More on Wall-E

Well, M* has found itself in the middle of another controversy. Some people did not like Bryce Haymond’s post (see below). Here is my take on the issue.

Within certain limits, the most charitable attitude to take toward a post you don’t like is to politely disagree, using factual, on-target talking points. If you really don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. What is not going to fly on this blog is suggesting that the entire post is silly, unpalatable to your friends, involves unacceptable political thoughts or should not have been written in the first place. We are trying to create a different atmosphere at this blog – one of respect for bloggers, commenters and most importantly the Church. We are also willing to explore ideas that are perhaps different than at other blogs. We don’t always succeed in being respectful (mea culpa) but we continue to try.

There are all kinds of opinions I find incredibly silly. The idea that Barack Obama will somehow magically end the Iraq war with dignity is absurd (Barack himself is admitting these days he won’t be able to do that) – yet all kinds of intelligent people seem to believe it. I personally find the idea that you can support the Church yet actively work against one of its most important current initiatives (stopping SSM in California) also incredibly silly. But the point is that this are my OPINIONS – all kinds of intelligent people have different opinions, and the point is that blogs are forums for people to express their ideas, refine them, consider them and defend them.

There is a subtle kind of censorship in the Bloggernacle that really bugs me. That censorship is that only a certain range of ideas can be expressed. People get incredibly offended if you say, “well, in my view, the Church says we should do this and that, and the scriptures seem to say you should do this and that, so I really think members should do this and that.” Nothing seems to set off flame wars more than daring to express an opinion of this nature.

Well, guess what? It is the writer’s opinion. In a free country, he is allowed to express it. If you really disagree, you can write a polite retort. Or you can go read another post on the blog that doesn’t offend you. Or you can go read another blog or go spend time with your family or get back to work. What you can’t do (at least on this blog) is insult the writer or try to intimidate him/her through a barrage of harassment to not express his opinions anymore. That, my friends, is called fascism. Mob rule by tyrants. It happens a lot these days in certain settings (college campuses, for example), but it won’t be happening at M*.

I certainly don’t intend to offend anyone. A lot of people are saying right now, “wait, did he just call me a tyrant and a fascist?” Obviously no one sees himself or herself that way. But I really want people to take a step back and think: if you don’t like somebody’s opinion, why can’t you just disagree politely and then move on? Or, guess what: you can avoid reading what that writer writes if you really hate it (may help your blood pressure). What is it that drives you to write snarky links implying that anybody who has an opinion like that is a complete idiot, that the post is silly, worthless, never should have been written, etc., etc. Could it be that you truly are trying to suppress ideas that dare to disagree with yours?

There is an incredible amount of hypocrisy in the old “the blogger is claiming I’m not righteous” complaint that we see all over the Bloggernacle these days. I have seen literally hundreds of posts and comments in the last five years claiming in one way or another that you can’t be a true follower of Christ is you support the Iraq war/war on terrorism/Guantanamo. Yet I have never seen anybody on the opposite side say, “you are claiming I’m not righteous – how dare you!” It may have happened, but the point is that the politically correct position in the Bloggernacle is to never, ever question somebody’s righteousness when they question the Church’s position on, for example, same-sex marriage, but it is completely okay and indeed expected to question somebody’s righteousness when they support the Iraq war.

As a supporter of the Iraq war/war on terrorism/Guantanamo, I can tell you why I have never written indignantly “how dare you question my righteousness!” when somebody claims I am not a true follower of Christ: I could care less what their opinion is. Really. My righteousness is between me and God. I could really care less what anybody else thinks, except my wife, my bishop and my stake president.

So, when Bryce has the audacity to use scripture or quotations from Joseph Smith to bolster his opinions on environmentalism, and you disagree, you can respond in several ways. You can politely say, “well, I don’t agree with your interpretations of the scripture and here’s why…” You can stop reading the post.  You can go turn on the TV.  But what you can’t do, at least with any integrity, is say, “he’s questioning my righteousness!! How dare he!!” If you don’t respect his opinion, then who cares what Bryce thinks (unless he is your spouse, bishop or stake president, and I think there’s only one person who is in any of those categories).

I will agree that certain posts are beyond the pale. You won’t see racist posts or sexist posts or, of course, posts insulting Church leaders (these are the posts I personally find most offensive). But you will occasionally see posts saying, “The Church says we should do this and that, the scriptures seem to say we should be doing this and that, so I really think Church members ought to do this and that.” If you don’t like it, I would suggest, in the kindest way possible, that you write your retorts politely and cogently and keep on topic. The fact that you didn’t like the post doesn’t mean you get to suppress a writer’s opinions.

One last point for all those offended by Bryce’s Wall-E post: I don’t know Bryce personally, by I highly recommend his web page:

www.templestudy.com

He is doing some great work there defending the Church. I would also like to point out that roughly half the people who commented on Bryce’s post agreed with his take on the issue. There are a huge number of mainstream people who believe that 1)Wall-E represented a dangerous form of environmental extremism 2)environmental extremism is a false religion for many and 3)it will even lead people to do crazy, Satan-inspired things like sterilize themselves and have abortions to “save the planet.” Yes, from a cynic’s perspective, you could say it seemed silly for him to get so offended by a cartoon. But, again, that is his opinion, and he defended it well, and a lot of smart people agreed with him. If you don’t agree, hey, that’s certainly your right. But you don’t have a right to try to censor his opinions or insult him. At least not on M*.

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

76 thoughts on “More on Wall-E

  1. Fine, Geoff. But Bryce’s post wasn’t saying “the church seems to say this and the scriptures seem to say this and I think we should do this.” Bryce’s post said, “I didn’t like Wall-E and it is superficially similar to the environmentalism of environmentalist crazies; therefore Wall-E is the produce of environmentalist craziness and endorses the same.” There is simply no proof that justifies the final assertion (in Bryce’s argument or elsewhere as far as I can tell). Asking Bryce to provide the proof that justifies the assertion is not questioning his membership, but it is questioning his argument.

    As to the quote wars, I agree that anyone (Bryce or other) who claims to have the definitive reading of a scripture is probably wrong (and certainly unauthorized to make such an assertion unless they are Thomas S. Monson).

