Politics and “Moral Values”

The election is over, my man didn’t win. I liked John Kerry and I was ready to give him a shot for four years to see what he’d offer us. But, unlike some liberals, I’m not announcing my plans to move to Canada or predicting the end of the universe as we know it. George Bush strikes me as a likeable, nice fellow, even if I strenuously disagree with many of his policies.

But I am depressed after the election. It’s not over the leader we chose, but over why, apparently, he was chosen. In exit polls, more people said they were concerned about “moral values” than were concerned about the economy or terrorism. Lest anyone think I am opposed to moral values, let me reassure you. I like values just fine and I think they compose the backbone of a strong society.

What I despair over is conservative control over what is defined as values. One of the big surprises of the election was the Republican ability to match the Democrats in new registered voters. People were anxious to support George W. Bush for the first time. The question is, why? I’m sure there are a lot of reasons, but if the exit polls are right, moral values is a big one. I doubt people who voted for Bush were thinking, “I’m thrilled with how Iraq is going, or I love where unemployment is at.” They connected with him on the “value” issue.

So what does that mean? It means stem cell research, abortion, same sex marriage, and of course, religion. Perhaps this is why Utah Mormons overwhelmingly supported Bush again this year. What doesn’t it mean? Apparently morality has little to do with tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, 2,200 dead American soldiers, and tax cuts for the wealthy. (Within a few months, the number of dead soldiers will exceed the number of people killed on 9/11.) I’m not sure how or when it happened (and I don’t really care, frankly) but I’m utterly at a loss as to why conservatives get to decide what values are in America. Values don’t encompass helping the poor among conservatives, or fighting AIDS in Africa in a meaningful way. Yes, I know we gave some money, but to steal Bill Maher’s analogy, we’re like the millionaire who flips a quarter, or when we’re feeling really generous, a dollar, to the homeless guy and then thinks we made a real difference. We have the ability in this country to alleviate much of the suffering around the world, but we don’t. We’d rather drive tanks to work, shop with forklifts at Costco, watch TV on screens the size of movie theatres, and do whatever we want, whenever we want, the cost be damned. Apparently that’s what freedom means these days. We expletive and moan at paying $2 a gallon in gas to drive to the restaurant, but $5 for the valet is ok, and hey, who doesn’t pay $13 for a pear and gorgonzola salad?

What I’m suggesting is that our values are seriously screwed up in this country. Our outrage is reserved for Janet Jackson’s boob during the Super Bowl (where innocent children could’ve been watching!!!), for Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity, and for John Kerry’s “questionable” war record. We care about things that don’t matter and ignore the things that do. I hope we can stand up and let people know that we’re moral people, and that we stand for values, but that those values count. Sure, abortion’s an important moral issue, but if you’ve got such a myopic view that it’s what determines your vote, you’ve got no business calling yourself a person with values. What would Jesus do has to mean more than walking out of a movie where someone has the nerve to take their clothes off. We’ve got to stop letting conservatives control the discourse and tell us what counts and what doesn’t on the value-o-meter. Dying children in Africa matters. Genocide in Sudan matters. Iraqi civilians aren’t just collateral damage. What can we do to let our fellow Latter-day Saints know how we feel? What can we do to help combat this conservative control?

Comments

  1. “and tax cuts for the wealthy” — the problem being that most people just don’t believe that accusation.

    It is like saying that the left is responsible for every death from AIDS and accusing anyone who voted for Kerry of being complicit in those deaths.

    Don’t know anyone who voted for Kerry who would believe that to be true (and I use the example because the number of people on the right who believe it to be true is small, so that it makes an example that is useful rather than inflaming passions — such as a discussion of global cooling would do).

  2. “IÂ’m utterly at a loss as to why conservatives get to decide what values are in America”

    Apparently because there are more of them:)

    I heard Garrison Keilor (of Prarie Home Companion fame) give a private talk recently. He jokingly (and bitterly) suggested that since fundamentalist Christians have their citizenship in heaven, they reliniquish their right to vote in the US.

  3. john fowles says:

    Sorry, the last paragraph was cut off. Here is the whole paragraph.

