Sunday, February 5, 2012

Liberals and Conservatives

Society exists as a tension between conservatives (who resist innovation to preserve the status quo) and liberals (who support innovation to improve the status quo). Ideally, liberals generate a bunch of neat ideas and conservatives shoot down the really dumb ones. In practice, however, people get stuck. When we get stuck, it is usually because too many of us are too conservative. (Liberals go bust really quickly when they go crazy, e.g. Joseph Smith.) What you have in the modern LDS church is a society mired in excessive conservatism. Even as we pay lip-service to liberal innovation ("personal revelation" starting with Joseph Smith in the Grove), in practice we are actively trying to inhibit change in all its forms (which amounts to deluding ourselves into thinking that it doesn't exist: if there is no change, then there is no dangerous innovation to be scared of, and the conservative majority of us can preserve the illusion that things are stable in God's kingdom of order).

There is nothing inherently great about change for its own sake, but (a big but) some change is always necessary to survive. In other words, conservatives are right to resist random change ("ooh! neo-conservatism is so cool! let's throw all of our social weight behind the Religious Right, conveniently forgetting that they have been trying to destroy us since the nineteenth century!"), but wrong to postpone it indefinitely: sometimes, you have to change. The problem with our current situation in the LDS church is that we are trying to live without noticing change. This means that we end up standing for nothing (since change is real), and falling for anything (jumping right into bed with the people who have been seeking to bring the Church down since its formation). Instead of using our brain power to come up with creative new ideas for taking Mormonism forward into the 21st century, we are using it to come up with creative re-interpretations that justify us to implacable enemies (many of whom no longer exist as a significant factor on the demographic landscape) and anchor us to moral positions that are at once un-Mormon and intellectually indefensible.

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