Monday, June 26, 2006

What is Natural vs What is Right, and the role of Judges

I would like now to continue my debate with Seth. You say:

To begin, I am happy to concede that the injury and destruction to the family spoken of by the Right is indeed a “red herring” in the gay marriage debate, as long as everyone is clear that this red herring is the central argument being used by most everyone opposing the legalization of same sex unions. In other words, I specifically included it only to negate its force. That is, it is imperative that we are all clear that this is not my red herring; I did not create a straw man to attack. I simply went at the dominant argument of the senators speaking in favor of constitutionally enshrined discrimination. And if you observe the statements of Santorum, Brownback, and their ilk, you will see precisely what I mean.
I agree. This is one of the weakest arguments heterosexuals make on this point. Homosexuality does not harm heterosexual relations. It does make heterosexuals feel uncomfortable seeing members of the same sex being so....close, but it is not harmful to heterosexual marriages. Most arguments made by heterosexuals against homosexuality deals with how perverse they see homosexuality. They cannot see it as a reasonable argument to back homosexuality.

The arguments heterosexuals should counter with are like this: Homosexuals claim their acts and their feelings and their inclinations are "natural." That has been one of their main arguments, and a pretty powerful argument at that. There is a serious flaw, however, in claiming a right to an action by calling it "natural." Gays point to the animal world to show that species not too distant genetically from our own are also predisposed to some degree towards homosexuality, as if looking at the animal kingdom should decide how humans act. I'm going to use a red herring here, but it is vital to understand that whether or not something is natural does not equal that being right. This should show why we are humans, why we are different than the animals.

There are many things that animals do that are "natural." They defacate and urinate naturally where they please, usually to mark their territory. We humans do not mark our territory by our pee because it is unsanitary. But while unsanitary is "natural," it is not right. Male animals duel to impress a female, like among mountain goats who bang their heads, sometimes until one dies. It is natural, but it is not right. Animals steal from each other left and right. A snake steals eggs from a bird without any legal recourse against the snake. It is natural. We don't call it stealing because there is no law, but that is what it is. The egg belonged to the bird, not to the snake. The bird did not willingly give the snake its egg. It was therefore stolen. Is it right? No. Is it natural? Yes.

A lion murders every single day of his life. So does a wolf. So does an owl. So does a shark. So do a host of other animals. We don't call it murder, but I'm sure their victims will say it was unfair. Is it natural for a lion to kill? Is it natural for a shark to take a bite out of anything where it smells blood? It most certainly is natural. Is it right? No.

There are numerous instances from the animal kingdom of natural things that are not right. They are also had among humans. It is natural to steal. It is natural to kill. It is natural to defacate and urinate. But is it right? Releasing our excrement is right, but only under the right circumstances, so as to be sanitary and healthy. We are not to kill nor steal. We teach ourselves to control those natural instincts. It is natural to want something that is not ours, but we teach each other to not take that which is not given to us. The more we legalize and sanction baser natural instincts, the less human we become, and the more a "natural man," not a "right man."

In the Book of Mormon, it says:
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. Mosiah 3:19
God is our creator. It is Him we need to aspire to, not the animal kingdom. Continuing on, you say:
As a moral argument, many of the early points you make are potentially forceful, Dan. However, it is imperative to recognize that, necessarily, morality can only play the most limited role in a society founded under the rule of law. You see, despite your easy presentation, there is no one fixed morality.
A few things here. I disagree with your interpretation that morality can only play a limited role in a society founded under the rule of law. Our difference with the animal kingdom is that our laws are all about what is right vs what is wrong, not about what is natural or unnatural. It is natural to kill, but it is not right to kill, so we make a law banning murder. Where I do agree with you is where the morality questions begin to differ among the various groups. I'm not a fan of making one morality issue be the absolute over others, but as I mentioned earlier, the issue of homosexuality transcends organized religion and affects all of humanity. Gays say it is natural for some humans to be gay. This means that humans belonging to groups that don't believe that are also affected. Where you are correct that one morality should not infringe upon another is the Pentecostal example. Pentecostals believe men and women shouldn't dance together. That has no bearing on whether or not Mormons can dance together and it would be foolish for Pentecostals to tell others they should not dance. But being gay affects Mormons and Pentecostals the same.
And if homosexuality is about identity, not solely about behavior, then asking people to deny this profound aspect is to ask them to live as incomplete people. It is much deeper than merely sexual impulse, Dan. Without the possibility of the sanction of marriage, there is no way for homosexuals to engage in any sexual behavior without either lying and destroying the lives of themselves and others (if they deny their true selves and marry a member of the opposite sex) or still living the life of the unmarried fornicator (whether as gay monogamists or otherwise). Sexuality is a key aspect of human life. In this respect, the push of the pro-same sex marriage movement is about equality; and from my perspective, if this means fostering a deeper level of acceptance of the lifestyle, so much the better. But I recognize that your particular version of morality means that we disagree on this point.
The issue of homosexuality is certainly far more profound and troubling than other "natural" inclinations found both in humans and animals. It is most troubling because it deals with an aspect about our humanity that we still don't fully understand, and that is our sexuality. Though proven "natural" to some extent, it is still not right. That is a tough answer, because it is not an answer people like to hear. Life is tough. Life is unfair, and sometimes in the worst possible ways. Does that mean we should lower our standards of life and of what is right? In my view, no. It would end bad for us to lower our standards.

I wish we humans understood human sexuality better. We most certainly don't with the way we go about uncontrolably mating with numerous partners, getting into unbreakable habits that chain us down into "natural" lusts that degrade our moral character. I'm not going to attempt an understanding of sexuality on a blog. It would do it injustice because 1) there is not enough time and effort to get the whole picture, 2) it is a sensitive and sacred topic (the power to procreate is a Godly power), 3) many will not understand anyways because the moment one starts mentioning anything related to copulation many will not think seriously about it, but instead snicker like 12 year old boys.

Continuing on to the legal debate, you say:
Laws and especially the Constitution are often sufficiently ambiguous that judicial interpretation and clarification can indeed look like the creation of positive law, but that is rarely what it is. Especially under the 14th Amendment, what you are really seeing is a judicial determination of inherent, one might even say embedded, rights lurking within the Constitution. This document contains more than mere positive rights after all, and is filled with tension and ambiguity designed to propel intellectual examination and soul searching on the part of the interpreter.
While I am not versed in constitutional law (or any other law for that matter), but know only from rudimentary studies in school and on my own time, these are my thoughts. I agree that the Constitution is very ambiguous in regards to many things, (it is after all a very short document whereas laws passed take up usually several hundred pages to be sufficiently unambiguous legally on whatever topic a lawmaker tackles). The Founding Fathers, taking from English common law, understood the need for a maleable foundation to our law structure. That said, I still stand by the assertion that intent is key to understanding a piece of law, and judges are to judge the intent of a law and pass judgment thereby. Perhaps this is just a matter of what the role of a judge is. Does the Constitution lay out what the role of a judge is?

Alexander Hamilton writes in the Federalist Papers about the power, influence, and strength of the Judiciary in the American government:
Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments. This simple view of the matter suggests several important consequences. It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the Executive. For I agree, that "there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.'' And it proves, in the last place, that as liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have every thing to fear from its union with either of the other departments; that as all the effects of such a union must ensue from a dependence of the former on the latter, notwithstanding a nominal and apparent separation; that as, from the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches; and that as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded as an indispensable ingredient in its constitution, and, in a great measure, as the citadel of the public justice and the public security.
Now, granted I am not learned on the writings of Mr. Hamilton beyond what your normally decently public-school-educated American knows, but it sure seems to me that he implies in this Paper that a judiciary that is unified with the legislative, with the power to regulate the actions of the citizenry should be feared, and that what is best for the public and the nation is a weak judiciary, one with no real influence beyond judgment.

The judgment in Massachusetts is an example of the judiciary doing all three things: judging, legislating, and executing. It rendered a judgment saying that the state of Massachusetts must allow gay marriages, even though there is no law defining such unions. They force the legislative to change the books, and force the executive to enforce the new ruling. This seems to fly totally contrary to what Mr. Hamilton wrote regarding the purpose and structure of the judiciary.