    Instead, it seems that the two sides need to acknowledge what is important to the other side and seek understanding of that position. The X factor, which complicates this utopian goal, is that conservatives (1) genuinely fear God’s wrath for violation of his will, as expressed in mutually believed scripture (i.e. OT and NT), and (2) want to please God and prosper (in a hybrid Calvinistic/U.S. Evangelical sense: you prosper (C), and are righteous in terms of sexuality (U.S.E.), therefore you are chosen by God (C/U.S.E.), therefore, if you work hard (C) and are sexually “prude” (U.S.E.) and thus prosper (C/U.S.E.), you must be chosen by God. Of course, this is backwards from an LDS perspective.)

  4. “find . . . a more aggressively leftist news media . . .”.

    Priceless.

  5. Beau: Is it therefore immoral to try and better peoples’ lives by using the military as a tool for social change?

    If one buys Limbaugh’s definition that the purpose of the military is to kill people and break things, if I determine that my own local society could stand a little social change, would it be OK to advocate it by killing people and breaking things?

  6. In exit polls, more people said they were concerned about “moral values” than were concerned about the economy or terrorism.

    I think the poll (USA Today) is misleading. It listed Iraq and War on Terror as two different things. I think most voters see them as the same thing. Add them together and it comes to 34%. Values is 22%.

    Values donÂ’t encompass helping the poor among conservatives.

    I take exception to that statement. I know lots of conservative people who put me to shame when it comes to generosity and sacrifice on behalf of poor people. My HT partner and I visit a woman who is a single mom. Last month, her car broke down. My partner had been planning to trade his car in on a new one, but decided to just give the car to her instead. This man is a proud, loud dittohead. Please show him some respect.

    IÂ’m utterly at a loss as to why conservatives get to decide what values are in America.

    Do they? I’m pretty sure they don’t feel like they do. Red voters have spent the last four years hearing that they are stupid, racist, knuckledragging bigots who move their lips when they read. If you are a Bill Maher watcher, you know what I mean. And, by the way, I was outraged when he gave the English translation to the OBL videotape, saying “well, he has a point”, with the audience yucking it up. Those are the values that red voters object to.

  7. John F.: Maybe “liberals” could lead the way by self-taxing. That is, by voluntarily paying more taxes out of their own fortunes, rich liberals could show us that they really do care about the issues that John H. mentioned…

    If only the tax system were set up to allow us to designate where the funds would actually be used, this could stand at least a slim chance of working. As it is, however, I’m sure they’ll just gladly take more of my money and spend it on what they think is important.

  8. John: I just realized a big mistake in my post. There aren’t 2,200 dead soldiers – there’s 1,150.

    That’s OK, John. You’ll be right, eventually.

  9. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Can we call ourselves moral when we break the homes and then try to save the homeless afterward?

    What’s the point of enjoining love for those far away, when there are no expectations of loyalty among those who are closest, who are in a position to help each other more than anyone? He who says he loves his brother in Africa, and cheats on his wife, is a liar.

  10. Before the inevitable uproar begins we need to get something straight. Are you kidding apcc? Seriously…are you being straight or ironic?

  11. Tom Manney says:

    CB, I just don’t buy it. And I’m not attacking you. I hope you will respond to my post and help me understand better because I really don’t get it. The Republican party clearly supports an agenda of helping the rich first and shrinking social programs. That is a fact. I hear a lot of conservatives paying lip service to the notion that they are giving people and that they care about the poor, but then they rail against government taking their money to help people who don’t deserve it. Who haven’t earned it. To my liberal ears, that sounds like nothing but judgmentalness and greed. I’m not saying it is. But I am saying that I don’t understand the claim that conservatives care about the poor too. One anecdotal home teaching episode does not prove the point.

  12. CB, I’m working on it.

  13. Dave,

    I’m with you re: Lieberman. I’ll guess that about a third of the conservatives I know would have voted for him.

    When Democrats figure out why Lieberman was one of the first casualties in the primary and why Sharpton appeared with Kerry on the last day of the campaign, they will immediately become the majority party, in a big-time way.

  14. Tom Manney says:

    Dave, I utterly disagree. There is a very clear, very simple set of principles which should guide our thinking with respect to war, and they are found in the Book of Mormon, which was written for our war-ravaged times.

