Posted by: Loran Blood | July 31, 2017

The Sunstone Symposium: High Mass of the LDS Counterculture

For many years, it has been my observation, and that of many others, that Sunstone, as an organization, has always leaned fairly clearly to the Left and been a home for dissident LDS intellectuals, “NOM” members holding avant garde or idiosyncratic doctrinal views, and progressives who seek an accommodation with and meshing of the church and the surrounding secular  (and secularistic, often militantly) world and the the progressive/leftist ideological assumptions, beliefs and values that ground much of the modern world and the popular political, academic, media and entertainment framework upon which it has increasingly come to be defined and conceived.

The 2017 Sunstone Symposium presents us with yet another institution that, while first perhaps only “leaning” to the Left, and seeking a heterodox environment of intellectual dialogue, views and perspectives,  has succumbed to the inexorable fate of any organization that allows the Left a foothold or nurturing soil and then cultivates it over time: complete assimilation.

As William F Buckley noted decades ago, “The largest cultural menace in America is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose upon the nation their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so.”  He was also quoted at one time as observing that there is  no stasis in politics or culture.  That which is not moving the the Right, is moving the the Left, and the Left, being evangelical and and messianic in psychology, temperament, and ideology, presents any organization or institution with an aggressive viral infection of a kind that winking and nodding at, or ignoring as a nuisance, will only encourage as it metastasizes and begins to consume the healthy tissues of its host.

This is, it became apparent to me long ago, as true within the church as without.  Progressivism, being itself secular humanist faith and surrogate religion (or, at least, experienced as such by many of its adherents) with messianic and utopian pretensions and vision, always seeks to colonize, dominate, and eventually wholly absorb (the traditional Cultural Marxist alternative to outright confrontation) any institution within which it comes to have presence and influence.

Like the process of absorption and imitation of The Thing in John Carpenter’s surreal remake of the original film, we can say of Sunstone that “assimilation is complete.”  One will note, as we move through each workshop/presentation in order, several things.

1.  Sunstone is now utterly dominated by the cultural and political Left.  Not one, single, solitary presenter or leader of a workshop comes from the conservative or libertarian sphere.  Not one.  The domination of the symposium by the progressive Left is total, and, as we see in the American mainstream news media, entertainment world, and, probably in its most concentrated form, academia, the sense is of a monochromatic, monoideological, monocultural chamber of carefully cleansed, scrubbed, and controlled intellectual conformity.

2.  Presentations by faithful LDS intellectuals or scholars are wholly absent.  Virtually the entire program is dominated, when doctrine and church standards are in question, by a “NOM,” neo-orthodox, or frankly dissident/apostate perspective.

3.  Most of the traditional Cultural Marxist “studies” and “social justice” concerns are represented here, including the classic trinity of race, class and gender.

With this in mind, let’s look at what one would have encountered as an observer and participant in the various workshops and lectures.

We begin, at 8:30 in the morning, with an art exhibit showcasing all 56 wives of Brigham Young, a burning subject that doubtless keeps untold thousands of LDS Millenials up at night sweating in the early throws of faith-transition.

Next, one Erik Robinson presents “Faith in Our Differences,”  and in doing so introduces a theme – multiculturalism and race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexual proclivity, and race, race, race, race and, again, race, that will prominently feature in other presentations throughout the symposium.  The core of it is, of course, not our unity and oneness as saints, but, following the underlying  imperative of multiculturalist ideology, difference, looked at, as is usually the case, in a soft, “socially conscious,” emotive, sentimentalistic light:

 

Faith in Our Differences is an ongoing photointerviewproject involving individuals who are or have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More than a platform for people to openly speak, it is an invitation to
openly listen. As it continues to grow, the goal is to encourage understanding, unity, and love in our diverse perspectives and experiences.  Though different, we are all part of the human family and no one deserves to be put into a box.  Consequently, the images have no frames.

The multiculturalist (and nakedly political) focus continues with a talk titled “The Banality of Progress,” from one Mehrsa Baradaran, Professor of Law at the University of Georgia.

This presentation will: 1. Think through the complex and conflicting trifecta of identity, politics, and activism. 2. Help to shed some misconceptions about identity so that we can more effectively fight against injustice.

Next, Boyd Jay Peterson and Daniel Wotherspoon “veterans of Mormon faith shifts,” discuss – of course – how to leave the church intellectually but still enjoy going to church as an apostate member.  This theme will return.

Following this is the no doubt intellectually stimulating talk, “My Father is Warren Jeffs.”

Or, you could skip that intellectual feast and attend the next presentation featuring William Bradshaw, on “The November 15th Policy Change in Light of Matthew 27,” in which the Church is taken to task for its policy clarification.   This presentation also features – and a classic technique of the Left (usually deployed as a political weapon, especially during election time) for generations – the doubtless tear-jerking personal stories of those affected by the policy change.

This, as we will see, is hardly the last of the presentations that will take a sharp and unambiguous pro-homophilia position against the Church on this issue.

No Sunstone symposium would be complete without an attack on capitalism, economic liberty, individualism and property rights, no?  Next we have “The Mormon Ethic and the Spirit of Neo-Liberalism,” by one Justin Pack, a Ph.D in philosophy who studied, ironically, “thoughtlessness” at his alma mater.

Pack’s basic idea here is that “neo-liberalism,” (itself a neo-Marxist concept not found in either conservative or libertarian economic theory and a term that normally would only be used on the Continent, having there still much of its original meaning, while its meaning has radically shifted in the United States), by which he means, not only free-market economic relations, private property rights, limited government and individual economic liberty, but classical liberalism itself – the founding body of ideas underlying the American constitution and the very concept of liberal democracy as it arose and spread throughout the Anglo-American sphere and later, to a lesser extent, into Europe – as a political and social philosophy is,  in certain salient senses, a doctrine of Korihor, which he describes as “the idea that society should be shaped by the free market,” a claim that no serious conservative/libertarian thinkers of which I’m aware have ever made.

The abstract provides enough illumination for the reader to conclude that this was an exercise in economic and historical illiteracy not to be understated in its intensity. Claims such as that classical liberalism, capitalism and freedom has “failed” (easily exploded in a few minutes on Google) virtually begs us not to take the speaker seriously at this point.  Similarly, his assertion that “many Mormons
have embraced neoliberalism, despite the clear scriptural injunctions against radical
individualism”  indicates that his knowledge of classical liberal/modern conservative thought is probably near nil, and that he is probably conflating libertarian anarchism or Randian Objectivism with modern conservatism and mainstream libertarianism, neither of which, and in particular, modern conservatism, have any relation to something one could term “radical individualism,” whatever “radical” actually means here and to what such individualism is being contrasted (socialism/communism?)

It is a stark and ironic gaff, it must be noted, that radical individualism, or the idea of radical, atomistic self-autonomy, is a doctrine and creation, not of classic liberalism but of its arch nemesis, the Left, concentrated in its initial exuberant manifestation in the late sixties and beyond but having much earlier origins on the Left.  Radical individualism – part of the teachings of Korihor – are, with ever cascading irony, exactly what modern conservatism has been struggling to contain and overcome for some fifty years now, and hence, what has failed, by Pack’s own argument, is progressivism.

Note too that, for the remainder of the symposium, there is not a single workshop or presentation offering an alternative or contrasting perspective, and not one, single, solitary presenter coming from a Chicago School, Austrian, or broadly conservative/libertarian standpoint.  None.  There are no divergent or dissenting views on this subject offered during the entire two days.

 

Posted by: Loran Blood | March 31, 2017

Agency and Freedom: Our Choice and Destiny

President David O. McKay taught that among the most important developments of human history was the movement from a feudal, status-based society to an individual liberty-based contractual society; the great leap from feudalism, serfdom, embedded class/status distinctions, mercantilism, and the divine right of Kings to the classical liberal paradigm of the unalienable natural rights of the individual, the sovereignty and independence of that individual from tribe, clan, caste, class, blood and soil (not rejection of heritage, but ultimate independence, flexibility and autonomy with respect to its various aspects and, perhaps, claimed prerogatives upon the life, choices, and potential of the individual) and merit – what the individual brings to the arena of the human condition and produces, contributes, and bestows upon himself, his community, and the larger nation of which he/she is a part with all its consequences, effects, implications, and emergent potential.

For some two centuries, what we have come to call the “Left” or, strangely, from outside its own internal ideological precincts, “progressivism,” has sought to undo or dismantle, either incrementally (the overwhelmingly more accepted and effective form) or in great, rapid revolutionary upheavals – when  not forestalling at the outset this state of affairs (the classical liberal/Judeo Christian superstructure of American and, to a lesser but still salient degree, the post-WWII societies of  Western Europe) while seeking to return humanity (all of it, if possible), yet in some future enlightened and perfected form, to a world in which one’s fortunes, possibilities, potential, and available hopes, dreams, and visions are tightly constrained by one or, now more often, a hybrid of status relations that include class, race, ethnic, varied eclectic sexual identities and one’s membership within the  ideologically approved in-group collective representing those attributes that determines, within this ideological structure, one’s beliefs, values, politics, and available life choices and trajectories.

Where once Plato taught the “noble lie” that all humans are born composed, symbolically, of one of three or four metals: gold for the rulers, silver for the Gaurdians, and bronze or iron for the lower orders of various kinds (below which still remain slaves) who are nonetheless important to the harmonious functioning of a republic, and where once feudal social dynamics stranded the individual in the class or caste within which he/she was born (peasant, craftsman, merchant, the military, or the nobility), the Left today, fleeing in a precipitous stampede from the classical liberal/Anglo-American moment in human history  under the influence of a body of Franco-Germanic philosophical imperatives in search of a “better world” variously described as more “just,” “equitable,” and “sustainable,” is returning us to a status and identity group-based conception of the human condition, relations between human beings and other human beings and between the individual, or individuals as members of the fundamental institutions and structural components of civil – the family, religion, and local community – and the state.

In an address given in General Conference in 1965, President David O. McKay spoke of “two great forces” in the world: the force of love, and the force of hate.

“I cannot get my thoughts off the fact” he said, “that there are two great forces in the world more potent than ever before, each force more determined to achieve success, more active in planning, and on the one side, scheming, than ever before.”

These forces of hate have sometimes come, like the Grinch’s descriptions of the Who’s Christmas presents, “without packages, boxes, or bags.”  There was little question of the motives, values, or view of those who opposed them of either the German National Socialists or the Italian Fascists, who’s theory, rhetoric, and behavior clearly telegraphed their deeper intentions to those who had ears to hear (although the progressive Left in America and Britain in the 1930s felt little initial revulsion towards the stated philosophical fundamentals of either system).

