Last week I posted about the difficulties due to the culture wars that people are increasingly experiencing in Mormon congregations (and society at large, but you know, Mormon blog, yada yada). Many of us have really enjoyed a break from this partisan divide during the pandemic when Church-going was not a thing. It’s a little hard to want to go back into those swamp-infested waters. As mentioned in last week’s post, Pres. Oaks implored / briefly mentioned at the end of an-otherwise semi-partisan talk to leave our politics at the door, vote our conscience, and allow others to do the same, rising above partisan disagreements to vote on issues we feel are important based on the information we have.
I have thought about this a lot during the Trump years as the partisan divide has grown, and due to the rise of social media over the last decade, I’ve been occasionally surprised by the views of some of the people I’ve known my whole life. We tend to think that we are all more or less aligned, or depending on the person we assume we hold no common views, and people can sometimes surprise you.
I have also observed another phenomenon, which is that when you have a strong partisan disagreement, there is often a strengthening in the relationship rather than a severing of ties, at least when the relationship is an older one that was never based on politics, or when the people involved just make it happen. It’s hard to suss out just why this is, so I thought I’d walk through a few case studies with names and details changed to protect the guilty (my rhetorical opponents in this case).
First Case Study
A previous ward friend posted a very polemic anti-abortion screed on Facebook that contained a lot of misinformation, hyperbole, and maligning of those holding different views. This person’s abortion views were also much harsher than the Church’s actual views, and I know that this person is very actively involved in the Church. She has also been a youth leader over my child, someone whose efforts and extra care I had really appreciated, although my child was not a fan. This person had also made some very strong anti-gay remarks, equating homosexuality with pedophilia, in a previous social media post, and we had gotten into a prolonged public scrape over that. I can see why her views would result in my kids’ cancelling of her. One of the benefits of this person’s public views is that it becomes extremely easy to see where ward members stand. There were 3 or so ward friends who were making comments like mine and liking each others’ and my remarks. There were 3 or so who were agreeing with her and liking her remarks. It was pretty clear who was where on the political spectrum. All of our friendships were based on things unrelated to politics, although given my child’s feelings and our prior disagreements, I had distanced myself a little bit from this person.
Outcome: I would characterize this relationship as largely unchanged. Nobody got unfriended over it, but we seldom if at all see each other or interact at this point. I kind of knew already that this person’s views were nothing like mine. I have common friends with this person, and we share memories, many of them good, but we aren’t in the same ward anymore. Would I offer help if this person were in need? Likely yes, and I would expect them to act likewise.
Second Case Study
This next person is someone I grew up with, although we weren’t close friends. I believe he was in my first grade class, and many other classes through high school. We knew each other slightly better when we were both assigned to the same court-mandated rehab class (thank you, Nancy Reagan), although even then we weren’t so much close friends as equally emotional and contrarian, enjoying vociferous arguments with the judge over the legalization of drugs. (TBH, this particular judge was a maverick who mostly agreed with us). We were in this class with 18 of our friends, so while we didn’t spend much time together, and we graduated high school soon thereafter, we briefly bonded by being on the same political side, mostly because we were snot-nosed anti-authoritarian punks that this judge found somehow charming. Imagine my surprise when this childhood friend came out on Facebook with an anti-abortion screed on par with my first case study! As I thought about it, though, I remembered that he was raised Catholic, and I thought maybe that was informing his views. I politely but firmly countered his views, allowed for his religious views to differ from mine, and linked to an article that framed the pro-choice argument from a conservative perspective. I was immediately shouted down as a baby murderer who had been duped into evil by the Marxist left, and apparently he claimed he wasn’t Catholic (he totally was in high school, just saying, but seriously, after 30 years, who knows what religions people are claiming–they are all very different now). So that was a super nasty interaction with someone I have literally not seen or thought about in three decades, and live over two thousand miles away from to boot.
Outcome: As in the first case, a few of my other high school friends were reliably on my side, liking my posts, posting their own things, etc. Most of the ones who sided with the anti-abortion guy were people I don’t know, so non-mutual friends. Here’s the weird twist. After this altercation, he now goes out of his way to like my posts (which are not political anyway–to me, Facebook is like a reunion, for family, friends, and travel pics; Twitter is for politics). So either he thinks he won and he’s smoothing things over, or he wants to show that even though he got a little heated, it’s all good, we’re still friends, whatever. Not really sure. There is approximately zero percent chance I will ever see this person again in real life. I don’t even think he attended any of the high school reunions I went to.
Third Case Study
A Church friend I grew up with, another person I haven’t seen since high school, dared his non-Trump friends on Facebook to explain their support of Biden without reference to Trump. The gist of what he was saying is that people weren’t voting for Biden / Harris, just against Trump. Which, yes, it’s totally true in many cases because Trump was such an outlier, but many who voted for Trump likewise did it as a vote against the other party and/or the political machine, the status quo, the “deep state” if you will , so I thought it was kind of a dumb point, certainly not the coup de grace he thought it was. But I did answer his question with the things that I liked about Biden / Harris, and he came back on and said I was the only person who had actually taken the time to answer his question without resorting to partisan fighting, so thanks. He also said he thought I was wrong, but hey, that’s what I thought he’d say.
