The Righteous Outlet

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a press conference this morning affirming their support for LGBT rights in housing and employment. This was significant in many ways, not the least of which is that Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an apostle of the church who has spoken in vigorous opposition to gay marriage, used the acronym “LGBT” in describing the gay community. Church officials usually tend to address gay issues by relying on the term “same-sex attraction,” a description that tries to delineate between gay people and gay desires. I’ve always interpreted that as a signal that “same-sex attraction” should be viewed as an external affliction or disease that can be overcome with adequate treatment. Acknowledging that someone is gay, on the other hand, concedes that sexual orientation is a fundamental part of who someone is, and it can no more be changed than someone’s height or the color of their eyes. This strikes me as a self-evident truth, as I have yet to meet any human being who has ever made a conscious decision as to which gender they will find sexually attractive.

When an apostle acknowledges, then, that there are such things as “LGBT issues” rather than “same-sex attraction issues,” he is subtly affirming that the Church now rejects the affliction/disease premise, which is a significant and positive step. Indeed, over the past few years, there have been multiple acknowledgments of this truth by church leaders in a variety of forums, and while they may not be revolutionary, they clearly demonstrate movement in the direction of greater acceptance of gay Latter-day Saints.

The question, then, is how many more steps is the church willing to take.

It’s hard to believe that this is as far as we’re going to go. The debate over gay marriage, at least from a legal standpoint, is over. Gay marriage won. It is not going away. It is only a matter of time, and not very much time, before gay marriage is legal in all fifty states and in most countries across the world. At this point, debating whether or not it should be legal is a bit like debating whether or not we should privatize the fire department. Even if you have cogent arguments that fire departments ought not be publicly funded, no one is going to listen to you. Gay marriage opponents in the public arena are discovering that their position is increasingly anachronistic, and they will soon have no choice but to move on. For my part, I think everyone ought to focus on adapting to the new reality rather than trying to bring back the old one. That includes the church.

But applying this principle to our church creates a whole slew of problems that are unique to Mormon theology.

Most gay rights advocates will be satisfied with nothing short of the Church’s full acknowledgment of homosexuality as completely equal to heterosexuality, and they yearn for the day when two men or two women can be sealed for time and all eternity in a Latter-day Saint temple and be granted all the same blessings or promises given to straight couples. But for this to happen, both theology and biology will have to cooperate.  So far, neither has proven willing to budge.

Acceptance of gay marriage has coincided with increased acceptance of gay parenting. If “Modern Family” has taught us anything, it’s that a gay couple can raise children just as well as their dysfunctional straight counterparts can. But the fact remains that a straight couple can make children, and a gay couple can’t. That’s not a bigoted plot to deny gay people their rights; that’s simple biology. And, at least on this score, biology is homophobic.

Mormon theology is built on the premise that the greatest joys of both time and eternity are to be derived from family bonds. The following quote from the Doctrine and Covenants puts this in very simple terms:

1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;

2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];

3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.

4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

D&C 131:1-4

This whole idea of “increase” ties into the doctrine that we believe all people to be the literal sons and daughters of heavenly parents. Just as we have a mother and father here on earth whose union created our physical bodies, so we have a Heavenly Mother and Father whose union created our spirits. We are promised that those who inherit the Father’s kingdom will have the opportunity to create spirit children of their own. This has been the subject of much mockery from critics of the church who, in the words of the anti-Mormon film “The Godmakers,” argue that this condemns Mormon women to being “eternally pregnant,” complete with endless eons of bloating and morning sickness. I think that’s a crass assumption that presupposes that there are no differences in the experience of mortals and immortals.

But it’s also true that we don’t know what those differences are.

If the church were to follow the lead of the world and conclude that gay marriage is exactly the same as straight marriage, then they would be saying that gender will not be an obstacle in the creation of spirit children the way it is now in the creation of physical children. That would require us to ignore the precedent of mortal biology altogether and drastically change how we understand our relationship to our Heavenly Father.

To many, this may seem silly to even be talking about any of this. By raising these kinds of objections, I open myself up to the criticism that I’m hiding behind piety to justify my bigotry. I don’t think that’s what I’m doing, but I have to consider the possibility that I’m wrong, which I frequently am.

So, given the caveat that I’m probably an idiot, I will say that I think the church’s current position on homosexuality, while more laudable than what it was, is still untenable in the long run. Even if we can’t take as many steps as the world wants us to, I believe there are still more steps to be taken.

