Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Separation of Church and State (Family Values and Israel)

I want to state my current views on the separation of church and state.

First, I believe that the separation of political and religious views is impossible. A person's outlook on life is largely determined by their religion. Their religious views will, unavoidably, affect their political outlook.

The separation of church and state simply means that the government cannot ever promote any one religious belief over any other. This means that government-funded schools cannot legally teach anything that promotes or demeans any specific religion or religious belief. Likewise, they cannot discriminate against any race, gender, socioeconomic group, or any other group, as long as that group respects the rights of others.

Now, in most areas, the separation of church and state is fairly easy. Economics? Foreign policy? It is fairly easy to separate religious views from these principles.

At this time, only two issues provide me with any difficulty in separating church and state. These are our interactions with the state of Israel and issues surrounding sex and family.

Issues involving sex and the nature of the family are difficult. Pornography is considered indecent by most people. Even those who view it themselves generally want to prevent children from viewing it. And yet, is it the government's place to restrict our freedom of speech in this way? My answer to pornography is simple: because it is incredibly addictive and emotionally destructive, people have a right to not see pornography against their will or in public places. Especially children. Violent porn leads to violent behavior. Therefore, I am in favor of making illegal any porn that includes violence, child pornography, and anything in a public place that arouses sexual feelings in most people (or, at least, most men, if it's an image of a woman).

Now, homosexual rights are also difficult. I do believe that it's reasonable to allow anyone who are living together for long periods of time to get similar legal benefits to what married couples get--to unite their finances and be covered on each other's insurance, etc. Therefore, I am in favor of civil unions.

However, it is not the government's place to define marriage. Marriage is an entirely religious and societal matter. Dictionary definitions are determined by practical usage; if the day comes when large numbers of people use the word "marriage" to refer to homosexual couples, then that is its definition. As long as the definition remain constant, teachers paid with taxpayers' money must use the taxpayers' definition of marriage.

I can see logic in making any sex outside of marriage illegal, since children have a right to be born to married parents and a married couple has a right to expect the faithfulness of each other. However, enforcing these laws is very awkward.

Those are my legal views regarding sex. However, my spiritual views are very different. My religious views are that sex is sacred and that God has commanded that it be reserved for marriage. I believe that any sexual activity that is not between a man and a woman who are married to each other is spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. I believe that sex is a choice. I believe that its purposes are to create physical bodies for children and to express love between husband and wife. Sex is special, even holy, and I cringe to think of people misusing it.

It is painful to me to admit it, but we cannot enforce chastity--keeping sex within marriage as it has always been defined--by the law of the land. We must leave it to God.

Some people have homosexual desires. These can be overcome. Sometimes homosexual desires are just emotional desires for companionship with the same gender. I believe that our society often confuses emotional desire with sexual and/or romantic desire.

I don't like talking about these topics so openly. It doesn't feel proper. But it must be done.

The final family value I want to bring up is abortion. In this, my religious and political views mesh perfectly. Why? Because sex is a choice! Anyone who wants an abortion and uses the "freedom of choice" argument, unless they were raped, is using a flawed argument. They do have a choice! Again, unless a person is raped, they have complete control over whether or not they get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. Therefore, my view is that abortion is morally wrong, except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother's life is in danger or the baby is so deformed that, according to honest medical authority, they cannot survive beyond birth.

I once heard an analogy in a philosophy class. Let's say you woke up in a hospital bed one day with a famous unconscious violinist attached to you. Without your medical support, laying there attached to him, he will die. Would it be murder for you to detach the cables and walk away? The argument is no, because it's your life. You didn't choose to be hooked up to the poor comatose violinist.

Of course, this argument applies only to instances of rape, because that is the only instance where the person did not choose to be hooked up to their child. Here is a better analogy: let's say that you enter a drawing. In exchange for one thousand dollars (representing the pleasure of sex), you put your name in a hat. If your name is drawn, you will be hooked up to a helpless person for nine months to give them life support. One day, your name is drawn. You are surprised, perhaps shocked. You persuaded yourself that it wouldn't happen. Perhaps you thought you had the draw rigged (birth control). However, if you were to pull the cords and let the helpless violinist die, you would be a murderer. Why? Because you already had your choice. You made your choice the moment you put your name in that hat. The moment someone chooses to put themselves in situations that encourage their sexual desires, they choose the consequences of that choice.

