Recent Political Thoughts

I hardly ever write about politics any more, and not just because I’m so disillusioned with it, but because I’ve realized how little it really matters to a full and joyous life. Still, the condition of society is something I think about a lot. Here, for the record, are a few things that have crossed my mind recently that I think are worth sharing.

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In January, I resigned from the Republican party. I was never a “capital R” type, anyway, but I mostly vote Republican, and to participate in primary elections around here, one must be so registered. Now I realize I can have a greater influence on things through recommendations, though.

I withdrew, of course, because of Trump. I don’t want to scribble a screed here, but suffice it to say, I think he’s a bad man, one so thoroughly foul that to be on his side is to be tainted.

“But what about all the good things he’s done!” say supporters.

  1. He really hasn’t achieved as much as you think he has.
  2. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36

That second one, especially, encapsulates why I don’t care as much about the political realm anymore. How in the world do so many “conservatives” not see that winning these transient, pitiful little squabbles now means absolutely nothing in the long run, in a world where the social fabric continues to unravel ever faster? We’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We can’t hold families together, we can’t keep jobs even when they’re available, we can’t even stop record numbers of people from drowning their sorrows so ferociously that they actually die by the thousands each week. But hey, we scored some kind of win on paper in Washington, DC, so hooray for us! What a farce.

“He’s better than Hillary!”

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Early Christian Fathers

fathersI’ve been reading a great collection of writings by Christian leaders from just after New Testament times. I’ve largely enjoyed it, but as I get into the second half, I’m stalling out–my enthusiasm for this one is just winding down, so I’m putting it back on the shelf for now (sorry, Justin Martyr).

The Ensign had a great article about these writings in the August 1976 issue.

Of the documents I’ve read so far, all were at least good, and some were really great. The four marked with an A+ I highly recommend to everybody. Here are my notes and quotes:

 

THE FIRST EPISTLE OF CLEMENT: A+

This one comes from a bishop who knew and was mentored by the Apostles, and his letter is amazing. It’s actually from within the first century, making it contemporary with the New Testament, and was even included in some early versions of the New Testament. It isn’t canonized scripture for us, but it isn’t far off…the Spirit is there in this one.

35 How blessed and amazing are God’s gifts, dear friends!  2Life with immortality, splendor with righteousness, truth with confidence, faith with assurance, self-control with holiness! And all these things are within our comprehension.  3What, then, is being prepared for those who wait for him? The Creator and Father of eternity, the all-holy, himself knows how great and wonderful it is.  4We, then, should make every effort to be found in the number of those who are patiently looking for him, so that we may share in the gifts he has promised.  5And how shall this be, dear friends? If our mind is faithfully fixed on God; if we seek out what pleases and delights him; if we do what is in accord with his pure will, and follow in the way of truth. If we rid ourselves of all wickedness, evil, avarice, contentiousness, malice, fraud, gossip, slander, hatred of God, arrogance, pretension, conceit, and inhospitality.

 

THE LETTERS OF IGNATIUS, BISHOP OF ANTIOCH:  A-

There are seven of these letters–as a whole, I give them an A-, but his letters to the Romans and to the Philadelphians each get a solid A, and my favorite, to the Ephesians, gets an A+. A quote:

9 I have heard that some strangers came your way with a wicked teaching. But you did not let them sow it among you. You stopped up your ears to prevent admitting what they disseminated. Like stones of God’s Temple, ready for a building of God the Father, you are being hoisted up by Jesus Christ, as with a crane (that’s the cross!), while the rope you use is the Holy Spirit. Your faith is what lifts you up, while love is the way you ascend to God.

You are all taking part in a religious procession,185 carrying along with you your God, shrine, Christ, and your holy objects, and decked out from tip to toe in the commandments of Jesus Christ. I too am enjoying it all, because I can talk with you in a letter, and congratulate you on changing your old way of life and setting your love on God alone.