When I was growing up, I was told that my biological reaction to the opposite sex was normal and natural, but I still had to essentially ignore it, even when my hormonally-charged body wasn’t letting me think of anything else.  But, not to worry, the day would come when I would get married, and the feelings I’d been suppressing throughout my adolescence would finally have a righteous outlet.

Gay Mormons used to be told their feelings were the result of their bad choices, but now the church is teaching them the same message they taught me, but with one crucial difference. Yes, we now recognize gay people’s feelings are normal and natural and not the result of any inherent wickedness on their part, but we still maintain there is absolutely no righteous outlet for them. If you want to remain a Latter-day Saint, those feelings must be suppressed and ignored throughout your entire life.

And in the meantime, your straight friends get to have marriages and families, and you will either have to marry someone to whom you are not sexually attracted or else walk through this world utterly alone. I don’t think it should surprise us when gay Mormons review those unpleasant options and decide that there is more happiness for them to be found outside the boundaries of the church.

So what’s the solution? I don’t know. I don’t think our theology will ever let us ignore all differences between gay and straight marriages. But I think the answer is somewhere to be found in that idea of a “righteous outlet.” I can’t say what that would be, and I think it will probably take a revelation to be able to define it. We’re certainly not there yet, but I think we’re moving in that direction.

The evil that is “Christmas Shoes.”

I have no one to blame but myself.

They told me I was foolhardy to listen to Christmas music on the radio before Thanksgiving. But I had braved these minefields before, and I’d made my peace with the fact that “Last Christmas” by Wham! has inexplicably become a holiday standard.

But I wasn’t prepared for “Christmas Shoes.”

Usually by the time of my first encounter, I’ve had a few weeks to steel myself and mount some kind of defense. But my first hit came early in the season, and I was caught unawares. I didn’t recognize the instrumental intro soon enough, and before I knew it, I heard those first few words…

“It was almost Christmas time, and there I stood in another line…”

I lunged for the dial, but the damage was already done.

You may think I’m overreacting, and that one can voluntarily expose oneself to this odious piece of Yuletide dreck without leaving permanent scars on your immortal soul. But you’d be wrong. So very, very wrong.

Consider the maudlin premise. You begin with a kid with poor hygiene who abandons his dying mother’s bedside on Christmas Eve in order to buy her a pair of shoes so she can look good in her coffin. There are the obvious questions, such as, you know, why is he abandoning his dying mother’s bedside on Christmas Eve in order to buy her a pair of shoes so she can look good in her coffin? But those questions are easy. The real horror lies in the questions no one thinks to ask.

Here’s one: how did this kid get to the store in the first place?

Think about it. He’s clearly not old enough to drive himself, and it’s unlikely that he lives next door to a Famous Footwear or a Foot Locker. So that means someone gave him a ride, and, given that we’re told he is “dirty from head to toe,” his chauffeur is probably somebody from his own family who is used to the stench. So now you have at least two members of the family are leaving Mom to die alone.

“But, Stallion,” I hear you say. “Maybe he took the bus.”

No, he didn’t. Remember, his entire life savings is supposedly the collection of pennies he dumps on the cashier’s counter, and he needs to con the singer into picking up the difference. How was he going to get home without bus fare? See, I’ve thought this through, because I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home.

Anyway, you’ve got one kid trying to buy shoes with pennies, and another older kid, or maybe even Dad, waiting in the parking lot. Why doesn’t the driver come in to help shop for the shoes? Because two people would ruin the scam. And, come on, who do they think they’re fooling? The whole thing is a scam.

There’s no dying mom. There’s just a couple of kids, a Sparkletts water bottle filled pennies, and a story that gets strangers to buy shoes for them all over town. The day after Christmas, the older kid goes back to the stores, returns all the shoes, and pockets the cash. Meanwhile, suckers all over town are still feeling warm and fuzzy and think they now know “what Christmas is all about,” while two underage grifters score a bunch of easy marks. Next year, they’re going to move up from shoes to bigger prizes.

“Could you buy this flat-screen TV for my mama, please? It’s Christmas Eve, and this XBox is just her size…”

“Christmas Shoes” is everything vile, repugnant, and disturbing about the world today distilled down into two verses, a bridge, and a chorus. If you listen to the radio unprepared, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Mathematics is now “sick” and “gross”

I’m right-brained by nature, so math was never my forte. But one professor at the University of Utah changed my whole perspective.

“Mathematics,” he said, “is not a matter of opinion. Rather, the study of mathematics is nothing less than the study of truth itself.”

