The End of Faith?

October 21, 2004 | 61 comments
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I’m going to tip-toe a bit through this post since I don’t want to break the rule against criticizing individuals, etc. So bear with me for a moment of generalization.

I recently read Ron Suskind’s article, “Faith, Certainty, and the Presidency,� in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. He was on NPR again this morning, discussing the role of faith in politics. His article and interview raise several further questions in the on-going debate concerning the relationship between faith and reason in governance. Some of you also may have seen Sam Harris’s new book, The End of Faith, which explores various kinds of “irrationality� required for faith, religious devotion, spiritual quests, etc., and traces a growing willingness for many to accept assertions of faith in place of reasoned propositions from those in positions of government leadership. I realize that many who have strong religious convictions may find Harris’s book insulting, but I found myself feeling refreshed after reading it. In a less severe vein than Harris’s essay takes, Sojourners has been leading an e-mail campaign urging Christians of all denominations to remember to add humility and tolerance to their religious convictions, stressing the need for communication across differences of doctrine, or theology, or spiritual affiliation. The question being explored by Sojourners: what should be the role of faith in the public discourse of a democratic republic?

Typically, I have given myself a misleadingly simple formula: I have to weigh my own convictions (and my right to assert them within appropriate legislative frameworks) against the differing moral convictions of others (and their right to assert such within appropriate legislative frameworks). Persuasion, negotiation, reconciliation, and constantly reconstructed equilibrium could be woven into a civic tapestry of law and culture, a tapestry made up of threads of many colors and textures. The result would be a flexible fabric of order and freedom, having both a high level of tensile strength and the ability to accommodate sudden cultural shifts & political movements. I have had a remarkable degree of confidence in our ability to create this fabric of national identity: I’ve had faith in more than my own religious convictions.

What I’ve been concerned about these past few years is the possibility that we may be losing a particular strand of faith: faith in each other. It seems to me that religious convictions, even with respect to assertions of certainty, are not necessarily the problem in our national debates; rather, the way such assertions are made can either foster further forms of civic faith, or make civic faith impossible. A goofy personal anecdote will, I hope, illustrate my point. [some of you may have heard me tell this tale before, so I apologize if this is a repeat].

When I was ten years old, my mother had been a member of the Mormon church for nine years. My father, while a believer in general Christian terms, was highly suspicious of religious institutions. My siblings and I were raised in the church.

As you might expect within our family, the members had the usual Mormon zeal for converting loved ones. We had to temper our enthusiasm, though, for fear of asserting the false premise that there was a simple choice: the Church or the NFL. Anyhow, the year that I was ten, my father surprised us all one Sunday by joining us for church. Instead of waving to us from the couch (Coors in hand, the t.v. tuned to sports, a look of utter bliss on his face), my dad was dressed up in shirt and tie, shined shoes, and a serious demeanor. This was really something, mind you. My dad smoked like a chimney, swore like a sailor, and drank like a fish. We were all happy he was joining us, but also a little nervous about the possibility of a serious profanity breach during sacrament meeting. Anyhow, we arrived at church a bit late and had to sit on chairs in the back of the chapel. There weren’t enough for all of us to sit together, so I sat with my dad on the very back row. The rest of the family sat in front of us.

The talks weren’t bad, and one was quite inspiring. The speaker was elaborating on the importance of knowing that families are forever, that love doesn’t end with death, etc. Like many of his generation, under his rough&ready exterior, my father was a romantic. During this talk he sat forward, clearly interested. He nodded agreement at key moments in the talk. It was looking good . . .

And as he always did when beginning to think deeply, my father pulled his pipe out of his pocket, tamped down the tobacco, clicked open his lighter, put flame to weed, and began contentedly puffing. Still nodding from time to time, he was clearly settling in for much-needed spiritual refreshment. I wasn’t sure what to do. A moment later, my mother’s posture stiffened and she turned around with her mouth open in surprise. Not wanting to cause a scene, and being shy by nature, she turned back around and picked up her hymn book, turned to the closing song, and began fidgeting. Within minutes, as pipe smoke wafted its way forward over the pews, heads were turning our way. Eventually, I could see the bishop straining to see who was sitting at the very back of the chapel. It was looking to be a disaster.

I remember being surprised at how angry the other members were. We were so proud and happy to finally have Dad with us. I guess we expected others to feel the same. After the closing prayer, my dad stood up and looked around, clearly expecting to be greeted; but people literally went far around us, almost dramatizing their desire to avoid my father. Tension galore. But then a charming little old lady (the kind with perfectly blued hair and a pearl-studded purse that matched her earrings) came up to us and said hello. She shook my dad’s had and welcomed him to church. In an old fashioned way, she slipped her arm through his, and gently guided him out the front door. She told him she had always loved the smell of pipe tobacco, mentioned the good memories the fragrance brought back for her, and elaborated on how pipe-smokers always seemed so intellectual and mysterious. Then she lead the conversation around to the word of wisdom, and invited my dad to share his views on health and well-being. It was done so beautifully, that it was my father who eventually pointed out that he didn’t want his kids to smoke; he shared his views with her on the evils of tobacco and expressed interest in a little pamphlet the church had on the word of wisdom.

A long story for a simple point: most of the people in that chapel shared the same religious convictions, the same certainty about the blessings associated with the word of wisdom, etc. Most chose to express that certainty in ways that were not welcoming, with an attitude that expressed distrust of my father (an attitude that would no doubt have been reciprocated in kind). The charming, pearl-laden lady, in contrast, was willing to assert her convictions with courtesy and a generosity of spirit I have continued to admire all these years later. In a manner of speaking, she was willing to put the needs of civic faith before her personal religious convictions.

Old fashioned courtesy? Simple kindness and generosity of spirit? I don’t know what to call it, exactly, but it seems we need much more of “it� here in the U.S. right now.

P.S. Apologies for being such a lackadaisical blogger. Who knew?! However, as I’m going to be stuck in Alabama Thurs.-Tues, I think I’ll take advantage of the U. of ‘bama computers to post a few more thoughts before my guest status runs out. Thanks for your responses to the mountain-bike letter, by the way. I did eventually add a further thought of my own, once I figured out the system.

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61 Responses to The End of Faith?

  1. Rob Briggs on October 21, 2004 at 2:08 am

    My reaction was more emotional than intellectual.

    What a GREAT story!

  2. Clark Goble on October 21, 2004 at 2:09 am

    I think one problem is that various groups have been subject to so much attack that they see things that appear like attacks as attacks, whether they are or aren’t. I have to admit that if I saw someone smoking in church the first thing I’d think was that it was someone intentionally trying to make a scene.

