Faith and Politics


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After 23 years in federal service, and having raised three daughters through public education, I now find myself teaching civics in a private Christian school. I love this work and remain certain that we can serve God well, in part, through politics.  I grew up as Rev. Falwell urged evangelical Christians (and some LDS, btw) to the pro-life cause. This morphed into the Moral Majority and later the Christian Coalition. After Clinton was elected some in the New Right gave up hope, called for a retreat into insular Christian culture, and circled the wagons. Others veered into a Kingdom Now end-times belief--that Christians must reclaim America, and the world, for Jesus. We must win the reins of power and establish God's law. THEN the Lord will return.

COVID-19 really shook my own understanding of balance. I saw many church members embrace conservative-constitutionalism, so much that they left the church because it was not willing to speak out against mandates and government violation of rights. My struggle was not with their politics, but that these matters came to outweigh the proclamation of faith and good news. In essence, they traded the greatness of the faith for the goodness of patriotic classical liberalism (aka constitutional conservatism). 

I still believe Christians can serve effectively and well in politics. But, I see so clearly now the temptation to rely and political power rather than the power of God. 

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8 minutes ago, prisonchaplain said:

After 23 years in federal service, and having raised three daughters through public education, I now find myself teaching civics in a private Christian school. I love this work and remain certain that we can serve God well, in part, through politics.  I grew up as Rev. Falwell urged evangelical Christians (and some LDS, btw) to the pro-life cause. This morphed into the Moral Majority and later the Christian Coalition. After Clinton was elected some in the New Right gave up hope, called for a retreat into insular Christian culture, and circled the wagons. Others veered into a Kingdom Now end-times belief--that Christians must reclaim America, and the world, for Jesus. We must win the reins of power and establish God's law. THEN the Lord will return.

COVID-19 really shook my own understanding of balance. I saw many church members embrace conservative-constitutionalism, so much that they left the church because it was not willing to speak out against mandates and government violation of rights. My struggle was not with their politics, but that these matters came to outweigh the proclamation of faith and good news. In essence, they traded the greatness of the faith for the goodness of patriotic classical liberalism (aka constitutional conservatism). 

I still believe Christians can serve effectively and well in politics. But, I see so clearly now the temptation to rely and political power rather than the power of God. 

I call this the “thirteenth apostle syndrome”. Our church, as I am sure you are aware, is run by the quorum of the twelve apostles as well as a presidency. There are cultural figures in the world that we come with powerful polarizing views that I see many people treat as the 13th apostle. 
 

I’ve seen good Christian people testify of Christ one day and the next post extremely hurtful things towards the LGBTQ, feminists, and other liberal movements. All the while they are blind to the hypocrisy.

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2 minutes ago, Fether said:

I’ve seen good Christian people testify of Christ one day and the next post extremely hurtful things towards the LGBTQ, feminists, and other liberal movements. All the while they are blind to the hypocrisy.

Well said. True believers of all types-from the secular left to the religious right and everyone in-between are always incapable of seeing their hypocrisy because it means they have to engage in self critique. Which is impossible for them. 

Edited by LDSGator
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3 hours ago, prisonchaplain said:

After 23 years in federal service, and having raised three daughters through public education, I now find myself teaching civics in a private Christian school. I love this work and remain certain that we can serve God well, in part, through politics.  I grew up as Rev. Falwell urged evangelical Christians (and some LDS, btw) to the pro-life cause. This morphed into the Moral Majority and later the Christian Coalition. After Clinton was elected some in the New Right gave up hope, called for a retreat into insular Christian culture, and circled the wagons. Others veered into a Kingdom Now end-times belief--that Christians must reclaim America, and the world, for Jesus. We must win the reins of power and establish God's law. THEN the Lord will return.

COVID-19 really shook my own understanding of balance. I saw many church members embrace conservative-constitutionalism, so much that they left the church because it was not willing to speak out against mandates and government violation of rights. My struggle was not with their politics, but that these matters came to outweigh the proclamation of faith and good news. In essence, they traded the greatness of the faith for the goodness of patriotic classical liberalism (aka constitutional conservatism). 

I still believe Christians can serve effectively and well in politics. But, I see so clearly now the temptation to rely and political power rather than the power of God. 