I found this revelatory not only because it is accurate, but also because it recognizes the reality that truth is not relative or negotiable. It exists independent of interpretation, and it is not subject to change via majority vote. All the protests in the world cannot make two plus two equal five.

I’ve been thinking about that old math professor all day as I’ve watched the madness unfold in Ferguson in the wake of the grand jury’s decision. Many view the violence as a righteous reaction to what they perceive as a system where racist cops delight in slaughtering unarmed black teens, and where a grand jury of Klansmen turned a blind eye to this horror so they could protect one of their own.

But none of that is objectively true.

Ferguson attracted so much attention largely because it is so unusual. White cops do not routinely gun down unarmed black teenagers. As Rudy Giuliani noted on Meet the Press, 93 percent of black people who are murdered are killed by other blacks. And for that true observation, Giuliani was branded a racist and a hater by those who think their feelings of outrage trump that which is objectively true.

As for the specifics of the case, very little of the information that emerged from the initial media reports turned out to be reliable. The cowardly cop shot Michael Brown in the back! (Oops. No, he didn’t.) Michael Brown didn’t attack the cop! (Oops! Yes, he did. And all eyewitnesses who said he did were African-Americans.) These initial accusations were the subject of hours of breathless reporting and stoked the fires of rage and fury. In the weeks that followed, the true details trickled in quietly with little fanfare, as they got in the way of the “AmeriKKKa” narrative.

As for the grand jury’s decision, consider this true account from the Wall Street Journal:

A jury of a dozen average citizens, chosen long before this case came before them and including three black Americans, looked at 70 hours of testimony, heard 60 witnesses and deliberated for two days. The public statements of some witnesses proved to be false upon examination of the physical evidence, Mr. McCulloch said, including the claims broadcast on TV that Brown was shot in the back. Brown resembled a suspect identified in a local theft and there was evidence that he reached into Mr. Wilson’s car to punch him.

The jurors were presented with five potential criminal counts, including involuntary manslaughter, and rejected each one. The evidence was released to the public after Mr. McCulloch’s press conference, so others will be able to sift through the file and make their own judgment.

But the rioters aren’t going to sift through anything with facts in it to make their judgment. They’ve already made their judgment, and their verdict of chaos, violence, and destruction promises to devastate their local economy, hurt or even kill their own neighbors, and further widen the gulf between black and white.

The media, for their part, are doing everything they can to make the situation worse. Saying “This is revolting,” Salon.com posted a link on Facebook titled “Right-wing’s sick Twitter celebration: Ann Coulter, Ted Nugent, Brit Hume battle for grossest Darren Wilson tweet.” Looking for something sick and gross, I clicked through reviewed their entries and saw these instead:

“Hardcore leftists’ don’t really give a rip abt facts. Goal is and has always been to undermine civil society, stoke unrest, chaos.” – Laura Ingraham

“Dear Liberal Media, You are the problem. Again.” – Melissa Clouthier (who I’ve never heard of, along with many other examples Salon used.)

“Might say they’re anti science MT “‪@RichLowry: Liberals pride selves on their supposed adherence to facts, but can’t accept them in Ferguson” – Brit Hume

“All of the witnesses who testified that Brown charged Wilson were African American.” – Jonah Goldberg

Ted Nugent’s tweet – “DarrenWilson did good MichaelBrown did bad justice is served” – was the only one that was remotely celebratory. The rest were appeals to fact and reason, which are apparently now “sick” and “gross” in an era where truth is less important than feelings. By that template, the haters are the Rudy Giulianis and other “sick” conservatives who point out facts that people don’t like, not the rioters burning down their neighbor’s homes and businesses.

In this new Orwellian nightmare, mathematics, which is “nothing less than the study of truth itself,” must also be seen as “sick” and “gross,” too.  I can live with that. But the rest of this is more depressing than I can express.

Consistency and Bill Cosby

As the accusations against Bill Cosby continue to pour in, society at large has chosen to abandon him. TV Land yanked its planned “Cosby Show” Thanksgiving marathon, and NBC axed its in-development sitcom that would have marked Cosby’s return to prime time. As more and more venues where he was scheduled to perform withdraw their invitations, Cosby looks to spend his golden years in a permanent state of pariah-hood.

