our Church leaders have expressly encouraged political plurality. What we want is to be unified in love and respect for each other, and unified on "points of doctrine."

So when we flex our political muscles as members of the Church I don't think we all need to be flexing the same muscle in unison. I think we can disagree on politics and still remain "one." I also think there can be issues that members of the Church from all political persuasions can stand behind. Freedom of religion comes to mind. Otherwise it is up to us as individuals to understand the points of doctrine, live them, and then decide on our own how to best influence the "mainstream" to change for the better. I don't think there is a single, simple way to accomplish this goal, and it probably affirmatively requires voices from many different points of view.

But we are Mormons first, and liberals and conservatives somewhere further down the list. We have to stand together as members of the Church before we can stand with our separate political parties. This Church has never been affiliated with one political party over any other, and I'm not sure why there is a desire to do so now.


Javelin said...

I would say that the church leadership is very closely connected to the Republican party since most of the leaders are members. Also, the state of Utah is a very, very red state, and has been for the last forty years. Kinda hard to say that the church is neutral.

It's very easy for Mormons on the right to say that anyone against the current prophet's political views is against God.

To me, that is the white elephant in the room. How can any active Mormon go against the current prophet's political view? To me, it is easy. I follow deity, not deity's messangers. Some might not understand how there is a difference.

Momma J said...
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Momma J said...

SALT LAKE CITY 22 September 2008 The following letter was issued by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on September 11, 2008, to be read to Church congregations throughout the United States:

Political Participation, Voting, and the Political Neutrality of the Church

"As citizens we have the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy. Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future.

Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest. Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties.

Therefore, in this election year, we urge you to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.

The Church affirms its neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates. The Church also affirms its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues."

It shouldn't be easy for ANYONE (especially Mormons) to say I'm against God for voting one particular way (even if I don't fully support the church's involvement in Prop 8 or any other matter).

When I hear the statement above read over the pulpit and do as they say, (study, pray, and then vote for whom I choose), it seems quite hypocritical for members to backlash and say I'm voting against God's law when I vote more liberal.... that I'm not a good Mormon.... that I'm taking the prophets words as hooey. It's a joke!

Don't people realize that this is probably a BIG reason so many get turned off by the church? Not by what the prophet and the apostles are saying, but by what some self-righteous members say, who think the have it all figured out.

I agree with you Jacob. Let's unite together as Children of God first and foremost! Let's love each other and despite our differences, let show some respect for others and their right to free agency.