Category Archives: Reason to Live

Confronting the Racism That Comes to Me

We don’t get rid of racism unless we confront it. And we don’t confront it successfully unless we confront it within ourselves. It’s an ongoing, life-long process, unburdening ourselves of the constant flow of racist ideas that cross our consciences. But it’s also worth doing.

Step one is being able to notice racism for what it is – for that, I turn to Ibram X. Kendi’s definintions:

Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing.

“A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. By policy, I mean written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people.

“A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior to or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist ideas argue that the inferiorities and superiorities of racial groups explain racial inequities in society.”

— Ibram X. Kendi, pp. 17-23 of his book, How to Be an Antiracist.

For example, in many Republican Party political ads, I saw images of Whites being threatened or standing defiantly as Blacks, Hispanics, and Women were shown to be shouting and protesting. That’s racial inequity – the different groups were not on approximately equal footing. If one does not see a problem with that, then one has normalized that inequity – racism.

It’s as simple as that, and racism on that level alone is easy to work on, once one is aware that it needs to be worked on. Racism on that level is also the most pervasive in the USA, so it is a good thing to be aware of and a good thing to work on.

What about racist policy? Well, a law that requires one of a particular set of photo IDs in order to vote looks like it is fair and even. But when that law disallows Native American Tribal IDs – and Native Americans in that state have a lower rate of acquiring other, accepted IDs – that law sustains racial inequality. Even if the motivation for the law was simply to keep the Republican Party in power (the laws against Native American IDs are unique to Republican-ruled states), and not to target Native Americans in particular, the result of that policy leads to much more than the Native Americans not voting – because they don’t vote, they get ignored for other governmental considerations, ranging from law enforcement to access to government programs.

And what about racist ideas? We see that in the Trump Administration’s impact on immigration and refugee policy. Muslims and Latinx persons face substantially more hurdles and rates of rejection than immigrants from Western Europe, for example. Why? Look to Trump’s policy advisor on immigration, Stephen Miller. We have writings of his that spell out explicitly racist ideas regarding his view that White Europeans are much more desirable immigrants and refugees than other persons who are non-White and/or non-European. Those ideas drive racist policies, which leads to racial inequity… racism, this time of a deeper and harsher nature than racism done in passing.

So why do I fixate on the Republican Party for this discussion? It is because I can find multiple examples in that party’s advertisements, policies, and supporters. The Democratic Party has been active and effective at purging the racism out of their ranks – it’s why the Alabama Democratic Party went through such a major transformation in the last 15 years. The Republican Party, however, has not been uniform, let alone effective, in disavowing racism… especially when it actively embraces it as part of its national platform and in its plans to control voting access in order to retain its grip on power.

Why I Fear for the USA

To be honest, I was hoping for a massive repudiation of the racism, antisemitism, religious intolerance, and ideological blindness to both science and justice in the election results of 2020. Instead, we are dealing with a nation that has more people committed to those ways than in 2016, and a close electoral college result. In other words, there are now no negative repercussions for politicians that openly espouse racism, antisemitism, religious intolerance, and ideological blindness to both science and justice – the Republican Party will run you as a candidate and get you elected.

Because whoever wins will barely win, that means that the racially-skewed voting rights laws promulgated by Republicans will remain entrenched where they control the state houses. That means that the antisemitic lies told by Republican candidates and their media backers will intensify, because those messages resonate with an increasingly intolerant and insecure White population. That means the messages of intolerance directed against Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus will spread to other faiths that are not part of a Republican-approved grouping. That means that when their political leaders display gross foolishness in ignoring science and murderous cruelty in ignoring justice, the Republicans will fall into line and support that foolishness and cruelty.

This is not about any other group – this is specifically about the political party that is dragging the USA over a cliff of racism, antisemitism, religious intolerance, and ideological blindness to both science and justice, the Republican Party.