    Regarding the rest of your argument, is it possible that you and I are dealing with observational bias? We notice that which offends or excites us much more than we notice that which is disinteresting or which we agree with. Therefore, you see a vast liberal mormon conspiracy in the nacle ( ;) ) and I see the majority of nacle “judgment” coming from self-proclaimed conservatives. Probably we would both be surprised at the actual statistics.

  2. So does this mean that the comments section on WALL-E is again open for business?
    Just kidding.
    What I think bothered many of us is that we felt his article was a bit too extreme. Personally, I had flashbacks to the “Why Harry Potter is of the devil” controversy. I also wondered how other cartoons (many with more obvious political ties) would be critiqued (Bambi comes to mind, as does The Iron Giant and several others).
    I think, if we’re attacking movies, we should attack the ones that glorify premarital sex, or violence, or fart jokes, and not WALL-E. You may have attacked such movies in the past, but I haven’t seen any attacks recently.
    I don’t think WALL-E leads to abortion. This was discussed previously, and I’m sure it will get more discussion here, but…let’s put it this way. Anything good (stewardship of the earth) taken to an extreme (aborting babies so we don’t overpopulate the earth) can turn quite bad. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good to begin with…it just means that the extreme is unacceptable. WALL-E doesn’t come close to the extreme.
    The reason I can’t leave this alone? Part of the reason is that I’m worried that others, particularly those less familiar with the LDS church, will get the wrong impression.
    Hopefully this discussion can be more civil than the last one…and hopefully it doesn’t end up getting shut down.

  3. Amen. This whole thing is unfortunate. I don’t especially agree with his movie review, but one of the things I like about really smart people is that they sometimes over-think things a little :-) A lot of the comments also fell into that category. I hope everybody can move on. And I agree that Bryce’s Temple blog is absolutely awesome.

  4. John C and Tim, as I said, I have absolutely no problem with anybody politely disagreeing with a post. And, btw, you may be interested in knowing that I don’t agree with everything Bryce wrote and I would not have phrased it the way he did. But the flame wars and the widespread derision that greeted Bryce’s post are simply not appropriate for this site and for humble followers of Christ, in my opinion. The comments were stopped because “contention is of the devil,” and that’s all it was in the end, pure contention.

  5. Tim, you would not believe the flame wars directed at me over the years when I attack films for “premarital sex, violence or fart jokes.” People apparently get very offended when you dare to criticize a film they liked. :)

  6. Good for you, then, for attacking what needs to be attacked. I’d be interested in reading some of those attacks.

  7. Thanks for the reminder to be civil. Taking your reminder to heart, I have the following to say about Bryce’s post:

    1. I agree that in many cases environmental belief can be accurately compared to religious belief. (I will write a post on this in the upcoming weeks.)

    2. I disagree with Bryce’s claim that Wall-E is part of Satan’s scheme to reign with blood and horror.

    3. I applaud Bryce for his modest (dare I say environmentally sensitive) lifestyle. See Bryce’s comment at 7:59pm.

    4. I lament that Bryce’s reaction to Wall-E is indicative of the environmental antagonism that I have witnessed in many LDS members. I would say to those sharing Bryce’s opinion: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Don’t let the extreme elements in environmentalism get in the way following God’s command to be good earth stewards. The late Elder Maxwell actually wrote that “True disciples, for instance, would be consistent environmentalists.”

    5. It appears to me that Bryce and others have placed an overly restrictive definition on “environmentalist.” IMO one can be an environmentalist and still subscribe to the gospel, including and especially D&C 59. (See Bryce’s comment at 7:59 pm)

    6. I believe that the reactionary nature of Bryce’s article greatly overshadows the LDS heritage of earth stewardship and sustainability. I encourage everyone to take a moment and read from Green Mormon Architect’s blog, the Latter-Day Sustainability blog, or the LDS earth stewardship website. You may be shocked at the degree to which the Prophets have encouraged environmental sustainability. I did not find the tone of Bryce’s post to be in harmony with the church’s teachings on the environment.

    This comment seems wimpy and sterile when compared to my previous comment. But, I hope that this comment is in line with my self-proclaimed Christian identity. Thanks Geoff for giving us all another chance to discuss this important issue.

  8. Fart jokes in movies are the lowest form of humor and should be criticized in all shapes and forms.

  9. Geoff, even though I don’t really agree with Bryce’s Wall-E analysis (or your own political conclusions, above), I found the defense of your co-blogger to be a good, good thing. I feel very similar feelings as I occasionally rush in to defend some of my co-bloggers, and so in that spirit I appreciated this post.

  10. I would love to see discussion and even civil debate. But becoming contentious is never good. I leave. I simply can’t stand it.

    This is lined up for my blog later on, but might as well post it here. It’s one thing I’d like to see more of from the LDS blogging community:

    I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we “accentuate the positive.” I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise are those who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change their course.

    What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.

    President Gordon B. Hinckley. Faith: the Essence of True Religion. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1989, p. 74.

    Incidentally, this followed President Hinckley’s thoughts on those who write and comment in newspapers and magazines. Applicable to the blogosphere as well.

    Too much negativity, when we have the Gospel of love, light, life, and joy.

  11. Wow, great comments, all, they gave me chills, especially Steve’s comment. Thanks, guys and gals.

    I will refrain for making a joke about Jjohnsen discussing the shapes and forms of farts. Oops, too late…

  12. Geoff,
    I heartily agree that a civil tone and learning not to contend is a very, very good thing. Thank you. However, I have to believe it is more than a little naive to take something a good many people feel is a positive value (i.e. stewardship, environmentalism, exercise) calling all who promote it, promoters of abortion and Satan reigning with blood and horror, and thinking that people aren’t going to get upset and defensive. While the approach you outline is definitely the more mature and productive one, I am not seeing exactly how you can strip the original post of any blame. I don’t see the terms and analogies the Bryce used swaying anyone who didn’t already agree with him because they are worded so inflammitorily.

  13. calling all who promote it, promoters of abortion and Satan reigning with blood and horror

    Is that what he meant or is that just how you interpret it?