It is unlikely, however, that any of these accusations will be proven in a court of law. The alleged assaults took place decades ago, and assembling a legal case against him is all but impossible. Yet the accusers are credible, and collusion among them is very unlikely. In light of these realities, Cosby’s defenders are few and far between. (My Esteemed Colleague thinks this may be a white supremacist plot, but he’s the only one I’ve seen who has even come close to providing a defense.) Public opinion’s judgment is unanimous, and it is not contingent on the findings of a jury.

The masses have spoken, and they, now and forever, will view Bill Cosby as a rapist.

Make no mistake – I am not writing this to appeal the public’s verdict. I also find the accusations persuasive, and the pattern of behavior is too consistent to ignore. I had tremendous respect for Bill Cosby prior to this scandal, but my opinion of him has now been forever changed. Barring some dramatic revelation that invalidates the testimonies of his multitude of accusers, I will regard this man as someone beneath contempt.

You know, the same way I regard Bill Clinton.

Clinton has been accused of rape and sexual assault by just as many women as Cosby has, and the women who have come forward against him are just as credible as Cosby’s accusers. Unlike Cosby, Clinton has been proven to have repeatedly lied about his sexual behavior, and the pattern of abuse is far more readily established in his case.

Yet while Cosby is a pariah, Clinton is the Democratic Party’s patron saint.

Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention was the killing stroke that effectively ended Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Polls show Clinton is the most popular political figure in the country, and his wife is the prohibitive front runner to become the first woman president, due largely to residual affection for her husband’s administration.

So can anyone explain why Cosby should be shunned but Clinton should be revered?

Proof that I’m not Glen A. Larson

I haven’t posted here since the passing of “Battlestar Galactica” creator Glen A. Larson, which might serve as circumstantial confirmation to my arch-nemesis Languatron that the good Mr. Larson and I are one and the same person. He has made that accusation countless times and in countless forums, and I wondered what he would think when the sad day came that Mr. Larson was no longer with us.

Well, with apologies to Languatron, I’m still here. And this article I wrote, published today by the Deseret News, proves it.

_________

So Glen A. Larson has passed away.

If that name means nothing to you, then you weren’t a kid in the ’70s and ’80s. But it just so happens that I was such a kid, and during my childhood, it was impossible to turn on the television and not see Glen Larson’s name on just about every TV show that mattered to me.

But there was one occasion when I got to see some of Mr. Larson’s work live and in person.

I grew up in sunny southern California, and back in the day, our Cub Scout pack took a field trip to the special effects studio doing work for Larson’s series “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” This was the pre-CGI era, so all we saw was some tedious stop motion photography. But the real excitement came when one of the technicians took us to a storage room where the models for the canceled series “Battlestar Galactica” had been mothballed. He cracked open one very large crate, and all of us got a good look at the Galactica herself.

That may well have been the greatest moment of my pre-pubescent life.

“Battlestar Galactica” — the original, not the nihilistic, joyless reboot of the series that aired on the SyFy Network around the turn of the century — wasn’t Larson’s most successful series, but it was arguably the most personal to him. It was launched in the wake of “Star Wars” mania, and it spurred a lawsuit from George Lucas for copyright infringement. Lucas lost that battle, and rightly so. Yes, there are superficial similarities between the two space operas, but “Galactica” offered a premise that was actually something much deeper and richer than the “Star Wars” universe.

“Battlestar Galactica,” in essence, was Mormons in space.

Glen Larson, himself a Latter-day Saint, had infused his series mythology with too many Mormon references to ignore. His Twelve Colonies of Man were essentially the Lost Tribes of Israel whose history began at Kobol, an obvious anagram for Kolob, which, in Mormon theology, is the star nearest to the throne of God. The colonies were led by a “Quorum of 12,” and marriages were referred to as “sealings” that extended beyond mortality and “through all the eternities.” The show never shied away from religious themes, and, at one point, the characters encounter a group of angels who paraphrase LDS Church President Lorenzo Snow.

“As you are, we once were,” the angels tell the Galactica crew. “As we are, you may become.”

Sound familiar? It certainly did to me.

I was thrilled to see Mormon themes woven into pop culture, but not everyone shared my enthusiasm. My mother thought it was a light-minded approach to sacred things, and I have to concede that time has provided some evidence for that point of view. Critics of my faith take Mormon precepts and present them with a Galactica-esque spin to make them sound kooky and bizarre. An anti-Mormon film in the 1980s sneeringly referred to the LDS concept of heaven as “Starbase Kolob,” and during the so-called “Mormon Moment,” I sensed “Galactica’s” influence in the media reports about Mormons “getting their own planet” after they die.

