Martyrdom or Fighting Back

Civility is dead, many say, as each side points fingers at the other as to who is responsible. Words that condemn the incivility are often uncharitable themselves. No real solutions are put forward how it might be returned because the underlying reasons are ignored. Some push back with the argument that “civility” was a social nicety lie and the truth of American (even human) feelings are expressing themselves. One side says civility is for losers and the other for the privileged. The Gospel comes strongly on the side of civility, but at a cost and with a few exceptions.

The life of Jesus Christ was a series of giving the enemy the benefit of the doubt. His death might have been brutal and inhuman as was often the case anciently, but his response to it all is reported to have been mild. There was one instance when he called the Jewish ruler a name and only a few non-defensive statements to the rest of his accusers and judges. On the other hand, he did not completely ignore his antagonists. Sometimes he questioned the premise of the arguments with his own inquires. At other times he quoted and interpreted Scriptures that seemed to be more authoritative than the original quotes of those against him. His teachings, as he warned, had the seeds of social and family division as he sought to uproot the current social order. Of course, he refused to do this by fomenting rebellion and incivility; declaring them both antithetical to his purposes. And yet, offhandedly, he hinted that the traveling elders would need to defend themselves on the road against robbers. He was a man of peace who had a few complications often ignored because of the whole of his message.

Years later the followers of Jesus Christ often didn’t fare any better. They didn’t rise up with an army or rebel against local authority, but they were treated as criminals at times. Not one of his Apostles, if the recorded history is correct, survived to die of natural or accidental causes. A whole generation, again if the history is to be believed as more than overblown propaganda, became known as martyrs. None are recorded to have fought back against their deaths at the hand of the government or hateful people. Obviously it wasn’t a full religious extermination or no one of such a small group would have survived. Christianity, no matter what condition it is today, would have died with the other now extinct religions. If they had fought back maybe things could have been worse.

To make the subject of civility and self-defense less straight forward, The Book of Mormon has even more of a mixed message. It can be argued it is a book that contains nothing more than about war and its costs, remedies, and at times necessities. The Anti-Lehi-Nephites or people of Ammon are looked at as the ultimate pacifists who would rather die than fight. What is skipped by many is how they only survived because, without objection, they let the Nephites defend them with weapons of war. The next people of Ammon generation fought with both faith and ferocity, and became known as Strippling Warriors. Both those who were peaceful martyrs and those who fought and died in battle for righteous purposes were praised, and neither condemned by God according to the Scriptural record. The message seems to be, taking both groups together, those who are prone toward confrontation should put down their “weapons” and those who genuinely want to protect need to “have their backs.” How that would actually work in a more nuanced situation without actual war is hard to determine.

Probably the most frustrating part of today’s incivility is both sides believe they have been wronged. There are those who claim some kind of inferior victim mentality that needs corrected. They look at those they claim have historically been in power and demand reparations and judgments passed on them. Although some of the accused group agree with that position, many others feel they are just trying to live their lives. They get backed into a corner by the victim class and those who support them and then the inevitable happens. We don’t have disagreements of ideas, but competing world views. Compromise isn’t even on the table.

An example of this is with same-gender marriage where people lost their jobs because they gave money to those who wanted to protect traditional marriage. They weren’t even protesting in the streets, but simply disagreed that such partnering should be recognized by the state. In response there were angry calls to have them shamed and driven out of whatever place they worked. Time and again there were suggestions that the name “marriage” should mean only a man and a women, but the legal status be changed for others with a different designation. Same-gender supporters were having none of such a compromise and sought complete capitulation. Never mind that in the past many of the same supporters said the slippery slope of equivalence laws redefining the term was paranoia. Even those who at one time agreed with a compromise quickly changed their minds and fought hard for complete and total reversal of standards. Next after that was forced labor to accommodate these marriages no matter how in opposition, to the point of threatened and actual close of businesses. In the end those who so much as expressed any opinion in opposition of same-gender marriages were, as stated above, turned into hateful monsters.

No amount of “civility” can quell the fanatical who seek nothing less than a total transformation of both the United States and the world into their Utopian image. Every ounce of showing respect for them, giving in to a few demands, and recognition of some truths they have is taken as weakness to be exploited. Those who at all oppose the new groove are worthy of getting stuffed into the garbage bin of history. An outstretched hand is slapped down and accusations of murder and destruction for not becoming part of the “movement” or “resistance” are leveled. Many times a few who claim to be inside the hated community join in the condemnations and are shocked when their demands don’t lead to complete reversals (although they do succeed at times). They spew vindictive in the name of love and rights. And still the hand is stretched out . . .

Until some have gone too far. That is where the current social incivility is becoming a critical mass with the possibility of a chain reaction. When the President of the United State’s duly authorized cabinet members are hounded and refused the simple courtesy of service at an establishment, what kind of reaction was expected other than in-kind responses? There is a growing feeling among those who have been labeled Nazi’s, Racists, Deplorables, and worse that their very lives are at stake. Sadly, this means that the backlash extends to any business with similar names even when completely unrelated.

