Can’t we all just get along?

Lowell Brown writes in to point us to Article 6 Blog, which according to the “About Us” page, “is dedicated to the issue of religious “qualification” for elected office in this country – something pretty well prohibited in Article 6 of the constitution.” Lowell, who is LDS, is one contributor to the blog; the other contributor is John Schroeder. According to his bio,

John comes to this blog primarily to be a voice of a moderate ‘evangelical’ Christian and a center-right political person. The word ‘evangelical’ is in quotes as used here indicating it is used in the sense it is used by political observers – John does not necessarily agree with all of mainstream evangelical theology.

The blog itself looks to be an interesting discussion of the issues surrounding politics and religion in this country, and specifically (but not exclusively) as they relate to Mitt Romney’s potential presidential candidacy. If you’re interested in such dicussions, I recommend you take a look.

I’m personally not that interested right now in the specific topics being discussed there (give me another year or so), but I am interested in the broader question of how to facilitate constructive online interactions between people of different faiths.

As some of you may know, for the past few months I have been busy creating a website for homeschooling parents. Due in part to the cirucumstances which led to its creation and in part to the general makeup of the homeschooling population in this country, the forum membership consists largely of evangelical Christians (perhaps 70% or so).

One of my stated goals in starting the site was to create a place where people of all religions, political beliefs, and homeschooling philosophies (all three of which can inspire fervent, impassioned debate) can feel comfortable talking about what they believe even when in the minority. So far, it seems to be working. I haven’t had to reprimand anyone or moderate any comments yet. I simply ask the forum members to remember that their beliefs are not necessarily the beliefs of the entire group, and to act appropriately. The environment is such that we even have a small group of pagan homeschoolers who feel comfortable jumping right into discussions with the evangelical majority.

While I don’t claim that the success to date of the site is entirely my doing, I do know that I put my vision out there, and the members responded to it. I suspect that my being the administrator and in the minority in many ways myself (Mormon, male, left-leaning) probably helps head off some of the tendencies towards groupthink. Another important factor is the strong commitment of the members to a common cause, that of supporting each other in their homeschooling journeys, no matter where those paths may lead.

I’m interested in hearing other stories and ideas about how we can build communities that include our brothers and sisters across religious divides.

40 thoughts on “Can’t we all just get along?

  1. Um, Seth — I think you’re missing the point here. (You might leave a comment over at Article 6, though).

  2. Bryce, I should clarify that Prof. Huggins’ article is not an example of the worst of anti-Mormon rhetoric. Not even close really. A cursory glance at the website hosting his plea revealed a typical one-sided example of anti-Mormon “gotcha journalism.” I thought the flash media display of Joseph Smith with his face stuck in his hat was particularly charming.

    I also have no idea if Huggins is officially affiliated with “Mormons in Transition.”

    But it simply seems disingenuous to write an article calling for more understanding between Evangelicals and Mormons, and in it, proceed to give Evangelicals all the benefit of the doubt for being diverse in opinion and levels of tolerance, and then proceed to paint the Mormon community in exactly the same fashion you just finished declaring unfair as applied to your team. Even as he called for more understanding “from both sides,” he limited his criticisms almost exclusively to the Mormon community (except for the Evangelical who made a public apology to the LDS for Evangelical behavior, who Huggins dismissed as a “kiss-up”).

    But you’re right. This isn’t a discussion about Professor Huggins, or the snarky, unprofessional, and nitpicky website his article is connected to. The discussion is “how to promote genuine interdenominational dialogue.”

    My point is that a website with the goal you have stated would be best served to think carefully about to whom it gives its endorsement (which a sidebar link essentially amounts to). When you link to a source that is critical of a certain faith, you’d best make sure it is a credible, even-handed, and respectful criticism. Otherwise, people will automatically dismiss your site (unfairly or not) as either amateurish or as a site with a hidden agenda.

    Note: I do not dismiss your site based on this one link. I’ve already subscribed to its RSS feed (kudos for including that – many blogs don’t have one).

  3. I home schooled all of my children from when they were in diapers until they went of to the university two years early. And my primary objection to public schooling was the groupthink that is constantly drilled into all public school students from K through 12. I had other objections, but that was the main one. Educated people cannot be easily manipulated by propaganda and group think. And that is the way I wanted my children to be.