So if “Battlestar Galactica” is your only context for what Mormons believe, you can be forgiven for thinking that we Mormons are a whole lot less boring than we really are.

But I don’t think Larson’s intent was to mock things he held sacred. I think he was trying to make them accessible to a wider audience. Those kinds of themes were missing from 1970s television, and they’re still missing from much of television today. In a medium celebrated for its vapidity, Glen A. Larson dared to produce something profound.

He will be sorely missed.

 

Partisan Promise Disparity

This is the first election in living memory where I couldn’t care less about the outcome.  Yes, I think Republicans will take the Senate. Big whoop. What will this mean in terms of its practical impact on the nation at large?

Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

Every piece of significant legislation that might reverse the damage Obama has done will be summarily vetoed. And, conversely, every attempt by Obama to advance his agenda will be nipped in the bud. There will be a flurry of partisan activity and a marked increase in rhetorical volume, but no actual lawmaking will take place.

That’s actually just fine with me, as I find government inaction to be a preferable default position to well-intentioned, expensive, and ultimately destructive social engineering. But there is action government needs to take to avoid the fiscal implosion of the entire nation – entitlement reform, anyone? – and neither party will take it. A Republican Senate will not stop or even slow our inevitable collapse.

So forgive me if I’m not giddy with partisan glee.

My exile from the GOP has given me a different perspective on the party that was once my home. It occurs to me that the Republicans will always be at a disadvantage, because we can never out-promise the Democrats. The Left believes that government is the primary – indeed, the only – vehicle for positive social change, and that all the ailments of humankind can be attributed to an inadequate amount of government. Poverty, violence, disease, despair, the global thermostat – all these can ostensibly be managed and controlled for the betterment of humanity if we just send the feds enough money.

Of course, none of that is true.

That’s not really a matter of opinion. For decades, we’ve been dumping truckloads of taxpayer cash on these problems, and, if anything, they’re worse, not better. Our fifty-year “War on Poverty” has cost trillions upon trillions of dollars and has created a permanent underclass with no intergenerational memory of self-sufficiency. Those governments that go whole hog and abolish private ownership produce tyranny, corruption, and crushing poverty – but at least everyone is equally miserable.

But real-world, empirically verifiable results don’t get in the way of Democrats who continue to dangle the promise of taxpayer-funded paradise in front of voters. Just keep writing checks, and, sooner or later, the government will get it right, even though they’ve gotten everything terribly, horribly, miserably wrong up until now.

Republicans, on the other hand, don’t offer anything nearly as exciting. Vote for us, they say, and we’ll minimize the damage government does. Of course, there will still be poverty and inequality and misery and pain, but at least it won’t be as bad as it will be if the Democrats add huge new gobs of government into the mix.

So the Democratic promise is “Vote for us and the government will create a paradise!” Whereas the Republican promise is “Vote for us and everything will still suck, but it might suck a little bit less.”

Which one of those rallying cries is more likely to stir the soul?

I think government is a necessary evil, and it has a critical role to play in establishing boundaries within which freedom can flourish. But freedom also admits the possibility of failure, and government cannot remedy the pain and affliction that is fundamental to the mortal experience. Only Jesus can do that. And when He comes back as King of Kings, that’s when I’ll get excited about government again.

Until then, it’s “meet the new boss; same as the old boss.”

Our Tribal Future

“And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.”
– The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 7:2

The late Professor Daniel H. Ludlow was fond of noting that The Book of Mormon not only provides counsel written by ancient prophets for our day, but that it also serves as a metaphor for modernity. The Nephites and Lamanites were people who were preparing for the first coming of Christ, and we can expect to see parallels in their society to what the world will be like as we approach the Savior’s Second Coming.

It is in that spirit that I read 3 Nephi 7:2 as more than just a product of its time.

I am now going to give you entry to some of my more bizarre political musings, many of which wander afoul of common sense and veer into mild lunacy. But that said, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the nation state, as a concept, is on its way out.

This isn’t a variation on John Lennon’s “Imagine there’s no countries.” Most who decry the nation state yearn for a borderless Utopia where nobody fights, nobody ever says a cross word, and everyone hugs a lot. That might be nice, I guess, but that’s not where we’re going. Divisions will still be a large part of our future, but those divisions will be increasingly tribalistic, not nationalistic. There was a time when tribalism and nationalism were the same thing, but that’s not the case anymore.

