How To Be Anxiously Engaged (Part 3)
See Hannah's original post here, and my follow-up post after the election here.
The question of "what do we do now?" is ever before us. Now that the election is over, and the legislative battles in DC seem much more complex, confusing and obtuse, do we now dissolve back into the every-day of our lives? I believe that Latter-day Saints who support liberal politics or the Democratic party have a unique opportunity to express their views and to accomplish much good in changing the tone of politics in the nation and in our church. However, we often are not sure of what to do next --
For those hoping to maintain the momentum from this last election, please take a look into LDS Democrats of America as they expand into a national organization.
Please see this article in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Also, please explore their website here.
LDS Democrats of America offers us a way to get involved. Of course, let's continue to show our support for progressive causes through our daily actions, charitable giving, and our Mormons for Obama bumper stickers, but also let's look forward to real ways to get involved in the political process and express our collective Mormon voices! Click on the "Join Us" tab on the LDS Dems website to get involved!
The World is Always Ending. Here's What We Should Do About It.
We live in difficult and turbulent times.
We should prepare ourselves temporally and spiritually.
We have an obligation to help one another.
A time of fast communication, rapid global travel, increasing secularism, new challenges facing the Church, and worries about the end times, as sin and iniquity appear everywhere. This should sound familiar, as it’s an apt description of the 1970s, when President Kimball challenged Latter-day Saints to “lengthen their stride,” the 1930s when Elder Joseph F. Merrill challenged Gordon B. Hinckley to develop new methods for getting people interested in the Church, the 1890s when President Woodruff ended official support for “the principle” of plural marriage and Utah achieved statehood, the 1840s when the Church fractured after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, and about AD 54, when Paul reminded the Thessalonians that a falling away had to occur before Christ returned. (We can go even earlier, as the Book of Job reminds us that people are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly out of a fire.) Each generation has certain favorite sins (slavery, spouse abuse, greed), and people grow up denouncing the sins of the previous generation (and, on occasion, their own) and then get shocked by the sins of the following generation. Worrying about society crashing down is roughly as old as . . . human society. The world is always ending.
That doesn’t mean we’re off the hook.
President DeVisser spoke wise words about the importance of temporal and spiritual preparation, referring the members of his stake to the words of President Hinckley about avoiding debt by buying a modest home and living within one's means, and by strengthening our relationship with the Savior. We will always live in difficult and turbulent times, and to be Latter-day Saints, to act rather than be acted upon, we need spiritual strength and to not let keeping up with our neighbors prevent us from serving our sisters and brothers. An avenue for spiritual strength is remembering the frequent comments by President Hinckley that now is a great time to be alive, a time to work towards Zion rather than huddling in fear of the Thunderdome.
I commend President DeVisser’s stake for their robust fast offering contributions, as that’s part of how we can fulfill our obligation to help one another. A human being needs a wide range of things to be able to fully express their agency, to use their life to grow and serve: love, purpose, food, shelter, education, safety, healthcare. Family, neighbors, the Church, and the nation are all good at providing a few of these things and bad at providing others. The Church recognizes this, as it instructs Bishops to familiarize themselves with government and community programs that provide medical care, counseling, help for people with disabilities, and job training and placement. We in the United States face the challenges of an aging population, millions of people residing in the shadows, an erratic climate, and rates of gun violence and incarceration that lead the developed world. At church, we learn about following the Savior and helping one another. During the rest of the week we need to talk & decide the best way to do this.
I second Hannah’s post about the importance of leaving partisan politics behind at the church doors, and Jeff’s comment that it is crucial we re-examine how we understand the connection between the Gospel and our politics, that we engage in conversation about which public policies we should support for the benefit of our communities. One of the several great things about 2012 was the emergence of Latter-day Saint writers in the political center and on the left. I encourage you to read through the posts at Mormon Liberals, at Mormon Democrats, and here at Mormons for Obama, and to join LDS Dems, the national home of Latter-day Saints looking to have an impact on the Democratic Party and our country's laws.
State of the Union - 2013
A friend of mine posted a picture on Instagram of her toddler in front of the TV watching Obama's speech. She wrote the caption: "Breakfast with Obama." I couldn't help but wonder how the world will appear to the children who grow up with an American history that includes an African American president. It changes everything.
