Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Statement of First Principles and General Observations

    Well, the time has come to field my thoughts and animadversion on a website and homepage so that a serious and thoughtful public record and ongoing body of my concerns regarding the application and limits of application of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as taught and understood within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints within the sphere of  politics and political philosophy could move forward in a productive manner (or so I very much do hope).
   This web site will be dedicated to a detailed and developing look at the intersection between the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, and the questions, issues, and quandaries of politics and political philosophy.  This comes, both because we are living in a pervasively ideological age in which political ideologies and loyalties compete with the gospel for our minds and hearts, but as much because of the tendency of human beings to fall back, when push comes to shove, upon "the traditions of their fathers" and upon cherished human idealistic visions in a general sense, as it does because of the unusually ideological and political age in which we have lived (which properly extends to much of the 20th century).
   It also comes, as we will see below, because of the degree to which, especially since the "progressive" era of the twenties and thirties, political ideology and etatism (statism) have come to pervade and color so many of the basic elements of the human condition. We and our progenitors, going back to the first third of the 20th century, have lived in an environment saturated with notions of inevitable human progress and felicity, brought about by an omnipotent and omnicompetent state peopled by "experts" in human behavior, social control, and the sciences of social engineering. This has been (and still is, despite stress fractures here and there) an age in which faith has been, among many, transferred from God to the state, the "social sciences", and from the individual to the collective ("society") in which, Rousseau - like, greater wisdom is thought to reside.
    Charity, once the realm of personal care for the poor and involvement in their lives by individuals personally concerned with their welfare, has become a political and ideological industry of the securing of continuing incumbency by politicians through the transferring of the confiscated property of others to "the poor" as an act of class vengeance. It has also become a primary venue of social engineering among specific classes of citizens. Social workers and case workers within the welfare state now do, as a matter of bureaucratic routine, what individuals once did for one another out of personal, individually tailored compassion.
   Freedom, as always, is considered a terrible, unruly danger because it is always used improperly (think of the Fairness Doctrine, or of free markets per se) by the masses. Religion and the family, the two greatest and most viscerally feared and hated threats to the kind of government necessary to "transform" society such as to create a "better world" has been and continues to be the focus of the most sustained and aggressive ideological, philosophical, and political kulturkampf. The Left's long and belabored attempt to politicize virtually everything has been largely successful, and with so much of the human condition politicized, by definition, there are ever more areas of culture within which politics and the gospel meet and which then must fall under gospel critique.
   As with other areas of the mortal experience, when this happens, there are some with preexisting investments in an ideological or philosophical framework who then find themselves in conflict with the gospel they have otherwise embraced. Unlike other areas in which acceptance of the gospel may precipitate a "culture shock" of sorts, in the personal realm, politics seems to be unique in the degree to which consistent and vigorous attempts are made to reconcile concepts and beliefs clearly and unambiguously out of harmony with gospel teachings with those teachings, and to preserve them within a gospel context, to the point of reinterpretation and revision of key gospel doctrines so as to blend one's ideology with the gospel in a process that could only be termed one of syncretism. One is reminded immediately of what the Church (and a substantial corpus of secular historical scholarship) teaches happened to the early Christian church under the influence of Hellenistic cultural influence.
   In like manner, some modern church members would feign fuse leftist politics and ideology with the gospel, and can be harshly critical of the majority of LDS members who perceive conservatism and libertarianism, generally speaking, to be more compatible with the gospel than their rivals in the marketplace of ideas, and feel more "at home" in these political philosophies than within the Left.
   Some members see the United Order, for example, as a potential (if not quite literal) vindication of Marx and egalitarian socialism generally, and of the anti-free market economic animus that perhaps consumes the traditional leftist mind as no other concept (save for its hostility to religion and the family). Others wish the Church to accept homosexuality, homosexual marriage, feminism, environmentalism, welfare statism, identity politics, aspects of postmodernism, and other features of the cultural Left as if the Church was ours to do with a we please; as if the Church were a place upon which we can project our own cherished nostrums and traditions, writ large, in final vindication, upon a cosmic stage.
   A further question we must ask is: can modern Latter Day Saints run away from the application of the gospel to their own time and culture? Should we be afraid of such application? Should we shy away from it because of its inherent divisive tendencies? Is it possible, in any way, to separate the gospel from the core political questions of our time, and compartmentalize the gospel (as the Left so dearly wishes we and other religious people would do) into private/public spheres that do not communicate or affect one another?

    Let us begin the exploration.

    Below is a short introductory essay regarding the core theme of the blog, and which will serve as a concise if hardly exhaustive introduction to that main theme. The same introductory essay will appear on my personal web site, along with a number of other essays on subjects of fundamental interest to me, which I hope to have up in the near future. That website will be primarily one of my own writings and thoughts regarding the gospel, philosophy and politics, while this blog will be for debate and discussion with others regarding general principles and the application of gospel teachings to the problems and challenges of our age of ideology.

The Interface Between the Gospel and Politics

    What is the interface between the gospel of Jesus Christ, discipleship, our spiritual lives as Latter Day Saints, and politics? In what manner and to what degree is the gospel relevant to political issues, history, and philosophy? Are there political philosophies and concepts that are closer to and more compatible with the restored gospel, and, by extension political philosophies/ideologies that are not? What would be the criteria within which we would determine which political philosophies have a greater or lesser congruence with the gospel? Upon what basis and to what degree is gospel teaching and doctrine relevant to specific perennial and contemporary political questions and problems, such as the nature of freedom, political and individual liberty, property rights, theories and forms of economic and social organization, and the tension between the individual and the group, between liberty and equality,  between personal morality and the moral diffusion of mass consciousness. and the psychology of collectivism.
   We will also look at specific issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, the economic and moral dimensions of taxation, regulation, the proper size, scope, and prerogatives of the state, various economic principles, large scale social phenomena such as the cultural revolution of the sixties and its attendant sub-movements such as the sexual revolution, feminism, environmentalism, the civil rights movement, the worship of youth, the modern cult of eroticism and the forty decade assault on the family, marriage, and fatherhood, and to reprise a major theme, the relationship between the individual and the larger society, from within the frame of reference of the restored gospel.
   My desire is to articulate my own ideas on these subjects and provide a forum for debate and discussion regarding the interconnection of these issues with the gospel and with our presence within society as Latter Day Saints as we confront and apply the principles of the gospel to them. The fundamental perspective of the website, representing my own, is that of a libertarian conservative who combines, following eminent 20th century conservative intellectuals such as William F. Buckley, elements of both classical liberalism and traditional modern conservatism grounded in Judeo-Christian morality, ethics and social theory into a philosophy that emphases the primary importance of the individual and maximum individual liberty, but also the necessity of  personal morality and a gospel grounded ethics and social framework as the underlying foundation of civil society and ordered liberty.  For the  contemporary conservative, in general, such Judeo-Christian morality and ethics forms the framework that is the only ultimate means of governing, containing, and mediating those inherent aspects of freedom, and especially of democracy, that perennially seek the undoing of both individual freedom and community.

   We will start at the very beginning, a very good place, as a famous song once said, to start.