Nazism and Fascism fell out of ideological favor on the Left after the end of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the end of WW-II, but another great system of totalitarian collectivism, a system that had been part of the original Axis, became an ally of terrible necessity (as was the thinking at the time), and then embarked in what became known as the ‘Cold War” against the United States and the West, and a system that preached egalitarian cooperative brotherhood among all peoples against world-historical oppressors who were the only thing standing between the toiling, abused wretched of the earth and a future world of endless peace, plenty, harmony, and limitless human potential, never shared  the stygian opprobrium of the two other leftist systems, and its defenders passed down their hate of the “oppressor” and their utopian dreams of messianic redemption to new generations of adherents, theorists, activists and popularizers.

It was the Frankfurt School in exile and its penultimate creation, critical theory, from which has been derived a plethora of academic sects, cults, and sub-cults of the academic and activist Left, that took the progressive movement, over several generations, to ultimate triumph in America and the West and which, probably permanently, radically altered and reconstructed American public and higher education, the mainstream news media, the foundations, and the arts and entertainment world, a place well downstream from the heady and sophisticated world within which ideas are nurtured and given disturbing birth.

For our purposes here, two principles are key.  The first is that Satan sought both to deny the Father’s children their agency (the ability to choose) as well as, once mortality comes into view, the freedom to act within the realm of agency such that agency can actually be applied to choosing against a range of alternative choices.  This is particularly critical when decisions and choices must be made under various kinds of pressures and constraints.  The second is that Satan’s motives were not love, but narcissistic self-aggrandizement, which then turned quickly to an all-embracing hate once he had been cast out of heaven, his plans of cosmic self-glorification had been decisively thwarted, and he began to seek “the misery of all mankind” (2 Nephi 2:18) as what we can easily comprehend as a kind of vengeance or retribution upon the other two thirds for having failed to “vote in their own best interests,” as many might say today, and for foiling his saneless fantasies of ascent to ultimate authority and power – while himself being allowed to circumvent the requirements – and risks – of exaltation.

“The world” says President McKay respecting agency, ” does not comprehend the significance of that divine gift to the individual. It is as inherent as intelligence which, we are told, has never been nor can be created.”  And so we see today, following the 20th century, the unique century of ideology and its idolatrous adulation which saw the unfolding and blossoming of a hostility and opposition to both agency and “free agency,” or, in other words, agency free to be actually applied to the circumstances of mortality, like none to which God’s children had ever been exposed in the mortal sphere, at least on such a vast scale and emboldened by modern technology.

President Mckay makes two more points; that hate in the latter days both denies the existence of God as well as the agency and, necessarily from this, the inherent liberties and rights God has given his children to choose; the two-way teaching” is undone, the fork in the road disappears, and all that remains is “social justice.”

“I do not know that there was ever a time in the history of mankind when the Evil One seemed so determined to take from man his freedom.”

President McKay didn’t live long enough to see such a time as could be said to be an era in which even Satan’s desire to crush agency and liberty in his day and been intensified and amplified.

But we are living in that time.

A fundamental principle of the gospel is free agency, and references in the scriptures show that this principle is (l) essential to man’s salvation; and (2) may become a measuring rod by which the actions of men, of organizations, of nations may be judged.

Without then, this overarching “measuring rod,” the “actions of men, of organizations,” and of “nations” have no moral or ethical reference frame; no means by which good can be differentiated from evil or even or even good ideas from bad ones in an ethical sense, or in any but a purely pragmatic sense that itself is hostage to its own self-construction of ultimate values.  This is the bottomless abyss of moral, value, and epistemic relativism into which our society has plunged, heedless, as to its popular appeal among so many, of what may really lie in the dark.

http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1420

 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormoninout/2017/02/lds-boundaries-whos-in-whos-out/

The continuing discourse between Mormon Studies professor Patrick Q. Mason and ex-LDS clinical psychologist John Dehlin continues apace, and the general tenor of the discussion, it must be said, at least from my perspective, has been overwhelmingly as I expected it would be as occuring between an LDS academic from within the Mormon Studies intellectual tradition (a tradition that has severely distanced and differentiated itself from LDS apologetics) and an – and yes, let’s use the correct nomenclature here – apostate LDS intellectual who has dedicated, for all intents, the entirety of his professional intellectual life to continual criticism of the Church on a broad number of fronts, virtually all of them dovetailing into a general critique of the church with respect to its non-progressive character and doctrines.

Mason, for his part, is a civil and respectful interlocutor, and this is all well and good, but my perception of professor Mason, from the outset, has been that his civility and respectfulness in an intellectual sense as, theoretically at least, a point-counterpoint philosophical opponent of John Dehlin, is in actuality more than what would normally be understood as necessary, at least for an LDS scholar supposedly taking a position contra to Dehlin within the tradition of civil, substantive academic debate and which has, indeed, based upon what I’ve read so far of their ongoing online discussions, a substantial degree of resonance with Dehlin’s fundamental argument, central to his overall critique of the Church, that the Church is or can be, much like mainstream Protestantism, a place within which the contemporary dogma of diversity can be imported with little effect on what the Church would (and must) understand as (1) orthodoxy or, more property, as Joseph Smith expressed it, “correct principles” essential if one is to know God and approach him properly, and (2) worthiness to participate in the crucial practices and ordinances of the gospel, including the taking of the sacrament and temple worship (as well as other functions such as teaching the gospel in some capacity at the ward or stake level).

The first oddity one notices here is that the concept of diversity as used on the political and cultural Left for decades has stood our sharply (especially on American college and university campuses) as a theory or intellectual template that has not included within its precincts the idea of diversity of thought or perspective.  “Diversity” has been traditionally wholly preoccupied with diversity of human attributes such as race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, class etc., but not with diversity of thought or philosophy within those categories, all of which have traditionally, on the Left from which John hails, been conceived of as containing members who, because of that identity group membership, perceive the world through a lens grounded in perspectives unique to, derivative of, and in collective solidarity with the in-group within which they are members.

It is odd, then, to see a committed progressive such as Dehlin concerned about diversity of thought, doctrine, or belief with the Church while this very feature of human intellectual life has, under progressive pressures, been rigorously scrubbed and cleansed from the most important venues of knowledge and information production and dissemination in the West, including, of course, academia, the mainstream news media, K-12 public education, and other venues (such as the arts and entertainment industry and culture).

John begins with a question, or series of questions, to Mason, centering on one of the core themes of his career as a public intellectual critic of the Church.  Dehlin wants to know if “there is a place in the modern LDS church for a member who does not believe in fundamental LDS church teachings such as (1) an anthropomorphic God, (2) the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, (3) that the LDS Church is the “one true church,” (D&C 1:30), (4) that the Book of Mormon is historical, or that (5) polygamy is one of God’s eternal laws (D&C 132) – but who still wants to remain a member in full standing (e.g., continue to hold a temple recommend, participate in priesthood ordinances, hold callings, etc.?”

As is the usual case with Dehlin and other progressive “cultural” Mormon critics, this body of questions firstly confuses membership in the Church with faithful commitment to covenants, which means essentially that one can be and remain a member of the Church in good standing, in a technical, membership sense, while one’s actual spiritual status from the perspective of God could be placed at any number of levels of faithfulness, all the way to teetering on the brink of complete personal apostasy.  Why?  Because personal apostasy’s relation to official “standing” as a member of the Church is as much or more related to the evangelical nature of one’s doubt, skepticism, or personal rebellion against disparate aspects of church doctrine, practice, and teaching that it is to holding beliefs and views contrary to church teachings.

It is certainly the case that, in private consultation with one’s priesthood leaders, it may be determined that one’s doubt or disavowal of core Church truth claims may require that one not accept church (especially teaching or leadership) callings or have a temple recommend.  This does not, however, lead inevitably to a determination that one is not in good standing (this having much to do with one’s moral/ethical comportment perhaps to a greater degree, in the short run, that with correct doctrine/philosophical understanding of the gospel as a system of revealed doctrine/truth).

Dehlin’s examples are interesting in that they range from core, fundamental doctrines that deeply define what it means to be a Latter-day Saint, including belief in an anthropomorphic God (and here, even Trinitarian Christians must believe that Jesus was anthropomorphic, indeed, fully God and fully man, during his mortal ministry, and that he will return to earth in that form at some future time) and in the literal resurrection of the human body (a doctrine, without which both traditional Christianity and the restored gospel come completely undone relative to their stated reasons for existing at all as systems of religion) to plural marriage as one of God’s “eternal laws” (a question of both practice and doctrine in which the doctrine is not practiced at present (and, if our present scriptural corpus is any indication, rarely was through the history of the gospel on earth) while the doctrine – the asserted religious truth claim – remains), and the historicity of the Book of Mormon, another essential religious truth claim that, as a central tenet, defines and signifies both that which the Church and its individual faithful members claim to be: Latter-day Saints and member of the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

This form of “cafaterial Mormonism” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peculiarpeople/2013/11/in-praise-of-cafeteria-mormonism/) in which members sift, winnow, and pan through church teachings, retaining only those things that can be installed in the soul “as is” and in accordance with preexisting beliefs and values while expressing doubt, skepticism, or outright opposition to much of the rest, and which may, as John makes clear here, include fundamental religious truth claims, is a signal aspect of the cultural Mormon phenomena.

“When I talk to many of my questioning and/or post-Mormon friends who experience a Mormon faith crisis,” John says, “many of them feel as though once they lose their faith in Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or polygamy (for example), they must leave the LDS church altogether — not only for integrity’s sake, but also because it is their perception that there is no place within the modern LDS church for semi-believers, or for non-believers.

Now my initial answer to this, less professor Mason’s attempt to build a bridge to John with more lanes than I would think anywhere near appropriate, would be that, yes, I have little doubt that if you reject (1) The prophet of the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times and the dispensational priesthood leader of the latter days under the last prophets of prior dispensations holding the keys that were delivered to Joseph during the opening of that dispensation, which would then require you to (2) reject virtually the entire origin narrative of the Church, including the first vision, the subsequent visitations to Joseph by Moroni et al, the divinely commanded and mediated discovery of the gold plates, the existence of the gold plates, and for all intents, all subsequent claims of a divinely mediated and controlled restoration of doctrine, practice, and the organized church itself  (3) is the anthropomorphic nature of God, which would then necessitate the rejection of virtually the entire plan of salvation grounded, as it is, on the literal fatherhood of God and the process of becoming like him and becoming co-creators with him in an eternal”work and glory” of preexistance-to-theosis developmental progression, and (4) the literal resurrection of the human body.

From these it would appear that one would have,  in essence, rejected the very foundations of the entire gospel message.  One would have not only abandoned the restoration as a divine restoration of true Christianity, but Christianity in a broader, elemental sense in terms that would unite both LDS and Christians of many other sectarian traditions across denominational lines.