    It makes me think back to my mission when we occasionally went to Evangelical churches. At the time it seemed like a good idea. Now, looking back, I don’t think surprise appearances like that were helpful, given the views of Mormons in the community. (This was the south) It really is like the guys up around temple square. OK, maybe not that bad, but I definitely think it a mistake.

    One problem in our society in general though is how everyone feels a victim and society appears so polarized, even if the actual positions aren’t that different. (i.e. are Republicans and Democrats *really* that far apart? I don’t think so relative to political diversity in other countries) Yet everyone is so quick to take offense and judge.

    Getting back to the situation you mention though, I think that a lot of this could have been resolved by information. Tell your father before about the word of wisdom. Tell the ward about people coming. It would have made a big difference.

    Reminds me of a few years ago when I was in a long distance relationship with a woman from the east coast. She came out to visit me and decided to go up on campus to do some genealogy work at the library. Well she wore short shorts and a low cut halter top with a pushup bra. No big deal back east, but in my rush to get to work that morning, I forgot to mention the dress code at BYU and how people would react. Overall nothing terribly bad, but she felt very uncomfortable from the stares as well as recognizing the difference between her dress and everyone else’s.

  3. jeremobi on October 21, 2004 at 2:10 am

    See also David Domke’s latest book, God Willing?, for a bit of social science (good for quals and quants) on the exceptional nature of Bush’s use of religioius language and political fundamentalism. The book is highlighted here: http://www.com.washington.edu/god_willing/index.html

  4. Dave on October 21, 2004 at 4:57 am

    Brandie, I’m not sure how you got from the presidency to that great story, but I’ll second the tolerance meme. Tolerance of what? People are all for tolerance as an abstract concept, but so easily forget it when they actually have to tolerate someone who thinks, acts, behaves, or believes differently than they do, even when they know better. It’s a never-ending challenge for all of us.

  5. Rob Briggs on October 21, 2004 at 6:12 am

    The conference next week at Claremont may have to serve double duty as the Bloggernacle So. Cal. Block Party.

  6. danithew on October 21, 2004 at 8:20 am

    That was a remarkable story and I found myself feeling very relieved that there was someone who was kind to your father under those circumstances. Thank you for sharing that experience with us.

  7. Randy on October 21, 2004 at 9:06 am

    Dave,

    If you read Suskind’s article I think it will make more sense.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/17BUSH.html

    Clark,

    I don’t disagree on your general thoughts, but I don’t think they answer Suskind’s point.

  8. Kim Siever on October 21, 2004 at 10:10 am

    If I smelled pipe smoke in the chapel, my first thought would be, “Pepère? Is that you?”

  9. cooper on October 21, 2004 at 11:13 am

    This post is interesting as we had a discussion much like it in Institute last night. What compels people to be “the blue haired lady”? It is the love of the Savior. It may sound trite and simple to some, however if we all understood the love involved it would make the world a better place.

    One of our students said she had heard the statement “love the sinner, hate the sin” all her life. It wasn’t until recently that she came to the understanding that we truly do a disservice by not hating the sin. So while tolerance may be today’s buzz word for looking past sin, it doesn’t help anyone on a eternal basis. To not help someone come to a true understanding of the message is the greater sin (as illustrated by the members who chose not to even acknowledge your father’s presence). The “Blue Haired Lady” understood the message. She shared it with your father, his life was changed by her. While I am not sure if he jioned the church “and everyone live happily ever after” or not, but he was changed by her ability to love him.

    So as we stand on our constitutional rights to enforce a rejection of faith we must be reminded that the constitution was built upon religious freedom and the right to worship as we believe was written to protect that freedom not squelch it. In fact, as we all are familiar, it is a tenet of our faith; Article 11 is pretty clear how we should approach this subject in our lives.

  10. Jack on October 21, 2004 at 11:47 am

    Brandie, that’s a great story.

    I hope that from now on we will all show a little more tolerance toward the positivistic depression-era kitsch collecting blue and purple haired ladies in our society.

  11. john fowles on October 21, 2004 at 12:03 pm

    Brandie that’s an important experience and we should all try to emulate the tact and love of that lady.

    Let me share my thoughts with you about a possible reason for the other members’ reaction. That is, rather than just being intolerant Mormons, maybe they felt there was more going on (even if that was a mistaken perception).

    While in college at BYU, I had a roommate who was very critical of the Church and who loved pointing out how bad Mormons really were, how intolerant, and hypocritical. Believe it or not, right there in our apartment in the Spanish house (i.e. an on-campus housing apartment), he had a coffee maker and would have his coffee every morning. Never mind that he was supposedly a member and never mind that he had signed the honor code (and never mind that there were thousands of people whom BYU had rejected but who would gladly have signed and lived strictly by that honor code). He also would bring his mug of black tea with him to Church when he would come (once a month or so). The smell of it was very strong and bothered many around him. When there was a musical number, he would loudly clap after it, even though he knew full well that no one did that at Sacrament meeting. In other words, it was clear that he was trying to be offensive by doing things that he knew would bother and/or offend the members there (loudly sipping black tea and clapping in sacrament meeting). People realized he was doing this and avoided him (why should they have gone out of their way to speak to someone who was looking for contention). Isn’t it possible that some of the members in that ward thought that your dad began smoking a pipe in sacrament meeting on purpose to provoke a fight or to consciously do something that he knew would be offensive to them? Of course, from your story, this is not what your father intended at all, but why were the members unjustified in their reaction? From their perspective, that is exactly what it might have looked like.

  12. William Morris on October 21, 2004 at 12:13 pm

    The point of the story would have been the same even if Brandie’s father has been doing it on purpose.

    First find out. Then react appropriately.

  13. Randy on October 21, 2004 at 12:34 pm

    No doubt there were a myriad of thoughts running through the minds of the people in the congregation that day. Perhaps, John, you are right that some thought (incorrectly) that he was intentionally trying to pick a fight. Two points then: (1) be cautious in the manner in which you express the certainty of your convictions, and (2) be cautious in the certainty of your assumptions concerning the intentions of others.

  14. danithew on October 21, 2004 at 12:47 pm

    Cooper presents a pretty good discussion of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” idea. It occurred to me some time ago that if this is switched around (“love the sin, hate the sinner”) you have a pretty good definition of hypocrisy. It was worth a chuckle when it occurred to me. Don’t know if others will find it useful for anything.

  15. MDS on October 21, 2004 at 1:45 pm

    I’ve been taught by multiple leaders that if you can’t smell alcohol or tobacco on some of the members of the congregation, a ward isn’t doing enough to fulfill the mission of the church. It is an extreme statement, but gets right to the heart of the church being a refuge for sinners, and not a museum for the elect.