    Did you ask whether he believes that all who promote environmentalism are promoters of abortion, etc.? Did he say he means that all environmentalists are abortion-happy Satanists?

    Seek the intent that exists, not what is imagined. Otherwise, those who misinterpret are entirely responsible for their misinterpretation.

  14. Just because someone says one thing does not mean the other is justified in responding in an unacceptable manner.

    If Bryce said something inflammatory, and someone was offended, they can refute him or ignore him. Simply flying off the handle because it is inflammatory is inexcusable, and the fault lies entirely with the offended party. They give power to Bryce’s words to offend them, and can just as easily strip Bryce’s words of that power.

    We are given our free agency to choose the right and the wrong.

    When offended, the best thing to do is pray and walk away. It is what we are practically commanded to do as Saints, as I see it. (See 3 Nephi 11:29.)

    There have been some posts on this blog — posts, not comments — that have deeply offended me. Rather than refuting the author, I simply refrained from getting engaged. If I can do it, as emotionally-charged as I can get, then others can do it to.

  15. This reminds me of some of the verbal wrangling Brigham Young and Orson Pratt got into. Didn’t Orson and Parley also get fiesty with each other?

    I’m pretty much with Geoff on this issue. And Bryce does have some accurate points, IMO.

    One of the themes that Geoff has in relation to this topic is that many of these social/cultural/political trends can only be seen if you’ve been paying close attention, and remembering what went on before, for at least 20 to 25 years.

    I think the age difference does play a part in these things.

    The trends and slippery slopes can only be seen in the long-term view. Looking at short term or recent history, you don’t notice the slope.

    I also see a tie-in between Bryce’s remarks and a comment by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today. Those who are wickedly trying to influence society are manipulating a lot of people who think they are just helping society to “progress.”

  16. Muslihoon-

    I’ll bring the chocolate…you bring the grahms and mellows. We could toast them over the virtual firestorm started by Bryce’s post.

  17. Again, I don’t agree with Bryce’s post or with the political points that Geoff makes above, but his point about calling into question other people’s righteousness is also well-taken. It’s fine for us to decry acts we think are wrong — such is the duty of every Latter-day Saint — but judging others as unrighteous for, say, supporting President Bush is as useless and dangerous as doing the same thing to someone for being an Obama supporter. It’s very easy for people on both sides to have such confidence in their political positions that they associate it with righteousness — perhaps that’s what happens?

    Anyways, I’ve reached my quota for saying nice things about a Geoff B. post, so I’d better quit while ahead.

  18. Steve, be careful — the world is about to twirl off its axis, pigs are flying and it’s snowing in Hell.

    But more seriously, I truly believe that one of the things that we will have to answer to at the judgment is how we treated the people with whom we disagree. I certainly won’t score a 10 there — probably more like a 5. But I’m trying to bring it up to at least a 6. :)

  19. I agree with all previous posts that advocate for positivity and civility — I think Musilhoon captures part of my thinking. Do you know how many negative thoughts the human mind has in a day? Tens of thousands. Do you know why? Because our egos tell us we are problem-solvers, and we have to find solutions to the “problems” we see around us. The problem is, we create the problems ourselves so our egos have a job. Think about this scenario — someone says to me “You’re a jerk!” Now I can get mad and defend myself, because my self-image tells me that I’m not a jerk. Maybe I am a jerk. So what? My self-image is really my ego, which wants to be in control and solve the problems of life. If I get offended by something in your blogs, that’s not your problem…it’s mine. If I feel uncomfortable, fearful, frustrated, or anxious about something someone says here, I can choose how I respond. If I ever feel defensive, I ask myself “what is it I’m trying to defend?” Frankly I don’t care what most people think about me; it’s none of my business (the exceptions are my wife, bishop, etc. as stated above). If you care deeply about what others think of you, ask yourself why.

    On the Wall-E issue there were a lot of intellectual gymnastics going on and good points made on both sides. I just don’t understand how people can get so upset about it. Oh wait…actually I do. Because they want to be right, and that’s the ego talkin’ (and my ego too).

    Kumbya, my brothers and sisters.

  20. Geoff,

    I still think the funniest thing about that thread was how the original post denounced people who can’t tell the difference between a political platform and a religion, and then many of the commenters showed that they couldn’t tell the difference either, and started bearing testimony about their own political opinions. I continue to think it was bizarre, and really, really funny, but that has nothing to do with Bryce’s post, just the comments that followed.

    Here is where that thread went off the tracks: Bryce’s post was pretty close to the edge, but still within bounds. The problem arose when commenters took Bryce’s ending point as their own starting point, and ran right off the deep end. Sometimes people do us no favors by agreeing with us. The way they agree can still be very damaging. So I do think y’all could have monitored the thread a little more closely. Steve E. gets flak sometimes for being quick with the ban stick at BCC, but nutty commenters really can do lots of damage quickly if they are not reined in.

    Geoff, good for you for sticking up for Bryce, and continued best wishes to you here.

  21. Geoff,

    The idea that Barack Obama will somehow magically end the Iraq war with dignity is absurd (Barack himself is admitting these days he won’t be able to do that)

    Just a small quibble. Where exactly do you get this? Please show your evidence.

    There are a huge number of mainstream people who believe that 1)Wall-E represented a dangerous form of environmental extremism 2)environmental extremism is a false religion for many and 3)it will even lead people to do crazy, Satan-inspired things like sterilize themselves and have abortions to “save the planet.”

    Who are these “mainstream” people? Please share someone who I would consider mainstream. If I cannot see them as mainstream, as well as you, would they be considered mainstream?

  22. I’m seeing WALL-E later this week. It’ll be interesting to see how in-your-face the aspects that Bryce objects to in his post.

    What I think troubles me about Bryce’s post as well as other recent Web writings on the film is that they read as op-ed pieces. Which is fine, but really quite limited. I’d like to see a more substantive post that really explores the aesthetic and narrative qualities of the film in relation to environmental discourse.