   To understand the inextricable links between the principles and teachings of the gospel and the application of those teachings to both contemporary and perennial questions of politics, we must first have a clear understanding of just what we mean by "politics" and be clear regarding just what aspects of politics are relevant to the gospel.  Fundamentally, for our purposes, and for the purposes of gospel study and discussion, politics will be understood as:

1. An attempt to answer the question "how should we live together as a people in a coherent, ordered civil society or social framework?"  From a very broad based perspective then, politics attempts to negotiate the task of formulating and applying the first principles upon which a viable, ordered civil society shall be based. This, of course, implies a set of pre-assumptions about what, at the outset, defines terms such as "viable", "order" and "civil". The philosophical assumptions underlying ancient Viking or Mongol society, or comprising the fundamental principles of modern theories of social and economic structures as disparate as a constitutional republic, parliamentary democracy, democratic socialism, revolutionary (communism) or transformational socialism  fascism, or other forms of government can range from matters of doctrinal emphasis and de-emphasis (as between internationalist class focused (Marxian) socialism, National Socialism, and Fascism) to deep, unbridgeable conflicts of core principles (as between the above and classical liberalism).
   Politics asks us to think about and then be willing to live under and impose upon others, the societal structure (laws, social and political assumptions and rules of conduct in the public, private, social, and economic spheres) understood to be the governing template upon which a society will develop its particular character, flavor and unique characteristics.

2. A mirror-like reflection, or projection, into the world outside the self comprising other human beings, of that which lies within the soul, both in a philosophical and moral sense. Our politics, at its most fundamental level, exposes at the ballot box, in that which we support or oppose -- especially regarding the principles that form the crux of the social and economic issues that will largely determine what kind of society we and our posterity will ultimately live within, -- much of our own character and that which defines us as human beings. This is true both as to our society's moral and material (economic) character, and in that which we are willing to impose upon both ourselves and others as a matter of a social contract governing the meaning and nature of a civilization, as we desire and understand it.
   Most especially, and in a more modern context, what we are willing to impose upon others, and expose others to, while at the same time shielding or immunizing ourselves from through the force of law, is of utmost importance. This is an especially salient aspect of the politics and political atmosphere of the 20th century (that frame of time which modern revelation tells us is an era on the very border of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ) in which class envy, a mentality of entitlement based upon politically designated group privilege, and the politics of identity have created an environment of a war of all against all for the attention and support of a vast, omnipresent and omnipotent government that controls and dispenses such privilege. Indeed, the fundamental concept and structure of the so-called welfare state (what I will hereafter refer to, following Kenneth Minogue, as the caregiver state) implies that certain groups (and hence, any number of individuals) have a preemptive claim upon the labor, property, time, and talents of their fellow citizens through the coercive force of the state (which implies that the state itself has a similar preemptive claim).
    Our politics tells us as well as all others with whom we share a common society and country what we believe, at a deep level, about the nature and purpose of the human condition. It exposes, many times in indirect ways, our core assumptions and beliefs about what it is to be human and exist in social/political relations with others, including our central underlying conceptions of human nature, agency, freedom, the proper size, scope and purpose of the state, the purpose, meaning and limits of law, and the meaning of the good, the virtuous and of justice.
   Of overarching importance in all of this is the modern concept of ideology, and its particular influence upon the last century as well as the present one. This concept, perhaps one of the most malignant concepts to have ever been devised by the human imagination, and which I will refer to throughout the essays and commentaries on this web site as a fundamental feature of the philosophy of Korihorism (which, as one might guess, includes a number of sects or “schools of thought” that disagree on various points and emphasize different concerns, but are allied across those divisions in their hostility toward any and all values and principles within or associated with the gospel and with truth generally, wherever and in whatever form in may be found) which is a part of the Great and Abominable Church of the Devil that prophets, both ancient and modern, have warned would be a key feature and influence upon human civilization generally immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ, is key to understanding much that has transpired since the beginning of the 20th century, for it is within the realm of ideology that we find the secular religions of our age that have sought to displace religious commitment of the traditional kind and provide a body of alternative ideas which we can understand as counterfeits of the gospel concepts of the nature and meaning of existence, the underlying essence of human nature, and the potential, possibilities and destiny of the human soul (what the late LDS scholar Dr. Hugh Nibley called "the terrible questions").
   Modern revelation, including the words and teachings of numerous modern prophets and apostles of the Lord, have long taught us that, as the Last Days approach their culmination, a “weeding out” will occur, both within the world in general and within the Lord’s Kingdom (the Church) that will separate, as symbolically represented in the scriptures, the “wheat from the tares” (Matt. 13: 29-30). The fault lines that have and will yet open up to between these two classes of human beings encompass a number of issues and conflicts covering a substantial swath of that which conditions our culture, society and our perceptions of the world, including ethics, morality and the definitions of truth, justice and the good.
   To the degree that any of these issues involve consequences for and effects conditioning the larger society and to the further degree that these questions become public questions of legislation, judicial decision, and the making of positive law regarding, they become political; they become political to the degree that their effects alter, bias and condition the underlying structure, essence and character of a political order and its people. They also become applicable to inspection, scrutiny and critique relative to the principles and standards of the gospel at any point at which the issues existing within the political sphere are also, by their very nature, or to the degree to which they overlap or encroach within the gospel sphere of concern, related to the gospel by their fundamental assumptions, effects, means, sphere of influence and scope.
   The interface, therefore, between the gospel and politics is at those points at which politics and ideology invade, colonize and assimilate those aspects of human existence that are the most sensitive to and affected by gospel principles. The greater the degree of salience with respect to the gospel, its doctrines and its standards, the greater the applicability of the gospel to the political realm. By definition here then, a strictly limited government of few and well enumerated powers that had, for all intents and purposes, a peripheral and limited impact upon the lives of the average citizen, would have little overlap with the gospel and its teachings, save for the area of the importance of upright and ethical individuals for political office, regardless of party affiliation.
   A state, however, such as ours here in the United States, and, to greater or lesser (mostly still greater, at this juncture) extent, throughout most of the west and for much of the rest of the world, that conceives of its purpose and scope as, not those of protecting and guaranteeing the unalienable rights of its citizens, which are understood to inhere in those individuals independent of and preexistent to the state, but as that of a caregiver; or a “big brother”, as Orwell put it, who is ever present, ever watchful, and wields vast centralized powers with which to make all things right among mortal human beings, is a state without any inherent limitations as to its scope, responsibilities and power.
   This form of government (the characteristic form of modernity) is not primarily concerned that each individual exists in a relationship to the laws and rules upon which society is governed in the same way and to the same extent as every other citizen, regardless of other status. This form of government is concerned primarily with fairness; it is concerned with equality, equity and the euphemistic concept of the “level playing field”. It is concerned, in other words, not, as we said above, that each individual exists in a state of equality respecting their relationship to other citizens and to the state under the law, but with using the law to create an equal state of existence or condition between citizens. This is not then the negative equality of opportunity, relative potential and standing before the law of the Constitution, but the positive equality of result, condition and outcome whose realization, or attempt at realization, introduces an entirely new dynamic into the fabric of society in the form of the principle and, over time, cultural assumption of a preemptive claim upon the lives of others through the coercive force of the state through a preemptive claim upon one’s fellow citizens time, talents, labor and potential.
   The great classical liberal political economist Frédéric Bastiat articulated this concept as well as any have before or since in his classic text The Law:

    But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desire has its origin in the very nature of man - in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain.

