Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conviction & Compromise

I want to share a quote that I believe is extremely relevant right now as election day grows near.  First a little context.  This quote was taken from a forum discussion held at Notre Dame University on September 4, 2012.  The discussion was entitled "Conviction and Compromise:  Being a Person of Faith in a Liberal Democracy", and Elder Dallin H. Oaks was invited to be a panelist.  During the discussion, Elder Oaks said the following:
"I want to support a person for public office that has something higher than their own self interest by which they believe they will be judged.  And next I want a person of integrity.  And I'm glad to measure integrity by how well a person adheres to their own system of belief -- whatever that is."
This was not delivered as doctrine or the "official position" of the church.  However, I wouldn't take the words of an apostle lightly.

It's not very popular to bring religion into politics.  But for me, my religion is such a huge part of who I am and what I believe -- I couldn't possibly ignore my religious convictions when considering who to vote for.  When I heard this quote, my immediate thought was that one of the candidates for president clearly meets this criteria, while the other -- in my opinion -- falls short.

How quickly did Barack Obama distance himself from his church during his '08 campaign?  As soon as it became unpopular, he discarded the religion he had been a part of for over 20 years.  Obama stated that he doesn't share the views of the man who officiated at his wedding, baptized his two daughters and been his pastor for 20 years. The title of Obama's second book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a Wright sermon.  But he cast all that aside the instant it posed a threat to his own self interest.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney has defended his faith countless times.  Us Mormons, we're not very popular for whatever reason.  But Romney does not shy away from his religion, or dance around the questions about his beliefs.  I loved what he said in tonight's debate:
"My — my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God. And I believe we’re all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I — I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I’ve sat across the table from people who were out of work and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times."
It's not the first time he has publicly proclaimed those beliefs.  He clearly believes, as Elder Oaks stated, that he will be judged by something higher than his own self interest.

During the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan -- both self-proclaimed Catholics -- were asked what role their religion plays in their position on the issue of abortion.  Joe Biden said:
"With regard to -- with regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion as a -- what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life.  But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others..."
I have a hard time with politicians who make statements like this.  The Catholic church, in no uncertain terms, teaches that abortion is murder.  He claims to accept the position of the Catholic church on abortion.  So what I hear when he makes this statement is "I believe that abortion is murder, but I refuse to take away other peoples' right to commit murder...".  I'm sorry, but if that's your belief, how can you be ok with it?  I can't understand that.

Paul Ryan's response makes much more sense to me:
"I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life... Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don't agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother."
I echo the sentiment.  How is it possible to separate your personal convictions and beliefs from your public position?  And if you are willing to do that, how strong are those convictions and beliefs in the first place?  Well, that's not for me to judge -- but it certainly makes me question them.

As for me, I cannot compromise my beliefs and convictions.  I cannot vote for a candidate whose position on social and moral issues are polar opposite from what I believe and know to be true.

I apologize for my rambling.  I'm not sure I adequately expressed myself in this post, but I have a lot of thoughts floating around in my head and I wanted to sort them out a bit.  If you're still with me, thanks for reading!


Ryan G said...

Yep! That is the most important thing to remember when voting, in my opinion. Being able to stand up to the masses when they question your faith, one of the core parts of you, shows me that you won't be afraid to make a tough decision and stand by it. That's what makes a leader a good leader.

Samantha Kennicott said...

Agree 100% with everything you said. I am nervous for the future of our country! It blows my mind that there are so many people who want 4 more years of rhetoric and no actual improvements. We'll see how it turns out!

Eliza said...

I agree with you and what Ryan said in his comment as well.

In the first debate something that really stood out to me was when asked about the role of government President Obama started talking about teachers and Governor Romney went to the constitution... Then in this second debate when President Obama was blatantly caught in his lie about Benghazi....

Now I understand that politics like to get spun for various motives on both sides but this was dealing with a VERY SERIOUS issue--people's lives and national security. It is NOT acceptable. His actions make me believe the president has ulterior motives or that his personal agenda or affiliated party is more important to him than the country as a whole and I don't believe that is noble or right for the leader of the free world.

And has there really been anything in the last 4 years worth repeating?!

Kris said...

You make a reasonable premise, Vince, and I'll agree that character is an important factor in choosing who to vote for. The only portion of your argument I take issue with is the idea that personal beliefs must automatically translate into legislation in order for those beliefs to be real or sincere.

For example, I am not an alcohol drinker. In fact, at work I spend quite a bit of time working with patients hurt physically or emotionally damaged due to choices related to substance abuse. My personal belief that alcohol can be hideously dangerous and holds little to no positive value in anyone's life is quite personal to me and a core belief in the way I choose to live my life. However, if I was a politician in Utah (why in the world ANYONE wants to be a politician is beyond me :)) I would not be in favor of some of the silly and ridiculous liquor laws floating about. Remember that idea someone had a couple of years ago about blocking the very sight of the bar in restaurants lest the little ones--gasp-- actually see an alcoholic beverage? I'm rolling my eyes as I type this.

In this case, my own personal religious and moral convictions are what they are, but that doesn't mean that as an elected official I feel they are appropriate to be enforced on others.

Rep. Ryan appears to also believe this concept. He has expressed personal beliefs that abortion is wrong no matter the method of conception. (Read: even in cases of rape or incest.) However, he has indicated that he is "comfortable" with Gov. Romney's position maintaining exemptions in the case of incest, rape, or harm to the mother, stating that "the president makes the policy". He is comfortable with legislating a position more lenient than his personal beliefs either because it is politically convenient, as you accuse Pres. Obama of, or because he is, at this time, not interested in legislating based exclusively on his personal feelings, as you pointed was also VP Biden's point.

I am not disagreeing with Rep. Ryan's decision to support Gov. Romney. In fact, I think it's probably pretty darn reasonable, but that's not the point. The point, as far as I can see, is that it is dangerous to make sweeping judgments about the sincerity of a person's convictions based exclusively on the way they thoughtfully make decisions to be implemented on a much larger that personal scale.