But, having said all this, let me answer Dehlin’s questions before attending to some of Mason’s initial points.  “If you believe” John continues, “that there is a place for such people, I would be curious to understand your view on how one might maintain this position (of non-literal or non-belief — and retaining LDS church participation) while still not violating their own conscience, and feeling fully welcomed by church leadership.  Do you sense that LDS church leadership even wants such members to continue participating in good standing?”

We will look at Mason’s answers below, but let me just answer John here in my own way: yes, one can (and perhaps definitely should) retain one’s church membership, and yes, one should – and will doubtless be, save for the aforementioned case of evangelical doubt and apostasy – welcomed in any branch, ward or stake of the Church.  The question of the violation of conscience is another matter (as is the problem of “doublethink” and cognitive dissonance, dynamics that do and must, at some point, enter the fray),  but even more critical is the violation of one’s testimony, assuming such exists.  That, however, for later.

So then, initially at least, I and Patrick agree:

In a word, yes, there is absolutely a place in the LDS Church for people with divergent doctrinal views on all the specific points you mention, and many more.

From this point on, however, the proverbial wicket becomes progressively stickier.

Professor Mason’s claim that Mormonism “has always been a doctrinal religion” is interesting (I would say “odd”) in that it is not clear, and Mason does not make clear in this essay, just of what a non-doctrinal religion would consist (even Chan or Zen Buddhism contains “doctrines,” or principles about the nature of the world/cosmos and of the practice of the Zen discipline itself).  A religion without doctrine; without truth claims, propositions, statements, premises, or arguments regarding the nature of the universe (the “terrible questions”) would, of course, be possible, but its meaning and purpose as a religion far less clear (and in restoration terms, valueless).

Professor Mason then delves into what I think is one of the salient features of Mormon studies that marks it as radically divergent from LDS apologetics, and that is the often-made appeal to the sociological, cultural and political dynamics and attributes of contemporary society as given in contrast to the doctrinal and philosophical claims/standards of the Church as given and which frames the truth claims of the Church as given as an imposition on the sociological environment surrounding the Church (which they are) that must be in some sense rectified or modified to take those sociological conditions into account such that the Church may acclimate itself to them.

This is, for me, emblematic of essentially the entire progressive “cultural Mormon” project, and defines the idea of “neo-orthodoxy” in the Church among a subset of its intelligentsia and membership.  Mason uses the example of the manner in which the gospel is taught by the missionaries, a manner he terms “still heavily doctrinal,” a mode Mason seems to find wanting, as “the vast majority of the population is post- or anti-doctrinal,” meaning that our missionaries are “selling something that most people don’t want anymore.”

Now, of course, what nearly two centuries of restoration teaching and the scriptural corpus we have thus far tell us, if they tell us anything, is that the gospel has never been something that the vast  majority  of the human family “want.”  It has always been astoundingly unpopular, for the most part, given expression in the idea that “many are called, but few are chosen”  (even in the Church).  In absolute numbers, from the time of Adam to the present, a large number of mortal human beings have, indeed, chosen it and remained faithful.  In relative numbers, however, the gospel, like Lao Tzu’s Tao, “flows in places men reject,” and when the rains come, the arks are always sparsely populated.

What is the alternative to teaching investigators the core truths of the restoration at the outset and with clarity and lucidity?  Perhaps spaghetti socials?  Moral and ethical precepts not unlike those of most other systems of religion?  Youth camp-outs?  Service projects?  Helping old ladies cross the street?  Well, of course, but also, of course, the fundamental meaning and purpose of the plan of salvation is to become like our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is to return with our “pearl” to our celestial home. Helping old ladies across the street (among many other things) is a part of the process, but without the doctrine – without the ideas, concepts, and knowledge of why we are here, from whence we came, and where we can go – and what we can become – in future infinities, only the lower kingdoms beckon in the resurrection (provided there is one and that this is not just a valuable if sincere myth created by the apostles post-crucifixion).

“My own view is that people would be far more interested in other aspects of the church, and that doctrine could get loaded in later. But I digress.)”

My own view is that the gospel should be taught as the gospel, as the gospel qua the gospel, as the Lord directs and has directed (less as some intellectuals within he church might prescribe) as a system of doctrine, principles, and ordinances that will “enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels.”  Once all the “other aspects of the Church” are taken into account, and put in their respective places, this is the core, nucleus, and foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Its the only reason we do missionary work at all.

One may decide for oneself whether Mason’s characterization of the TR interview is accurate:

Exhibit A is the temple recommend interview itself. It is most definitely NOT an interrogation about doctrinal mastery or even orthodoxy. There are a small handful of questions exploring a person’s belief, but they are quite broad, and deliberately so, I believe. They simply ask if you believe in the Godhead (not asking what you think about God’s body or the resurrected Christ’s body), and whether you think the church is led by a prophet called by God who is authorized to exercise priesthood keys. Nothing about the Book of Mormon, nothing about the “one true church,” definitely nothing about polygamy. The vast majority of the interview is about orthopraxis, not orthodoxy — concerned with a person’s fidelity to a series of moral and covenantal commitments. I might go so far as to say that the temple recommend interview reveals that the church is more interested in regulating a person’s lifestyle than colonizing their mind.

Now of course, there is no orthopraxy without orthodoxy, and could not be.  Extracting the one from the other to sooth Mr. Dehlin’s progressive sensitivities seems to me, again, to be adding another lane to a bridge that should, at the most, be little more than a catwalk.

“I give unto you these sayings” the Lord tells us is D&C 93:19, “that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.”

We study the gospel, learn, and seek truth “even by study and also by faith,” states D&C 97:14, that we may understand and comprehend the principles of the gospel “in theory, in principle, and in doctrine,” and for what purpose?  That orthodoxy may be correctly applied as orthopraxy; that “they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry…in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, the keys of which kingdom have been conferred upon you.”

The Preach my Gospel manual says little of “other aspects of the Church” and, from the very outset, bores directly to the center of the matter respecting the investigator.  In the first chapter, the mission, meaning and purpose of missionary work is established:

You are surrounded by people. You pass them on the street, visit them in their homes, and travel among them. All of them are children of God, your brothers and sisters. God loves them just as He loves you. Many of these people are searching for purpose in life. They are concerned for their families. They need the sense of belonging that comes from the knowledge that they are children of God, members of His eternal family. They want to feel secure in a world of changing values. They want “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23), but they are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12).

The gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith will bless their families, meet their spiritual needs, and help them fulfill their deepest desires. Although they may not know why, they need relief from feelings of guilt that come from mistakes and sins. They need to experience the joy of redemption by receiving forgiveness of their sins and enjoying the gift of the Holy Ghost.

At the very first, we hear of the doctrinal restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith (a major bugaboo for many “NOM” members), those queries regarding the human condition Hugh Nibley called “the terrible questions” (who am I?  Why am I here?  What’s going on around here (in mortality?)?), core questions of values, our lineal descent from the Father as spirit sons and daughters, and eternal life.  Missionaries are to teach “as authorized representatives of Jesus Christ” (itself a major doctrinal/metaphysical claim) that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah,” and that no one “can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah””

So here, we see that the reality of Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah, his redemptive atonement, the reality of sin and its consequences, and dwelling in the presence of God in the post-mortal world, are among the key assertions made by the missionaries and form the very spinal cord of the gospel: the plan of salvation and Christ’s central role in it.

You are called to represent Jesus Christ in helping people become clean from their sins. You do this by inviting them to come unto Jesus Christ and become converted to His restored gospel. To come to the Savior they must have faith in Him unto repentance—making the necessary changes to bring their life into agreement with His teachings.

How this comports with Mason’s “other aspects of the Church” he thinks should lead teaching to investigators I cannot say, as he did not elucidate those points, but suffice it to say, this is the doctrinal (the body of ideas, concepts and principles that comprise “the gospel” as a system) basis for the existence of the Church and the purpose of its missionaries that, the Preach my Gospel manual asserts, “represent Jesus Christ.”

“Nevertheless,” says Dr. Mason, “we know from polls that the majority of active Latter-day Saints tend to agree about doctrinal matters. They know the church’s official doctrines, and by and large they believe them.”  Of course.  And while activity, per se, does not always correspond to faithfulness or acceptance of doctrine, its a good barometer, all things being equal.

Given this learning environment and a general culture of doctrinal conformity, it’s only natural that individuals who have come to different conclusions than other people about the “right answers” often feel uncomfortable and even unwelcome.

Well, yes, of course they do, especially when those different conclusions are clearly inconsistent with or overtly hostile to settled church doctrine and fundamental values and standards, values and standards that, inevitably, will come into contact with alternative values and standards found in “the World.”  One may well feel alienated and “unwelcome” in a radically different cultural setting, and if any branch, ward or stake is moving effectively towards a Zion culture, one’s “culture shock” when coming into contact with  Zion culture, values, standards, and concepts from a “Babylonian” frame of reference, or when one begins to move from a zone of Zionic culture out, or back, into a “Babylonian” culture (and why Dr. Mason encases the phrase “right answers” in quotation marks, I will leave in limbo for the present).

Mason is aware of the demarcation line, mentioned above, between “what you think” and “what you say,” demarcating the space between personal apostasy in various forms and the suborning of apostasy among other members, but adds that “though to many that understandably feels stifling.”

Well, again, not to point out any lingering banalities, but yes.  “Still,” according to Dr, Mason, “within the boundaries of the temple recommend interview, I think there’s room for a pretty healthy amount of diversity.”

But the temple recommend interview, looked at at greater depth, is implying in its questions far more than it appears to ask on the surface.  Just at the outset, asking a member (and remembering that the sole purpose of the temple and temple worship is to exalt – deify – the member and his family as a family in the celestial kingdom) if they sustain (TR question #2) the Prophet, his counselors, and the Twelve as “prophets, seers and revelatory” is by direct implication asking if you accept all the teachings, counsel, and interpretations of gospel doctrine that come from them under that divine mantel of authority.  This question is inextricably linked to TR question #1, which asks if one has a testimony – a living, spiritual witness within oneself – of  “the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?”  “The gospel” is the entire system; the entire plan of salvation and all its doctrines, ordinances, standards and Zionic culture in toto – no cafeteria mentioned here.  This is a call to the wedding feast, not a cafeteria for a donut and cup of coffee.

John, for his part, even given Mason’s endless olive branches, is still, as always, essentially churlish and on the offensive (as he always is with Dr. Mason, for what I think should be easily discernible reasons).