    This Bastiat called “a fatal tendency of mankind”, one tendency being to labor “ceaselessly” for one’s support and economic security, and another in which:

…a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

    Bastiat was not here concerned with the plunder of bandits, pirates and similar organized criminal groups who live on the fringes of society and use overt violence to take what they desire, but with the “legal plunder” that eventuates as the concept of government is corrupted and becomes “the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else”.
   The legitimate concept of taxation then becomes a process of legal plunder, with individual citizens, through their support of elected representatives, doing with regard to their fellow citizens what, were they to do it themselves, would be understood as criminal in nature. This is, indeed, one of Bastiat’s fundamental insights into the difference between legitimate government and the corrupt counterfeit it can become under democratic pressures:

   But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

    This implies that, In a free, self governing society (such as a constitutional republic), the citizenry, through that which it supports and upholds through participation in the political life of the nation, has a great degree of control over the moral, as well as material nature and implications of the public policies actually imposed by the force of law. Very few would personally rob or steal from their neighbors for money to pay medical bills. However, very many more would empower a third party - the state - to do so in an organized manner wrapped within the folds of legality through formal legislation, making the coerced transfer of wealth from some to others for the same purposes legal, and hence, enveloping the entire concept in a cocoon of, if not moral legitimacy, then moral indeterminacy.
   It is one thing to claim that there are certain things the state should do because those things (such as military, police and emergency services (such as fire and EMS) would be difficult, unwieldy or impractical for the private sector to perform adequately, and quite another to authorize the state to do things that, for the individual citizen, would be unambiguously immoral and/or criminal. The political and moral problem (to the degree that our personal political choices have moral implications – a question difficult to avoid, especially in an age in which politics and ideology pervade our experience and condition ever more detailed aspects of our lives) for Latter Day Saints, as well as for anyone within a Judeo-Christian theological/philosophical context, is: to what extent can our personal morality (what we would do or not do as a matter of personal conduct and choice) be compartmentalized from the moral qualities and consequences of public, political conduct (can we effectively vote away the unalienable rights of others – or our own, with a straight moral face? Can we confiscate by force the fruits of the labor of our fellow citizens, or create a preemptive claim upon their property, labor and time through the public policies we support (or simply acquiesce in) and still claim moral rectitude before God and man?).
   Can we use the force of the state, or can we support the use of the United States tax code, to reward ideological friends and punish those with whom we disagree or harbor negative prejudice? Does it make a difference, in a moral sense, whether we legally empower the state and its police/judicial powers to do what would, were we to attempt it ourselves, be understood to be immoral and unjust?  What of the tension between freedom and equality? Does one have preeminence over the other? In what sense? How are the terms to be defined?
   The interface then, between the gospel and politics, would in my estimation fall along the following perimeters:

1. Those aspects of political life where gospel informed moral and ethical principles are either supported or compromised by public policy or aspects of a political ideology. This is more complex a principle than it may appear at first glance. For example, while I do not support smoking or drinking as a Latter Day Saint, and would exercise all of my persuasive abilities to steer someone away from such behavior, I do not support the present attempts of an aggressive special interest legal community and, what have come to be termed “lifestyle Nazis” to destroy a legal industry and demonize cigarette smokers.
   The reason is not that I have any love or sympathy for tobacco or alcohol use (indeed, as a recovered alcoholic, there is no love lost between me and alcohol whatsoever), but that in a freedom and personal responsibility based society (and these two concepts can never be disassociated from each other) grounded in the concept of the rule of law, the attempt to both control and abrogate free personal choice, while at the same time relieving individuals of personal responsibility for their choices (though the knowledge that cigarette smoking could be quite harmful to human health, and indeed fatal for many, and the fact that clear health warnings have been placed on cigarette packages for upwards of forty years now, has been pervasive in our society, this has not prevented claimants in personal and class action lawsuits from claiming ignorance of the health risks, and blaming the tobacco companies for “lying” about such risks) through legal/judicial/police power, while attacking and punishing legal industries for producing and selling its products, creates an atmosphere of lawless grievance litigation – a kind of lawsuit lottery – in which, since tort lawyers bear no costs or consequences for bringing even the most frivolous lawsuits to court, there is little risk in making a play for a big payoff. It also encourages a kind of legislation and social change through litigation mentality that circumvents accountable, deliberative legislative bodies for courtroom fiat.
   It is never, however, the case that this kind of politically correct lifestyle fascism has a rational end point at which the dictators of virtue see any boundaries to their desire to save others from themselves. Ever more aspects of personal choice, beginning yes, with truly unlikable things like cigarettes, but moving ever onward to everything from soda pop, ice cream, potato chips, fast food of all kinds (and to ever more shrilly preposterous claims that such food is addictive, or in some sense toxic and unhealthy, even in the most modest quantities), transfats, meat per se, the quantity of even good, healthy food we eat; everything becomes the focus of the power of the state to regulate, control and dictate proper behavior.
   The problem here is not that some things are healthier than others, or that some things are not, indeed, harmful, in one sense or another, for some people, more or less. The problem is deploying the force of the state to determine for others how they will live and the choices they will make, even in the minutest areas of their lives. The anti-tobacco movement began with a most reasonable focus on banning cigarette smoking from commercial airliners. Since then, it has moved to banning smoking in virtually any public space, including restaurants, nightclubs and bars, and has now moved to banning smoking in one’s own vehicle, and in one’s own home (the junk science of “second hand smoke” having been used as the ace in the hole in the political arena).
   This movement on the Left has spawned its usual brood of ideological pop intellectuals such as, for a prime example in one area, Morgan Spurlock and Eric Schlosser, who have succeeded in demonizing an entire industry that produces what is in essence utterly benign foodstuffs that, in moderation, are harmless and basically healthy looked at as separate components.
   This is a more subtle question than that posed by the ERA, abortion, homosexual marriage, or other similar clear moral incursions into the gospel from the secular political sphere. As a Latter Day Saint and a libertarian conservative, I do not support smoking or drinking, but I do not support the destruction of both personal liberty and personal responsibility inherent in the coercive nanny/prohibition model inherent within the cultural Left to an even greater degree. With fast food, the items themselves are not inherently harmful (and are, in fact, quite the opposite, in and of themselves) and hence, the almost visceral desire to deny them to others and persecute those who produce them bespeaks an interesting mentality, one that we will encounter again and again on this website.

2. Those places where political ideology and the gospel conflict as to matters of first principles, or where acceptance of one essentially precludes the other’s principles, values and implications. Within a Latter Day Saint context, This, in my view, means an inexorable and clear distancing and ultimate rejection of all forms of political ideology that we normatively understand to be part of what has come to by known as the “Left” in the philosophical and political realm.  Leftist political ideologies exist, by their very nature, in substantial tension and conflict with the gospel and its teachings, and much of what we understand as “leftist” beliefs, ideals and philosophy are, indeed, in a position of polar opposition. This does not mean, however, that any and all beliefs held by conservatives or libertarians, of various schools of thought, just because they are non-leftist, are, because of this, in harmony with the teachings of the gospel.
   All forms of leftist ideological thought and social theory (whether this be revolutionary, class based socialism, National Socialism, cultural Marxism, Fascism, democratic socialism, a Comtean scientifically controlled hive society, Rousseauian collectivist democracy, or Skinner’s society of pervasive social conditioning by behavioral experts) conflict directly and severely with the gospel across a number of dimensions, but especially those of free agency and accountability for behavior, the sacredness and importance of the individual and his/her right to determine the character and course of life, and ultimately, the possibility that the gospel choice of life will even be present in any such society at all.

3. In connection with the above we should add the point at which a political ideology colonizes, displaces and becomes an alternative religion to the gospel itself. Virtually any of the above ideologies (and most especially the forms or schools of transformational or revolutionary socialism, including a number of ideas falling under the general rubric of contemporary "progressive" politics in America) contain this element as a fundamental aspect of their appeal, especially among many within the elite western intelligentsia traditionally alienated from and hostile to traditional religion. Marxism and its derivatives (and especially its most successful sect or school, cultural Marxism (the application of Marxian “critical theory” to virtually every aspect of the human condition, including economics but involving all aspects of culture and society including art, media, communications, education, the family, race, class and gender etc. and which, for all intents, can by used synonymously with "political correctness" to describe the same fundamental ideological movement, or set of movements and cast of mind) has been the most overt in its pretensions to a kind of messianic religion of human redemption, salvation and perfection that displaces traditional religion but fulfills its essential functions. Certain appendages of this movement, such as modern environmentalism, contain these elements in profusion.
   This then, is a beginning with which we can explore the intersection, or overlapping areas, within which the gospel of Jesus Christ finds living application to contemporary societal and cultural – and hence political – conditions.

