Disagreement, Diversity, and the Building of Zion

Nate Oman has a thoughtful column today in the Deseret News about the recent boycotts (and calls for boycotts) in reaction to the views people hold related to gay marriage.

As a market socialist, I see value in markets. However, as I read Oman’s essay, my thoughts turned to something other than markets, gay-marriage, or boycotts.

In particular, this passage stood out to me:

…Seeing conservatives and liberals work together on Capitol Hill is newsworthy, but those with equally clashing convictions routinely cooperate within firms or markets.

For this we can be truly grateful. A world where all commercial interactions were confined to the ghetto of one’s own ideological tribe would be a nightmare for two reasons.

First it would be infinitely poorer. The ability to call on the talents and industry of those with whom we disagree makes our lives more prosperous. As Adam Smith long ago recognized, a tightly confined market is a recipe for poverty.

Second, trading only with those whose convictions we share robs us of what Montesquieu called the “gentling of our manners.” Rubbing shoulders and making deals with ideological enemies has a way of lessening enmity, forces the reconsideration of prejudices, and ultimately increases tolerance and community.

This is one of the reasons I go to church and belong to the Church. I appreciate and value the association I get working with people of different views.

When I stand to break the sacrament bread, I do not care what the person doing the same next to me thinks about Obamacare.

When I am cleaning the church building on a Saturday morning, I could care less whether the person washing the floorboards considers the Noah flood narrative to be literal or not.

These are the very things that so many get worked up about of Facebook and elsewhere. However, I find myself more and more tired of ideological purists and ideological simpletons (they are usually one in the same).

One of the reasons the I am still part of the LDS Church, is that my unorthodoxy has not led to me being made to feel unwelcome. Yes, I am a minority and an oddball…but we all know that. I write all the time about aspects of Mormon culture, practice, and theology that I differ on.

As a Democratic politician, I criticized my state party and held unorthodox positions.

I have never been told to keep quiet about my views by a local leader of the LDS Church (or any higher level leader…but I do not deal with them much).

I have been told to shut my mouth and to never publicly criticize the party by a state executive director of the Democratic Party.

I am still Mormon. I am no longer a Democrat (Update: I returned to the Democratic Party to caucus for Bernie Sanders in 2016).

One of the primary reasons that I love my fellowship and membership in the LDS Church comes down to an idea expressed in this line from Nate Oman’s column:

“The ability to call on the talents and industry of those with whom we disagree makes our lives more prosperous.”

This is especially the case when it comes to the building of Zion.

Categories: Feature, Religion

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4 replies »

    • That is not all that snarky. I would say it is more like life in the firm (which Nate uses as one example of market interaction) . Not an accounting firm or a law firm, but the general sense of how economists refer to the firm. Is there a certain coldness to this? Sure. But we do not choose our ward in the way that we do our circle of friends. In many ways we have as much control over who our fellow ward of church members are as we do our co-workers on the other people present in the dining establishment of our choosing.

      I am not sure if the market language would be my first choice. But I think Nate is more channelling Weber. In other words, he is doing sociology while using the vocabulary of economics…something like that.

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