I usually don’t comment much on politics. When I do, it seems that my political posts don’t do so well, but here goes anyway. A few months ago, I got an email from a friend asking me about how the church defines political extremism. She had some relatives that were concerned about government conspiracies for population control, the New World Order, and a few other things.
Then I was talking to my sister a few days ago. She asked me what I thought of the Tea Party movement. In brief, I’m not a big fan. Anyway, I thought it might be time to put together some of my political thoughts, and quotes from former apostle Hugh B. Brown into a post. I considered waiting until closer to the election, but decided to go ahead and put this out now, since I was just talking to my sister about this issue. I have combined a few emails into this post.
My sister’s email quoted a blogger complaining about President Obama. The first question from the blogger was terrible. “If Obama wanted to destroy the United States, what would he be doing differently?”
I don’t for a second think Obama is trying to destroy the United States. People are welcome to disagree with Obama–certainly I do on a fair number of issues. However, when we try to demonize people we disagree with, we have crossed the line into political extremism.
I had an email from a friend asking me about political extremism, and how the church defines it. Well, here are some thing I told her, and I think they apply to this blogger as well.
You may be interested in this letter that was read here in Utah on Mar 22, 2010. See http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/first-presidency-letter-on-utah-precinct-caucus-meetings
“Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of various political parties.” (Emphasis mine.)
I usually lean republican, but I do like Jim Matheson (D-Congressman Utah) and Peter Caroon (D-SL County mayor.) I’m not real fond of Harry Reid, but it is cool to have such a high ranking Mormon. Matheson is a Mormon and crusades against wasteful government spending. He was one of the few guys who voted against the Bank Bailout (and caught a lot of heat when the bailout was popular), and voted against Health Care Reform. He’s a real fiscal conservative, opposes abortion, and I really like a lot of his stands. In states like NY, CA, or MA, he’d be a republican (more conservative than Guiliani, McCain, or even Mitt), but Utah is so ultra-conservative that he is really a very conservative democrat.
The following quote comes from Hugh B Brown’s famous speech “Profile of a Prophet.” This is the beginning of the commencement address he gave to BYU students in 1968. The first 3 minutes of the speech, Brown gives a few jokes and advice, and then gets onto Politics, before addressing his main topic of “Profile of a Prophet.”
“You young people are leaving your university at a time in which our nation is engaged in an increasingly abrasive and strident process of electing a president. I wonder if you would permit me as one who has managed to survive a number of these events to pass on to you a few words of counsel.
First, I’d like you to be reassured that the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity, and unquestioned patriotism. Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. Know that men of both major political parties who guide the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all.
Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent. I’ve found by long experience that our two-party system is sound. Beware of those who are so lacking in humility, that they cannot come within the framework of one of our two great parties.
Our nation has avoided chaos, like that is gripping France today, because men have been able to temper their own desires sufficiently, seek broad agreement within one of the two major parties, rather than forming splinter groups around their one radical idea.
Our two party system has served us well, and should not be lightly discarded. At a time when radicals of right or left inflame race against race, avoid those who teach evil doctrines of racism. When our Father declared that we, his children, were brothers and sisters, he did not limit this relationship on the basis of race. Strive to develop that true love of country, that realizes that real patriotism must include within it a regard for the people of the rest of the globe. Patriotism has never demanded of good men hatred of another country as proof of one’s love for his own. Require the tolerance and compassion of others and for them. Those with different politics or race or religion will be demanded by the heavenly parentage which we all have in common.
-Hugh B. Brown, Commencement address, Brigham Young University, May 31, 1968
I’m sure he is referring to the Civil Rights, Vietnam, as well as the upcoming presidential election following Lyndon B Johnson’s announcement that he would step down. Of course Nixon won a 3 way race over D-Hubert Humphrey, and I-George Wallace. There were Vietnam demonstrations, and I think it was a much more divisive time than today, though today is a very divisive time. Let’s not forget that Wallace was later shot in 1972, and we all know what happened to Nixon. I didn’t know what happened in France in 1968, so I looked it up on wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_1968_in_France Apparently there were some big-time riots, strikes, and protests that almost brought the French government down.
Here’s a different talk by Hugh B. Brown that gives some good advice too. http://unicomm.byu.edu/president/documents/brown.htm
[T]he possibility of coherent community action is diminished today by the deep mutual suspicions and antagonisms among various groups in our national life.
As these antagonisms become more intense, the pathology is much the same. . . . The ingredients are, first, a deep conviction on the part of the group as to its own limitless virtue or the overriding sanctity of its cause; second, grave doubts concerning the moral integrity of all others; third, a chronically aggrieved feeling that power has fallen into the hands of the unworthy (that is, the hands of others). . . .
Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: An excessively simple diagnosis of the world’s ills and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all. . . . Blind belief in one’s cause and a low view of the morality of other Americans–these seem mild failings. But they are the soil in which ranker weeds take root . . . terrorism, and the deep, destructive cleavages that paralyze a society.3
I am a bit wary of the Tea Party Movement, as well as MoveOn.org. I view them both as unhealthy extremes. My opinion is that it is fine to disagree with Democrats or Republicans. But when we turn to decisiveness and refer to President George W Bush or President Barack Obama as “worse than Hitler”, we are guilty of political extremism. As Hugh B Brown said, “the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity, and unquestioned patriotism.”
What say you?