Warning: Liberal Apocalypse Coming
I recently attended a family reunion where I’m pretty sure I was the only “liberal.” Liberal, in this case, means I voted for Obama. Good thing my children are innocent or the family may have disposed of me quietly. Instead they just subjected me to long conversations about gun rights and the rapid imminent destruction of America. Their main point was how bad the second coming is going to be for us liberals because we have no guns to protect our food. I stayed silent for the sake of peace and the fact that I knew at least three of them were packing. Anyway, it all compelled me to write my response here.
First of all, I just want to point out what we know about church protocol in the face of natural disaster and large scale destruction. Each stake president and bishop is responsible for accounting for all the people in his stake or ward and finding food, clothing, and shelter for those lacking. He, of course, uses the relief society and priesthood to organize this endeavor and calls on all members to open their doors and resources to those in need. Then after he has accounted for everyone in the stake or ward he organizes the people to go out into the community and serve where they may. We have proof that this system works because it is replayed over and over in natural disasters all over the world. I first became acquainted with the system when I read the letters of a stake president serving in New Orleans when Katrina hit. He spoke about the generosity of the congregants towards their brothers and sisters and then chronicled the way they opened their hearts, doors, pantries, and closets for the people of New Orleans. Sandy is another great example. If you haven’t seen this, then please take a moment. And keep in mind that this was organized on a local church level and did not come down officially from Salt Lake. This is the local church following protocol the best way they can.
Mormon Helping Hands: Hurricane Sandy
So tell me again about needing a gun to protect my food in the last days. I think I’ll be too busy working with the Relief Society to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. At least that’s what I hope. I hope that the bishop (assuming he survived) will call me and say, “We need you to bring your wheat to the store house—because we know you are clueless about what to do with it. We need to organize and redistribute it and get all our people fed.” I hope that I won’t be greedy and mad about the virgins with no oil. I hope that I’ll be willing to turn over all that I have and go out and serve God’s children. I Trust the church in this way. The bishop might call my Uncle Jeff to pack heat and stand guard at the door, but not because others are trying to take what we have—because they need protection in order to distribute food in an orderly way. I was raised in an apocalyptic-happy family. We looked forward with eager anticipation for the time of Christ’s coming. I remember that when Clinton won the presidency I felt excitement about the then-guaranteed second coming. Clinton’s evil social liberalism and his history with drug use would bring the world to its end-for sure. Needless to say I have since changed my expectations and my politics. While waiting for the second coming, I have had the opportunity to learn from many years of interacting with the world around me. I think God has bigger concerns than social liberalism. Christ is concerned about more than just the politics of the United States. He takes stock of us collectively, as a whole world, but he considers us individually, feeling the suffering of even his sparrows and ravens. He comprehends the pain and agony of his children equally. But let’s focus on the sparrows and ravens for a moment. I’ve always loved Luke 12: 6-7 and Luke12: 12-31:
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows…
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
As clear as these verses are I feel that it is profoundly important to address these two questions: How does seeking the Kingdom of God feed and clothe the nations (vs. 30-31)? And why is Christ teaching the disciples using examples from nature?
The first question is worthy of more discussion than I can introduce here, and I trust the readers to thoughtfully consider it, but it’s important that Christ acknowledges in verse 30 that God understands the physical needs of his Children. He does not undervalue our physical care and nourishment. Christ is teaching a larger lesson about how the world might be sustained. Living the Gospel of Christ, following his example, and teachings will address bigger issues and problems, like hunger and poverty. The parable makes it clear that wealth and prosperity is not something of value to God. Abundance, apparently, is something different—it is having your needs met while finding joy and peace through a Christian life. The pride cycle in the Book of Mormon is always connected to the economic equality of a people. Every time a people loses site of the Gospel there is class division and the poor begin to be persecuted. Over and over we are instructed to feed and care for the poor and needy. Alma 5:55 begs us not to turn our back on the poor and the needy. 4 Nephi 1:3 points out that there were no poor or rich in the society that existed after Christ’s coming. In Mosiah 4:26 King Benjamin entreats us to care for the poor and the needy and cloth the naked so that we will stand guiltless before God. And the list goes on. Undoubtedly God cares that we are looking out for one another. He is concerned when we hoard our wealth—when we build bigger barns to store our excess. God reminds us repeatedly not to persecute the poor and weak things of the earth. True, he promises that we will prosper if we follow him, but that prosperity hearkens back to the Abundance that God intends.