We were in the same small ward growing up (not the same high school, though), and as such we were a close-knit bunch. He’s a year behind me in school, and honestly, among our friend group he was often the one who was teased and/or bullied, but in a way that I’m going to call “affectionate” even if it was pretty over the top (not by me–I was a bystander! )
Outcome: Basically no change. We are still more or less social media friends. It maybe changed the tone of his Facebook post a little bit. As former ward friends from our youth, I would always be up for a get together or to host any of them as house guests. It’s just too long and too deep a connection to do otherwise. I have met up with two of his siblings over the years, and their views are different from his.
What I think is interesting in these cases is that the relationships pre-date the disagreement and are on a non-political basis, and as such they have enough meat on their bones to withstand what may come. These are also not high demand relationships, and they also have no impact to my daily life. These are all probably factors that allow the status quo to prevail.
The recent discussion on culture wars reminded me of another podcast discussion I was listening to in which Ezra Klein talked about how we disagree with people whose views differ, particularly in an environment of “cancel culture” in social media. Basically, if these people were strangers, I would probably dismiss them, block them, cancel them. You never persuade anyone by cancelling them, but it’s also not a big loss–I am unlikely to see these people again.
The Ezra Klein discussion concluded that you have to approach people differently based on various factors:
- Insiders of your group (people who mostly agree with you) vs. outsiders (those who oppose your viewpoint)
- Powerful or influential people or companies vs. one-off individuals
- People you have to deal with vs. people you don’t
For that first group, consider for example how you would approach someone who claims to be an LGBT ally, but then uses a term like “same-sex attraction” or questions trans rights or the lived experience of LGBT people, for example. Your approach with that person should have a higher standard than your approach if someone who does not claim to be an ally to the LGBT community says or does those things, at least if you hope to be persuasive. Otherwise literally the entire opposite view and a lot of people with overlapping views are going to be cancelled.
For the next set of factors, consider the difference between a powerful company that is found to have sexist or racist hiring practices or public views vs. an individual on Twitter who says something that is questionable in terms of race or sex. The larger company being targeted or “cancelled” is probably more impactful and justified than taking that same approach with an individual, who may have a harder time weathering the storm of public outcry and criticism.
The last set of factors is the most difficult for the case study problem. I don’t have to deal with any of those people again if I don’t want to. But I didn’t “cancel” them, block them, or unfriend them (I’ve only blocked or unfriended people for creepiness, not terrible political views), and I still hold them in some esteem on non-political topics. I wish them well. I hope they have happy lives.
I can employ people in my business whose political views are disagreeable because we aren’t doing political work. Likewise with customers. So long as we keep those things out of the fray and nobody behaves too extremely, we should be fine.
A worry I have with this last set of factors is the people at Church, the ones I don’t know well yet (and maybe don’t know if I want to know them). We have no existing relationship. If we don’t develop a relationship of good will based on other factors (e.g. real friendship, serving each other, etc.) and if they aren’t influential in my ward (e.g. teaching roles or ward leadership), I can literally just avoid them. If they are influential, that changes the calculus. If I can’t avoid them for personal reasons, that also changes the calculus.
- How do you feel about this way of evaluating relationships with those you disagree with politically?
- Do you have similar case studies?
- Do you find that relationship sometimes become “closer” after a disagreement? Or do they become more distant? Why do you think the outcome was what it was?
 I won’t.
 A lot of my teenage stories culminate in fireworks, specifically Roman candles, being shot directly at people.
It’s really strange but here’s what has happened to me, a life-long member of the Church and a life-long conservative Republican:
1. Starting about 2013, when the Gospel Topics Essays first appeared, my attitude about the Church and my testimony of the Church’s truth claims took a drastic turn. I was thinking and feeling things I had never experienced before.
2. Starting about 2016, when it became apparent that Trump was going to get the Republican nomination, my attitude about politics and my loyalty to the Republican Party took a drastic turn. I was thinking and feeling things I had never experienced before.
I’m not a liberal Dem like many of you. And I don’t consider myself anti-Mormon. But I’ve definitely had to recalibrate my loyalties and sympathies. And just as I found overlap between my conservative politics and strong Mormon upbringing, I’m now finding overlap between my revised view of Trump’s party and RMN’s revelatory Church. Since I’m the one who has changed, as opposed to my friends and family who are still all-in with the Church and the R Party, I try to avoid discussions of religion and politics in order to maintain relationships. It’s also true that I tend to avoid some people who in my previous life I embraced because I realize we are in two different places. But again, I’m the one who has changed, not them. So it’s my responsibility to avoid religion and politics in our discussions.
One interesting side effect: questioning the Church’s history and truth claims has made me more liberal on certain social issues. I can’t blame that on Trump entirely. He just makes it easier.
This is a wonderful post that raises critical issues. How can we interact with uninformed voters?
“Every nation has the government it deserves,” the French writer and diplomat Joseph de Maistre declared in 1811. Since the primary function of government is to make laws, it follows that every nation has the laws it deserves.
The words of de Maistre are no less true today than they were in 1811. The reason we have a federal government that is running amok is because the great mass of the public has become lazy and indolent. Indeed, the masses have rejected self-sufficiency and self-reliance and instead, have devoted their lives to seeking immediate gratification.