    But largely because I have resisted groupthink all of my life, and consider it a form of mind control to be hated with a passion, I have learned to genuinely like and even love people who strongly disagree with me on many things. But, wo is me, it has been my observation that most people are not so tolerant of opinions that differ from their own. In politics, for instance, both Conservatives and Liberals think the other side is totally brain dead and unworthy to have an opinion, much less express it in a public forum. They are actually offended by someone disagreeing with them Hello? If a person is going to think his own thoughts and avoid groupthink, most of his opinions are going to be out of sync with those around him. Does this mean he is going to go around being offended by everybody? I hope not, but sometimes I despair that it seem to be that way among most folks, most of the time.

    I have a testimony of the gospel very similar to the ones so many found offensive in Joseph Fielding Smith and his son-in-law, Bruce R. McConkie. Needless to say, many people are offended by my opinions. But what is the problem? Do we all have to think alike? Such a requirement isn’t very Christlike, in my opinion. I happen to believe that the only light in the religious world is that which shines from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because we have the priesthood and true prophets which they don’t. My opinion is that the rest of the world is stumbling around in darkness in matters pertaining to the Father and the Son. The Restoration was not implemented by God just for drill, it was because the truth about the Father and the Son had been almost entirely lost from the earth during the Great Apostasy which is still going on today in the traditional Christian world. Now, why would anybody find that opinion offensive? Others hold similar views when it comes to their politics or religion. And yet for some illogical reason, I am expected to hold views that are “politically correct.” Why can’t they just accept me as I am? Why do I have to hold views that mimic or at least harmonize with theirs? I don’t hate them for holding completely wrong-headed and ignorant opinions. Why should they hate me for holding what must seem like wrong-headed and ignorant opinions in me? I don’t expect others to agree with my views. Why should they expect me to agree with theirs?

    I am astounded almost daily by how much pressure we place upon each other to hold the same opinions. I’m sure that is a product of the groupthink that is drilled into almost every child in the public education system.

    Before we can be tolerant of others, we have to allow others to be wrong (according to us.)

    And as a fellow blogger, I deny that a link in my blogroll is an endorsement. Why should anyone assume that I agree with those I link to? I find some Birchers and some genuine Communists to be very interesting and engaging reading. I feel the same way about the Far Left, the Far Right and everything between. I myself am a utterly committed anti-war conservative with more in common with leftists when it comes to my opinion of Bush and his private war in Iraq. But I am from a Far Right background and am so far right that the Limbaugh’s, O’Reilly’s and Buckley’s think I’m completely off the map, and I think they are liberals and corporate fascists.

    So I guess I get to be hated by everybody. The groupthink demands it. If you want to promote interdenominational dialogue, first you have to solve the problem of groupthink. Good luck.

  4. Any inter-religious dialogue has to be founded on the idea that the members of a religion are the experts on their own beliefs. They can ask questions of the other side, but not try to *prove* them wrong, nor *prove* their own view right. Black/white dialectics are death for such discussion – and true religion in general I might add.

    I comment a lot over at Defensor Veritatis and enjoy the discussion we have there so far very much. If there is an Evangelical / Mormon website that is not ridiculously bipolar, I would like to participate there too.

  5. That should really be “inter-denominational” and “denomination”. The LDS and Catholic Churches are more than sects, but we don’t really have a good word to describe them – “religious tradition” doesn’t suffice, and arguably we are more of the same faith than we are different. The idea that our Christ is *materially* different than theirs is ridiculous.

    Is Christ different than Jehovah just because Christians believe that he has a body and Jews think that is a heresy?

  6. John, in #5….I very much sympathize with that philosiphy. In fact, I don’t know if you’ve done any research on the public school system, but it was patterned after the Prussian school system of 1850, which was designed to train docile factory workers. Our public school system is based on the idea of groupthink.

    Needless to say, many people are offended by my opinions. But what is the problem? Do we all have to think alike? Such a requirement isn’t very Christlike, in my opinion.