In discussing this topic, on the proper role of judges and the judiciary, Mr. Lewis discusses Joseph Story's treatise on judges. Mr. Lewis states:
Paragraph 14 indicates that the “will of the people” can be considered in two respects, namely (1) the will of the people who originally adopted the Constitution and (2) any subsequent contrary will of the people expressed by their agents through legislative acts. He said that the former is more fundamental than the latter and should prevail. He also said that this original will is not only superior to the legislature, but also the judiciary – inferring that when the court “interprets” the Constitution contrary to this original will of the people, the judges are violating their public trust.
I'm sure you are familiar with who Joseph Story is, but to those who are not, here is a good but brief biography.

Continuing on, in his Commentaries on the Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story states:
It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature....The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it prove any thing, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from that body.
The Supreme Court agreed with his view, as Mr. Lewis shows in his article. Lewis quotes from that case:
Judicial power, as contradistinguished from the power of the laws, has no existence. Courts are the mere instruments of the law, and can will nothing. When they are said to exercise a discretion, it is a mere legal discretion, a discretion to be exercised in discerning the course prescribed by law; and, when that is discerned, it is the duty of the Court to follow it. Judicial power is never exercised for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the Judge; always for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the Legislature; or, in other words, to the will of the law.
Mr. Lewis continues with more of Justice Story's commentary. He then adds his analysis from what Chief Justice Marshall said in Marbury v Madison. Mr. Lewis states:
In other words, all authority regarding the Constitution emanates from the people themselves from the bottom-up and the principles contained in the Constitution are deemed to be fundamental and permanent. Why? – Because (1) the people, through great exertion, have set forth their desired form of government – and the limits applying thereto – under the Constitution and (2) the formal democratic amendment process set forth in the Constitution itself is so difficult that it cannot occur very often. This implies that nobody – and this includes the judiciary – is allowed to tinker with those principles other than the people themselves as a collective and democratic super-majoritarian whole. .... Judges should try to interpret the document in a manner that is consistent with the intents of the drafters. Otherwise from generation to generation the meaning will change radically when it was supposed to be relatively immutable. If we don't try to tie our interpretation to the original intent, as best we can decipher it, then we will be governed by a "rule of men" rather than a "rule of law". The document will simply mean whatever a majority of 5 people on the Supreme Court says it means. Rather than it being a "living document" it will become a "dead document" since the clear language and intents represented therein will be freely changeable at the fancy of 5 people. If we allow this to happen, then we should stop the charade and stop using the words "constitutional" and "unconstitutional" and replace them with more accurate descriptors like "Supreme Court-able" and "Un-Supreme Court-able."
Mr. Lewis quotes Thomas Jefferson who said:
"On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed."
Yet another quote from Joseph Story, quoted in Mr. Lewis's article:
“The first and fundamental rule in the interpretation of all instruments is, to construe them according to the sense of the terms, and the intention of the parties [who drafted them.]”
It seems clear from the Founding Fathers, yet again, that their intent was to create a judicial system that was the weakest of the three branches, that its function was merely to interpret the INTENT of the legislative branch. And therein lies the main problem in regards to gay rights. Have any previous laws intended for gays to get the rights they seek today? We most assuredly can answer that question with a loud, "NO!" I showed previously what the Founding Fathers thought about sodomy and same sex affections. It is clear from that and the state laws in effect back then that they would NEVER have intended for gays to be allowed to get married under American law. They also made it explicitly clear that the will of the people should rule the day, not the will of judges, as shown in these numerous quotes from Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Story. I'm sure I can find many other Founding Fathers who thought the same, if I go digging deeper.

There is a difference in creating a maleable Constitution that allows for change, and one in which judges are the changers of laws. It is clear that the Founding Fathers intended any changes to the Constitution, and to the laws in general, to occur through the will of the people, through the legislative. Judges have slowly grabbed up far too much power they were never intended to have. We were warned about this, and now they rule over America, unelected. I do not trust anyone in power who I cannot vote out of power. Judges were never meant to have power, only interpretive abilities.

On The Christianity That Was Hijacked...

Andrew Sullivan quotes on his blog Randall Balmer who writes in his book the following:

"They have taken something that is lovely and redemptive and turned it into something that is ugly and retributive."
In an earlier post, Politics, Religion, and the Bully, I mentioned that upon returning home from my 2-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I noticed that America had gotten meaner and ruder than before my mission. And the rudness and meanness came from Christians.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Cutting and Running" Vs "Staying the Course"

okay, so let's get this straight. US generals are calling for troop reductions in Iraq to include a possible phaseout by 2007 or 2008.

Iraq's prime minister's plan is for a reduction and withdrawal of American troops.

Democrats call for troop reduction and pullout of Iraq

Meanwhile, Republicans reject calls for withdrawal.

so, let's review. US generals, Iraqi leaders and Democrats call for troop reduction and withdrawal, while Republicans reject such notions. Which plan is the failing plan? you decide.

If Iraq Had North Korea's Capabilities.....

would we have seen this kind of reaction out of the Bush administration? Couple this with my previous post about the administration avoiding damning evidence contrary to their theories about WMDs in Iraq, and what do you get?

Certainly not an administration that actually cares about real threats, but instead an administration that is avoiding putting their money where their mouths are. The Bush Doctrine is not about pre-emption, but about prevention. North Korea is not being prevented from obtaining the nukes they so desire. Why?

Very simple. A war with North Korea is not politically viable for Bush right now. Why not? Because he doesn't need to be re-elected again. Because we're in the middle of an election year, and he wants to make sure his Republicans win in November with a "quiet" international front.

meanwhile, Korea keeps building those nukes and tests missiles that can reach the United States. Has Iraq ever reached that point?

The Real Evidence on Iraq WMD Was Ignored by Bush Administration

in today's Washington Post, an article appears that shows yet another example of Bush Administration officials ignoring damning evidence that disproved their theories on Iraq WMDs.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Blatant Example of FoxNews Revising and Altering History

All sensible people know that Republicans and FoxNews like to alter history to suit their modern day needs, but as Keith Olberman shows here, Bill O'Reilly went way overboard. Reminding me of the great Edward Murrow, Olberman castigates and rips O'Reilly to shreds in this, something that needs to be shown to the whole world.

It's Not Mr. Stewart That Pushes Young Voters Away But the Parties Themselves

Richard Moran argues in his op-ed in the Washington Post that Jon Stewart's Daily Show could be a poison to Democracy because of how he excoriates both parties on his show. He states:

This is not funny: Jon Stewart and his hit Comedy Central cable show may be poisoning democracy. Two political scientists found that young people who watch Stewart's faux news program, "The Daily Show," develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting. That's particularly dismaying news because the show is hugely popular among college students, many of whom already don't bother to cast ballots. Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris of East Carolina University said previous research found that nearly half -- 48 percent -- of this age group watched "The Daily Show" and only 23 percent of show viewers followed "hard news" programs closely. To test for a "Daily Effect," Baumgartner and Morris showed video clips of coverage of the 2004 presidential candidates to one group of college students and campaign coverage from "The CBS Evening News" to another group. Then they measured the students' attitudes toward politics, President Bush and the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.). The results showed that the participants rated both candidates more negatively after watching Stewart's program. Participants also expressed less trust in the electoral system and more cynical views of the news media, according to the researchers' article, in the latest issue of American Politics Research. "Ultimately, negative perceptions of candidates could have participation implications by keeping more youth from the polls," they wrote.
But Mr. Morin, perhaps Jon Stewart is quite correct in his assessment of both parties. Perhaps they are as bad as he describes. Perhaps they really truly deserve no votes. Perhaps America needs to crumble before enough people realize just how corrupt both parties have become.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Anne Coulter/ Adolf Hitler Quiz

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, check out this quiz and see how well you do at differentiating between what Anne Coulter has said and what Adolf Hitler has said. Pretty creepy, methinks.

Why Are The Taleban Still Around?

I keep seeing news reports like this one in which it says that violence is getting worse in Afghanistan, and I wonder to myself, why. Is Afghanistan a precursor of the future of Iraq? We entered Afghanistan 2 years earlier than we did Iraq, and Afghanistan is still in terrible shape, with violence still as bloody as it was in 2001. So I ask, Why are the Taleban still around? Why is this insurgency still allowed to breathe?

Looks Like Al Gore's Been Right All Along

Earth hottest it has been in over 400 years!. How much information do some need before they are convinced? Some think this is a political issue. It's not. It is a worldwide crisis!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Turning Points = Going Around In Circles

you know, with all these turning points we've supposedly gone through in Iraq, it's a wonder one doesn't think we're just simply going in circles there.

