Religious Nutjobs

It’s increasingly difficult to vote for those with conservative values when there are very few people who represent them well. I read a NY Post article, Why Our Elites Fear Faith, about Washington’s problem with Sarah Palin’s faith:

Such a woman wouldn’t fit in Washington (nor would a man of equal faith). In the DC area (where I live), plenty of government-affiliated men and women regularly attend a church or synagogue. But their appearances are perfunctory and well-mannered. Passionate faith is regarded as an embarrassment.

So, even though Sarah Palin isn’t someone I would choose to vote for (it always seems to be the lesser of the evils), I find myself increasingly astonished at how out of touch America is with those of us who are still religious. An example of that is found in this article by Matt Taibbi in the Rolling Stone where he talks about how Huckabee is a cool guy, but still a “nutjob”: “The troubling thing about Huckabee’s God rhetoric is that a man who is glad that Christians will “win” at Armageddon must be happy about the rest of us losing.”

Speaking from the perspective of a Christian who still believes in Armageddon, I don’t think anyone will be happy when others lose. A true Christian wants everyone to be happy, but knows that happiness only comes through righteous living. We urge others to choose good over evil but we don’t force anyone. And, despite what other people might say, we don’t even force our opinion on people. If you don’t want to read what I write, click away. If I’m saying something you’re not interested in, change the subject. Mormons may be guilty of a lot of things, but you’ll never find a time in our history when we’ve attempted to force our faith on others. Elder Maxwell explains that well in his talk on Patience.

My brothers and sisters, the longer I examine the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I understand that the Lord’s commitment to free agency is very deep—indeed, much deeper than is our own. The more I live, the more I also sense how exquisite is His perfect love of us. It is, in fact, the very interplay of God’s everlasting commitment to free agency and His everlasting and perfect love for us which inevitably places a high premium upon the virtue of patience. There is simply no other way for true growth to occur.

So while I may want to force others to see my perspective, to feel what I feel, or to hope the same future I hope for, that would be exactly contrary to what I believe God’s plan is all about. My salvation will be worked out through obedience and faith in Jesus Christ despite what others choose, what others say about me, and what direction the world is headed. I know in the end God will win and greed, violence, hatred, terror, selfishness, and all other evils will lose. Since the world embodies these traits, James tells us, “know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

According to my view of religion, I am commanded to love my neighbor. I don’t choose who to love, either, because Christ tells us, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40). The difference between the fanatics who are blowing up buildings and the passionate faithful who are choosing to follow the teachings of Christ is whether they think they can decide who should be loved and who should be killed. That’s the very reason why the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were so un-Christian.

So, call me a nutjob but don’t confuse with me the nutjobs who will kill people. As I said in a forum on wired.com:

And thus the faith (irrationality) vs. science (rationality) argument lives on.

You go on calling me irrational until one day, you become the extremist who wants to rid the world of all those who might possibly become an extremist by believing in something beyond what can be proven. By wanting to remove the threat, you become the threat.

The only Christian who becomes an extremist is one who, as George Sanayana put it (paraphrased), redoubles their effort when they forget their aim.

The aim of any Christian is to love God and their neighbor. I may not agree with you, but I don’t hate you. I also won’t accuse you of not using your brain. I appreciate the challenge to have faith in something beyond.

So, if Washington doesn’t appreciate the passionately faithful, they must think of religion more as a philosophy. And, if it’s a philosophy, then the government is accountable for carrying out good. Government can replace religion. Indeed, in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Gustav, Obama said:

All across America there are quiet storms taking place. There are lives of quiet desperation. People who need just a little bit of help. Now, Americans are a self-reliant people, we’re an independent people. We don’t like asking somebody else to do what we can do ourselves but you know what we understand is that every once in a while somebody’s going to get knocked down. Every once in a while somebody’s going to go through some hard times. When we least expect it tragedy may strike. And what has always made this country great is the understanding that we rise and fall as one nation, that values and family, community and neighborhood, they have to express themselves in our government. Those are national values. Those are values that we all subscribe to. And so that the spirit that we extend today and in the days to come as we monitor what happens on the Gulf that’s the spirit that we’ve got to carry with us each and every day. That’s the spirit that we need in our own homes and it’s the spirit that we need in the White House. And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States of America.

Because if there’s a poor child out there, that’s my child. If there’s a senior that’s having trouble, that’s my grandparent. If there’s a guy who’s lost his job, that’s my brother. If there’s a woman out there without healthcare, that’s my sister. Those are the values that built this country. Those are the values we are fighting for.

