Posted by: Loran Blood | August 8, 2013

Gospel Crossroads: The Basis

When we ask ourselves where the restored gospel and politics intersect and where the forks in the road diverge in our own lives and in the history of human civilization, the tendency is to concentrate on larger first principles questions and overarching philosophical systems, not only because this is interesting, but because its far easier not to be “divisive” by not focusing upon the “nuts and bolts” of gospel living in actual application in the political realm.  Any focus on actual political issues and policies at a finer level or resolution may bring howls of anguish from certain quarters, as it must and as the scriptures assert that it (and most other gospel principles) will.

Whether we speak of cultural and social issues, economic ideas and policies, the meaning and purpose of national defense, or the proper role and scope of the state (or the proper structure or design of legitimate government), the application of gospel principles to those questions brings with it, inherently, a “choose you this day” dynamic that can neither be avoided or abrogated.

As with the personal decisions we make, as Neal A. Maxwell once said, “in the dark,” our political decisions, including our voting behavior, falls under gospel critique and must ultimately be understood and framed within that context.  That which we support, defend, and are willing to impose on others through the ballot box, the initiative, or the referendum (or judicial fiat) implies consequences that far outreach most of what might be the effects of our own behavior on a much smaller circle of others, as important as those might be.

The practice, for example, long popular with the United States government (and most other Western governments, but also some others (Japan etc.)) of funding the vast expansion of the regulatory/welfare state far beyond the limits and constraints of the constitution by borrowing from the taxes and future earnings of generations yet unborn through creating money (through inflation, in other words) that does not exist and does not represent the actual new creation and accumulating of goods and commodities, and especially to an extent, which we have now reached, such that repayment of such debt becomes a practical impossibility for any foreseeable future, even many generations from the present time, must fall under gospel critique.  We must, as Latter-day Saints, ask ourselves whether something like Keynesian manipulation of money and credit, as well as its underlying assumptions about the primacy of the state in regulating human economic affairs, is “intelligent,” in a gospel sense – is it a representation of light and truth, or simply, is it true, and is it right?

Part of this is, yes, applying philosophical rigor to the economic and logical elements of the arguments put forward in support of such policies, and scrutinizing such arguments for their evidential strength or weakness.  Another part, however, is applying (likening) the gospel to the actual conditions and circumstances of our own age, and not placing gospel/scriptural principles in an ancient setting and leaving them there as spiritual museum pieces.

This may be threatening, indeed, to some who have absorbed ideas and values from the surrounding secular culture to the point that feelings of resistance or personal affront are generated by the application of gospel principles to specific and discreet political problems, questions, and policies.  Better, it is thought, to keep politics (how we should live together) and the gospel (how we should live) apart, lest there be “divisiveness” among us.

We are to be “one,” yes, but who?  The Saints are to be one, but only upon the basis of unity of individuals through unity of doctrine and understanding.  Once our understanding of the truths of politics, those truths governing the proper nature and scope of government, the economics and moral structure of taxation; the role of property and money; the moral boundaries between human being and human being and human being and the state; the moral structure of freedom, its limits and conditions (and specific instances of each of these, such as unrestricted abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, progressive taxation vs. a flat tax; public sector unionism, restrictions (or lack thereof) on pornography, nationalization of major industries or sectors of the economy; the welfare state, nationalized health care etc.),  become subject to gospel critique, and are found ether acceptable or wanting upon those criteria, one can never look at them in the same way again, nor just accept or reject a concept or policy because it is “pleasing to the carnal mind” or brings the “gain and glory of the world.”

Or, we must say, because it sounds good to us, or, alternatively, provokes some negative psychological or emotional response (the basis of most political decision-making, unfortunately).  What is true for our own lives and use of agency within that realm must also be true for our lives as Saints within the public square.  The principles are the same but the application not just personal, but extended to those, including future generations, our political decisions and use of agency now will impact, for good or ill, in the present and the future.  These are they over whom we bear responsibility as free citizens in a politically open representative democracy, for the choices we make and the sociocultural environment we will have our own part in creating, for good or ill, and perhaps, if we are not very thoughtful and equally careful, for great ill.

As I’ve said before, the intersection of the gospel and politics is not everywhere; it is not in each and every political dispute and most certainly not in party loyalties.  It occurs primarily in those places the state has progressively colonized and politicized (much of human life, at this point) and which represent core focal points impacting the social, cultural, moral, and economic (and hence, social, cultural, and moral) temper of a people and the nature of their relations with each other.

Next, on to some specifics.

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