    My dad loves to tell about experiences from his youth when our ward’s boundaries included the local “hobo jungle,” a collection of cardboard, etc., houses near the railroad tracks. Some of these gentlemen regularly came to church meetings, cleaned up as best as they could, but probably not quite in keeping with typical LDS Sunday gear. They were welcomed with open arms. When I was very young, the local police torn down the hobo jungle. They apparently though it was a community safety issue. According to my dad, though, our community lost in the process.

  16. Clark Goble on October 21, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    Just to second MDS’ comments, in my old home ward we had enough investigators at church that the smell of smoke or the like was common. I suspect that is different in different wards, depending upon the nature of the missionary work. I also agree with William Morris’ point, that we ought to find out before reacting, however to be fair, that is hard and the initial reaction is often instinctive. I’m not saying it is right, just that it is very understandable.

    Randy, I’ve never read Suskind’s article, although I’ve read stuff by him and listened to him spout off about it for an hour on NPR the other day. I came away with a bad taste in my mouth to Suskind. He basically rejects personal revelation and acting on it. I can completely understand that. Further, I know from my own experiences, that one has to keep a skeptical eye open – something that perhaps Bush doesn’t do enough. (And that, I think, is Bush’s real flaw – not faith) But the way Suskind went off on the radio really was disturbing to me and I think illustrates a growing gap between the faithful and those who view religion in different terms.

  17. Randy on October 21, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    Clark, I understand your point. There certainly were parts of Suskind’s article that made me cringe. I agree that there is much to be said of faith, even in the political arena. At the same time, I find the decision-making process of this administration downright frightening. Part of receiving answers to prayers it doing our level best to work things out on our own. In that light, Suskind’s article gives much cause for concern. These criticisms are not just mine, or even Suskind’s. These come from many inside the administration as well as other Republican leaders.

    Many voted for Bush, knowing he was not the brightest guy, with the assurance that he would surround himself with the best minds our country had to offer. I don’t necessarily agree that he has done that, but the fact that he is unwilling to engage the minds of those he chose is exceedingly troublesome.

    The point I take from Suskind is not that there is no place for faith, but that there is a real danger is in unquestioning certainty parading as faith.

    Here is the way that Jim Wallis, an evangelical pastor and author of “Faith Works”, puts it in one of the final paragraphs of Suskind’s article:

    ”Faith can cut in so many ways,” he said. ”If you’re penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it’s designed to certify our righteousness — that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There’s no reflection.”

    Seems right on to me. A cautionary tale for us all.

  18. Kristine on October 21, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    John,

    Do you think that there are very many people who behave the way your roommate did?

    Because to me, that is a very, very strange tale–I know lots of “liberal” Mormons, and ex-Mormons of varying stripes, and I’ve never known anybody who behaved that way. Yet you make it sound like church members would do well to suspect that people who smoke in Sacrament Meeting are doing it on purpose to provoke them, as if that were the most likely explanation. (Also, if that’s your experience with Mormons who are critical of church culture or policy, it’s no wonder you get so annoyed with me and John H. all the time!)

  19. Kaimi on October 21, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    Perhaps this is a good thread to mention that I have a coffee pot in my office. Really, I do. (I think that Nate saw it when he visited.)

    Of course, it has a fish in it. Well, it did, until he died. I need to get a new fish. Until then, perhaps people will wonder if I’m starting to get a little _too_ liberal. 8)

    (By the way, the fish was named Chowder. I think the next one will be named Soup).

  20. john fowles on October 21, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    Kristine, I realize that is an extreme example. As I said, I truly do believe that we should all be like the old lady in the story. I guess my point was more toward giving the church members the benefit of the doubt; that there might have been a reason for them to act as they did (even if it was based on a mistaken assumption).

    Anyway, I actually really enjoy my conversations with you and John H. I wouldn’t say that you or our conversations annoy me. I have learned a lot from both of you. Frustration or incredulity doesn’t necessarily equate to annoyance.

  21. Kristine on October 21, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    Hmmm. Maybe I’m projecting :)

  22. Philocrites on October 21, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    I don’t talk much about “tolerance,” even though I’m both theologically and politically liberal. Instead, I think the virtue many people have in mind when they talk about tolerance is actually a deep commitment to persuasion.

  23. Jim F. on October 21, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    Philocrates, yours is, I think, a much better term.

  24. William Morris on October 21, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    In spite of its flaws (used as a club to discourage passionate discourse), I also like the term ‘civility.’

  25. Rosalynde Welch on October 21, 2004 at 8:13 pm

    This reminds me of an experience I had a few weeks ago. I befriended Freda, a sick and poor widow at church, and she has been calling on me frequently to help her out by driving her places, etc. (I am only one of many members who give her substantial help and support–not patting my own back here.) One day I was at the grocery store with her, where she bought a small supply of groceries. At the check-out counter, she urged me to move ahead with my children, and I saw her surreptitiously ask for a pack of Marlboro’s. She was a few dollars short when her purchases were rung up, so I made up the difference for her. I wondered what to do about the cigarettes. In the end, I just didn’t say anything about it. Who knows, maybe the cigarettes weren’t even for her (her son and daughter-in-law smoke, and are often at her house); in any case, I think she knows about the word of wisdom. God knows how difficult it must be for a weak and lonely woman to renounce a life-long habit.

  26. Clark Goble on October 21, 2004 at 8:50 pm

    Rosalynde’s comment reminds me of a funny story from my own life. This was from quite some years ago and I’d got a pair of AT skis (basically designed for hiking on deep snow with a big pack, and then downhill skiing down). The problem was that the only guy who could mount the bindings to the skis at the time was backlogged and was up in SLC whereas I was in Provo. (The other places that handled AT skis didn’t have the proper templates for my bindings) Someone mentioned that I could bribe the guy to work on it immediately with a really good bottle of gin.

    So there I was, naive Mormon boy, in the liquor store up in east SLC, highly embarrassed and with no idea what good gin even was or how much it ought to cost. I got it and then got the skis mounted. But I was, at the time, paranoid about what people would have thought.

    Sorry — not to take things off on a tangent.

    Randy, regarding Bush and Faith. I think that if you buy that God answers prayers, then some faith in action is necessary. While I think Bush has lacked critical analysis/questioning skills, I don’t think he’s lacked humility – especially relative to faith. (Which is basically what Suskind asserts) I think Suskind’s remarks ought be taken in the context of his comments on NPR where he asserted that proper religion was one where God was unknowable and we merely try our best to deal with a few aspects he’s revealed. It was a very liberal Protestant view of religion. One that (despite some figures like McMurrin) I think is quite incompatible with my understanding of faith. I truly do believe, contra McMurrin, that humble prayers can be answered.