Granted, the nation state itself was born as an extension of the tribe. Most people spent their entire lives in direct contact only with those in relative proximity, and borders sprang up to add definition to an already existing reality. But as travel and communication opportunities have increased, the strength of both physical and cultural borders have eroded, and tribal loyalties can now easily transcend geography. I feel more kinship, for instance, with a Mormon living on the other side of the world than I do with a Muslim who lives just down the street. My tribal loyalties are no longer bound by borders.

Of course, those borders still figure in to my personal tribal calculus. I’m an American, after all, and my American-ness is very much a part of my identity. But I’m a Mormon before I’m an American, and I’m a husband and father before I’m a Mormon. My primary tribal loyalties are to my family and my faith. My loyalty to country, while significant, will never ascend to the top of that list.

And what happens when country fails?

I don’t mean who wins or loses elections. Increasingly, the partisan bickering in every country is over small and relatively silly things. The ship of state is increasingly looking like the Titanic, and the relatively small shifts to the left and right that dominate current politics aren’t going to be enough to escape the iceberg. Within the next decade, the demographics of the modern welfare state will require huge austerity measures and massive benefit cuts in both America and the EU if governments don’t take action now. Well, no one is going to take action now. So we’re all going to follow Japan down the toilet, and people who turn to the state for help will eventually discover that no help is forthcoming.

So where to turn? Simple. We’ll turn to our tribes.

When the state can longer keep its promises, it will also lose its power to govern. That has happened in Iraq, where tribal identities have nothing to do with nationalism. No one in Iraq thinks of themselves as an Iraqi – they think of themselves as Sunnis or Shiites or Kurds. The state there is failing because it bears no relationship to the tribes it supposedly represents.

It will take longer for the state to fail in Europe, where common ethnicities and languages and centuries of shared history have shaped the culture for all of recorded history. But the EU is an artificial construct that can’t survive the coming economic implosion. Does a Frenchman think of himself as an EU citizen, or as a Frenchman? Certainly when the EU implodes, no one will cling to their EU citizenship as their tribal identity. And when France can’t keep its commitments, how big a deal will it be to identify as a Frenchman? People cling to tribes because there is strength and protection in them. When countries can’t provide such things, then their citizens will, of necessity, turn to something else.

I’m not saying the nation/state will dissolve in a puff of smoke, or that the shift to tribes over nations will necessarily be apocalyptic. I think the tribal future will have its good points, too.

For example, Mormons are of the opinion that Jesus can’t come back until the Restored Gospel is preached to every nation, kindred, and tongue. The assumption is that this process will require legal recognition in every country on earth, and young men on bicycles will pedal their way through Saudi Arabia before the end finally arrives. But is this really necessary to fulfill the prophecy?

There was a time when a nation state could control the information that flowed to its citizens. That era has long since passed, despite North Korea’s best efforts to stem the tide. Missionary work is shifting from bicycles to wireless connections, mainly because that’s where the conversation is. A Muslim living outside of Mecca is far, far more likely to come into contact with the Book of Mormon through a Google search than through two Mormon kids in the desert knocking on their door. When the nations stop mattering as much, the kindreds and tongues will take over, and the gospel will spread online to anyone who seeks it. When Isaiah said that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea,” (Isaiah 11:9) he was likely anticipating the universal reach of the World Wide Web. Borders are floodgates, and once they’re opened, the knowledge of the truth will pour into every corner of the globe.

I recognize that erosion is usually a slow process, and that the Grand Canyon wasn’t born in a day. But the nation state is definitely eroding, and the collapse of the unsustainable welfare state concept will likely break a large hole in the dam. I don’t think nations will disappear altogether, but I do think the nation state will collapse into irrelevance far faster than anyone currently anticipates.

This is why I find myself increasingly uninterested in the political enterprises of great pitch and moment whose currents will soon turn awry. Both Democrats and Republicans are going down with this ship. It’s time we all started to look to the tribal lifeboats.

The Languatron Party

I have a political metaphor for you today that involves our old pal Languatron, but it occurs to me that some of you Johnny-Come-Latelys to this blog may not even know who Languatron is.

Oh, how I envy you.

To educate yourself about the Internet’s most prolific and brain-dead troll, you can peruse my own Languatron Chronicles, which begin here. To summarize for those of you too lazy to read the unexpurgated version, Languatron was a supposedly ardent fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, but his over-the-top lunacy alienated him from those who would otherwise support his position. He lashed out at everyone who didn’t agree with his every word, labeling them corporate spies on the payroll of Universal Studios. (He also hated gays, Jews, Mormons, and “Mormon Jews,” whoever they are.) The net result was that he made his allies look like idiots, which ended up damaging the case he was supposedly trying to advance.

