I was in a church meeting the other night where our stake president (senior local leader, over about nine congregations) made an earnest plea to leave politics outside the walls of the church.
That got me thinking. My church has a strict policy of political neutrality. In fact, every time there is an election, the Church issues a letter which is read in Sunday meetings reaffirming this political neutrality. I like this line from the First Presidency (a group of men we consider to be prophets): "Principles compatible with the gospel can be found in various political parties."
I think it's pretty cool to belong to a church that has room enough for both Mitt Romney and Harry Reid.
Because I have lived in a variety of places, and because my career has taken me to some interesting places, I have a lot of friends across the political spectrum. I know and love staunch, solid conservatives as well as liberals with the bleedingest of hearts.
To a person, all my friends have the best of intentions. They pursue their political views because they sincerely believe that those views are right (whatever the metric they use to determine "right").
I've been thinking about the idea that principles compatible with the gospel are found in both parties. How can this be true, given that two parties are so vastly different?
I have a thought on this, and I think it comes down the fundamental values on which specific policies are built. If I had to identify one trait that my liberal friends have in common it would be empathy and love. These people genuinely care for others and they have a sincere desire to help the downtrodden and poor. This desire informs their policy preferences.
Across the aisle, my conservative friends also share some bedrock values. One of the most important fundamentals to these folks is freedom. They believe that God gave humanity freedom--that the right to act and choose is integral to God's plan for His children. Consequently, they favor policies which they see as congruent with this aim. (I'd say that there is a second value for conservatives, and that has to do with preserving traditional values because they genuinely believe they are right.)
Here's my point. We are in what promises to be a raucous election year. And that's as it should be. We have big decisions to make in this country about big challenges. Vigorous debate is a good thing. But, it concerns me when I hear people--on either side of the political spectrum--talking about opponents as if they are mean-spirited/evil/stupid/bigoted/whatever is counter-productive.
I have strong political views, myself. I get that. And I think we should all advocate vigorously for what we think is best. But let's do it with the presumption of good faith--that those on the other side might also be acting according to their best lights, for all the best reasons.
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