    Concerning this comment, I agree….however not entirely. That we should have different opinions within the church should be the case. The statement “if ye are not one, ye are not mine” applies to the membership having the same will, but that does not mean that they must agree on everything. Unfortunately, very few within the church seem to see things this way. To them, disagreeing on some points of doctrine is seen as an attempt to undermine the church, and in many instances can actually shake their testimony. Both I and my father hold many controversial opinions in both politics and church doctrine (him moreso than myself, and I more and more as I mature and think more carefully about things). Initially, my father dealt with this by stating his opinion almost whenever the opportunity arose, but he soon found that doing so can shake people’s faith (and, consequently, landed him in church jobs that distanced him from gospel doctrine class, among other things). For this reason, he has in recent years tried to share his opinion only when he was certain others would be able to bear hearing it. To me, this makes more sense. If someone has their mind closed to what you have to say, if they will only take ill from what you have to say, it may be best to “cast not thy pearls before swine”. Perhaps we could work towards eradicating groupthink to establish an open forum before attempting to “live the higher law”.

  7. John,

    If you wish to play the martyr here, that’s fine. But I don’t know where you’re getting the “hate vibes” from.

  8. John R.,

    I like Joseph Fielding Smith’s theology, as a rule, although I disagree with him on a few points, especially places where he disagreed with Joseph Smith. I think he was a little too literalistic in certain places, but that is fine, as long as allowance is made for other reasonable interpretations. As far as I know the only reason why anyone particularly dislikes Bruce R. McConkie’s theology (i.e. in the way you have described is his dogmatism).

    I generally get the impression that Elder McConkie virtually attempted to set a creed, i.e. a definitive, last word systematic theology for the whole church and say that anyone who disagreed with him was going to hell.

    Now good theology or bad theology, assuming that we have the last word and enforcing it on the Saints is the worst aspect of the Apostasy – mandatory creeds are an abomination unto the Lord for a reason, namely that such creeds shut off revelation by asserting perfection prematurely.

    So when he disagrees with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and nearly all of nineteenth century Mormonism, how does BRM come to the sure conclusion that his interpretation is the mind of God?

    Frankly, I don’t think the mind of God will accomodate any simple neo-orthodox interpretation, even though neo-orthodoxy is a critical guide to lead us to further inspiration on the subject, as we ponder the paradoxes and mysteries of God in our hearts, making truth manifest through the proving of contraries as Joseph Smith said.

  9. I think there are two major reasons that Elder McConkie gets a bad rap:

    1. It’s the trendy thing to do for “open-minded” Mormons.

    2. He presented a few easy targets for those who have an inclination to attack him: a) that Mark of Cain stuff and b) Roman Catholicism as the “whore of Babylon (and maybe the “blood atonement” thing). Since they’re such easy targets, even intellectual lightweights can feel very important as they “courageously stand up for the right by denouncing an actual Apostle!”

    Oooh, doesn’t it just give you chills to be so controversial? Now you can write for the local counterculture publications they stock at coffee shops in downtown Salt Lake!!

  10. re: 7
    “The idea that our Christ is *materially* different than theirs is ridiculous.”

    One suspects that most Catholic thinkers would disagree with that assertion.

    I agree, though. If God exists, if Christ exists (and I believe they do) they have certain characteristics. Mormoms have one opinion, Catholics another, etc. Our understanding (or lack thereof) does not impact the nature of deity.

    My favorite Zen Cone:

    If you understand, things are just as they are.
    If you do not understand, things are just as they are.

  11. There’s another reason, Seth. Sometimes he said stupid things.

    But we all do. Every flipping one of us. The problem is assuming that if an apostle says it, it has to be gospel. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.

    I think, oh, I’ve said this before, but so many of us are going to be so surprised who’s in heaven with us. But then, so will the evangelicals :).

  12. I suspect that my being the administrator and in the minority in many ways myself (Mormon, male, left-leaning) probably helps head off some of the tendencies towards groupthink.

    I don’t mean to threadjack, but may I make a suggestion for those of you more eloquent than I (and who have more time on their hands): I would love to hear from left-leaning LDS on on their reasons for a “left-leaning” political position.