Can One Be a Good Nazi and a Good Latter Day Saint?

   An excellent little essay on the meaning and taxonomy of conservatism as a philosophy can be found here and we should analyze the concepts of each of the ten points at length (which we will do in a future post).  For the present, we will begin an exploration of a question that has arisen again and again, usually in rancorous form, which is the question of whether it is possible for a faithful, committed LDS to be, at the same time, a committed philosophical leftist (contemporary "liberal") and to support leftist political and social policy in the public sphere.

   We want to make clear here, at the beginning, that we are not necessarily asking whether one can be a faithful member of the Church and be a member of a particular political party.   The indignant wails of anguish regarding an alleged sociological fact of many western European Mormons adhering to socialist and communist parties and party platforms and the awful "Americanization" of the Church, and the deeply self conscious sense of a kind of outsider status among many LDS liberals (if my many years among LDS Internet message boards and email lists is any indication) who are loyal to the Democratic party and its politics, are indicative of the mine field one traverses if one wishes to frame the matter in the context of party politics.

   It is also the case, however, that political philosophy and ideology (which is this blog's primary concern) tend to concentrate themselves in political parties, as this is where organized political power is, at the end of the day, generated, expressed and ultimately, acquired.  Support for various parties and their platforms does express, at some point, deeper preferences and habits of heart and soul.  To what degree is this relevant to the gospel?

   As I've already defined ideology as both an idolatry of the self and an idolatry of humankind itself, and clearly identified leftist thought as the preeminent carrier of ideology and the ideological frame of mind in the modern world, it remains for us to discuss the nodes, points and intersections at which various ideas, concepts and beliefs in the political realm diverge from the  principles of the gospel.  While any number of discreet principles, beliefs and policies deriving from a general political philosophy may be, to one extent or another, compatible, or at least neutral, with regard to gospel doctrine, ideology, with its tendency to envelop and assimilate to itself many of the primary areas of the human condition with which the gospel shares primary relevance, presents us with a much more difficult state of affairs.

   Over a number of years, and even on what could only be termed "apologetic" message boards, I have confronted a rather fascinating dynamic.  Always in the past, when a group of LDS leftists turns to the defense or rehabilitation of socialism and Marxism and/or the societies and political systems its practical application spawned throughout the 20th century, and an attempt is made to graft branches of socialist theory to the trunk of the gospel tree, I have repeated, time and again, the question "can a good Latter Day Saint also be, at the same time, a good Nazi?".

   The general response to this question over as many years, from LDS liberals and leftists who claim, simultaneously, that various leftist political ideologies, up to and including revolutionary communism involving a classless society and the abolition of private property rights and a market economy, are fully compatible with Church teachings while also asserting that politics itself has little if any relevance to the living of the gospel as a practical matter, has been nothing short of fascinating.

   The reason I have always used the Nazi example is simple: the Nazis (the National Socialist German Workers Party) and Marxian and Marxist derived socialist theory as exemplified at the time by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, were ideologically and temperamentally close siblings within a family of leftist political systems (including Italian Fascism) that were rivals politically (and especially because of their totalitarian nature) but not in any sense oppositional philosophies in many core respects.  As the eminent Sovietologist Richard Pipes has written, "Bolshevism and Fascism were heresies of socialism".

   Socialism spawned, over time during the first third or so of the 20th century, spawned what are best understood as a group of heretical sects, which kept many of the core ideological components, as well as understanding of the nature of politics and its relation to the human condition, while diverging on various matters of doctrine, each to a greater or lesser extent.  We can dismiss the longstanding Soviet propaganda (which has long ago settled within the modern western Left as historical fact) that Fascism, for example, was an example of free market capitalism in its last, desperate stages, or that it was a manifestation of private capital in control of and guiding an imperialistic and aggressive state (this mythic tale was necessitated, in part, by the breaking of the Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact and the invasion of the Soviet Union by Hitler, at which time "fascism" (German National Socialism is not, strictly speaking, fascism per se, although it contains strong elements of fascism, including its approach to economic policy) became the enemy of "socialism" for public consumption in America through the Popular Front movement).

   The similarities between the two systems (both are totalitarian, both are collectivist, both create a regimented police state society, and both are the relentless enemy of free market capitalism and liberal democracy) present many with a thorough case of cognitive dissonance.  Why?  Because if it is perfectly possible, given the family resemblance between National Socialism and internationalist, class based socialism, for a good Latter Day Saint to be a good socialist or communist, then it follows from this that it is at least as possible for a good Latter Day Saint to be a good National Socialist.

   If one were to support a system which eventuated in the murder of well over a hundred million human beings, the scarring and destruction of the lives and potential of many millions more, and the institutionalization of poverty and destitution as permanent features of life, on the basis of race and ethnicity, one would be legitimately condemned as a moral ignoramus, and indeed, as much worse than this.

   If, on the other hand, one were to accomplish the same macabre feats on the basis of class, and in the name of equality, liberation and the brotherhood of man...wait...something changes here.

   Something changes...something... is... different in this case, and great spasmodic - even if sophisticated and urbane - contortions of effervescent doublethink and psychological inner conflict erupts into the arena of discourse, and in many cases to the point where names are called and character is attacked, when this question is asked.  Why?  Well, that is the question to which, over a number of years, I have never recieved an intellectually substantive or cogent answer.

   As Ayn Rand wrote, when people on the Left are asked this kind of question, "blank-out".

   And yet an interesting question it remains, especially for those who claim both that LDS teachings are amenable to socialist thought, even of the most radical kind, and who at the same time compartmentalize politics and religion so as not to have to make the decisions demanded of the gospel relative to the relations between them.

The Idolotry of Ideology:

   Conservatism, Russell Kirk once said, is "the antithesis of ideology". Ideology, representing much of what we historically find on that side of the philosophical road known traditionally as the Left (which is not to say there is no such thing as leftist philosophy) in the form of organized bodies of ideas, concepts, doctrines and fundamental premises, presents us with some substantial differences from what should be properly termed, in the modern conservative sense, a political philosophy.

   Conservatism is not an overarching, explanatory template through which one may discern the underlying or essential meaning of the human condition, a settled trajectory to history, or in any sense, a teleology of the human condition. It is not, like so much within the historic Left, a secular alternative to traditional religion. Conservatism is a general set of ideas, a way of perceiving the world and the human condition, a certain habit and orientation of mind, and a psychological approach to the world that attempts, as best it can, to blend a realistic conception of the tragic/banal fallen world in which we live with an open ended search for "the highest in us", as the late Truman G. Madsen titled a book of his in the late 70s).  As Kirk himself said of it in The Politics of Prudence, it is "neither a religion nor an ideology, the body of opinion termed conservatism possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata."   It is "the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order."  It has ideals, but it accepts the limitations of humanness and the human condition, and does not try to bring its ideals to fruition at any cost simply because they would be desirable and because the world would be a better place with those ideals realized.

   Conservatism avoids, and indeed is severely critical of what Dr. Thomas Sowell has called "the vision of the Anointed" and "the search for cosmic justice", both terms used in reference to the tendency of the Left to seek the ultimate development and perfection of mankind and society through political action, social engineering and enforced societal collectivism.

   For the historic Left, humans are destined for an inevitable progress towards a utopian future in which all of mankind's fondest hopes and dreams will be realized in a world of paradisaical human happiness and abundance. The only thing keeping humanity from approaching this utopian vision are institutional, or structural defects within society, or ideologies, beliefs, and institutions (such as free market economics, individual rights, the family, marriage, traditional religion, western concepts of property, economic competition, gender roles etc.) fundamental to the structure of society, which, if eliminated, would clear the way to the realization of a the desired heaven on earth.