John claims that many LDS teachings, including work for the dead, the persistence of personal identity and family structure into the next life, and theosis, were “thrilling” in his early days as a member, but that, in time, other apparently preexisting ideological commitments or traditions, in the scriptural sense, interposed themselves (the seed was sown among “thorns” such that “the cares of this world” and “the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (I would here insert the concept of the “idolatry” of ideology, which I think is probably the most pressing concern of both the Church and LDS apologetics at the present time) and created a rift between himself and the Church.

It is no shock to find out that each of these issues is inextricably linked to issues and concerns, primarily political and social, that have arisen around the church in the mainstream secular culture just since the late sixties:

That the Mormon church was the only legitimate church on earth (D&C 1:30),

That Native and African-Americans were cursed by God with dark skin (2 Nephi, 5:21),

That God did not want women to lead the church,

That I would be required to be a polygamist in heaven (D&C 132:61), and

That same-sex marriage is an act of apostasy, and that the children of same-sex married couples are not welcome in the Mormon church.

Now, its quite painful to have to tell John, seemingly countless times, over and over again (as with many LDS progressives” that 2 was never a “doctrine” in any official or established sense (Amerindians were among the first people proselytized by the Church in the 19th century, whenever possible, so the “dark skin” cultural marker the Book of Mormon uses to symbolically set apart a people culturally (not racially) is clearly different than the lineal priesthood restriction of which black peoples historically partook, according to all that is known with any clarity about the “ban”); 3 is a sophistry,  1 is, if not accepted at the outset (when one is baptized, ideally) will cause problems if it is not comprehended in its full implications and, again ideally, known by revelation; the fourth is not a teaching of the Church unless one is living in a time or place in which one is called to this practice (and is hence a misreading of D&C 132:61) and five would utterly unravel the entire plan of salvation at its very foundations.

Dehlin’s order, then, is not just a tall one, but a megalithic one, a wall of ideological boundaries he cannot cross without he himself – not the church – transcending his own mortal tunnel vision and the “riveted” traditions he had brought into the church, and retained.

When John says that “it has brought me a small amount of comfort over the past decade to see the Mormon church backpedal away from some of these doctrines,” it becomes clear again that John has little understanding of what constitutes doctrine as over against policies (which may have a doctrinal background) and the theological speculations of individual church leaders.  John has always been very vocal about the idea of the way in which church teachings ebb and flow following cultural, social, and political trends (while dodging the explicit implication that perhaps his beliefs do as well), but continues, after many years, to conflate doctrine, policy, and theological conjecture among church leaders as if the Church itself did not or had not attended to those distinctions long ago.  The clarifications of the difference between the priesthood restriction and non-doctrinal speculations, posited by some church leaders in the past (which were, it should be noted, culturally conditioned), has been made many times and, in recent years, officially by the Church, but the “ban” as a policy underwent no “backpedaling,” nor has the nature of priesthood nor the character of  homosexuality in moral and spiritual terms.

John’s alienation from the Church was a personal matter, but as John’s own words suggest, when he says “when I became public about my doubts,” his doubts moved boldly and aggressively into the public square and then moved – the fatal step, not simply having such doubts within his own mind or even expressing them publicly – into active opposition to and then open hostility towards the church, its leaders, and those Jurassic creatures once known as “LDS apologists” who mount philosophical defense of the Church in response to people precisely like John Dehlin.

Within a very short time of sharing these views publicly, I was hauled into my bishop and stake president’s offices, grilled about my unorthodox position on each of these teachings — and ultimately was told, very explicitly, that I could not remain a member in good standing with these doubts and doctrinal positions. I was told that I either had to stay silent about them, or I would be excommunicated (which was my fate in 2015).

Now, it was not – and John knows it was not – having these doubts and criticisms that propelled him towards excommunication, but the rooting of an entire professional career as a clinical psychologist essentially on the basis of presenting himself as a professional critic of the Church: an “anti-Mormon.”  John’s key work as a critic: the suborning of apostasy among others undergoing similar doubts and/or conflicts between church teaching and the teachings of the surrounding secular/pagan culture, is at the center of his excommunication.  His “doubts” are central to the process of personal apostasy, but I see little reason he could not have remained a member “in good standing” had he not risen in active, open ideological opposition, and not grounded his professional career as a psychologist in becoming an anti-shepherd to those weak in faith and struggling to grasp the iron rod.

For the rest, which we will not dwell on here, John descends into his usual pathos and melodrama, standard in post-Mormon exit narratives, of “harsh and punitive treatment” within what he claims (and ascribes to Dr. Mason)to be the LDS “big tent” in which dissenting members are “harassed” and victimized by “coercion, control, and rejection” by church leaders for “expressing” doubts and ideas contrary to church doctrine.

For John, as always, church discipline in which members become, not just doubtful, but active opponents of the church in a philosophical, moral, cultural and political sense, is “unjust at a fundamental level.”  John can say this, of course, because as a secular progressive, John sees the church as just another, if unique, social construction or human cultural artifact in which the members, because of their “investment” of time, energy, and will in the church have a democratic option to engage the church in desired amendments of its doctrines, practices, polices, and standards.  The Church should be (always if it is to “survive” in the 21st century) a “big tent” and a “bottom up” organization that should ultimately be open to democratic, participatory control in relation to its teachings and standards.

The church is, of course, a kingdom, not a religified democratic town hall, and failure to comprehend that core truth is to potentially set oneself up for a “faith crisis” that will manifest itself sooner or later, but hopefully, neither.

Posted by: Loran Blood | December 11, 2016

When the Moon is Full…

http://rationalfaiths.com/queer-mormon-transhuman/

We have now entered an age, and LDS apologetics has entered a new era and arena of ideas in which virtually anything can, with sufficient semantic and rhetorical processing, be “Mormonized” and grafted onto the tame olive tree. The postmodern mentality has little care or interest in the age-old disciplines of intellectual analysis comprised of inductive and deductive logic, or what was once known as “critical thinking” (which term has been appropriated by the modern educational Left but which has little or no relation to the traditional discipline), nor does it have much tolerance for or understanding of small tents, strait gates, or narrow ways.

Hence, we can have a “Mormon transhumanism” just as we can have Mormonized versions or interpretations of just about any other philosophy, ideology, belief system, or intellectual vogue within our cultural milieu. I have asked the question of just what transhumanism is, and what its core propositions are, here and there, but have not delved into this idea at any length. I did suspect, from the beginning, that it was leftist or progressive in essence, and in this I was correct, as both this philosophy’s core assumptions, beliefs, and general philosophical trajectory attest.

Below I’d like to do one of my running commentaries/critiques of this essay by someone I would doubtless term a “NOM” and “cultural Mormon” for whom the church is a blob of silly putty upon which can be imprinted, for all intents, anything across which it is rolled, pressed, and squished. The church is like white rice, a base or filler that accepts and absorbed other flavors, colors, and textures as desired by its adherents.

This is not unusual in that this is exactly what the cultural Left has so successfully achieved in the broader, surrounding society; it has infiltrated, colonized, assimilated, subverted, and then become the key institutions of American civilization, most importantly those institutions critical in the generation, analysis, and dissemination of information. Among the forms of information, knowledge, and perception most significant in this “long march” through the institutions are those institutions and forms of knowledge having to do with values, and among this body of ideas, fundamental ethical and moral concepts grounding human relations are central.

Let us take a look.

“A friend recently asked, “Is Transhumanism compatible with the LGBTQ community?”

My answer is a resounding, “YES!”

Not only that, I find queer theory highly compatible with Mormon Transhumanism. While LDS policies and practices pose certain challenges, there is certainly room in Mormon theology for a diversity of genders, families, and orientations.”

Now, all of you standing athwart history yelling “STOP!” should perhaps check your blood pressure, sit back with a big cup of Sleepytime, and take this is bite sized chunks. Kibbles and bits are often the recommended dosage when transversing naked, uninhibited, unabridged progressivism.

Ostler begins with a brief working definition of transhumanism, which she describes as “the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.”

Now, at the outset, a couple quick observations:

1. This places transhumanism, Mormon or otherwise, directly at the center of the Western Leftist family tree as a form of utopian perfectiblism in which humans take upon themselves the sins, weaknesses, and imperfections of the world and overcome them through wholly human – the very material the atonement seeks to “save” and cleanse – means, including education, political reconstruction of society, technology, and scientific progress. This is the same dream that first fired the early progressives, with a specific focus on thinkers such as H.G. Wells and Woodrow Wilson (among many others) that continues through Marx and so many of his heirs in modern times.

2. As we will see below (and keep in mind that Ostler is a member), vast social and cultural changes encompassing ethics, moral values, philosophy, politics, and governance will, of necessity, be a critical aspect of such evolution “beyond current physical and mental limitations.” Politics and political activism, in other words, will necessarily be paramount in such “evolution.”

“As the human species gains greater cognitive capacities I would venture that our understanding and perceptions of gender, sexuality, and procreation will radically change. Some may advocate for a radical post-gender society, but homogenization hardly seems like a product of evolution when evolution generally favors increased diversification.”

Two classic pieces of American science fiction pointing us towards a similar key realization about the human condition are now in order. The first comes from the 1953 George Pal production of “The War of the Worlds.” In one scene, a minister (Paster Matthew Collins) determines to go out alone and confront the alien machines in an attempt to make friendly contact. Our minister makes a fatal and unwarranted miscalculation here, and one that costs him his life. When it is pointed out to him that the creatures in the machines are not human, and that they come from an “advanced civilization,” he leaps to the following conclusion:

“If they’re more advanced than us, they should be nearer the creator for that reason.”

But no, this does not follow. The Nazis were well in advance, technologically and industrially, of the rest of Europe and America in many key industrial processes and scientific research. Their tanks (the Tigers) were much superior to ours, as were their aircraft and other armament. They developed the first true jet fighter (too late to turn the tide of war), were well advanced of America in rocketry, and were working on the atomic bomb as we were.

Sheer intellect and mastery of technological knowledge does not, in any necessary sense, place a people closer to the Creator solely on that basis. Without other mental, psychological, intellectual, and moral elements, scientific knowledge and its application as technology neither place humans closer to God nor farther from him. Science is a process of the acquisition of knowledge about the mechanistic, repeatable phenomena of the universe and technology is the application of such knowledge to real world problems and interests. Both are tools, but neither are barometers of moral ontology.

As the technically finest sword can be wielded righteously or wickedly, so science and technology can be wielded for good or evil as the will and mind of mortal humans directs. It is not the level of scientific advancement or technological sophistication that places a people closer to God, but that will and mind.

It is he who wields, not that which is wielded, that determines our moral core and closeness to the Creator, as Pastor Collins discovered too late.