Healers cannot let themselves become enraged when yet another person walks up to them with a bleeding wound. The healers must heal. But if the same things, time and again, are injuring others, then the healers seek to find a way to control, curtail, or eliminate those things so as to reduce the constant injuries. In the USA, much of the woes in terms of poverty, schools, the justice system, and economic opportunities can be connected to a common thread – a lack of equitable and just voting rights for all citizens. If we want to solve those issues to the benefit of all Americans, then we must first make sure that all Americans vote, and that all votes are counted, and that all people are heard. Time and again, a Republican will lie about needing to clean up voter roles or tighten up voting rules in order to combat fraud – those lies mask a brutal effort to strip fellow Americans of their franchise.

And, in this recent election, there were no negative political consequences for those actions.

Those actions will continue, and that will be the ruin of this nation.

On Why I Am Pro-Choice

This is why, ultimately, I have to be pro-choice. When we look at the anti-abortion hardline position of zero abortions, anywhere, we lose out on those performed to save the life of the mother. We also potentially criminalize miscarriages, which has happened already in jurisdictions with strict anti-abortion laws on the books.

So, no, I’m opposed to strict anti-abortion measures. I’m also more inclined to align with the pro-choice group on issues of better access to prenatal care, better postnatal health care for both mother and children, and better financial assistance programs overall – and those measures remove demand for abortions through improving the lives of both the parents and the children. Pro-choice groups also tend to be pro-teacher and pro-universal child care, which a nation without abortions would need lots more of.

My church’s position is clear: it is opposed to abortion, except in the cases where the life of the mother is endangered, rape, incest, or when postnatal survival is in serious doubt. But not even those exceptions are permitted in a hardline anti-abortion position, so I must align with the pro-choice people. Not allowing those exceptions is tyranny: not advocating for better health care, education, and child care is unchristian cruelty.

D&C 134 – My Thoughts

In my faith, there is a scripture that outlines what we see as the correct relationship balance with human free will, government authority, and church authority. I have linked that scripture, below and following my remarks.

In reading it today, I was impressed upon by the words “equity and justice” in verse 3. Being also constrained to “judge righteous judgment” elsewhere in the scriptures, and being admonished to not blithely say “all is well in Zion”, I take those words as a solemn enjoinder to take seriously and with great weight the cries of those who claim oppression and persecution, remembering in their cries those of my own ancestors.

Even those uttering cries of oppression and persecution condemn those who turn to rioting and violence: therefore, let not my consideration of those cries be tainted with associating them with lawlessness. Millions continue to speak lawfully and peacefully, and their cries are justified.

A necessary first step in equity and justice is in hearing honestly reports of the plight of the oppressed. The necessary second step is to be so moved as to no longer accept things as they are, but to strive for the changes in laws necessary so as to establish equity and justice.

That is what came to my mind this day.

A Riot Is the Language of the Unheard

A riot is the language of the unheard. It is as necessary to condemn the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riots as it is to condemn the riots. Riots do not develop out of thin air.

Give the unheard a voice – give them the vote. When we hear of plans to “clean up” voter databases and how they unfairly target minorities, year in, year out, we are hearing plans to set our cities on fire as well as plans to bear down unjustly upon people because of racial discrimination. If you condemn riots, then condemn as well the political practices that lead to those riots.

49 of 50 state Republican Parties, with the blessing and guidance of the national Republican Party, engage in voter suppression measures that target minorities. If you do not want riots, do not support the politicians that sow the seeds of rioting in their white supremacist-derived policies. In Dr. King’s day, it was much less clear on how to determine which politicians would support equality and which ones would support racial discrimination. Party lines and regional lines did not entirely line up with one side or the other. Today, it is much clearer: The Democratic Party moves to end racial discrimination and the Republican Party moves to preserve it. Look at the legislative record, it tells a truth that is stark and plain.

I have been told in no uncertain terms by my faith leaders to be active in working to end racial discrimination. I cannot be true to that charge and cast a vote for a Republican politician at the same time. I must choose, and I choose to end racial discrimination.

My Observations on President Russell M. Nelson’s Remarks 4 October 2020

Twice in two days (and possibly more, as I still need to watch other Saturday sessions of General Conference), a member of the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been unequivocal in stating that if we, the followers of Jesus Christ, are to do the will of God, it is to do so by including all our brothers and sisters and rejecting doctrines and practices of racism and racial discrimination.