    It says that wars in defense of our homes and families are not only acceptable, they are imperative. But it makes it very clear that we are not to cause war nor to love it. This rule of thumb affords us a clear persective of every example you cite.

    Hitler invading Poland: an offenseive war and therefore an immoral war
    U.S. response to Pearl Harbor: a defense war and therefore a moral war despite any “collateral damage”–which there was a lot of, although if Captain Moroni had been running World War II, I think he could have won it with a whole lot less “collateral damage,” but that beside the point
    Iraq War II: an offensive war justified as being a defensive war, when it clearly was not and therefore an immoral war

  15. Dave, you’re right on two fronts: morality in politics is largely used in speeches, and moral reasoning in daily living is of a different sort. But I don’t think we can entirely exclude morality from public policy, including international relations. (BTW, I think Hitler invaded Poland for ‘moral’ reasons — the preservation and livelihood of his twisted empire.)

    We might be talking around each other I think, because we’d both agree that everyday moral reasoning does not figure into nation vs. nation relations. But I’d argue that there is a different set of values and issues that do come into play in the international context. Sadly, one of the most important of these is respect for sovereignty — one of the reasons why I view GWB as immoral.

  16. Don’t feed the troll.

    About politics and values–sorry, John H, “moral values” just don’t map onto foreign policy issues very well. A “WWJD” model of foreign policy is like asking what corporate bond would Jesus invest in or what make and model of car would he drive.

  17. a random John says:

    Ethesis,

    Sam’s bad, Costco good, got it?

  18. Tom Manney says:

    Greg,

    That is a mind-blowing, great piece of reading. Thanks for recommending it. Sadly, it essentially admits defeat, recognizing that the country has moved to the right and that the Democratic party must stake out new territory somewhere to the east of where it currently stands.

    But do we have to admit defeat and utterly reinvent the opposition party? Isn’t it true that we actually won the popular vote in 2000 and lost it by a fairly narrow margin in 2004? Another option would be not to admit defeat, but merely to try harder: to find better leaders, snappier sound bites, and a more aggressively leftist news media. Or something like that.

    Frankly, I think we have been beaten soundly, and do indeed need to repackage our liberal values and forge new coalitions — the “two roads” in the essay are great examples of how this would be done.

    But I’m also willing to entertain proposals other than the “two roads.” I wish I know my American political history better. I would like to study what happened to other parties at their low points. My vague knowledge of such times is that they usually just drifted for years on end. The Democrats after the Civil War. The Republicans after 1932. When you don’t have the White House, your party doesn’t have a single leader and you’re left a bit rudderless.

    That isn’t to say that nothing will happen. I firmly believe that earnest grass roots efforts could pull the party in new directions, and I find the prospect very exciting. But there are at least two ways to do it, and we need to pick one soon.

    I also recommend Russell Arben Fox’s essay which inspired much of the “two roads” piece:
    http://inmedias.blogspot.com/2004/11/some-long-thoughts-on-religion.html

  19. I agree with Steve that moral values must be applicable to foreign policy. If not, then what values should we use instead? Naked self interest?

    But I agree with Dave that it is really, really hard to figure out what is morally right in foreign policy. For example, John H. and Tom Manney seem to think that it is utterly obvious that the Iraq war is immoral. On the other hand, no less an authority than President Hinckley has given his opinion that it is a just war (and I think he’s familiar with the Book of Mormon). I expect all three are good and kind people in their personal lives.

    What would Jesus do? Who knows?

  20. I don’t want to derail what John H is talking about, but I am deeply concerned that this same political myopia is translating to similar forms of shortsightedness in the religious context.

    Think about what we talk about at Church and how we practice our religion — for some reason, we (or at least, I) seem much more concerned with drinking Coke, watching r-rated movies, and avoiding porn than I am with helping the poor, giving shelter to the homeless, and being concerned with major international catastrophes like the Sudan. Part of this may be a proximity question — I have much more control over these minor points — but at the same time I’m worried that somehow I’m losing touch with things that may be much more important.

    Does anybody else feel that way?

  21. I just realized a big mistake in my post. There aren’t 2,200 dead soldiers – there’s 1,150. I’m not sure what I was smoking when I wrote the other number – my apologies.

