May 28, 2004

the fallout from my article ::: part i

well, two interesting pacifist letters showed up. the first one i'll deal with came from associate professor of english, bruce young, whose c.s. lewis class i almost took a few semesters back. unfortunately, i couldn't fit it in. anyway, he offers a really strict theological perspective on the issue. and one that, in my opinion, isn't even necessary for mormons to accept. [link] the other, from misguided student and army dissenter, jeremy branson, claimed i had no perspective on the war because i haven't fought it. [link]

here's young's letter, with my thoughts interspersed. if you missed the article that inspired their responses, go here or here:

evil actions, not people

I agree with Travis Little (writer of a recent Daily Universe column) when he condemns the brutal killing of Nick Berg and criticizes any who see it as excusable. But I believe Little has a deeply mistaken view of evil in general, identifying it with others and offering the destruction of those other people as a solution. Little suggests that those who disagree are not "sane" and do not "see evil for what it is." In my opinion, that is precisely the problem with Little's view: its failure to "see evil for what it is."

get ready for self-righteous quoting of scripture and misapplied theological critiques:

As I've learned of recent atrocities, my instinctive response has been, "That is evil." But I have tried not to say "they" are evil. I do not have a privileged view into others' hearts;

unfortunately for nick berg, the victims of september 11, and those killed, maimed, and orphaned in countless other terrorist attacks, we don't have to be "privileged [to see] into others' hearts" to know their condition. the terrorists committed evil acts. we can know them by their 'fruits':

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. [matthew 7:16-20]

I have been taught that my role is not to judge

wha??? who taught you that? billy graham? the lord told the people of israel, through moses:

Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. [leviticus 19:15]

in this case, we're told not to let social standing affect how we judge, but to be unbiased in our judgments. then in mormon scripture, we are told that the spirit of christ will help us judge righteously between good and evil. a pox on me for not mentioning this, as it was pointed out to me by another, more grounded professor. see moroni 7:14-18. and JST matthew 7:1-2:

Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people. Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment. [source]

dr young continues:

and I can't dismiss the sobering scriptural language that tells us we've all "gone astray" and that, even at our best, we are "evil" compared to a perfect Heavenly Father.

OBVIOUSLY we all fall far short of the glory of god. of course. we all know that. and we can't make an eternal judgment as to what reward they deserve, only god can do that. but dr. young's argument that the average BYU student cannot make a moral judgment about someone who kills another, in the manner these terrorists did, is incredibly naive. i mean, it's one of the top sins on the list, for crying out loud. i tasted the fruit these terrorists gave me. i judged it to be foul. evil. i don't think there's anything wrong with making that judgment. we may all be 'evil' compared to a perfect heavenly father, but i (and most BYU students apart from paul turner) are not as evil as these mofos. crap, what a stupid, pointless statement.

Identifying evil with actions and attitudes rather than with particular people can help us avoid being caught in the cycle of violence and perpetrating against others the very evils we consider them guilty of.

but it won't help our secular country in the war on terror, exactly, which is kinda what i was talking about.

This approach can also help us accept our own responsibility to repent. That, again, is a repeated scriptural refrain. If for no other reason than our own salvation, we must remember the truth expressed by the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: that "the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either-but right through every human heart."

solzhenitsyn will lead me to salvation? he couldn't even get anybody out of the gulag.

Almost thirty years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball counseled against our tendency to rely on violence "for protection and deliverance" and, "[w]hen threatened," to "become anti-enemy instead of pro-kingdom of God," thus, "in the manner of Satan's counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior's teaching" to love our enemies. President Kimball went on to recommend that we should oppose evil by having faith in God, repenting and carrying the gospel to our enemies.

well, young had to go back to 1977, to a culture still reeling from the vietnam war to find an anti-war apostle. [source]. i can't believe he's serious. one of the most famous refrains of church members is that the saints fleeing nauvoo still provided a large battallion to fight in the mexican-american war. most of our current church leadership served in the armed forces and are proud to recount their experiences. these include elders monson, faust, wirthlin, maxwell, packer, and haight, to name some offhand. here is some pertinent text from president kimball's talk, just for reference:

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44-45.)

We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many).

notice, this is what captain moroni did, too. he built fortifications. he also prayed to the lord for protection. does anyone doubt that george bush does this? however, we cannot rely only on the lord's protection. we are killing babies by the hundreds of thousands, we are marrying people into unnatural relationships, and we are increasingly ungrateful for our blessings, generally. god bless america, yeah, that's it. what a fantasy. 1/200th of america is mormon. this is not the theocracy that president kimball seemed to be addressing. anyway, dr young continues:

That doesn't mean we should do nothing to protect ourselves. But it means we must be careful not to become the evil creatures we imagine our enemies to be. Ultimately, we have no guarantee we will be spared the evils designed to be part of this life.

no guarantee. since when was that an excuse to give up? why does young call for the US to lie on its proverbial sword? can you imagine the immediate horrors with which we'll all be faced if the water supply is contaminated? the agony we'll feel if a nuke goes off in a neighboring state and we all suffer a slow disease-ridden death? criminy, i'm for defense! of course i'm not going to stop praying, but i can't count on my fellow countrymen to all be so devoted, and neither can the professor with the blinders on.