A good friend of mine emailed me this afternoon:
I have been so teary today with enormous joy and celebration engendered by what has transpired today. I feel The Lord had been so gracious to enable Obama to continue--not allowing the values that are so repugnant to me to permeate the culture of the next four years . JOY! JOY! JOY!
And I echo that sentiment here. Additionally, I join Senator Harry Reid in raising a toast of crystal clear water to our 44th President - here are his words:
Americans todays are wishing the President Godspeed for the next four years. People all over the world are looking at us, and our exemplary democracy, and wishing the President the best in the years to come.
I’ve had the good fortune for the last many years to work on a very close, personal basis with President Obama. I’ve watched him in the most difficult challenges that a person could face. I’ve watched him do this with brilliance, with patience, with courage, wisdom, and kindness, for which I have learned a great deal. So, Mr. President, I toast and pray for you, your wonderful family, and our great country four more successful years. Barack Obama.
Happy New Year...
All across America, people celebrated the end of 2012, the beginning of 2013, the love of friends and family, and the continuation of our world despite some presumably dire predictions by an ancient people; all the while, Americans with incomes between $250,000 - $450,000 popped their corks for a completely different reason: the aversion of the fiscal cliff and the preservation of the Bush-era tax cuts for their income brackets. And interestingly enough, we all will be paying more in payroll taxes. Specifically: payroll taxes for the past two years have been at 4.2% and will now rise to the customary 6.2%.
Alas, the fiscal cliff is averted (sort of) and the can is kicked down the road to be dealt with another day. Read this review from NPR of yesterday's (early this morning's? when did this happen?) voting in the House and the New Year's Day passage of the deal in the Senate. In the end, it was not Obama and Boenher that brokered this compromise, but McConnell and Biden. (Another pairing of the turtle and the hare.) But many on both sides of the debate are not happy with this outcome, and Boehner had some choice words for Sen Majority Leader Harry Reid, while the House is looking (especially) foolish in its handling of the fiscal cliff crisis. Additionally, as if they wanted to verify their status as a fortress of ineptitude, the House declined to vote on the Sandy Relief Bill, which prompted sharp criticism from NJ Gov. (and 2016 presidential candidate) Chris Christie:
"There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Natural disasters happen in red states and blue states and states with Democratic governors and Republican governors. We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night. Last night, politics was placed before oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch."
But moving forward to more important things! It is a new year, and with every new year comes our responsibility as Mormons to vote for the Mormon of the Year of 2012 over at Times and Seasons dot org. And seriously, I realize Mitt Romney didn't win the presidency, but he most certainly deserves Mormon of the Year, does he not? He should definitely beat out some band called "Neon Trees" anyway - especially when the first time I heard of them is when I saw them on the list of candidates.
Let's hope for a path forward this 2013 - and choices as easy as Mormon of the Year. We need to move past this fiscal edge of the cliff mess and onto some real important things. Otherwise, President Obama's second term will be one big fight over budgets and taxes and cliffs and nooks and crannies. Seriously, we are ready to move on.
Honoring the Shooting Victims
Some Fiscal Cliff Notes
Nothing like the back-and-forth, finger-pointing, and grand-standing bluster of John Boehner to throw water on any lingering post-election celebratory feeling. Yes, the congressional Republicans are the ultimate buzz-kill. And of course, once again, President Obama is proving himself perfectly diplomatic in the fiscal cliff negotiations. He is even doing campaign stops, which makes me suprisingly nostalgic for two months ago when the idea of moving forward seemed much more of a possiblity than it does right now. Also, the President is proposing real compromise (cuts in spending in addition to raising rates on the wealthiest of Americans) while the Republicans are offering a vague proposal to close tax loopholes as a way to generate revenue from the upper 2% and to cut spending on who-knows-what.
A large majority of Americans agree with President Obama's balanced approach to dealing with the fiscal cliff. In fact, according to Kwame Holman from the PBS Newshour:
...new polls show Americans do want compromise, and it's the Democrats who hold the edge. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday shows a majority, 65 percent, say President Obama has a mandate on both increasing taxes on the wealthy and reducing federal spending.