    Or to put it bluntly:

    I’m sick of both conservatives and liberals using culture reference points in ways that seriously misread the genres, media, narratives, craftsmanship, ambiguities, etc. that go into a good work of art. I don’t know yet if that applies to WALL-E. Certainly, Hollywood tends to be quite ham-fisted when it comes to this type of thing. But on the whole, I find that facile denunciations of artistic works are much less convincing than thoughtful exploration of political views. If you want to convince me of a political position, esp. of the presence of propaganda, then there better be some decent criticism (in the best sense of that word — not the one-dimensional first year English grad student theorizing found on too many college campuses).

    I don’t mean this as a criticism of Bryce. He’s following a well-established form of discourse on the Web. But this whole episode has helped me discover exactly why I dislike the way culture is often used in the Bloggernacle and in other venues. And of course, the comments were no better.

    Now, I tend to shy away from mixing politics and culture too much or alternately Mormon culture and Mormon practice/theology. Mainly because I don’t find it all that interesting and also because I think we’re too early in the stages of the development of the field to go after that too strongly. We have more basic concerns.

    However, I think that Toward an LDS Cinema is a good model for culture reflecting on orthodoxy and vice versa. And also the work of Eric Thompson at my blog.

  23. William Morris, I think you make a decent point. But people see art through their own paradigms — when I saw Wall-E with my kids, here is what I thought, “wow, those mountains of garbage on an abandoned Earth must be making extreme environmentalists and Al Gore tremble with glee…wow, those cute robots are more human than the humans…ouch, how horrible — a future with rotund, featureless humans, is that where we’re headed?…yeah, commercialism is way out of control, good point….ah, good, positive ending — see it can all work out in the end through human action.”

    Notice how this was all MY paradigm. It may seem simplistic, but, hey, I guess I’m a simple man. So when Bryce mentions something that is in synch with part of my paradigm, I say, “hey, he is onto something there.” (notice it was only part of my paradigm).

    Bryce was simply doing a review that touches his paradigm, a paradigm that is filled with temple images and phrases and a lot of studying of prophets and the scriptures. You may not agree with his paradigm, but it’s certainly his right to express how Wall-E fits into his world view.

    Please don’t fall into the trap of saying people cannot discuss their own impressions of art because their impressions may be too simplistic or facile. Many people are simple and see things differently than you or I — that is what freedom is all about: the ability of two people to see the same thing and have different responses to it.

  24. From my perspective, Bryce was the one censoring and suppressing opinions. No one else on that thread was deleting other people’s comments except Bryce.

  25. A lame-o quibble. I don’t believe that anyone’s impressions of art are “simple.” Some people may be more articulate in expressing them, but all evocative emotion strikes me as complex.

  26. John F, thanks for your comments. I think the timing was bad — your comments were coming at the end of a thread that had gotten out of control. Let me apologize on behalf of M* for what happened to your comments.

    This does NOT apply to John F’s comments, but I would like to point out that, unlike some blogs, we really don’t want an environment of contention at M*. There will be times when we will stop a discussion or delete contentious comments. I hope nobody gets offended by this, but we want to keep discussions extremely civil.

  27. Again Geoff, I have to bring up fart jokes. They should be deleted right away, contentious or not.

    Other than that, thanks for the reminders of how we should be treating each other.

  28. Geoff,

    When I went to see WALL-E, I blocked out my political beliefs and went into the movie to watch the movie for what it is. Why? Because it is one man’s vision for a story. That’s it and nothing more. I wanted to see what he created. What I got out of the movie was a story about love and about the beauty and priceless value of growing things. It was amazing how that message truly touched my heart.

    For comparison, I love the movie Red Dawn, even though its politics are hardcore to the right. I don’t look at that movie for its political message, but for what it is, one man’s vision. I want to see the story he weaves. It’s a pretty cool story.

    In both cases, they are implausible and unlikely to be the end result of one path or another that we as a society take. And the environment under which the plot takes place (in the case of WALL-E, a destitute, abandoned earth; in the case of Red Dawn, an invaded America), matters not as much as what the characters do with the environment they reside in. In both cases, the stories are wonderful.

  29. Muslihoon (7/15 808pm),
    I will not argue that the sniping back and forth is justified or productive, for it is clearly neither. Charity is definitely lacking. Contention is of the certainly of the devil, etc. al etc. However, the hyperbole he used in expressing the absolute righteousness of his position, the readership being human, was going to provoke people.
    While we are very good at pointing out the faults of those who disagree with us, we aren’t quite so circumspect about looking at the faults of those who agree or at our own. I am merely suggesting that blaming the offended can only get you so far. It seems much more humble, charitable, and productive to look at yourself and what you could have done differently, in much the same way as Geoff is suggesting the irate commenters should have done. I don’t see a major qualitative difference between the post and the commenters, personally.
    When I say Geoff’s method is more effective, I mean it. I did lean somewhat to Bryce’s view before reading the post. I was turned off by the reasoning, actually by the hyperbole, in the post. I switched how I now feel about the movie because of some of the calm, substantive comments like those of Sister Blah2. I now feel the movie is much more positive, responsible, and moderate than I initially did.

  30. I believe quite strongly that if everyone stopped and re-read their comments prior to posting them – and did so from the perspective of how they would react if someone else had written those comments to them – much of the contention would disappear, since most of the inappropriate comments would get deleted rather than submitted.

    I learned that the hard way when I started commenting in the Bloggernacle. I fail in this sometimes still, and I almost always regret it afterward. Now, I try very hard to consider my words as I type and read each comment at least twice before submitting it – even comments like this, where I am sure there is nothing inherently offensive in my words.

  31. Geoff, thanks for taking the high road on this. I have pretty strong political feelings, but I have learned (I hope) that my political leanings, and the leanings of others that I don’t always agree with, still speaking of politics, really don’t have much at all to do with the gospel. They are creations of men, and have only temporal significance, at best. I have to credit my time on the bloggernacle as a commenter for helping me to figure that out.

    So I have decided that I will never try to align the gospel with my political thoughts in an effort to convince others of the rightness (or leftness) of my political opinions.