I wish I could share your optimism.  I was personally badly burned by politics 50 years ago and ended up leaving the Republican Party - To this day I refuse to register as a Republican or Democrat.  Even scripture examples seem to me to indicate that regardless of one's belief in G-d that within a couple of generations of rising in political power seemed to sower even the most devout and turn them into Pharisees.   None of Jesus' Apostles ever seemed to do well politically.   As I view Western History it seems to me that the more politically powerful Christians became the more they resembled Pagans (Especially Hellenists Pagans) and the less they looked like Christians.

Please understand - I do not mean that Christians should not be politically aware and engaged - It is just that I am skeptical of those that make their life's work and salaries from government coffers.  This is one of the main reasons I left government employment.  I honestly do not believe a Christian can be a career politician.

But I must also admit that you have proved me wrong several times before - so much that I am somewhat embarrassed - and I honestly hope you can demonstrate me wrong again in this.   

 

The Traveler

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4 hours ago, prisonchaplain said:

After 23 years in federal service, and having raised three daughters through public education, I now find myself teaching civics in a private Christian school. I love this work and remain certain that we can serve God well, in part, through politics.  I grew up as Rev. Falwell urged evangelical Christians (and some LDS, btw) to the pro-life cause. This morphed into the Moral Majority and later the Christian Coalition. After Clinton was elected some in the New Right gave up hope, called for a retreat into insular Christian culture, and circled the wagons. Others veered into a Kingdom Now end-times belief--that Christians must reclaim America, and the world, for Jesus. We must win the reins of power and establish God's law. THEN the Lord will return.

COVID-19 really shook my own understanding of balance. I saw many church members embrace conservative-constitutionalism, so much that they left the church because it was not willing to speak out against mandates and government violation of rights. My struggle was not with their politics, but that these matters came to outweigh the proclamation of faith and good news. In essence, they traded the greatness of the faith for the goodness of patriotic classical liberalism (aka constitutional conservatism). 

I still believe Christians can serve effectively and well in politics. But, I see so clearly now the temptation to rely and political power rather than the power of God. 

https://magazine.byu.edu/article/the-bright-side/

One of the sections in this article speaks to "Hope for Political Union":

Not That Different / Hope for Political Union

The neighbors down the street who still have yard signs touting their favorite 2020 candidate—yes, the one you didn’t vote for—might not actually be that different from you. Rhetoric about Americans being “torn apart” and “deeply divided” politically lacks in nuance, says BYU political-science professor Jeremy C. Pope (BA ’97).

“There’s more unity in the public than we think there is,” says Pope, who’s published two books on American political division. “There are areas of disagreement—it’s just that we tend to think that disagreement is universal, and it’s not.”

He mentions an example from pandemic policy preferences: Democrats and Republicans showed almost equal support for financial relief for small businesses and families and equal disapproval for delaying elections. And even in some areas where Americans are indeed divided across party lines—raising minimum wages, for example—Pope notes that the division doesn’t run as deep as pundits and news coverage might lead us to think: “The Republicans would like to raise it to something like $12 an hour,” Pope says. “And Democrats would like to raise it to $15. Are they different? Yes, but both of those are substantially higher than the minimum wages right now.”

His hope for overcoming that conflict is in looking beyond party labels to what we can agree on.

“There’s a lot of evidence that people have come to dislike one another in terms of which party they support,” Pope says. “But once you realize that Republicans and Democrats probably don’t have nearly as divergent opinions, across all issues, as you might think, that should temper your dislike. It will make you like your neighbors more.”

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...and this: https://magazine.byu.edu/article/5-messages/

4. Conflict Is Inevitable, but Contention Is a Choice

Have you noticed that in many movies there comes a moment when someone says, “At least things can’t get any worse”? As soon as you hear those words, you know that things are about to fall apart. Do you ever feel like a character in one of those movies?

Just when it seems as though we have faced all the trials and heartaches we can handle, bigger ones come along. These conflicts come in a variety of shapes and sizes: An unwanted medical diagnosis. A wandering child or friend. The loss of a job. The passing of a loved one. A global pandemic.

Sometimes we think how pleasant life would be if only we didn’t have so much opposition.

