“Sounds like Satan’s plan!”

From the recent Newsweek coverage of us Mormons:

Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sees an even deeper connection between his faith and his economic and political views. According to Mormon tradition, God and Satan fought a “war in heaven” over the question of moral agency, with God on the side of personal liberty and Satan seeking to enslave mankind. Flake acknowledges that the theme of freedom—and the threat of losing it—runs through much of Mormonism, and “that kind of fits my philosophy.” (Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared, “I am a Democrat because I’m a Mormon, not in spite of it,” his is a minority view among members of the faith.)

This quote reminded me of other conversations I’ve read, arguments about the proper role of government in assisting the poor, taxation, etc. The idea seems to be that laws which require the payment of taxes, which finance things like helping the (undeserving?) poor, are an offense to our individual moral agency.

Fancy that, but many who would make such an argument regarding taxes  might overlook the laws restricting something like same-sex marriage. Such laws would seem problematic if the bottom line is simply allowing for choice, not coercing.

Further, tying the war in heaven to economic ideas seems most often to be geared against things like government regulation of markets. This move assumes that legislated stipulations are of utmost concern regarding freedom to make choices. How can such a view account for the problems some might point to as being inherent in a structure already reeling from inequality. There is more to coercion than can be found in written law.

Ultimately, I’m interested in a preliminary discussion about the coupling of the LDS war in heaven narrative to contemporary political conditions.

“Sounds like Satan’s plan!” is a response I’d like to see explored much more fully.

For those interested in the theological nitty gritty, aquinas’s critique of Terryl Givens is recommended. Check it out here.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    please be nice to each other

  • Manuel

    “please be nice to each other”

    Politics and religion… what can possibly go wrong…

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    haha

  • http://www.newcoolthang.com/ Geoff J

    Yeah, some Mormons like to use libertarian arguments… until they don’t like where those arguments take them…

  • Craig M.

    As a former sympathizer with this view, I think that an adherent would point out that a negative law (prohibiting certain action) is different from a positive law (requiring action). It would be argued that God still doesn’t condone violations of His law, but won’t force virtue as Satan presumably would (and, by extension, as welfare programs supposedly do).

    As I said, I don’t think this is convincing for a number of reasons, but I also don’t think it’s as ridiculous as some make it out to be.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    I seem to recall writing something about this topic. Hmmmm.

  • http://kelhopglen.blogspot.com DCL

    I see my way through this issue by first not conceding that welfare schemes have anything to do with forced virtue.

    Instead, I see some form of welfare system as one component of a moderate social contract that raises the tide for all boats. First, less exposure to sickness, panhandling, violence, robbery, drugs, etc. to me and my family are tangible benefits to having some form of social safety net. Second, there are a variety of circumstances where I could find myself needing to use the system, so I see my taxes as a sort of insurance payment against the worst case scenario (yes, I can privately insure against certain calamities and live providently to store up for other ones, but why not use all options?). And third, even after surviving BYU economics, I can’t help but seeing welfare payments as anything other than highly stimulative to the economy as a whole (i.e. ultimately accruing in the pockets of the private business owners who paid into the system in the first place).

    On the other hand, I think that people who argue against welfare on the basis that it is some sort of forced virtue wouldn’t concede that this social contract does, or should, exist at all. So, we fall back on forced virtue as the only explanation of welfare, and that is Satan’s plan, QED.

  • Mark B.

    Of course, you’re putting words into Rep. Flake’s mouth. I don’t know what his views are on the matters you mentioned, and nothing that he said gives us any clue about how far his views of the war in heaven and moral agency drive his political philosophy.

    He is one of the increasingly lonely voices on the Republican side who favors a humane and constructive approach to immigration law and policy. That’s enough, in my book, to put him on the side of the angels.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Nah, I didn’t put any words in Flake’s mouth. I quoted a Newsweek piece and said “This quote reminded me of other conversations I’ve read…”

    So I used it as a launching pad to discussion regarding how other people (maybe Flake himself, maybe not) have invoked the Mormon version of Godwin’s Law when talking politics/economy.

    Flake himself very well may be on the side of the angels for various reasons, I don’t know. I wouldn’t pass judgment on him as a person, hopefully, and here I have only referred to him in regards to ideas. The conversation here is about invoking the war in heaven in arguments, and the potential pitfalls of so doing.

  • Clark

    Whether one agrees or not it seems to me that having society recognize a status (marriage) is different from being coerced into something.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    A status has benefits. The status of who is poor and who isn’t, and what sort of support society should provide said status, seems more similar than it might appear, imo.