The second question addresses one simple theme. God loves the natural world. He is profoundly aware of it and it stands witness to the great love of God for his children. The simple acknowledgement in these verses confirms an affinity that Christ feels for the marvelous beauty and power of the earth. He also addresses the idea that it is self-sustaining in its very nature. I recently conducted an interview with Steven Peck, an evolutionary biologist and professor at Brigham Young University. He asserts that evolution is the principle by which God governs the living world. Through evolution God takes great pleasure in the development of a distinctly unique and unexpected nature. The process itself sustains and preserves and God is fond of the diversity and progress of its development. Christ teaches that God has provided for even the lilies and grasses and that we, being greater than these, should trust that he has provided for us though the wondrous bounty of the earth. As I read the words of Christ I am reminded again and again of these simple truths: abundance is having your needs met while finding joy and peace through a Christian life and that God loves and cares for the earth that sustains us.
A number of years ago I found myself a missionary in Uruguay. So often I encountered poverty that was pervasive and seemed absolute. There was a group of street kids that lived in my neighborhood. They slept in an alley near a grocery store where they commonly begged for food. As we encountered them in the streets I would ask questions and find out names and ages. The oldest of this group was 11 years old and the youngest was near to five years old. One day I had a bag of pastries with me as I turned a corner to find this group of boys coming down the street. I called one of the smallest to me and handed him the bag and then watched in horror as he returned to the group only to be kicked and punched until he surrendered the bag to the bigger boys. It happened so fast that I could do nothing to prevent it and I was left standing with the darkest feeling of doubt and hopelessness. I was struck by the brutality of their poverty. I knew that no matter how many lessons I taught these boys they would still be plagued by the gnawing hunger in their bellies. People have to be fed and clothed as well as be taught a gospel of love and hope. It is no coincidence that Christ so benevolently cared for the physical needs of the people with loaves and fishes just as he cared for them spiritually.
Recently I came across this graph showing the economic disparity in America. There are many more just like it. (Google “economic wealth distribution in United States”).
Now I know that there are many issues surrounding poverty in this country. I know that the poor can be lazy and greedy but I also know many lazy greedy rich people and my point in using this graph is to say that obviously something is wrong here. And not just in this country but all over the world. In fact many would argue that the US doesn’t struggle with poverty the way most nations do. But In considering the last days I would ask if there is a more pervasive sin than greed. The United States with all its wealth still struggles with great debt and economic inequality. These issues cannot be blamed on one economic system or political party. We are all responsible. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, as well as the verses above, uses language that forces us to ponder humility. It blends the physical and spiritual in a way that disallows any confusion about the marriage of our physical and spiritual states. Christ calls on us to follow the will of God in humility and then charges us to be stewards of those in need. Given the disparity of our nation’s wealth, it seems our politics and policies neglect his counsel which reflects us individually. I’m not sure how I feel about an apocalyptic end but I would wager that it will be brought about by two problems: our greed and neglect of the poor, and our unabashed consumption and abuse of this earth. The poor and suffering far outnumber those that enjoy economic comfort and security. That imbalance is a greater threat to our freedoms and political stability than any other issue. We cannot blame others for this problem. We must address it in our own hearts and minds daily. We must also be stewards of the earth God gave us, which is meant to sustain and provide for all of God’s children.
I love so much of this so hard, I don’t even know where to begin. Yes to all of it.
