A recent article of Time magazine, “Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?” has brought to the surface a tension between liberal and conservative Latter-day Saints. The reason: Brother Beck is not only militantly conservative, he is also blatantly LDS.
Liberal Latter-day Saints are up in arms about the fact that Beck opposes President Obama’s signature policies: the stimulus, the federal takeover of General Motors, and “Universal Health Care.” What’s more, Beck takes issue with Obama’s supporters calling the opposition liars and racists. Beck has turned the tables on them, though, labelling their gratuitous use of the word, “racist” as racist, too.
Liberal Latter-day Saints want to run Brother Beck out of the Church for that, saying that his conduct is unacceptable. I can understand that, but what do they make of LDS Senator Harry Reid labelling President Bush a liar, a loser, and a war-monger? Should Bishop Reid be excommunicated as well, or is it wrong only if the target is liberal? I ask that question in reverse to conservatives who want Senator Reid excommunicated, but say “Amen!” to Glenn Beck: Isn’t Beck’s attack on President Obama VERY similar to Senator Reid’s?
There are those who are consistent is their damnation; they think both Bishop Reid and Brother Beck have cast the Church in a bad light–and should suffer the consequences. While I applaud their singular standard, I wish to take a more merciful approach. In the USA–and in the Church, people are free to act like buffoons. Though such behaviour is certainly not optimal, nor is it what is expected of saints, buffoonery is neither an excommunicable offence, nor a disqualifying factor for any calling in the Church–or for a Temple Recommend. In fact, I have no problem sustaining either of them for any calling the Lord and His local or general authorities see fit to issue to them.
About a year and a half ago, my colleague, Greg Kearney, wrote a blog post titled, “I am a Democrat.” He says he is a Democrat because they feel the responsibility to care for the poor. As a Republican, this rankles me a bit, because of the implication that non-Democrats don’t feel that responsibility. If any of the Democrats actually feel that way, I would suggest that they have no business sustaining Republicans for callings. Ditto for Republicans who think that Democrats intentionally wish to take property and freedom from others.
However sincere such a feeling is–in either direction, I would submit that it is grossly wrong headed–at least in the USA:
The root of the word “liberal” is the Latin, “liber,” or “free.” That is, the aim of liberals is to spread freedom. Conservatives, on the other hand, see to “conserve” what is best of a culture’s traditions. What, then, is the American tradition about? The spread of freedom–under God.
Thus, one sees that both American liberals and American conservatives are working toward the same end. Liberals found that they could not spread freedom without conserving it first, and conservatives found that the best way to conserve freedom is to extend it.
We find, then, that it was a liberal, Franklin Roosevelt, who is best remembered as a conservator of freedom–in World War II, against the likes of Hitler and Tojo. And it was the conservative, Ronald Reagan, who did most to extend freedom. Ironic, no?
The rub lies in the fact that liberals and conservatives not only emphasise different traits of freedom, they have different means of carrying out their aims of extending freedom. The reason I am a conservative is that in my judgment, conservative emphases and means are usually more effective at extending freedom. Ironically, often even liberal emphases are extended this way.
A bigger problem is that over the past several years, the concept of freedom itself is being redefined; in my observation mostly on the leftist, or liberal side, though there is also redefinition on the conservative, or rightist side. Perhaps that springs from what economist Thomas Sowell calls “A Conflict of Visions.” In my observation, liberals tend to agree with John Rawls’ Theory of Justice, while conservatives adhere more to Vilfredo Pareto’s definition of economic efficiency: That we should endeavour to make people better off, without making anybody worse off–not unlike the Hippocratic Oath’s, “Do no harm.”
While I suppose that this “Conflict of Visions” makes those holding to Rawls’ theory of social justice to militantly oppose those who adhere to Pareto optimality–and vice versa–it makes no sense–with some exceptions–to believe that the other side is evil merely because their definition of justice and efficiency differs.