A similar two-thirds are willing to accept tax increases or cuts in federal government programs to reach a deal. But while public support on taxes is overwhelming, opinion on proposed cuts is less so.
So according to these numbers, even Americans who may not have supported President Obama for reelection acknowledge that his balanced approach to looming fiscal cliff is the way to go. Presently, Obama's approval rating is at 55%, while the Republicans stand at a 32% approval rating. See the full report from the PBS Newshour's coverage for more complete "notes" of the going-ons of this debate.
But what does this say about the Republican's digging-their-heels approach to dealing with President Obama's agenda? Apparently, the Republicans view this as their means of getting what they want, while America sees it as more of the same. However, President Obama clearly has the upper hand. The Republicans run the risk of being the party that denied tax cuts to the majority of Americans in order to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy. And seriously, is $250,000 really the defining cut-off for the middle class? Many would disagree and believe that Obama's proposal of going back to the pre-Bush tax rates are not enough. According to Chris Weigant, "If we're going to tax the rich... then let's tax the rich." See his recommendations on Huffington Post.com.
So hope and change are once again side-stepped by Boehner's need to hold a daily press conference where he says the same thing over and over again with his gravely voice and his blunt affect: "It's clear the president is just not serious about cutting spending!" Meanwhile, America's economy is inching closer and closer to the edge of some cliff. (Probably in the Arizona desert somewhere.) Which causes me to think: while I hope we are spared a Thelma-and-Louise-type ending in 2012, (although there are a few things/people/Boehner I would like to see driven over a cliff,) maybe this is the end the Mayans where predicting? In lieu of that meteorite colliding with the earth, we get a tumble off of a fiscal cliff instead. This might be the time we should call our members of congress.
See this inforgraphic from DailyKos.com for more insight into the so-called fiscal cliff.
[caption id="attachment_2970" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Click on the Infographic to link to Daily Kos[/caption]
So I am going to put my own spin on this (mostly because I'm an optimist in all things liberal) and make a guess that "Not Affiliated" is the new code word for "Democrat" in the leadership of the Church. (Unless, as a friend of mine pointed out, it just means they are Libertarian.) Regardless, we really find no surprises in this article found in the Salt Lake Tribune. Many of the leaders of the Church are Republican, (even though I always fancied Elder Scott to be a Democrat. He does that whole thing in General Conference where he asks us to imagine he's talking personally to us, and it seems so caring and warm, I've always thought: "He has to be a Democrat!") And we also learn that all 15 voted in this past election, although Church spokesman Trotter points out, "Party affiliation does not necessarily indicate how an individual votes. As an institution, the church is politically neutral. The purpose of the church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ."
And also from the Times article: "LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter says party affiliation and voting are personal matters for individuals, even church leaders, and he warned people not to read too much into the voting-registration records."
Regardless of what many Republican Mormons might say, (i.e., how can we follow the prophet if we don't vote like the prophet!?!) I'm not swayed in my political leanings. I am a Democrat. It is part of my soul. But I try not to confuse my politics with the gospel. This can be difficult for me at times because politics is much more provocative and immediate, while a Sunday School lesson might feel more repetitive and uninteresting. But I do feel strongly that while being a Democrat reflects my belief in the gospel, I know it's not the same thing as my faith and testimony. It is much more complex than that - and surely it is much more complex than this graphic might be understood to imply:
How to be Anxiously Engaged (Part 2)
See Hannah's original post here.
When President Obama won the 2008 election, Seattle took to the streets. And I also joined the throngs of thousands of people who celebrated downtown and up on Capitol Hill. I remember feeling encouraged and excited to be a part of the community of Americans who had joined together to make the victory possible. I felt the energy and motivation of a newly called missionary - all I needed was the rallying call of the President to tell me what needed to be done, and I would be there. All of us Obama supporters seemed to be of the same mind; tell us what needs to be done - lead us into battle - and we will heed the call. However, clear direction never came. The recession hit like a hurricane, and President Obama became entangled in a health care battle with congress that left many of us wondering what our part in this fight might be.