Secondly is the classic episode of the orginal Outer Limts TV show called “The Sixth Finger.” This story is directly relevant to transhumanism (and utopian leftism per se) because it deals with real philosophical depth with the the great questions of hubris and the fundamental foundations of human nature. Without going into any detail, the crux of the matter here is that the more fantastically mentally advanced and intellectually expanded Gwyllim Griffiths (the lead, played by David McCallum) becomes, the more morally and ethically diffident and insensitive, the more emotionally closed, and the more psychologically absorbed by and fascinated with himself and his intellectual powers (including the ability to read minds, allowing him absolute tyrannical control over the people he lives with) he becomes, until he comes to see the humans about him as no more morally significant that earthworms (and at one point calmly determines or wipe out an entire town as an example that his wishes are to be obeyed) and finally, as he continues to evolve, begins to see himself as a god, a being of pure mind floating in the immensity of space, wholly unconcerned (like the worst deist god) with the ants beneath his feet.

He becomes, in other words, as he mentally evolves but remains a fallen mortal human being at his core in other respects, not a god, but a devil. His essential humanity is wholly negated by and absorbed within a solipsistic internal mental world within which he is the ultimate being. Pure intellectual or technical development, in other words, does not necessarily coexist or is not necessarily coextensive with moral and spiritual development. Indeed, the one may be inversely related to the other.

“Gender, when deconstructed of its binary notions, is as unique as each individual. The gender spectrum is filled with eight billion uniquely different genders diverse in biology, identity, embodiment, performance, expression, and fluidity.”

Now, if Ostler determines to be intellectually frivolous, this is, of course, her prerogative, but philosophical rigor demands claims such as those made here be attended to seriously.

Now, there does not seem to be any reason to deconstruct the concept of gender at all save in the name of an ideology, and in that case, we need to understand the origins and nature of that ideology and its vision of the human before we embark on such a vast undertaking. Ostler doesn’t tell us what that ideological vision is nor why it is or should be either a good or necessary thing (the ideology will tell us that, however). For Ostler, as humans evolve and transcend their own humanness to become perhaps another kind of human, a subspecies or even perhaps, meta-species of some kind, these changes will simply happen (just as the new man and woman of the future will just happen once capitalism, bourgeoisie marriage, the opiate of religion, and private property are removed from human experience) as a natural concomitant of social and intellectual evolution (and there are only about 7.4 billion people on the earth right now, so I’ not sure how she is arriving at some 80 billion genders (unless each person is assumed, post-gender deconstruction, to possesses a wide variety of such genders as a matter of the nature expression of such deconstuction)).

“It seems likely our rudimentary labels of male and female will adapt even more with increased cognitive function and physical freedom. Two people may identify as female, but they both wear their gender uniquely. Think of it this way, vermillion and cardinal are both red, but each is distinctly unique. The gender spectrum is limitless.”

“It seems”? Does it? Why? The vision, politics, and political activism of the cultural Left of the last forty years, and the intellectual foment within the academic realm of “queer theory” did not just happen as a natural aspect of human intellectual development, nor is any claim that these vast cultural shifts represent “evolution” or “development” anything but itself an ideological and philosophical assertion and part of a preexisting ideological template and body of belief, and hardly an effect or a barometer of social and intellectual “evolution” in some natural, innate sense.

That Ostler wants to see it this way is clear. That she is on anything but thin philosophical ice in doing so is another question.

Next, as is I suspect much more common on the Left than the Left is perhaps often given due credit for, we visit the new technically resplendent but morally inane laboratory of Dr. Moreau that will soon encompass all of humanity, in the transhumanist vision:

“I am especially enthusiastic about reproductive technologies that would help loving, committed parents of any gender conceive their own biological children. I have been a grateful recipient of such technologies. Technologies such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, and uterus transplants have helped many diverse families in their procreative aspirations. Uterus transplants for transwomen are on the horizon, as well as two-mother and/or two-father children. As medical technologies continue to progress sexual preferences in relation to procreation will become less relevant.

Where will Logan run to escape the world of Blair Ostler and her society of sexual werehumans? Truly, under the influence, first of cultural Marxism, and then of postmodern notions of radical solipsistic subjectivity, we have entered the age of, not homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, or pansexuality, but of weresexuality.

The very term “queer” as used by Ostler and within academic (sic) queer theory meshes well with this concept of weresexuality. Queerness or “to queer” something, does not come with a stable conceptualization such as “homo,” “bi” or “trans” but encompasses all of them, or parts of them, or permutations of them, or even none of them. To be “queer” is, in its broadest modern sense, to be antinomian; it is to subvert, distort, and mutate any/all normative, settled values, standards, assumptions, and norms and “queer,” or decompose, transmute, rectify, and reconstruct those values, standards, or norms. All is fluid, in flux, and indeterminate (and all of the core values that queering disarticulates and reconstitutes were, in the beginning, wholly relative and arbitrary at the outset, of course. This is where all social reconstruction must begin, ultimately with Nietzschean reevalution of all values).

But as long as we’re just free-associating, and not doing any serious philosophy, why not continue?

“Even further into the future, I imagine technologies such as brain-to-brain interfaces that could radically change our views of intimacy and human sexuality. To share a mind with a person would not only include every sexual fantasy and experience you’ve ever had, but every intimate aspect of your being.” (Note: the implications of this within a gospel context aside for a second, she may have gotten the idea for this from a scene in “Demolition Man” between Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock, but there’s no way to tell here – Loran)

And then, where pornography will ultimately, in the fullness of its masturbatory potential, take humanity, given sufficient technical capabilities:

“Sharing your body with a person, same-sex or otherwise, would be overshadowed in comparison to the intimacy of sharing a mind with another person. Pleasurable experiences, such as orgasm, could take place independent of physical contact entirely with one or multiple person(s). As technologies enable us to have a greater capacity to have intimate experiences, our perceptions of sexuality, relationships, intimacy, and even pleasure will develop in ways that are hardly imaginable.”

An entire society, of much of that society, composed of impotent masturbating voyeurs, who never actually touch, or kiss, or hug, but who have sex through brain-to-brain cybernetic links.

Logan? Logan?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Loran Blood | November 29, 2016

How to Reframe, Reconstruct, and Revise Reality – for Dummies

One of the primary rhetorical and philosophical tactics of the Left, whether within the Church or outside it, is to attempt to show that the core objections to progressive ideology are themselves bathed in hypocrisy.  This was once a favorite strategy of the sexual revolution in the late sixties and early seventies, to claim that proponents of “traditional morality” were base hypocrites because they actually, subconsciously or in repressed form, harbored the same desires for unconstrained sexual adventure as did the social radicals of the time, save that the social radicals were simply open and honest about their true, inherent natures and desires.

This essay, published at Rational Faiths, is interesting because of the way in which it both grossly misrepresents the phenomenon of “political correctness” and reframes it as a way to enhance civility and dialogue between opposing perspectives, a claim I’ve heard before, here and there, but never taken seriously, because it can’t possibly be taken seriously by a serious, educated mind save that mind has already absorbed and digested the philosophical nutrients the rhetorical, legal, and social pressures of political correctness seek to protect and preserve from the antibodies of truth and from fundamental respect for the institutions and ideals of free intellectual inquiry in a free, open society.

Our author, one Jeff Swift, begins thusly:

“The terms “politically correct” and “political correctness” have appeared in a number of recent general conference addresses, and come up frequently in some Mormon circles. Political correctness is almost uniformly critiqued in both venues. A problem arises, however, when different definitions of the phrase are used in different contexts. I will go over three distinct and different definition of the term, discuss where each definition is predominantly used, and conclude with an assertion that Mormon teachings embrace political correctness, at least in the way most people uses the term.”

So then, we re to be presented with two distinct definitions of the term, the “original,” and the modern LDS version.

“The term “politically correct” was first used in the 1940s to designate people who toed the Communist party line. It was a way for radicals to criticize the more strict Communists for following the agenda set by organized political parties rather than staying true to the cause of empowering workers. It is safe to say that Church leaders are not using this definition of the term in their conference talks, and this understanding fell into disuse and was replaced a few decades ago by a significantly different understanding:”

This may be true, but for modern purposes of the history of ideas and political movements/ideologies, its of little relevance.  The origins of political correctness within modernity take us back at least two centuries, to the  French Revolution and ideas/terms such as the calling of each individual by the other “citizen” and the abolishment of the past symbolized by beginning French society from “day 1” and so on, dating it from the completion of the revolution.  Political correctness can be found wherever and whenever the Left takes power or is in process of taking power in any society, and under whatever pretentious labels.  It was found in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and throughout the socialist/communist world the length and breadth of the Cold War.  It is predominate and most aggressive where the modern Left holds cultural, legal, and ideological sway, or in other words, in academia, public education, the foundations, the mainstream news media, Hollywood and the arts, and much of the administrative state.

Swift’s idea of the “original” ideas is taken from a book that is, itself, a kind of manifesto and tactical manual for leftist activists, and belies the actual reality that internal ideological strife between totalitarian factions of the same core ideology, produced, not factions more open and amendable to alternate perspectives, but simply a larger sectarian body of rigid dogmatists each convinced of their own grand theory of social reconstruction.

The real origin of political correctness, as it is understood today, particularly by its opponents, is to be found primarily in the exiled Frankfurt School in America and its project of “critical theory.”  The reach, scope, effects, and importance of this idea, and particularly its effects upon modern academia (most saliently in the area of the plethora of “studies” programs and courses that festoon much of modern higher education) cannot be underestimated.

But the Church itself has its own unique interpretation, according to Swift:

“The term (“politically correct” and “political correctness” being combined into one “term” for the purposes of this article) first showed up in General Conference in a 1996 address given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Since then, it has shown up in general conference addresses a over a dozen times. In almost every case, excluding Elder Maxwell’s original use, the term is used as a synonym for engaging in or justifying immorality. For example, here is President Faust critiquing the idea of political correctness:

“We have always been regarded as a peculiar people. However, being spiritually correct is much better than being politically correct. Of course, as individuals and as a people we want to be liked and respected. But we cannot be in the mainstream of society if it means abandoning those righteous principles which thundered down from Sinai, later to be refined by the Savior, and subsequently taught by modern prophets. We should only fear offending God and His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the head of this Church.”

So, in President Faust’s nicely parallel turn of phrase, political correctness is the opposite of spiritual correctness, and means “abandoning those righteous principles . . . taught by modern prophets.” Elder Oaks agrees with this definition of political correctness:

“Some model themselves after worldly ways because, as Jesus said of some whom He taught, “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). These failures to follow Christ are too numerous and too sensitive to list here. They range all the way from worldly practices like political correctness and extremes in dress and grooming to deviations from basic values like the eternal nature and function of the family.”