So how can we interact with those who are so uninformed? We must insist that they educate and inform themselves about candidates and political issues. This goes for those in the Church and out of it. The future of the Church and the Country depend on it.
josh h: I don’t think there are as many liberal Dems on the blog or who comment on the blog as you might think. To clarify, I suspect that there are probably more progressives (pro-regulation of companies to change incentives) than there are liberals (government pays companies to intervene on behalf of citizens). If I had to guess, I’d imagine there are more independents than Dems (or at least as many), like me, and quite a few recently disaffected Republicans like yourself. Personally, I voted for Bush / Obama / Clinton / LITERALLY ANYONE BUT TRUMP, oh yeah, Biden. None of these were perfect choices, IMO, although Obama was the best of this list in terms of statesmanship and diplomacy. Biden’s doing all right, but extending the supplemental unemployment through August was too long given that the mask-mandates are lifted for those who are vaccinated and we don’t have a shortage of vaccine availability. I’m intrigued whether his infrastructure plan will truly transform the workforce, and while it will probably hurt me in the short term, I acknowledge that it’s not great as is.
How do you manage avoiding political discussions at Church when those in the majority frequently won’t quit infusing their terrible views into their talks, lessons and comments? When you are confronted with the seemingly majoritarian elitism, sexism, racism and homophobia that coincides with both their political and religious views? Do you just sit back and say “Well, that’s just your opinion, man”? At what point is it no longer worth associating with them?
Openly disagreeing with someone only forces them to reinforce their beliefs even if they were never strong to begin with. It’s human nature.
Finding other things to talk about and be a friend will actually allow the other person to drop their guard and question their beliefs because they’re not threatened and we want to find commonality with our friends..
And if you’re one of those people that says “well I won’t even talk to you because you’re a bigot if you don’t see that LGBT is have rights too” just remember that it’s only been 13 years since California, one of the most liberal states voted for the first black president while voting that marriage is between a man and a woman only.
If the issue is so important to you, maybe get off your soapbox and try conversing with those you disagree with in a manner that isn’t proven to fail (like vehemently telling a person that they’re wrong).
Andy: Does your advice differ for existing friendships vs. people you don’t yet know? Also, which soapbox are you referencing? In all 3 of my examples, the soapbox was that of the rhetorical opponent (not present in this discussion), and my responses were just engaging with them in friendly but respectful disagreement (it’s their wall, after all). There was no vehemence or anger in any of my replies as my post makes clear, so I’m not sure where you are coming from. I normally do not engage with people at all over political disagreements, but I did in these three cases, all through social media, all with respect and thoughtfulness so they are aware that not everyone agrees with their conclusions, and here’s why I see things differently. Your comment doesn’t make much sense in light of that. Are you referring to the Ezra Klein podcast where they discussed canceling people over their views? Addressing your comments in the second person is confusing me. Are you using second person in a general sense, or specifically directing your comments at me or someone else? If the latter, I can’t imagine why. If the former, your meaning is unclear.
I can relate to Josh though I still haven’t fully read the gospel topics essays but did read Mormon Enigma back in the day which set me on a more questioning path. That and my evolving discomfort with church policy on LGBTQ issues. I live in Canada and you’ might be surprised at how interested and affected people here are by the Trump factor – people either hate him or love him – much the same as south of the border. Later this year my husband and I plan to move back to a ward that we lived in many years ago and where we still own a property. Some of the FB posts from old friends in that ward are causing me some discomfort but I tell myself that there are probably many more that I don’t see on FB that will be just fine but it has me a little worried. I tend not to engage on issues I disagree with unless it’s plain out wrong. I’ve snoozed a few people and block sites but haven’t outright blocked anyone yet. I do feel it changes whether I want to engage on the same level with some of these folk going forward but I can continue to be kind. I think it’s just changes things and within an LDS congregation that can get complicated.
Oh, sorry, my comment wasn’t directed towards you. This is in regards to comments that I’ve heard when discussing these issues with those that have named themselves “an ally” and are extremely outspoken (the soapbox). They’re the same people that won’t lift a finger to change other people’s opinions.
This example is so fresh in my mind, it’s what I was thinking of when I wrote the about comment: I had a friend say about someone like: “Black Lives Matter, and you saying that All Lives Matter is racist if you can’t see this then you’re a racist and I won’t talk with you.”
Meanwhile Andy goes over to an individual that says “All Lives Matters” and asks them what’s up.. Oh, you feel like the phrase BLM to you means that ONLY BLM. Finds out the individual isn’t racist in that they don’t hate a certain race but are genuinely worried that talking about race 24/7 could be making things worse, that they don’t understand how this is helping. They see other black people doing fine and have associated that with a logical fallacy that the problem isn’t so bad.
We chat for a little bit about things I’ve seen and problems I’ve heard about that they might not be thinking of. Do some role reversal. Let them see that people saying Black Lives Matter legit don’t feel like society cares for them.
It’s pretty easy to do if you do it in a positive way and because everyone expects you to blow up at them, when you come off as nice and friendly, it makes them much more inclined to listen.
Andy: Thanks for clarifying, and even more for sharing the personal example. I think these case studies are in some ways even more instructive than theoretical ideas, principles and guidelines. Cancelling others is definitely going to widen the gap rather than persuade people, on both sides of any argument. I’m still just torn on whether or not I want to make *new* friends with people who espouse terrible views. I really do have a lot of them already, and it’s occasionally tiresome.