Khalilzad to Secretary of State: Life is Horrendous Outside Green Zone

This is a must read. This is a memo from Ambassador Khalilzad to Secretary Rice showing the real life problems facing Iraqi workers at the US Embassy. Gregory Djerejian has a great analysis of the problems. What troubles me is that some actually think this is a success. These Iraqis in this memo work for the United States, and, one assumes, get paid a little better than most Iraqis will. But look what they have to go through. Is this the flourishing democracy promised by neo-cons? Some compare this to reconstructing Germany and Japan after the war. Can anyone honestly say they saw this three years into reconstructing Germany and Japan? Andrew Sullivan likes to say, "Fire Rumsfeld Now!" It's become his calling card on the issues of Iraq and torture. But, much as this war was Rumsfeld's strategy, it is his boss who did not want more troops in Iraq. It is his boss, Mr. Bush, who wanted a quick war (for political reasons, so he could get re-elected in 2004). Bush likes to say, "Stay the course." Is this the course they want to stay in? How horrible! There are three options available to us right now. 1. Stay the course, as Bush proscribes. That means keep troop levels at the current, weak level. Violence will continue unabated against both Iraqis and Americans. The sectarian violence that has been sparked into a firestorm with the bombing of the Mosque in February will not end anytime soon. Heck, we should stop calling it sectarian violence and name it for what it is. A Civil War. It is obvious to anyone who is paying attention and not bamboozled or brainwashed into a political ideology that the "stay the course" plan is a failure, and will doom Iraq to further bloodshed. Not a viable option. 2. Leave Iraq now. A favorite of the anti-Iraq War side. I lean towards this one partially. We leave Iraq now, except for the embassy prescence. Keep a large contingency in Kuwait ready to move at moment's notice, but basically let the Iraqis govern themselves and patrol and police themselves now. Not in the future, but now. Get the crutches off. The only way the current Iraqi government will ever gain legitimacy in the eyes of all its people is if the United States was no longer there. We're shooting ourselves (and the Iraqi governemnt---not to mention civilians!) in the foot by constantly remaining there. It is common knowledge among Iraqis that US military willfully kills civilians in Iraq. Our presence there only fuels the animosity and hate and anger. It's time to get out. This is not a "cut and run" option as painted by Republicans (who want troops home before the November election but are afraid to say so publicly), but it will mean that we've not succeeded in Iraq. It is a better option than Bush's "stay the course" option. 3. Get the job done right. This is the political suicide option. This one will actually require a politician to sacrifice himself to get the job done. It will require a politician to actually ask Americans to make a sacrifice in order to get the job done. The reason the violence is so bad is because, very simply, there are not enough troops in Iraq. This is the monumental failure of the Bush Administration. This problem leads to all other problems in Iraq. All other problems will not have existed if we had enough troops. The reason reconstruction went as well as it has in Germany and Japan after WWII is because we actually made a sacrifice and made an effort. We must have hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq to squelch and smother this insurgency and the sectarian violence. American troops must be on every corner on every street. Iraq must be a colony of America while the structures of a modern Western-style government is created over a long period of time. Politicians (and neo-con pundits) think they can transform a country as complex and diverse as Iraq into a flourishing Western-style democracy not only on the cheap, but without the possible ramifications that with democracy, we could get a government that is not friendly towards the US. What BS! If you are going to start a nation-building project, you have to do it right, or do not even begin to attempt it. You will not only fail, but you will cost the lives of hundreds, thousands, and perhaps, hopefully not, millions of people. The sad thing is that those who advocate for this are therefore not held accountable when it fails. It's okay. God will hold them accountable at Judgment Day. In any case, I choose option three. It will never happen, of course. That's because today's American leaders are not really leaders who inspire people to "ask not what [their country] can do for [them,] but what [they] can do for [their] country.". Instead, today's leaders ask Americans to go shopping. Spend money, not save money. Consume, not sacrifice. Because of this, higher priorities with vastly more profound impacts fail. The greater the goal, the more it will cost. I was against the war in Iraq, and will be for the rest of my life. It is a failure of the grandest kind, and Bush will go down in history as the Worst President in US History. That's what happens when you shoot for the moon in a Yugo

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pray Before Speaking Publicly About Doctrine

UPDATED: I've been debating over on By Common Consent on the issue of the BYU professor who was recently let go by his department chair. This situation has been blown out of proportion by gay rights activists wanting to find any excuse to excoriate a religion for doing something "anti-gay." In this instance though, one thing not mentioned is that it wasn't the church that let Mr. Nielsen go, nor even punished him ecclesiastically. Yet gay rights activists don't mention that because it would undermine their efforts to paint yet another religion as anti-gay. In any case, that aside, I want to focus more on another issue. Mr. Nielsen apparently, from his own words came to a fork in the road regarding the issue of gay marriage. His own feelings were to be against the amendment. His church leaders were for it. What is he to do? What we know he did is write an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune (no friend of the church) in the which he not only stated his views to be against the amendment, but in the which he criticized church leaders (even though he said he sustained them as prophets). Mr. Nielsen was a part-time instructor at BYU, and he noted that in his op-ed, which worsened the situation, as it gave the impression that a BYU professor disagreed with the Prophet. Mr. Nielsen's boss, the department chair, told him that giving that impression, of a BYU professor speaking out against the prophet whilst employed by the university was not good policy, and told him not to expect teaching in the fall. Many blogs have been over this in detail. But one thing struck me in a conversation over on BCC. I said that I knew of no person in history or in any epoch who argued with the prophet of the Lord and won. One person gave the example of Abraham and Enoch "wrestling" with God, as examples of public disagreeance on an issue, but if looked at more carefully, in those two examples, the individuals wrestled with God, not with the prophet. They took their concerns to God Himself. The conversation continued until I said this:

So I still stand by my point that if we do not agree with something the Prophets have spoken, it is not arguing publicly with the prophets that we need to do, but instead, go to God Himself and ask Him, as He has told us to do when we lack wisdom. Do we think the Brethren did not go to the Lord in prayer before coming out with their statement? Why shouldn’t we do the same before we speak publicly about what the Prophets said?
I was really struck by that last section. The Brethren, the Prophets and Apostles go to the Lord FIRST on an issue before going public with it. They counselled with the Lord. They discussed their concerns first with the Lord before they took a stand on an issue. Do we? If we feel strongly about an issue, whether we are for something or against it, do we counsel with the Lord first before making our views known publicly? Do we ensure that our opinions are what the Lord desires to hear? If we don't, can we call ourselves followers of God's will? Some might say, "well you're supposed to be free to think what you want." true. But nowhere in counselling with the Lord does your own free will get hampered. You are still free to disagree with the Lord. But doesn't it help to know the will of the Lord on a matter before speaking out against it or for it? I feel the way I feel about SSM (same sex marriage) because I've pondered on the issue and asked the Lord in a prayer. I think we might have less contention and more unity, edification, and love if we do the same. UPDATED: I wrote the following on the BCC: The Prophet of the Lord is in constant prayer with Heavenly Father regarding points of doctrine. Are we? We want to know the will of the Lord on an issue. Do we go to Him for it? The Brethren do. They are not infallible. They make mistakes. Heck, some of them actually sin! Gasp! But when it counts, they go to the Lord in prayer to ensure they speak the will of the Lord. We should do the same before we go publicly about points of doctrine, else we might actually be found to maybe not be doctrinally correct. This is why speakers in church are encouraged to pray about their topics before they give their talk. It is essential for every single member of the church to know the will of the Lord before they speak on the will of the Lord. If they don’t, the chance of being correct falls from 100% to anything below. Personally, I’d like to be 100% concerning the will of the Lord.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Fruits of Real Diplomacy

It actually does work when one puts his mind and all his efforts to it. Iran is supposedly considering the offer Western countries made in an effort to curb its nuclear ambitions. Showing though that both Russia and China are still big players, apparently Iran is looking at the incentive package from the west at the behest of Russia and China, who seek a peaceful solution, (unlike neo-cons who'd love to see more blood spilt, because 40,000 some odd dead in Iraq isn't enough for them).