He did not call us to support the Second Amendment. He did not call upon us to overturn Roe v Wade. He called us to work to end racism.

My Reflections on Dallin H. Oaks’ Comments – 3 October 2020

To me, it was clear that President Oaks spoke the words of a servant of God – he promoted peace, understanding, and striving towards eliminating the evils in our laws. He did not plaster over the problems of racism, including those in the USA’s history and laws. While he spoke against violence, he absolutely did not speak against protest.

He clearly condemned those who would favor a violent solution. He did not equivocate or wink to one side or another. The man ready to grab a rifle to support one ideology or another is in danger of doing the work of the Destroyer, not of God.

President Oaks also made comments that, at their heart, agreed with the protests against racism and racial discrimination in law enforcement as well as law – and that such racism and racial discrimination requires of us, followers of Jesus Christ, to do more to root out and remove from our nation’s governance. We cannot assume that because we live in the USA and that there was a Civil War and that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that we live in a racially just society and that those who speak of oppression and discrimination are being disingenuous, somehow seeking an unfair advantage. No, the cries of oppression and discrimination that we hear are real, and it is incumbent upon us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to move to end such things.

President Oaks did not underline any other issue in his comments – and I would remark that Mormon’s comments in 4 Nephi underlined the same issue, and no other, as being the undoing of the peace and happiness of the people made as one under Christ.

Repentance and Resurrection

I had a dream recently in which I was bearing witness against another person at the Judgment Bar of God. I felt the severity of the situation and the magnitude of each word that I said. I wasn’t there to tell part of the truth and be done – I had to testify of everything, I was compelled to do so.

The person I was testifying against was a politician, and I bore witness of what I saw and experienced during his administration. As I did so, he turned his face away from me, towards a darkness. At that point, I thought of the scripture about how the wicked will desire for mountains to fall upon them, so that they would not have to face such judgment. I note that my testimony was solicited purely for injuries suffered by the nation because of his misrule – his personal matters were not for my testimony, as I had only second-hand knowledge of such. I also knew that he was not alone as a ruler – all who have held power are held to account for it. Those who want to repent and to be made whole face that pain of truth and bear the burden of their mistakes. Those who are yet proud and unrepentant turn towards the darkness and wish to be as far as possible from God so that the pain of memory and truth does not trouble them.

As I bore witness, I also felt my own soul, troubled by what I knew would face me: the testimony of those who I had wronged and harmed in my life. But I resolved not to turn to the darkness. I wanted to face the pain and pass through it. I knew that I would be resurrected and that I would have a chance to choose better, without the clouding effects of misleading men to steer me wrong. I would have cleaner choices, and I could train myself with a millennium of doing better so that I would be made whole, perfect and complete in my repentance.

Resurrection is not an end of itself, or a gateway to an end-state. It is every bit the ushering in of a new phase of existence, as momentous as birth or death. We are taught that we are not all resurrected at the same time – in my dream I felt my place in that line. I knew that, because of my sins, I was not to be the first to be resurrected. But I also knew that, because of the good I had done and to the extent I had accepted Christ as my Savior, I would also not be the last. There would be people who I had clashed with in life that accepted the Gospel in death that would be resurrected before me. There would be people who I had looked up to and admired for their righteousness in life that had deeper demons than I could see that would be resurrected after me. Part of repentance was in forgiving others that I might be ready to live among them in righteousness and in not being judgmental, that I might welcome in others when they were ready to join with me in righteousness.

We were all in line, we would all have a turn. The most righteous would be the first to be raised, that they might prepare a place for those yet to come, each in turn preparing to welcome in more and more to do the work needed to welcome in more. We would do this with love, and I felt that compassion. I feel it again as I recall it.

But I also recall the pain of my soul as I remembered those who I harmed with my decisions. My repentance here is to prepare me to face the pain of judgment. I do not believe that I will face a wink and a nod and a free pass to heaven just because I made a few good choices here and there. Judgment is a full accounting of my life. I am allowed to feel joy for the good I have done, but I am also responsible for feeling the pain of my evils, if I am to cleanse those evils from myself and become perfected in Christ, able only then to return to Heavenly Father.

