“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I, and I would suspect most of you, grew up with that phrase. Oft repeated by parents and primary teachers, this paraphrase of the Savior (Luke 6:31) is commonly known as the Golden Rule.

About what was the Lord teaching us with this maxim?

One word: Consistency.

Consistency is a key element of morality. If a given concept is morally good, it is good whether you’re man or woman, right- or left-handed, tall or short, American or Laotian. If a given concept is morally bad, it is bad whether it is night or day, weekday or weekend, winter or summer. And most particularly, as Christ implies in the Golden Rule, those concepts are the same for you and for me. Without consistency—If we arbitrarily determine when or to whom those principles apply—they can no longer be considered moral principles. At best they can only be considered preference or whim. At worst, they are examples of our hypocrisy.

I think we forget the concept of consistency far too often when we get into the political arena. It would be wise if we were to apply the Golden Rule more often as we contemplate current events and political issues.

  • If we don’t care for the idea of the government stepping in and telling us we can’t marry the person we love, or restricting how we pursue marriage, then we shouldn’t use government coercion to interfere with marriage for others.
  • If we want the sort of safeguards deemed most appropriate for protecting the innocent in the event that we are accused of a crime, then we should ensure those safeguards are applied to others accused of crimes.
  • If we feel it is acceptable for our nation to have WMDs in order to protect itself, we should be willing to allow other nations to make that same decision.
  • If we would not appreciate others using our government to promote their religious beliefs, we should not use our government to promote ours.

This isn’t about law and legal obligations. We are talking about basic decency.

Its a pretty simple concept, actually. I would hope more people would consider it.

5 Responses to “Consistency”

  1. Jolard Says:

    Excellent post, and something that really helps me clarify how I think about this issue.

    It also is a telling example of how Christian and LDS thought can lead you to a progressive liberal perspective. Too often I have people tell me it is not possible to be Christian or LDS and a Democrat, and these kinds of commandments are the reason I am a Democrat!

    Along the same lines, you should read Borack Obama’s latest speech. He talks about the Christian underpinnings to his politics, and how faith can be reclaimed by the left, and about the connection between religion and politics on the left. It is a GREAT speech, and personally I wish he would run for President.

  2. Derek Staffanson Says:

    I’d had the the speech emailed to me by the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and absolutely loved it. I had planned to write a post about it once I’d found a link to the full transcript. Now that you’ve provided one, I’ll get a post up soon. Thanks!

  3. Jay Says:

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    The problem with consistency is that is often used to justify the continuation of a bad course of action. It allows us to act without fully thinking things through. Heck, GWB has been preaching consistency for two years now–remember all the flip-flop talk of the last election.

    I don’t think the Lord was teaching about consistency, and I don’t think you were talking about consistency, either. I’d say he (and you, but I could be wrong) was talking more about empathy, sympathy and rational understanding. Maybe even enlightened self-interest. I’d also say it was condemnation of hypocrisy.

    Great work on the blog, by the way. I just came across it today and will be adding a bookmark so I can check back.

  4. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thanks, Jay. Thanks for your comments. You’re comments have reminded me that consistency, like many abstract nouns, has a number of meanings. One form of consistency is, shall we say, longitudinal consistency; that is, consistency over a period of time. You are absolutely right in pointing out the flaws in that sort of consistency. That is the sort of consistency Emerson lambasted and which President Bush called on in his campaign. You could even say that Christ’s ministry was a repudiation of consistency. He was unconcerned with being consistent with the Mosaic Law. He was on earth to fulfill and do away with that law! Nor is he interested with our longitudinal consistency. He has called on us to continually change, grow, and raise our standards.

    However, I think I was right in calling for what we might call latitudinal consistency. That is what the Savior was referring to. After we have determined through empathy, rational understanding, and divine guidance what the correct moral principles are, we should strive to apply those across the board in our current experience, to all sides and parties, until greater reasoning and divine guidance leads us to an even higher understanding of those moral principles.

    Thanks for helping make that clarification.

  5. Kevin Bodenhammer Says:

    I used to be LDS but that is another matter. When I hear the word consistancy in terms of politics I know that those who are placed before us as candidates are the same tired old philisophical minions of the global corporations. There is talk of “power” that a particular politician has. What business does a servant of the people have to do with power? They are our servants but they are there to make as much money as possible and that is all. I would say the majority of them are there to feather their own nests. I could give examples from Dianne Feinstein to George W. Do Americans know who the founding fathers were? No. But they know who Britney Spears is. Do they know about the SPP? No. It’s supposed to be a secret. The politicians can talk about the Lord and consistancy but their lord is not mine and the only thing consistant about them is they are all crooks.

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