This election, President Obama has the opportunity to continue to engage with his supporters and the electorate in ways that go beyond 2008. Obama for America is still sending emails - of course not in the volume we saw during the campaign when a request for donations hit the inbox several times a day. But this new campaign allows each of us to stay involved with the President's agenda during this lame duck session and also during his second term. We Mormons for Obama may see life as going "back to normal" after the frenzied election season. Conversations may shift away from the hope and change possible during this second term, and like 2008, we may be unsure of how we can continue to support President Obama. I am not sure I have all of the answers, but I do know that we can stay involved by responding to the President's requests for support (whether that is writing to congressional leaders or sharing our support for President Obama's policies on Facebook or on our blogs.)
Here are two articles from that discuss the ongoing effort by Obama for America to promote the President's positions on the upcoming fiscal cliff. The first if from TheHill.com; the second is from NPR.org
This is an excerpt from an email circulating from the Obama campaign this past week:
More than 1 million supporters took our survey last week, sharing feedback on their 2012 campaign experience and how they'd like to see us move forward. While we're still sorting through all of the responses, I wanted to share some initial results:
-- An overwhelming majority of survey respondents reported feeling welcomed and included, that their time was used effectively, and that there was a clear understanding of how their work directly helped re-elect President Obama.
-- Among those of you who volunteered at least a few hours, a majority went into a field office, though many of you got involved instead through the campaign's online tools such as Dashboard and the call tool.
-- About 1 in 10 survey respondents are interested in running for office at some point, using their organizing skills to continue fighting for real and lasting change. That level of political engagement is inspiring.
-- Almost half of all survey respondents forwarded campaign emails, and more than one-third communicated with friends on Facebook -- both great ways to pass along information about the President's positions and plans, as well as opportunities to get involved.
-- Nearly 80 percent of survey takers want to keep volunteering, primarily around the President's legislative agenda.
Also included was this quotation from a supporter in Texas: "Don't let the energy of the re-election slip through your fingers. This is a very powerful network of people." And this expresses how I felt in 2008 and how I feel now. Check out barackobama.com to learn about the issues and tasks at hand and the ways that we can be involved. I am hopeful that we Mormons can stay engaged in the change we hope to see in our country, whether on a national or local level. Let's continue to follow the words recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants to stay anxiously engaged in a good cause; let's continue to move forward.
Spies Like Us
Surprisingly, I have actually been feeling a bit neglected. During the election I expected to see several new Mormon-themed articles posted online daily; some of these articles even included references to Mormons for Obama. So I found myself feeling slightly pleased to hear two NPR stories referencing Mormons this morning. The first is pretty run of the mill: Mormonism: A Scrutinized, Yet Evolving Faith. However they do interview Joanna Brooks, and she is always a pleasure to hear. (And I would also add, anything is better than hearing more about the Petraeus sex scandal.)
But the second article is something to be excited about: In Russia, Pro-Putin Youths Protest Mormons As 'Cult'. But it's not the subject of the title that's so interesting (or the most absurd.) The protesters (the Young Guard) have staged a number of protests outside chapels in Russian and "charge that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a 'authoritarian sect' with connections to the CIA and FBI." They cite evidence that Mormon missionaries go on to work for the CIA and FBI in disproportionately high numbers. This is something that we Mormons have understood to be the natural result of the wide-ranging international experiences and language skills our returning missionaries acquire, but apparently these Russian Young Guard members interpret these (non-validated) statistics differently.
Indeed, the Youth Guard "sees the Mormon Church as an American enterprise, funded from the United States, with missionaries who act as American operatives." Yes. They believe that Mormon missionaries are American spies.
As the NPR report ended this morning, I found myself encompassed by a gentle mist of nostalgia for the Cold War. Not for the Cold War itself, but more for its influence on our popular culture. I mean, who doesn't miss the days when Red was associated with the words Hunt, October and Dawn (the Patrick Swayze one,) instead of Bull, Box, and Dawn (the Connor Cruise one.) So thank you Russian Young Guard for hosting 80s-themed dance parties outside our LDS chapels in Russia. This must be a wonderful history lesson for your young people, and I am sure Sam Mendes will be contacting you for ideas for his next Bond film.