Our Lord Jesus Christ—our model of perfection—did not live a life free of conflict. He was opposed throughout His ministry, and in His final hours He was betrayed by a friend, accused by false witnesses, slandered, beaten, bloodied, and crucified.

What was His response?

To some, He did not speak a word. To others, He spoke the simple truth—not in anger but with calm majesty. As others contended with Him, He stood in His place—trusting in His Father, calm in His testimony, and firm in the truth.

Conflict is inevitable. It is a condition of mortality. It is part of our test. Contention, however, is a choice. It is one way that some people choose to respond to conflict.

When we contend with others, we cause discord, dissension, resentment, and even rage. Harmful emotions almost always accompany contention: anger, hurt, jealousy, hostility, revenge, and malice—to name just a few.

Our world overflows with contention. We have 24/7 access to it: on the news, on social media, and even, at times, in our relationships with those we love.

We cannot adjust the volume on others’ bitterness, wrath, or rage. We can, however, choose our response. We can choose a better way—the Lord’s way. Of course this is easy to say and difficult to do.

To refrain from contending requires great discipline. But that’s what it means to be a disciple. Jesus taught:

He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention. . . .

. . . This is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. [3 Ne. 11:29–30]

When God speaks—even when He calls us to repentance—His voice is not likely to be “a voice of thunder, neither . . . a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but . . . a still voice of perfect mildness, . . . [like] a whisper . . . [that pierces] even to the very soul” (Hel. 5:30).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we follow this example. We do not shame or attack others. We seek to love God and serve our neighbors. We seek to joyfully keep God’s commandments and live by gospel principles. And we invite others to do the same.

We cannot force anyone to change. But we can love them. We can be an example of what the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. And we can invite all to come and belong.

When others throw insults at us, do we return fire?

There is a better way—the Lord’s way: To some, we say nothing. To others, we state with quiet dignity who we are, what we believe, and why we believe. We stand confident in our faith in God, trusting that He will uphold us in our trials.

Let us emulate the gentle Christ. And we do that through learning to love God and reaching out to bless others. Yes, there will still be conflict. But our all-powerful Father in Heaven has promised that He will fight our battles for us.

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17 minutes ago, NeuroTypical said:

This is the way it is, and anyone who thinks otherwise must fight me.

OurBlessedHomelandTheirBarborousWastes.png.0de2d4accac2cda5efec6ca8735bf7af.png

Behind the school by the flag pole? Or is this an in the garden park with flintlocks type fight? …BYOF of course.

Edited by Fether
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17 hours ago, Fether said:

 

I’ve seen good Christian people testify of Christ one day and the next post extremely hurtful things towards the LGBTQ, feminists, and other liberal movements. All the while they are blind to the hypocrisy.

Whether or not it's hypocrisy depends on what was said.  Whether or not it was hurtful isn't the decision line.   To many, The Family is hurtful.   To others, it's a loving testimony.

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11 minutes ago, Grunt said:

Whether or not it's hypocrisy depends on what was said.  Whether or not it was hurtful isn't the decision line.   To many, The Family is hurtful.   To others, it's a loving testimony.

Memes making fun of the movement. I’m all for testimonies of the family proclamation, but using images and cheap jokes to make fun of what other people find important is not appropriate

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47 minutes ago, Fether said:

Memes making fun of the movement. I’m all for testimonies of the family proclamation, but using images and cheap jokes to make fun of what other people find important is not appropriate

I don't immediately disagree.   However, I find that both sides aren't judged equally.

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14 hours ago, NeuroTypical said:

This is the way it is, and anyone who thinks otherwise must fight me.

OurBlessedHomelandTheirBarborousWastes.png.0de2d4accac2cda5efec6ca8735bf7af.png

I have encountered so many barbarous wastes and am still looking for a blessed homeland with glorious leaders.  The closest I have found is the United States of America.  But even with all the laws and a constitution my ancestors and their neighbors fled the USA under desperate circumstances and with great cost in human life in hopes of religious freedom.

And so I am The Traveler without a homeland in search of one wondering if I will find it within my lifetime.  

 

The Traveler

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25 minutes ago, Grunt said:

I don't immediately disagree.   However, I find that both sides aren't judged equally.