  22. I opposed Bush, mainly because I disagree with the way he got us into the Iraq war and the way he has conducted it.

    But it frustrates me to see references to the “immorality” of the deaths in Iraq, without the least acknowledgement that getting rid of Saddam may well save some lives and vastly improve others now and in the future. We can reasonably argue about whether the benefits have been worth the costs, but it’s not obvious that one side is more “moral” than the other.

    You say “We have the ability in this country to alleviate much of the suffering around the world,” but you ignore the possibility that the war in Iraq is a sincere (even if wrongheaded) attempt to do just that.

  23. I recognize that some here are just blowing off steam– but as a conservative I still bristle at the accusations made here.

    I think all of the issues raised are exceedingly complicated, not all problems can be tackled at once, and I’m cynical enough to doubt that either candidate or party can really solve such problems.

    I wish that we could “re-district” party lines, but I have to make a choice, and given where the lines are drawn now, I’m on the conservative side.

    We need better discussion between the two parties–with more good-faith and civility. I don’t believe Kerry would cede all defense decisions to the UN, nor do I believe Bush lied to get us into the war.

    By the way, lets not forget that it is someone’s job is to build that “tank”, drive that forklift, or park that car.

  24. I was rather terse just now and so a bit imprecise, but I think you get my drift.

  25. I wish I could claim apcc as my own pseudonym — unfortunately I can’t. Hoorah! That continual sense of vertigo must be me tumbling over the abyss…

  26. I’m curious how many of you have spent significant time doing volunteer work at homeless shelters or rape crisis centers or indigent children’s medical centers or similar endeavors?

    Taking your children to those to serve deepens them and gives them gratitude and grace. It does.

    But yes, it is easy for kids to be shallow, somewhat like the survey in the late 60s that put not drinking coke #1 and the law of chastity #14, back when attendence at Church in the LDS heartland was around 10% of the membership numbers.

    Things continue, though Costco and SAMS aren’t as evil as they look from this post.

    Obviously one ought to tip, that’s a moral duty, but $13 for a salad?

  27. I’m entirely willing to let the majority spend their money on whatever they want to spend it on; in exchange, is it asking too much that they don’t force me to spend my money on that which I feel is frivolous (at best) and immoral (at worst)?

  28. I’m right there with you John, but I do sympathize with CB’s point too. I’ve just known too many caring compassionate conservatives to say “they” do not care. On the other hand, I’ve heard the rehetoric of which Tom speaks too, and that disturbs me. A lot.

    I don’t know how to reconcile all that in my mind though.

  29. john fowles says:

    I’ve said all along that Lieberman should have been the dems choice.

  30. Tom Manney says:

    I’ve written this post so many times, then deleted it, because at this point all I have are questions and no answers. Liberals and Democrats were demolished yesterday. And yet, if our principles are correct, we can’t give up. I cannot abondon the liberal principles I hold dear: selflessness, love, tolerance, peace-making.

    We need to figure out what we’re doing wrong, though, and I have just one or two suggestions for right now.

    We need to be more reverent. I guess, in a way, I’m calling on my fellow Democrats to repent. No matter how much we may insist that we are in the right on important issues — and I believe we are — we have an appallingly unappealing personality. We come off as sneering, jeering, godless, anti-religious, arrogant libertines. Our blue state cities have all the spiritual ambience of Sodom and Babylon.

    Atheistic liberals (and there are a whole lot of them) need to get over their prejudice against religious faith because until they do they will always sound like hypocrites when they defend gay rights or racial equality on the basis of tolerance. It doesn’t seem like tolerance to the other side. Our claim of tolerance sounds disingenuous because it is, intentionally or not. We’re intolerant of intolerance (i.e. the religious right’s righteous indignation at everything) except for the things we’re intolerant of, such as religion (and when I say we I mean the whole party, not necessarily LDS Democrats).

    (I think a lot of you will take issue with my premise that the Democratic party is anti-religious. I’m not saying the party is. I’m not saying there aren’t religious, god-fearing people in it — we’re proof that there are. But the single biggest cultural disctinction between Democratic voters and Republican voters these days is church attendance. And many of the Democrats who don’t go to church do so because they think it’s bunk. And they think people of faith are as primitive and dumb as flat-earthers. And they may not be marching up and down streets saying that, because their attitude betrays it in almost everything they say and do. As Jon Stewart put it last night, this is the heartland’s revenge for all the garbage the Blue States put in magazines, on TV, and in movies. Many liberals are contemptuous toward sacred things, toward any sense of the need for morality in society, for example. I believe an immoral society is a concern of ours. I just don’t know how to balance it with the principle of tolerance which stands in opposition to the well-intentioned but deeply misguided social conservative agenda.)