“Political correctness,” then represents actions of disobedience. It is, by Elder Oaks’ definition, a failure to follow the Savior. Elder Scott agrees, clarifying that “political correctness” means using majority rules or popular fashions as our metric to define what is right:”

There is little to argue with here.  Swift is essentially correct that “political correctness,” from within a gospel frame of references, is, as Elder Oaks said, a “failure to follow Christ.”  What Swift misses here is that “political correctness” indeed encompasses a wide variety of beliefs, values, philosophies and ideologies, including “pc” itself, which is not an ideology but a way of silencing, marginalizing, eradicating, and morally delegitimating  all speech, dissent, critique, and opposition to a prevailing vision, dogma, or ideological “party line” within any institution the Left has come to dominate or has completely absorbed.  That’s what, indeed, political correctness is, i.e., a relentless war upon culture and cultural institutions for the control of language.

“To further complicate matters, others try to persuade us that our decisions must be socially acceptable and politically correct. Some pondering of that approach will reveal how wrong it is. Since social and political structures differ widely over the world and can dramatically change with time, the folly of using that method to make choices is apparent.”

And yet, the Church does not teach this idea.  In fact, of course, what is often “socially acceptable” which is very often political correctness itself, is precisely that which the Church opposes the most.

For Elder Scott, political correctness is a “method to make choices,” in line with what is “socially acceptable” as opposed to what is acceptable to God. Basically, what’s right and wrong shouldn’t be decided by majority vote. Elder Ballard throws a bit of a wrinkle into the definition:

“But one thing is certain: the commandments have not changed. Let there be no mistake about that. Right is still right. Wrong is still wrong, no matter how cleverly cloaked in respectability or political correctness.”

For him, political correctness is less of a method of decision-making or an action of disobedience, but a disguise that makes what is bad look good. This increasingly nuanced definition of “political correctness” is useful, but things get sticky when we consider the way the term is used everywhere but the Church.

This is accurate as far as it goes.  Political correctness is, indeed, a kind of “disguise” (as the vast oceans of love and compassion talk, and the rise of the “precious snowflake” phenomenon of safe spaces and trigger words attests) for the true face of the Gorgon.

But let us continue:

In the early 90s, conservatives co-opted the term to mean something entirely different from its original 1940s communist meaning. For example, this article talks about political correctness after the Boston bombings, and the author explains the term:

“Political correctness is a broad term with several meanings, but it generally concerns watching what you say, especially around issues of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. But it can also express a broader willingness or desire to avoid “rocking the boat” on subjects that affect racial or religious minorities.”

This is the understanding of the term most widely accepted today. For example, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

“Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent. In current usage, the term is primarily pejorative….

Since the 90s, political conservatives have been using the term negatively, suggesting that it is excessive and overly concerned with feelings at the expense of blunt honesty. For a succinct definition, let’s turn to one of Brother Glenn Beck’s attacks on political correctness:

Truth is offensive sometimes, but when the truth is said because it’s true and because it’s important to know . . . It’s important to say those things, even if they are offensive.”

Now, conservatives didn’t “co-opt” the term in the 90s.  The original cries of intellectual and cultural alarm regarding the rise and maturing of this phenomenon, particularly in America’s colleges and universities, came beginning in the early eighties, with such major conservative works as The Closing of the American Mind, published in 1987, Profscam, in 1988, Tenured Radicals, in 1990, Imposters in the Temple, published in 1992, and Higher Superstition, published in 1994, among many others. Magazine articles chornicalling what was happening is higher education well predate the publication of Bloom’s watershed book, and the genre, even before the term “political correctness” was in use, can be traced back to William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale and Russel Kirk’s Decadence and renewal in the higher learning, published in 1951 and 1978 respectively.

But Swift’s task, as we shall now see, is not to correctly comprehend and interpret political correctness (which he partially, if grudgingly succeeds in doing), but to attempt a thorough sanitization and provide us some sugar to help its totalitarian medicine go down.

Glenn Beck isn’t the only one who takes such a negative stance toward avoiding offensive speech and actions. There are many others today, including the President-Elect, who decry a concern for watching what we say and how we say it. It’s definitely tempting to just say whatever we think whenever we want, regardless of whose feelings we might hurt.

Church leaders, on the other hand, have called for thoughtful civility and kindness in the way we talk about and with others (behavior that Brother Beck and Mr. Trump might call “political correctness”):

But, of course, this begs so many questions and contrasts so starkly with decades of observed reality, both in word and action, that our difficulty now becomes know where to start.  Political correctness is not, and never was, about civility, respect, or “kindness.”  Nor was it ever about avoiding offense or offense speech in some broad, generalized ethical sense (what used to be called civility, “manners” or “couth”). Political correctness is a means of enforcing ideological and political conformity, of neutralizing dissent and heterodoxy, of morally discrediting alternate views, and, when possible in the political and legal realm, criminalizing speech and expression outside the orthodox dogma and its claims to settled, unquestioned truth.

“Offense” within the political and cultural Left has a very specific and deeply channeled meaning, and it has to do strictly with speech, ideas, arguments, and intellectual dissent of any kind, even the most vague and subjective (i.e. “microaggressions”) inconsistent with or in conflict with accepted “progressive” orthodoxies across a plethora of issues affecting or underlying the human condition and the questions of politics and culture.  It is  not “offense” in a broad lexical sense, but in highly specified and ideologically charged political sense in which “offense” is interchangeable with nothing more than speech and ideas the left has determined is offensive, i.e., which the Left cannot tolerate in any space which it has colonized and come to dominate and has monopolize intellectually.

Political correctness, especially as it has developed in American higher education, is a means of both controlling language and weaponizing it.  The substantial arsenal of ists, isms, phobias, and other personality disorders or mental illnesses that the Left employed, not to disagree with its philosophical opponents, but to morally remove them from the realm of decent humanity, are deployed not to call out that which is offensive, but to remove entire classes of human beings, ideas, and arguments from the marketplace of ideas as morally legitimate, thus circumventing any need to actually philosophically defend and support their own views intellectually at all.

“The final definition,” Swift writes, is “the definition most commonly used in political discussions, water cooler arguments, and debates about current events, reflects a desire for careful sensitivity rather than blunt thoughtlessness.”

No, that’s not the definition of political correctness.  “Political correctness” is what Orwell originally described as “thoughtcrime” in his famous dystopian book, 1984.  Its purpose, as several decades of its rampage of intellectual debasement through American education has shown, is not ” a desire for careful sensitivity rather than blunt thoughtlessness,” which, if true, would not be enforced, or enforcible, in an open, free society, by screaming mobs, legal punishment, expulsion from college, and moral character assassination for holding views termed  “counterrevolutionary” in societies of the recent  past in which the dominance of the Left was complete, but a desire to marginalize and eradicate all thought but “progressive” thought through public moral shaming, legal sanction, and the intimidating force of the democratic mass.

Swift makes the great leap into his ultimate logical fallacy here:

“The leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is very explicitly in favor of civility, love, compassion, and thoughtfulness. In other words, Mormons believe very strongly in political correctness.”

No, the church believes in “civility, love, compassion, and thoughtfulness,”  but political correctness, for anyone who actually understands its origins, meaning, and purpose, believes only in the fundamental aim, goal, and focus of political correctness as a strategy of political and cultural struggle: the acquisition of power.

Swift himself may not understand any of this (and so many of the Snowflakes who are the puppets and tools of the intellectual core of the Left, often don’t), or, on the other hand, he may.

That, after all – feigning innocence – is also one of the elemental tactics of political correctness, followed by wails of righteous moral indignation and calls for the expulsion of all heterodox or dissenting ideas from the “safe space” the Left now controls and has cleansed of all offensive, i.e. non-leftist thought or any assertions, positions, arguments, or propositions inconsistent with the vision and conceptual prism of “social justice.”

There is no mystery here, and Mr. Swift’s attempts at mystification have been less than compelling.


 

 

 

Firstly, I should make clear that I am and always have been what was once known as a “conservationist.”  I love and stand in awe of nature and the natural world, in both a aesthetic and scientific sense.  I am a firm and unwavering proponent in uncoerced free market contractual economic relations within an environment governed by the rule of law, but also believe strongly in cleaning up the pollution and or environmental degradation that may be created by human industrial activities, and that “capitalism” provides the only means of wealth creation and technological innovation adequate to that task.  I do not believe in mindless or unconcerned pollution beyond what in any given era will be the natural and unavoidable (for awhile) externalities imposed on the environment at a given level of technological development by the requirements of economic growth and spread of general affluence and rising living standards (including longer and healthier lives and far greater scope for human and individual development and potential across many dimensions of the mortal experience).

I am perfectly at home with rational, scientifically justifiable, economically feasible, and civilizationally sustainable mitigation of real, definable, empirically  discernible  environmental problems with proper cost/benefit analysis, an understanding of where real improvement ends and diminishing returns for ever vaster outlays of money for ever tinier gains in environmental quality begin, and the point at which environmental concerns displace concern for human health and well-being and corrode or even deeply threaten the standards of living and wealth creation – the only actual ultimate answer to poverty in the mortal sphere – necessary to both human flourishing and environmental quality,  and remove to a fearful degree the last shimmering limitations on the size, scope, powers, and prerogatives of the state necessary to the preservation of our constitutional liberties and inalienable rights.

I stand and have often stood in unspeakable awe of the wonders and beauty of God’s creation as well as in contemplation of our stewardship over it, including the command to subdue – to control, channel, tame, domesticate, modify, and manipulate – nature for our benefit, well-being, health, and temporal progress and security as mortal beings.  I stand in awe and, like the tiny human figures in ancient Chinese landscape paintings, in humble  awareness of the incomprehensible size, extent, powers and numbing complexity of the works of God’s hands.

I look on in awe, yes, but I do not romanticize nature, nor do I see nature and the natural world as sacred (though “good” in a scriptural and surely cosmic and eternal sense), and in this we come to the crux of this essay.  Nature can often seem like an Edenic garden (including in our own backyards) and yet, it is equally a “howling wilderness” that is “red in tooth and claw” and which, in a moment, can kill as well as provide sustenance and life, and contains, all around us, at all times, the most hideous cruelties and horrors, and lurks in the depths of the earth or ocean with forces that may suddenly burst forth in a spasm of cataclysmic destruction.

The gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to look at the natural world through a gospel prism, which means, while finding joy, inspiration, and intellectual fascination in nature, approaching it in a philosophically and scientifically balanced and realistic way, as well as a way that avoids one of the fundamental human tendencies of God’s children from time immemorial, most prevalent when a people lose or reject the gospel but still retain the impetus and desire to worship and find meaning beyond the pervasively mundane and trivial, and that is to spiritualize nature and seek an identification with it that is unhealthy and potentially disastrous in a spiritual, intellectual, and psychological sense.

