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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Children of Disobedience

They are the scorned of God, the sirens of death, the fools, the children of disobedience. Yet there is comfort and peace in finding that the heart was not created to be enslaved by fear of falling, and that the truest friends can be found among the outcast.

Dar Williams puts it in a way that I understand:
The Mercy of the Fallen

Oh my fair North Star
I have held to you dearly
And have asked you to steer me
'Til one cloud-scattered night

I got lost in my travels
I met Leo the lion
Met a king and met a giant
With their errant light

There’s the wind and the rain
and the mercy of the fallen
Who say they have no claim to know what’s right

There’s the weak and the strong
and the beds that have no answer
And that’s where I may rest my head tonight

I saw all the bright people
In imposing flocks they landed
And they got what they demanded
And they scratched at the ground
And then they flew
And the field grew as sweetly for the flightless
Who have longing yet despite this
They could hear every sound

There’s the wind and the rain
and the mercy of the fallen
Who say they have no claim to know what’s right

If your sister or your brother
Were stumbling on their last mile
In a self-inflicted exile
Wish for them a humble friend

And I hope someday
That the best of Falstaff’s planners
Give me seven half-built manors
where half dreams may dream without end

There’s the wind and the rain
and the mercy of the fallen
Who say "hey, it’s not my place to know what’s right"

There’s the weak and the strong
And the many stars that guide us
We have some of them inside us
I am one of those travelers who started with high hopes and dreams as I traveled along a sterile road that was laid out before me by others...but who fell along the wayside and now appears lost to his former companions. Yet I have found that those who inhabit the nether lands have such a rich and warm sense of living, that in their presence my heart soars to heights I once thought could only be found at the end of that long, narrow road to heaven.

May our children choose to disobey all claims of authority over them, get lost on the way, meet that errant light, and in the process find that heaven is all around them.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

15 Minutes of Democracy

They're talking about Democracy in Iraq over on LDSLF, which is a subject I'm passionate about. I posted comments there but realize that I've written enough and wandered far enough from RTs post to warrant moving the ideas here:

I haven't read the books that RT and some of the commentors are quoting, but what’s the point in making the distinction between an unconditional likelihood of democracy arising and a highly conditional likelihood of it succeeding over time? Isn’t this similar to saying that all people would desire and even act upon getting democracy but few will actually realize it? ...I mean, what more is such a fleeting experience with democracy than a crushed popular uprising? A kind of grotesquely shared 15 minutes of fame?

Personally, I don't see value in a democracy that lacks longevity. It seems to me that the only type of democracy we should care about is the type that requires certain conditions...that we should then focus on fostering those conditions.

So yeah, I think the conversation should be about how best to achieve lasting democracy rather than how it gets used as a lame excuse for failed foreign policy...you know the argument: "aw, those folks just don't want it bad enough or they'd have made it happen with the opportunity that they were given". In my mind, that's a non-starter.

Hopeful Pessimism

Full credit to RT for his expressions of hopeful pessimism, which I share.

I am pessimistic because, contary to our attitude in Iraq, the healthiest democracies did not have this form of government imposed upon them, rather it slowly arose through tumultuous process, rich resources, relative isolation, and a coming of age. Even a nation like India, where it could be argued that such government was imposed, was not “liberated” in the style of our approach in Iraq…but occupied and subdued on an empirical time scale and without the primary purpose of liberation and democratization.

Even more fascinating, I think, is our patronizing and chauvinistic approach to the Arab world…which was a place of enlightenment and cultural dominance while Europe was in its darkest youth…and for which culture the whole of western civilization owes a great debt for its own eventual sparks of enlightenment; but instead has played a major role in speeding the downfall, subjugating and crippling, and manipulating for its own purposes. Pax Romana yields Pax Britannica yields Pax Americana yields Pax Syriana.

These brothers and sisters of ours may well regain their former glory, but it will likely be at the expense of the western world and due in part to our unwitting participation…even as we mask our true intentions with paternal rhetoric.

Time will tell.

Common Misconceptions

But what about Germany and Japan? I think there is a common misconception that democracy was imposed upon these two nations at the end of, and as a primary result of WWII…a misconception that is often perpetuated by those who would have us believe that democracy can be successfully and rightly imposed by force of arms.