I’m not so concerned about individual judgement, I’m more concerned about people living up to their ideals. Babylon will do what Babylon does, but saints should not act the same way.

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17 minutes ago, Fether said:

I’m not so concerned about individual judgement, I’m more concerned about people living up to their ideals. Babylon will do what Babylon does, but saints should not act the same way.

I mean, you are concerned about the individual judgement.  Wasn't that the whole point of your post?   You didn't make a post commenting on how the ExMos and ProgMos are always Meme-ing the Prophet.

I believe all bad behavior should be called out.   Focusing on one side creates a popular narrative.

Edited by Grunt
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45 minutes ago, Grunt said:

I mean, you are concerned about the individual judgement.  Wasn't that the whole point of your post?   You didn't make a post commenting on how the ExMos and ProgMos are always Meme-ing the Prophet.

I believe all bad behavior should be called out.   Focusing on one side creates a popular narrative.

I’m calling out my own side for not living to their ideals. My concern has to do with Doctrine and Covenants 82:3, Luke 12:47-48, and James 4:7

I also have little drive to try and change Babylon, I’ve seen that fail over and over. Spending time building the kingdom of God is a better use of my time and effort.

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On 2/3/2022 at 10:22 AM, Fether said:

I’m not so concerned about individual judgement, I’m more concerned about people living up to their ideals. Babylon will do what Babylon does, but saints should not act the same way.

This is my biggest beef with aggressive Christians. Like it or not, you put yourself on a moral pedestal. Don't get mad when the rest of us hold you to your own high standards. I'm not saying it's right when "my side" throws stones at yours, but the pious have a self-imposed imperative to be more loving, patient, and long-suffering. Personally, I think it's a very admirable standard, and I have an immense amount of respect for Christians who actually live by it, partly because (on the internet in particular) it seems like a lot of self-proclaimed Christians don't. 

I've long believed that many vocal far-right Christians act more like the Pharisees who persecuted Christ and demanded his crucifixion rather than the disciples who followed him. With today's political climate pushing more people into the fringes, this is seemingly becoming more true. People jump at any opportunity to score some cheap political points, without regard to who it may hurt. And yes, both sides are guilty of this. But again, one side uses divine teachings as a basis for their moral standing. They weaponize their faith and then wonder why hostility is growing against people of faith.

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12 hours ago, Godless said:

I've long believed that many vocal far-right Christians act more like the Pharisees who persecuted Christ and demanded his crucifixion rather than the disciples who followed him. 

Even weekly church going Christians feel this way. In the immortal words of CS Lewis, “A cold, self righteous prig is far closer to Hell than a prostitute.” The damage these people do the reputation of the church is unfathomable. 

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13 hours ago, Godless said:

I've long believed that many vocal far-right Christians act more like the Pharisees who persecuted Christ and demanded his crucifixion rather than the disciples who followed him.

I absolutely agree.   However, I believe the people that toss this up as a reason for not following Christ aren't following Christ to begin with.  Those of us active in the Church see them for what they are.   I think the people that do unfathomable damage to the Church are the people who act like faithful members while ignoring every covenant they've made and encourage to do the same.   

As someone outside the Church, what do you think someone inside the Church could do to lead you to Christ?

Edited by Grunt
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3 hours ago, Grunt said:

As someone outside the Church, what do you think someone inside the Church could do to lead you to Christ?

You're asking the wrong question, and you're asking it of someone who was born and raised in your church and left for reasons that were more ideological than personal.

Honestly, one of the most off-putting traits of Christians/LDS is the conversion mindset. Far too often, I've encountered people of faith whose interest in me is based entirely on their perceived ability to "save" me. They've gotten better, but for a long time I struggled with this within my own family as well. If you want to have a real bond with non-believers, the first step is to lose the proselytizing mindset. Let you faith speak for itself in how you treat others (and how you speak about others, per @Fether's earlier point). Showing that you're willing to live the loving gospel you preach will bring more people to your faith than proselytizing will. The important thing is to apply that love consistently, without regard to whether or not conversion is on the table.

