Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Political Ideology

Three Types of Morality
In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis describes three types of morality. First there is the morality that deals with interactions among others. One tries not to cause harm to others. Thus a thief, cheat, and liar would be immoral.

The second applies to individual morality. One must be good to ones self. The comparison here is that you treat something differently if you own instead of rent it. Since we were created by God, and even more so because we are bought with Christ’s sacrifice; We have a duty to be good to ourselves and the body’s we “rent.” There is also the philosophy that it is difficult to avoid harming others, when we don't care if we harm ourselves.

The third type of morality deals with group morality. The fact that individual members of the mafia are good to themselves and generally get along with other members, doesn’t make the mafia a moral institution. In order to be moral with the third type of morality, the group must be going the direction God instructs.

C. S. Lewis described these three types of morality by giving the example of a fleet of ships in formation. The first type of morality instructs each ship to avoid collisions with other ships and to stay in formation. The second type of morality deals with making sure the ships are in good working order.

Lewis pointed out that the first two often work together. He said, “what is the good of telling the ships how to steer so as to avoid collisions if, in fact, they are such crazy old tubs that they cannot be steered at all?”

Lastly, C. S. Lewis described the third type of morality by explaining that if the ships, on a whole, were chartered to go to the New York, but instead went to Calcutta, it wouldn’t do much good. Since God has chartered this journey on life, we need to go where he directs. Lewis essentially put these three as one man’s relations with others, himself, and God.

Now so far I haven’t touched much by way of politics. It isn’t easy for me to put into words how the above has helped me describe to myself my idea of proper politics. I’ve been working on it for days.

Political Morality
In Doctrine and Covenants 134, God gives us “a declaration of belief regarding governments and laws in general.” Most of this section has little to do with my purpose today. There is one thing in the first verse of this section that is key in extrapolating the three types of morality from an individual level to a government level. This is, “We believe governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man.” God has rented us the ships, and now we need to steer them the way God would have us steer them.

The First Political Morality
We need to, as a government, avoid harming others. That is, our government needs to avoid colliding with other governments. This is true regardless of how big our government is in comparison. If our ship is the Queen Victoria II, we should not only be careful to avoid hitting the other ships our size (i.e. China), but it would be just as immoral to collide with and crush the smaller vessels in our path (i.e. Rwanda, Tonga, etc.).

Also in line with this, our government shouldn't incite, encourage, or condone its citizens colliding with each other. The government should offer a level of protection to its citizens from immoral individuals seeking to harm others for personal gain, or even those who are just not concerned with avoiding harm to others.

The Second Political Morality
We need to make our internal mechanisms work properly. C. S. Lewis said, “What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behaviour, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them?”

An excellent talk was given by President J Reuben Clark Jr. on the eve of Italy’s declaration of war on England and France. In it he discussed the need for all of the American hemisphere to be living righteously to avoid being “swept off” as it says in Ether.

In the second type of morality, not only do the people who administer the government need to be moral individuals, but the system itself must be moral. In Doctrine and Covenants 101 the Lord declares that he established the constitution of the United States (thus making the constitution a moral system).

President Clark goes on to expound upon how various elements of the constitution are inspired by God. The most important of these is of course the protection of basic human rights. President Clark said that these principles have been carried into the formation of other independent nations and although other governments aren’t identical to ours, “their fundamental document is a replica of our God-given instrument.”

The Third Political Morality
As a cluster of nation-ships, we need to work together to sail in the direction God has chartered us. This is the most difficult of the three to expect, let alone demand, of the governments of the world today. We know what God’s chartered destination for us comes from Moses 1:39. How can governments collaborate with each other toward this end?

Organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank are a step in the right direction, but they are incomplete. Of course I also believe that the church’s form of foreign aid and missionary work helps in this direction even better.

Each nation including our own often gets hung up with unrighteous ethnocentrism. This will often lead each nation to violate all three types of morality. If however, one country is on the right course by avoiding harm to others, they establish a moral structure, and they are heading in the proper direction, such a country has a duty to share this morality with other nations as much as possible.

As President Clark says, “this destiny of ours is to come not through bloody conquests of war and the oppression and enslavement of our fellow-beings, but by conquests of peace and the persuasion of righteous example and Christian endeavor.”

World Citizenry
As a citizen of the United States, I know I have much to be concerned with domestically. Despite this, I consider myself a world citizen first and foremost, and feel that other Americans should be focused on citizenship in a similar way.

We are all God’s children. I don’t believe that the United States is the only land of opportunity. Even President Clark said that other nations “basically framed along the lines set up by our Constitution are bringing other lands to enjoy our [same] blessings.” The keys to any of our blessings that we have enjoyed as a nation, or hope to continue to enjoy are based in these three types of morality.

Making it Work
This is my political ideology. I understand that it in the modern world, this philosophy cannot stand alone, because it draws much of its contents from a religious ideology. However, I think that with slight changes, this can be reasonable, if not acceptable, by all.

If we were to take away the direct references to scripture without changing the content, I don't think that the intent of the meaning is lost. Then we need to create a new chartered destination based on debated and agreed upon principles (instead of Moses 1:39). The Millenium Development Goals are a good start, despite sometimes being vague and hard to track. I believe this ideology is a powerful recipe for positive, progressive politics in the modern world.

Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
Doctrine and Covenants 134, 101
America’s Divine Destiny, J. Reuben Clark Jr.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Some great thoughts Brandon. I like the writings of CS Lewis - he gets a little deep but he makes you think.