    I’m a conservative- albeit an open-minded one. I majored in Political Science from a liberal university, so I’ve been thru the ringer. I am no stranger to liberal politics or the trials that arise from having differing political views from virtually everybody in my program. My gut tells me there’s an innate conflict between social liberalism (as opposed to fiscal) and LDS philosophy. I do not honestly see how one can be a good Mormon and a good Democrat at the same time.

    Now, before I get lynched I want to admit that I may be completely wrong. I admit there may be something I’m missing, something that’s gone over my head. I may be looking at it all wrong. And that’s where I’d like some guidance. I’m not interested in the fiscal side of politics. I’m more interested in the social side. If somebody feels up to the task, please start a new post and tell me where I am wrong.

  13. “I do not honestly see how one can be a good Mormon and a good Democrat at the same time.” (Ezra Taft Benson made a somewhat similar statement in the early 1970s.)

    It depends on what you mean by good Mormon and good Democrat. Of course, ours is not the only religion in which people make that claim. Here is recent article by a Roman Catholic on the issue.

  14. DavidH- I’m only about hafway thru that article you linked to, but it seems to be more of a fiscal deal. Most everything I’ve read so far on this subject brings me to a general conclusion. Christian Democrats tend to defend their leftiness by emphasizing the fiscal side of politics, whereas Christian Republicans tend to emphasize the social side.

    It seems to me (and this is a biased point of view) that the graces of fiscal liberalism do not make up for its social pitfalls. Again, I say this as a staunch, yet open-minded conservative. I am committed to looking at both sides and sincerely weighing them. Please don’t take offense at my comments.

    Ok, I really didn’t mean to threadjack this post- I apologize.

  15. Tossman,

    OK, I’ll bite.

    The problem is that political ideology informs many different areas of society. Therefore, to focus only on “moral issues” like aborition, homosexuality, etc, is to miss the big picture.

    There are a few categories you must consider:

    1. Foreign Policy

    2. The Role of National Government domestically – should it’s influence over its citizens be expanded or contracted?

    3. National Morality (abortion, etc.)

    Most Americans tend to utterly ignore #1. I consider it crucial, but the USA is a very self-centered nation and it’s people, when all is said and done, don’t seem to give a damn whether Bangladesh sinks into the ocean or not. The recent interest in foreign policy is almost solely due to the fact someone flew a plane into one of our buildings.

    #3 is a recent innovation. Morality wasn’t something politicians discussed. FDR probably had similar opinions on “moral issues” to whoever he ran against in the opposing party. But moral issues are not at the heart of either party. For the most part, they are a sideshow to be used by political opportunists. I don’t pay much attention to them. But you can certainly make a strong argument for why the moral issues should be the main area of focus. Most of Utah has.

    #2 is probably the most important of the three in defining the difference between Left and Right. What role should state and national government play in regulation of business? What about social welfare? Public services? Do you want more federal oversight or less?

    So what are my views?

    On foreign policy, I tend to be more conservative. Liberal foreign policy tends to embrace that stuff of all the nations holding hands and singing for a better tomorrow. They support multilateral international regimes (UN might be a good example). They also have a very idealized view of US involvement. We should intervene whenever there is suffering. All dictators must be completely shunned on principle, regardless of whether it is in our best interests or the best interests of others.

    Not all Democrats are foreign policy liberals. For example, when it comes to free trade, Democrats can be downright conservative. Just listen to Dean give a speech to a union rally.

    Conservatives operate from a premise national interest. Isolationism is one manifestation of Conservative policy. So is trade protectionism.

    While I admire the Liberal ideals of a happy world, I still think that the model of independant nations makes too much openess a bad idea. I think that a foreign policy guided by national interests simply makes more sense because it simplifies the playing field. Other nations know what to expect from us, and we know what to expect from them – to act in our own best interests. I think this provides a better foundation for international trust than ambiguous moral experiments. However, I’m not opposed to modest attempts at a more open world. So I’m not completely Conservative or Liberal, but I lean conservative.

    Neither are all Republicans Conservative on foreign policy. George Bush is extremely Liberal in his foreign policy stance. He is one of the “neoconservatives.” They’re called neoconservatives because they embrace an ambitious goal of democratizing the world for free trade and human betterment. This is not even remotely conservative. George Bush Sr., by contrast, was a good example of Conservative foreign policy.