What matters is how we respond to those evils, for the way we respond will in large part determine what we become.

Bruce Young
Associate Professor
English department

for the record, i'm not afraid of what i might become for supporting the war on the fanaticism of fundamentalist islam, the perpetrators of atrocities like september 11.

Posted by travis at May 28, 2004 04:40 PM | TrackBack

I shudder to think that "we cannot rely on the lord's protection." as you claim. If not, then it is over. The Nephites were powerful, but when they forgot the Lord they lost, ditto for Biblical Israel.

So if we can't depend on the Lord, we certainly can't depend on aircraft carriers and B-2 bombers. Can we? Isn't that the lesson of scripture, don't put your trust in the arm of flesh?

Anyways, I strongly disagree with Bruce Young for a slightly different reason. I think that many professors at BYU who are against a military solution to the war on terror fail to recognize that we have not been attacked once (9/11) but many, many times (first WTC bombing, embassies in Africa, USS Cole, etc). The cheek has been turned and a strong military response is not inappropriate.

Posted by: Doug at May 29, 2004 12:19 PM

hey, you're right. i'm sorry. we can still hope that the lord will protect us.

but if we can't, it doesn't necessarily mean our defeat. israel and the nephites started out with a 'greater knowledge'. while i would like to think that the USA had the same, most people would argue that we have and always will be a secular society. we have never been the theocracy of the lord's people that those scriptural examples were.

so, despite the bad examples you suggested, i agree that we should still pray. as i said in the post, "of course i'm not going to stop praying." but if that's a reason for me to oppose properly arming our troops, then i've lost touch with reality.

Posted by: travis at May 29, 2004 12:46 PM

Reading the response by Professor Young and Jeremy Branson, a thousand thoughts came to mind, but ‘naive and crazy’ are pretty good summations about Professor Young and Jeremy Branson. For Professor Young, in case you needed a reminder, the War on Terror and those who want our death as a people are not hypothetical examples, or individuals that you can have a philosophical/theological debate with. They want to kill us, end of story. Wanting to have a group of people killed just because they don’t pray to the same God makes them evil people to me. Stop thinking abstractly when reality is staring you in the face. Evil does not propagate by itself. Individuals spread evil and therefore making them evil. Evil didn’t come to Lucifer in the pre-mortal life, Lucifer begat evil. By taking your point of view that you can judge an act evil but not the person who committed that evil, means I judge Hitler’s acts evil, but not Hitler evil?! Men’s actions reveal what is in their hearts. It is not that difficult Professor.

To Jeremy Branson, I also am in the Armed Forces. Though I have yet to go to war, I am training to do so. I also believe that war should be a last resort. However, in case you have forgotten, we didn’t start this war. Those hijackers who killed thousands on 9/11 brought this war to our land. Usama bin Laden started this war back in the early 90s when he declared war on us five times while Clinton was busy getting some action in the Oval Office. We didn’t start this war on terror. Iraq is part of that war on terror, but you may ask why? This also is not that difficult and it is best said with a famous statement with a few changed words. The original goes like this: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Therefore, it can be said that “the friend of my enemy is my enemy.” The last time I remember, Saddam Hussein was paying money to have suicide bombers in Israel. The last time I remember, Saddam Hussein tried to kill Bush Sr. in the early 90s. The last time I remember, Saddam Hussein was a supporter of terrorism and the list goes on and on. You have every right to oppose violence in all its forms and purposes; however, how would you deal with those who want you dead just for breathing? Do you think you can talk to them? Do you think if we just leave them alone they’ll leave us alone? For you John Kerry’s out there, do you think the UN is going to protect us? France? Russia? Germany?! Just for starters, they have all been implemented in the Oil-for-Food Scandal that took bribes from Saddam Hussein himself! So if we are not to fight for our own protection, who will? I’ll tell you who, basically nobody (except maybe the UK and Australia). The majority of the world would careless is if we disappeared. So the answer is simple, we have to fight this war and take it to the enemy. Fight and destroy them, for the enemy would do the same to us. We must be like Captain Moroni, pray to Heavenly Father for guidance and protection: yet we must also prepare ourselves for war. The Lord will help us only if we have done our part. Wake up people! We are at war against an enemy that wants our whole destruction. That is the reality of this war.

Posted by: Miguel Lopez at May 29, 2004 06:39 PM

A Fantastic Post, Travis

One of your best, which is hard to do because all of your posts are right on.

Keep it up, Bub.

Posted by: James at May 29, 2004 10:50 PM

Right on Travis. You too Miggy. Damn, people are retarded. You know, I'd love to be able to see a better way to deal with Islamists and all, but since there really isn't... I think I'd rather kill them instead of the other way around. Geez, if I had to pick a God to have, I'd pick the Professor. "Um, you see God, like even though I did do all those evil deeds, I'M not evil..." That'll fly with The Man. Man, where does BYU get these numnuts to "teach" us? Go BY-retarded

Posted by: Rudy at May 31, 2004 12:28 AM

"we can still hope that the lord will protect us.

but if we can't, it doesn't necessarily mean our defeat."

Famous last words...

Posted by: Doug at May 31, 2004 11:18 AM

doug, reread my argument. then get to finding that bean.

Posted by: travis at May 31, 2004 04:10 PM