    What I found difficult had to do with setting up a polarized discussion in the first place, with comments in the original post using “as for me and my house”, which seemed to say if I disagreed with Bryce, I must have also disagreed with everything righteous in the world. Bryce followed that up with a comment about serving God or Mammon, again seeming to deliberately polarize the discussion into camps of right or wrong.

    We are often our own worst enemies in these discussions. We need to be less offensive, and also less offended. BTW, I did follow your advice, Geoff, and didn’t post a comment on the original post, but I did make a comment somewhere else about how in my house, we only serve mammon with tobasco and guacamole.

    Maybe I’ve been naive, or maybe it’s the timeliness of the topics (election year, Prop 8 in California), but the bloggernacle certainly seems more contentious of late, and we could all do a lot to help fix that.

  32. We are trying to create a different atmosphere at this blog – one of respect for bloggers, commenters and most importantly the Church. We are also willing to explore ideas that are perhaps different than at other blogs. We don’t always succeed in being respectful (mea culpa) but we continue to try.

    I find this to be self-serving and misleading given the hypocritical reception you gave to professor Warner Woodworth: he was an invited guest in your blog, and then you (Geoff) and others immediately ripped into him with a series of misleading and unsubstantiated accusations about his personal values, his worthiness as a church member, and his testimony. True, all your comments were presented in rather polite language, but the lack of respect is very evident. Between that and the Wall-E debacle, I’m not impressed by the quality of M*. You folks remind me of the cheap-shot conservatives on radio and TV who insult people with the most outrageous comments and then offer bland apologies, saying they really meant no harm. How Christian is that? The harm done by the initial insult can’t be undone by apologies. I hope it’s not typical of M*’s editorial approach.

  33. No-man, I have already apologized several times for that. All I can say now is that I hope you give us another chance.

  34. I would like to say a word about Bryce’s post as film criticism. I don’t think it’s wrong or undesirable to read films or literature through a political lens. Some of the best film writing (J. Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum) does this very thing. Such writing gives us more insight into a film’s politics, which in turn reveals more about the reality of those politics. Let’s not kid ourselves — all media contain messages. Such writing, however, gets sloppy when it polarizes and demonizes. Such behavior makes for poor filmmaking and poor fiction, and it definitely makes for poor criticism. It does serve well to incite discussions like these, however.

    There’s room for another kind of writing, though. A political diatribe (hopefully a thoughtful, considerate one) on environmental extremism, which may have been spurned by said children’s film, would be more than welcome.

    For the record, though I strongly disagree with Bryce’s assumptions, it’s a sign of a sensitive spirit that he could get so worked up “over a cartoon.” Filmmakers do, afterall, get away with A LOT in cartoons that they otherwise wouldn’t.

    All in all, I’m grateful for the turn the discussion has taken. Thank you, Geoff, for the thoughtful post and everybody else for all your thoughtful responses, especially L-D Sus. I think we’d all be better for visiting the sites you mentioned.

    I did grow up in Portland, Oregon, so that may reveal my passion and concern for the environment. But my wife and I do plan on having oodles more kids. My family is the reason I’m concerned about the environment. “Environmentalism” is about social concern and social responsibility, so to hear a Latter-day Saint call something which to me seems so clearly ‘good’ as ‘evil’ made my stomach turn.

    (And thanks, William, as always, for the plug.)

  35. The original post also made my stomach turn. Since the Temple Study blog is dedicated to Hugh Nibley and Nibley was such an outspoken environmentalist, in a spirit of civil debate, I have posted a Hugh Nibley quote response to certain quotes from the post here.

  36. Contrary to popular opinion, I’ve actually read a bit of Nibley myself, and I don’t think he would have been the least bit favorable towards the modern environmental extremist movement which is spreading its evil influence across the earth today, making a mockery of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and against which I spoke so vehemently in my post. My post had absolutely nothing to do with our divinely-mandated stewardship of the earth, of which Nibley spoke so often, and with whom I fervently agree.

  37. Bryce,

    I probably disagree with you to the extent Nibley would support the modern environmentalist movement, but oh well.

    I am almost certain that we can agree that he would be vehemently opposed to the modern capitalist, free-enterprise movement. When can we look forward to your post on that? After, all, our church leaders have decried consumerism more than they have environmentalism, and consumerism is the jet fuel of capitalism.

  38. I assert that most, if not all, art is political.

    Since Wall-E deals with an issue that has been strongly politicized, it is doubly a political movie.

    I believe that “Iron Giant” was another politicized cartoon movie.

  39. My take after reading “Approaching Zion” twice is that Nibley is pretty much a far-out Socialist when it comes to politics. I remember reading something about how he felt guilty because his ancestors cut down trees and how horrible it was to cut down trees. I don’t think we can know for sure how he would feel about today’s environmental extremists, but if I had to bet I would say he would be parroting Al Gore left and right.

    Bryce, it might be an interesting follow-up to express the difference between Nibley’s view and the Church’s view on stewardship of the Earth and the views of environmental extremists.

    If you want, you can leave the defense of free-market capitalism to me. I’m happy to fight that battle (nicely and politely) all day long.

  40. Bookslinger,

    Orson did argue with Brigham, especially over material in the Seer. I believe Brigham had the DN print the specifics that were wrong in the Seer, primarily OP’s of God’s progression.

    Doesn’t OP always seem to be arguing with someone? In Nauvoo, he had a blowup with JS about his wife when it was most likely she was cheating with John C. Bennett. You know when you have Bennett on your side that you must be doing something wrong!

  41. Geoff B.

    “As a supporter of the Iraq war/war on terrorism/Guantanamo”

    As a supporter of Guantanamo? Really? Please explain how you resolve the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo with the gospel.