This is a crucial question here, but the answer is really quite simple. One should not be friends with people who support morally corrupt politicians. Supporting these people as friends, in church or not, is tantamount to supporting political corruption. It should not be done.
Interesting discussion here. I consider myself fairly progressive, but willing to engage in respectful political discourse with people with whom I disagree, provided the respect is reciprocated. As such, I have found myself severing ties with some lifelong friends and acquaintances who have revealed themselves to be unrepentant Trumpers and Fox News conservatives, mainly because “respectful discourse” is not part of Trump’s brand and they tend to follow the former president’s patterns of crassness, vitriol, logical fallacy and conspiratorial thinking. I still maintain (tenuous) social media relationships with a couple of college friends who publicly mentioned that they voted for Trump, but still keep things civil. With them, I generally avoid political topics completely, and the relationship is little more than just wishing them happy birthdays and complimenting them on their kid’s achievements, and they do the same for me. I’m OK with that for now.
Social media often gets maligned for allowing people be mean and nasty to each other in ways they would never act like in person. That may be true, but the other side of that argument is that social media allows people to let their guard down and reveal more of their true character, which makes it easier for me to decide whether to maintain a relationship or cut it off. This is especially true for those of us who’s high school and/or college experience predates Facebook, where people’s worrisome affiliations and political leanings are only revealed once they join the platform later in life.
I agree with Mr. Charity: you should not be friends with anyone who supports morally corrupt politicians. Therefore, in order to abide by this direction, you’ll need to:
1. Determine which politicians are morally corrupt. this could take a while but just assume 100% of them are corrupt and go from there. It’s hard to prove a negative but maybe you’ll be able to prove someone isn’t corrupt if you really try.
2. Determine which politicians your current friends support. You’ll probably need to interview them and it would help to take notes because there are so many politicians to review. I guess I’d start with local ones, then move to county, state, and national.
3. After doing #1 and #2, you’ll need to cross check your notes and identify which friends you can no longer be friends with.
4. note: #2 is harder than it appears. You’ll have to define the word “support”. Of course, financial contributions or volunteering in a campaign is obvious support. But what if your friend simply made a supportive comment on Facebook? This could be tricky.
5. Finally, you’ll need to determine what it means to unfriend someone. Does this mean you can’t hang out anymore? Probably. But can you greet them or chat with them during a kid’s soccer game? Should we simply ignore the person completely? Hmmmm
6. note: you need to define “friend” too. Is your neighbor a friend? Your co-worker? Your kid’s soccer coach? Or are they just “acquaintances” in which it’s OK to talk to them.
Good Luck everyone!
Personally I can get over the Trump people were all friends now. But those people who continue to support that the election was stolen and that January 6th never happened and will get not the Vaccine for whatever political reason these people are dangerous. Unfortunately I know way to many and I will not acknowledge them.
JCS: Josh H’s answer is *chef’s kiss* but I will add that if I follow your advice I’ve just cancelled most of my family. Now, de facto, maybe I kind of have in that I don’t spend time outside of reunions with them, we live thousands of miles apart, and it’s not really a loss socially or otherwise, but it doesn’t seem quite right to me either. People support corrupt politicians for all sorts of reasons: they don’t know they are corrupt, they are the lesser of two evils, they have believed fake news, they themselves are morally corrupt (hey, we don’t pick our families!). But for sure, you just gave most of us permission to never go back to church again, so thanks for that.
Jack Hughes: I agree that there is real value in social media enabling people to say what they really think. I am one of those ignorant dopes who thought that racism was passe until I started hearing people saying that we needed to rename the White House the Black House when the Obamas moved in. I mean, that’s not even clever or funny. That’s just old school hardened racism. I don’t get it. But thanks to social media, now I know that the country is full of terrible people.
Living on the Wasatch: Yes, I tend to agree that there are a few things that cross the line for me, and supporting insurrection is one. The anti-vaxxers, though, I worry that they are duped into believing a lot of BS that’s out there on conservative media. I do know quite a few of them and they are basically Covid-minimizers. I’m not going to cancel them all, but I am personally convinced they are incredibly foolish.
The most difficult thing for me to deal with when dealing with the political divide is when your own parent drinks the Flavor Aid of the ultra right. I can usually deal with ward members, neighbors or others who want to argue about politics or spout patently racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, etc. garbage because I refuse to engage in conversations with people who espouse such beliefs. Once upon a time I tried to engage these individuals in a friendly conversation whereby I could learn about their beliefs and how they came to hold them. It rarely ended well no matter how understanding I tried to be. Almost invariably the conversation would turn nasty either when the person questioned my motives for asking about their beliefs or else they would try hard to convert me to their way of thinking, and when I didn’t do so they most often became verbally and sometimes emotionally abusive complete with trolling and shaming because I wouldn’t fall in line with their beliefs.
However, I can’t do the same with my mother. One of my sibs texted the rest of us to let us know that he’d just visited our mom at her senior care center and that she had Fox News on. When he insisted that she turn the TV off so that they could visit she started to spout QAnon theories right and left. When he asked her how Q got information about the supposed White House Democratic pedophilia child prostitution ring she threatened him with not talking to him ever again-and he’s been her favorite child since he was born. How does this happen? How do you deal with a parent who’s lost their grip on reality because of their political affiliation? One of the Ten Commandments enjoins us to honor our parents. How do you do that when your parent’s whole life is consumed with the falsehoods and fear that is served up 24/7/365 on ultraconservative news outlets? I wish that I knew the answer to this question.