   Ideology tells us how such a future is to be realized; it provides, in its core form, a simple yet dramatic explanation for the meaning of the human condition, an explanatory framework for the course of history, and an overall plan for the restructuring, reformation, transformation and redemption of society through the principles of the ideology. Ideologies, as they have existed, particularly in the 20th century, offer simple, clear, dualistic grand narratives of a history of oppression and victimization by a dominant "them" - a ruling class, dominant group, or "power structure", the dynamics of which are understood to be at the root of most if not all social and historical phenomena. They are (primarily in their non-academic, popular forms), simple, emotionally and psychologically charged, prescriptive templates for social change and political activity.

   Their prescriptiveness is always present in that what Marx called praxis is always a part of an ideological explanation for any human phenomena. Nothing that is ideological does not have relevance to political action. All true ideological principle are embodied within and related to the acquisition and wielding of political power.

   Ideology looks at the world as it is (what Dr. Sowell calls the "tragic vision") and feels alienation, despair and rage at the inequities, disparate outcomes, tragedies, and vicissitudes of mortality, and is fired by a passionate desire to right all of these wrongs.

   Conservatism, as a political philosophy, sees the same world, and desires to right as many of its wrongs as possible, but within the framework of a realistic assessment of what is possible given the very real and intrinsic verities of human nature and what in the gospel we would understand as the inherent conditions of mortality, or the Telestial sphere of existence, that are inextricably linked to our eternal progression.

   Ideology, as Kirk pointed out, is best understood as a Christian heresy that attempts to do through secular, political means what religion seeks to accomplish through the changing, renewal and reformation the individual heart, one heart at a time. As W. Wesley McDonald points out in his Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology, ideology is virtually synonymous with political fanaticism, and its fundamental premise, that the world of mortality may be be "converted into the Terrestrial paradise through the operation of positive law and positive planning", is inconsistent with the fundamental premises of western civilization and representative, liberal democracy. The ideologue "immanentizes religious symbols and inverts religious doctrines". As a religion of politics that attempts to fulfill all of the fundamental needs that are the primary concern of religion, ideology is always set against the existing order, whatever that may be, in a perennial attitude of "revolution"; it is, until all of its demands are met, in a permanent state of antagonism to the existing state of things, and its cry is always overthrow, rebellion, and the dismantling and destruction of the old order.

   Ideology has little patience for human frailty and weakness, nor for the core attributes of human nature (both mortal and, from a LDS perspective, spiritual) and seeks the thorough transformation of human character, many times in great, wrenching social upheavals that, it is theorized, will "liberate" human beings from the "institutional" and "systematic" oppressions that are the cause of the world's benighted state.

   The political philosophy of conservatism, on the other hand, while it always seeks and desires progress and change for the better, also realizes that compromises are necessary with the "veil of tears" in which we find ourselves as well as with human nature as it is given within that world, lest in attempting change and societal development, greater, and perhaps far greater harm is done to the human condition than was the case even taking into consideration all the prior evils which it was desired be eliminated.

   Conservatism is an imperfect human framework of interpretation and understanding that, while it accepts and respects the existence of eternal verities or "the permanent things", as Russell Kirk termed it, does not attempt grand schemes of social reformation in their name, nor to see all human beings as pegs to be fitted, by whatever means necessary, into the ideological holes of the"better world" of wide eyed academic theorists. Unlike ideology, conservative philosophy values the freedom, liberty and individual agency of each human being, including the freedom to fail, to sin, and to relinquish one's human dignity, if one so chooses, more than it values freedom from sin and failure if this is to be achieved through the imposed collective renunciation of freedom itself.

   Conservatism values slow, developmental, incremental change that preserves valuable traditional societal structures, values, principles and traditions, while eliminating the dross that accumulates or is left over from prior ages. Leftist ideology seeks, either evolutionarily or revolutionary, thorough the destruction and delegitimizing of the past and present social order, establishment of a new social order in which humans will be free from the shackles, limitations and restrictions of all previous social, moral and economic conditions.

   Conservatism is an intellectual pursuit; it is a philosophy grounded and steeped in the joy of the exploration, discovery and articulation of ideas. Its tools are critical thought, close, nuanced reasoning, the cut, parry and thrust of civil, critical debate, the values and rigors of classical liberal education, a sense of the tragedy and limitations of the mortal world while retaining a belief in an overarching cosmic purpose and meaning behind even its most wrenching complexities and dilemmas, and a conviction that there are things in the universe above and beyond man that it would be well for him to try to comprehend and conform himself to, lest he "change the world", in his passion for "liberation" and "freedom" and in his "vision" of a "better world" into a hell within which the very purpose of the mortal probation would be crushed and ground to powder, even if each and every grain of that powder were equal with respect to one another in their crushing.

   Leftism (or its shadow, modern "liberalism") seeks to overcome the effects of the Fall, not in the way in which the Book of Mormon and the New Testament make clear is the only way in which this can be achieved, but through politics and through various ideologies that tell of a golden age in the past (pre-capitalist, agrarian society in which workers were not alienated from their work, ancient pagan societies who worshiped female deities and accorded woman higher social status, ancient Egypt, where black Africans had achieved amazing feats of technology, science and political organization, primitive "indigenous peoples" who lived in harmony, balance and unity with the environment etc.) that was uprooted and destroyed, always by western peoples and values ("capitalism", modern technology, classical liberal political ideas, "the patriarchy", the Protestant work ethic, the right of private property, inalienable rights etc.) and which a messianic ideology (Marxism, various schools of utopian and revolutionary socialism, feminism, environmentalism, Afrocentrism, multiculturalism etc.) offers a means of salvation and an eschaton (always a "revolution" of some kind, in which the bad things are done away and the world is given a kind of new birth) in which all wrongs are righted and all human problems and challenges overcome.

   Leftism then, is, in every sense of the term, a form of idolatry, and its close approximation of religion, close enough to displace it from both the mind and heart as the focus of one's convictions and priorities in mortality, forges it as a strong competitor with the gospel as the primary frame of reference and template through which we comprehend and negotiate our mortal experience, including the many problems and challenges of the political realm.

   How compatible is each of these views of things - conservatism and leftism - with the restored gospel?

   A discussion of that to follow shortly.

Old Apostasy in New Bottles

   For most of my life, the primary concern among LDS defenders of the Church was the sheer bulk of criticism coming from evangelical Protestantism, led, for my generation, by Walter Martin, the "Bible Answer Man" of AM radio. Later incarnations of the basic form, from John Ankerberg and John Weldon to Edward Decker, Dave Hunt, John Larson, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and numerous others, followed similar themes, structure and approach in their criticism of the Church, its leaders and its teachings.

   Evangelical Protestant criticism loomed large for the Baby Boom generation because of both its aggressiveness and its prevalence. There were always, of course, secular critics of the Church, at least as to its core concepts (the very idea of a God, for example), but even among the multitude of Christian sects that could legitimately disagree theologically with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the evangelical Protestants (hereafter simply called EVs) and especially the fundamentalist variant, became the most assertive, visible and prominent of all Christian sects in their criticism and, not infrequently, denunciation and vilification of "Mormonism".

   A discernible movement congealed which LDS scholars and defenders ("apologists", following traditional Christian usage) have come to term the "counter-cult" movement, who's defining characteristics are an overt, and many times anti-intellectual, populist polemical style, highly idiosyncratic use of terminology (the prevalence of the term "cult", for example, to describe anything non-evangelical Protestant), and a penchant for poor scholarship and careless argumentation. This movement has never targeted the "Mormon" church exclusively, but has created a huge corpus of media, both print and electronic, whose primary purpose is criticism and the delegitimization of any form of religion not adhering to what is considered to be "orthodox" biblical Christianity. The restored gospel has always been a particularly important focus for these individuals and groups, but much ink and breath has been spent in pursuit of the Roman Catholic church, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, any and all forms of eastern religion, and anything that falls outside the classification of orthodox "biblical Christianity".