Obama’s comments are very appealing. It’s almost Christ-like. I want a president who views the American people as brothers and sisters and cares for us. However, with socialism as with communism, government is the new God. That’s why I am turned off by Obama. The more candidates push government to replace God, the more wary I become. In fact, if government declares that a woman without healthcare is my sister and forces me to support her through (coercive) redistribution of wealth, then government is taking away freedom of choice. I believe in the words of the prophet Nephi, that men are free to choose liberty (helping others) or death (selfishness). Please don’t take away my liberty to serve and support others. I have no desire to take away people’s liberty to call me a nutjob.

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11 thoughts on “Religious Nutjobs

  1. Hi Ryan!!

    I am glad I have found your blog!. I really like the interesting topics that you have here, and you write very well.

    Here in Spain, we dont have very much opportunities to know about your candidates there, but I am trying to follow everything about it, cause you know I like your country :-).

    In Spain, politians dont care or talk very much about religion either, probably even less than in USA, cause I think that for them is like an “old fasion” topic; usually, the only moments when they talk about it, its when they are talking about topics such as abortion, or teaching religion in schools, and things like that, but then, they dont have good reasons in favor or against religion, they just critize the other position, and I think thats sad, cause politicians are there to make their countries better, to serve their citizens, and no to say bad things about others.

    So I am really sad to see that in Spain (and I guess maybe in USA too) there is not a really good party that I can trust enough, but that makes me see, once again, how important is what we do everyday in our “little word” at home, at work, with our friends, etc: unfortunally,we dont have the power to change big things, but we do have the chance to make our surrondings better, and someday we will see a perfect world, ruled by Someone honest, merciful, just, and caring.

    I hope you are your family are doing good.

    Un abrazo muy fuerte desde Espana, ah!, and sorry for my mistakes writing english!!.

  2. Thanks, Belen. I agree with your comments. It’s really hard for me to vote this time around because neither party has good solutions. Like you said, the best we can do is make our surroundings better. In the Lord’s prayer we say, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”. Let it be soon.

  3. In fact, if government declares that a woman without healthcare is my sister and forces me to support her through (coercive) redistribution of wealth, then government is taking away freedom of choice.

    And your problem with this is…?

    Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 39-42:

    39. “But, I am telling you, Do not rise up against evil,
    Except whoever strikes you on the right side,
    turn to him the other.
    40. “And whoever wishes to put you on trial,
    and take your shirt from you, Leave him your cape too.
    41. “Whoever forces you to go a mile, go with him two.
    42. “Whoever asks you [for something,] give it to him;
    And whoever wishes to benefit from you, do not stop him.

  4. Read the article. I don’t think it’s the state’s role. I agree that I should and if it becomes a law, I certainly will pay my taxes. How do you know I don’t already pay for someone else’s heathcare? This is a discussion about the role of the government, not what Christ asks me to do individually.

  5. This is a discussion about the role of the government, not what Christ asks me to do individually.

    If the government makes it easy and effective for you to do what Christ asks you to do as an individual, why not be grateful to the government?

  6. It is only in the choosing to do good that we are blessed since we’re judged on what’s in our hearts. The government making it easy would be having a checkbox on my tax form to donate to the poor. Nationalized health care (through redistribution of wealth) is not ‘making it easy’. It’s making it a requirement. It’s ‘donate to the poor or we’ll put you in jail’. However, I do see the need to take care of the poor and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of it. I’d like to see some other solutions presented other than leaving it entirely up to the state. I served a mission in Spain where I had two experiences with nationalized health care. One, a guy had an abscessed tooth and had to wait nine months to see a doctor. He was in constant, excruciating pain. The other, a woman, had tumors in her brain. Surgery was not provided by the state and would cost $100k+ out of pocket. The state told her she would die because it wasn’t a case they would cover. Now, I’m not saying the current system in the US would have helped either of these situations, but I also know that nationalizing health care isn’t the silver bullet a lot of people say it is. If you want inefficiency, turn something over to the government.

  7. It is only in the choosing to do good that we are blessed since we’re judged on what’s in our hearts.

    So it’s your free choice to decide whether to be blessed for voting for a government you know will tax you more (lucky you, being one of those with an income greater than $250K a year!) but which aims to provide health care for everyone – and to pay up your extra tax in a cheerfuly spirit without complaining or selfishly repining or trying to dodge what owe your fellow citizens – or to be, er, not blessed by selfishly voting for a lower tax rate for yourself and a higher death rate for the very poorest.

    . I served a mission in Spain where I had two experiences with nationalized health care. One, a guy had an abscessed tooth and had to wait nine months to see a doctor. He was in constant, excruciating pain. The other, a woman, had tumors in her brain. Surgery was not provided by the state and would cost $100k+ out of pocket. The state told her she would die because it wasn’t a case they would cover.