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An Origin of Apostasy

It seems like there’s a pretty standard path to apostasy that some believers follow:

Step 1: “I have an idea about something mysterious or controversial in the gospel.”  Not dangerous–this is a natural result of study and reflection, and undoubtedly happens often.

Step 2: “This idea makes sense to me.  I find it useful.”  Getting a little risky here–it’s so easy to be seduced by our own imagination, hence the ample warnings against such in the scriptures.

Step 3: “Since I find my theory reasonable and attractive, I think that it is true.”  Patently fallacious.  Reason and attractiveness do not make ideas true; these criteria are arbitrary, not naturally corresponding to fact.  Plenty of things could be reasonable and attractive but not true–hence the prophetic warnings against the “philosophies of men.”  At this step, one is rapidly approaching apostasy, if not already there.

Step 4: “I will now enlighten the world with my valuable discoveries.”  At this point, someone is very likely in a state of apostasy.

The lesson is clear: beware of pride.  We must keep a very tight rein on our vain imaginations.  This is important for bloggers–including me–to always remember.

Star Wars As a Dispensationalist Allegory

It’s a common quip that Mormon nerds love to make analogies between their church and Star Wars.  Short of some of the generic ideas about faith in the series, though (“I don’t believe it!” “That is why you fail.”), I haven’t actually seen much commentary from anyone linking the two. 

Now, Star Wars is not exactly deep theology, but after the release of the dreadful prequel trilogy, I did notice that the overall story arc meshes with our understanding of history pretty well.  In short, the original saga tells the story of a Restoration, while the newer three episodes go back to tell the story of the Apostasy.  In Episodes IV-VI, truths and powers that had been lost by persecution and rejection are slowly brought back to life as a new generation of heroes are called upon to start the work over.  Episodes I-III go back to show us just how those truths and powers were lost.  In fact, I started making this connection when I saw Yoda and Obi-Wan talking, and Yoda confessed that the Jedi Order was weakening and was not as close to the Force as it had once been.   I immediately pictured a late-first century meeting of church leaders to discuss the growing distance of the Spirit from their organization.  When the Jedi were exterminated in Episode III, I saw Apostles being beheaded, run through, and crucified head down. 

This is hardly a point-by-point metaphor.  Obviously, there are huge differences between Star Wars and church history.  However, with this basic template in mind, more than few solid correspondences can be made:

Church history figure Star Wars character Shared traits
Joseph Smith Luke Skywalker Conflicted young man from an obscure, pastoral setting is called upon by events around him to rise up and form a new order—a restoration of an older, lost order
Moroni Obi-Wan Kenobi The last human survivor of the lost order, he disappears from the setting until the founder of the new order is ready, whereupon he delivers early messages to the young man and begins his training
The priesthood The Force A supernatural power that had been lost with the destruction of the old order, which is bestowed on the new founder and which he learns to use from the survivors of the lost order.  Requires faith and effort to operate.  Is treated lightly by nonbelievers
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A “Free Thinker” Is Kicked Out Of The Vegetarian Church

SATIRE

Stake President: Welcome, Brother X, thank you, please come in.

Brother X: Thanks, president.  OK, let’s get this over with.  How does this thing go?

Stake (“steak”?  Better try “carrot”) President: Brother X, we need to meet in order to discuss some things you’ve been publicly advocating that are contrary to the established doctrine of the church.

Bro. X: Fine.  I’ve got nothing to hide or be ashamed of.  My ideas are just as valid as yours, and I believe this church is big enough to fit all the ideas in it that anybody wants. 

Stake Carrot President: But Brother X, this is the Church of Latter-day Vegetarians, and you insist on teaching people that they should eat meat instead of vegetables!

Bro. X: Of course!  Look, I totally have a testimony of the whole vegetable thing, I just also feel strongly that you can eat meat and still be a faithful, active vegetarian.  I don’t see the problem here.

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