Interesting case studies. A personal story. My wife’s sister’s husband and I get along on a number of levels. We used to be Facebook friends, but at some point he unfriended me. The reason being that he repeatedly would post conservativish memes (he’s libertarian) that I would respond to in disagreement (cordial, but disagreeing nonetheless). He had a hard time with cordial disagreement on social media. On one occasion I was having a Facebook discussion about political correctness (my brother-in-law’s pet topic) with his wife. I noted how there is conservative correctness and that this really isn’t as big an issue on the left as many on the right make it out to be. I noted how the right has a strong victimhood culture in it. He unexpectedly came out of the blue to explode in reaction to my comment, said I get offended at everything, said that he supports free speech and I don’t, and then unfriended me on Facebook. That’s right, says he’s anti-cancel culture and then proceeds to cancel me. I responded saying that I loved him and that he should try hearing pundits who think differently.
We’ve maintained a goodish relationship since but he clearly has a chip on his shoulder about politics. Most recently he came out of the blue again when I posted a firm yet cordial response to his wife’s post condemning the Capitol Riot and Trump’s refusal to concede. He responded making a false equivalence about how Democrats had pushed a Russia “hoax”. When I replied with a link to a New York Times article about a 1000-page GOP-led investigation that revealed a web of contracts between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, he deleted his comment. Then he sent me a personal Facebook message with a link to an article about John Sullivan, a supposed self-identified anti-fascist, at the Capitol riot in a seeming attempt to sway me to believe that antifa was behind the insurrection. When I calmly refuted such a suggestion, he just got angrier at me and replied calling me closed-minded. I replied and told him that politics aren’t our thing but that’s OK. I want our kids to play together and for families to have good relationships. He was fine with that.
So, Facebook, I’ve found, isn’t healthy for two family members who have diametrically opposed political views. It is best not to be Facebook friends with my brother-in-law. Face-to-face interactions are more productive.
Thank you Josh H. I have my work cut out for me now. But appreciated the laughs on what was otherwise a depressing topic for me to consider …
I think FB is basically rubbish for having genuine discussions with people with opposing viewpoints so I try to avoid that (not always successfully). I have been reading a lot to try to get better at having those conversations live (Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger, etc) but pandemic life has curtailed those opportunities too.
As such, I’m just left to wonder why neighbors who are incredibly kind and generous would line their walkway with Trump flags. I’ve also had to have some uncomfortable text conversations with ward leadership about masks (which left me wanting to crawl into a hole after sticking my neck out and outing myself as one of those crazies who thinks we should wear masks – not a popular view in my ward, although some people privately thanked me without openly supporting me in those conversations).
Just as church is starting back up live we are leaving town for a good chunk of the summer and I am glad. I need some distance from the mask battles to come back refreshed and not feeling negative about people who I otherwise like but who appear to inhabit different factual realities than I do. I want to believe I can be true friends with people no matter who they voted for or whether they attended anti-mask protests but I’ll admit it seems like a very big divide to bridge. I can and do still love them but honestly I am resigned to having a somewhat superficial friendship because it just seems like there is something truly fundamentally different in the way we engage with the world.
Researchers recently conducted a very interesting study on how children form partisan groups. When the child first enters the study they are offered the choice of either an all-orange T-shirt or an all-green one. They are then shown pictures of children doing various activities wearing either a green or orange shirt. The children are then asked questions like “who do you think is the most friendly person in this picture?” or “who would you most trust to watch your bike while you go get a drink?”. Overwhelmingly, the children would choose the person wearing the similar shirt as them, regardless of factors such as gender or age of the kids in the picture. The next set of pictures showed children engaged in activities that could be interpreted several ways. In the vast majority of responses, the children in the survey would view the person in the picture wearing a similar shirt as being engaged in a positive activity and the opposite shirt wearer engaged in a negative activity. The children would even fantasize background stories. An example: one picture shows a child standing behind another child who is on a swing. “Similar shirts” saw the child behind as coming to help the swinger go higher, “opposite shirts” saw the child behind coming to take away the swing or push the occupant off. One child implied that the opposite shirt child in the picture always does mean things on the playground.
We may laugh and say that this is just children, but adults often use criteria that’s not much better in choosing who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. Once the choice is made, as we have seen in the past few years, individuals can be willing to throw all logic to the wind to support “their guy”. We do it all the time. Watch a college football game. A few years ago, in response to growing concern about concussions, a new rule was implemented that removes a player from the game if he uses his helmet to “target” an opposite players head.
Good rule, am I right? But what has happened is fans will cheer loudly when an opposing team player is tossed for targeting (how dare he hurt “our” guy!), but will boo the refs for tossing one of the home team guys for the exact same play(what do you mean, that was just a great hit!). We seem to not only throw out logic, but will choose to listen only to those who speak in favor of our partisanship and even “cut some slack” to someone doing pretty reprehensible things in order to show our loyalty to a particular organization or person, even when those reprehensible things violate our own standard of conduct.