I thought of this as our old pal Moisture Farmer, who is quite a skilled Languatron opponent in his own right, wrote some comments to my last post that referenced RINOs – Republicans In Name Only – and took me to task for my distaste for the Tea Party. I have apparently begun a “fundamental transformation into one of the collectivist pod people” because I’m “attempting to ingratiate” myself to a “clique of shallow mental adolescents.”

He ends by saying “Snap out of it. We need you.”

To which I replied, “Well, if you need me, then it might be nice to stop insulting me.”

I’d like to expand on that premise, if I may.

The demonization of one’s ideological opponents is the modus operandi of both parties, but the hard truth is that one party needs converts, and the other party doesn’t. Democrats begin every presidential election with at least 246 out of 270 electoral votes in the bag, and Republicans have to run the table of everything else. The fact that the Dems demonize Republicans just as viciously as the GOP demonizes them back is of no practical value.

Democrats can afford alienate those outside their party. Republicans can’t.

One of my primary problems with Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Sarah Palin, and the uncompromising, perpetually aggrieved self-righteous patriots who would prefer reading the Constitution to the nation’s problems to actually solving them is that there is nothing they are doing that would attract new converts to the fold. They are nasty, condescending, and arrogant beyond measure. They ridicule not only Democrats but Republicans – i.e. RINOs – under the assumption that those who disagree with them are “pod people” and “shallow mental adolescents,” not decent people who happen to disagree on matters of policy. Public Enemy #2 for the Tea Party – Obama is #1 – is “Establishment” Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who beat a Tea Party primary challenger because he had the gall to reach out to black voters that the Tea Party deem illegitimate.

Not a winning strategy, folks. If the Tea Party are going to continue to savage the Republican Party alongside the Democrats, how are they ever going to get 270 electoral votes?

They won’t. They can’t. The Tea Party has become the Languatron Party, because they are an embarrassment to those who should be their allies. The GOP frontrunners right now – Cruz, Perry, and Paul – don’t even appeal to everyone in their own party. There’s no way on earth they’ll appeal to independents, let alone Democrats. They’re doomed to go down to a Barry Goldwater-style defeat. Goldwater, like the Tea Party, valued a narrow definition of ideological purity over electoral victory.

I say this dispassionately, as I have come to the conclusion that America is careening toward collapse, and it will get there within the next decade or two regardless of whether the person in the White House has an R or a D next to their name. (Spoiler: it will be a Democrat for the rest of my lifetime.) So I put my faith in God and my community, not in a nation that refuses to fix itself. I therefore feel no loyalty to either party, and as I fatalistically watch the Languatronization of the party that used to matter to me, I feel a mix of resignation and freedom, as I no longer feel duty bound to defend the GOP when it errs, which it does with increasing frequency.

Have a nice day.

Mitt won’t run

I went all in for Mitt in an embarrassing way last time around, and I would vote for him if he ran again. But he isn’t going to run.

I don’t say that as a rhetorical device, or as a tease, or as a temporary sort of condition. (“He’s not running now, but who knows?”) This is a done deal. Mitt Romney will not run for president again.

Period. Full stop.

Yes, there is significant Romney buzz, mainly because the Republicans have no one else. And I confess that, on occasion, I found myself thinking that Mitt could be persuaded. My assessment, until recently, has been that Mitt actually wants to run, but that Ann doesn’t, and so Mitt won’t run in deference to his family. Then I had a conversation with someone who actually knows Mitt and is close enough to understand his thinking.

“The thing you’re missing,” this guy told me, “is how much Mitt hates to lose.”

Apparently, his 1994 Senate loss to Ted Kennedy was absolutely devastating to him. He thought he was going to win, and he came up short. It was the first time in Mitt’s life that he had failed at anything, and he did so publicly in a way that was personally devastating to him. He didn’t dip his toe back into the electoral waters until nearly a decade later when he successfully ran for governor of Massachusetts. And he did that against a weak opponent and with every confidence that he wouldn’t have to lose again.

Then he ran in 2008 and lost. And, once again, it was devastating. On that occasion, it was Ann who persuaded him to pick himself up and get back in the ring again. The thinking was that he had made enough mistakes that he was sure to win in 2012. And he ran that campaign with the full expectation of victory. His pollsters told him he was going to win. His family told him he was going to win. And, of course, I told him he was going to win, which, clearly, was the most important endorsement of all.

