Friday, April 2, 2010

Politics in church meetings... um, why?

Ah, here we go again. Yet another highly controversial blog post. And at the same time, yet another post in which I absolutely stand by everything I say. This is what happened to me today:

Lot's of my facebook friends post random political and religious articles online, and because of my abundance of free time, I actually read a lot of them, even if they're boring. Today i read a post called radical retention. It deals mainly with becoming more open minded to the fact that different people have different political beliefs, and that many people feel alienated in our church because they feel as though they will be shunned for expression the aforementioned beliefs. (see here for article:

For those of you who don't feel up to reading the article, these are the main points that were made either in the article itself, or in the comments to it (some of which I agree with, and some I don't):

  • Active members of the LDS faith have an extremely strong majority slant toward having conservative political views.
  • Because of this slant, lots of more liberal members feel shunned, oppressed, or unable to say anything.
  • It is important to work from within, and try to shift these statistics toward a more evenly divided populous.
  • One way to do this is to not sit idly by in church meetings and allow conservative comments to go uncontested.
  • Another way to do this is to join groups and blog discussions about ways to make important changes in the church.
  • Conservative politics are passing as doctrine.
  • People are leaving the church based on their differing political views.
  • The church will change naturally from outward social pressures, but only if we actively work to change it from within.
  • Calling certain issues (like abortion or gay rights) "moral" issues is a double standard.
While I 100% agree that sometimes as a mormon culture, we tend to forget some of the basic doctrines as loving one another, condemning the sin, not the sinner, charity, service, etc., and while I also agree that as a people we really need to try to change this problem, I did not at all agree with the direction the article went as to how. Therefore I'll copy and paste my reply to this post under the sections it fits, as well as elaborating a little.

  • Active members of the LDS faith have an extremely strong majority slant toward having conservative political views.
True. That's just a statistical thing, not a doctrine thing. But I fail to see how this really matters. Everyone is encouraged to do their own thing politically, and it just so happens that most people choose conservativism. Big deal.
  • Because of this slant, lots of more liberal members feel shunned, oppressed, or unable to say anything.
Also true, but this, again, is not a doctrinal issue, but a matter of personal failings and foibles.

"To be honest, I have absolutely no problem with people within the church having different political views. When it comes to big vs. small government, or economy, or all that stuff, it's seriously just a personal preference matter. It doesn't matter to me what party you identify with regarding this."

This is what people theoretically believe, but it's always easier said than done. Like I said, though, this is a case of imperfect people in a perfect church, not the other way around. We need to work on the basics. Love, charity, service, etc. Those ARE doctrines, and we just need to be better at following them.

  • It is important to work from within, and try to shift these statistics toward a more evenly divided populous.
Um, why is it important? As I said a few times already, I don't see the correlation between the religion's saving power, and the political statistics.

"Yeah, I agree that we should be more open minded about having differing views. That is entirely true. But I don't think it's really that important to do it by shifting the statistics, or changing our being generally more conservative. I think we need to just do it by trying to help people really understand the love one another part of the gospel. Getting up and delivering political comments in church isn't gonna do that."

  • One way to do this is to not sit idly by in church meetings and allow conservative comments to go uncontested.
"What I disagree with is turning church into a forum for expressing your differing views. Yeah, I know other people do it too, but that doesn't make it ok. People aren't perfect, and so it's going to happen. I know this. But I very much disagree with actively encouraging people to make political comments in church meetings. I don't honestly care whether or not you agree with whoever else commented, politically, that's not an excuse to keep the wheel rolling by adding your two cents worth. You should be the bigger man, and instead of getting riled up, just realize that sometimes people say stuff that they don't need to be worrying about in church. Because no one should be advocating political agendas in sunday school. That's the entire reason that the church hasn't come out and said everyone should be this or that. Because it's got absolutely nothing to do with doctrine.

Doctrine is the important thing in church. What's eternally true is a whole different realm, and that's what we should be talking about. And just as a side note, I have to say a little bit of a "duh!" here. The things that we believe in as church members regarding true things, (doctrinally true things) make us by nature more conservative that some people. No matter how liberal your political views are, if you believe the stuff that the prophets tell us that is important, and isn't up for "interpretation", you're always gonna be just that much more conservative than any other radical liberal, whether you like it or not. It's a completely normal thing, and not something to be stressed out about with statistics. "
  • Another way to do this is to join groups and blog discussions about ways to make important changes in the church.
I actually do agree here. If you really feel like you have something to say, go out and start a blog, or join a group. Talk. Discuss. This is good. The only thing I would say is be careful about distinguishing between making changes in the church, and in the people of the church. It's God's church. You don't want to be messing with his architecture, or it's gonna crumble flat, just like the meridian church.