    That, to be honest, has tempered how I view Bush’s actions. I think he may have screwed up the implementation (such as the first few months of Iraq) but think he has the right idea. This has left me with the decision next month of deciding what is worse – a guy who knows the right thing to do but does it poorly or a guy who might be competent, but doesn’t show he knows what the right thing to do is.

  27. Jack on October 21, 2004 at 9:05 pm

    …or knows the right thing to do, but shows that he won’t do it.

  28. Randy on October 22, 2004 at 10:24 am

    Clark, as Mormons, we don’t believe that our own Prophet — a man called by God to lead and guide His Church — is infallible. Yet Bush has demonstrated time and again a refusal to even consider the possibility that he has made a mistake or that his policies are misdirected. In fact, if news reports are accurate, he not only refuses to consider the views and concerns of his political opponents but does not even listen to the members of his own Cabinet and other Republican leaders. In fact, his administration has been set up in such a way as to isolate him from alternative viewpoints. (Indeed, some have explained his poor performance in the debates as a result of this insularity.)

    You say Bush is acting on faith. If he is, then I think he has a warped view of it. Faith does not require us to ignore the views of others. Just the opposite. Introspection is a good thing, even for the faithful. Answers to prayers often come from places we don’t expect and almost never come with detailed plans (revelations regarding certain temples notwithstanding).

    Back to Brandie’s story for a minute. Everyone, other than Brandie’s dad, in that congregation years ago knew that smoking in church was a no-no. It is one thing to have faith in the words of the Prophets as contained in the Word of Wisdom–something that presumably most everyone had that day. It is another thing to assume that this belief justifies a particular course of conduct. No doubt the blue-haired lady got it right and the others did not. The way we act on our faith is often every bit as important as our faith itself. On this score, Bush leaves much to be desired, in my view.

    I have faith in God, but I have no faith in Bush. I don’t trust that he has either the right answers or the right plan for implementing those answers. I find his unquestioning certainty far more worrisome than the alternative (an alternative, by the way, I’m not all that excited about either).

  29. Brandie on October 22, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    Foggy here in Alabama. I’m enjoying your comments. I should note for the record that my father must have known, somewhere in the back of his mind, that smoking in the chapel would have been inappropriate. He had switched from whiskey to beer, from cigarettes to a pipe, because my mother had persuaded him that certain aspects of the Word of Wisdom could be managed in progressive stages. In other words, after years of marriage, he had already begun to accept certain ideas about what makes for an abundant life, in spite of the fact that he continued to be staunchly anti- organized religion.

    However, even as a child of eleven, I could tell that he hadn’t intended the breach of decorum as an intentional in-your-face declaration of some sort: his happily-expectant attitude at the end of the meeting visibly dissolved into a combination of slight confusion and a growing consciousness that he was being snubbed. Rather, I think that while he was paying attention to the talk, he wasn’t paying attention to those around him. The problem was precisely the thing that was driving him nuts in his various attempts to stop smoking: habit and addiction — behaviors and desires that can become so automatic that what should be obvious (a Mormon chapel is probably not the best place to light up) is so easily obscurred. Worse, certain habits and addictions are related, I think, to what several of you have pointed out about the members’ reaction to the pipe-smoke moment: courtesy would normally require at least rudimentary attention to the needs of those around you. Courtesy also sometimes requires straightforward inquiry as to the intentions of others. In this regard, if the members failed my father, my father also failed the members.

    I have often thought that missionary work is as much (and in some cases, more) for the members as it is for those who are waiting to receive the gospel. The work reveals to “official” missionaries (and members generally) their own doubts, areas of substantial faith, and sites that were heretofore blind spots. I wonder if, with respect to the Word of Wisdom, it isn’t the other way around — as much (and in some cases, more) for Others as it is for each of us individually: a self-directed set of disciplined behaviors that prevents certain kinds of blindness or insensitivity towards others from being put into play. The historical context of its (the W of Ws) development as a spiritual practice suggests as much.

    Back to civic faith: I’m disturbed by how quickly we dismiss the word tolerance as useless. While I like the alternative that was offered (a commitment to persuasion), I’m not willing to say that “tolerance” and a “commitment to persuasion” overlap to a degree that I could swap them back and forth. I don’t think of tolerance as acceptance, but as putting in abeyance my desire to change or even quell someone else’s difference of opinion or belief until I fully (or as fully as I can) understand it. My commitment to persuasion doesn’t kick in until after that has happened. At least, I like to think it doesn’t. Without that one-two combination, I wouldn’t really learn from reasoned discourse: I would simply be finding the places where I agreed or disagreed, with an eye toward supporting the former and resisting the latter. As far as I can make out, I have changed and developed my views on a variety of things because I have tolerated what I considered to be a misguided position, worked to understand it as fully as I could, then set it in relation to my experiences and beliefs. An ongoing process of fine-tuning is usually the result, as well as a desire to engage and persuade.

    Next on my agenda: a blog about pumpkins, kin, and another perspective on the possibility of [what I'm not defining but insistently advancing as] “civic faith.”

  30. David King Landrith on October 22, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    I don’t think that non-Mormon’s are sinning when they drink or smoke any more than they are sinning when they don’t pay tithing. So I don’t feel particularly strong feelings about other people’s smoking or drinking–in fact, I’m quite pro-choice on that issue.

    I agree with Philocrites: I don’t like the word tolerance. Because people often advocate tolerance when they mean “You need to endorse what I’m doing,” I find that it is often just a mealy-mouthed weasel-word. I prefer more mundane terms like tact, courtesy, and perspective.

    That said, I think that christians get a raw deal. Tact, courtesy, and perspective are absent enough from all walks of life. I do know thoughtful, reasonable liberals. But in the Boston metro area (where I live), a surprisingly large number of people are savage bigots whose far left views distort political disputes beyond the realm of reasonable discourse. Just two days ago, I had a conversation with a guy who seriously compared Tom Delay’s stance on Medicare to genocide in Africa(!) and insisted that religious conviction was a mental handicap.

    I also agree with Rob Briggs: GREAT story.

  31. Adam Greenwood on October 22, 2004 at 8:18 pm

    Hey, let’s remember that while most secularist bigots are leftists, most leftists aren’t secularist bigots.

  32. Philocrites on October 23, 2004 at 8:16 am

    Brandie writes: “I don’t think of tolerance as acceptance, but as putting in abeyance my desire to change or even quell someone else’s difference of opinion or belief until I fully (or as fully as I can) understand it. My commitment to persuasion doesn’t kick in until after that has happened.”