  • Clark

    To add the problem with the appeal to Satan’s plan whenever social welfare spending is suggested is that other spending seems open to exactly the same critique but this comment isn’t made. I’m fully in agreement that government welfare isn’t charity. I don’t think that means it isn’t helpful to society much like road spending, FDA spending and other such things are.

    I think that some things an appeal to individual liberty makes a lot of sense. When someone isn’t adopting a strict libertarian view out of a view of ethics then such appeals really don’t work.

    There are quasi-libertarian arguments people can still make. But they have to be done on more pragmatic or utilitarian grounds. The problem right now is that both the Democrats but more particularly the Republicans are dominated by populist fervor without a lot of consideration being given to coherency or reasons for particular positions.

  • Clark

    BHodges – I think some status do present privileges. Not all need do. Further I think one ought distinguish between formal privileges (those explicitly granted by the state by the state giving money, rights, etc.) vs. informal (those in which a label leads individuals to chose on their own to act in certain ways) A nobel prize winner is granted only a few privileges (say the prize money) but society treats them differently.

    The problem with marriage is that non-state privileges are tied up with formal privileges. Some, such as say visitation rights are granted by the state. What some (say Huntsman) want to do is grant the state rights to non-marriages. However ideally we’d just get the state out of the business of regulating highly symbolic typically religious actions.

    As for deciding what is coercive, I actually agree the state engaging in this is coercive and also a violation of the Church/State separation. The problem is that it’s been done so long no one wants to change it. (Neither the gay rights crowd nor many conservative religious people) Primarily because both like the idea of coercion in this regard.

  • dallske

    Leaving opinion on the sidelines about where my politics would lay regarding the war in heaven, I have to take the position that one cannot extend the war in heaven to human politics on earth. Our choosing to follow Father’s plan has little to do with our political views. Satan’s plan also has little to do with one’s political views. One is basically implying that someone else’s views are satanic or evil when you make a statement about your own views lining up with God’s plan. No matter what your political views, this isn’t Christian to do so. I may be going too far here, but that is what I see. I feel I am a minority in the church with strongly democratic views, but I am learning more and more that political views don’t necessarily line up with spirituality or faith.

    Loving each other and loving God. If we can hang all our laws on those two statements, we might just succeed as a nation. Joseph envisioned political unity, even though he really didn’t want to tell people how to vote or who to vote for. Jesus didn’t concern himself too heavily with politics as he was more concerned about being the example and loving all sinners around him, not worrying about whether they were going to take advantage of his ‘welfare’ or not. Now I am giving too much slant on my post. Time to end.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/ BHodges

    Dallske, I especially like this:

    Our choosing to follow Father’s plan has little to do with our political views. Satan’s plan also has little to do with one’s political views. One is basically implying that someone else’s views are satanic or evil when you make a statement about your own views lining up with God’s plan.

  • http://moderatebutpassionate.com Grant

    I think there’s more coercion, unrighteous dominion, and being “in bondage one to another” in declaring your politics of God and that the opposing side is of the devil. Sounds like something the devil would do. Heh, heh.

  • http://thegooddemocrat.wordpress.com Dan

    I especially like Grant’s comment #16.

  • el oso

    I think that the more likely issues with welfare and other government programs/regulations are: does it cause someone to be in bondage to someone else? (perpetual welfare recipients are really in bondage to the amoral government), or the famous King Noah tax of 20% being “grevious to be born.”
    Why the 20% tax was so bad is not stated. Obviously, the 50% tax that the Lamanites later exacted was worse, because it impoverished the whole nation and they were supporting their sworn military & cultural enemies. I would love to hear Sen. Reid and Rep. Flake (or another conservative Mormon) debate what the application of the King Noah tax commentary is to today’s society.

  • http://latterdaysnark.blogspot.com/ David B

    I’ve run into that argument before, and i’ve generally used it as a springboard into discussing what in the world the war in heaven/Satan’s plan really might have been like. Of course, i don’t buy into the idea that Satan’s plan involved coercion to do good, so that’s an easy redirection for me. For someone who does hold the usual (i think) view on that, this would probably be a more difficult dance.

  • http://juvenileinstructor.org Ben Park

    As I wrote in my Patheos article–and I had several more paragraphs on this that were cut out–I think this type of religious narrative gives an otherwise fragmented message a larger context. Once political issues are tied to a narrative of epic proportions, it gives them more rhetorical authority.

  • http://thegooddemocrat.wordpress.com Dan

    so either someone is in bondage to the evil government and gets money to eat and survive, or they are free, but starving and will die. Hmmm. I also wonder exactly what would have been wrong with Satan’s plan (if we go by the ridiculous argument that governmental programs for the poor are Satan’s plan).

