Monday, October 26, 2015

Mormon Options on 'Church and State'

(by Martin Marty 10-26-15)

"I hate war!" was a clear denunciation voiced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 14, 1936. He was talking about real war five years before he had to lead the United States in the most destructive war in history.

There are lesser wars in respect to which citizens are called to take sides. In recent decades some of the most popular chosen examples are the "culture wars," which are so attractive among some religious factions. They have proven to be productive of not much more than unproductive polarization and civil chaos.

Now and then, over against them, an informed and articulate citizen is found to utter a meaningful "I hate war!" in respect to culture wars.

Among them in the recent past and, specifically, this October, is a speaker who has the credentials to participate in the noisiest domestic contretemps this season. He is Dallin H. Oaks, who could have been expected to wage war on one side as factions agitate about the loss of religious liberty, thanks to Supreme Court and other court actions. The warriors have been urging us all to take up rhetorical arms against such courts.

Oaks is well credentialed to represent Mormons, who generally occupy main fronts in the culture wars. A "member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," he is the third most senior apostle among the twelve apostles in his church.

Oaks has been president of the LDS academic flagship, Brigham Young University. We knew him in his University of Chicago Law School faculty days as a superior legal scholar and a staunch, articulate loyalist in the LDS ranks. No one we knew then or since would have thought of him as a compromiser, a wishy-washy sort.

So we paid attention when Oaks showed how he hated culture wars and spoke up for an alternative in the particular instance of a "church and state" issue. The conflict was a prime time, front-page subject, thanks to Kim Davis, a conservative Christian. Davis refused to obey laws and courts mandating the issuance of marriage licenses for gay marriages, which she, in her version of Christianity, in conscience opposes.

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