    I agree. There’s an attitude that has to be in place before a meaningful exchange can occur. “Tolerance” can sometimes suggest a bit of indifference, really, about the other person’s belief, which is why I’m not so fond of it. But my suggestion about a commitment to persuasion leaps a bit too quickly to a strong preference for my own point of view, which is presumptous. Brandie is pointing to a more fundamental attitude, which I’d call respect.

  33. greenfrog on October 23, 2004 at 12:47 pm

    Are we justified in taking offense even when offense is intended? Why did Jesus choose not to do so on the Cross?

  34. evil genius on October 23, 2004 at 4:29 pm

    I took a couple of classes from Brandie when I was a student at BYU. At the risk of being struck by lightning, I have to say that I worship the ground she walks on. I have never grown and learned as much, or evolved as dramatically in my entire life, as I did when I was her student. Being under her sagacious tutelage was indeed one of the highlights of my mortal existence, and I will forever more long to sit at her feet again and catch the pearls of wisdom that drop from her mouth. I repeat my old refrain, “Sensei is the smartest person in the world. Sensei knows everything. Everything that is to be known is known by Sensei.� God bless you, my honorable Sensei.

    Thank you for transforming my mind through your instruction of Post-Modern and Deconstructive critical analysis.

    Your eternally loyal lackey

  35. Carl on October 23, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    I think most born-agains are actually Satan worshippers–especially Bush and Delay and friends. They are anxiously engaged in buying up armies and navies, false priests who oppress, and ruling with blood and horror on this earth. That they hide behind “God” to do so is infamous. That most Mormons in Utah will vote for Bush shows that they are in league with the Devil. Sam Harris is right. As is Suskind in his latest Times piece. We’ve got a faith-based presidency. Most people seem to want to believe the fantasies of their heart rather than empirical evidence. And their faith? Its really faith in power and greed, not God. That most Utah Mormons can’t see the difference, and will vote in a block with the devil worshippers shows a high level of apostacy or, charitably, ignorance. Just like in the days of Alma, the wickedness of the Church is now a stumbling block to those outside the church. We can never preach the gospel of peace and serve the real Master when we turn a blind eye to reality and go off whoring after power and dominion. I hope someday we can be the true church again. We seem to have left it behind in our blind acceptance of vanity.

  36. samuel on October 23, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    Carl–Amen, Brother. Thanks for saying what I’ve been too nervous to express. I can’t believe anyone with half a testimony would vote for Bush. Sure, he’s “good” on abortion–unless you think abortion in rare circumstances like rape and incest should be available to people on federal assistance as well as rich LDS members who can afford it on their own. I’ve heard that Bush’s own daughter had an abortion when she was at Austin High School (don’t remember which daughter that was…where are all the investigative reporters on this one?). As for the marriage amendment, looks like the constitution is hanging by a thread if any yahoo can use it to support their social agenda. Any Mormon who thinks thats a good idea must still be under the influence of that awful “American Heritage” BYU indoctrination.

    I’ve read all the anti-Mormon stuff, but nothing shakes my faith in members of the Church more than seeing their blind acceptance and happy support for the worst president in modern American history.

    And what’s the difference between David Koresh, who placed the lives of his followers in jeopardy to try to “bring on” the Second Coming in Waco, and a President from Waco who places the whole world in jeapordy by invading the Middle East in hopes of initiating the final wars that will presage the Second Coming. The answer–the President is risking much more and while most LDS thought David Koresh was mentally unstable, most Utah Mormons think Bush is inspired.

    Like I said, my faith is flagging. If members of the Church can’t tell the difference between a real prophet and an evangelical nut job, we’ve got serious problems.

  37. Jack on October 23, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Carl and Samuel, while you make some interesting points, you guys might want to tone it down a bit…

    As for LDS members being deceived, I am concerned that many members may be joining the rest of the nation in becoming “faith-based” instead of “reality-based”. If members and others don’t want to see the facts of our current national situation, they won’t see them, and your yelling at them on this blog won’t help. Lots of times, even on this blog, real information has been the thread-killer. How many people here have even read any of Sam Harris’s book or Suskind’s latest article on the faith-based presidency? Note even on this thread, people are much more interested in judging or not judging people for judging or not judging people than in actually engaging the Suskind and Harris work originally referred to.

    For “faith-based” people, real information is a conversation stopper. To the extent that this happens here on T&S is of concern. I’ve seen lots of threads die when someone actually digs up some information. People here sometimes just want to bear testimony, without evidence.

    So, my plea for T&S bloggers…lets have more information here. Personal stories are great, but lets dig a little deeper.

    Along that line, for those who doubt that many Bush supporters are severely separated from reality, here’s some exerpts from the latest PIPA study:

    “In recent months the American public has been presented reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the heads of the Iraq survey group David Kay and Charles Duelfer (chosen by the president), concluding that before the war Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor even a significant program for developing them. Nonetheless, 72% of Bush supporters continued to hold to the view that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Only 26% of Kerry supporters hold such beliefs.

    Perceptions of Experts on Pre War Iraq: WMD
    Furthermore, 56% of Bush supporters (as compared to 18% of Kerry supporters) believe that most experts say that Iraq did have actual WMD, and another 18% say that the experts’ views are evenly divided on the subject. Only 23% think that most experts believe Iraq did not have WMD. Though this poll was taken immediately after chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer delivered his report to Congress on whether Iraq had WMD, a majority of Bush supporters misperceived the conclusions of his report. Fifty-seven percent believed that that he concluded that Iraq did have either WMD (19%) or a major program for developing them (38%).”

    And again…

    “Despite the report of the 9/11 Commission saying there is no evidence Iraq was providing significant support to al Qaeda, 75% of Bush supporters believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda (30% of Kerry supporters), with 20% believing that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11. Sixty-three percent of Bush supporters even believe that clear evidence of this support has been found, while 85% of Kerry supporters believe the opposite.”

    Still want more?

    “Despite a steady flow of official statements, public demonstrations, and public opinion polls showing that the US war against Iraq is quite unpopular,2 only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq.
    Rather, 68% assume that views are evenly divided (42%) or that the majority favors it (26%). Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority is opposed (evenly divided, 20%, majority favors it, 5%).”

    But wait, there’s more…

    “Bush supporters have numerous misperceptions about Bush’s international policy positions.
    Majorities incorrectly assumed that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues—the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%); 51% incorrectly assumed he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty–the principal international accord on global warming. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he opposed it increased from 24% to 38% among Bush supporters, but a majority of supporters (53%) continued to believe that he favors it. Only 13% of supporters are aware that he opposes labor and environmental standards in trade agreements – 74% incorrectly believe that he favors including labor and environmental standards in agreements on trade. In all these cases, there is a recurring theme: majorities of Bush supporters favor these positions, and they infer that Bush favors them as well. For example, in PIPA’s September 8 – 12 poll 54% of Bush supporters favored participation in Kyoto, 66% favored participation in the land mines treaty, and 68% favored a treaty prohibiting testing nuclear weapons (CTBT). Apparently in the absence of evidence to the contrary, Bush supporters assume Bush feels as they do.”

