The real test of our times
The world seems more politically divided than any time I can remember
Loud voices across the board spend a lot of time and money painting a black and white picture. They reinforce an us-vs-them good-vs-evil mentality.
It’s spreading to more and more people on more and more topics. Some things never considered “political” in the past now can’t be seen in any other way.
And we’re regularly tested to see if we’re on the “right side”.
So which side is right? How do we make the right choice?
225 years ago, George Washington warned about polorizating parties and opinions in his farewell address. He pointed out how it ultimately leads to the “ruins of Public Liberty” and allows individuals to use the polarity to elevate themselves rather than the country.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension… is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.Washington’s Farewell Address
I’ve heard both our current and previous presidents, who happen to be in different political parties, described as “evil” and “destroying our country”.
If we worry that our (current or former) president is too extreme in one way or another, maybe we need to take a look at the polarity in our political climate which, as George Washington warned, favors extremism and extreme leaders.
I wonder if…
We make the right choice by recognizing that the choice isn’t always black and white
As long as we’re living in right-or-wrong polarity, then half of the country is inevitably always wrong. And if they’re always wrong, they must be either incompetent, deluded, or evil.
Such negative perspectives of the “others” is a sad and dangerous place to be. It thwarts compromise and progress, robs us of meaningful relationships, and tends to keep us living in bitterness and fear.
What’s the real test of our times then?
The real political test isn’t whether we vote republican or democrat, it isn’t whether or not we get vaccinated, and I believe it actually has nothing to do with whether or not we are “right” on political or politicized matters.
Let’s focus on what Christ actually taught
I don’t know how Christ feels about so many of today’s political specifics, because he never spoke about them in specifics.
However, he did counsel very specifically on other things, such as:
- “…be reconciled with thy brother” and “agree with thine adversary quickly” (Matthew 5:24-25)
- “…love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39)
- “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
- “…all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12)
We don’t have to have the same opinions as others, but Christ has invited (and commanded) us to interact with others in love. We need to afford them the same respect in their opinions that we hope to have in ours.
This counsel continues today
Likewise today, the prophet and other leaders of the church, rarely council on specifics with regards to politics. In fact, official church policy includes that the church does not…
“Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.”
…and that it does…
“Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.”
President Oaks has gone even further to say just last year:
“In a democratic government we will always have differences over proposed candidates and policies. However, as followers of Christ we must forgo the anger and hatred with which political choices are debated or denounced in many settings…
“We move toward loving our adversaries when we avoid anger and hostility toward those with whom we disagree. It also helps if we are even willing to learn from them.”
But we’re in “the last days” and need to be extra careful right?
That’s true! Interestingly, the first thing that Paul warned Timothy about the “last days” wasn’t being on the wrong side of political polarity, rather it was that people would be too self-centered:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…”
Loving only ourselves and those like us is the exact opposite of what Christ taught and what Paul warned against.
Along these lines, the United States as a nation can look at and learn from the selfishness and polarity of the previous two nations that resided in this land. These two nations did not survive and thrive mainly because of political polarity.
The Jaredites ultimately…
“…began to flock together in armies, throughout all the face of the land. And they were divided; and a part of them fled to the army of Shiz, and a part of them fled to the army of Coriantumr.” (Ether 14:19-20. In the end there was only one survivor from the whole nation.)
Likewise, the descendents of Lehi progressed to a point where…
“…there began to be a war… and the two parties were Nephites and Lamanites” (Mormon 1:8-9). Hundreds of thousands died between both sides, until there were “none save it be the Lamanites and robbers that do exist upon the face of the land. And there are none that do know the true God…” (Mormon 8:9-10).
In both of these cases, there wasn’t a good-vs-evil battle going on. There were two sides so far from loving and learning from the “others” that they’d rather fight to the death.
Where are we now?
I don’t think we are as far off course as the Jaredites or as the Nephites and Lamanites, but if we don’t consciously make choices in the right direction that may be where we’re headed.
So, as in the parable of the body of Christ, let’s not be the eye that thinks it doesn’t need the hand or feet, or the ear that thinks it’s not part of the body because it isn’t the eye. Rather, let’s remember that we need and can learn from each other…
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”
Perhaps then we can be more like the people who were called “Zion” by the Lord because…
“…they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)
p.s. Since my last post, I got a job in and moved to Arlington, VA! I’m so grateful for my dad driving 33 hours with me in 4 days and my mom flying two checked bags across the country! And I’m excited to be close to Danny and Sarah, my brother and sister in law!
It’s a big move after 12 years and so many memories in Utah! I miss a lot of friends and family there. Please come and visit!