Musings on faith and politics

“One cannot tell which is more difficult, to cause a stone to speak or to get a politician to stop speaking”. – Ancient Roman Proverb

This past week brought interesting and thought-provoking experiences. My wife and I love to travel and visit with people across the country from all walks of life. A trip from our Utah home to the east coast, a former residence decades ago, brought visits with family, old friends and new acquaintances. The main reason for the trip was the celebration of a traditional Jewish wedding thanks to an invite from longstanding friends. Their lovely daughter, a lawyer for the City of New York, was finally taking her nuptials. Mom, Dad and the in-laws were all overjoyed and relieved, and they hope grandchildren will be on the horizon.

The wedding attendees were very typically upper-class, eastern society, a classic assemblage of “limousine liberals” such as we see in Hollywood and elsewhere. The parents of the bride have been well established in business an intellectual circles for decades. He is a very prominent Chief Counsel for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. She is a PhD psychologist with a tenured professorship and burgeoning private practice. They comprise the ideal successful and well-to-do professional family. The wedding guests were similarly prominent with numerous doctors, lawyers, professors, politicians, Broadway producers and so forth in the crowd.

As my wife and I were a distinct curiosity and a bit of a hit at the wedding, we were introduced around and spent many hours visiting with old friends of the family, learning about many interesting and highly successful people. Other than the fact we were the only Christians at a Jewish wedding, another contrasting characteristic also stood out. We seemed to be the only conservatives in this hyper-liberal crowd. The number of “Obama is our guy,” “America’s problems are all Bush’s fault,” and “Hillary will be wonderful in 2016” conversations took us a bit by surprise.

It is the opinion of most conservatives that the Obama administration and the far left in general are an abject failure, both in policy and practice. It seems apparent to me that America is far worse off now, both domestically and internationally, than we were a decade ago. In fact, the confusing machinations of the Obama White House leave us in a head-scratching quandary as to what the real agenda is. All of the social justice and income equality speeches in the world cannot hide that fact that America’s economic strength, race relations, international influence and overall moral fiber is being eroded at a stunning pace. The fact that conservatives seem to be still searching for focused, comprehensive solutions to America’s problems is another discussion. The point being, America’s star under Obama’s tenure is fading fast.

Even more confusing is the tremendous support President Obama received with this Jewish demographic when his actions and policies are so obviously pro-Islamic Brotherhood and anti-Israel. Did the wealthy, well-educated and high positioned people we talked to not believe the events as they have unfolded in the Middle East over the last six years? Or how about the allegations of extreme corruption that are swirling around the Clintons? Do these supporters of the left not believe their own eyes and ears? Is there a blind adherence to left-wing media propaganda painting Obama as hero of the people and Hillary Clinton as merely a victim of Republican vitriol?  Would not such a sophisticated and educated crowd see through such things? What could possibly be the explanation?

In contrast to the east coast, Utah is a more conservative place with a unique culture. At the center of Utah, both politically and historically, sits a dominant force: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From whatever side of the fence one stands on, it is undeniable that the Church influences events and perspectives in this state from a spiritual, temporal and political perspective. Among the population of Latter-day Saints there are a variety of political viewpoints, but the majority of Church members share an underlying premise. That premise paints the picture of the temporary and sometimes corrupt nature of the machinations of men, particularly when it comes to things political, versus the enduring, unchangeable and incorruptible nature of God.

There exists in LDS theology a very tangible and literal higher power that forms the foundation of both faith and perspective. This tends to breed a basic lack of confidence in many man-made institutions, of which political office is a prime example. A Deseret News article recently reflected this attitude, showing in a national poll that our politicians from Jason Chaffetz to Mia Love barely garnered a 50% approval rating even though they espouse the values of the political majority. This may be endemic of that basic faith in something other than power, office or finance which influences a great many of our citizens.

In many other circles there seems to be much more faith put into the fleeting assurances of position, power and finance. In place of the golden rule, the mantra becomes “he who has the gold makes the rules.” Could it be misplaced faith in the idealistic political tenets espoused by various parties, but so rarely actually applied in ways that lead to results aligned with said tenets, which drives individuals to such misinformed adherence? Do people want to believe so badly that political leaders have the answers to society’s ills that one perceives and votes contrary to what can be observed as actually happening? Does the echoing cacophony of media spin assuage the political conscience and give some comfort to a will that may be lacking in more difficult or uncomfortable commitment to solutions? Do the shifting sands of feel-good political correctness replace the often misunderstood but more substantial bedrock of timeless values?

The modern world we live in is a difficult, tough and often painful place. While there are quiet miracles and wonders to see each day, there is always the backdrop of mankind seeking to survive in spite of themselves. Influences contrary to the traditional values of God, family and country abound in our modern society. And where can the individual go for education, enlightenment and comfort amidst such tumult? To the rhetoric filled speeches of the politician, or to something with a little more lasting substance?

It is an intriguing question. It is widely agreed that people generally want to believe in something. Politics swoops in to fill an ideological void as readily as anything conceived by man. That so much unearned faith is placed in politics by so many is perhaps one of the great and perplexing questions facing us all at the dawn of the great age of information. Rhetoric is not truth and political dogma is not theology. That we learn as individuals and as a society to place politics in its proper perspective compared to more timeless moral imperatives may very well be the key to our ongoing prosperity as a nation. And our good friends in the east are not the only ones who should embrace this lesson.

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