  42. Nibley didn’t believe in any “-isms,” and rightly so, because none of them are the true order of things:

    Such considerations admonish me to ask whether all is well in Zion, and I find the answer in myself alone. Have I taken the message seriously? No. I have been quite halfhearted about it, and much too easily drawn into what I call the Gentile Dilemma. That is, when I find myself called upon to stand up and be counted, to declare myself on one side or the other, which do I prefer—gin or rum, cigarettes or cigars, tea or coffee, heroin or LSD, the Red Rose or the White, Shiz or Coriantumr, wicked Nephites or wicked Lamanites, Whigs or Tories, Catholic or Protestant, Republican or Democrat, black power or white power, land pirates or sea pirates, commissars or corporations, capitalism or communism? The devilish neatness and simplicity of the thing is the easy illusion that I am choosing between good and evil, when in reality two or more evils by their rivalry distract my attention from the real issue. The oldest trick in the book for those who wish to perpetrate a great crime unnoticed is to set up a diversion, such as a fight in the street or a cry of fire in the hall, that sends everyone rushing to the spot while the criminal as an inconspicuous and highly respectable citizen quietly walks off with the loot.

    It can be shown that in each of the choices just named, one of the pair may well be preferable to the other, but that is not the question. There is no point in arguing which other system comes closest to the law of consecration, since I excluded all other systems when I opted for the real thing. The relative merits of various economies is a problem for the gentiles to worry about, a devil’s dilemma that does not concern me in the least. For it so happens that I have presently covenanted and promised to observe most strictly certain instructions set forth with great clarity and simplicity in the Doctrine and Covenants. These are designated as the law of consecration, which are absolutely essential for the building up of the kingdom on earth and the ultimate establishment of Zion. (Hugh Nibley, “How Firm a Foundation! What Makes It So,” Approaching Zion.)

    We could add also environmentalism, materialism, consumerism, socialism, libertarianism, Marxism, feminism, liberalism, conservatism, imperialism, colonialism, anarchism, collectivism, despotism, fascism, nazism, Stalinism, totalitarianism, and a host of other -isms in today’s world. None of these are the true order of God, and as such are all faulty. Let’s not let ourselves be diverted from what God wants us to do. While the United Order is in abeyance, we still have covenanted to keep the law of consecration which is diametrically opposed to all worldly philosophies after which billions of people are pledging their allegiance today:

    Communism and all other similar isms bear no relationship whatever to the United Order. They are merely the clumsy counterfeits which Satan always devises of the Gospel plan […]. The United Order leaves every man free to choose his own religion as his conscience directs. Communism destroys man’s God-given free agency; the United Order glorifies it. Latter-day Saints cannot be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to any of these false philosophies […]. (“Message of the First Presidency,” 112th Annual Conference, April 6, 1942.)

  43. Geoff,

    Please don’t misunderstand. I also think democratic capitalism (small d, small c) is great, and I am happy to defend it. However, in uncharitable hands, it can be twisted and made into a caricature. There are A LOT more people who limit the number of children for monetary reasons than for environmental reasons, but environmentalists got tasered by Bryce, while capitalists got a pass.

  44. “Nibley didn’t believe in any “-isms,” and rightly so, because none of them are the true order of things…
    Like any such quotes, I like to look at what is mentioned and not infer my own meaning into it.
    I find it interesting, for example, that he mentioned Democrat and Republican, capitalist and communist.
    I’m not sure whether he ever considered himself an environmentalist or not, but I strongly believe (like with scripture) that we should consider the actual message before moving on and trying to fit his words to our meanings. He certainly accepted many environmental ideas.
    Henry Eyring was much the same way…he refused to label himself an evolutionist or a creationist because the words carried too much baggage.

  45. Mark, my post wasn’t about capitalism.

    Tim,

    There are no -isms in the Book of Mormon—they are an expression of our modern passion for classifying. (Since Cumorah, 361)

    Now, what’s behind it all? We get the secret societies here. The Book of Mormon explains it to us. The best treatise you will find on this is Hel. 6 and what follows. In the first place there are no “-isms;” There are organizations. As Liddell Hart says, war is an individual affair. Religion and nationality are not basic. You can belong to anything you want. It’s not the party machine, the politburo or anything like that. It’s something else-personal ambition, etc. (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, 237.)

    Notice that this is a tract for the times. There are no -isms here. We are not talking about socialism, capitalism, fascism, or anything else. It’s just human beings dealing with each other. (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, 262.)

  46. Bryce, interesting quotation. Thanks for that. If I find the time. I’ll find nibley’s thoughts on environmentalism that I was referring to. I definitely will cede the ground on nibley’s writings to those with greater knowledge than I.

  47. I’m reminded of a Mormon joke where the Devil is giving this guy a tour of hell showing the man all the madness and horror of the place. Each form of hell was separated by different religions behind different doors. He comes to a door and opens it and inside they find a beautiful valley full of trees and plants and farms.
    The devil closes the door cursing saying “Those damn Mormons are irrigating again.”
    I like the idea that Mormons care for the land they have.

  48. Great post Geoff.

    Howard,

    “As a supporter of Guantanamo? Really? Please explain how you resolve the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo with the gospel.”

    Well, we could always force them to work all day fortifying Guantanamo so that they would be easier to guard as in Alma 53:5. Or we could execute them if they do not take an oath to never wage war on us again as in Alma 44:11. Instead we provide them with healthy food, safe living conditions, religious liberty, etc.

    War is unpleasant, it consists of killing people after all. We are waging it the best we can.

  49. BTW, the automatic scripture links are great, I was going to make you all do the hard work of finding the references yourself but the blog decided to take it easy on you.

  50. Aluwid,
    Thanks for taking it easy on me.

    A more recent scripture comes to mind, revelation pertaining to the law given to Nephi, Joseph, and Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, all ancient prophets and apostles D&C 98:28-48.

  51. Howard,

    I don’t see anything in those verses that talks about how a secular nation at war should handle it’s war prisoners.

    If you think it does, it would be interesting to know if you think a country is ever justified in holding a POW, or in holding a repentant criminal in prison. Because stretching these versus to apply to Gitmo means they have to apply in those situations as well.

  52. Aluwid,
    This revelation was given to our prophet Joseph Smith. It clearly lays out the law of going to war; not to go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.

    But, before the Lord is willing to command us we are to offer our enemies peace two or three times and we will be rewarded if we spare them. If they repent we shall forgive them even seventy times seven. If they trespass without repenting we shall forgive him three times. Etc.

    Are we offering Gitmo prisoners peace? Do we forgive them if they repent? We are commanded to love one another and to love our neighbor like ourselves.