    On moral issues, I am a Conservative. But I don’t focus my attention on abortion or the hot-button focus topics. I am more concerned with the Left’s embrace of permissiveness, moral relativism, and rejection of normative moral standards. The Democrats are basically, morally adrift. This is why I am not a Democrat.

    I also take a more expansive view of the moral issues than most Republicans. For me, it’s not just about sex. It’s also about greed. Democrats are morally adrift on the issue of sexual mores. Republicans are morally adrift on issues of wealth and materialism.

    Republicans basically take the attitude of “if I made this money legally, it’s none of your business what I do with it!” While I agree that you can’t force people to be charitable, it disturbs me that the Republican party doesn’t even have any encouragement to give to the people.

    The role of government informs fiscal policy. I tend to lean Liberal here. This is mostly because I see national problems that cannot be solved on the individual, or local government level. National Corporations cannot be dealt with at the state level. National health insurance cannot be solved on a state-by-state basis. But there’s still a healthy sense of states’ rights that comes out in me on occasion – mostly on environmental issues. I don’t think you can have responsible stewardship of the land unless it is initiated and conceptualized by the people who live on the land.

    I should also note that Republican faith in the virtue of “big business” is every bit as stupid as the Democrat’s faith in “big government.”

    So it’s pretty confused, but I have a dominant liberal impulse when it comes to domestic fiscal policy.

    At present, I’m politically undecided. I still haven’t figured out which party would be more susceptible to the sort of changes I would like to make to it.

  16. Thanks Seth- nice analysis. I find myself in agreement with most everything you said. My hang-up is a moral one. This would include the hot-button issues like abortion and SSM, but even more so the things you mentioned: moral relativism, permissiveness. To those I would add the watering down of personal accountability (which bleeds into the fiscal) and a general animosity toward religion.

    I do not identify myself with either political party. But I take a more realist (as in realistic) point of view with domestic politics. Whether I like it or not, this country works on a two-party system. That means one of these parties will govern, and thus influence policy and even culture. So it comes down to what issues I think are most important and who will better forward those principles in policy.

    I’m no Republican, but I realize that contributing to Democratic power on the national level will hugely affect moral issues. What’s stalling SSM? Republicans. What’s keeping abortion from getting completely out of hand? Republicans. Who will better steer policy in the direction of personal accountability and the moral issues I hold dear? It ain’t Kerry, Dean, or Harry Reid.

    I definately agree with you on the issues of greed and pride. And yes, those faults are more Republican. But I’m not sure contemporary Democrats have any less a prideful philosophy. It may not be a money kind of pride. But believe me, in my years in the Poli-Sci program at my commie-lib university, I saw a heck of a lot of pride and greed.

    Which brings me back to my original question: How can an LDS person willingly help a political party who, despite certain fiscal graces, is amoral, overly permissive, and hostile to religion? Or maybe we should put it another way: Which party is more likely to lead us to hell in a handbasket more quickly?

    Personally, I take a realist but slightly neocon approach to foreign policy. I don’t think we need to be the world police, but we also can’t be pansies. Some people are Republicans simply because they realize that a liberal-minded passive foreign policy is disastrous. As you say Seth, U.S. hegemony is definately in the world’s best interest. Contemporary liberal worldview is incompatible with this.

    Back to the original topic then. My experiences with evangelicals has not been positive. I have lived in the south, and there are definately some conflicts. But given the bigger political picture (and even the religious picture) I see them as on our side. The sooner they realize that, the better. Can we all just get along? We’d better learn.

  17. Oh no, I never said that pride was the sole province of Republicans. Everyone has that. Same with selfishness. I only said “Greed = Republican” and “Lust = Democrat” (unless we’re talking about politicians generally).

    You’ll note that I’m not a foreign policy liberal. I’m certainly not Neoconservative.

    Also, I will often vote simply to destroy the power base of the vested interests in government. This is why I always voted Democrat while living in Utah for all local offices. It wasn’t that I liked Democrats, it’s just that I wanted the Republican fat-cats out.

    To get back on topic, when we talk about reconcilliation with Evangelicals, what do we mean? What are we calling truce with?