  • http://moderatebutpassionate.com Grant

    The only real choice I need to be free is whether I follow Christ or the other guy. I can make that choice in my present circumstances or in a communist (or CIA) prison undergoing torture, enhanced or otherwise. That’s the choice that was in the war in heaven too that continues through this probationary period.

    It is just silly to base concepts of freedom on insignificant material things like money and taxes and whether you “deserve” one or the other.

    And someday we may be free from the false doctrine that our nation’s revolution was about taxes (no, it was representative government) and that our Constitution’s puropose was to establish a limited federal government (sorry, that was the articles of confederation).

  • http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com Dave

    Consider this fact, from American Grace: Most Americans are now more likely to look for a church or denomination that fits their politics than to adjust their politics to fit the dictates or doctrines of their church.

    I think the Mormon variation on this trend — given how malleable are LDS positions and doctrines — is to reshape one’s Mormonism to fit one’s politics. I don’t see this as a productive approach.

  • John Mansfield

    “As for deciding what is coercive, I actually agree the state engaging in this is coercive and also a violation of the Church/State separation. The problem is that it’s been done so long no one wants to change it. (Neither the gay rights crowd nor many conservative religious people) Primarily because both like the idea of coercion in this regard.”—Clark (#13)

    Clark, this brings to mind those G.B. Shaw lines to the effect that coercion is the whole point of marriage.

  • http://moderatebutpassionate.com Grant

    #24 John & G.B. So THAT’S why I have to take the garbage out!

  • dallske

    Dave:
    I disagree. Malleable or not, it seems most Mormons stay within the conservative confines of religion. I am considered ‘different’ and even have little ‘talking to’s’ by my mother for being in a ‘fallen’ state due to my political views differing from those of the ‘normal’ conservative views I grew up with.
    A DO agree that a growing trend in America is to fit their religion into their political worldview which is ironic to say the least.

  • LR Whitney

    The problem with LDS politics is the church itself can’t actually decide what most of its political or social doctrines are. You end up with Glenn Beck riding his White Horse of Prophecy into the Tea Party rallies and inviting everyone to take a ride to Armageddon with him, using Harry Reid, his brother in Christ, as a major villain.

    Most so-called LDS “doctrine” is policy, not canon, extrapolated from non-canonical sources, or “folk doctrines.” Take the Negro or “Blacks and the Priesthood” issue. The truth is, there never was any revelation one way or another on this, Joseph Smith ordained several black members to the priesthood, and then slave politics went sour on the subject in Missouri and suddenly the authorization ceased, probably with Brigham Young, a former Quaker who believed strongly that Negros were cursed to be a servile race. This policy wasn’t based upon revealed knowledge, rather from incorporating previous generations of mostly Calvinist Protestant Christian bigotry into LDS theology without ever questioning it. From then on, nobody thought the matter important enough to pray and ponder about apparently, until in 1978 the Brethren set their minds to it and Bruce R McConkie and many other previous apologists for the policy were left looking ignorant and uninspired.

    Like the “curse of Cain” matter, there are many Mormon “policies” or “functional doctrines” that the rank-and-file can pick and choose to get fired up about or not. And then it all changes in a generation or two. The early church was essentially socialist, or communalist. That didn’t work out for them obviously, and the current trend is utterly self-sufficiency. But Zion is billed as an utopia in which all things are held in common. Still hard doctrine, not policy. Which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the Wasatch Front is not “Zion.”

    I’m actually leading into the whole topic of Glenn Beck and the public and political face of Mormonism in my own blog: Religion for Mormons and Other Idiots. I’m about 28,000 drafted words into it, only eight are up yet, and it’s going to take another seven or eight thousand to wrap it up. It’s a very big, but very important topic.

    The thing is, Joseph Smith voted Democrat. The Republican Party was created to wipe out slavery and polygamy, the “twin relics of barbarism.” Harry Reid is probably correct in saying the Democrats, Liberals that is, are less likely to burn you as a heretic than the Tea Party or the Republicans, and Glenn Beck is apparently blissfully ignorant of the notion that he’s rubbing elbows with the selfsame people who raped, pillaged, shot, hacked and burned Mormonism out of Missouri and Illinois, shot Joseph Smith, and sent an army to wipe the Latter-day Saints out of Utah.

    To sort out the current state of LDS political relations you have to sort out nearly two hundred years of previous LDS political crap and failure. Otherwise it’s pointless.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    LR Whitney:

    If you’re going to drop in, call me and my fellow Mormons idiots, link to a long-winded blog that continues to call us idiots, I’m going to ask you not to comment again on this discussion. It’s not really what I’m aiming for in a conversation about religion and politics here. Thanks!