    Can you provide scripture that supports tearing up established POW rules of war in favor of less humane treatment just because 911 happened and these guys don’t wear a uniform?

  53. This issue is a little complicated. Why should we enforce the Lord’s rules of war on this secular state and not, for example, the Word of Wisdom or the laws of chastity or tithing? I believe such revelation is advice for the world, but mandatory when the people of God have established a polity (which we have not yet, and may not until the return of the Lord).

    Furthermore, the prisoners of Guantanamo are more like Gadianton robbers than prisoners of war.

    What I don’t see more people realizing is that a large number of these people who are released from Guantanamo return to their old lives and become terrorist masterminds. It annoyed me to read, when I was in Pakistan a short while ago, that one of the most significant terrorist leaders in Pakistan was someone who was imprisoned in and released from Guantanamo.

  54. And for that matter we offered the terrorists plenty of opportunities to avoid war. We told them to lay down their weapons of war and surrender Osama, but they did neither (and, as far as the Taliban is concerned, continue to fight).

  55. Muslihoon: “Why should we enforce the Lord’s rules of war on this secular state and not, for example, the Word of Wisdom…”

    Enforce is not my choice in words, I prefer to use support.

    The WoW was given to JS when he inquired due to concern about tobacco use.

    Revelation pertaining to war was given to Joseph Smith, Nephi, Joseph, and Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, and all ancient prophets.

    “I believe such revelation is advice for the world, but mandatory when the people of God have established a polity (which we have not yet, and may not until the return of the Lord).”

    So until then we should ignore the Lord’s advice for the world?

    It was also specifically offered as advice for the saints regarding the persecution they suffered in Missouri. Was this persecution not terrorism?

    “…a large number of these people who are released from Guantanamo return to their old lives and become terrorist masterminds.”

    So, when the Lord said if they repent we shall forgive them even seventy times seven and if they trespass without repenting we shall forgive him three times. He actually wanted this to apply through out the history of man except for the current “war on terror”?

    Also, please provide support for your assertion of large numbers.

  56. Btw, you guys can drop “secular nation” from your argument, the revelation applies to “any nation, kindred, tongue, or people”.

  57. Howard,

    You are taking a revelation which was given to the church to explain how they should react to unlawful religious persecution while continuing to fulfill their obligations as good citizens and you are trying to use it to enforce moral requirements on a secular nations foreign and criminal policy.

    If we follow your reading of the scriptures though, I see two implications:

    1. America has never been justified in any of it’s wars that it has taken part in, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II.
    2. Anytime a criminal says they are sorry we have to let them out of prison. Even if a serial-killer murders someone, get’s caught, claims repentance, and then repeats the process up to 489 times you still have to let them off the hook.

    I don’t believe that that is what God intended when he provided the revelation to Joseph.

    Given that our secular nation does not follow these instructions when making wars we cannot expect God to fight our battles for us, but neither are we under moral condemnation if the cause is just.

    Did you read Geoff’s full comment? For a while I was wondering if your post was a clever joke because he specifically stated the following:

    I have seen literally hundreds of posts and comments in the last five years claiming in one way or another that you can’t be a true follower of Christ is you support the Iraq war/war on terrorism/Guantanamo. Yet I have never seen anybody on the opposite side say, “you are claiming I’m not righteous – how dare you!” It may have happened, but the point is that the politically correct position in the Bloggernacle is to never, ever question somebody’s righteousness when they question the Church’s position on, for example, same-sex marriage, but it is completely okay and indeed expected to question somebody’s righteousness when they support the Iraq war.

    And then you went ahead and provided an example.

    FWIW, I think you are seriously misinterpreting those verses causing you to take positions that would have unfortunate practical consequences. But this gives me no reason to doubt your good standing or worthiness in the church. I just wouldn’t support you for any political office since I think your foreign and criminal justice policies would be disastrous.

  58. Aluwid: “Given that our secular nation does not follow these instructions when making wars we cannot expect God to fight our battles for us, but neither are we under moral condemnation if the cause is just.”

    Well said. I agree.

    I believe we should support the humane treatment of prisoners. They are under our control and pose no danger. They are no longer combatants.

    Experts testify that torture is counter productive, so what’s the point of continuing such evil practices.

    Further, by treating enemy prisoners poorly we invite the same treatment of our own military once they are taken prisoner.

    Yes I read Geoff’s full comment. No, I did not provide an example. I do not claim that Geoff is “not a true follower of Christ”, nor do I question his righteousness. These issues have nothing to do with my question.

    I simply asked how he reconciles this position with the gospel.

    “I think you are seriously misinterpreting those verses…I think your foreign and criminal justice policies would be disastrous.”

    I am reading these verses plainly. They are not my policies; they are the Lord’s.

    Please provide your exegesis of D&C 98.

  59. Howard,

    Yes I read Geoff’s full comment. No, I did not provide an example. I do not claim that Geoff is “not a true follower of Christ”, nor do I question his righteousness. These issues have nothing to do with my question.

    I simply asked how he reconciles this position with the gospel.

    You don’t find that question even slightly ironic given the text of Geoff’s post?

    I am reading these verses plainly. They are not my policies; they are the Lord’s.

    Please provide your exegesis of D&C 98.

    I’ll just go with the CES version:

    http://www.ldsces.org/inst_manuals/dc-in/dc-in-091.htm#98

    No message about prisoners of war there.

  60. How dare anybody question my righteousness! I want to double Guantanamo!

    Ok, I’ll go back to reading the scriptures now.

  61. Hi Geoff

    Aluwid,
    From the first paragraph of your exegesis:

    The natural reaction “would have been to retaliate. But such a reaction is not in harmony with the godliness required of Saints,

    No message about prisoners of war there.

    And so we come full circle in our discussion. The revelation relates to people(both combatants and prisoners)not just faceless governments of nation states.

    You don’t find that question even slightly ironic given the text of Geoff’s post?

    Geoff’s post is a good indication that there are at least two camps on this issue. Irony? Well there is a similarity. I wanted to understand more about Geoff’s thinking. But there is a huge difference, I make no accusations.