Modern environmentalism emerged from the incandescent foment and upheaval of the late 1960s and transitioned to its mature developmental phase with the first Earth Day in 1970, a milestone of America’s and the West’s roiling cultural revolution for multiple reasons, not the least of which was that environmentalism provided both an extension of and, perhaps unforeseen at the time, a rolling away of the stone from the tomb of Marxism and utopian collectivism that was exposed for what it was (as many had long known) as the Berlin Wall was dismantled by its prisoners but the salient ideas of which continued to hold sway to an astonishing extent within American and Western academia, within the major American foundations, and to an equally astonishing degree, within the mainstream print and electronic news media.

Modern environmentalism (or the “green” movement) provides, less the quasi-religious mythopoeic narrative and grand historical and epistemic sweep of Marxism in its various forms, an alternative religious  vision and commitment that provides an all-encompassing narrative of the human condition, a cultus of worship, and a god – the earth and nature itself – that can be worshiped and venerated but which can also, unlike traditional gods, be destroyed by its worshipers; the religion of the natural world in which humankind plays the serpent offering the apple representing the taming and subduing of the earth – the human “footprint” – and all that that flows from it: affluence, prosperity, technological control of nature to increase human felicity and standards of living, and economic inequality (the natural concomitant of agency  combined with liberty in the economic realm, as in all other realms), a node at which environmentalism absorbs and recasts Marxism and neo-Marxism as eco-socialism or socialism as an ecological imperative.

In another sense, however, environmentalism, understood as a kind of militant gnostic neo-pantheism grafted to radical politics, is an integral part of the cultural shifts of the late sixties and early seventies in that a critical aspect of that shift was a severe and dogmatic hostility to traditional religion from within the broad Judeo-Christian tradition and an explosion of interest in forms of “alternative spirituality” including fascination with Eastern religion and philosophy, often in eclectic form, as well as ancient pagan nature religions of various kinds (again mostly in eclectic form) and a growing romantic fascination with the primitive.  Baby boomers, seeking “spirituality” without the traditional disciplines and refining sacrifices associated with the cultivation of the spiritual for thousands of years and/or grasping for passive, effortless spirituality  (through LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs) equally without what could with any seriousness be termed discipleship,  or a process of the cultivation and training of the will, desires, and mind, landed upon environmentalism as both the “consuming fire” of Paul’s characterization of complete conversion to the gospel and as a religious commitment that demands little from its devotees save, as is so often the case on the Left, symbolic expressions of values, ideology, and solidarity with others of similar perspectives as found in rallies, marches, concerts, and candle light vigils.

There are no Abrahamic challenges here, and except for the periodic fund raising letter and donations to the cause, no ascetic practices, sacrifices of the baser passions, or “remaining unspotted from the world” to disturb one’s “lifestyle.”  What there is is a messianic, all-encompassing world-historical cause (in concert with glittering celebrities and eminent academics who tell us it is) within which to lose oneself and experience absorption in a movement and universe of meaning larger than the self-contained, transcendently autonomous island ego that was the subject of so much theoretical excrescence in that era and which has continued, in ever more amplified and strident forms, to the present.  One can become, within environmental religion, as much or more so then within the cult of utopian egalitarianism, a messiah, and savior, and an anointed moral Atlas holding the fate of the planet within one’s hands and carrying the moral weight of humanity upon one’s shoulders.

When God is abandoned, and serious religion (religion, in other words, that asks much from the individual in the way of refinement and cultivation, but does not seek such vicariously in the externalization of religious disciplines in the coercive manipulation of others not of one’s faith through political pressure and legal mailed fists) is ignored in the perennial quest for self – not in relation to God but in relation only to that self as a subject of solipsistic reverie – it follows from this that self, and self in relation only to the narrow bandwidth of reality we term “mortality” that impinges on us between birth and death, becomes the fundamental focus of the innate need and desire to worship and immerse ourselves in something greater than self, which, ironically then, becomes that very something.

Modern progressivism, in forging the self as that very focus of worship and immersion in a transcendent cause or purpose, has given modernity its particular cast as a time of radical self-absorption imbued, at the same time, with an overwhelming desire to mold, shape, restructure, reconstruct, and reimagine all of human society and human relationships in harmony with this vision of the self at the root of progressive or leftist philosophy.

These movements, of which modern environmentalism is a critical one, are messianic because the radically autonomous self has become, to use again that much overused ancient  maxim, “the measure of all things.”  Being the measure of all things, the modern progressive self can be a messiah because messiahship is self-constructed and self-referential, as are all values, morality, and ethical concepts.  The modern messiah-self finds itself in a world of strict limitations, contingencies, injustices, suffering, and imperfections, and determines to right them that this messiah-self may both perceive itself as a messiah-self, but also that it may, as an integral aspect of its self-anointed messiahship, dispense justice, judgment, and righteous indignation upon those who are at the seat of the limitations, injustices, and suffering that it sees about it.

If there is no God, in the traditional and, specifically, Judeo-Christian sense, then humans themselves must take up the torch and the scepter from Nietzsche’s dead god and Marx’ opiate; they must become what they have rejected to avoid the abyss of pure nihilism (also a going concern among those who have accepted the progressive vision, but who have not found, like the postmodernists, any new metanarrative to replace the old, and would prefer not to).

Modern environmentalism is one of two central catechistic structures of the modern great and abominable “church” of the Adversary in the latter or last days, a “church” because, although for us, it comprises a plethora of movements, organizations, philosophies, and beliefs about the world, all centered in, to one degree or another, moving human beings away from Christ and the truths of his gospel (wherever they may be found), when in concentrated form, they are religious in the sense that they form to core or nucleus of an individual’s fundamental worldview, and when organized and systematized, they become religious doctrines and commitments that  form the central organizing principles of the lives of their adherents.

Environmentalism is two things, among other peripheral aspects of this general movement: (1) a kind of militant fundamentalist neo-pantheism and (2) the pouring of the old wine of the grand revolutionary socialist dream of a “better world” into new, green bottles.

The central religious vision of this “church;” a “pristine” natural world in which “pure” air, water, soil, and other elements exist in “harmony” and “balance” with the biosphere and with the cosmos, but which is then “disrupted,” distorted, corrupted, and progressively destroyed by the presence of humans and their central original sin: technological progress and the search for higher living standards above bare subsistence (i.e., in modern parlance, capitalism and all its antecedents) is the vision now accepted and promoted by the Left across the entire spectrum of its various sects and sub-sects, and forms the basis for all its calls (primarily through the medium of its primary call to repentance and penance, anthropogenic global warming, second only perhaps to its perennial preoccupation with population control and abortion) for a thorough transformation of all human systems, political, cultural, educational, and religious in the name of “saving the planet” the modern secular gnostic equivalent of the biblical injunction to save oneself through acceptance of God, and then to convert others through persuasion and example.  Human messiahs facing the end of the world in a world without God, however, are on their own in a vast, cold, meaningless cosmos and therefore have little patience – and no faith – in the benevolence and condescension of an all-loving and merciful (and omniscient) being who will not let everything simply end in an all-enveloping and generalized disaster, and hence, have little patience with alternative or contrary views – or with freedom, liberty, or inalienable rights.  The stakes, after all, are too high.

“The planet” has now become, for many, a surrogate god and object of worship, and nature itself a sacred and transcendent state, process, and idea, in which “pristine” and “fragile” things exist “connected to everything else” in a “web of life” that is pure, sacral, and eternally static, stable, and unchanging.  Human “interference” in this state of things represents an intolerable “rape” of the natural world, in which the most egregious sins are committed if, due to human influence, one blade of grass now grows where two were before, forest floors are cleaned up of dry tinder and underbrush to help prevent devastating forest fires, or if a town exists where once there was a malarial swamp.

The earth itself may be conceived of as in some sense a living being (and no, the church does not teach this as a matter of established doctrine) that is under constant assault and violation by human beings (often conceived of as a virus, bacterium, or disease pathology) who do not live “lightly” enough on “her” (this being is always conceived of in feminine, earth goddess-like terms, with the ancient Greek goddess Gaia being common as a metaphor or symbolic reference) and who’s very ability and desire to improve their temporal conditions and live in material comfort (with all that implies) is the very definition of “sin” to a people who have otherwise abandoned that idea entirely.

Utopian egalitarian collectivism in various forms (socialism, communism, commuitarianism etc., or whatever else one wishes to term it) is deeply integrated with environmentalism either as a core feature of a “sustainable” world or as a hidden agenda buried under the rhetorical and philosophical frosting of planetary catastrophe brought about by man’s original sin, free-market economic relations and the desire to create wealth from bare scarcity, and the other sins closely related to it: individualism, unalienable individual rights and liberties; the family, traditional religion (which seeks to tame, domesticate and subdue – alter, manage, and control nature and natural principle of the earth for human benefit (and survival) the earth – and limited government, perhaps the core complaint of the entire Left regarding the nature of classical liberalism.

The reinforcing desires to create a world government of some sort capable of the governance of all the world’s people and of planning the economies and social systems of billions of human beings, including the temporal standards they will be allowed to achieve, down to the smallest details of human life and choice) and to deindustrialize (primarily though the decarbonization – the effective dismantling of virtually the entire modern industrial economy of the Western world while, through various mechanisms, preventing the Global South from phasing into that realm) America and the West in the name of “sustainable growth” or of a static, socialized, non-growth oriented economy (combined with vigorous family planning and “population stabilization” goals), is at the very heart of the “green” vision of humanity and humanity’s future.

Of all the sects and cults within the great church, this one, the green church – the green and spacious building – the gnosis of the earth and that it is not (to paraphrase an old and well-worn environmentalist bromide) the earth that belongs to us, but we who belong to the earth, poses, in my view, the gravest threat to humanity and human felicity we perhaps have ever seen, and which too will pass, but not without the dire consequences of its passing.

We live, indeed, in perilous times.

 

Posted by: Loran Blood | November 18, 2016

Alas, Political Correctness

The idolatry of ideology – the idolatrous fascination with and worship of human moral hubris and infatuation with moral self-congratulation and peer affirmation – otherwise known as “progressivism” – has begun, in recent years, to take a heavy toll among members of the Church.  We may (as we should) look at this as a wheat and tares dynamic as prophesied among the ancients and present throughout our scriptural record, but the toll is still all-too real, and all-too consequential.

Black Americans are, as always, perhaps the single group most victimized, defrauded, and intellectually swindled by this idolatrous worship of the modern gods of the progressive faith, a faith, not in God, but in the “arm of flesh” and which, in essence, claims that God “hath given his power unto men” (2 Nephi 28:5).  “Cursed,” however, says Nephi, “is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost”(2 Nephi 28:31).