Germany had a long-standing history of democratic process along the lines of an increasingly influential king’s parliament…its history is much more similar to England than Iraq; Hitler, for example, was elected by greater than 60% of the popular vote. So I’d say democracy was actually restored rather than imposed, and that after a relatively short period of run-away abuse of power in the Chancellory or executive…something that all democracies have to worry about.

As for Japan…this is arguably the closest we get to actually imposing democracy by force, yet to see it in those terms is to ignore a significant amount of history and circumstances. Tim Shorrock’s article A Skewed History of Asia points out the shortcomings in the use of Japan as the proto-imposed-democracy:

A more accurate analogy between postwar Asia and US policy today would be the United States installing friendly leaders in Baghdad willing to do US bidding in the Middle East, and subservient, pro-US governments providing the economic underpinning to the new US imperialism. Then, after decades of US-imposed “democracy,” the Iraqi people would rise up to forge their own future. That’s how long it took Asians to reject the idea that democracy grows out of the barrels of American guns.

In other words, the price in lives, time, money, and dumb luck is much too high (not to mention the premise that doing it by force cannot succeed) to make imposing democracy on the world for the sake of democracy a viable if sane policy. Simple observation confirms that we actually do the only thing that makes sense...we really just attempt to create a stable, subservient climate under the guise of "democracy."

Without Hypocrisy and Without Guile

Democracy is a gift that people have to give themselves…and the way we help is outlined in Section 121, not in The Prince.

I thought one of the most striking quotes for the film “Syriana” was this:

...a nation with 4% of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s military budget has lost its power to influence.
…or something like that… Of course we're talking about righteous influence here, not manipulation or force.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Just War

I've been nothing short of obsessed these past few years.

How could it be that so many Mormons, folks that I should otherwise respect and hold in high regard, seem to be convinced that war can be just and that Iraq is a case in point? Where does this idea of "just war" come from and why do folks, many who profess the purest Christian faith, so passionately ascribe the "Just War" idea to the Iraq war...or, dare I say, any action taken by the Bush Administration in the name of the "War on Terror"?

Editor's note: I prefer the pejorative "War on Terra" for its brutal truth. But to avoid being accused of instigating self-inflicted pain in others, I'll just stick with the state-approved...er, non-controversial terms for now.

The following are arguments that I've often heard...but I have to be honest, these arguments should be under what John Dehlin calls "bad apologetics" simply based upon how they repulse rather than convince:

JEHOVAH - JESUS (aka "New wine in old wineskins")
Essentially that the hawkish god of the Old Testament/pre-3rd Nephi era and the peace-loving god of the New Testament are the same guy, so therefore you can't just take Jesus at his word but also have to take into account his past personality to get the whole truth.

Also expressed as the New Testament/covenant encompassing the Old rather than replacing it.

Ummm...aren't we ignoring the possibility that Jesus was serious about his reasons for taking-on a body and coming down here to straighten a few things out? I think he was a revolutionary, not a reformer. And isn't it possible that one of the reasons he did this was because we had him all wrong? Just asking...

(aka "Truly peace-loving people hate war but do it anyway when forced to...")
This encompasses the "Book of Mormon teaches the necessity and inevitability of war" argument and places Capt. Moroni as the exemplar...man of god, patriot, reluctant warrior. There are other examples in the Book of Mormon but this one is most often cited as superior. I think this is the closest you'll get to a reasonable argument for "Just War". However, it is most often cited without regard (or a very loose definition) for the great pains the Book of Mormon takes in strictly defining such a war. Not to mention the unanswered questions raised by the People of Ammon in the face of assumptions about "Just War", and the teachings of Jesus about loving your enemy, and the possibility that all war can be traced to avoidable circumstances, and the promise that God made that as long as the Nephites were rightous he would protect them, but that as soon as they lost thier way he would send their enemies to remind them...but that's for another post.