    (there’s a lot more in this fascinating report…send it to all your friends, its here)

    So while Bush supporters (and Mormons among them?) may have many various OPINIONS about these things, how many of them really have the truth? And if they don’t know the truth, how can it set them free?

    Maybe we should take a verse from our Doctrine and Covenants (93:39):
    “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers

    To the extent that Republican party (or any party) politics are blinding the Saints, they may be losing light and truth.

    I pray for my brothers and sisters wandering in darkness at noon day. Wake up. Bush is not your friend. He’s not inspired. He’s a conspiring man surrounded by those who do not share your true interests.

  38. Rob on October 23, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    Jack, thanks for the links…very thought provoking. Though not sure how far they will go towards convincing any of our more conservative “faith-based” members here.

    And Samuel, though I might concur with your assessment of Bush, our friends here are going to need more than just your assertion that Bush is the “worst president in modern American history.”

    I’d really like to see more discussion of Brandie’s original post subject…how much is faith, and maybe even misguided faith, a part of our modern political life? If Bush, or any other president, makes claims based on faith, or governs by “gut” instincts as opposed to a grounding in reliable information, does that matter here?

    What about for us LDS members? What is our reaction to the Suskind article? Does it matter how Bush governs? How can Mormons join evangelicals in their support of Bush, and what does that tell us about our faith? If Bush is deceived or just off (as argued by Suskind), and his followers are decieved (as shown by the PIPA study), what does that say about Mormons who join evangelicals in their support of Bush?

    I hope I don’t sound as harsh as Carl or Samuel, but these are really troubling for me. Maybe some of my more conservative Bush supporting brothers here can help me see the light?

  39. David King Landrith on October 23, 2004 at 8:21 pm

    About Carl and Samuel, what can one say, except that they fall into the category of savage bigots whose far left views distort political disputes beyond the realm of reasonable discourse.

    Jack: You’re too gullible by half, and you’re pretense of merely bringing information to light is deceptive.

    These kinds of reports also gained currency when Ronald Reagan was running for re-election. To this day, we still here the vestiges of this when people say something like, “polls showed that most of Reagan’s supporters didn’t even support his views.” In a nation where many college graduates don’t even know that Mexico is south of Texas, it’s quite easy to pick and choose a bunch of positions and poll people to find errors in opinion.

    Polls show that Kerry nearly half of Kerry supporters believe that America brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself. A large number of journalist that I read seem to believe that Kerry’s anti-military record consists of (to quote Fred Kaplan) “votes on two defense appropriations bills, one in 1990, the other in 1995.” But Kerry’s own 1984 campaign literature inveighed against Reagan’s defense build up using much the same rhetoric that uses against Bush: “The Reagan Administration has no rational plan for our military…. The biggest defense buildup since World War II has not given us a better defense.” His literature explicitly proposed an outright abolition of the following military programs: the MX missile, the B-1 bomber, the Strategic Defense Initiative, the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the Aegis Air-Defense Cruiser, the F-15, the F-14, the F-14D, and the Phoenix and Sparrow Air-to-Air missiles. His record since hasn’t improved.

    Most liberals think that Dan Rather retracted his forgery story and admitted that the “disputed documents” were forgeries. Of course, he didn’t.

    I could go on like this for pages and pages, but to do so under the pretense of providing information is flatly dishonest. I’m advocating a political position, plain and simple. If I’m deluded enough to think otherwise, then I’ve accepted faith over rationality.

  40. Rob Briggs on October 23, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    Brandie, please never visit the Fullerton Third ward in So. Cal.

    I don’t want you coming on the Sunday that I steal your story & share it with the ward.

  41. Jack on October 23, 2004 at 8:27 pm

    I better think about using a different pseudonym.

    The frequent commenter, “Jack” ejc1988@yahoo.com, will most likely be voting for Bush.

  42. Jack on October 23, 2004 at 8:42 pm

    I tried to keep myself from saying this, but alas I lack the self-control that every good christian otta have.

    New Jack, why do you criticize the saints for being lulled in to Bush’s “faith based” camp and then try to lure them out by an appeal to your interpretation of their faith?

    Pretty damn presumptuous if you ask me.

  43. Clark Goble on October 24, 2004 at 1:31 am

    One big error in the WMD polling is the fact there were a few WMDs there, such as the nerve gas shells they recovered. They were, of course, only 13 found (as I recall) and they were basically old enough to not be useful. But if you were to ask me if Iraq had WMD I’d have to honestly say yes. Unless the question is carefully phrased, it can easily be answered in different ways. You have to say significant numbers of WMDs and clarify it.

  44. jeremobi on October 24, 2004 at 10:08 pm

    D.K.Landrith states: “Carl and Samuel … fall into the category of savage bigots whose far left views distort political disputes beyond the realm of reasonable discourse.”

    I, too, find the tone of Carl and Samuel far too sharp. But what are these “far left views” to which you refer? Did I miss a Marx reference in there?

    “Polls show that Kerry nearly half of Kerry supporters believe that America brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself.”

    Which polls? I’d love to see that stuff. Can you send the cites or links?

    “A large number of journalist that I read seem to believe that Kerry’s anti-military record consists of (to quote Fred Kaplan) “votes on two defense appropriations bills, one in 1990, the other in 1995.â€?

    Which journalists? Can you please list names or cite the columns?

    “His literature explicitly proposed an outright abolition of the following military programs: the MX missile, the B-1 bomber, the Strategic Defense Initiative, the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the Aegis Air-Defense Cruiser, the F-15, the F-14, the F-14D, and the Phoenix and Sparrow Air-to-Air missiles. His record since hasn’t improved.”

    Can you please clarify? Is this the same MX missile plan blasted by President Kimball? Can you explain the strategic and tactical efficacy of each of these weapons programs? I could really use this, if you have it.

    What do you mean by “his record hasn’t improved”? Do you suggest that Kerry is some kind of pacifist?

    How do you define warmonger?

    “Most liberals think that Dan Rather retracted his forgery story and admitted that the “disputed documentsâ€? were forgeries. Of course, he didn’t.”

    Again, can you send along any evidence you have about what “liberals” think?

    Clark states: “One big error in the WMD polling is the fact there were a few WMDs there, such as the nerve gas shells they recovered. They were, of course, only 13 found (as I recall) and they were basically old enough to not be useful. But if you were to ask me if Iraq had WMD I’d have to honestly say yes. Unless the question is carefully phrased, it can easily be answered in different ways. You have to say significant numbers of WMDs and clarify it.”