    So we’re hypocrites and we’re irreverent. We need to work on that. We need to repent. Religious people on the left need to make it happen by organizing and speaking out to both the left and the right. They need to tell the Democratic party to respect them and listen to them, and they need to reach out to the American heartland and appeal to their faith-based principles in a way that is genuin

  31. In any event, apcc, it was brilliant — thanks.

    Dave, I’ve got to disagree with your rejection of applying moral values in a political context. I admit that there are some very strict limits to the WWJD way of thinking, but how does that prevent us from establishing guidelines and policies on the basis of some morality? I’ve got to think that the Bush Doctrine of interventionism is in many ways an offshoot of his morality and vision of America as global police, for example. Heaven knows it’s not based on principles of international relations and goodwill…

  32. Is the Iraq war just? I could have been. If the fighting really would have ended with “major combat operations”, I think it would have all been worth it. But this war was fought on the cheap and in a rush with domestic political ends in mind. Consequently, the manangement of the “peace” has been criminally negligent, resulting in, by far, most of the troop casualties and civilian deaths.

    Subordinating sound war planning to political expediencies is what I would call immoral.

  33. JF, we agree! Get your apocalypse survival kits in order!

    I think it’s important to obey all of God’s commandments. Yes, all of them.

    That being said, can’t we make subjective evaluations of which are more important, or which sins are more grievous? I don’t think, for example, that by helping the poor you avoid the consequences of porn-watching (proverbs 10:12 notwithstanding). But it’s clearly more important to help the poor, isn’t it? I mean, this is meaningless wondering, but Jesus talked more about helping the poor than anything else…

  34. John — Don’t apologize for your math. If you figure in just the number of Iraqi children who have died in this war, much less the innocent Iraqi adults, there can be little doubt that the number killed in this war far exceeds the deaths on 9/11. I’m not sure how relevant is to make that comparison, but I guess it irks me that when people talk about the number who have died in a war, they’re talking only about the ones on our side. We’re all God’s children, and the death of an Iraqi is as tragic as the death of an American.

  35. John H, to what extent to you agree with what’s said here:

    “…quality of life issues for the working class should be the heart of the platform and the substance of campaigns and campaign rhetoric. Wages, benefits, protection of right to organize, heath care, overtime protection, child care, etc.

    These are the issues. Social issues are important, but not as important. Civil rights are important, but not as important. Protecting the environment is important, but not as important (at least in near term). Choice is important, but not as important…”

  36. a random John says:

    John H.,
    You are waaaayyyyy out of line with that Costco comment. I am able to save lots of money by shopping there and the employees make a minimum of $16/hr. Should I throw my money away shopping at the ultra-expensive grocery stores in Boston? Then I would have less money to use for good causes.

    Now shopping at Walmart is another matter entirely…

  37. John, I think it’s too simple to say that conservatives are controlling the rhetoric around values. It is also the case that liberals/progressives haven’t figured out a way to express their arguments in moral terms that resonate; this is surely the fault of the progressives as much as of conservatives. Progressives are in a bind–on the one hand, they are still committed to a fairly radical social agenda left over from the 60s, an agenda that depends on the philosophy that government should interfere as little as possible with, for instance, sexual behavior. This “don’t tread on me” rhetoric is double-edged; once you abdicate the right to speak with moral force about sexual activity, it’s pretty hard to turn around and say that you want to make an argument about the *righteousness* of helping the poor.

    Russell has already said this much, much better at his place: inmedias.blogspot.com.

  38. John, if I’ve articulated anything, I think it’s a general concern about the tyranny of the majority.

    Is there a general principle we can cite or create that will serve to dissuade us from passing laws and requiring things of our fellow man which make us guilty of exercising unrighteous dominion over each other? At what point are we justified in dictating our neighbors’ actions, and at what point have we crossed a line into wickedness?