Third Citizen
Your name, sir, truly.
CINNA THE POET
Truly, my name is Cinna.
First Citizen
Tear him to pieces; he’s a conspirator.
CINNA THE POET
I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.
Fourth Citizen
Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.
CINNA THE POET
I am not Cinna the conspirator.
Fourth Citizen
It is no matter, his name’s Cinna; pluck but his
name out of his heart, and turn him going.
Third Citizen
Tear him, tear him! Come, brands ho! fire-brands:
to Brutus’, to Cassius’; burn all: some to Decius’
house, and some to Casca’s; some to Ligarius’: away, go!
Exeunt
— Julius Caesar | Act 3, Scene 3

The resistance either hopes that there won’t be very much of a counter-resistance (as they didn’t have much of one in the past) or that any push back simply reaffirms what they already believe about the opposition. A feedback loop is inevitable, and yet no response (despite those who call for civility without evidence such a thing has done any good) might mean extinction in the eyes of those who disagree with current changes. And yes, extinction of a particular world view is exactly what the resistance wants.

Prophecy has predicted this kind of splintering would happen until the culmination of the coming of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon reinforces this event with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not immune to the outside divisions. The question is if such a prophecy is conditional or destiny. Current attitudes could progress until there is a Shiz and Coriantumr confrontation, although still somewhat in the future. Trying to take the peaceful route might be principled, but end in social (and worse case real) martyrdom. Fighting back might be a protection that destroys our souls. No matter what choice, actions or inaction have consequences. Current attitudes and behaviors have made it this way.

7 thoughts on “Martyrdom or Fighting Back

  1. Bravo. Thank you for writing what I have felt but couldn’t quite put into words. Where do we go from here…?

  2. That is the question isn’t it? I have found myself torn between doing what is most likely right and fighting against those who go against what is right. This post is about the inner conflict that is tearing conservatives apart. Some want to go down fighting with the hopes they might come out on top. Others want to pretend that arguing with civility and with principle will satiate the crocodile. Either side seems to lead toward disaster. Is there a third way?

  3. These have been my thoughts for a little while now; and I still don’t know where to go from here?

    But sometimes I get this feeling that I should stay quiet, be the salt, and wait for the whirlwinds, earthquakes, darkness, and tumult to recede. And then I can be among those remaining that hear the Savior’s voice.

  4. The world can either be paradisical or fallen. The methods we employ create one or the other. The Prophets admonition to flee to Zion wasn’t a call to suicide that we should depart this Earth for an immortal sphere but to build Zion here that Gods will on Earth be as his will is in Heaven.

    You can fight the decay of the world with the world’s methods but that decay is inevitable because it’s the methods that cause the decay. Or you can pick up the pieces of destruction left in the world’s wake, lift where you stand, and build Zion. Leave the world and flee to Zion.

  5. Lift where you stand. Start talking to people in your own community, face to face. Go to the townhall meetings. Meet people. Chat with people. Get to know people. Network. Get yourself out there and get yourself known as someone who is both civil and fair. You don’t need to compromise your principles to be polite.

    The forces at work at the levels beyond your community are also beyond your ability to affect directly. Any solution must come from individual communities filled with people honestly trying to understand one another.

    The internet is both a blessing and a curse in this regard. Being able to contact like-minded people is a great thing. It helps you refine your thinking and hone your ability to discuss the issues of the day. But talking only to those like-minded people is a trap.

  6. A lot of these problems can be solved by allowing greater self-government on a local level. The Constitution was written to keep government power on the state level, not the federal level. If left-wingers could get the government they want in NY and California — and if conservatives could have the government they want in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming — people would be less likely to become hysterical about national politics. Eventually, secession may be the only answer. I would love California and New York to be in separate countries — that way their inevitable decline would be less likely to affect me. In the meantime, latter-day Saints should exercise restraint and civility but also prepare to defend themselves. On a practical scale, I recommend everybody practice martial arts that emphasize self-defense (Gracie jiu jitsu is my first recommendation). There is a whole lot of crazy out there these days, and it could turn violent very quickly. People should be prepared to defend themselves and their families. But, to be clear, we should avoid violence unless attacked. And I agree with Mormontarian’s recommendation of greater community involvement. A lot of hate can be dissipated by just talking to people.

  7. I find some level of comfort that, outside of “mainstream” sources, there is a growing coalescence of people across the political spectrum that is achieving a broader willingness to truly listen to each other, engage in the argument to defend their positions, instead of calling each other names, or calling for violence. I refer to the so-called Intellectual Dark Web (IDW), the Heterodox Academy, etc. For Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris, or Ben Shapiro and Eric Weinstein, to belong to the same “group” and actually like and respect one another despite their vast political differences is heartening.

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