   This all begin to change in the early 90s, with the excommunication and media attention focused around the September Six, a group of dissident LDS intellectuals who's public teachings and criticisms of the Church eventually led to their separation from that religious body. For the first time, at least to any public degree, the reasons for separation from the Church were not that they had found Mormonism's theology to be in contradiction to a competing theology, but that each (perhaps save for Avraham Gileadi, who has never made public the reasons for his excommunication and has been a member again since 1996, when he was rebabtized)had found the restored gospel to be incongruent with a secular ideology which, by its vary nature, was incomparable with the teachings of the Church.

   Looming large as conflicting philosophies among the September Six are feminism and associated issues of power, ecclesiastical authority, the patriarchal order, the hierarchical nature of Church governance, and, in general, of an overwhelming non-political correctness about the Church that could not be missed by anyone with any substantial knowledge of it or its culture.

   Equally eminent in the boiling cauldron was the charge of "whitewashed" or "sanitized" LDS history made by scholars such as D. Michael Quinn (but already antedating Quinn among some LDS intellectuals such as Anthony Hutchinson and later continued by such critics of Brent Metcalf, who's specialty is Book of Abraham origins) and which has been picked up and amplified throughout, what is not a "counter-cult" movement, in the traditional sense, but a philosophically naturalistic, humanistic, generally leftist cult of secularism among both intellectuals on the finges of the Church as well as countless internet anti-Mormons and sundry critics who's main points of contention with the LDS church are both that it is a theistic religion as well as the overwhelming tendency among its members toward conservative/libertarian political and social values and philosophy.

   The primary threat to the spiritually weak, vacillating and unstable is not, at this point, polemical attacks from the perspective of fundamentalist Protestantism, but the subtle, sophisticated, exhaustive and nuanced attacks of intellectuals from within the Church; from those who really do have strong intellects, advanced education, and who understand the power of words and how to deploy them to persuade and influence.

   Overwhelmingly, the lion's share of the apostasy here moves from the Church to the Left, and this should not be a surprise when we understand just what leftism actually is in a broad sense. Leftism, of all the definitions that could be adduced in regard to it, is, from a gospel standpoint, a form of idolatry; an idolatry of the self and of humanity collectively (and hence, the term "secular humanism" which connotes a general view that human beings and the material universe in which they are embedded are all that exists and that all values upon which we may base our lives are, ultimately, of our own creation). We are not, of course, to have any other gods before the God of the universe whom we worship and whom has been identified to us in the scriptures and in modern revelation.

Prop 8: A Fork in the Road For Modern Latter Day Saints

   Recent threads (I'm dating over the last couple of years here, even though some material in this post was originally, as posted on the MADboard, relative to one particular thread) on the Mormon Apologetic & Discussion Board, as well as upon the generally critical board, have engaged in vehement debate upon the well worn subject of the Prop 8 controversy, and the subject itself, the cause célèbre of the last fifteen years or so in the popular culture and secular media, shows little sign of abatement. So, as this has long been something with which I’ve been wont to grapple, I’ve decided to give the subject a preliminary treatment here, in a forum where the nodes at which the gospel and politics meet and interact are the coin of the realm.

   At the outset, I’d just like to provide both a doctrinal and personal philosophical foundation for my position on the details of the issue, and than go over a set of the most common leftist (or, from a Book of Mormon perspective, Korihorist) perspectives, with what I consider to be the salient refutations.

   From the perspective of settled Church doctrine, homosexuality is one of a class of sins or transgressions against the laws and divine rules of conduct that govern the integrity and boundaries of human sexuality. Among all forms of transgression, it is classed, with other of the more serious moral lapses, of various kinds, as an abomination; as a sin of a degree of seriousness such that its continued indulgence, if not repented of in this life, will result in the “second death”, or a complete separation from God and all things “pertaining to righteousness” once the spirit leaves the body in death. It is a gross form of Telestial wickedness, classed with other forms of sexual immorality such as pre-marital sexual relations, adultery, and all forms of sexual perversion or fetishism that fall outside the bounds and conditions set by the Lord.

   From a restored gospel perspective, never, in the history of humankind since Adam, have the commandments and counsel relative to human sexuality in this context been altered, amended or negated. Continued perusal of a lifestyle grounded in behaviors of this kind place one in a position of the living of a Telestial law, with all the implications and consequences attendant to that form and manner of life (whether such a life involves sexual sins or other forms of rebellion against the moral and ethical standards of the gospel).

   Beginning in the sixties, the “sexual revolution” began a long and sustained assault on gospel standards of human sexuality across a broad front, of which the legitimization of homosexuality was, in the beginning, a peripheral concern. The broad based assault (exemplified by Hugh Hefner’s “playboy philosophy”) was on the primarily heterosexual aspects of normative Judeo-Christian sexual ethics as well as focused on the normalization or domestication of a society wide cult of eroticism as a fundamental aspect of a modern, affluent late 20th century western social structure.

   A philosophy of unrestrained hedonism and “self fulfillment” paralleled the rise of the New Left and a spasm of social upheaval across range of social and political issues, many of them focused on the subversion and overturning of both Judeo-Christian social norms as well as classical liberal political and economic philosophy. “Liberation” was the cry from a cacophony of idiosyncratic voices each seeking their “rights” in their own way but all being united in their hostility to what we would understand as gospel standards of behavior in many areas, but for our purposes, in the area of sexual relations.

   The “Gay Liberation” movement (there were a plethora of “movements” arising out of the cultural turmoil of the late sixties through early seventies era, all of which played upon some variant of the theme of “liberation” and “equal rights”) gained organizational and political experience in the late sixties, and blossomed over the next 20 years into a powerful and vocal political presence in American political and cultural life. Its original claimed aspirations, as with so many of the other “rights” movements of the era, was “tolerance” Discrimination against homosexuals in hiring, housing, and other venues of social life were to be opposed and made illegal by statute law, where applicable, in the same since as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made overt discrimination against blacks impermissible. Homosexuals were to be tolerated within the context of the Bill of Rights and other protections of the Constitution even when strong dissent regarding their chosen lifestyle was present in the one extending such toleration.

   By the time the 80s were well underway, however, this original intention (as with many of the movements that proliferated during this period) that been abandoned, first for acceptance of homosexuality and the Gay lifestyle, and then for celebration of that behavior and lifestyle. Militant homosexual groups (like Queer Nation and ACT UP), supported by the cultural and political Left across a broad spectrum of groups and organizations (including much of the mainstream Democratic party and its activist core), embarked in that and primarily the next decade upon the cause of homosexual marriage, a concept virtually unknown in the 80s and that probably would have struck most homosexuals and homosexual activists in the 70s as preposterous.

   While an idiosyncratic movement of its own with its own specific agenda and points to make, the homosexual marriage movement can also be seen as the relative culmination of a half century of sexual radicalism, beginning with the work of Alfred Kinsey and his associates and blossoming in the "sexual revolution" of the late 60, and early 70s, that has sought, in conjunction with other allied concerns, to overthrow the entire conceptual basis of normative sexual ethics and behavioral boundaries for a society of what many on the cultural Left would understand, with leading late 20th century leftist intellectuals such as Michel Foucault or Judith Butler, as a society of "self crafting" involving the liberation of the self from all, what are considered to be artificial and imposed cultural constraints upon sexual identity construction and expression.