  39. John, we’ve discussed together how this is a problem within our own religion as well — in many ways, we’re clearly more obsessed with outward ordinances and keeping the carnal commandments than with loving each other and tending to the flock.

    My question is whether this is a new problem. Isn’t this what the whole OT is about? Perhaps our church deserves 40 years of wandering in the desert, to get our sense of priority back into shape.

  40. Just two quick points:

    On moral assistance (i.e. help to the poor, etc) the difference between conservatives and liberals isn’t that conservatives don’t give and liberals do, it’s that they have two different ideas of what is effective. Conservatives would use private groups and church organizations because we believe that they are more effective and that more of our money would make it to the poor. Liberals prefer to use the government because it almost mandates that people give to the poor, in the sense that everybody’s salaries are taxed for the assistance, and this makes up for the high overhead of moving the money through the government.

    On the Iraq war: it may have been sold as a defensive war, and it may have been an offensive war, but a good majority of conservatives, especially neo-conservatives, believe that it was a way to spread the fruits of democracy and a better life to an entire region of the globe that has been subject to despots for the better part of recorded history – if it’s done right. Is it therefore immoral to try and better peoples’ lives by using the military as a tool for social change?

  41. Wayne Wells says:

    Ken,
    A question for your bishop. If Bush was “pray”ed into office, why was Clinton ever elected?

    I have a friend who is tired of people saying that Bush is a modern Hitler. Hitler was a great public speaker and he gave Germany a strong economy. ;>)

  42. john fowles says:

    Mark wrote, if I’ve articulated anything, I think it’s a general concern about the tyranny of the majority

    Any chance that the minority has to learn to be tolerant too?

  43. john fowles says:

    Mark wrote, If only the tax system were set up to allow us to designate where the funds would actually be used, this could stand at least a slim chance of working. As it is, however, I’m sure they’ll just gladly take more of my money and spend it on what they think is important.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t you just articulated that conservative argument against taxes and government programs?

  44. john fowles says:

    Maybe “liberals” could lead the way by self-taxing. That is, by voluntarily paying more taxes out of their own fortunes, rich liberals could show us that they really do care about the issues that John H. mentioned rather than just about an agenda–which many “conservatives” view as a calculated and even sinister agenda to affirmatively oppose “family and reproduction” related moral values–that seems to lurk behind the “caring for the flock” type rhetoric. I have the impression through my many conversations with many conservatives that they view the left as fundamentally driven by hatred of or a fist-shaking opposition to such values. If conservatives had a sense that the left actually thinks abstinence and family are good, there might be less of a backleash, even despite the other half of that equation for liberals: that although these values might be good, everyone has to choose for themselves whether or not to give effect to them.

    Instead, I am afraid to report (and of course you all already know this), that many conservatives actually have the idea (is it really unjustified?) that the left doesn’t think there is anything wrong with abortion (it is, after all, mere reproductive matter, so how can anyone tell anyone else what to do with their bodily excretions?), that there is nothing abnormal biologically or socially about homosexuality (it is, after all, no different than being left-handed and is not a function of sexual choice at all), that there is nothing immoral about the widespread acceptance of pornography (after all, we have freedom of speech and one group can’t determine what is decent for the rest of society, unless of course, it is the left determining that there is nothing wrong with pornography).

    These perceptions, which focus on what Rosalynde called the “family and reproduction” related moral values that seem to be animating conservatives over considerations for the poor or the Iraqi casualties or African AIDS victims, which John H. laments, might indeed be misguided (or they might not be). But the fact that these are what is important to conservatives needs to be addressed by liberals. I don’t think that it is merely an issue of conservatives defining what is moral for the rest of the country. Based on that analysis, wouldn’t it be just as bad if liberals were defining moral values for the rest of the country? Or would that be just fine because then they would be moral values that you personally agree with, John H.?