    I’m perfectly happy to call truce with the religion itself. I am eager to reconcile with any individual Evangelical I meet, and even whole congregations.

    But, as things stand, I am not ready to reconcile with the dominant Evangelical political wing. I have nothing to say, and no support to offer to the political “Christian Right” or the “Christian Coalition.” These views are based on a broad message that comes from the overall movement. If they don’t represent all Evangelicals … well, that’s their problem, not mine. A religion has a responsibility for its own image. If the Evangelicals are softening toward Mormonism on a level that represents more than a scattering of forward thinking lay membership, a few isolated ministers, and a small band of rogue scholars, I have yet to hear of it.

    When you ask “what is the official position of the Evangelical movement on the Mormon questionn?”, it’s hard to get a clear answer. But it does seem clear that the answer is not yet “let’s stop ostracizing Mormons.” I haven’t heard of a single voice that speaks for the larger movement ever take that position. Maybe some of the other readers here have. I’d love to hear about it, and why you think it represents a mainstream Evangelical perspective.

    I also consider the political strategy of the overall Christian Right to be misguided and heavily laden with Pharasiacal self-righteousness. Political tone in Utah has taken on the same prideful voice. At present, I am desirous to simply divorce Mormonism politically from the Christian Right as much as possible.

    Theologically however, I’d love to engage the Evangelical movement.

  18. Short continuation of threadjack:


    I perceive the parties differently from you. In addition, there is a pro-life contingent within the democratic party of which I, and the author of the piece I posted, are a part. I have made it a matter of personal prayer, and I, like the author, feel “called” to be a pro-life democrat, and am very much at peace with that decision (even in a Church whose active membership is largely republican and even hostile to democrats). Perhaps if I had attended the “commie-lib” university you attended, I would feel the same way you do. But I did not. And just as my life’s experiences (including spiritual ones) inform my decision to a part of this Church, they also informed my decision in 2004, after many years as an independent, to affiliate with the democratic party and join the Democrats for Life caucus.

    End of threadjack

  19. Further continuation–

    In the last sentence of 21, I should not have conflated my decision to be a part of this Church with the decision to be a pro-life democrat. They are two quite different decisions. I am not “bearing my testimony” of the democratic party. But I am saying it was a careful decision with which I am at peace.

    End of treadjack

  20. DavidH- Tell me then how we percieve the parties differently. That’s what I want to know. One thing I don’t understand about your position as a pro-life Dem, is what’s the point? You may be pro-life, but your political/financial/philosphical contributions to the Democratic party directly inhibit the pro-life movement. Much the same, I’ve never understood gay Republicans. If an issue is dear to your heart, why participate in a movement that would ultimately destroy it?

    Please tell me which Democratic/liberal philosophies make you a Democrat. Are you happy with the Democratic Party or do you seek change within it? Are you a Dean Dem or a Lieberman Dem? And how do the core tenets of the of liberal ideology forward the goals of this church?

  21. None of us are defined by a single issue. We are people, not cartoon characters. (except on the internet sometimes)

  22. DavidH-
    Most of those links are broken. I cannot get to the Trib article at all. Most of the articles linked to date between the 70’s and late 90’s. Since (in my view) the core ideals of both political parties have evolved since then, I’m not sure how relevant they are. If you can find good links to the articles you want me to read, I’d be happy to oblige.

    My main point, which I make as politely and open-mindedly as I can, is that the

    1) the major tenets of American liberalism, as espoused by the Democratic leadership, are contrary to the teachings of the Church in many ways. Moreso than Republican ideology (if the only major fault of a conservative worldview is “greed,” then simple math proves my point)

    2) that if one supports a particular political party, he supports (even if indirectly) that party’s broader tenets, which may be contrary and destructive to the teachings of the restored gospel.

    All I’m asking is that somebody provide me with some solid guidance on this. With links that work.

  23. And sorry for the threadjack. We can totally take this somewhere else. I’m just not sure where to take it.

    Bryce- as to your original topic…

    I mentioned that my experiences with evangelicals (ironically more here in Utah than in the South) has been mostly negative. Yet I find myself slow to anger and eager to make peace with them. I think if we can effectively convey the point that both religious mindsets have the same goals and are essentially on the same side of a battle against the evils of this world, I think the conflict could fade almost entirely. Much like our “friendship” with the RLDS (whatever they’re named now) developed by focusing on deep similarities rather than the deep divides.

