We Have Authority Issues

“Why doesn’t the Church speak out in favor of the Affordable Care Act or universal healthcare?”

The above question, or some variation of it, has come up in twice in recent months on liberal or Democratic Mormon Facebook groups that I belong to.

They could, but they won’t. Not because they cannot do so, though advocating for specific legislation is dangerous territory. Instead, the Church is not going to step into a political battle which has partisan overtones…that has already been passed by Congress, signed by the President, and cleared by the Supreme Court.

Now one might argue that the LDS Church would or should oppose rather than support the ACA. Either way, they didn’t take a position on it and there would be no reason to do so now.

Even if the Church took a position on the ACA at this point, it would make no impact whatsoever on the legislation or on health policy. It seems that it would only make a difference in our Facebook and blog bickering with other Mormons about the issue about the matter.

This really is not about religion and politics or even the separation of church and state. Instead, it has to do with how Mormons, both on the political left and right, approach institutional authority and approval.

We want the Church to come and vanquish our political opponents. If only the Church would take my side, everyone would realize that I have been correct in a moral and religious sense. Victory!!!

First, winning debates on Facebook does not matter. They do not impact what takes place in legislatures or courts. Calm down. Yes, I realize that sounds funny coming from me.

Second, make appeals to reason. Provide reasons, facts, and experiences. If they are not interested in having such and discussion, I am not sure why you want to talk to them about politics or religion anyways. I admit, I do not always do this. I am at times a very bad example of it.

Third, realize that reasonable people can disagree. People who disagree with you do so for a variety of reasons. It is not because they are ignorant, immoral, or just haven’t seen the light. They might have different backgrounds. However, they might have a very similar background to yours…and still disagree with you.

Fourth, appealing to authority is a fallacy. If the LDS Church endorsed the ACA, it would only prove that the LDS has endorsed it. It does not make it good policy. I say this as somebody who has publicly defended the ACA as a candidate for office. I think it is decent policy (I do think think Congress can pass good policy, let alone great or ideal policy).

Health policy, particularly as it relates to insurance, is tedious, dry, boring, and the ultimate example of why the politics of special interests groups is a complete hot mess. The Church is not in a special position to comment one way or another about the Affordable Care Act.

Note that one area where the Church has recently spoken out has been immigration reform. In general, their approach has been to say that we need more humane and family-friendly immigration policy. However, they do not advocate for specific provisions of law or particular plans.

Now, I am not appealing to them to say that their strategy is correct or better than that of others. I am an ally and fan of religious organizations who have taken more direct involvement in both healthcare and immigration. However, I do not see much evidence that this involvement has an actually impact on legislation and it is legislation, not the positions and posturing of organizations that matter.

Now, this may sound funny. Didn’t the LDS Church take an active and direct role in California’s Proposition 8? Sure, but is Prop. 8 the model we want to follow? I do not think that the Mormon involvement (and the aftermath) in Prop. 8 is something that either side would want to go through again. Additionally, the crafting of national-level policy by Congress requires a very different form of politics from that of initiatives and ballot measures.

I do not want my church to be known primarily for the political stances it takes. This might be because I tend to be far to the left of Mormon culture. However, the main reason is that I do not want OR NEED the Church to fight my political battles. I belong to and attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it provides me a community of faith that I value and cherish. I am not looking to have every view or thought that I have validated.

In some sense, this shows a troubling relationship on the part of Mormons when it comes to institutional authority. This seems in my experience to apply as much to liberal and/or unorthodox Mormons as it does to the most conservative apologist. We are all waiting for the institution to declare us correct. I think this not only appears in our tendency to make fallacious appeals to authority, but also in our willingness to allow the institution to define our theology.

Correlation only has the power that you allow it. Demanding that Correlation conform to certain ideals only buttresses up the influence of Correlation. The problem is not what Correlation is teaching…it is the existence of Correlation. Appealing to Correlation fails to recognize the deeper systematic problem.

We need to return to a faith based in personal revelation, not one the just pays lip-service to it. Rather than wait for permission to do so…awaking your hearts and minds.


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About Chris Henrichsen

Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • Charlie Carey

    I agree on restoring the primacy of personal revelation. We spend too much effort being obedient to policy and procedure and too little obedience to revealed truths, and sometimes worshiping mortal men and women rather than the supreme being.

    Would it be too much to decide “we need more humane and family-friendly health policy”?

  • John Taber

    Well, I’ve quit both Mormons for Obama and Mormon Democrats because the prevailing tone on both is that the Church ought to recognize “marriage equality”. Frankly I don’t miss either group.


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