    Instead, it seems that the two sides need to acknowledge what is important to the other side and seek understanding of that position. The X factor, which complicates this utopian goal, is that conservatives (1) genuinely fear God’s wrath for violation of his will, as expressed in mutually believed scripture (i.e. OT and NT), and (2) want to please God and prosper (in a hybrid Calvinistic/U.S. Evangelical sense: you prosper (C), and are righteous in terms of sexual

  45. Rosalynde Welch says:

    My personal feeling is that the “moral values” issue is being overplayed in the media right now, for loss of any other explanation. Exit polls were notoriously unreliable in predicting the outcome of the election, so it strikes me as odd that this “moral values” data from exit polls is being given so much credence. (It also might just be that I hate the phrase “moral values” so much–such a vague, meaningless, and self-referential term.)

    Still, though, John, can you and other liberals (of which I consider myself one, in some ways) really be at such a loss? Clearly, the issues for which “moral values” is coding center around family and reproduction, which have been the sites of the most culturally disruptive social trends during the past forty years; it should be no surprise that these are the issues at play in discussions of societal values. (Religion is a slightly different case, but fits in there because of its pronoucements on issues of family and reproduction.) (And don’t get me wrong: I’m not opposed to many of the changes we have witnessed, although I do think many have had unintended harmful consequences. )

  46. Greg Call says:

    On the issue of “values” and how Democrats can gain a majority again, I highly recommend this new essay by Tim Burke:

    http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/tburke1/Road%20to%20Victory.pdf

    He eulogizes the present Democratic coalition and lays out the two possible paths to electoral success: a Russell-Fox-like communalism; or a pre-New Deal soft-libertarianism.

  47. Someone should force APCC to watch every single Monty Python episode ever created … just so that person could develop a sense of the absurd.

    I also liked that line:

    Don’t feed the troll.

  48. john fowles says:

    Steve wrote, for some reason, we (or at least, I) seem much more concerned with drinking Coke, watching r-rated movies, and avoiding porn than I am with helping the poor, giving shelter to the homeless, and being concerned with major international catastrophes like the Sudan.

    I would hope that you can focus on both at the same time. The way you stated this implies that you should be less worried about e.g. avoiding porn than helping the poor, as if by helping the poor you will be able to avoid the eternal consequences of avoiding porn. Doubling your emphasis on helping the poor or stopping the Sudanese genocide shouldn’t require less attention to those other things.

  49. Steve,

    Yes.

    Last week in priesthood meeting a guy who works for CES says they wanted to survey the seminary students to see how the message was getting across. They asked them to list the 10 most important teachings and doctrines of the church and rank them.

    The results were discouraging – stuff like no dating before 16, no smoking, no two piece bathing suits, no R rated movies, and so on. My friend is a bishop in Utah – he told me about an interview he had with a 15 year old mia maid who is pregnant. She was offended by his question as to whether sex took place on a date. How dare he suggest that she break standards by dating before 16!?!? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    I’m willing to give 15 year olds the benefit of the doubt – I can remember what I was like at that age – but I think as adults we need to demand better of ourselves.

    This deserves it’s own thread, BTW.

  50. Steve, I was specifically objecting to using moral values to guide foreign policy. Foreign policy, by the nature of the beast, is not a moral problem. Did Hitler invade Poland because the Poles weren’t charitable enough in earlier years? Should our response to Pearl Harbor have been to turn the other cheek or to show forth an increase in love? Should the possibility (or the certainty) that innocent civilians will die as a result of military action prevent the use of force because of “thou shalt not kill”?

    Sure, politicians will use moral rhetoric in speeches to frame their decisions, as will citizens in agreeing or critiquing those decisions. But IMHO it’s not moral reasoning of the sort we are familiar with in daily living that drives or should drive the real decisions that govern self-defense and foreign policy.

  51. Steve, now that was funny. I think you ought to write under this pseudonym more often. What does “apcc” stand for anyway?

    Apostate punk chomps Cheerios?
    A pile of cheap crap?

    You’re too much!

  52. Thanks people!

    I was just kidding. I wanted to express the frustration I feel at people who voice exactly such sentiments, so I wrote it down so they could see how dumb it looks in print.

    But I was hoping that it would at least get some more heated reaction first… ;)

    Long live King George!!

  53. Tom Manney says:

    THE REST OF MY POST

    … genuine and persuasive. There may not be a lot of us right now, but I believe we could bring many into our “fold” if we get vocal.

    We will not pay shallow lip-service to God and religious values the way the right often does. We will not pander. We will respect others who do not share our views. We will be moral the liberal way. There is a tradition of such things. The abolitionist movement of the 19th Century was a religious left movement. It should be our model.