    Evangelicalism and the majority of Mormonism currently share a common political ideology. I say we build on that. Run Mitt and see what happens. Mormons have largely accepted evangelical leaders in the conservative movement. If the curmudgeons of evangelicalism can reciprocate and embrace Mitt as a leader, we’ve taken a huge step in the right direction.

  24. Back to post #14 and “I’m not interested in the fiscal side of politics. I’m more interested in the social side.”

    Many Mormon (and Evangelical) Democrats would argue that there is no material distinction between fiscal and social politics. Bad tax policy, bad health care policy, etc, lead to immoral social outcomes. There is a good case to be made that Republican economic policies (leading to increased economic polarization, etc) have forced many mothers back into the work force, and that this contributes to many of our worst social problems. I’m not sure I agree with that, but thought it might help you understand how Harry Reid, et. al. view things. You might also want to read something like Sojourners magazine ( to get a feel for this perspective. Unfortunately there really isn’t a significant LDS equivalent as far as I know.

    (2 cents worth from la la land!)

  25. Good points, MikeInLaLaLand. I have to work three jobs so that my wife can stay home. She’d enter the workforce if she had to, but she’d rather stay home and raise the kids (which she insists is tougher than working, and I tend to agree).

    However, a lot of mothers enter the workforce of their own volition, not out of necessity. Not that I have a problem with that. But to the extent they are neglecting motherhood responsibilities, this is not good.

    Fiscal policy translates into moral shortfall. Nice example. Though I would make the distinction that while Republican fiscal policy may result in more mothers working because of financial need, Democratic policy seems (in my trying-so-hard-to-be-tolerant opinion) to result in more mothers working because of pride.

    One difference between Reps and Dems is that Dems see the issues you cited (fiscal and tax policy, health care) as moral issues and Republicans do not. Not good or bad- just an observation.

    I’ll check out sojo and let you know what I think.

  26. Bryce, thanks for thoughtful and outreaching post.

    I’m a little baffled to be honest. After the few brief experiences I’ve had reading and commenting on M*, I pigeon-holed the blog as highly conservative of orthodox faith and politics…and intolerant of alternative views. Based on this post I see that there is more to M* than what I have experienced, as reflected by you. Very cool.

    While I don’t question your sincerity in saying the following:

    One of my stated goals in starting the site was to create a place where people of all religions, political beliefs, and homeschooling philosophies (all three of which can inspire fervent, impassioned debate) can feel comfortable talking about what they believe even when in the minority. So far, it seems to be working. I haven’t had to reprimand anyone or moderate any comments yet. I simply ask the forum members to remember that their beliefs are not necessarily the beliefs of the entire group, and to act appropriately.

    I do wonder if you are fully aware of the perception to the contrary that M* has earned by the experience of folks like me. Not to harp too much on the subject, but I just thought you should know that your perpception has exceptions.

    And to add my response to the threadjack:

    As one raised to be religiously Republican/conservative, then intimately introduced to the virtues of Democrat/liberal by marriage, I think I may speak with some authority when saying that neither political party has a corner on Mormon thought and ideals. But the Dems/liberals currently have my heart…and not just because my wife is one, but because they currently embody more of what I loved about my faith, not the church, but the hopes and aspirations of human unity, cooperation, peace-making, and social/economic justice that inspired me to love the words of Christ. I do not recognize the same degree of this thing I loved in the current aspirations of the ruling party, and I find the platitudes of self-reliance and individual stewardships and go-it-alone six-shooter bravado as hollow and immoral by comparison. And above all, I find the hypocrisy of waging war and its flushing of vast fortunes and lives down the toilet while simultaneously attacking certain minorities and wedge-issues as immoral and claiming to be the party of faith, family, and morality…I find this unbearable.

    Tossman for a liberal view, and you got it.

  27. Matt Elggren —

    Thanks for the kind words. I think you misread my post a bit — my comments about creating “a place where people of all religions, political beliefs, and homeschooling philosophies (all three of which can inspire fervent, impassioned debate) can feel comfortable talking about what they believe even when in the minority” refers to my homeschooling site, not M*. I am aware of the reputation of M*, and the reasons for it.