    No system of health care is perfect. Any system will throw up awful stories. I bet in the US, you simply don’t ever associate, even at a distance, with the 40% of Americans who don’t have health insurance and have worse stories than that to tell.

  8. @jesurgislac
    If you’d read the Jain Galt article that you said was a ‘load of unthinking rubbish’ you’d see that it’s not the initial taxation that libertarians and some of the fiscally conservative care about. Right now Obama may only be planning on taxing those who make $250k or more. Later it will be everyone because a nationalized health care system is incredibly costly. Heaven knows the last thing the U.S. needs right now is to take on more fiscal obligation. We aren’t even paying for existing programs properly.

  9. Later it will be everyone because a nationalized health care system is incredibly costly.

    Yes, well, it’s claims like that which lead me to dismiss an article as “a load of unthinking rubbish”.

    The US spends more on “healthcare” than any other country – by a long, long way. The burden of payment for healthcare is massively unevenly distributed. And the US gets so little for what it spends.

    There are huge administration costs, huge wastages involved. Medicare and VA are the two most effective and efficient health care programs the US has – and with a national health care service providing care efficiently and effectively or even with a single-payer guaranteed health insurance scheme, the US could spend less and get far more. Galt would know this if she’d ever troubled herself to research how healthcare systems in other countries work and how much they cost.

    (“Burden of payment” is not a measure of how much in straight dollar terms a household pays for healthcare, but how difficult a household finds it to pay what they do pay for healthcare. A person with an income of $320 a week who had to pay $80 a week to get healthcare, has a higher burder of payment than a person with an income of $3200 a week who has to pay $500 a week to get healthcare.)

    But even if your claims were true: in essence, are you a Christian or a conservative? If you believe that voting for universal health care is going to cost you a lot of money, but you do it anyway, doesn’t that make you more blessed than voting against it for the same reason?

  10. @jesurgislac
    That information is helpful. I really like your burden of payment information. Where can I find that? I do feel a bit ‘trolled’ by comments like, “are you a Christian or a conservative”. The LDS faith is very strong on individual choice and accountability. I know it seems paradoxical for us to ‘meddle in’ (vote for) Proposition 8 but, at least for me, these are both cases where rights or privileges are taken away (my right to think that homosexuality is something that can be controlled—I know, very Puritanical and not contemporary but I choose to follow a prophet rather than what the world tells me). Voting is one way of voicing an opinion. I believe a highly sexualized society is contributing to moral decline.

    You’d like me to keep my beliefs to myself. Eventually, that could be the law based on initial anti-hate speech laws (which is good in theory but could end up infringing on freedom of speech and freedom of religion). My ancestors didn’t come to America to escape religion, they came here to practice theirs freely. Would I rather give a homosexual the right to adopt a child or my church that I believe is inspired by God to continue to manage adoptions for people who want to use that private practice? Hmm, I think I’ll go with the Kingdom of God on that one. You can say therein lies my hubris, that I think I can know God’s will. The key to that is James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him”. I’ve spent many hours over many years fasting and praying and have had profound experiences that have given me the confidence that God speaks to a prophet in the last days. I will follow my prophet. That makes me a nutjob according to secularism and I’m ok with that.

    Many LDS members are Democrats (pro-big government) and they probably justify their political views the same way you do. I completely understand your point of view and I don’t think you’re any less of a person for applying your beliefs the way you do. In fact, I’m pretty amazed at how well thought out and genuine your comments are. I hope your quoting of the Bible is not simply to apply judgment to other people but a genuine belief that Christ set the perfect example. If so, we have the same goals: take care of the poor, love the sinners (certainly I’m deserving of a stoning were it not for the grace of God), and live in a more righteous and peaceful world.

    In my church around the world members are assigned families to visit at least once a month in what’s called ‘home teaching’. It’s a program based on James’ description of ‘pure religion’: “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). Some of the families I’m assigned are affluent and I urge them to be meek and remember the poor. Others are not affluent and I love to spend time with them as well. One single mother has two great kids who I love almost as my own. There have been times when families I home teach need money. In those cases I go to the bishop and let him know they’re struggling. A leader from the church meets with them privately and assesses their needs and helps where they fall short. This assistance is usually temporary while they get education, find better jobs, and/or work in a church facility like a cannery where they can earn their assistance.

    The feedback from members of the church who get this kind of assistance is great. They like to work for what they get and when they’re back on their feet and able to give back, they donate back to the same fund that helped them get through hard times. In fact, the way the fund grows is by fasting for 24 hours once a month and giving what would have been spent on those meals to the poor. Not only is the money used for local church members but humanitarian aid has been donated around the world to anyone in need, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. A good summary is here. Fasting then accomplishes two purposes: a sacrifice for those in need and an opportunity to keep my appetites in check.

