07 December 2007

Conservative or Liberal?

What does it mean to be conservative? Or to be liberal? What do these words imply? In our current vernacular these words are used as labels to describe the general dogma of an individual or group. They help us categorize ways of thinking. Seemingly any issue of political, social, and/or civic interest has a conservative as well as a liberal side. Whether it is correct or not, often these words are synonymously used to identify political affiliation – Republican and Democrat respectively. But at the very core, what is the fundamental difference between a conservative and a liberal?

In one context, liberal is defined as “given or provided in a generous and openhanded way,” or simply, “broadminded” (www.webster.com). Certainly there are many other definitions. But these definitions provide a decent idea of what a liberal believes and practices. Regarding morals, a liberal is marked by the attitude that all should define and choose their own values and standards. The liberal mindset would permit and accept a broad spectrum of moral ideologies. In this sense, they are “broadminded” and “openhanded.” One who is liberal allows others complete discretion in their respective lives. Moral right and wrong is determined by the individual’s own perception. Each person establishes his or her own truth.

In contrast to this unrestrained discretion, a conservative subscribes to an established, well-defined, even tangible moral code. Often, this code is established by a Supreme Being. One greater than all men and women instituted the truth. As such, the principles are universal. Right and wrong is not subjective; truth does not vary from one person to the next. The moral code encompasses all under the same social and even personal responsibilities.

To assert the virtue of his views, a liberal would point to the definition used above – claiming he is “broadminded” and “open” to all ways of thinking. He would even claim conservatives are intolerant for thinking there is only one correct way. And in fact, any conservative who truly understands his beliefs would agree. Conservatives are intolerant. They are intolerant of anything which conflicts with the truth. It is not intolerance of the individual. It is intolerance of error.

In Mitt Romney’s speech “Faith in America,” there was a phrase which was largely over-looked and not fully appreciated. He said, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

The first sentence contains two assertions. First, “freedom requires religion,” and second, “religion requires freedom.” Governor Romney then briefly elucidated upon this second claim. He described why religion requires freedom - freedom allows full expression of one’s religious beliefs thereby enabling the individual to come closer to God. But what about the first declaration? What does Gov. Romney mean, “freedom requires religion?”

These three words address the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals. The freedom we all enjoy is conditional. It requires an acknowledgment of the existence of God and adherence to His precepts. George Washington himself boldly declared, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor” (1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation).

The perpetuation of freedom is contingent upon correct observance of God’s principles. This is not a threat from God. He will not, in his anger, wrath, etc. revoke freedom and enslave people of any kind. But, as society exercises liberal discretion in weighty moral matters rather than firm devotion to God’s directives our freedom is threatened.

God’s doctrine shows us how to succeed and how to be happy – and freedom is part of that happiness. There is no other way than God’s way. So when we drift from what He has taught us we lose touch with that which ensures our freedom.

Thus, “freedom requires religion.” Freedom requires that we subscribe to and uphold God’s moral code. It is not bigotry or hatred which leads many to denounce a practice, behavior, or even a way of thinking. Rather it is their effort to preserve freedom the best they know how.

05 December 2007


WARNING: If you are a BYU fan, affiliate, student, or alum you will likely be offended from what follows.

This is exactly why I hate BYU. It is bad enough to lose to one's rival. It is even worse when, for the second year in a row, they win on a final minute scoring drive after the game was seemingly over. But when the victorious team then claims divine intervention on a critical play... "can I add some salt to the lemon juice?"

Austin Collie's 49 yard reception will be remembered by both Ute and Cougar fans for years to come. Facing 4th and 18 with only a minute remaining in the game and BYU down by one point, Max Hall scrambled out of the pocket and found a wide open Collie down the sideline - keeping a drive alive which culminated in a touchdown and sealed a second consecutive win over Utah. However, Collie's own words describing the play will long out-live his heroics of the day. In a post-game interview when asked if the play was lucky, Collie responded, "I wouldn't say it was lucky. We executed the play well. We should have had another one. Obviously, if you do what's right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part in it. Magic happens." (read article here)

Are you kidding me? Did he really say that? Collie just claimed that God stepped in on that play and helped BYU convert on a 4th and long situation. Does that sound a little bogus to anyone else? I have heard of the Lord providing food for a struggling single-parent family. I have heard of the Lord granting health - even miraculously - when someone was suffering. I have heard of the Lord giving guidance when one faces difficult life decisions. In fact I have heard of the Lord blessing people in so many different ways; it is impossible to enumerate them all here. But stepping in to make "magic happen" in an eternally trivial competition? That is something I have never heard of.

I have had Cougar fans ask me why I hate BYU so passionately. I am a Latter-day Saint. I served an honorable full-time mission. I go to church. I attend the temple. I serve in a calling. I live the gospel. So why the hatred?

Collie's words epitomize an attitude which permeates the BYU faithful - an attitude of self-righteousness. BYU fans, athletes, many students and affiliates carry an air of arrogance. They seem to believe that because their school is supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that every activity and endeavor pursued under the name of BYU is consecrated and hallowed by the Lord.

A perfect story illustrates this feeling. Several years ago my parents attended a football game at Lavell Edwards Stadium (then Cougar Stadium). At halftime the bands and dance clubs did their regular routine on the field. When the PA announcer introduced the Cougarettes, he proudly declared that they were "glorifying the gospel through dance!"

I emphatically disagree! The Cougarettes are made up of female college students who find enjoyment in dancing. Every university in the country maintains a similar dance club on their respective campuses. So what is different about the Cougarettes which enables them to "glorify the gospel through dance?" The name BYU of course. Because they dance for BYU they are most certainly representing the Lord and therefore glorifying His gospel. NO! The Lord is simply allowing these fine young women to enjoy their passion of dance.

Inherent in this self-righteousness is the feeling that they think they are on a platform above everyone around them. I went on a date once in Provo (notice the use of the word once). The girl was a student at BYU. I went into the date with an open mind. I looked forward to an enjoyable evening, hoping that possibly something long-term would result. However, I left Happy Valley with my opinions and stereotypes of BYU firmly solidified! We spent the evening with a group my date's classmates. I cannot adequately describe the change in attitude of her friends after they found out I attended the University of Utah. When first introduced we were seemingly equals and feelings were mutually considerate. However, after they learned I was a U student the dynamics amongst us were awkward and uncomfortable. Suddenly I was not one of them anymore. I did not bear the name of BYU in any way - not as a student nor an employee. It was as if a switch was flipped; they no longer knew how to act around me or how to talk with me - when in reality their behavior and actions did not necessitate changing at all.

Another example: I had a friend who did his undergraduate work at BYU, then enrolled at the University of Utah to pursue graduate studies. After a short time at the U, he sent me an e-mail. Attached to the e-mail was a picture of a beer can in a urinal in Orson Spencer Hall. He sent it out to several people trying to demonstrate how filthy and repugnant the U is. Honestly, if you are offended by a beer can in a urinal, you have spent way too much time in Provo!

The Lord is involved in our lives. He does bless us when we live right. But the Lord does not play favorites. BYU won the football game because they made the plays. They were the better team. It was not because of righteous living. If Mendenhall wants to use scriptural analogies and stories to motivate a football team - that is fine. But football is just a game. Similarly, the other teams, clubs, and groups at BYU (and any other university) are in place for enjoyment, entertainment, and expression of talent. They are not some noble effort to spread the gospel. They are not divine callings and appointments to represent God (or even the church, as Roger Reid would claim). God is certainly invested in our lives. He cares for us. He will help us overcome our hardships and weaknesses. But in the activities we engage in for amusement, He lets us have our fun without interference.