TENTH ARTICLE OF FAITH (aka "God will not hold the obedient citizen accountable")
See, when Joseph Smith wrote these things he hadn't yet considered the possibility that a government might cease providing the right to life, liberty, and property for Mormons. Clearly this is a best case scenario article of faith, that applies principally when you have no real grievances or moral qualms.

But if a government asked you, possibly at threat of force, that you renounce God, or leave your children to others, or abandon your parents, etc...wouldn't you resist? Wouldn't you do all in your power to avoid such a duty? Wouldn't you in fact be justified in disobeying? Then why would you kill for your government or go along as a "good" citizen while others do this for you?

MYSTERIOUS GOD (aka "By proving contraries truth is manifest")
Closely related to the Jehovah-Jesus argument and a conscience stifler that's a handy helper for the quandaries created by a strictly obedience-based interpretation of the Tenth Article of Faith. This is the preferred argument of last resort for all faith-based claims of knowledge, simply because it cannot be refuted: Peace, be still. It's simply not for us to understand at this time but the day will come and all mysteries will be revealed. Wait for Jesus.

REQUIREMENT FOR SPREADING THE GOSPEL (aka "But the sword really is mightier than the word...those Sons of Mosiah were just hopeless dreamers...and LIBERALS!")
I just can't get over how sick this one makes me feel. We're talking turning and running with hands cupped over mouth and vomit spraying everywhere. I've actually had members of my own family sling this one out there year after year, with no sense of shame or gospel incongruence. "Yep, the up-side of this war is that we'll be able to send in the missionaries once it's done. Thank god and his mysterious ways!"

Let me know if you're aware of any others.

If you disagree with my take on the subject, never fear...that's what the comments are for, and I'm looking forward to the discussion.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Kernel Project

Just as Linux is an Open Source kernel project based on the Unix kernel, and GNU is a federation of such projects based on the Unix operating system...

Editor's Note: Notice how the first Open Source Software projects were based on a powerful, monolithic, but proprietary standard?

...People of Ammon is a project based on the official doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I had not planned to make this point until I could elaborate, but I have always been impressed with the Book of Mormon's story of the Sons of Mosiah, and how it blossoms into the story of the People of Ammon (aka Anti Nephi Lehies, Ammonites, People of God, etc). I have an affinity for that story that I don't fully understand.

It always seemed to me that, while the visitation of Christ was the high event, the story of the People of Ammon was the heart of the book...that all the events preceding, concurrent with, and leading from this story where like a vessel or framework for the message of the People of Ammon...and that the visitation of Christ was the seal of godliness upon it.

I see the story of the People of Ammon, born from the union of a people's darkest shadows and brightest visions, as a kernel within our own hearts...a non-proprietary kernel.

This Open Source Mormonism project is about finding that kernel in our own hearts; protecting, nourishing, and sharing it. Allowing it to re-create our minds, bodies, and the world.

Open Source Mormonism (OSM)

According to the website, Yoism is the world's first Open Source Religion.

With the subtext: "building heaven on earth", a theme song: "Democracy" by Leonard Cohen, and a YoAd (think MormonAd for Gen-Y) titled: "Think for Yourself"...with the imagery of human evolution and the message:
  • Think for yourself
  • Question authority
  • Think with your friends
  • Create
  • Create new realities
  • Philosophy is a team sport
You have to wonder what Open Source Mormonism (OSM) would look like. Kind of like Open Source Microsoft?

But still, it's worth considering...and technically, many Mormons follow the Open Source model anyway...things like:
  • "WoW teaches the South Beach Diet"
  • "War on Terror is God's way of softening-up the Arab world for the Gospel"
  • "Hot caffeine bad...cold caffeine yummy"
  • "A national title for BYU proves the Church is true"
  • "etc..."
Well, we might as well get people organized about it...

...in fact, I think People of Ammon could be the world's first Open Source Mormonism (OSM) project. Yeah....

Hold that thought.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Which people?

The title "People of Ammon" is found in use by a war-like, marauding people of the Old Testament and by a peace-loving, charitable people of the Book of Mormon. This is a rather fortunate coincidence, as it allows me to claim that we are just like the People of Ammon without causing too much fuss.

We are just like them; both of them. And they are like us.

Let's talk about what this means for our past, present, and future.