Sarah, Thanks for your post. Here is how I see it. I think that both parties, Republicans and Democrats, genuinely want to help others. The greatest difference is in how we want to help others.
The Democrat answer is exactly as you lay it out. They see the problems of the world today (poverty, hunger, education, uninsured people, unemployment, etc) and their solution is GOVERNMENT. If we only spent more money on education than we would have more kids that graduate. If we only had more money that went to poverty, we would have less poverty. If we only had more unemployment benefits, it would really help out the little guy. Their answer is always more government to solve the problem.
A conservative says that if we created more opportunity, more freedom, than all boats rise. And the ills of the world can be and should be addressed, not by more government, but by churches and organizations.
Imagine you go through a Hurricane Katrina or Sandy like storm, do you feel better knowing the federal government or the LDS church is there to help you. I have no confidence in the government at all. Suppose you needed help because you lost your job. Will your local bishop be more in tune with your needs than your state unemployment office.
Their are countless thousands of examples of the inefficiency of government. As Reagan, “government isn’t the solution, government is the problem.” We see government at its finest today as thousands of people try to sign up for Obama care with 34 states reporting glitches in the online sign up process.
If we want to fix the ills of society, feed the poor, clothe the naked, help the widow, etc- let’s let churches and non profit organizations do that. They do it more efficiently and are more thoroughly.
The LDS church watches over and spends more frugally my 10% in tithing than the federal government does my 25% in taxes. If I knew the government would watch every penny and spend it wisely like the church did, I would have more faith in them.
You have some cognitive dissonance going on. I assume that is why you completely misread my entire piece. I never “lay out” a democratic answer. Nor do I ever articulate how government is the solution to poverty. In fact the only thing I ever say about politics is that I voted for Obama. You can assume what you want but you are coming across as someone who is incapable of hearing a point of view from someone who may disagree with you politically. I challenge you to reread and look for common ground. Cognitive dissonance usually indicates that you need to adjust some thinking. I’m not asking you to switch political parties but I am suggesting that republicans aren’t as superior as you assert and it might help everyone if you stopped thinking this way.
Jason and I have had many political discussions/debates over the year or so that we’ve known each other. If Obama is mentioned, or really any political issue discussed, he’s going to snap into debate mode.
Did I snap?
Fantastic essay! I loved it and it has caused me to reconsider and reevaluate some of my ideas. Thanks!
Jason, really…I mean, really? (groan)
Wow. Well done. This is being added to my favorites.
Beautiful, Sarah. Thank you.
” . . . abundance is having your needs met while finding joy and peace through a Christian life . ..”
A dude. Is that really your reply?
Really? Really? Are you kidding???
Day one of Obama care today is a telling example of the fails of big government liberalism.
Well written….my favorite quote:
“I’m not sure how I feel about an apocalyptic end but I would wager that it will be brought about by two problems: our greed and neglect of the poor, and our unabashed consumption and abuse of this earth.”
“God” does not need to destroy anything (in fact I believe he only creates and advocates for the least), but we sure are capable.
Personally I believe the “church” is “true’ as you described so well—on the grass roots level where charity is demonstrated everyday. I trust that members at their core really are far more liberal and generous then their rhetoric—I hope
although in my ward they did create a military plan….like who would really ever shoot anyone in need?
and my wife know how you feel being the only one in her family that voted for Obama in his first election…
well, I fall in between camps. I am anti-war, not a Democrat or a Republican; I voted for neither of the candidates from the major parties–
I plan on sharing my food storage–
and I do appreciate what you have to say–
this is truly a dilemma, and I lose sleep over those hungry children–
I know what starvation does to people (won’t go into detail)–
I know it close to home–
This other issue not discussed is personal responsibility. Conservative ideology is about taking personal responsibility. I can’t find work so I go to my bishop for help. He tells me that I can have a food order from the Bishop’s storehouse to feed my family but that I must also WORK at the storehouse to fill orders for those who can’t do it themselves. He might ask me to come and clean the church or mow the lawn or something else. In other words, it isn’t a handout, it’s a hand up.