Democrats Should Use Republican Tactics Against Them

UPDATED:Republicans once again used a partisan vote to try and pin Democrats on a resolution calling for bringing troops home by the end of the year. It's time to turn the tables on the Republicans! Let's get Democrats to use the same tactic on Republicans, turn them on the defensive. Basically be ahead of the Administration and the Republican party. If Democrats want to show that they are a better alternative in regards to national security, then let us force it on the Republicans, keep them on their toes. Here is Karl Rove's strategy for 2006: "Based on recent Rove speeches and interviews with senior GOP officials, his plan for the midterm elections echoes the strategy he plotted out in 2002 and 2004, adapted to a new and more difficult environment. He hopes to make the election a choice between the philosophies of the two parties, especially on national security, rather than a referendum on Bush's performance." Don't you hate sitting back looking at the local news and finding that sham resolutions brought up by Republicans make Democrats look bad? For example, I was sitting back this morning preparing for work, watching the local morning news. The issue of the Senate debating a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq was brought up. The way the news piece was framed made it seem that those opposed to withdrawing troops were against defending America. They didn't use polemical words such as you find on FoxNews, but the way it was framed gave that impression to the ignorant (i.e. not familiar to what is going on in Washington D.C.) viewer, i.e. the local viewer who doesn't read blogs or pay attention to anything but local news. What this does is make Democrats be on the defensive with each Republican maneuver. It's pure Rovian tactics, and much as we hate Rove, this works. Proof is how it is being portrayed in local news. Perhaps it is different in other parts, but here in Pennsylvania, where many troops just arrived home for Father's Day, talk of removal of troops "fighting for our freedom" (as it was worded), does not play well for Democratic support. Karl Rove knows exactly what he is doing, and now that he is free from being prosecuted (and free from the wimpy White House press corps, failing to pounce on the question of lying), he's putting all his efforts into making sure the November election is a referendum (as quoted above), "a choice between the philosophies of the two parties, especially on national security, rather than a referendum on Bush's performance." If Democrats cannot stay ahead of Karl Rove, they will most likely find defeat again in November. Here is the problem. Nation-wide polls say people want change, that they would trust a Democratic Congress over a Republican Congress today. Yet, when asked about their own representative, people tend to stick with their man. There is a reason change is slow, and such revolts as the 1994 switch are rare. Rove knows this. So he does two things both tied to the issue of national security. He orders the Republicans in the House and Senate to set up sham votes, (such as last year's Republican attempt to take Murtha's call for a withdrawal of troops to trap Democrats into being against national security where it mattered: the Congressional vote), which would then be a public record, usable in TV and radio ads in the Congressman's district, targeting specific districts that might have, say, more troops in Iraq than another, or had been gerrymandered enough to make it competitive for the Democrat. Democrats lost in 2002 and 2004 because of this. They were on the defensive in regards to the war. It was crafted well enough that if you voted against a Republican resolution, you were painted as against national security. So what can Democrats do? Turn the tables on the Republicans! Force votes on issues regarding the war. Take for example the fact that there are too few troops in Iraq to get the job done. We all know this. But what is being done about it? Why not force a vote on a resolution to increase troop capacity in order to squelch the insurgency. It won't mean anything, just like the Republican votes on timetables do not mean a thing (Republicans want the troops home sooner rather than later because it will play well back home for votes, but they are not going to say that publicly, because they want to paint Democrats as the ones "cutting and running."), but it will create a public record. It will force Republicans to make a choice. Will they be perceived as too light on the insurgency or will they actually stand for it? Take the issue of soldiers not getting the right armor they need. Force a vote on it. Take the issue of North Korea about to test-launch a missile that can reach California. Force a vote on it. Be ahead of the Republicans on the issue of national security. These votes won't mean a thing realistically, but neither are the Republicans's votes right now. But they will play nicely back home in the "real" battleground, for the hearts and minds of the American people. I'm sure we all can think of many other issues that Democrats can use as votes to push the Republicans against the wall on national security issues that will play well in the districts back home. But it is definitely time for Democrats to take the initiative and be ahead of the Republicans. Don't let them keep us on our toes. Force it back on them. What do you all think?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Legality vs Morality in Regards to Gay Rights

UPDATED:I've been thinking how to respond to Seth Wilder's exceptionally well thought out and well written response to my thoughts on the issue of gay marriage. The first thing, is that this is a political wedge issue always drawn out during election cycles by cynical and politically driven Christian Conservatives whose only desire is to undermine the credibility of their political opponents. As I think on it, I cannot recall a single issue pushed by the left just during political cycles. The issues political leftists like to bring up are brought up at all times. The gay marriage decision in Massachusetts came in 2004, yes, but was not driven by any elections in Massachusetts in 2004. Environmentalists do not find wedge issues to divide America during an election year. To them the problems of the environment are 24/7/52/365. Feminists who push for more equal rights do so year round, not just on the even years. So why do these so-called Christians, who say they believe strongly in this, only come out of the shadows in election years? More importantly, if they know it will end up failing, why do they make the effort, if they only make it once every two years? Do they actually think they can be taken seriously when it stinks so bad of political opportunism? Do they not realize why gay rights/abortion rights/women's rights/environmental issues gain so much stronghold? It is because those people who push for those rights actually care about their issues and make it a goal of theirs to push this 24/7/52/365. If these so-called Christians (Christianists as Andrew Sullivan likes to call them) truly believed passionately about the cause, why do they not put the same effort as gay rights supporters? They don't because their real desire is to discredit their political opponents and set themselves up as the "righteous" party. Because see, here is the conundrum. In regards to the issue of gays, they are morally correct, but they have not the heart to stand for what they actually believe. They are actually more rudderless on moral issues than they accuse liberals of being on national security. In essence, their very methods undermines the results they desire. Who in their right (not Right Wing) mind would support or sustain the anger and hate found in some churches that support this, protesting at the funerals of dead American soldiers simply because they were gay. (the image is from the MSNBC.com article). That is not of God. That is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I quote President Gordon B. Hinckley again, as I've quoted him numerous times since his April 2006 General Conference talk. (And I will continue quoting him until it gets ingrained in people's heads regarding hate). President Hinckley on hatred and the Gospel:

Why do any of us have to be so mean and unkind to others? Why can't all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us? Why is there so much bitterness and animosity? It is not a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My thoughts are that Christian conservatives should stop pretending to be the keepers of morality when all they do is play with it for political points. Now, having said this, why does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints take sides with these modern day Pharisees? And moreover why do I? The simple answer is because it is the right thing to do. The complex answer? Let's get into it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not connected to Protestant religions, like the Baptists and Pentecostals and Methodists. In fact, Protestant religions, for the most part, are the ones who fund publishers who print anti-Mormon literature. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Lord's true church, and He is at the head. The question that needs to be asked is if Jesus were here on earth right now, what would He do? What would He tell His Senator? The world today has a skewed understanding of morality and sexual purity. The world does not understand the purpose and design of the human body. The world claims the human body has a right to any sexual satisfaction the human body desires, irrespective of the consequences. Like any good advertiser, the world plays up the benefits of sexual satisfaction and puts in small print the consequences. Seth, you are most correct that heterosexual relationships are pretty rocky and have a far more fundamentally destructive influence in the degradation of the family than homosexual relationships do. My personal marriage is in no way affected by what homosexuals do. That is not the point, and is a red herring, Seth. The world around us teaches us to lust after the desires of our hearts, to take advantage of any feeling of satisfaction one may get out of any feeling he or she feels. Take a look for example at the cuddle puddle sensation going on these days. This is something new, hip, sexy, and soon to go mainstream among many, just like a few years back bi-sexuality was all the controversy. The importance of morals is that they give you a grounding, an anchor to keep you on a certain path with the winds of the storm wailing about you, trying to push you one way or another. The importance of morals is that they identify who we really are, and where we originate from, and why we are who we are. Tell me, if someone is training to be a marathon runner, how good of a marathon runner would he be if one day in practice a piece of pumpkin pie attracted his eye? Should he go for the pie, or should he continue his run? If he goes for the pie and finds that he likes the taste and wants more, can he continue running? Or is he changing who he is? So who are we? We are sons and daughters of God, designed in his image, born here on earth to be tested to see how well we do at keeping his commandments. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints released a proclamation 11 years ago on The Family which declares boldly the fundamental importance of the family and of sexual purity. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discusses the importance of sexual purity in his talk called: Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments. Toward the end he quotes Will and Ariel Durant who say this:
No one man [or woman], however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life [or hers] before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.
There are many ways and in many things that we regulate our bodies, what we put in it, what we put on it, all for the safety of the body. Why do we not do the same for our sexuality? Take a drug, for example, that heightens your senses, and charges your chemicals to react feverishly ecstatic. Is there anything wrong with taking something like this? Why is a drug like LSD or coccaine bad for the body? Or when you train a horse to follow your commands, do you let the horse do whatever it pleases, or do you set ground rules the horse must obey? The world around us does not tell us the consequences of sexual promiscuity, both heterosexual and homosexual. So what? Both heterosexuals and homosexuals have their group of promiscuous fornicators, right? What therefore makes homosexuality all the worse? Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Apostles tackled this question in his talk called Same Gender Attraction. He said:
We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior. Feelings are another matter. Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of “nature and nurture.” All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior. Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and “lifestyle” we engraft upon them. Essential to our doctrinal position on these matters is the difference between our freedom and our agency. Our freedom can be limited by various conditions of mortality, but God’s gift of agency cannot be limited by outside forces, because it is the basis for our accountability to him. The contrast between freedom and agency can be illustrated in the context of a hypothetical progression from feelings to thoughts to behavior to addiction. This progression can be seen on a variety of matters, such as gambling and the use of tobacco and alcohol. Just as some people have different feelings than others, some people seem to be unusually susceptible to particular actions, reactions, or addictions. Perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice or fault, like the unnamed ailment the Apostle Paul called “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Cor. 12:7). One person may have feelings that draw him toward gambling, but unlike those who only dabble, he becomes a compulsive gambler. Another person may have a taste for tobacco and a susceptibility to its addiction. Still another may have an unusual attraction to alcohol and the vulnerability to be readily propelled into alcoholism. Other examples may include a hot temper, a contentious manner, a covetous attitude, and so on. In each case (and in other examples that could be given) the feelings or other characteristics that increase susceptibility to certain behavior may have some relationship to inheritance. But the relationship is probably very complex. The inherited element may be nothing more than an increased likelihood that an individual will acquire certain feelings if he or she encounters particular influences during the developmental years. But regardless of our different susceptibilities or vulnerabilities, which represent only variations on our mortal freedom (in mortality we are only “free according to the flesh” [2 Ne. 2:27]), we remain responsible for the exercise of our agency in the thoughts we entertain and the behavior we choose.
While we may feel an inclination towards something, anything, that does not equal a loss of choice on our part to either, a) continue with that inclination and participate in that inclination, or b) dismiss that inclination all together. If I feel extreme anger towards an individual, can I, on the arguments used by gay rights activists that they feel they have no choice but to succumb to the desires of their bodies and have homosexual relationships, justify killing someone because I felt I had no choice but to succumb to the desires of my body and kill that man? Obviously the comparison is silly. We all know killing someone in a fit of rage is wrong, right? But why is succumbing to homosexual activity under the same justification not just as equally wrong? Not saying the two are on the same par criminally speaking, but justifiably speaking, they are. Both claim a lack of choice in the matter. But that is incorrect. We do have a choice. We tell ourselves that we do not have a choice to comfort ourselves in our wrong choice. Have I ever seen a man attractive enough that would catch my eye and make me look at him twice? Sure. Did I do anything about it? No. Why not? Because it is wrong. Any justification using the lack of choice tries to break down the barrier between what is right and what is wrong. But just like killing a man in a fit of rage is wrong, just like a teacher sleeping with a 13 year old and claiming it was love is wrong, so is homosexuality. It goes against the very design of our bodies and the action of homosexuality goes against the commandments of God. As the Family proclamation stated, the very first commandment to all mankind was to be "fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." How can two men be fruitful and multiply? How can two women? It is impossible. Elder Dallin H. Oaks continues:
“Most of us are born with [or develop] thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal. “God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Ne. 2:2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Obedient, Paul concluded: “ ‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. “ ‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Cor. 12:9–10). “Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies [feelings], they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction. “… Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Satan would like us to believe that we are not responsible in this life. That is the result he tried to achieve by his contest in the pre-existence. A person who insists that he is not responsible for the exercise of his free agency because he was ‘born that way’ is trying to ignore the outcome of the War in Heaven. We are responsible, and if we argue otherwise, our efforts become part of the propaganda effort of the Adversary. “Individual responsibility is a law of life. It applies in the law of man and the law of God. Society holds people responsible to control their impulses so we can live in a civilized society. God holds his children responsible to control their impulses in order that they can keep his commandments and realize their eternal destiny. The law does not excuse the short-tempered man who surrenders to his impulse to pull a trigger on his tormentor, or the greedy man who surrenders to his impulse to steal, or the pedophile who surrenders to his impulse to satisfy his sexual urges with children. … “There is much we do not know about the extent of freedom we have in view of the various thorns in the flesh that afflict us in mortality. But this much we do know; we all have our free agency and God holds us accountable for the way we use it in thought and deed. That is fundamental.”
Those who claim "we're born this way," or "I had no choice" do not understand that they actually do have a choice irrespective of how they are born. Satan wants to destroy us, all of us here on this earth. His most devious methods are in making us think we are not responsible for our actions. If we are not responsible for our actions, boy what we could do! If I had no responsibility to my wife, what would stop me from having sexual relations with anybody? But see, there are a fundamental and real consequences if I were to do something like that. Elder Oaks continues, with a discussion on the scientific evidences to this point about homosexuality:
In contrast to our doctrinal approach, many persons approach the problems of same-sex attraction solely from the standpoint of current science. While I am not qualified as a scientist, with the aid of scientific literature and with the advice of qualified scientists and practitioners, I will attempt to refute the claim of some that scientific discoveries demonstrate that avowed homosexuals and lesbians were “born that way.” We live in a time of accelerating scientific discoveries about the human body. We know that our inheritance explains many of our physical characteristics. At the same time, we also know that our behavior is profoundly influenced by psychosocial factors such as parental and sibling relationships (especially during the formative years) and the culture in which we live. The debate over whether, or the extent to which, specific behavior is attributable to “nature” or to “nurture” is centuries old. Its application to the subject of same-sex feelings and behaviors is only one manifestation of a highly complex subject on which scientific knowledge is still in its infancy. Some scientists deny that behavior is genetically influenced. 8 Others are advocates of evidence or theories suggesting that “there is substantial evidence for genetic influence on sexual orientation.” 9 We are, of course, aware of evidence that inheritance explains susceptibilities to certain diseases like some cancers and some other illnesses like diabetes mellitus. There are also theories and some evidence that inheritance is a factor in susceptibilities to various behavior-related disorders like aggression, alcoholism, and obesity. It is easy to hypothesize that inheritance plays a role in sexual orientation. However, it is important to remember, as conceded by two advocates of this approach, that “the concept of substantial heritability should not be confused with the concept of inevitable heritability. … Most mechanisms probably involve interactions between constitutional predispositions and environmental events.” 10 Wherever they fall along the spectrum between outright rejection and total acceptance of biological determinism of sexual orientation, most scientists concede that the current evidence is insufficient and that firm conclusions must await many additional scientific studies. A study of fifty-six pairs of identical male twins in which one twin classified himself as “gay” reported that 52 percent of the co-twins also classified themselves as gay. 11 A similar study of female identical twins yielded approximately the same proportion of co-twins who classified themselves as gay (thirty-four of seventy-one pairs, 48 percent). 12 If these studies show some inherited influence on whatever causes a man or woman to classify himself or herself as homosexual or lesbian, it is clear that this influence is not determinative. As a prominent scientist observed, “Even the identical twin of a gay man has a 50 percent or more chance of being heterosexual—even though he has the exact same genes and is reared by the same parents.” 13 We should also note that the results of these studies (and others described below) are based on the subjects’ self-classifications, a shaky foundation for scientific conclusions when “there is still no universally accepted definition of homosexuality among clinicians and behavioral scientists—let alone a consensus regarding its origins.” 14 In any emerging area of knowledge, a new source of evidence is most welcome. In July 1993, Dr. Dean Hamer made worldwide headlines when he announced that he had found “a statistically significant correlation between the inheritance of genetic markers [an identifiable strip of DNA] on chromosomal region Xq28 and sexual orientation in a selected group of … homosexual men and their relatives over age 18.” In other words, “it appears that Xq28 contains a gene that contributes to homosexual orientation in males.” 15 Putting the most positive interpretation on his discovery, Dr. Hamer’s subsequent book concludes: “We can make only educated guesses about the importance of Xq28 in the population at large. On the high side, the region couldn’t possibly influence more than 67 percent of gay men, the proportion ‘linked’ to this region in our highly selected group of gay siblings. On the low side, if much of homosexuality is caused by environmental factors, or by a large number of interacting genes, Xq28 could account for as little as a few percent of the variation in male sexual orientation. The median range, taken from our linkage data and from the available twin and family studies, suggests that Xq28 plays some role in about 5 to 30 percent of gay men. The broad range of these estimates is proof that much more work remains to be done.” 16 “Some role in about 5 to 30 percent” of self-classified “gay” men surely falls far short of justifying the claim that science has shown that “homosexuality” is “caused by” genetic inheritance. One eminent scientist identified two of the uncertainties: “What evidence exists thus far of innate biological traits underlying homosexuality is flawed. … Confirmation of genetic research purporting to show that homosexuality is heritable makes clear neither what is inherited nor how it influences sexual orientation.” 17 In their impressive reappraisal of biologic theories of human sexual orientation, Drs. Byne and Parsons of Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry offer these important cautions and suggestions: “It is imperative that clinicians and behavioral scientists begin to appreciate the complexities of sexual orientation and resist the urge to search for simplistic explanations, either psychosocial or biologic. “Conspicuously absent from most theorizing on the origins of sexual orientation is an active role of the individual in constructing his or her identity. … We propose an interactional model in which genes or hormones do not specify sexual orientation per se, but instead bias particular personality traits and thereby influence the manner in which an individual and his or her environment interact as sexual orientation and other personality characteristics unfold developmentally.” 18 This observation, but one of many suggestions from scientists, is particularly persuasive because it takes account of the vital element of individual choice that we know to be a true principle of our mortal condition.
