During the primary season, several of us at FAIR were discussing the advisability of sustaining those whose ideas of good government are morally repugnant to us. My friend, Mike Parker, had made the observation that it was morally repugnant to vote to oppose sustaining, merely for political differences.
He’s right, of course. As a Democrat, my friend, Greg Kearney espouses views that I, as a libertarian-leaning Republican, believe to be dangerously wrong-headed. However, to my knowledge, he hasn’t engaged in criminal conduct, nor has he committed any serious sin that would disqualify him from any calling the Church chooses to bestow upon him. Indeed, the fact that the goal of his advocacy is to make the less fortunate better off, is a sign that, morally speaking, he is well qualified for any calling in the Church. Being wrong about good government–even dangerously so–is not a disqualifying factor when we consider whether or not to sustain a person in a calling.
This support should go both ways. Clearly, Greg shouldn’t (and he won’t!) oppose sustaining me for a calling because I disagree with his view that we should use the power of the state to make the poorest among us better off. Just because I oppose his proposed methods, it doesn’t follow that I oppose his goals. Indeed, I base my objection to the welfare state on a theory of the firm that I derive from Ronald Coase’s article, “The Nature of the Firm” (in the November 1937 issue of Economica), and on the concept of the “moral hazard.”
But what if those political differences are major crimes or (as the Catholics refer to them) mortal sins? Should we vote to sustain one who is a present day member of the Ku Klux Klan? I think not. The Klan is a terroristic organisation, and there is ample evidence where the proverbial “reasonable man” could not fail to understand this–unless, in a “Rip van Winkle” mode, he’s been asleep for the last century and a half!
If we were in Helmuth Huebener, Rudi Wobbe, and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe’s Branch in World War II Germany, would we vote to sustain the Branch President, who was a Nazi–essentially a choice between killing our bodies and killing our conscience? SHOULD we vote to sustain him? As for me, I probably would have joined Brother Huebener.
If Hitler’s atrocities were apparent in 1943, they were less apparent in 1933. Even though Mein Kampf was a best-seller, I sincerely doubt that Hitler’s full intent was very apparent when he was first made Kanzler. As a comaprison, Rush Limbaugh (I am NOT likening Limbaugh to Hitler!) is America’s top-rated radio personality, yet his 13.5 million listeners are less than 5% of the American population. Is there enough readily-apparent evidence to warrant opposing Church leaders who were Nazis in 1933? Given this, I would conclude that, for a minority, yes–especially for those who read the book. On the other hand, I doubt that the remainder could have known in 1933.
For a more recent example, if a member agrees with Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan that the Bush administration illegally usurped power in 2000, then got the USA into an illegal war where millions of innocents were slaughtered, and these facts are and have been readily apparent to the proverbial reasonable man, then I would submit that voting to oppose sustaining those who still support President Bush is the morally correct thing to do. Similarly, I would think that those who honestly believe that Senator Harry Reid is a racist because of his insults to Justice Clarence Thomas (as James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal does) should likewise vote to oppose sustaing Senator Reid to a Church calling.
In the interest of full disclosure, even though I do not like Senator Reid or his politics, I disagree with Mr. Taranto’s conclusion. Thus, I have no problem sustaining Senator Reid for a Church calling. However, given the good Senator’s statements on the Iraq War, if he were to find out about my political stands, I would expect him to not return the favour. I object to him putting himself in a position where it could be said that he was lying to his constituents.
As to mere political differences that have been criminalised, that is an exception to the exception. After all, Brother Huebener’s crime was merely a political difference with the Nazis.
UPDATE: Looking at the comments, I need to make a couple of clarifications:
1. There is a difference between voting to oppose a person for a calling, and not sustaining that person. The vote to oppose a person is NOT a license to not sustain that person, nor is it a forum to voice one’s dislike for that person; it is notifying the relevant authorities of a potentially disqualifying factor for the person who is called. Once a person is set apart, we should always do whatever we honourably can to help fulfill that callings. We have covenanted to sustain people in their callings; we cannot (and should not!) get around that. Scott, of course, is right to say this.
2. As I stated above, my colleague Mike Parker and commenter Chris H. are quite right that mere political differences are insufficient to disqualify people for callings. To qualify for an opposing vote, a person must have political views so extreme as to constitute a serious crime or a grave sin (For example, one that may be actionable in a disciplinary council.).
A hat tip to those who have commented thus far.