  • dallske

    I may be bias, but it wasn’t really ‘subtracting’ from the discussion compared to any other commenter. It is quite relevant to point out the history involved and the politics that changed history forever. Correct or not, history shows us some key aspects of politics that remain key aspects today. Both sides have plenty of faults and plenty of strengths, LRW just happened to point out one sides faults :)

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Who you talking to, dallske ?

  • dallske

    Why do you ask when you know the answer?

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Ah, I read “I” instead of “it,” : “I may be bias, but I wasn’t really ‘subtracting’ from the discussion.” Sorry about that. I responded to LRW the way I did because I’m not interested in his/her attitude right now. I just watched a bit of an interview with Ann Coulter last night and her snarky arrogance really grated on me. LRW brought shades of that approach and I’m not interested in that sort of tone right now. I don’t have a problem discussing faults and strengths of any particular side, but I do have a problem with the general tenor LRW brings. I noticed, incidentally, the folks at BCC felt similarly to me, though in an unrelated discussion.

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/06/08/i-am-a-mormon/#comment-224389

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    If he knew, he would not have to ask.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Haha, Chris.

    Maybe I’m bias, but I guess dallske thought I was being a smart alec, which is funny considering he seemed to be defending smart alec-ness on LRW’s behalf.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    That is a great post at BCC. Blair, I think it is an approach that both you and I can appreciate.

  • dallske

    BHodges:
    Fair enough. Just trying to get a rough gauge on it. Being able to allow all colors in on a discussion doesn’t always line up with every time and/or place.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Chris: agreed.

    Sometimes I’m not in the mood for the color “jerk” and sometimes I can do better with it. Sometimes I use that crayon myself. Just didn’t feel like it right now in regards to LRW.

  • http://emkinstitute.org/ Teddy “Swimmer” Kennedy

    Glenn Beck is apparently blissfully ignorant of the notion that he’s rubbing elbows with the selfsame people who raped, pillaged, shot, hacked and burned Mormonism out of Missouri and Illinois, shot Joseph Smith, and sent an army to wipe the Latter-day Saints out of Utah.

    If ya’ all are gonna talk about the unsavory types that you Mormons hang out with, I don’t want to be neglected. Me and Orin Hatch were great buds!

  • Congressman Wiener

    Yeah, count me in, too! I once had a chat with Congressman Flake. Nice guy and all that.

  • Satan

    Heck, all ya’all were rubbing elbows with me in the pre-existence!

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Strange that Ted, Weiner, and Satan share the same IP address and email. There’s a conspiracy theory to be crafted up in here!

  • http://lrwhitney.wordpress.com/ LR Whitney

    Ok, let me get this straight: You post an article featuring the phrase, “Satan’s Plan,” in which you highlight a photoshopped picture stolen from the Parker and Smith totally profane musical, The Book of Mormon, with Mitt Romney’s face stuck onto a leaping missionary, and from this I have erroneously concluded that you were looking for debate and dialogue centered around Mormon religion and politics. And that makes sense to you?

    Furthermore, you allude to my blog as calling you and your fellow Mormons idiots, by which I can only deduce that you imagine I am not one of your fellow Mormons. And this makes sense to you?

    Now, in the latter case you might have been right had my blog not actually referred to “Religion for Mormons and Other Idiots,” and actually said, “Mormons are all Idiots.” And again, had you read even the first post or the most recent, you would immediately note that I’m fully capable of flipping you a temple recommend if that’s your required commentary membership credential.

    So, fair enough, I read all the content in the post about religion and politics, as well as all the religious and political responses as inviting further religious and political commentary. My bad. I also seem to have misread all the overt sacasm and wit as wit and sacasm, and mistakenly replied in kind. Just goes to show that Mormons all too often self-identify in the “stupid” category, because either one of us is, or one of us just demands to have center stage.

    Hey, brother, it’s your blog. Mormons talking to Mormons about Mormons in terms acceptable to Mormons everywhere is really what’s going to make inroads into the political and social institutions of the world eh? Talk on. Been fun, no harm, no foul.

  • http://www.keepapitchinin.org Ardis E. Parshall

    I disagree. You have been very foul.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Ok, let me get this straight: You post an article featuring the phrase, “Satan’s Plan,” in which you highlight a photoshopped picture stolen from the Parker and Smith totally profane musical, The Book of Mormon, with Mitt Romney’s face stuck onto a leaping missionary, and from this I have erroneously concluded that you were looking for debate and dialogue centered around Mormon religion and politics. And that makes sense to you?