    I have one more criticism of our party. There seems to be a real crisis of leadership in the Democratic party. Far too many of them always sounds like liars. Clinton, Gore, Kerry — the all come off as liars, as men who will take whatever position is popular at the time. And if Democrats can’t start nominating people with a little more sincerity, then I may start voting for the Green party/Naderesque candidates even if I am throwing away my vote — so are the Democrats. If they nominate Hillary in ’08, I really might move to Canada.

    We need reverent, sincere, real leaders who will defend a principle with tenacity. Why are there so few courageous, outspoken leaders among us. Are we too cool to have conviction? Can anyone name some Democratic leaders that actually inspire them?

  54. This is my first visit to this “blog”. In my opinion, almost all of you are on the brink of apostasy, and most of the rest of you have already plunged over the abyss. If you have not yet actually physically left the church, I sense you will do so soon. It is evident you have lost the Spirit. (and when that is gone, then cometh speedy destruction). And the Spirit of the Lord in you has been replaced with the spirit of apostasy.

    If you had the Spirit, you would not try to “combat” the “conservative control” but would sustain your church leaders in their agendas.

    If you had the Spirit, then you would not condemn our inspired leaders in the church.

    If you had the Spirit, you would not practice priestcraft and try to gain your own sort of disciples through these “blogs”.

    If you had the Spirit, you would not vote for things to which God is opposed, like gay marriage, abortion etc. You would follow the counsel of the Brethren in these things, and vote against allowing such sin to engulf our country. Would you also have voted against the prohibition, which greatly saddened the then prophet’s heart?

    If you had the spirit, then you would have voted for George W. Bush. He is the man the Lord has chosen, through the voice of the people, to lead us through these morally troubling times.

  55. Today in fast and testimony meeting, the Bishop of my Sierra Vista Az ward got up to bear his testimony and the first thing out of his mouth was that Bush got re-elected because we all “prayed”him in there. I was so upset that I felt like screaming right in the meeting that I must have been praying to the wrong God because I wanted Kerry to win.
    And I thought the church leaders were not suppose to show Bias from the Pulpit.
    I guess only the Republicans can.

  56. Tom Manney,

    Naming a democratic leader who inspires them. Joe Lieberman, for one. That is why, after 31 years as a registered independent and voting for republican candidates for president, I changed my registration to be a democrat, voting for Joe in the primary and ultimately John Kerry in the general election.

    I do not agree with him on several issues (he supported the Iraq invasion, I was and am opposed; he is largely pro-choice, I am pro-life), but his commitment to social justice and respect for religious values inspire and uplift me. I regret that he may lack the charisma of others, but I am glad he was the catalyst that helped me see the light God can be an influence in the democratic party as much or more than the republican.

  57. Tom Manney,

    Thanks for your kind and thoughtful responses. I hope my answer to your question comes across the same way.

    I refuse to accept the idea that one party is the party of nice people and the other party is the party of mean people. If we take the Savior’s injunction seriously, “to strengthen feeble knees, and lift up the hands that hang down”, we need to have a robust and thoughtful debate about what works and what doesn’t. It is so fatuously easy lay the blame for the problem at the feet of someone who doesn’t practice the politics of nice.

    In fiscal 2002, the census counted 35 million people in poverty. In that same year, the federal government spent 522 billion on non-means tested assistance, excluding medicare. If my long division is correct, that works out to about $15,000 per annum for every man, woman and child in poverty. That also exludes any state, local, or private help.

    If that is the best we can do, then, shame on us. As a polity, we need to make progress in this area, and it will take the best efforts of all, left and right. I think it is unproductive to simply give half the country a label and write them off as selfish.

  58. Tom, I like the BoM’s guidelines, but international conflicts are rarely reductible in the manner you suggest. Like you, I’m prone to think of wars in offensive/defensive terms (see my earlier post on this, here), but that the definitions of offensive & defensive in this context can be elusive (witness Somalia, for example, where intervention was clearly merited but the war was arguably not defensive).

  59. john fowles says:

    Tom, sign me up.

  60. Wayne, I agree completely.

  61. What a great post.

    Thanks for articulating how you feel in such an amazing way!

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