I believe in freedom of choice as much as anyone. I do not believe in freedom from the natural consequences of your actions by harming others. Even if that other person isn't born yet. I'm sure he or she will thank you after their birth for letting them have the same gift your mother gave you. Life. What could be more glorious? I love my mother and am grateful to her. Even my adopted siblings feel gratitude to their birth mothers for life. That is your legacy, Mother.

Every mother carries that legacy to the grave, where she will meet those of her family who passed on before her. What will they say?

Many mothers who get abortions have nightmares afterward. I wish, at least, the law would require mothers to be educated before having an abortion--know their options, know about adoption, etc. Know how much it hurts forever to know that one less person came into the world because of you. It hurts. The Atonement of Christ can heal people, but the Lord will not bring back the dead for many years yet. Let them live! Let them live.

That is my plea to any of you are considering this decision or wondering what God thinks about abortion. He sent the child to you. Send them to their parents for life. Don't send them back to God. Not yet. Let them live the life He wants them to live first. Let them live. You are free to choose, but your choice will affect others, including your child's adoptive parents. They need him. They're waiting for her. Let the Spirit of God work on you and give you courage. It will. I promise you that, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

I know that He lives.

I am very passionate about my religious beliefs. And there is one belief I have yet to reconcile with political intelligence: our nation's relationship with Israel.

Israel is a Jewish state. They have freedom to practice your religion, but not to proselytize--just the same as most Muslim countries. They oppress Palestine. Politically, I do not see them as a beacon of democratic protection of the rights of all people.

Yet, the Bible prophesies the return of the Jewish people to that land. We cannot make them leave. God will keep them there until the Messiah comes to teach them more. But politically, it does not make sense to support them so much. Politically, we ought to cut all military support to Israel and force them to work out a compromise with Palestine as equals. But my religion, if I understand it right, suggests that we want to keep giving Israel aid, as they are the Lord's ancient covenant people.

I hope I can resolve this conflict someday. If not, I may have to step down from any political office that requires me to choose between my country and my religion. That way I can serve the one that means the most to me--my God--without betraying the trust of my country.

I hope I never have to make that choice.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Godly sorrow is a form of guilt that recognizes that we have distanced ourselves from God and are pained by that. However, other forms of guilt are sometimes excessive and skewed.

My favorite way to deal with any form of guilt is to analyze how valid it is and then say a short prayer, recognizing my dependence on and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He died to compensate for our errors and sins. I love him.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Michael's Steps to Addiction Recovery

Since all sin is addictive, and I've had plenty to overcome, here are my steps to addiction recovery and repentance (order isn't important):

1. Make it difficult to access the sinful activity
2. Keep yourself busy with a balanced lifestyle of meaningful activities, including exercise, mental stimulation, and spiritual time.
3. Pray for help.
4. Make yourself accountable: to a priesthood leader, friend, or family member.
5. Get all the help you can. All sorts of tools can help. I like replacing the question, "What do I feel like doing?" with, "How will this make me feel?"
6. Don't obsess over the sin; fear and self-hatred only make it harder to overcome. Forgive yourself and forget the sin; remember the lessons learned, especially your dependence on the Savior. That won't change..
7. This is my favorite step: find something you care about more than the sin, even in the heat of temptation. This is a challenge. The best way is to further your relationship with God until it forces out all sin, but relationships with others can also be helpful. The same way you develop relationships with others, develop a relationship with God: talk with Him, talk about Him, and spend time with Him in His house.

Republicans for Congress, Democrats for President

So, a good way to sum up my federal voting feeling is Republicans for congress and Democrats for president. Why?

Republicans espouse almost everything that I believe in domestic affairs: family values, economic freedom, etc. On the other hand, Democrats generally espouse the anti-war and humility in foreign affairs that I think America needs to adopt. Since Congress has more control over domestic affairs, and the President has more control over foreign affairs, it makes sense that I would want Republicans in Congress and Democrats for presidents.

However, I do try to vote for individuals, not parties. There are good and not-so-good leaders in both parties.

And, for Utah politics, I usually vote Constitution party for everything--or almost everything. They're my favorite party. But they're not a major player in federal politics at the moment.