A liberal would simply say that it is your boss’s or your company’s fault you were let go and that you need government benefits. You are given up to 100 weeks of unemployment benefits. You might be given food stamps, that can also be used as fast food places. You get free health care. You get housing benefits. You can even get an Obama cell phone provided by your government. With all of these benefits, why go back to work.
The conservative idea is to help you help yourself. Helping is better done by organizations, churches, non profit groups, and so on. The government should help people by fostering an environment where people can find jobs, buy their own healthcare, and be responsible for themselves.
Apparently this echo chamber will only respond with an “amen” or an occasional “are you serious” reply- without discussing the merits.
And you are again completely ignoring the entire point of the whole essay. Please reread the final paragraph looking for common ground. You may notice this go around a whole helping of personal accountability. It’s okay to think about politics with a bit more complexity and not so black and white: Democrats = badder Republicans = goodder.
I think I understand your point clearly. Your point is that with all of the wealth and power of our nation, why the inequality. Why is there not more done to help the least among us. Our nation does more to help the poor and the needy and to lift others up than any other country in the world, because we are a free market, capitalistic nation. It’s been the freedom we have that allows us to help others, and for Americans to live better than almost anybody else in the world.
I get your point Sarah and I appreciate your comments. I don’t want to seem overly critical of your write up.
I just get easily annoyed at LDS liberals who suggest that the right thing to do as a nation is to take from the wealthy and give to the needy, and to have more policies, more programs, and more government address the ills of society. That isn’t the answer at all.
Again, nothing personal. If I misunderstood your post than I’m sorry.
I reread your post a 2nd time. You discuss the poverty you saw on your mission and I agree, it’s horrible. I saw it recently when I helped a friend of mine who is Baptist as he and his church members, and my son and I, went to downtown Fort Worth to feed homeless in a park. There were about 300 people who had very little if anything.
However, when you showed the economic wealth distribution in the US model, I think we are missing an important point. The poor in our country today are largely better than the poor in just about anywhere in the world. Some have cell phone, TV’s, healthcare, and food. They have those things because of our economic model. If we allowed people to keep more of their money than they would have even more too – but that’s another topic altogether.
And to your other points, yes- we should want to help others in the last days. We should have enough for ourselves and our families but we shouldn’t live like animals, shooting others who are in need. My hope is that in our hour of need, in the very last days, that it will be private organizations (like the church) and individuals who come through to help others in need, and not the government (like FEMA in New Orleans) who come to save the day. If it’s the government that we are all screwed, but if it’s Christlike people than we will all be better off.
Would you care to cross-post this and/or write up a new post on your personal experiences as they relate to politics for mormonliberals.org? If so, let me know.
Thank you Sarah for writing this article. I was telling Harold pretty much the same things the other night, but knowing me as you do, it came out a wee bit different. Then today I saw your article. I love the way you state the thoughts that you have; the love you feel for your fellowman; the total enjoyment you have for life and the world. I also know the angst you have when anyone is hurting physically, emotionally, going without and etc. I feel that the world is slow to awaken to the problems that surround them, that it is not just any political party or religious ideology that assists in creating solutions that do not work to the benefit of many people, but create the total disregard for other people’s thoughts, feelings, wants, aspirations, and needs ( which I think you know you how I feel about the previous). If people could come to a meeting of the minds, the world and the United States would undoubtedly be a better place in which to live. I do not see it as a “Liberal Apocalypse Coming” but as a ” I don’t care about anyone except myself and my blood” apocalypse. We, as human beings need to wake up, understand and discover ways to assist those in want, not just in giving the fishes, but in how to fish. We get to discover ways to give back to Mother Earth and in doing so , we will be able to show our love to our Father In Heaven, not just in words, but in actions.
This is just beautiful. I am an ex-Mormon, returned missionary once upon a time. I think you have kept your eye on the prize and not been distracted. Brava, well come!