And to be frank, sports is one of the dumbest things to be partisan about. Nevertheless, Go Mariners!!!
Yes, sports is a dumb thing to be partisan about. Go Seahawks! Pre-Covid, I had a good time at church trading good-natured barbs with a friend who is a Broncos fan, mostly lamenting the various woes of our respective teams. But the mix of politics and culture wars, combined with the implosion of the Republican Party under Trump, has brought the political divide from “agree to disagree” to something much more difficult to bridge. Sports brings us together, compared to politics.
Now that we are starting to go back to church, this problem is really going to become acute. The most likely outcome is Crazy Republicans will chase Democrats and Reasonable Republicans out of activity. The prevalence of Crazy Republicans in LDS local leadership in the Intermountain West doesn’t help things. The Dreyfuss Affair split France right down the middle a hundred years ago. Now Trumpism is becoming our Dreyfuss episode. Republican-controlled state legislatures seem intent on making 2024 election procedures and outcomes even more acrimonious than 2020. I think 2024 could get very ugly.
As far as division and conflict goes, things should settle down in the Church after the few remaining Democrats and non-Crazy Republicans leave voluntarily (who wants to worship with a bunch of Crazy Trumpers?) or are pushed out. This is not at all what LDS leadership wanted, but it’s the stew they cooked. Decades of irrational or at least un-rational religion (fideism) has finally led to irrational politics taking over the Mormon psyche. It’s Ezra Taft Benson’s revenge.
I registered as a Republican in 1978 and considered myself to be a moderate. I went unaffiliated about 6 years ago when I felt there was less and less moderation on either side.
My social media accounts ended up largely reflecting my business persona, so I have avoided posting anything political or cultural. I do unfollow extremists on either side while still maintaining “friend” status just because I don’t like getting riled up because of my feeds.
Family though. 20 years ago when I was more Republican and Glenn Beck was less, I introduced my oldest son to him. We would listen as I was driving him to school and we’d discuss what we heard. Several years ago, my son got his dream job working for Mr. Beck. My son also has the kind of relationship with Mike Lee where they will text each other when he sees the senator on CSPAN. He was the only reporter selected to accompany Don Jr. when we was in Utah stumping for Burgess Owens. Oh, and he’s a Fellow of the Koch Institute.
I think Glenn has moved very far to the right in pursuit of his brand. Suspending critical thinking at times to make his points and being very dismissive of liberal and progressive concepts. There is a great deal of overlap between Glenn and my son. Having a personal relationships with these far right luminaries is heady stuff.
And it makes for having to steer around a lot of conversations. I hobble (not march) in the Pride Parade with the Dragon Dads in support of my gay son. I provide backup and a sounding board for my African American daughter as she tries to find her voice and place in Utah Valley.
We’ve got a tacit agreement that family is first above ideology. Sometimes the kiddos clash and there are pain and tears on both sides. My conservative son gets death threats for his posts and articles. My gay son and Black daughter have both been physically and verbally assaulted for who they are. As a parent – I hate that people who don’t know them can be so awful.
So I try not to fight/clash/mix it up with people that don’t share my particular bents. I am getting better at offering up a neutral commentary of “living between the contraries” as a helpful way for me to learn enough on both sides to exercise critical thinking. If that doesn’t move the needle, then I’m done and can, hopefully, find a way to demonstrate a kindness.
I’m a coward. I stay off politics and religion unless I’m with progressive friends. If someone starts to wander into politics, I try and change the subject. I don’t see any point in discussing issues when conservative Republicans and Trumpists are so far removed from anything I believe.
So what does that do for the Church and I? How can I be a participant in a Church full of Trumpists? Many who bring their politics to Church. A Church full of Trumpists has different values than I have. And we are talking about major differences (think Grand Canyon). Trumpist and I have very little (nothing?) in common.
I got off Facebook in 2012 after a series of heated and prolonged debates with friends and family. surrounding that year’s presidential election. Politically I would say I’m a libertarian socialist or anarcho-syndicalist (by way of Noam Chomsky), but for practical purposes I typically vote Democrat. Needless to say, I don’t fit in in Mormon land. My wife and I generally share the same views but both my family and in-laws are conservative (ranging from Trump tolerant to. Q anon conspiracists). Needless to say I avoid politics with them except with one brother in law, with whom I can have a spirited debate with no hard feelings. At church I try to keep my political views to myself, except when I can’t help myself (hey, if you’re going to throw in the “it’s not even close to socialism ” disclaimer every time the Law of Consecration comes up in S.S., all bets are off). But it’s hard when you see the same people outside of church and their polite Sunday best behavior goes away. For example, the parents of my son’s closest football buddy are avid covid deniers / minimizes who refused to wear masks during games last year. I couldn’t say anything at risk of messing up my son’s friendship. That’s just one example. It’s exhausting. A former employer -now friend of mine is a very out spoken moderate mid-west Democrat and also a recent convert. He was shocked to learn that so many members of his ward supported Trump and considered themselves to be good Christians, after Trump said or did *fill in the blank.* I found myself instinctively defending them as “good people,” “sincere” etc… I’m tired of making excuses for immoral political and social views among Mormons while my views, which align more closely with what Jesus taught on those subjects are unwelcome. It’s exhausting. Did I mention. that it was exhausting?