    The image is the Newsweek cover from which I took the quote used in the blog post, the quote being the springboard to discussion. The image isn’t a central argument, and frankly I’m not sure why you thought it was. I usually add an image to brighten up my posts a bit.

    Furthermore, you allude to my blog as calling you and your fellow Mormons idiots, by which I can only deduce that you imagine I am not one of your fellow Mormons. And this makes sense to you?

    You may be Mormon, you may not be Mormon. It boils down to this: When people start throwing “idiot” around, I don’t always exhibit a huggable reaction. (Also, your posts were too long to read all the way. You might consider trimming a bit if you really want people to make it all the way through. Something I am not particularly good at myself sometimes, I know.)

    I’m fully capable of flipping you a temple recommend if that’s your required commentary membership credential.

    Didn’t ask, not really relevant to me. Perhaps you might consider how your tone can be quite off-setting to some people. When you show up on a bog out of nowhere and start throwing out bombs you probably ought not be surprised when people don’t blow you kisses. That said, I realize there is plenty of need in the world for critics, for laughing, for fun. But I didn’t find yours particularly witty or engaging in those ways though.

    Just goes to show that Mormons all too often self-identify in the “stupid” category, because either one of us is, or one of us just demands to have center stage.

    Actually I kinda just wanted things to stay somewhat on topic. Politics and religion in conversation can be really volatile on the bloggernacle. I realized that from the outset, and deliberately framed my blog post to direct the conversation in a particular direction. I said:

    Ultimately, I’m interested in a preliminary discussion about the coupling of the LDS war in heaven narrative to contemporary political conditions.

    “Sounds like Satan’s plan!” is a response I’d like to see explored much more fully.

    Basically, you threw out a litany of bombs and hijacked whatever fruitful conversation about the coupling of the LDS war in heaven narrative to contemporary political conditions we might have had from the outset. Yes, some other people were off-topic from the main thrust of the post. Their comments lacked the snark which infested your comment though. So it stuck out to me. You’ll notice my responses to you basically ignore any point you made about politics and religion because of the tone in which you dressed them. Consider that. And consider this:

    Person A writes a blog post and raises a few questions.

    Persons B, C, and D respond to the post.

    Person E shows up, has a blog calling Mormons idiots (and wants sympathy for it, or wants me to chuckle because hey, Person E is a Mormon too, so he can call me an idiot?) and throws out a rambling bunch of highly charged statements, essentially ignoring all previous comments and the original blog post itself.

    Person A says cut it out.

    Person E is shocked and tries to gain some upper ground rhetorically.

    Person A explains how this blog generally runs so that Person E can try to fit the mode of the overall conversation a little better, he also makes a too-long description using descriptors like “Person A” and so forth, leaving out some aspects of the exchange, but outlining the gist.

    Hey, brother, it’s your blog. Mormons talking to Mormons about Mormons in terms acceptable to Mormons everywhere is really what’s going to make inroads into the political and social institutions of the world eh?

    Better than calling people “idiots.” That’s a Glenn Beckian move if I ever saw one. Odd, considering that you seem to not be a big fan of Beck, that you remind me of him so much.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    PS- please don’t take my responses as an overall discouragement of participation. For instance, I’d very much appreciate it if you’d read this book review and comment:

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2011/06/book-review-schweizer-hating-god-the-untold-story-of-misotheism/

    One more point: every grandchild can find a way to love their curmudgeonly grumpy grandpa. They might cringe at his expressions sometimes, or chuckle a little at his weird stories. But they know deep down he’s their patriarch, a lovable old fellow, and he sneaks them candy in church.

    On the other hand, everyone’s pretty much scared of the old man who sits next to you on the bus, who you don’t know from Adam, who starts going off about taxes, the government, Vietnam, or whatever else. That guy just seems like a crazy angry person, not really a friend. It’s hard to get the stranger’s jokes in that situation.

  • dallske

    Being a peruser of mormon blogs I find it fascinating how different personalities are treated. This is one reason I don’t comment very often. I don’t have my own blog or I’m not an admin. on any blog so I don’t have that perspective, but its just interesting how a person can come off non-abrasive to one, and completely out of line to another.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/ BHodges

    See bus/grandpa analogy.

  • dallske

    Yeah, saw. Not everyone reacts the same to the ornery old man either dude.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/ BHodges

    Cool. I liked your comment @ 14, btw. Nice addition to the conversation.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Thanks for all the kind comments. I will have a few follow-up posts over the next few days. For now…I must recover from the drive. :)


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