  • Conservative politics are passing as doctrine.
Yeah, sometimes they do with certain people, but not as a churchwide actual official doctrine. Sometimes you have to actually use your brain to figure out which is which, instead of just being a lemming. God gave us brains so that we may use them.
But whether they do or don't, I still really don't like using sunday school as a platform for political agendas.

(see bullet 2 above this one)

  • People are leaving the church based on their differing political views.
Um, I'm sorry? I don't know what else to say about this, because leaving the church is a highly personal thing. Many people have different reasons for doing so. However, it pretty much entirely comes down to no longer believing or understanding the truthfullness. Someone who really knows and understands the doctrine, the importance of the doctrine, and the truth of the doctrine is not going to throw away their eternal salvation just because the other people in church vote differently than they do. It might be tough, yeah. It's hard to be a minority, especially in a place where the people are SO not perfect. But if you're wussy enough to throw celestial exaltation out the window just to go hang out with more people who are in the same political party as you, that's your own fault. Anyone who ever leaves the church has the choice to or not to. Sometimes it's hard to keep believing. Sometimes people are rude. Sometimes you feel alone or different. But if you really know it's true, then the rest of it doesn't matter. And there will never, ever be a situation where you don't have the choices to make that lead you away. It's your choice.

Ever wonder why there are so many more bad things happening in the world to good people? Part of the reason: agency. Some people make bad choices. Those bad choices affect other people negatively. BUT God puts such a high importance on the ability to make those choices, that he protects that ability, even at the cost of negative things happening in the world.

If God protects agency THAT much, do you think He's actually going to let you NOT get salvation unless you CHOOSE that path? Not so much.

  • The church will change naturally from outward social pressures, but only if we actively work to change it from within.
I can't think of a single time when the Church changed because of social pressure. It might seem that way sometimes, because of God's timing, but it most definitely isn't.

"Now, as for "interpretations", the church isn't like the government. There are a few things that you can see from that light... interpreting it differently than someone else, but there are things in the church that aren't up for interpretation. That's just how it is. God doesn't bend his rules just because the rest of the world does. The more liberal the world gets, the more conservative our church is gonna seem. Not because it isn't just, or isn't up with the times, but simply because it DOESN'T change on so many issues, when everyone else does. That's what makes it true. The fact that it isn't bendable. "

I was made aware by a successive comment that I make it sound like we don't believe in the open cannon or the continuing revelation. We most certainly do. So I added a clarifying statement to my post that goes like this.

"Hahaha. Thanks JMB275. I didn’t realize I was making it sound so static and everything. No you’re on the ball there. We do have an open cannon and continuing revelation. Some things do change.

You are also right as far as freedom. I didn’t intend to make it sound like anyone has the right to force someone else believe what they do. It’s the same problem our world has with the freedom of speech. You can say anything you want to unless I don’t agree with it. Then you need to shut up. Haha. One of those human nature things that we need to get over.

I think I was just trying to emphasize that some of the stuff that man thinks should change is not going to change God’s mind just because it’s politically appropriate. For an obvious example, thou shalt not commit adultery. As much as it’s implied that things like that aren’t so bad now a days, it’s always gonna be wrong. And God is never gonna say, “Alright, now it’s ok to cheat on your wife.” That kind of consistency is what I meant by the things that don’t change are partly what make the church true. There’s no interpretation of that commandment that will ever get around the fact that it’s wrong, no matter what you say to yourself to make yourself feel better about it. It is what it is.

That’s a no-brainer example, but the application is still relevant to loads of other situations. Some things are changed by God for our good, and some things are constant no matter what the people think. And we’re often surprised about which is which. Now, you may be right. I could be totally thrown for a loop with some of the things that end up being ok after all. But it’s still ultimately God’s decision. If something like that happens, I’ll be more than willing to realize my expectations were wrong."

That's what I meant. God knows what He's doing. And I emphasize my words "on so many things" in that first section. I never did actually say everything, but cest la vie. Clarification is fine.

  • Calling certain issues (like abortion or gay rights) "moral" issues is a double standard.
Wow. That's just weird to me. Because whether you like it or not, there are issues that are both moral and political. That is why, in my opinion, so many people in our church DO slant conservative. Sometimes they're moral rights we need to be FOR and sometimes we need to be AGAINST. Depends on what they are. But if you'll notice, every single thing that the church has ever taken a political stance on has been in relation to a "moral" issue.

