Friday, September 21, 2012

The Duplicitous Anti War Critic

A short time ago I wrote about the duplicticty of the anti war critic. I argued that when the prophet agrees with their political views the critics mistakenly attach too much weight to that statement. Then they use those words as a cudgel with which to beat their opponents. When a prophet does not agree with them, they use various qualifiers to negate their words. These include things such as speaking as a man, speaking under the cultural influence of the day, or simply giving their non binding opinion. While this sounds disrespectful towards a prophet, the last reason is actually the correct one as outlined by the church. So critics proof text their favorite quotes which agree with their political leanings, and then apply an inappropriate amount of weight to them. They take their cherry picked arguments and beat their opponents over the head with them. And they cast aside their words when they don't.

With this summary you should be able to gather why I disagree with large parts of this interview here. Boyack sponsored a billboard called war like people. This is a classic example of cherry picking non binding quotes to support a political agenda.

But in the interview Boyack also makes it clear in answering question 9, and in comment 7, that he uses prophet's words that support his viewpoints, and ignores those that don't. This is a classic example of the duplicity of the anti war critic. (I would add that he ignores the upstream sources for doctrine in the scriptures and especially The Book of Mormon.) Church doctrine resides in the scriptures, and official proclamations. Statements outside of that are well considered opinions and not binding on the church, especially political opponents.

I don't begrudge Boyack a book or two. Even Snooki wrote a book so its not the end of civilization. But Boyack wants the freedom to ignore church council based on "circumstantial" statements, but then sees the need to cherry pick quotes in his warlike site, and in his foreign policy views and books, so he can then castigate those with whome he disagrees.

While Boyack is simply the most current example, this happens all the time. So I will summarize my feelings on the matter below:

1. I feel it is inappropriate to prooftext a prophet's words to support your political position. Anti mormons use Brigham Young quotes to say all sorts of things that don't represent Mormon doctrine. Yet anti war quotes get a different treatment from some people. Randi Bott used words from past prophets and was soundly censored by the church. President Kimball said:"Please avoid, even by implication, involving the Church in political issues. It is so easy, if we are not careful, to project our personal preferences as the position of the Church on an issue.”

2. It is even more inappropriate to question the spirituality of those that disagree with your prooftexted position. (I call people wrong all the time, but I've never called anybody names or personally attacked them. Although Geoff B. at the Millennial Star is sure tempting me.)

3. The problem is compounded because the church has clearly specified where doctrine comes from; it is not from a smattering of talks from past pacifist prophets.

4. The prophets have, at the very least, contradictory positions on warfare. So what ends up occurring is something I call "prophet bashing", where people take their various prooftexted positions and proceed to beat each other the head with them. (I borrow the term from "bible bashing" that occurs so frequently on a mission.) So you have people who take the GAs that agree with them, like Clark from the 30s and 40s, while explaining away those that don't, such as Hinckley from 2003, and vice versa. I feel this is not a behavior that loving Latter Day Saints should use against their brothers and sisters in the gospel. Again, it is extremely inappropriate to declare a position buttressed by your reading of non doctrinal texts to browbeat and label your opponents as unrighteous.

5. Since the standard works proclaim doctrine and isolated talks do not, I focus on the former. It is a major reason why I have a website devoted to the study of the warfare in The Book of Mormon.

Thanks for reading. Some of you may wonder why I spend so much time rebutting radical libertarians. Most of whom you have probably never heard from and it might seem like I have an ax to grind against them. As a historian I understand how difficult it is to combat mistaken historical ideas that become popular knowledge. The Church is especially prone to this because of the respect and reverence we have for the prophet's words. So it is extremely easy for loud people active around the web to assert what the prophets have supposedly said to support their positions.

It is one thing to cherry pick prophets to support your political position, but their analysis of history is even more wrong.(See here and here for two examples.) And then, instead of simply being doubly wrong, they viciously attack the historical knowledge and spirituality of people who might disagree with them. So I'm insulted in every possible way by these people on a regular basis and feel obligated to set the record straight. Since military history is my wheelhouse, it is also like shooting fish in a barrel.