    Yup, polling is as much art as science. But did you read the PIPA report? Are you disputing the polling method? If so, on what grounds, specifically?

    You might say that Iraq had WMD. Does that mean you think the Iraqi army had them? What do most experts think? That is what the PIPA report asked about. Here’s a clue: what does every released Administration report state about WMD in Iraq?

    Help me out here; in what way are 13 (?) shells “basically old enough to not be useful” capable of mass destruction?

  45. Jack on October 24, 2004 at 10:43 pm

    jeremobi, If we were to flood T&S with a bunch of annotation there would be no room for conversation.

    “Is this the same MX missile plan blasted by President Kimball?” He also condemned abortion.

  46. jeremobi on October 24, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    Jack:

    Is space the real problem? Everyone has the right to an opinion, but not every opinion should be taken seriously. There’s opinion, and then there’s informed opinion. How do YOU tell the difference?

    “Is this the same MX missile plan blasted by President Kimball?â€? He also condemned abortion.”

    And your point is what?

  47. Jack on October 24, 2004 at 11:47 pm

    jeremobi, obviously you were able to tell the difference.

    “And your point is what?” That was exactly my point.

  48. samuel on October 25, 2004 at 12:16 am

    (old) Jack, since you are so concerned about abortion, you might want to reconsider your vote next month–much evidence shows that abortion rates, after falling during the 90s, have edged upwards again in correlation with the rise in poverty under the Bush administration. A vote for Bush is a vote for economic policies that lead to more abortion. There’s a lot of slip between Bush’s tongue and sneering lip. Hate to “clog” up your discussion with real information, but here’s the report

    Pro-life? Look at the fruits
    by Dr. Glen Harold Stassen

    I am a Christian ethicist, and trained in statistical analysis. I am consistently pro-life. My son David is one witness. For my family, “pro-life” is personal. My wife caught rubella in the eighth week of her pregnancy. We decided not to terminate, to love and raise our baby. David is legally blind and severely handicapped; he also is a blessing to us and to the world.

    I look at the fruits of political policies more than words. I analyzed the data on abortion during the George W. Bush presidency. There is no single source for this information – federal reports go only to 2000, and many states do not report – but I found enough data to identify trends. My findings are counterintuitive and disturbing.

    Abortion was decreasing. When President Bush took office, the nation’s abortion rates were at a 24-year low, after a 17.4% decline during the 1990s. This was an average decrease of 1.7% per year, mostly during the latter part of the decade. (This data comes from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life using the Guttmacher Institute’s studies).

    Enter George W. Bush in 2001. One would expect the abortion rate to continue its consistent course downward, if not plunge. Instead, the opposite happened.

    I found three states that have posted multi-year statistics through 2003, and abortion rates have risen in all three: Kentucky’s increased by 3.2% from 2000 to 2003. Michigan’s increased by 11.3% from 2000 to 2003. Pennsylvania’s increased by 1.9% from 1999 to 2002. I found 13 additional states that reported statistics for 2001 and 2002. Eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6% average increase), and five saw a decrease (4.3% average decrease).

    Under President Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.

    How could this be? I see three contributing factors:

    First, two thirds of women who abort say they cannot afford a child (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Web site). In the past three years, unemployment rates increased half again. Not since Hoover had there been a net loss of jobs during a presidency until the current administration. Average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed.

    Second, half of all women who abort say they do not have a reliable mate (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life). Men who are jobless usually do not marry. Only three of the 16 states had more marriages in 2002 than in 2001, and in those states abortion rates decreased. In the 16 states overall, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions. As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises.

    Third, women worry about health care for themselves and their children. Since 5.2 million more people have no health insurance now than before this presidency – with women of childbearing age overrepresented in those 5.2 million – abortion increases.

    The U.S. Catholic Bishops warned of this likely outcome if support for families with children was cut back. My wife and I know – as does my son David – that doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical insurance, special schooling, and parental employment are crucial for a special child. David attended the Kentucky School for the Blind, as well as several schools for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. He was mainstreamed in public schools as well. We have two other sons and five grandchildren, and we know that every mother, father, and child needs public and family support.

    What does this tell us? Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Rhetoric is hollow, mere tinkling brass, without health care, health insurance, jobs, child care, and a living wage. Pro-life in deed, not merely in word, means we need policies that provide jobs and health insurance and support for prospective mothers.

    Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, and the co-author of Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, Christianity Today’s Book of the Year in theology or ethics. “

  49. samuel on October 25, 2004 at 12:29 am

    David–you called me a bigot.

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a bigot was originally “A hypocritical professor of religion, a hypocrite.”

    How are my views of Utah Mormon ignorant voter patterns religioiusly hypocritical? I’m arguing that Mormons should be above enthusiastic support for a president who has policies that are opposed to gospel principles–principles of peace, love, and respect. I add my testimony to Joseph Smith and claim that in the last days–namely now–the US Constitution will hang by a thread and we need to rescue it from the right wing nut jobs who worship at the altar of power and greed, and who are willing to risk global war to avenge the death of a few thousand civilians killed by zealots? As a professor of the gospel of peace, how is this hypocritical?

    Or perhaps you have a different definition of bigotry.

    Hows this later definition of a bigot from the OED–”A person obstinately and unreasonably wedded to a particular religious creed, opinion, or ritual.”

    What’s more obstinately and unreasonably bigoted, my reasoned and gospel-oriented opposition to the Bush administration, or the conservative voting patterns of ignorant LDS members, who can’t see that current administration policies are not gospel oriented? Jesus–”renounce war”
    Bush–”bring ‘em on”

    If you can’t see the difference, I feel sorry for you. But don’t call me a bigot for worrying about your eternal soul.

    Or maybe you have your own “faith-based” definition of bigot and I don’t understand you because, like the (new) Jack, I am slavenly grounded in reality.

  50. David King Landrith on October 25, 2004 at 1:18 am

    Something seems to have gone terribly wrong in this thread, and I feel that I’m somewhat to blame. Please accept my apologies.

  51. Jack on October 25, 2004 at 1:42 am

    Samuel, my comment about abortion was merely a jab at the use of prophetic oracles to assert one’s political position. If your going to do it than you better be prepared to take into account the whole gamut of inspired utterances.

    As for Stassen’s “findings”, he’s identifying “trends” but not the source of the trends. There are many that would argue that his “counterintuitive” findings are merely the aftermath of the Clinton years. Let’s assume that Kerry leads us into some economic paradise where all are supplied with adequate employement. Judging by the fact that the less afluent cultures/societies are destined to rule the world because of their birth rate alone, I would say economic stability hasn’t played a major role in bringing the abortion count down. It is the more afluent cultures/societies that run to abortion for a quick fix. Indeed, abortion is a by-product of western elitism. We’re spoiled rotten.