  62. Howard,

    Are you saying that you believe retaliation is the underlying motivation behind those that support the usage of Guatanemo?

    I always thought of it as common-sense national self-defense…

    Remember that the Nephites under Captain Moroni held prisoners also.

  63. I published the following on Green Mormon Achitect, but wanted to share my two bits here also.

    I’m going to say that it appears people are talking past each other and addressing in essence the straw men on the other side.

    Bryce, Hugh and Green all agree that we are stewards and need to take care of the earth. HOW we take care of the earth and the DEGREE to which we change our lives and the specific measures we choose are in contention. There are valid disagreements whether some of the changes in the environment derive from man’s actions or from the planet.

    I recently heard that 99% of the species that ever lived on the earth are extinct. It makes me wonder how much an impact the little creatures that live on the surface actually affect the earth.

    On the other hand we live in such a fragile biosphere with very little atmosphere on this huge rock with extremely preferential temperatures for life and a chemical make-up that allows for incredible diversity, maybe we do need to do more.

  64. Aluwid: “Are you saying that you believe retaliation is the underlying motivation behind those that support the usage of Guatanemo? “

    No.

    Your exegesis implies that saints would absorb a 911 attack just as they absorbed the mob attacks without a counter attack. As a result, there would be no POWs in Gitmo.

    “I always thought of it as common-sense national self-defense…”

    Please explain how inhumane treatment of POWs is “common-sense” and humane treatment of POWs would result any less “national self-defense”.

  65. Your exegesis implies that saints would absorb a 911 attack just as they absorbed the mob attacks without a counter attack. As a result, there would be no POWs in Gitmo.

    Are you expanding your compliant from Gitmo to the War in Afghanistan and the War on Terror in general? This statement makes it sound like you are.

    “I always thought of it as common-sense national self-defense…”

    Please explain how inhumane treatment of POWs is “common-sense” and humane treatment of POWs would result any less “national self-defense”.

    At this point you’re leaving D&C 98. Are you dropping it as your counterexample to how Captain Moroni dealt with his Lamanite (and Nephite apostate) prisoners? If you agree that the motivation behind Gitmo is not retaliation then I don’t know how else you are using that section to condemn Gitmo unless you are stating that America should not ever have been involved in any of their past Wars (Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II, etc) and as such all military actions we currently take or have ever taken including any handling of prisoners of war would be wrong.

    Going down the inhumane vs humane path won’t be productive since it will probably come down to a disagreement on where the line lies between the two. Also keep in mind that one can support Gitmo while wanting some of it’s policies (including interrogation policies) to be tweaked.

  66. “Are you expanding your compliant from Gitmo to..?”

    Aluwid, you seem to be missing the main point. It is a gospel point, how we treat one another. We are commanded to love one another and treat our neighbors like ourselves. When the Lord lays out the laws of; retaliation, war and forgiveness He is clearly specifying how we are to treat people we disagree with.

    Our government ignored the Lord’s law and in the heat of the moment went to war. But that bad start does excuse the continued abuse of POWs.

    Those prisoners are no longer combatants. They are under our control and isolated, no longer posing a strategic or tactical threat to anyone.

    Imo D&C 98 and the gospel suggest that their continued abuse is indefensible before the Lord.

    Aluwid: “Going down the inhumane vs humane path won’t be productive since it will probably come down to a disagreement…”

    Let’s try this. After 911 our government abandoned WWII standards for the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo. If you believe that this was the correct decision, please explain why this was necessary and why you believe it is justified.

    Aluwid: “At this point you’re leaving D&C 98.”

    This is just an attempt to divert away from my question.

    I was simply addressing YOUR statement; “I always thought of it as common-sense national self-defense…”

    I will now re-ask you to explain how Gitmo treatment of POWs is “common-sense” and WWII standards for treatment of POWs would result any less “national self-defense”. Please answer.

  67. It may have happened, but the point is that the politically correct position in the Bloggernacle is to never, ever question somebody’s righteousness when they question the Church’s position on, for example, same-sex marriage, but it is completely okay and indeed expected to question somebody’s righteousness when they support the Iraq war.

    As I just said over at BCC, I just found out what it takes to have your righteousness questioned by the conservative Mormons online: Enjoying the most recent Batman movieI’m not kidding.

  68. Howard,

    These aren’t POWs. In WWII days we were alot less sensitive to collateral damage and I suspect that such illegal combatants would have been executed as spies rather than held as we do today. The comparison isn’t between Gitmo detainees and WWII POW’s, the comparison is between Gitmo detainees and executed WWII illegal combatants. I’ll leave it to you to decide if this is progress or not.

    Without a uniform they are free to perform attacks and then drop their weapons and easily blend into the civilian landscape. This gives us a few choices:

    1. Execute suspected illegal combatants on the spot

    2. Let them go if we don’t actually catch them holding a weapon

    3. Detain them until we can determine their guilt

    Option 1 is what would have probably been followed in the past but is rejected now due to the collateral damage of false positives.

    Option 2 puts our military in the unfair position of repeatedly letting their enemies go. Knowing full well that the man they are releasing could be putting a bullet through their head tomorrow. It’s easy for us to demand this while sitting in the comfort of our homes, not so easy if we’re the ones getting shot at.

    Option 3 is the best choice, but it introduces complications since now we need to worry about how we prove their guilt or innocence and what standards we have to follow in holding them.

    These questions are being worked out through the legal process and there are arguments on both sides which I can’t give justice to so I won’t bother trying. Either way it is going to become a moot point since both Senator Obama and Senator McCain intend to change President Bush’s policy regarding Gitmo.

    I just hope they don’t try to push this all into the criminal justice system. Our soldiers are not police men and trying to make them act as such would divert their focus and result in more troop deaths. If this happens I suspect that many troops will unofficially just go with option #1 which I think would be an unfortunate development but a rational decision on their part given the irrational policy imposed on them.

  69. Ivan, I didn’t see DK, and there is a whole list of movies I won’t see because of the glorification of violence and/or sex, but I also recognize that some people can see them and be OK with it. Different strokes for different folks.

Comments are closed.