And up until election night, he thought he was going to win.

Think about that for a moment. When I doubled down on a Romney victory and dared to defy the wisdom of Nate Silver, everyone told me I was nuts or just plain deluded. And I probably was. But so was Mitt. In spite of it all, he went into Election Day 2012 with the full expectation that he would go to sleep that night as President-Elect of the United States.  And then he lost. And he lost big.  He isn’t willing to expose himself to that again, nor should he.

Because if he runs again, he will assuredly lose.

The Electoral College landscape now makes it next to impossible for any Republican to win the White House, and one that has run and lost isn’t going to be able to leap that impossibly high demographic hurdle. Plus Tea Party types still distrust him, and the Mormon thing is still a lead weight around his shoulders. He has too much baggage to even attempt the leap.

And he knows that now, which is why he won’t run.

People are therefore misinterpreting his ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail now. Mitt wants to be useful, and, to be cynical about it, he doesn’t really have anything else to do. So he has been crowned the kingmaker/elder statesman/great guru of the GOP, and, as my insider friend told me, “that’s not a position he can be fired from.” I’m sure Mitt appreciates the good will and good press as he’s proven right, and he probably enjoys the attention that comes with being entreated.

But if he runs, he will lose. And he hates to lose, so he won’t run.

This message brought to you by the Jacques Cousteau 2016 Campaign Committee.

What It Doesn’t Mean

So Kate Kelly, leader of Ordain Women, has been excommunicated.  If my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, this is a critical turning point in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It apparently represents the stifling of all future dissent, the permanent second-class citizenship of all Mormon women, and very possibly the collapse of the creaky, falling-apart-at-the seams Mormon patriarchy, which resembles the old Soviet Union before the Berlin Wall fell.

But here’s the thing. My Facebook feed isn’t representative of anything, because this doesn’t mean any of those things. Indeed, other than its impact on Kate Kelly herself and her family and friends, it doesn’t mean much of anything at all.

That may be very difficult for some to believe, but this episode is hardly a watershed moment. It has been preceded by similar supposedly watershed moments that most have forgotten. The history of the church is replete with examples of members with a grievance who insisted the church needed to change, and the members were excommunicated, and the church continued unchanged. If Oliver Cowdery didn’t derail the church by leaving, then neither will Kate Kelly.

Please understand my purpose here. I am not rearguing – or even initially arguing – for or against what happened with regard to Kelly’s disciplinary council. There are plenty of other blogs where you can find passionate essays on both sides. I am saying that those who think the church can’t possibly survive this need to take several steps back.

For my part, my steps back were taken as I drove from my home in Sandy, Utah, up to the Pacific Northwest where my in-laws live. I am writing this post safely ensconced in Port Angeles, Washington, far removed from the Wasatch Front echo chamber. When news of Kelly’s fate came online, I said aloud, “So it looks like Kate Kelly has been excommunicated.”

My mother-in-law then asked, “Who’s Kate Kelly?”

As I filled her in, she recalled hearing in passing about Ordain Women’s march on the Conference Center and their attempt to gain admission to the priesthood session. But she had no real opinion on the matter, and she shrugged off the news without a second thought.

Now I recognize I’m being anecdotal here, and it’s silly of me to suggest that somehow my Facebook friends are entirely unrepresentative where my mother-in-law is somehow emblematic of the church at large. But the reality is that most members don’t comb the Bloggernacle on a daily basis and don’t weigh in on Salt Lake Tribune comment threads. (And thank goodness! Trib comment threads on Mormon subjects contain more bile per byte than any other form of online communication.)  Yes, this has gotten some national media attention, but Mitt Romney isn’t running for president anymore, and the news cycle will quickly move on to something else.

This will frustrate and disappoint many, but likely far fewer than Kelly and her closest allies would have you believe. And the vast majority of church members will take little or no notice, and the work will progress. And persecutions may rage, a few mobs may combine, and maybe even some armies may assemble, and more calumny may defame, but the truth of God will still go forth boldly, nobly, and independently until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear and the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

I paraphrased that last bit.

But the fact is you either believe that or you don’t. And if you believe that, you’re not going to panic when the expected mobs arrive and the predicted calumny does its defaming. You may be bent out of shape by the fact that fallible people have been tasked with doing the work of the Lord, and that this fallibility comes into focus at times like these. But this work is bigger than you, me, or Kate Kelly. And it will continue with or without us.

Carry on.