That last section is most important as it seems to suggest that in order to more fully understand sexuality, scientists must observe the "active role of the individual in constructing his or her identity." The doctor continues, "We propose an interaction model in which genes or hormones do not specify sexual orientation per se, but instead bias particular personality traits and thereby influence the manner in which an individual and his or her environment interact as sexual orientation and other personality characteristics unfold developmentally." This particular doctor comes to the conclusion that a better understanding of sexuality will come if we observe the choices either the individual makes, or the environment in which the individual resides makes for the individual. So does the individual have a choice? It is my understanding from my own research and experience that, yes, an individual does indeed have a choice. Was an individual born with homosexual tendencies? The science is inconclusive in this respect, but from scriptural sources, we know that each of us will have a "thorn in our side," something that will afflict us, a weakness wherein the Lord will test our resolve. Does this alter our own agency to choose? No. In the end, it is our choice to participate in one activity or another. There are very few beings on this earth who can, when they go to the Judgment Bar, claim they had absolutely no choice in their actions on earth: little children and mentally handicapped individuals. Does this justify any gay-bashing, homosexual hating vitriol? not in the least. Elder Oaks adds:
Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding. Sinners, as well as those who are struggling to resist inappropriate feelings, are not people to be cast out but people to be loved and helped (see 3 Ne. 18:22–23, 30, 32). At the same time, Church leaders and members cannot avoid their responsibility to teach correct principles and righteous behavior (on all subjects), even if this causes discomfort to some. Church leaders are sometimes asked whether there is any place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for persons with homosexual or lesbian susceptibilities or feelings. Of course there is. The degree of difficulty and the pattern necessary to forgo behavior and to control thoughts will be different with different individuals, but the message of hope and the hand of fellowship offered by the Church is the same for all who strive. I tried to describe the crucial distinctions in my answer to the television reporter who implied that the Church taught that “these people are somehow pariahs.” I said: “The person that’s working [to resist] those tendencies ought not to feel himself to be a pariah. Now, quite a different thing is sexual relations outside of marriage. A person engaging in that kind of behavior should well feel guilt. They should well feel themselves estranged from God, who has given commandments against that kind of behavior. It’s not surprising to me that they would feel estranged from their church. What surprises me is that they would feel that the Church can revoke God’s commandments. … To the woman taken in adultery (which is a pretty good precedent for us), … [the Savior] was merciful and loving … , but he said, ‘Go thy way and sin no more.’ He loved the sinner; he condemned the sin. I think the Church does the same thing, imperfectly perhaps, but that’s what we teach our members: love the sinner, condemn the sin.” 21 The struggles of those who are troubled by same-sex attraction are not unique. There are many kinds of temptations, sexual and otherwise. The duty to resist sin applies to all of them. The most important help the Church can offer to persons who have surrendered to sin or to those who are struggling to resist it is to fulfill its divine mission to teach true doctrine and administer the divine ordinances of the restored gospel. The gospel applies on the same basis to everyone. Its central truth is our Savior’s atonement and resurrection, that we might have immortality and eternal life. To achieve that destiny, an eternal marriage is the divine and prescribed goal for every child of God, in this life or in the life to come. Nevertheless, this sacred goal must come about in the Lord’s way. For example, President Gordon B. Hinckley has declared that “marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.” 22 Through Christ and his church, those who struggle can obtain help. This help comes through fasting and prayer, through the truths of the gospel, through church attendance and service, through the counsel of inspired leaders, and, where necessary, through professional assistance with problems that require such help. Another important source of help is the strengthening influence of loving brothers and sisters. All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness “to bear one another’s burdens” (Mosiah 18:8) “and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the light and the strength to overcome the obstacles of mortality and to use our God-given agency to choose the behavior that will lead us to our divine destiny. We are promised: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it”
Anyone bashing gays are not following the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about reaching out to those in need, whether they know it or not. As Paul stated, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing. What does all this have to do with the legality side of the argument? The simple answer is that gay rights activists want to legalize immoral behavior, have immoral behavior be state sanctioned. Their political opponents then say, fine, we'll then work on legalizing moral behavior. If I have to choose between the two, which do you think I am choosing? The more complex answer is this. Encouraged by the various pushes for civil rights for different groups since the 1960s, gay rights activists have been using the same arguments to get gays "equal rights." For the most part they have succeeded, so today it is very hard for employers to discriminate against someone based on their sexual preference. They always had the right to vote, but they could not get rights usually afforded to families, because legally speaking what is a family? it is a husband and wife legally married with children. What people like Mr. Ehrich do not tell you is that gay rights activists also use the Constitution and the legal system as their justification for state sanctioning gay marriage. In the state of Massachusetts, did gay rights activists go to the legislators to create a law that allowed full benefits to gay couples? No. They used sophist lawyers to change the opinion of judges to add to an existing law what was not there before. If in fact gay marriages were possible in the state of Massachusetts before this ruling, why was there no mention in the existing laws to designate such a scenario? Judges are rightfully ordered to interpret the law. So if a judge interprets a law that the people feel is not what they intended in the language, are the people in their right to then order the legislators to change the law to reflect their real desires? Seth, you claim that those who push for this amendment are "hateful." Have you looked at it from their perspective though? Look through their eyes. They look at history and common sense tells them marriage is only between a man and a woman. They are not well versed enough to know the full history of marriage, of the multitudes of problems marriage has had over the millenia, but they know of no time in history when marriage was ever considered possible between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. They see the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution and see men who did not anticipate this question ever arising. In fact, if we look at what the Founding Fathers said and wrote about homosexuality, what do you find? How about this from Thomas Jefferson, in his A Bill For Proportioning Crimes and Punishments:
Whosoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman, by cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least.
Look at what General Washington did with someone caught attempting sodomy:
At a General Court Martial wereof Colo. Tupper was President (10th March 1778), Lieutt. Enslin of Colo. Malcom's Regiment [was] tried for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier; Secondly, For Perjury in swearing to false accounts, [he was] found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War and [we] do sentence him to be disniss'd [from] the service with infamy. His excellency the Commander in Chief [Washington] approves the sentence and with abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of camp tomorrow morning by all the drummers and fifers in the Army never to return; The drummers and fifers [are] to attend on the Grand Parade at Guard mounting for that Purpose. George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. (Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934), Vol. XI, pp.83-84, from General Orders at Valley Forge on March 14, 1778.
What would George Washington have said if the writers of the Constitution would have intended gays to legally married? This writer discusses the issue of homosexuality in the military, but he does also quote many of the Founding Fathers and their views or laws on homosexuality. Take a look at the following from William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England:
What has been here observed . . . [the fact that the punishment fit the crime] ought to be the more clear in proportion as the crime is the more detestable, may be applied to another offence of a still deeper malignity; the infamous crime against nature committed either with man or beast. A crime which ought to be strictly and impartially proved and then as strictly and impartially punished. . . . I will not act so disagreeable part to my readers as well as myself as to dwell any longer upon a subject the very mention of which is a disgrace to human nature [sodomy]. It will be more eligible to imitate in this respect the delicacy of our English law which treats it in its very indictments as a crime not fit to be named; "peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum" (that horrible crime not to be named among Christians). A taciturnity observed likewise by the edict of Constantius and Constans: "ubi scelus est id, quod non proficit scire, jubemus insurgere leges, armari jura gladio ultore, ut exquisitis poenis subdantur infames, qui sunt, vel qui futuri sunt, rei" (where that crime is found, which is unfit even to know, we command the law to arise armed with an avenging sword that the infamous men who are, or shall in future be guilty of it, may undergo the most severe punishments)
He then quotes several states and their laws regarding homosexuality:
That the detestable and abominable vice of buggery [sodomy] . . . shall be from henceforth adjudged felony . . . and that every person being thereof convicted by verdict, confession, or outlawry [unlawful flight to avoid prosecution], shall be hanged by the neck until he or she shall be dead. 9 NEW YORK That if any man shall lie with mankind as he lieth with womankind, both of them have committed abomination; they both shall be put to death. 10 CONNECTICUT Sodomy . . . shall be punished by imprisonment at hard labour in the penitentiary during the natural life or lives of the person or persons convicted of th[is] detestable crime. 11 GEORGIA That if any man shall commit the crime against nature with a man or male child . . . every such offender, being duly convicted thereof in the Supreme Judicial Court, shall be punished by solitary imprisonment for such term not exceeding one year and by confinement afterwards to hard labor for such term not exceeding ten years. 12 MAINE That if any person or persons shall commit sodomy . . . he or they so offending or committing any of the said crimes within this province, their counsellors, aiders, comforters, and abettors, being convicted thereof as above said, shall suffer as felons. 13 [And] shall forfeit to the Commonwealth all and singular the lands and tenements, goods and chattels, whereof he or she was seized or possessed at the time . . . at the discretion of the court passing the sentence, not exceeding ten years, in the public gaol or house of correction of the county or city in which the offence shall have been committed and be kept at such labor. 14 PENNSYLVANIA [T]he detestable and abominable vice of buggery [sodomy] . . . be from henceforth adjudged felony . . . and that the offenders being hereof convicted by verdict, confession, or outlawry [unlawful flight to avoid prosecution], shall suffer such pains of death and losses and penalties of their goods. 15 SOUTH CAROLINA That if any man lieth with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they both shall suffer death. 16 VERMONT
I quote those not with the purpose of agreeing with them, but to prove a point. Do you think, upon reading these that the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution of the United States to allow gay marriages? If it was an issue back then, do you not think, based on reading their own words, that they would have easily made a provision in the Constitution, (just like they had with slavery), that would have barred even the possibility of gay marriages? Judges are to interpret the "intent" of a law, right? What was the "intent" of the Constitution in regards to rights gays are to have? Can you honestly tell me that the writers of the Constitution would have given gays any rights, especially marriage rights, if that was an issue back then? So now that today we have judges who interpreted the intent of a law being that it somehow allows state sanctioning gay marriage, what is wrong with going back and clarifying that the original intent behind the Constitution clearly would not have allowed gay marriage? Moreover, why do gay activists not go to lawmakers to create new laws that will clearly allow gay marriages, rather than try to re-interpret old laws that, upon looking back, clearly did not intend to identify a new group of legal relationships? The fact that they would instead try and force change from the judicial, which is not, according to the Federalist Papers, designed to implement new policy, shows that their reasonings are not as honest and sincere as they want to be portrayed. It shows that they realize they can never get the approval of a large enough segment of the population to allow gay marriages (evident in the slew of state laws passed recently barring gay marriages), so they circumvent the original method of creating new policy. Can you honestly tell me, Seth, that judges are supposed to enact new laws? The "intent" of the Constitution in regards to gay rights seems pretty clear based on the writings of the Founding Fathers in other regards, including state laws then in effect. If modern judges feel the Founding Fathers were not clear regarding this, then what is wrong with lawmakers today clarifying the intent of the Founding Fathers? Many arguments are made about suffering and pain that some go through, as a just enough cause to use a clause or two of the Constitution to justify sanctioning some act. You state:
The morality that pushes people to decide that they are somehow “wrong” causes the injury.
But as is clear from the Founding Fathers, such as George Washington who hanged sodomists, merely feeling pain is not enough to change the law to accomodate the pain. It seems the intent of many laws passed by the Founding Fathers was to govern morality, even if it meant the loss of freedom for some. There is far more to say, (volumes can be written on this subject), but I think this will do for now. In conclusion, gays seem to think they have no choice in their sexual orientation, and beyond that, in their choice to act out their sexual desires. While it is not clear scientifically that indeed homosexuality is ingrown or environmentally learned, gays are incorrect when they say they do not have a choice in acting out their sexual desire. They do have a choice. Much like heterosexuals have a choice in becoming sexually active before marriage, or adulterous whilst married. All three are immoral because God said so. He is the final Judge on the issue of morality. All who think otherwise err. That said, people with homosexual tendencies should not be ostracized for their actions, or if they are, then so should heterosexuals who act immorally. Any who do so, any who gay-bash, are not understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Legally speaking, it is clear that the intent of the Founding Fathers was not for gays to even be sexually active. It is therefore a strong assumption that they also intended in the framing of the Constitution to not allow gays certain "rights." Should the people feel otherwise, they have a process that is Constitutional for changing the will and intent of the Constitution, and that is the Legislative Branch. If the Judicial Branch feels the Founding Fathers were not clear on the issue, then the Legislative Branch can at its will, and the will of the people, clarify what the original intent was, or if they feel the original intent is no longer valid, they can change the tone of the law to reflect the new desires, (as was done in regards to slavery.) However, it is deceitful and insincere for some to use the Judicial branch to change the law and policies. It is also unconstitutional, as the Constitution makes clear which Branch is to create laws. It seems the intent of many laws passed by the Founding Fathers was to govern morality, even if it meant the loss of freedom for some.