@mat I think exhausting is exactly right. I like my neighbors. But it’s exhausting being in this community and constantly evaluating whether it’s worth speaking up and how to do it in a diplomatic way, and it’s exhausting being surrounded by people spouting their views as though they represent the group. It’s just … as the last couple of posts discussed … not fun Mormoning right now.
I’m honestly surprised that Mormons have fallen in line behind Trump in such large numbers. I’ve always viewed members of the church as individuals with a clear understanding of what constitutes right and wrong. I’ve usually disagreed with where they draw that line, but I thought they could rationally defend it and that it remained pretty consistent. All that went out the window with Trump, and I remain kind of flummoxed. The very same people who found Clinton’s philandering repulsive will defend Trump’s behavior as not relevant and compare him with King David, offering some crap about God using imperfect vessels. The interesting question, to me at least, is what this says about the relationship between the church and members. Do leaders not have the same hold on opinions they used to? Have ethics and morals gotten squishier? Is a sort of relativism creeping into a social structure that once wholly decried relativistic thinking as a liberal mental illness? I have questions, but I don’t think there are answers … yet.
FWIW, Angela’s case studies work just as well in managing conspiracy-minded non-Mormon friends. A good friend of mine sent me an email today suggesting that the fact life insurance rates have not gone up means something is fishy. That’s it. One guy writing anonymously about a conversation he had with one friend who works in life insurance, and based on that he intimated a grand conspiracy to … I don’t know what. Control the population? The Internet is Shiva, both creator and destroyer of worlds.
The onus is on all of us to learn how to get along with each other regardless of our disagreements. Even if someone is “wrong”, we must seek to be Christlike in our interactions. Saying that we’ll only interact with those that agree with us or at least don’t hold specific opinions we find odious is counterproductive.
I always enjoyed They Might Be Giants, but have always hated the song, catchy as it is, “Your Racist Friend”. The idea that we can’t be friends with someone because they have offensive beliefs or perhaps offensive friends is distinctly WRONG. I was inspired by this TED talk about a black man reaching out and befriending a KKK Grand Wizard. https://www.ted.com/talks/daryl_davis_why_i_as_a_black_man_attend_kkk_rallies?language=en
It’s a heartwarming account of unlikely friendship and a true example of love as the most powerful force. Rather than drawing lines in the sand or trying to win over those who are wrong, let’s focus on being better friends, family, and humans
A lot of political differences like tax rates, trade policy, govt spending, etc, rarely divide church members. But when a member concludes that they have different values than their church leaders or community, there’s a real disconnect created.
They might see most of their fellow congregants voting for politicians that they find morally reprehensible (even if they agree with them on key political issues). Or they may find their church’s response to Covid-19 severely lacking. Or notice that many of their friends express views that are harmful or conspiratorial. Those might be differences that are important enough to walk away from. And it’s almost a guarantee when parents believe the community wants to instill competing values.
And obviously, this wedge is splitting many, many churches, right now
While the black/KKK story may be heartwarming, it’s not particularly useful in today’s environment. If one side is getting their information from Trump, Fox, QAnon, and their ilk, and the other is getting their news from more reputable sources, how can you have an intelligent discussion? Trumpists believe their leader’s lies. Facts rarely have any real meaning. In such an environment, what’s the point in having a discussion?
We can avoid discussions with our Trumpist (or conservative Republican) friends. But what about the Church? A Church full of Trumpists, believers in the prosperity gospel, believers in a stolen election, believers in ridiculous conspiracies, and their ilk. What does that say about the values that the Church allegedly espouses? What does it say about a Church that allows politics to invade every aspects of its meetings? What does it say about the leaders that have allowed this to happen, and provide a platform for it to continue to happen?
Squidloverfat, I really like the sentiment of your comment. I wish your perspective was more common.
Right now, my wife and I are deciding whether our family should stay in the Church. For us, leaving over political differences would feel kind of petty (not only that, we’re still pretty politically conservative). What we are questioning though is do we share the same morals and values. And if we don’t, we’re still friends, but this is not the place we’re going to dedicate our lives to. The calculus for that decision is complicated.
rogerdhansen: “So what does that do for the Church and I? How can I be a participant in a Church full of Trumpists? Many who bring their politics to Church. A Church full of Trumpists has different values than I have. And we are talking about major differences (think Grand Canyon). Trumpist and I have very little (nothing?) in common.”
We share concerns. I likely won’t be going back to church after covid for this very reason.
There was a recent article from the Washington Post where they did a survey of people that are more likely to believe Q conspiracy theories. Their survey revealed that 25% of Latter-day Saints claimed they were willing to resort to violence to “save” the country. I’m finding that I do not want to associate with a group like that. I also feel that the leaders of the church have utterly failed the membership by not taking a clearer and firmer stance. I’ve heard plenty of firm stances against progressive extremism over the years but when it comes to right wing extremes I hear language that’s ambiguous enough to where both sides walk away believing that they’re justified and that it’s the other side that got called to repentance. Maybe I see it that way because I’m doing the same thing myself.
