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Friday, October 21, 2005 

Can't we all just get along?

I suppose that it is one of the ironies of the current religious atmosphere in America that the modern Christian fundamentalist movement began to exert an influence at roughly the same time that Joseph Smith was looking to find the true church. This movement, sometimes called Evangelism out of a desire to get to the real meaning behind the Gospels, in America is a form of Arminianism. It grew up in concert with Darwinism, its other chief rival. All three movements, Restorationism, Evangelism, and Naturalism operate on the same basic principle: I'm right and you are wrong.

I don't know if there is anyway around this. If the Evangelists belief that all other people who do not enter into communion with them regarding proper knowledge of God and proper ordinance are going to hell, how do you not call that exclusive? If the Mormons believe that you have to enter into communion with them regarding proper knowledge of God and proper ordinances in order to get into heaven, it certainly appears that they think their church has greater access to the divine than others. If Naturalists agree that both Evangelists and Restorationists are insane for believing in a higher power, there doesn't seem to be much room for dialogue (after all, we do not converse with crazy people, we tolerate them until they become dangerous).

Perhaps this communicative impasse is particularly frustrating when we seek to combine the political and the spiritual aspects of our life. In all of the above cases, it seems natural to turn to the opinions and documents that give our lives meaning. Although sometimes the above groups may find themselves in agreement, it is understood that such alliances are temporary; they are not really of our kind.

Now, in making this statement, I am distorting the truth. Harry Reid, Orrin Hatch, and Mitt Romney aside, I am grossly overestimating the influence of the Restorationists in current political life. We are, after all, curiousities above all else. Additionally, By grouping the traditional Christian denominations as Evangelists, I am doing all concerned a great disservice (after all, modern Evangelism grew out of the same frustrations with the traditional denominations that inspired Joseph Smith to head for the woods). Certainly, one can be a christian without being an evangelist or a restorationist. Nonetheless, it does seem that the single most politically powerful religious movement of the day is that of Christian Conservatives, the so-called religious right.

I have always viewed the goals, explicit or otherwise, of the Christian conservative with suspicion. I have earned, through personal experience, an understanding of how Christian conservatives view me which leads me to question why I should entrust my political future to them. Nonetheless, it does appear that in many ways I am supposed to agree with them on issues of social justice. They and I both view abortion as terribly troubling. They and I both agree that the coarsening of culture over time is something that, while possibly inevitable, should be battled. That said, I don’t know why I should vote like they do.

Let me be more specific. If we allow politicians to put us into these groups (Evangelists, Restorationists, Liberals, Conservatives, etc.), we are effectively allow other people to dictate our position for us. I don’t see anything useful in that. While I may be more sympathetically to the Democratic platform generally, I am far from being a Democrat. I don’t like it when people tell me how I believe in God and I don’t like it when people tell me how God thinks I should vote. I am perfectly capable of working that out without outside interference.

The polarization of religious debate in America, like all other polarizing debates, too quickly creates categories into which most people simply do not fall. If I don’t take Pat Robertson as representative of all the Evangelical Christians out there, please do me a favor and don’t take Warren Jeffs or John D. Lee as representative of mine. We all come out looking good if we take the worst examples of our rivals’ factions and compare them to the best examples of our faction, but I don’t think we get any closer to the truth. What we need to discuss is what we have in common first, and then we can discuss what we don’t. If we focus on the differences, we are likely to find ourselves in endless monologues, pointing out how spiritually insightful we happen to be. There is no truth there, only pride.

Ultimately, I don’t believe that what the right or the left has to say is particularly important. However, what the religious say is important, supremely so. If there is a way we can get those people together and talking, I think we may be able to get some progress.

I feel a need to point out that I know that I am way oversimplifying things historically. Please feel free to go about your daily business on that front.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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