BYU Lets Go Professor Who Spoke Out Against Gay Marriage Amendment

Jefferey Nielson, a professor at BYU, and a member of the church, wrote an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, voicing his opinion on the issue of gay marriage. His view was contrary to that of the First Presidency. He states:

Currently the preponderance of scientific research strongly suggests that same-sex attraction is biologically based. Therefore, it is as natural as a heterosexual orientation, even if rare. It seems it might be caused by environmental conditions in the mother's womb, before birth, triggering the DNA to give the fetus a homosexual orientation. Neither the mother nor the child has any choice in the matter; it is a completely natural process.
The only problem I have with that is that even though this may be the case, it still is immoral, for one reason and one reason only: because God said so. Naturally speaking, a man begins feeling sexual urges towards a woman after passing through puberty. It is natural, and the man has no choice in the matter. He will feel that sexual desire. Does that mean he should act on it? Why are we told not to pursue sexual relations before marriage? Naturally speaking, according to professor Nielson's logic, we have no choice; we are sexually drawn to women, so why are sexual relations before marriage immoral? why are sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage immoral? Com'on, Professor Nielson, you should know the answer to this. Simply being drawn to something, whether this urge is naturally created or by your environment still does not excuse, nor justify, nor relieve one of his choice. BYU, justifiably will not hire Professor Nielson for the next semester. Their reason:
"In accordance with the order of the church, we do not consider it our responsibility to correct, contradict or dismiss official pronouncements of the church," the letter reads. "Since you have chosen to contradict and oppose the church in an area of great concern to church leaders, and to do so in a public forum, we will not rehire you after the current term is over."
Andrew Sullivan is playing him up to be a martyr for the cause. The problem, Mr. Sullivan is that BYU is a private institution and can hire or fire whomever they desire. It is very unfortunate that people choose to believe they have no choice.