   All sexual boundaries, demarcation lines, and conceptual limitations based in any form of normative "morality" are considered to be arbitrary and oppressive, and worse, maintained in the service of the dominant classes or power structures of society. Human sexuality, gender, gender roles, and the possibilities of sexual experience are considered here to be (as no core "self" or underlying individual essence, or consciousness, is thought to exist) is as expansive and varied as the human imagination can conceive it to be.

   Kinsey brought these ideas to a place of intellectual respectability, Hefter popularized them in their prurient, artistic form, and the critical theorists and postmodernists of late 20th century academic world baptized them in the waters of philosophical sophistication.

   Looking over a number of both recent and past threads at the Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board, a pattern emerges in which we may see that a number of LDS who have moved to the Left, or come to the Church from the Left in other areas, appear to continue moving in this philosophical direction upon ever more fundamental aspects of Church teaching, including those relating to core concepts of morality and the impact of what we might call the morality structure of a people upon the larger culture. It strikes me as odd that anyone who considers him or herself a "faithful" or "practicing" LDS who claim to be "faithful" followers of Christ and his restored gospel, would be on the opposite side of a debate regarding the complete redefinition of the concepts of marriage, family and gender, so fundamental are these to an understanding of who we are, why we are here, and the nature of our potential and destiny as eternal beings as identified in modern revelation and articulated by modern prophets and special witnesses of Christ.

   Not far behind this (of course) are deep confusion regarding the nature of a free, constitutional republic, the original intent and purpose of the Constitution, the meaning of the concept of "rights", and the moral structure of "freedom".

   For most "faithful" Latter Day Saints (given the full connotations of that term in a Church context), one would think it enough that both the scriptures and the living oracles of the Lord have spoken, from time immemorial, in a unified voice against homosexuality (and all forms of sexual deviation from the laws of God regarding human sexuality), and warned that a people who accept and support "abominations" of this kind, when that acceptance and support reach a critical mass of the population are "ripening" in iniquity, and are setting themselves up for the disintegration of their society. The Book of Mormon warns us repeatedly in clear language to be cognizant of various “secret combinations” in the last days and to be mindful of their power and influence, lest they begin to dominate society. This would include, as a matter of course, ideological or political forces seeking the overthrow of the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian foundation of civil society, as well as its economic basis.

   This is all moot, apparently, for some, for whom trendy notions of "oppression" and “social justice” (a code-like term that carries a great deal of baggage unrelated to the euphemistic “rights” talk so common to this and other related subjects) are the definitive shove under the bus for the gospel when it presses too hard against the great and spacious building’s garden gates.

   So I’d just like to offer my perspective and some clarifying observations on the issue, yet again, for consideration in the hope that, at least those sitting on the fence of this issue will be moved to move in a positive direction – toward the Ensign of the church, and away from the “political correctness” of the great and spacious house of mirrors.

   Among the core arguments made by LDS supportive of homosexual marriage, which are not at all at varience with similar arguments made in the secular world, are:

1. There is a “right” to homosexual marriage in the constitution (assuming also an implied right to marry qua marriage for heterosexuals) that is being denied by opponents of homosexual marriage.

2. A continued and stubborn conflation of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s with the homosexual marriage movement (a movement that only dates from roughly the middle of the 90s as a public concern).

3. Anecdotal claims, perhaps definitive for anyone unfamiliar with the longstanding social science knowledge regarding the Gay subculture, or who has lived in areas, as I have, with a visible and concentrated homosexual subculture, that most homosexuals are in “loving relationships” that precisely parallel heterosexual married relationships and which in x number of cases, are more committed and monogamous than heterosexual ones.

4. A continuing implication, if not outright accusation, that anyone opposing homosexual marriage could not be doing so as a matter of deep, thoroughly considered principle, but only out of ignorance and hatred rooted in unenlightened and unsophisticated bigotry.

   Let’s make a few brief points about the above.

A. From both a gospel and a generalized western Judeo-Christian perspective, “homosexual marriage” is an exercise in oxymoronity that it would be difficult to outdo (“social justice” is a strong runner up) even given our present culture’s continuing paroxysms of linguistic self flagellation we know as “political correctness”. But, as LDS, we may as well go all the way and stick rigorously to the restored gospel in its fullness, which is, after all, the basis upon which all derivative concepts are based.

   Homosexuals cannot “marry” each other in any intelligible sense because the term “marriage” both denotes and connotes only one thing: a union of a man and a woman (the rarely commanded or allowed practice of plural marriage aside for the moment, as in the history of the gospel, from Adam to the present day, it appears to have been a rather rare and isolated phenomena among the Lord’s people, and has been, as in the case of the Nephites, to an overwhelming degree, prohibited) for the purpose of their exhalation in the Celestial Kingdom, the bringing of the Father’s children into mortality, and an eternal posterity in the eternal worlds.

   Homosexuality, aside from its being an “abomination” comparable in all respects to premarital and extramarital sexual immorality in seriousness, frustrates and subverts each and every one of these purposes, both mortal and eternal.

   Homosexual marriage is, then, a self negating concept, even if it can quite easily be subjected to a breaking on the rack of political correctness, such that the meaning of its terms take on different colorations once enough semantic ligaments have been torn and joints pulled out of place.

B. Skin color and other similar characteristics are a matter of DNA, and completely outside the control of the one who inherits them. Homosexual behavior, “Gay” identity, and the dynamics of the “Gay” subculture are choices, values and, in the case of the various Gay personae, mannerisms, modes of speech and dress, and roles played in homosexual relationships and culture, cultivated and practiced self identities. There is nothing about such forms of culture or personal definition to which the constitution speaks or to which majorities within a culture must pay obeisance.

   By any stretch, homosexuals already have, and have long had, the very same inalienable rights that I enjoy. Their sexual orientation provides no compelling argument for any others, and marriage, by definition, being neither a right nor a concept logically and conceptually congruent with homosexuality, is not in any case a conceptual category within which the concept “homosexuality” can make any sense.

3. Anecdotal claims aside, homosexual relationships have long been known to involve severely disproportionate rates of social pathology such as drug and alcohol use and suicide, and feature startlingly aggressive rates and forms of promiscuity and sexual predation (what one could only call, especially in urban areas a hyperpromiscuity).

   The popular attraction within much of the male homosexual subculture for young boys, including boys well underage (the culture of the “chicken hawks”), is well known.

4. Following long established precedent in other areas of Korihorism (and its attendant Kultursmog), the assumption is made that no principled opposition to homosexuality exists. All that exists is philistine ignorance and bigotry. In such an environment, all one really has to do to win a debate is call a name.

None Dare Call it Babylon

   The following is an expansion of and editing of some prior remarks of my own regarding a thread (or two, or a hundred) at the Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board on the subject of socialism and its relation (or lack thereof) to the future United Order as understood in the scriptures and modern revelations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 
   A recent thread at the Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board (the discussion board of FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research)), by LDS scholar David Bokovoy, which ran to some 35 pages, set off a firestorm of debate over a subject of longstanding controversy between the overwhelming bulk of the active LDS population, and a tertiary element of its intellectual community that has apparently been gaining traction in recent years and which has lit up popular message boards in the LDS world for sometime now. The idea, dating at least back to the work of eminent LDS scholar Hugh Nibley, is that the United Order and its doctrinal basis, the Law of Consecration, are, in effect, a refined or purer form of egalitarian socialism and a vindication of much collectivist theory that has not worked, it is claimed, because, heretofore, human beings were not advanced and spiritual enough to make them viable.

   Against a truly substantial weight of evidence from LDS scripture and General Authority teachings spanning well over a century, this segment of LDS intelligentsia insists that the United Order will feature, and cannot be considered a true united order without, the abolition of private property and the abolition of a free market, "capitalist" economic system by the realization of equality of condition through redistribution of wealth. For these LDS intellectuals, it would seem that the gospel of Christ is the divine basis of socialist social and economic practice (and a number of such individuals like to use the euphemistic term "communitarian" to avoid the unsavory terms "socialism" and "communism" which, unarguably, have been permanently and irrevocably discredited by history).