    Here’s how the logic plays out: a guy doesn’t have a good enough job – that justifies a failure to commit to marraige – which justifies sex out of wedlock – which justifies abortion – which justifies hating Bush.

  52. jeremobi on October 25, 2004 at 10:53 am

    “my comment about abortion was merely a jab at the use of prophetic oracles to assert one’s political position.”

    Quite a leap. A request for more information and clarification (#44, Is this the same program blasted by the prophet…) to an assumed twist of a prophet’s words for personal political purposes. You infer too much. I said nothing about the utility or morality of the MX program, though Kimball’s public statements were my first introduction to the issue (and perhaps the prime reason most LDS are familiar with the MX debate–call it context, if you like).

    “If your going to do it than you better be prepared to take into account the whole gamut of inspired utterances.”

    Do you suggest that I don’t, or is this some kind of warning? My apologies if I’m being too defensive or sharp, but isn’t that really your point? If not, why raise the issue of abortion at all?

  53. Jack on October 25, 2004 at 11:40 am

    jeremobi, I’m not trying to assign a sick motive to your referring to Kimball’s talk. My point was simply: your not going to get any mileage out of quoting the prophets on political issues in order to garner support for a general political view. Because, sure as shine, at some point they will have spoken in some way against that view – whether liberal or conservative.

    Perhaps I should have said “what’s *the* point”.

  54. jeremobi on October 25, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    Jack:

    Okay, I take your point, it wasn’t personal. My impression, however, is that (worrisome and conflicted as it might be) LDS actually get an impressive amount of political mileage by quoting prophets’ statements on this or that policy issue. It is a mental shortcut used every day and proves very useful for stifling honest inquiry or principled dissent.

  55. Jack on October 25, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    jeremobi, You’re too gracious. I admit it was slightly personal, only because I lack patience (for the reasons mentioned above) with such inferences even if they’re well intended. However, you’ve clearly demonstrated that we share the same opinion on the matter inspite of our political differences.

    My apologies.

  56. Rob on October 25, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    your not going to get any mileage out of quoting the prophets on political issues in order to garner support for a general political view.

    What????

    I’m not sure I follow you here, Jack. You can’t use prophetic statements in developing or defending political views?

    In the case of MX, where did Pres. Kimball support a strong weapons building program? Seems like he was more than just opposed to MX, but railed (gently, as only a blue-haired old lady or beloved prophet could) agains the Saints for their fascination with and worship of military strength (something that many Mormons seem even more comfortable with now in their support for Bush’s warmongering foreign policies).

    Jack, can we use the words of the Savior to back up our general political views? Is “renounce war and proclaim peace” so inconvenient politically to be better considered mere idle talk from the Creator of the World?

    Kerry sees 9/11 as a criminal terrorist act to be countered with strong international efforts including military policing.
    Bush sees 9/11 as an excuse to launch potentially enless rounds of full-scale wars.

    Which one is closer to the Lord on this one? Or doesn’t it matter, because religious inspiration or prophetic utterance is not valid in public policy matters?

    Jack, either we should take the prophets seriously in shaping our views of public policy, in which case we can make very strong claims against the Bush administration…

    OR

    If Harris is right, and we need a more objective and less “faith-based” politics, than we can make even stronger cases against Bush by objectively measuring the results of his policies–bad on national defense, bad on planning and implementation of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, bad on environment, bad on education, bad on open-governance…its a very long list.

    BTW, just in case anyone suspects I’m a mere Democratic Party hack, I have never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate (except for Brown in the 1992 Utah Democratic caucus). However, I’m very interested in evaluating candidates by a) “real-world” measures of their policies and governing style and b) LDS teachings. It makes me sad that I find very little useful dialogue among Mormons on either of these points. While I don’t really expect to find it at Church, I’m saddened that we can’t seem to have a better discussion about that here at T&S. Why isn’t there a current Who Should Mormons Vote for in 2004 thread here right now? Too hot a topic? How can Mormons get beyond the inflammatory campaign-style rhetoric in the media and honestly assess the candidates and issues at stake? Is it a vain hope that we might somehow transcend the jingoistic support of parties that defines much of modern American voter preference?

    Many of us here are professionals. Why not more issue based analysis from our own professional perspectives? Jeremobi is a political scientist…when he discusses political issues its not like he’s just anybody with an opinion–he studies this stuff for a living. I’m a professional geographer and conservationist–I spend my days evaluating social and environmental policies and programs. We’ve got a wide range of people on this blog…why can’t we put forth more informed and less politically partisan views of current issues and policies? Even from an LDS perspective, why don’t we see more discussion of how issues or policies reflect scriptural or prophetic teachings?

    Government is a messy business, and sometimes there aren’t easy or clean choices. But surely we can make more headway if we more carefully examine our own (and others’s) views on the issues and spend more time looking at the effects of policy in the “real world”. Mormons have political prejudices, just like everyone else. Can’t we take a look at them and see how well they are serving them, without attacking each other? Is anyone here ready to repent of inappropriate or ill-informed political opinions, or are we all locked into our half-, three-quarters-, or even un-baked political preconceptions?

    For a start, from my own professional standpoint of someone working to ensure a safe and healthy environment, President Bush’s environmental policies are well explored by the High Country News this past January. There are many recent academic articles and discussions of this topic, including a good starting point by BYU prof. George Handley. There was also an interesting, yet unanswered Gordon Smith blog on this topic in the early days of T&S.

  57. Jack on October 25, 2004 at 9:39 pm

    Rob, I do take the words of the prophets seriously. The long and short of what I was trying to convey is that you and I would no doubt end up throwing scriptures or quotes from the brethren at each other in order to support our own particular political view. I’ve read the scriptures consistently for twenty-five years. No doubt, you’ve done the same (if not more), and frankly I don’t think either one of us will be successful in converting the other to a new political view.

  58. Rob on October 25, 2004 at 9:55 pm

    Oh I don’t know, Jack…You never know what would happen in an open debate. Bring ‘em on!

  59. Rob on October 25, 2004 at 9:58 pm

    Oh I don’t know, Jack…You never know what would happen in an open debate. Bring ‘em on!

  60. Jack on October 26, 2004 at 12:40 am

    Ok. How about this one: “And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father… Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed…”

    Irrefutable! :)

  61. Rob on October 26, 2004 at 9:46 am

    I like it…but if you are facing Jesus, those on his right will actually be on our left! It’s all a matter of perspective!

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