Unfortunately (for you, I honestly don't really care), the brash and brazen types that @prisonchaplain was talking about are the loudest and most visible examples of modern Christianity. I realize that they likely represent a minority of Christians, but they're doing irreparable harm to your faith. And again, as @Fether said, it's the flamboyant hypocrisy that's doing the most damage. A lot of us have no issue with the teachings of Christ. It's his fan club that we can't stand. 

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24 minutes ago, Godless said:

You're asking the wrong question, and you're asking it of someone who was born and raised in your church and left for reasons that were more ideological than personal.

I might not be asking the question you want, but it isn't the wrong question.

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Honestly, one of the most off-putting traits of Christians/LDS is the conversion mindset.

It's sad you find it off-putting, but we are called to be missionaries.  

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We are all missionaries…for good or ill. We are duty bound to stand as a witnesses for our Savior (see Mosiah 18:8-9) and pray for all those who know not God (see Alma 6:6) and warn our neighbors (see D&C 88:81) and be the salt of the earth and Saviors on Mount Zion (see D&C 103:9-10).

 

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Far too often, I've encountered people of faith whose interest in me is based entirely on their perceived ability to "save" me. They've gotten better, but for a long time I struggled with this within my own family as well. If you want to have a real bond with non-believers, the first step is to lose the proselytizing mindset. Let you faith speak for itself in how you treat others (and how you speak about others, per @Fether's earlier point). Showing that you're willing to live the loving gospel you preach will bring more people to your faith than proselytizing will. The important thing is to apply that love consistently, without regard to whether or not conversion is on the table.

I don't think it's a simple as that, and the focus is probably different for everyone.   We do want you to receive your eternal reward.  We also want to serve the community.  With my friends outside the Church, my faith speaks for itself.  Others I have passing time with and proselytize.   For some, I think standing as witness is needed, for others I feel I must "warn my neighbors".   If this is what you find off-putting, I'm sorry.  However, I don't feel staying silent would be any less off-putting to you, only less uncomfortable.   I follow as the Spirit dictates.

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Unfortunately (for you, I honestly don't really care), the brash and brazen types that @prisonchaplain was talking about are the loudest and most visible examples of modern Christianity. I realize that they likely represent a minority of Christians, but they're doing irreparable harm to your faith. And again, as @Fether said, it's the flamboyant hypocrisy that's doing the most damage. A lot of us have no issue with the teachings of Christ. It's his fan club that we can't stand. 

Maybe they are doing irreparable harm to themselves and their salvation.  Maybe they are harming the Church.  They aren't harming my faith.   I also don't particularly buy the excuse that people would follow Christ if not for Christians.   I think it's a convenient excuse.   Obviously, you disagree.   I don't think people acting any different would bring you to follow Christ.  Complaining about it just lets people blame someone else.

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1 hour ago, Godless said:

one of the most off-putting traits of Christians/LDS is the conversion mindset. Far too often, I've encountered people of faith whose interest in me is based entirely on their perceived ability to "save" me.

What’s nice about the Latter-day Saint faith and doctrine is that we are extremely universalist. Everyone is “saved” and there is nothing joining our faith will do for your salvation beyond giving you more freedom in the afterlife. 
 

What’s not so nice is that the Latter-day Saint faith gets a little Christian culture sneaking in on occasion. We begin proselyting more ferociously than we ought to on occasion. Instead of trying to convince, we ought to be seeking the elect and parting truth we have to people when they are ready to hear it. That is our faith, truth and love  to all who will hear and receive and to whatever extent they wish to receive it.

In the end, we will all receive that which  we wish to obey 

Edited by Fether
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10 minutes ago, Fether said:

we ought to be seeking the elect and parting truth we have to people when they are ready to hear it. That is our faith, truth and love  to all who will hear and receive and to whatever extent they wish to receive it.

In the end, we will all receive that which  we wish to obey 

I think that's where much of the issue is.   

Edited by Grunt
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53 minutes ago, Grunt said:

I might not be asking the question you want, but it isn't the wrong question.

Quote

I would add that asking someone who doesn’t believe in God “how can I help lead you to Chris  isn’t very useful.” It might scratch the “I’m a missionary” itch, but it is unlikely to move any needle.

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13 minutes ago, Grunt said:

I think that's where much of the issue is.   

It isn’t much of an issue. Someone isn’t any less important for wanting less than another. 

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