Earthly Liberals and Heavenly Conservatives

It is very likely that one's religious perspective of heaven contributes quite substantially to the exercise of their politics on earth. It seems to me that Conservatives, who are more generally focused on earning the rewards of the next life, are not as tuned into the importance of taking care of the here and now as Liberals are.

If you're a Latter-day Saint I'm sure you've heard at least one such story before: person quits job and drains savings account because he has become sure that "The Millennium" and Jesus's return to earth are right around the corner, and that all things will be taken care of for him. Regardless of how many of such stories are true, these stories illustrate a potential shortsightedness of members of any religion that think that heaven is more important than earth.

Enlightenment thinkers, to include our own Founding Fathers, frowned on such exaggerated netherworld thinking. Instead, they realized that ensuring that everyone has sufficient for their earthly needs is at least as important as our expectations of heavenly reward. In fact, such earthly stewardship is a vital component in the earning of heavenly rest. Typical conservatives, through misguided religious zeal, are more apt to lose sight of this fact than are liberals.

George McGovern in his book The Essential America, reminded us that the religious views of the founders did not exaggerate the yearning for heaven at the expense of life's exigencies.
The Enlightenment thinkers placed emphasis on the power of human reason, disciplined by experience and observation. They came to believe that through education, humanity could be changed for the better. Most of the Enlightenment thinkers did not renounce religion, but they were sometimes critical of the doctrinaire, authoritarian nature of the established church. [They] tended to encourage a better way of life on earth rather than hopes for the hereafter.

The Essential America, pp. 4-5

We are commanded to be morally clean, but we are also commanded to take care of our fellow human beings. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ reminds us that moral cleanliness and Samaritan concern for others are both important in the obtaining of eternal reward. But the political reaction to President Bill Clinton's sexual escapades a few years ago led me to believe that conservatives place far too high a premium on moral cleanliness at the expense of looking out for the welfare of others. It's as though we skip over passages like the following:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

The Book of Mormon, Mosiah ,Chapter 4

The typical conservative can learn a lot from the typical liberal, I think, in this regard. Instead of focusing on what superficially seem to be the rewards of the spiritual hereafter, conservatives would do well to remember that all of God's commandments--even those that seem fleetingly temporal--are foremost to be recognized as spiritual laws. With that balanced perspective, we can begin to see the importance of helping to ensure that more and more of God's children in the here and now have the basics of life, so that they, too, can afford to balance their thinking between temporal and spiritual necessities.


  1. Well said Frank. It's easy to get out of balance. It's also easy when out of balance in one direction to ignore our own imbalance while pointing out the opposite tendency of imbalance in others (the mote vs the beam).

  2. We can all learn a lot from each other, no matter our political persuasion.

    I'm not sure I completely understand what you mean here. It seems that if one is truly focused on heavenly rewards, then he or she would help their neighbor because otherwise there will be no heavenly reward. After all, "love thy neighbor" is the second greatest commandment and those who don't keep the commandments will not sit in the mansions of the Father. Maybe you're just saying what I'm saying but that a lot of people don't realize this or do it.

    I believe that in about 90% of cases, all people -- whether conservative, liberal, libertarian, or whatever -- genuinely want to help anyone in need they can, they just disagree on the proper and best way to do it.

  3. Frank, your comparisons rile me a bit. Whether you intend to or not, you're likening the liberal world view to generosity and Christ-like succoring. While I'm sure your liberal readers readily concur with that comparison, I think it would have been responsible to differentiate between personal generosity and collective, mandated generosity.

    I, a conservative libertarian, don't need a liberal to teach me how to help those in need. It is my own spiritual obligation. THAT's where I get my blessings.

    Translate that individual spiritual obligation to government policy and you have liberalism. I'm not sure how many blessings I get from my wealth being redistributed for me by the government. The collective blessings don't seem to ever pan out either.

    Liberalism often appears to be a more generous mindset overall while conservativism often appears to be more greedy overall. That's at first glance, of course.

    But generosity knows no political philosophy. In real life, I think you'd be hard pressed to prove that a liberal-minded individual is more generous at all than his conservative-minded neighbor.

    Wasn't there some study about this done not too long ago....

    The comparisons you draw here may be well intended, but they're inappropriate nonetheless.

  4. I really appreciate posts like this, Frank. As I alluded in our recent FB exchange, if there were more conversation from the right about how best to help the downtrodden, and less about either the moral deficiencies of the less fortunate or the use of government power to enforce what they see as the spiritual laws, I'd be much more inclined to consider myself a conservative, or at least to work for the same purposes with them.

  5. Translation: "If conservatives would only start agreeing with me, I'd be much more open to working with them."

    You crack me up, Derek.

  6. Without some clarification I'm not sure what to make of this. But any discussion of conservatives vs liberals taking care of the poor should include a note about the relative charitable contributions given by those two groups.

  7. Frank, while I disagree with most of the statements you made (and I agree with D. Sirmize), I'll choose just one to question:

    "But the political reaction to President Bill Clinton's sexual escapades a few years ago led me to believe that conservatives place far too high a premium on moral cleanliness at the expense of looking out for the welfare of others."

    I'm a little confused here. In this instance, whose welfare was "expensed" because of the conseratives' too high premium on moral cleanliness?


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