    It seems we’ll have to agree to disagree in how we get to our common goal of a better world. The two greatest commandments—to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And love thy neighbour as thyself”—are my compass. I may seem extreme (the world is black and white) but those two commandments require me to treat my neighbor as I would treat Christ.

    Anyway, thanks jesurgislac (and jon) for the insightful conversation, you are both genuine defenders of liberty, a trait which I’ll always respect.

  11. “Burden of payment” came from the WHO’s nation-by-nation healthcare check: I recalled it because I wrote a post back in October, which was primarily about McCain’s “healthcare plan”, but in which I cited comparison data from WHO to show that the US pays more, and more unevenly, while doing worse overall (WHO uses a measure called DALE, Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy) than two or three dozen other nations around the world.

    DALE is “the expected number of years to be lived in what might be termed the equivalent of ‘full health’.” “To calculate DALE, the years of ill-health are weighted according to severity and subtracted from the expected overall life expectancy to give the equivalent years of healthy life.” cite The US’s DALE rank is 24. The UK’s DALE rank is 14. (Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Finland, Greece, Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, also all do better than the US.)

    I know it seems paradoxical for us to ‘meddle in’ (vote for) Proposition 8 but, at least for me, these are both cases where rights or privileges are taken away (my right to think that homosexuality is something that can be controlled—I know, very Puritanical and not contemporary but I choose to follow a prophet rather than what the world tells me).

    It seems to me that if your faith that homosexuality is “something that can be controlled” is dependent on the government enforcing legislation that same-sex couples can’t get married, your faith is a fairly feeble thing. (Sorry if that comes out ruder than it sounded! It was meant to be funny – imagine a raised eyebrow.) I support the right of all religions to believe what they choose as a matter of faith – but no religion should have the right to enforce their faith on other people by law, as the LDS Church did with Proposition 8.

    Eventually, that could be the law based on initial anti-hate speech laws (which is good in theory but could end up infringing on freedom of speech and freedom of religion). My ancestors didn’t come to America to escape religion, they came here to practice theirs freely.

    Once you start down the slippery slope of arguing that it’s okay to force your religious beliefs on people who do not share them, sooner or later, a group will come to power with the ability to force their beliefs on you – and the checks that should have stopped them doing this will be gone.

    If the Californian courts let Proposition 8 stand, it will be established in law that a majority vote can remove the right to marry from a protected group – can remove, in principle, any civil right by majority vote. What if a group of anti-Mormons decide to write it into the Constitution of California that no marriage solemnized in a Mormon temple will be recognized as legally valid? If Proposition 8 stands, they can do that…

    Would I rather give a homosexual the right to adopt a child or my church that I believe is inspired by God to continue to manage adoptions for people who want to use that private practice? Hmm, I think I’ll go with the Kingdom of God on that one.

    *shrug* I had rather a trained, experienced agency worker assesses potential adoptive parents for children in need of homes than the “Kingdom of God”, sorry. The notion that because a person is religious they are by default much better able to assess a couple as suitable parents than an adoption agency worker, is one I just don’t hold with. Nor do I agree with leaving children in care because of a religious belief that gay people make bad parents – given that no practical experience suggests this is actually true. (Again: people have the right to believe what they like. But an adoption agency needs to do right by the children they serve, and certainly ought not to leave them in care when there are fit parents to give them homes.

    The feedback from members of the church who get this kind of assistance is great. They like to work for what they get and when they’re back on their feet and able to give back, they donate back to the same fund that helped them get through hard times.

    I have a friend who said once that if we had a perfect system of charities, we wouldn’t need a state: if we had a perfect state, we wouldn’t need charities. Which struck me then as now as a very fair way of pointing out a basic truth: nothing’s perfect, but people still have needs. The only effective provider for the basic needs of all in a country is that country’s government – private charity cannot hope to feed, house, provide healthcare for, educate, etc, everyone fairly. But because government tends to do things a bit inflexibly, we should have smaller-scale charities that can do things flexibly – and yes, allow people to give. I see absolutely no contradiction between charitable giving and paying your taxes with goodwill. But conservatives frequently seem to, hence my point: are you a Christian or a conservative?

    I hope your quoting of the Bible is not simply to apply judgment to other people but a genuine belief that Christ set the perfect example.

    I’m an atheist. I was brought up a Christian, but it didn’t take. I have read the Bible start to finish, and am, I say without false modesty, much better acquainted with what it says than many Christians I meet. 😉

    You might find this post of interest: What I like about Christianity and You cannot invite someone halfway in, both written in response to the Lambeth Conference earlier this year.

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