    I’m staying out of the whole “can a good Mormon be a good Democrat” discussion for now, but I may post on it later. Of course, I’ve said that to myself about a lot of topics lately.

  28. Thanks Matt. So you’re a kum-bah-ya guy. I’m cool with that. Question for you though- if I correctly understand your words, you imply that your main reason for being disgusted with Republicans is the war. Would I then be correct to assume your views were different before the war?

    Also, you say you find things like the war and “attacking certain minorities” (not exactly sure what your’e talking about there) unbearable. Do you not also find excessive permissiveness, general contempt for religion, the SSM movement, blatant inaccountability, and 1.3 babies aborted per year in this country unbearable as well? I’m not a Republican hack, but in my mind things weigh out differently. Then again I happen to see the war(s) as necessary evils, poorly run as they are.

    The fact that you can be disgusted at one party’s percieved immorality, yet at the same time being seemingly ok with your own camp’s immorality, is what I can’t seem to wrap my brain around. How do you support a movement that may prop some of your values, but also clearly tramples the rest?

    Sorry, maybe I’m in the minority as somebody for whom politics and religion are so very closely woven. Maybe I place too much importance on this. Or maybe everybody else doesn’t place enough.

    Man, Bryce- sorry for the threadjack. Somebody should seriously start a new post on this subject. Your OT is very interesting to me and I apologize for wrecking that train of thought.

  29. Tossman,

    The topic of being LDS and a democrat has been covered many, many times.

    You have done a nice job describing some extreme elements of the democratic party. A month or so ago, there was a thread about which extreme–left or right–is more dangerous. (I do not know if it was lost in the great purge.)

    As I stated there, I believe both extremes are very dangerous, and both are the “worst.” That is why I sometimes describe myself as an “extreme moderate.”

    From my perspective, it seems like the republican party is more under the control of its extreme element than the democratic party is and I am more comfortable as a moderate democrat than a moderate republican.

    And, yes, my opposition to the invasion of Iraq and the republican party’s triumphalist foreign policy did affect my decision to affiliate with the democrats in 2004. I note that it “affected” rather than “caused”, because the I actually registered as a democrat so I could vote for Lieberman in the primary, even though he supported (and supports) the invasion of Iraq.

  30. From my perspective, it seems like the republican party is more under the control of its extreme element than the democratic party is..

    How so? It seems to me that the Dems are the party that’s been hijacked by its extremes. I mean the guy running your party is Howard freaking Dean, and your last pres candidate was Kerry. Check the dude’s record (and read his book, I dare you). Kerry is flaming liberal. And this is only humble speculation, but I’d love to see any Dem win the primary without the blessing of the liberal blogosphere. Methinks it won’t happen.

    By the way, hopefully you’ve noticed that I lob these political code words (commie-lib, flaming) in jest. I really am more open-minded than I come across. I was a flaming commie-lib for a few years before seeing the light:)

    By the way, I could support Lieberman for prez.

  31. Thank you Bryce (32). I did mis-read…I read what I wanted to read. May the ideals of your homeschooling site rub-off a bit on M*.

    Tossman, I appreciate your searching questions and look forward to your guest post.

  32. Regarding political dialogue, my contribution to getting along is by being an Independent, and thus making myself a potential convert to both parties. 🙂 I’ve said before that I would never stoop so low as to brand myself a Republican and I could never debase myself by calling myself a Democrat. Straight-ticket voters are the scourge of politics and should be banned. I welcome the viable third party.

    Regarding religious dialogue, I take the stance that there are few religious as weird as my own, so I’m willing to at least listen to others’ arguments. Of course, I reserve the right to point them out as weird. One of my good friends is Wiccan. Another has a mother who was a Methodist preacher. Both of them understand the “core” of my faith better than people in my ward or from the Bloggernacle.

  33. As far as “getting along” with other religions …

    Do we really want to get along?

    I think I’d rather regard other religions, and be regarded by them, as a “respected opponent” rather than “an eccentric friend that we put up with at parties (while secretly rolling our eyes behind his back) simply because no one wants to make a scene.”

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