… Annnndddd part of my readers just clicked away, and another part geared up for battle.
Several years ago on the flight to a Mormon History Association meeting in Tucson, a friend asked me whether I considered myself conservative or liberal. I was uncomfortable with the question. To me those labels meant “Republican” or “Democrat,” and I was and am neither. Years ago I decided that I could be a member of no political party. I have a strong strain of loyalty in my makeup, and loyalty to any party, in my view, means upholding some principles which I might not agree with for the sake of the party’s success. I could not accept that.
Although I rejected (and reject) political affiliation, I told my friend I supposed I was conservative, based chiefly on the recognition that I value and want to preserve the best of the past, and because I tend to work out potential problems slowly before I commit to a new course of action in any part of my life. I conserve; therefore, I’m conservative, right?
But as American politics and social and economic discourse has grown sharply more rancorous in the past three or four years, and as ideologies have hardened to the point where I question whether anyone truly feels the positions they advocate, and as I’ve come to suspect that more often than not people merely parrot the talking points put forth by their party champions, I have been forced to reconsider my position. I still reject party affiliation, and expect that I always will.
But I am no longer conservative.
Or, maybe, I am so conservative that I have circled around the back of the loop to become liberal.
I have become aware of a way of thinking about economics and social policy common to Mormonism in the 1920s and 1930s, a way of thinking that has strong echoes of even earlier Mormon economics and social policy. I have been collecting lessons and talks from that era that address this strain of economic, political, and social thinking, and I love it. It convinces me. It satisfies me. It persuades me to behave differently than I did in the 1980s and 1990s. I want to conserve and perpetuate it. So it’s conservative, right?
But it is so radically different from anything considered “conservative” in anybody’s definition today that I can’t call it that. So by contrast to modern conservatism, and in ignorance of its true name if political philosophers have given it one, I’m calling it “liberal.” Remember what Richard L. Evans said:
Words have a way of being stealthily stolen, and it isn’t safe to place too much confidence in words unless we know the men who use them and what they mean when they use them. It isn’t safe to let words take the place of realities – for a thing is what it is, no matter what we choose to call it.
So with that, I inaugurate a new series at Keepa, a collection of lessons and talks that reflect this old-yet-novel strain of Mormonism, which will appear under the collective title “The Liberal Mormon.” You’ll be ever more able to discern what I mean in this case by “liberal” as more posts go up and you see how I use that word.
I expect that if this series gets any attention, people will want to argue politics. While I generally prefer to keep politics, especially partisan politics, off this blog, it’s okay here with the request that you argue political issues with reference to these older materials. If you only want to rehearse a robot-like ideology, there are other places for you to go. If you want to argue politics with a clear and definite link to these ideas from the Mormon past, be my guest. Be polite. Be Mormon.