   This idea has a long pedigree, but most LDS will find the idea that private property, personal wealth acquisition, individual stewardship over personal temporal matters, competitive economic disciplines and incentives, and economic free agency (a form of free agency in no substantive sense different from our free agency in other areas) are inherently incompatible with a full and valiant living of the restored gospel to be, at the very least, a shot in the dark.

   As no body of General Authority teaching or counsel exists in support of these propositions, and as prominent Church leaders (in officially published Church materials), have unanimously condemned "communitarian", socialist, or communist interpretations of the United Order as well outside the perimeters of the United Order's intent and structure, the origin and vehement clinging to this position begs us ask for an alternative genesis of this interpretation.

   The romantic infatuation of many western intellectuals with collectivism and grand utopian schemes of social regeneration and transformation are well known and attested in the literary and political history of the west, with an especial intensity and ferocity during the last century, and have left a black mark upon the world, it should be said, for which no conceivable excuses could ever be forthcoming as to collectivism's continuing hold on the imaginations of much of the west's intellectual classes.

   That this has bled from "Babylon" into the Lord's church will strike many practicing LDS as not only odd but bizarre. What people, and especially a people so given to and with such a deep appreciation for education, intelligence and liberty, both as Americans and as people seeking that truth that will set us free in an ultimate sense, could be drawn to either the human mediocrity or the flaxen corded security of equally distributed and apportioned serfdom that is at the crux of the kinds of society's collectivist egalitarianism actually creates in practice?

   Others will find the idea that an eminent heart surgeon like Russel M. Nelson, should receive the same remuneration for his services as a bus boy in a restaurant, especially given the vast difference in skill, preparation and the stakes involved if one does not perform adequately. Equally odd will seem the implication that Latter Day Saints are saved as a community, not as individuals within a community; that only in an egalitarian, socialistic society can a people be prepared to receive Jesus Christ at his Second Coming. This oddness will obtain, among other reasons, because of the quite salient fact that innumerable children of our Father in Heaven have, in point of fact, been saved, sanctified, and exalted, upon the principles of the gospel, without having ever lived in any such society under anything approaching such economic and social delimitations.

   Another oddity is that the idea that the accumulation of personal wealth very much beyond some point of basic subsistence is inherently evil puts many of our past and present General Authorities and church Presidents beyond the pall of moral and spiritual legitimacy by definition. But, for a mentality that goes so far as to perceive any private ownership of material things whatever as inherently wicked, this may be simply a kind of philosophical collateral damage, something we may have to accept to get to our "better world".

   What may really disturb intellectually serious Latter Day Saints with both a strong educational background, a substantial knowledge of gospel doctrine, and a working grasp of critical thinking, however, is the dream-like, ethereal feeling of wandering in a Peter Panesque childhood fantasy that clings to the entire body of LDS leftist arguments of this kind (as it always has to those same arguments from the secular world). Pointing out the quite serious practical economic and social problems attending the actual implementation of such ideas (and especially the vast historical record we have of the consequences of such implementations in the past, in various forms and to various degrees) will bring breezy dismissals and indignant snorts of pious annoyance that one is not educated, sophisticated or spiritually advanced enough to understand...

   Or worse. By defending free market, rule of law based democratic capitalism as a matter of principle, one is also likely to be branded as simply wicked. But this dates to Marx himself, and Proundhon and other leftists before these famous names. The pedigree, as I said, is long.

   It is in the area of economics, however, that the rubber hits the proverbial road, because it is here that fantasy comes into direct confrontation with reality, logic, known history and the very real bounds and conditions of mortality. It is also here that one with the proper background can show, not only that socialism should never be allowed to work (for moral reasons) but that it cannot work, (because it violates the laws of economics) no matter how it is pursued and no matter how sincere or passionate the desires and intentions of its theorists. There are no means in a socialist society without free markets to determine value through the medium of money prices, for either producers or consumers to understand what the value of anything actually is, and to express preference for one thing over another within a society of any degree of economic or technological complexity.

   There is a great deal of idealistic, Peter Pan-like "if only we believe" special pleading that we all simply ignore the actual details of the practice and organization of an entire social system and dismiss the laws of economics with a wave of the idealistic hand.  This is all connected, at some umbilical point as well, to the moral breast beating that seems always to be encountered when the subject of free market economics, profit, capital accumulation, and freedom of choice to buy, sell, produce and save as independent, free agency grounded beings arises.

   There are some who believe that not greed, a weakness of the individual human heart, but freedom within the economic realm within which greed can manifest itself, is that which is at the core of our human problems, economically speaking.  Their solution to the problem of greed, avarice, and economic inequity seems to run along the following lines:

1. To forcibly, by social design, reduce the size, scope, potential and possibilities of the sphere within which economic activity can take place.

2. Support the literal dissolution of the psychological as well as moral/ethical boundaries between human beings relative to personal property and resources.

3. Exalt equality over quality, thus rendering the natural desire for quality (excellence, singular achievement or capacity, distinction, refinement, greater or lesser merit etc.) inert.

4. The odd belief, for Latter Day Saints, that everything should be "free" and that no effort should be required for its acquisition. We can just go to the vast, cavernous warehouse and take what we want, at any time (like the Eloi in the original film version of The Time Machine, when Rod Taylor asks one of them where they get all of their food, he replies ("It grows, it just grows").

5. A massive diminution of the complexity, scope and interconnectedness of an economy in pursuit of severely curtailed and simplified economic expectations and desires, eventuating in

6. A romantic veneration of subsistence lifestyles as "simpler" and in some sense, inherently more righteous (or, the idea that somehow it is easier to be righteous in such a society) then life in a complex, industrial society.

   This brings us back to the nature of a Zion society, as to its quality of life, economic structure, and relative living standards if markets, currency, market disciplines and incentives, property rights and concepts like the law of supply and demand and the law of marginal utility are to be dispensed with, and economic equality pursued.

   As to first principles, without free markets and value expressed as price, nothing even approaching a computer is even thinkable, let alone far simpler items of modern convenience such as a pencil, or even an ax with a steel ax head. The reasons why would take far more time and bandwidth than I have available right at the moment, but suffice it to say that while one can certainly barter a sack of potatoes for a pile of lumber, or some of his lumber for some Milk from Farmer John, one cannot barter a sack of potatoes for the a VCR head, or the laser unit within a DVD player, or for the long chain of highly specialized productive skills, materials (some exotic) and processes that are integral aspects of the production of a VCR, or DVD player, or a DVD, or a television, or a cell phone, or an automobile, or a book, or a pencil (let alone a space shuttle).

So, given the above, I would ask a few specific questions as food for thought and further discussion:

What is Zion to be like, economically speaking? Is it to be:

1. A subsistence, generally agricultural society of simple, local economic transactions and rudimentary technologies, or

2. Essentially a modern, complex, advanced technological society (essentially benefiting from the same levels of technology/progress as the non-Zion "world"), but operating, within this context, upon the principles of the Law of Consecration.

3. Is poverty, in a gospel sense, a spiritual requirement for greater spirituality? If so, why? If not, and vast individual riches are to be avoided in Zion, what is the alternative between colossal stores of personal wealth and just meeting one's basic physiological needs? Is there any middle ground here, for those who believe in absolute equality of wealth distribution (Communism, in theoretical point of fact).

4. If you had the choice between equality of income for all at a single, low level, or a relatively high quality of income and living standard for all at somewhat varied, differentiated levels of economic equality, which would you choose, and why?