Bear with me. I don't know if this is at all helping you, but this blogging about my problems with the Utah Legislature certainly helps me to organize my thoughts. I feel like I've discovered an important key to understanding Beck, Skousen, and the extreme conservatives who dominate Utah state government..
Most LDS missionaries learn fairly quickly that "Bible-bashing" gets you nowhere. Either the Spirit is there to convert or it isn't. And spirited discussion using scripture as fighting words to prove a certain point doesn't bring a good spirit. The technique for this is "proof-texting" or pulling scripture often out of context to argue or prove a particular preconceived view or doctrine. A better process is to read and share scripture to learn, teach, and then testify with the Holy Spirit.
I learned this lesson a few years before my mission among some of my high school friends. I grew up outside Utah and my friends were a varied lot of Catholics, Pentecostals, mainstream Protestants, and Agnostics. I loved seminary and did really well with the scripture chase scriptures marking them in bright red pencil so forcefully that it almost went through the page. These scriptures were great because my ninth-grade first year was the Old Testament, and the LDS-oriented references on the scripture chase list were perfect to "prove" the truth of Mormonism to my friends at school. It didn't work. The seriously religious ones were much better versed in the New Testament and I didn't get that scripture chase list until tenth grade. Bottom line, even after I got the New Testament scriptures marked, I didn't convert anybody. Even my own, true conversion didn't begin until my senior seminary year with a wonderful teacher testifying of the Book of Mormon which was fortified the very next year in Brother Holland's freshman Book of Mormon class.
I've been bothered by it for a long time without being able to fully explain, but I think I see that it is the same with certain political views. The U.S. Constitution is considered by many (even me) to have been written by divinely inspired men. Because of that, some believe it is a sacred text and to prove their beliefs of what they think is right, they pull out the language that supports their point of view whether from the Constitution itself or from other writings of the inspired Founders. Some even "proof-text" the historical leaders of the church or scripture for a particular political view. In fact, it's possible to accuse me of the very same thing! The worst offense in political proof-texting is to put on that cloak of religiosity to manipulate an unrighteous dominion to end all questioning.
Why didn't I see this before? It's not just that the substance of the political message from the that right bothers me, it's how the message is created and presented. As noted in my previous posts on the "Constitutional Compound Republic" (here, here, and here), I find that extreme conservatives (like the majority in the Utah State Legislature) appear to have "wrested the Constitution to our own destruction." (See, there I go!) A rather odd example of proof-texting the Constitution to the extreme is HB76 to establish a state committee to review federal law to determine what is justified under the bill's list of authorized federal constitutional powers. If that isn't a circular mass of confusion, I don't know what is.
Well, that's just my opinion. You can have your own.
Latching on to my "proof-texting for extreme conservatism" theory, I did a little googling to see if anyone else has come up with the same idea. And a few have. Here are some examples:
A skeptics blog on Glenn Beck proof-texting Dr. Martin Luther King.
Comments on a theologians blog on Glenn Beck proof-texting a proponent of Social Justice
A Pastor's blog noting Beck proof-texting the New Testament in support of his attack on Social Justice.
An LDS piece at the blog "By Common Consent" explaining Cleon Skousen's selective proof-texting of the Old Testament.
LDS Blogger Joanna Brooks on Skousen and new Senator Mike "tea party" Lee's tactics in proof-texting to justify an extreme right-wing view of the Constitution.
And finally, BYU Professors in the Deseret News' Mormon Times criticizing both Beck and Skousen for ant-intellectual proof-texting.
These are people from all kinds of different perspectives, several of which I would not generally agree with. Yet they did recognize this proof-texting problem in LDS political thought pertaining to the US Constitution and our government.
I don't have all the answers. And I refuse to engage in the proof-texting tit-for-tat. I will continue to explain my views and where they come from. And I will note the humbugging of the men behind the curtain rather than argue with or be intimidated by them.
More work is yet to be done on this topic.
[and, click here for a final word (for now)]