Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Idol Words

The Adoration of the Golden Calf, Nicolas Poussin.
Once upon a time there was a narrative, comfortable and easy to wrap our minds around, Sunday School tried, tested, and approved, that a liberal agenda was going to destroy freedom and morality in society and the world.

Cue 2017. That neat and facile little story should be dead now.

Fact: We have rampant moral decay in our society today. Fact: This rampant moral decay is not confined to one political party. No matter how many paintings Jon McNaugton puts out, Jesus is not, and never will be, a registered Republican. There is no shortage of complex issues in our world. These issues are tricky, deserve nuance and maturity, and can't be pegged into some sort of ideological hole, some schema of Liberal vs Conservative. These are grown-up issues and it's time for us all, myself included, to grow up.

I have seen good, reasonable Latter-day Saints reject scriptures, modern prophets, and Christian decency to side on an issue simply because it was taught like gospel by their favorite political party.

First of all, let's end this ridiculous binary. We believe in the gospel of Christ, not the philosophies of men. As Hugh Nibley said about the "Gentile Dilemma,"

"I have been...much too easily drawn into what I call the Gentile Dilemma. That is, when I find myself called upon to stand up and be counted, to declare myself on one side or the other; which do I prefer—gin or rum, cigarettes or cigars, tea of coffee, heroin or LSD...Republican or Democrat, black power or white power, land pirates or sea pirates, commissars or corporations, capitalism or communism.
The devilish neatness and simplicity of the thing is the easy illusion that I am choosing between good and evil, when in reality two or more evils by their rivalry distract my attention from the real issue."  (How Firm a Foundation!" CWHN 9:163) 
Somehow, we are too easily decoyed away from the great truths we have, hoodwinked by the exciting and titillating squabbles that flood the airwaves of Babylon.

Second, let's just stop demonizing each other as if the person who voted for another party is a minion of Satan just for seeing a complex political issue differently than you do. At times, we can and MUST engage with ideas we don't agree with, but we must do so with respect and humility, not with inflammatory rhetoric, unkind jeers and taunts that break down healthy dialogue.

In 2012, I walked into a General Conference Priesthood meeting with a good, intelligent friend and his teenage sons, and the dad pointed to a man in the back row and whispered, "See that man over there? He voted for Obama!" Followed by gasps, boos, and one chilling comment by his Aaronic Priesthood son, "What is he even doing here?" 

This kind of divisive rhetoric is troubling. Not surprisingly, it is also happening today.

Israel has a long and sordid history of adopting the gods of whatever nation they dwelt in. We believe we are modern day Israel and we seem to have inherited the same appetites and follies. We must let go of the local political gods we worship, rise above the squabbles of Babylon, and get building Zion together, for heaven's sake.