"See the thing with stuff like prop 8 and all that is that it isn't an arbitrary "what kind of government do the people want" kind of issue. The proposition itself wasn't about "should gay people have rights". It was about "What is the definition of family". While it's true that defining family in a particular way can have some political repercussions, it's by far the lesser of two evils, and that's why the church (which it rarely ever does) actually took a stand on it this time. Because there are some doctrines like the doctrine of the family that are SO important to our eternal salvation that we can't afford to let it get crushed under the political bandwagons. There's a reason why there have been so many statements issued, like the proclamation on the family. It's too important to ignore. When the members of the church backed prop 8, it wasn't in the spirit of condemning those who profess to be gay. It was in the spirit of protecting one of the most important definitions in the world: what is family.

If you look at it, everything else in the political world that the church HAS taken a stand on has been something like this. A situation where it wasn't about a law, or civil rights, but standing up for an eternally true doctrine.

You may think that the whole priesthood with black people might be a contradiction to this. But it really isn't. You see it wasn't a matter of the people in the church fighting to keep black members suppressed. And it wasn't a matter of resisting healthy political change. See, clear back when Joseph Smith was still around, he treated black people as his equals, and slavery hadn't even been close to being abolished. It has never been a matter of regarding them as lesser people. Granted, I don't know the answer to the reasons why. I have no idea what God was doing when he made them wait until more than 100 years later to receive the fullness of priesthood blessings. I'm not even gonna guess, because I'll probably be wrong and just spark some kind of heated, hate-filled argument on it. But I have no qualms with simply realizing that He had his reasons, and it's not really necessary for me to know what they are right now. If they become necessary, He'll tell me. "

Those are the answers to those main points. Here's the rest of the post, in case you actually care.

"And that isn't the same thing as blind faith, just fyi. Blind faith is being asked to go and do stuff, and believe stuff without having a reason to. Blind faith would just be believing a doctrine because you feel like you're supposed to. God doesn't ask us to be blind. He WANTS us to question things. We are supposed to look at a doctrine, think and ponder about it, and question Him. Ask Him if it's true, and then He can say yes or no. When He says yes, it's not blind anymore. Because He has confirmed to our individual souls that something is true, even if we still don't understand all the different parts of it.

This has political applications as well, in terms of deciding what's interpretable, and what isn't. Pray and get answers. Some people don't appreciate that catch all answer, especially when speaking politically, but it's one of those universal, unchanging truths, and no matter what the topic is, you can talk to God and ask Him anything. But only if you actually want answers. Sometimes people craft their questions or pray without planning to act on whatever it is, and He isn't gonna get tangled up in your webs of intrigue. Just be for real, and you'll get for real answers. That's all.

So yeah, sorry that turned into a whole lot longer of a spiel than I planned. But I stand by everything I said. I really do think it's honestly ok to believe lots of different political things. And I really do think that people SHOULD be more open minded about what other people believe, regarding differing political views, different cultures, or even other religions. We need to love more and argue less. But the venue for debate and political opinion is NOT in church meetings. Nor is it actually important and crucial to shift the statistics of the church. And just be careful about what's interpretable and what isn't. :)"

After further discussion, I realized that many of the people who are treating God's church like a government are doing so because they A: don't really believe it to be God's true and living church, or B: they don't understand what it means to be God's true church.

The reason I am so very against political upheaval within the church organization is for the simple fact that it is NOT a thing of man, but of God. Almost all of the arguments against my post dealt with this fact. That I was calling it the "true" church. I had lots of comments such as "That's why we have to be careful about truth statements, we may not be right" and "what exactly do you mean by 'the true church'". My answer:

"Yossarian, I’ll tell you what I mean by “The true church”. I mean “It’s the true church of Jesus Christ, restored on the earth through a prophet of God.” I hope that clarifies things for you.

I’m not ashamed of declaring what I know. I’m not gonna back down like some of the people on this blog. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but it’s true. Being all wishy washy about stating the trueness of the church either means that you don’t really believe it, or that you have no spine. Making so many comments about “well, other people believe the same thing about their church” or “what do you mean by true” or “we should be careful about truth claims, we might not be right” are nothing more than indecisive banter."

To that I add that you either believe this church is true, or you don't. There really is no middle ground. If you don't, why the heck do you care about changing it's political structure? If you do, then how can you possibly think that we, as mortal humans, can do anything to change God's mind about HIS church and HIS rules?

I can't think of anything else to add to that. I hope this all made sense. Peace out.

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