I want to be good, and part of that want means that I must face judgment and not turn away from truth. If I truly want to be one with my Heavenly Father, I need to be able to see the totality of my life and know where the atonement will make me whole because of the pain I feel for those sins now. The more I can repent of and make restitution for here and now, the less pain I endure in my judgment – and the more work I will be able to do to show love for my fellow humans, my brothers and sisters.

But I also know that there are sins in me that I am not yet aware of, that I have not yet repented of, that I have not yet made restitution for. The mortal oubliette in my person is opened up and brought into light in that judgment. The dream I had made me search inside my memory for when I had done wrong, and I found those episodes, and it pained me deeply. That is the first step to restoration, and I am glad for it, but I have more to do. I am not anxious about not being first in line to be resurrected – I am thankful that I am in line and that I know that I emerge into new life when I am ready for it. I hope to be there as quickly as I can be there, and that that all hinges on my willingness to repent today.

The Book of Mormon and Liberation Theology

For those interested in the socio-political details of The Book of Mormon, this is a compelling article for consideration.

The notion that The Book of Mormon has a thread of liberation theology in it was something I was recently considering and, prior to putting out my own thoughts on the matter, I wanted to see what was already out there. I find Dr. Potter’s assertions that the liberation theology in The Book of Mormon to be not just “a preferential option for the poor”, but also a stark warning to those with wealth and privilege to be most agreeable.

Bear in mind that while liberation theology shares with Marxism a criticism of capitalism, it by no means agrees upon the actions necessary to correct the abuses of capitalism and the social divisions and stratifications necessary to maintain a capitalist society. While Marxism would have workers of the world unite in a struggle, The Book of Mormon argues instead that the rich should humble themselves, give of what they have to the poor, and to use power in service, rather than to demand servitude.

As a church that has a long history of being predominantly white and English-speaking, with a patriarchal system, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is itself putting forward a message that it is worldwide, multicultural, and home-centered, with that home equating roles performed by husband and wife, particularly in terms of spiritual authority. It is a mistake to equate the Nephites with white Americans with conservative 1950s political views. It is a mistake both of history as well as self-perception.

It is even a mistake to equate the Nephites with the Church: how often do prophets preach to the Nephites because of their rejection of their message? Better to equate the Nephites with the Lamanites, both descended of the same parents, as well as parent-culture. Both can be blinded by lies. Both can be caught up in pride. And both can be redeemed by the same gospel message.

And so, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have this document that stresses the importance of community, of shared experience, and of material sacrifice, while condemning those who seek after riches, who place the self above the community, and who seek to create or perpetuate unequal social systems. I’m going to finish reading this document and will likely have more to say on this matter going forward.

Tisha B’Av in the Book of Mormon

In my reading today, I noted a specific date reference in Alma 49 – to the 10th day of the 11th month, to be specific. That was tied to the march of the Lamanite armies under Amalickiah, with their intent to destroy the Nephites plainly present. At the end of the 48th chapter, Mormon notes the lamentations of the Nephites at the prospect of having to kill people in their defense, as such a killing would deprive them of an ability to accept atonement in their lives – which atonement would be focused on in the first 10 days of the new year, leading up to Yom Kippur.

Well, the great lamentations go with the 9th day of the 11th month, Tisha B’Av, a date set by God as a day of Israelite sorrow in the Book of Exodus. It is the date of the destruction of both Solomon’s and Herod’s Temple as well as the extermination of the Bar Kochba Revolt. And here, in the Book of Mormon, there is what seems to be a reference to that day. The armies that enter Nephite territory on the 10th of Av were surely underway on the 9th.

The “why” of all this is that with such a significant date tied to these events, the existential struggle that spans 12 years and 14 chapters in the Book of Mormon narrative comes forward not just as a regrettable war, but as a calamity on the level of the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem. The walls come crashing down, and the people are left exposed to the wrath of an enemy. They will be destroyed in their wickedness, but preserved if they endure the horrors in righteousness.