These thoughts have caused me to revisit one LDS practice that I’ve complained about several times; how members don’t choose their ward, they attend their assigned ward. The thought occurred to me, one benefit of an assigned ward is that it has me interacting with people I wouldn’t ordinarily associate with. It forces me out of the bubble that I’d be more comfortable in, exposing me to different points of view. In theory we don’t have blue wards and red wards, we have wards. We don’t have vaccinated wards and anti-vax wards, we have wards. Would we be better or worse off with a 1st ward for the vaccinated crowd and a 2nd ward for the anti-vax crowd? Would be better or worse off with the 3rd branch for the blue crowd and 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th wards for the red crowds? Or is there some benefit in cramming us all together and letting us work it out?
My experience is that we excel in running the people off that don’t fit the mold… but in theory?
This week the Church News published a piece by Elder Tad Callister where he quotes Bill Barr. Everything Elder Callister said could have been expressed without quoting this controversial political figure. His message encouraging strong families is one we can all stand behind.
Within the quote Bill Barr decries needle exchange programs, a critical harm reduction tactic many addiction recovery experts recommend. Barr suggests that strong families will prevent the need for such programs.Barr’s idea is naive that a strong family will always prevent the disease of addiction.
I know too many amazing families in the church that have dealt with the addiction of a family member. Many would welcome harm reduction programs as a resource to help keep their loved one safer during ongoing recovery efforts. Recovery takes time.
Efforts to limit the spread of deadly diseases benefits us all (including many valiant church members with spouses who are secretly unfaithful and/or harboring private drug addictions).
Families of addicts navigate difficult journeys. If we care about families, we should care about all families, including those who have been so unfortunate as to experience a loved one’s addiction.
It’s easy for me to envision Jesus working at a needle exchange site. It’s not inconsistent with what I read of the Savior’s earthly ministry in the New Testament. Can I dream of the church someday setting up or organizing volunteers at such sites? There is a holiness that pervades efforts to keep vulnerable people safe. A tiny portion of the church’s work could go a long way toward helping hurting families.
@madi, that article was atrocious. Appreciate your thoughts on it. I was too focused on all the many others problems to notice that one.
The few free thinkers in my ward have kept wondering for the last 5 years when was it time to finally speak up and say something as the lies kept growing bigger and bigger. Most of us want to get along with others. But there comes a time when people need to know you believe something is a lie and why. They needn’t agree with you but the truth matters and we need to stand up for it. If they don’t want to converse with you anymore, then that’s on them. We are to still be nice to people we disagree with. It is very difficult when people are conspiracy thinkers. They judge their fellowman guilty before proven and that’s not the Gospel. They are usually the ones to cancel friendships when others don’t go along with them. That isn’t the Gospel either.
People like Beck make millions selling fear and negativity. If that isn’t “conspiring”, then I don’t know what is.
I wish people could peddle niceness and earn millions. It’s just sad. Sad that this is in the Church, of all places.
p.s. I am baffled that church members will pay to hear what Glenn Beck thinks he sees when we have living prophets who will tell us for free whatever they see as watchmen on the tower. Why pay attention to someone like Beck when you are LDS?? I just don’t get it.
Elisa, I agree that the piece was terrible. I was focused initially on the featuring of a problematic comment by Bill Barr and the frustration of running into partisan politics at the highest levels, not just in right-leaning areas where I can try to excuse it away. It wasn’t until I looked at it even more that I found so little that I could agree with in the article. I’ll agree that we should work to strengthen families, but beyond that my understanding of how we accomplish that differs diametrically from his, including which families we should work to strengthen (all!). So many issues in that article–blaming people for their unfortunate circumstances and saying they are the causes of problems in the world, glorifying colonialism without regard to the families colonists tore apart. Thank you for your thoughts on it all.
Still talking about, Trump? Really?!
Still talking about, Trump? Really?!
Lefthandloafer: I’ll definitely be glad to stop talking about him whenever he will concede he lost the election and quit being a threat to democracy.
And when 50% of members that still believe all that trump says, repent of their immorality, and return to following Christ, will be a time to stop calling out the problem.
Okay. Personally, I’ve accepted that Biden won the election. So, with such a strong response from you (Angela) – which I only perceive and could be wrong – are you also saying that you have no concerns for our Republic with a very tired old man, who in my view is clearly suffering from advanced dementia being “at the helm in the White House right now? For me, I can only imagine how Putin and Ji Jinping view Biden. I fear this phenomenon much more than I ever did Trump’s buffoonery.
Lefthandloafer: I don’t like the trend of only old white men (well past reasonable retirement age to boot) being able to secure enough votes. The key difference I see with Biden is that he’s at least surrounding himself with competent people, not toadies, and personally I would be excited about a Harris presidency (although no doubt, Pence would have been preferable to Trump as well, even though I personally find him awful). Biden is not anti-democratic. He is not trying to obstruct the government or demonstrate that it’s impossible to do anything (like McConnell). Trump was also no spring chicken, you’ll recall. I am saying that I 100% see a lucid Trump intentionally blowing up the government and refusing to relinquish power as far far more dangerous than an aging man. I also don’t see him as suffering from advanced dementia. I see him as *thankfully* boring, and a fairly unexciting lifelong public servant. As to how Putin sees Biden, Putin saw Trump as someone he could use to his advantage, a fellow autocrat hell-bent on self-aggrandizement at the expense of the people.
I assume you have no problem with 98 year old president Nelson, but think there is a problem with Pres Biden because he is 78. What does he have to do? More action than trump in the same period, just less lies and contention.