Earlier this week, I wrote a post entitled “Fair Church Discussions,” in which there were five reminders about how to discuss Church issues both fairly and respectfully. Now I present the sequel. Here are five things for Church members to practice when discussing politics.
1) Never Quote Scriptures*
Scriptures are wonderful. They teach true principles and bring people closer to Christ. They bless people’s lives and make families stronger. Many share that same testimony. However, they do not belong in a political conversation. Ironically scriptures may be the best way to illustrate this point.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
That scripture in Moses outlines the entire mission of the Church. Heavenly Father desires all of us to return home. The Standard Works outline the path people need to take to have “immortality and eternal life.” Believe it or not, but nowhere in the scriptures does it command people to vote Republican or Democrat. Surprisingly, the scriptures do not discuss global warming, net neutrality, drones, or even Benghazi. Sacred writings are too limited to discuss specific issues of the world. However, they can be helpful in teaching people how to act appropriately in political dialogue.
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29).
Using scriptures in something as uncertain as politics will undoubtedly result in contention. Proper political discussion will involve citing studies, articles, and quoting experts. Using the Standard Works in matters of policy is a form of unreasonable spiritual judgment. There is no reason to question one’s testimony if they do not believe a specific scripture has policy implications.
* There is one exception to this rule. If somebody asks “has any scripture impacted the way you view politics,” it is permissible to use scriptures.
2) The Church Endorses Issues, Not Parties
Same-sex marriage, abortion, and immigration are the three main political issues the Church has taken a stand on in recent years. Their stance has respectively been conservative, moderate conservative, and liberal. Notice the Church does not endorse specific political parties. Leaders in the Church are smart enough to know agreeing on one issue is not enough to join a party. If inclined to vote with the Church on every issue, which leaders have said is not required, it is perfectly acceptable for a Democrat to be opposed to same-sex marriage. Republicans can support immigration reform such as the Utah Compact. On a side note, here is a tip for you hardline party members: do not alienate your more moderate members.
3) There is Always an Equal and Opposite Study
Academic research plays an important role in politics. Studies are completed nearly every single day involving education, healthcare, economics, and more. Any person who majoried in a research-based subject in college can tell you it is very easy to pick apart every single published article. There are always flaws in assumptions, data, and conclusions. The economics academic world can be absolutely hilarious at times. Throughout history there have been several instances of somebody being awarded the Nobel Prize for research which directly refuted the monumental study of another Nobel Laureate. Recognizing credible opposition should make any debates less contentious.
4) Focus on the Issue
Republican: Why don’t you listen to the majority of the country (52-55% at last check) who disapprove of the Affordable Care Act?
Democrat: Oh you want to talk about public approval? Why don’t you listen to the 90% who support expanded background checks for firearms or how about the 71% who support a $9 minimum wage?
This type of conversation happens all the time and it needs to stop. Assuming the Republican and Democrat were discussing healthcare, the Democrat is ignoring the real issue. For the record, this happens all the time with both parties. The problem with the Democrat is background checks and the minimum wage have nothing to do with health care. Just because the country overwhelming supports those policies does not change the fact the majority of Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act. The Democrat should instead discuss parts of the Affordable Care Act Americans do support. Focus on the issue that is being debated. In this particular conversation, the Democrat is basically admitting defeat. If there was something meaningful to add to the healthcare debate, the Democrat would surely say it, instead of switching topics. Once again, Republicans do this same thing all of the time. Committing to debate the desired issue elevates the discussion and allows the policy to be examined deeper.
5) You Could be Wrong
“Every once in a while... every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that's way too big for ten words.” Jed Bartlett
Public policy is incredibly complex. There is almost always credible research on both sides of any issue. No law is perfect. It is concerning when people truly think they are 100% right and the opponent is 100% wrong. There are some people who actually believe certain religious figures would be a member of one of today’s political parties. I do not mention these religious figures by name because it would be, in my opinion, far too disrespectful to associate them with the Republicans or Democrats. Compromise should be the essence of politics and it can only happen if people recognize the flaws of their proposed legislation.
In the grand scheme of things, public policy can be incredibly trivial. As Chris Rock said in 1996 “is there anything you can’t do on Wednesday because your guy didn’t win? A Train ain’t running, Dole won. No! Nothing you can’t do.” No friendship is worth losing over politics. Those who remember these five things will minimize contention and ultimately help their country improve.