Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can you be a liberal Mormon?

Well, I don't know, but some people think so, but only with a mighty struggle.

The problem, here, can go both ways. You have mainstream, traditional Mormon's who have conflated Mormon theology with the conservative wing (is there any other wing these days?) of the Republican party. When conservative views get sprinkled into church talks over the pulpit or gets used in Sunday lessons, this can make those with different political views uncomfortable. Because Mormon's tend to be almost uniformly conservative, this kind of thing can happen with some regularity. But obviously, it can go the other way. I tend to live in a more liberal than average part of the US and sometimes we get someone saying something more squishibly liberal over the pulpit.

Much of this is unavoidable. We are all human beings and it's hard to draw a hard line between our religious, political and all of our other points of view. These thoughts will blend together and sometimes inappropriate things will be said. Part of being a member of the Mormon church is recognizing this. We have no professional clergy - we are the clergy, and we need to be hyper-willing to look past other people's mistakes and flaws.

But the church is not a political party and religious faith and political beliefs are not the same thing. They both are important. We are members of our community and duty bound to make a contribution, to be informed when we vote, and to help solve the problems we face. We are also spiritual beings who are striving to be guided through a very difficult and uncertain world in hope of a better one. In Ether 12:4 it says:

"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."

This is the purpose of faith and religion. Look at the words used: "believeth, hope, faith". These words, in part, point toward something more emotional then mental, a connection to something big, too big to express succinctly, we just don't have the vocabulary to describe our faith. The closest we can get is through abstractions using poetry or music to brush up at it.

But politics and science and economics are all different. We are put on this earth to develop ourselves and to grow. Part of our growing is to try to make sense of the world around us, to solve the problems we face, and to do the best to get a long with others. Engaging in our communities, working within our governmental institutions, voting are all essential parts of this. Of course, we don't develop our political views in a vacuum. Our religion and our politics intersect and contradict all of the time.

But I believe one essential part about being a human being is to be able to deal with these contradictions and ambiguities. One essential tool to do so is to realize how limited we as human beings are in both the physical and spiritual worlds. We know nothing which is why we live by faith. We are striving to know more which is why we have an intellect. Both our important and inform one another.

In The Social Animal David Brooks says:

"Wisdom doesn't consist of knowing specific facts or possessing knowledge of a field. It consists of knowing how to treat knowledge: being confident but not too confident; adventurous but grounded. It is a willingness to confront counterevidence and to have a feel for the vast spaces beyond what's known."

And the vast spaces beyond what's known is unbelievably vast. But to do anything in this world, we have to proceed with "confidence but not too much confidence". It's a balancing act every single day of our lives.

Listening to the poscasts on Mormon Stories or Mormon Matters, you get the point of view of liberals struggling being Mormon. I'm a Mormon. I'm a software developer. We home school. And of course, I love politics. I strive to remain a political independent, but I find I have most in common with those on the left side of the political spectrum, at least for now. On this blog you'll find mostly political posts, but a variety of other stuff as well. Thanks for coming.