An Example of A Neo-Con Altering History

Max Boot writes in the Los Angeles Times that, Truman acted alone too, giving some specious examples, and then throwing out this example:

The same pattern is evident throughout Truman's presidency. The decision to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A unilateral U.S. initiative.
you almost want to go, "Duh!" of course that decision was unilateral, but by 1945, the only two nations still fighting were Japan and the United States, so, 'duh' it was only America's decision to drop the nukes. His other examples might work better because they occurred after the war, and during the creation and formation of the United Nations and NATO. However, he uses two examples as well that don't quite stand up to scrutiny.
The Marshall Plan to aid European recovery? Ditto. The 1948-49 airlift to break the Soviet blockade of Berlin? More unilateralism.
In 1945-46, what other nation even had the ability to aide in the Marshall Plan? None. Think about it carefully Mr. Boot. If there were other nations that could have lent support, would Truman have tried to get them involved? Same question in regards to the Soviet blockade of Berlin. In other words, none of your examples really work, when stood up to scrutiny, and you just show how you like to alter history to fit your current paradigm, to justify Bush's unilateralism. So, Mr. Boot, if Bush is so much like Truman, what lasting international organization has Bush created? Bush's "coalition", how's it doing? How many nations have dropped out of Bush's "coalition?" How many are withdrawing support from Iraq even before we're done there? Compare that with Truman's efforts and let us see the results.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Christian Professor: Five Reasons Torture is Always Wrong

It is a wonderful sight to see Christians starting to speak out against torture, as Professor Gushee is doing. He gives five very good reasons why torture is always wrong: 1. Torture violates the dignity of the human being. 2. Torture mistreats the vulnerable and violates the demands of justice. 3. Authorizing torture trusts government too much. 4. Torture dehumanizes the torturer. 5. Torture erodes the character of the nation that tortures. The only justification that torture supporters have is the ticking-time-bomb scenario. But that being so very rare, how can that even be considered a justification for the practice generally speaking? It cannot. There is no justification. Period.

Just Say NO!

I just realized something. I'm reading this article in the Boston Globe that talks about Mit Romney's efforts to raise money for his 2008 presidential bid. I have in my mind also Tom DeLay's pay to play style of representing his constituents. How corrupted our system is that I cannot go to my representative and simply ask him to do something for me without me having to give him cash to do it. Back to the Romney article, I envisioned going up to Romney, shaking his hand and asking him to do something for me as he would represent me. The moment he would ask for money, I would say, "no." just that simple. Can we do that? Can we Americans use simple supply and demand and remove the supply ourselves? What would happen if Americans simply said no when a politician asked for money? I mean all Americans. It is argued that money is needed to ensure that poor folk have a chance to run for office against rich folk who simply will use their own funds to get their message out far better than any poor man can. But truthfully, for a presidential election, when did we last have a poor man run for president and come even close to succeeding? We would be diluding ourselves if we think that poor or middle class people could ever compete with elites in the political world. So why not make the elitists earn their own way to the throne of American politics? Instead of taking money from strangers, from special interest groups, from constituents, etc., make them actually make a sacrifice in order to rule. Make it be a cost to their lives to rule this nation of ours, rather than a benefit. Make it be a sacrifice rather than a reward. What do you think?

Mormon Scholars Are Winning the Battle

I stumbled upon this article in looking for a reference to a blog post I am working on. The article is called "Mormon Apologetic Scholarship and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?" Wow. I've never felt so good reading a piece of work by an Evangelical scholar. I'm not a biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination, so I am not familiar at all with many of the works that Mr. Mosser and Mr. Owen bring up in their article chastizing their fellow Evangelicals for their pitiful efforts at countering the increasingly professional and scholarly Mormon studies of the Bible and ancient times and scriptures. I personally do not need the verification of history to prove my testimony and my belief in this church is true, but it sure helps. My life has changed drastically for the better since I joined the church 19 years ago. And that is the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It changes people's lives for the better. It improves on a person's own abilities, expands their faculties, enhances their talents, brightens their lives, and brings them closer to the light. It is truly a wonder. I sometimes wish I should have dived into that field of battle, the scholarly research, but I think I would have entered in for the wrong reasons, trying to prove others wrong, rather than trying to find the truth. Besides, the esoteric world of scholarly research only reaches so many people before losing people's interest. Start using words like pseudepigrapha on some and you get a "huh?" reply. I'm more fascinated talking about the ordinary and simple things. I believe with Alma, who said the following (Alma 37:6-7):

6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. 7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
Simply seeing the actual evidence does not convert a soul. The Jews had their Lord and their God right in front of their eyes, yet how many never gave Him more than one look? How many in fact, conspired to murder Him? The true conversion comes in the heart, and it comes by the Holy Ghost. In any case, I am glad to see Mormon scholars finally being respected, and apparently feared. Great going guys!

The World's Mega-Cities

Foreign Policy has an interesting look at several of the world's mega-cities, cities with populations over 10,000,000 people. The article is very brief unfortunately (maybe you need the print version, or to subscribe to see more), but it is an interesting brief look at the largest cities and the troubles they have to face. I am particularly troubled by the rapid growth of Lagos, Nigeria without the structural growth to be able to maintain such a large population.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Pentagon Changes Policy To Allow Showing Photographs of Dead in Iraq

the hypocrisy of the Pentagon.....at first they say they won't allow pictures showing the dead, but now they are gleefully showing pictures of a dead Zarqawi, proving only one thing. The Pengaton is only interested in following the rules when it suits its purposes.

The Consequences of the War in Iraq

This Washington Post article on insurgents who move on from Iraq, should show clearly how badly we are losing the war. 1. If the War in Iraq was over WMDs, then where are they. 2. If the War in Iraq was not over WMDs but over a grand vision of altering the Middle East, then why are insurgents streaming out of Iraq and into Lebannon, changing the countries surrounding Iraq into something we don't want them to be? is that an alteration for the better? 3. If the War in Iraq was over humanitarian concerns, then why are we not more concerned about the 1300 some odd monthly deaths in the sectarian violence going on under our control? Meanwhile, Iran is gearing up to produce nuclear technology, North Korea already has nukes, the Taliban in Afghanistan are resurgent, Islamic fundamentalist warlords have won Mogadishu, and the world likes us even less than we could have thought. Are any of these consequences worth the removal of Saddam? Many of us warned that the price to pay for his removal was too great, but few listened, because all they saw was red, the blood of 9/11 spilt all over America, and America wanted revenge.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Senator Specter Wants to Grant Immunity to NSA Lawbreakers

Over on DailyKos is a thread that shows how Senator Specter wants to give amnesty, basically immunity from punishment, to anybody who is found breaking the law, if the NSA surveillance of Americans is found unconstitutional. WHAT?!?!?! so here is my email to Mr. Specter. Senator Specter, I recently learned that you plan on introducing a bill on the issue of NSA surveillance with which I have several major qualms. According to the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/08/AR2006060801992.html), your bill gives the President the "option" to get a warrant, rather than making it a "requirement." That in itself is very troubling. Why can you and the rest of Congress not actually hold the President accountable? Why are you such paper tigers? Why have you abrogated your Constitutionally mandated responsibility to be a check and a balance on the Executive Branch? Then I read the following passage, which sends chills down my spine: "Another part of the Specter bill would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law." Are you actually serious? Do you realize what you are saying? You are saying that if the law is found unconstitutional, there will be no punishment for those who have gone against the Constitution. Are you serious! Or is the better question this: What do Bush and Cheney have on YOU? Have you slept with an intern lately and they have pictures? Did you take bribes from Abramoff too, and they have proof? What "mistakes" have you made that will allow them to blackmail you so easily? What have you done that makes it so easy for you to bend over to them? Mr. Specter, I assure you this, if this bill continues in the weak manner in which you currently present it, I will put all my efforts at unseating you, now! Not in 2010, when you are next up for reelection, but today, this year. I will work my hardest to remove yet one more weak Senator who has given in to the dictatorship of Bush and company who are fundamentally altering American governancy. For six years Congress has simply stood by and watched as Bush dismissed over SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY laws you passed. Where is the anger, Mr. Specter? Wait, I recall your letter to Heil Cheney just a few days ago, which you made public. You showed your anger there, but like a paper tiger, there is no bite that actually will harm Cheney is there? How shameful, Mr. Specter, how shameful! Your constituent in Pennsylvania,