This is the faith in the power of academic learning, “social science,” abstract theory, a pure, unconstrained, selfless, transcendent human will and equally transcendent politics to reshape, reconstruct, redesign, and redeem humanity from the Fall.  The eminent political scientist Eric Voeglin termed this the “imminantization of the Christian Eschaton,” and saw in it a kind of modern gnostic seeking for transcendent if fundamentally secular or secularized transcendent knowledge – saving knowledge.

The Salt Lake Tribune report analyzed here, by Peggy Fletcher Stack, is an outstanding textbook example of the manner in which identity politics corrupts and decomposes everything it touches, or which stands even in close proximity to it, as well as the way in which so many minorities and sub-groups within the American melting pot (not to mention standardized “indigenous peoples” of the Global South) have become, as Thomas Sowell has observed, the “mascots” of the political and cultural Left.

The first thing one will (or should)  notice about this article is that it is, in most ways, nothing more than a prose listing of formatted bromides, shibboleths, and stock cant cobbled from the intellectual tombs of progressive race ideology; a kind of intellectual and cultural graveyard of ideas, concepts, and ideologically-bathed (but rarely questioned critically) preconceptions about America, white Americans, blacks, and the nature of culture and of the human condition that bespeaks, in many ways, very much the zero-sum vision of the sociocultural world the same Left clings to in the realm of economics.

“Johnisha Demease-Williams,”  we are told, underwent a “culture shock when she arrived at Brigham Young University last fall.”  This culture shock, at the outset (and this is the point) might lead a reader to think that being black, or in some underlying, metaphysical sense, “blackness” as a genetic, biological, and ontological phenomena, is indelibly imprinted and associated with a certain kind of culture.  We all know this progressive drill.  Virtually all black Americans are assumed, unless otherwise specified (and marked) to come from the following social/cultural environment and manifest the following cultural attributes:

1.  Urban/inner city
2.  Working poor or underclass
3.  Speaks a distinct, urban English brogue with specific kinds of phraseology, terms, inflection, and slang.
4.  Listens to and appreciate specific genres of music, art, and cinema, most having strong connection to what is known as “hip-hop” culture, while disdaining and/or feeling alienated from other forms of art not considered “authentic.”
5.  Hold certain rigid, culturally prescribed political, social, and cultural views and perspectives.
6.  And, like the two cousins on the old Patty Duke show, laugh alike, walk alike, and talk alike.
7.  Even if middle or upper middle class, any given black American is expected to express his racial authenticity by manifesting at least some of these cultural stereotypes.

This is neither natural nor inevitable in an open, free, melting pot society like the United States, which is not, and can never be, while retaining its character as a free, open, rule of law-based society, a multicultural society, but which has flourished as a multiracial and multiethnic society of Americans sharing the same fundamental civic values, ideals, and sense of Americanness (not whiteness, blackness, Hispanicness etc.).

This state of affairs (the concept of blackness being the sine qua non of one’s core identity, as opposed to one’s individual humanness and Americanness) is what happens when race, as with other aspects of the human condition, become politicized and politics replaces culture – or, perhaps, becomes culture – and displaces the core institutions of civil society: the family, the home, the church, and the local community, as the central organizing principles of civic and individual life

“In her Texas home,” Stack writes, “many members were converts from other religious traditions whose backgrounds were understood and celebrated. They seemed more aware and accepting of cultural differences, she says. They knew about world and national events like the police killings of unarmed citizens. Whether or not they embraced Black Lives Matter, they understood what drove the movement.”

Now, while the term “culture” may surely be deployed to conceptualize the social environment from which Johnisha comes, the BLM and its wholly fictional narrative of a nation teeming with murderous police officers hunting innocent black men for no other reason than fiendish racial animosity, and a white society that looks on in disinterest if not support, is an ideology, an ideology with a cultural and intellectual pedigree and history that is known and can be well understood by anyone willing to do the homework.  Such ideas (as with others such as “the patriarchy” or “late stage capitalism” are independent of genetic endowments such as skin color, but political and cultural warfare (and the need to congeal individuals of like genetic endowment into lumpen masses) requires that certain ideas be associate with certain identity collectives.

This is, in other words, wholly about politics and political ideology, and a correct political ideology understood to be held – as a cultural requirement and assumption – by blacks qua blacks, with whites looking on in a mixture of slack-jawed ignorance and humble racial penance as young, college age blacks “educate” them on “what its like to be black in America” and on the BYU campus.

Given that some two thirds to three quarters of American blacks now live within the middle to upper middle class, not the urban inner city, and given the large number of black CEOs, entrepreneurs, and highly successful blacks in the entertainment, political, legal, and professional realm, and given what we know, empirically, about the economic and personal condition of blacks who follow the same principles of success and development as whites, Asians, Hispanics, or any other American group, being black in America has no bearing at all upon one’s life circumstances…unless.

Unless one allows oneself to come under the  influence of progressive doctrines of “structural inequality” and “institutional racism” and succumbs to the progressive ideology of permanent victimhood, racial paranoia and cynical suspicion that has driven a substantial subset of black America, in somewhat over forty years, into a cultural, moral, and civilizational iron cage from which it is not at all clear it can recover, and which recovery the Left and the vast poverty and race industry that thrives and gorges itself upon the very misery it has been so active in creating and sustaining, has no interest in promoting.

“By contrast, BYU’s 325 blacks account for fewer than 1 percent of the 33,000-strong student body, according to spokesman Todd Hollingshead.”

The inference here being…what?

“Because blacks make up such a tiny minority at BYU, Demease-Williams says that produces a kind of cultural indifference to their needs.”

What are the special “needs” of American blacks at BYU that are not required of other groups?  It appears there are “challenges” encountered at BYU not encountered by others.  What might these be?  Johnisha’s YouTube video, ““The Black Student Experience — BYU,” is apparently an attempt to answer that question.

“In the independently made video, Demease-Williams and a couple of other interviewers pose questions to white and black students about hurdles, perceptions, racism, white privilege and dating.”

One notes the standard begged questions, pre-assumptions, and unexamined axioms the film seeks not to analyze but only to expose.  Is there white racism at BYU, and even enclaves of white supremacy?  Of course.  Is there “white privilege,” a cultural Marxist theoretical construct that it would be interesting to study to see if it exists at all in some broad, overarching sense, but which this film takes as an assumed given?

“Most of the Anglo students interviewed deny that “white privilege” exists, but they do recognize that donning “blackface” is “not chill.””

Note two things here, (1) the white students probably deny “white privilege” because they’ve never experienced any such thing (perhaps they actually had to get good grades to get into BYU?) and because they have never taken a course in black studies, multicultural studies, post-colonial studies, or Hip-Hop pedagogy, and (2) the inner city underclass slang, which, on the Left, functions vary much on the Left as white racial stereotypes in a long vanished era once functioned (such as that blacks have rhythm), as a way to collectivize an entire group of  human beings and erase their unique individuality – the essence of both bigotry and socialism, a concept which extends far beyond mere economics.

“Coming from more diverse places and Mormon congregations, BYU blacks feel “disconnected from their community,” says Smith, co-author of “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons,””

Again, here is what forty years of relentless indoctrination in K-12 schooling, college, the mainstream news media, and countless hours of the consumption of Hollywood product has generated: American blacks have a “community” separate and tribally insulated from the “white” community and from the core, main currents of American life.  All blacks, virtually by definition and by ideological requirement, come from or are at least in some sense umbilically connected to this “community” by the very reality of their skin color.  No individual uniqueness or individual, personal, self-determined, let us say it, diversity of culture, belief, values, speech, mannerisms, tastes, predilections, or self-concept – as with all collective conceptions of the human subject – can be allowed even the slightest manifestation against “the community” and its sociopolitical structures, totems and taboos.  The individual, within progressive ideology, is not an individual at all, but only black, or white, or Hispanic, or a “person of color,” or gay, or “working class” etc.

As in medieval times, when a person’s trade or craft were their  identity (baker, cooper, smith etc.) so now, in the modern progressive city of politically correct man, one’s individuality is swallowed in one’s identity in racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and,s still lingering, class lumpen masses from which exit can be difficult and even wrenching.

The progressive scythe swings wide.  Indeed, Stack has used this particular story to highlight some of the other pet preoccupations of the NOM counterculture within the church, including the church’s essay on the priesthood ban, which she says that the film “doesn’t probe” and which, according to the article, “explained that the priesthood-temple ban was formalized during the presidency of Brigham Young and influenced by society’s racism at the time.”

No, actually, the essay says no such thing.  What was influenced by the racism of the time were the opinions and explanations promoted to explain it, not the ban itself, which still stands as a divinely instituted policy, albeit still a poorly understood one.

And of the rest?  The standard calls for “education,” more talk, discussions, dialogue and focus (i.e., endless sessions, seminars, teach-ins, conferences, and an entire department dedicated to leftist indoctrination and public Caucasian self-criticism and self-flagellation on maters of white privilege and structural racism) on race and the horrors black students “endure” at the BYU campus, and open cheer leading for the viscerally racist, anti-American, neo-Marxist BLM.

Perhaps what we really need to discuss is not what it means to be black or white, but what it means to be human, what it means to be a part of the American experiment and idea, unique in all of human history, what it means to be educated (let alone intelligent), and what the meaning and purpose of a university.

But alas, in my colorblindness, I am a racist, and in my plea for common Americanness and content of character, not color of skin, being the defining characteristic of our post-Adamic sojourn on earth, I wallow in white privilege.

Let there be no more human sacrifices to the idols of ideology.

Posted by: Loran Blood | November 3, 2016

  • A few things we learn from the psychology literature:
  • How the 2015 LDS LGBT policy changes impact these factors:
    • Declaring same-sex marriage an act of apostasy (on par with murder, incest, adultery) and rejecting children of SSM’d Mormons seems to:
      • ….lead to: 1) increased family pressure and sometimes increased family rejection by many believing loved ones, and 2) more LDS LGBT youth self-rejection/self-shame – with the added pressure of feeling like God (through his prophets) is rejecting not only who they are, but who they hope to become (happily married Mormon gay men/lesbian women with a family).  The combination of these two factors could contribute to the spike in LGBT Mormon suicides (dozens).
      • …shut down the healthiest relationship pathway for LGBT Mormons (same-sex marriage) and instead continues to elevate the least healthy pathways (celibacy and same-sex marriage).
      • …lead many LGBT Mormons and allies to leave the church, depriving them of an otherwise positive association (e.g., loss of community, spirituality), but has a silver lining in that it is also removing them from a non-affirming, sometimes toxic religious and social environment.
Posted by: Loran Blood | September 13, 2016

The NOM Phenomenon and The Cult of Transcendent Modernity

 

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