Would you rather kill, or be killed?
Wedge issues have been around for a while. Recently, a friend asked if I was a “moderate.” I don’t know. Is one a moderate if one wants to neither kill or be killed? Can one be both pro-life and pro-choice? There are so many cases where there is a contest between “liberty” (personal choice, free choice, agency) and government intervention. Examples include: abortion, gun control, speech, religion, discrimination, universal health care, pornography, smoking, liquor, drugs, zoning, national parks, market regulations, seat belts, pollution control, covid19 restrictions, and so very many more.
One thing is most curious here. Who do you know that aligns their thinking solely and consistently either on the side of liberty, or on the side of government intervention? This is tough because even this distinction can be twisted. The Bill of Rights is fundamentally about the federal government intervening to ensure that the federal, state and local majorities don’t impose government interventions (tyranny of the majority). So, liberties are often about government intervention to mitigate government intervention.
Extremism on these wedge issues is edging on the absurd.
From the Book of Mormon, we have a few interesting records that seem to be worth considering. In the Book of Ether, we see an entire society having to make a choice between siding with Coriantumr or siding with Shiz. The implication was that not choosing a side left one unprotected/vulnerable and was nothing short of suicide. In the end, with the exception of Coriantumr and Ether, no one else survived. This is a total annihilation case where God allowed the abominations of both sides (wicked V wicked) to lead to the desolation of the wicked on both sides. Is it fair to presume that both sides considered themselves to be the more righteous party in the conflict (could it have been otherwise)?
Let’s juxtapose the People of Ammon (aka, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies) and Captain Moroni. Interestingly, the People of Ammon took an oath to not kill and to die rather than shed blood (Alma 24:16–26). Moroni, on the other hand, took an oath to not die (one of many examples: Alma 48:11–14), and to defend the freedom and rights of his people.
While the People of Ammon chose not to kill, they had no desire to die. They prayed to the Lord, relying on (presumably God’s and) their adversary’s mercies (Alma 24:21–25). Miraculously, many (most?) were preserved from death. While Moroni swore to defend, he had no desire to shed blood (Alma 43:54–44:1; Alma 44:1–2; Alma 48:16; Alma 52:37). Moroni prayed to the Lord for the preservation of their freedom (Alma 46:12–16). Perhaps it is presumptuous to believe that Moroni similarly prayed that this might have been accomplished with minimal shedding of blood. Either way, miraculously, that was certainly the outcome. Did you get that? In both cases, life and freedom were accomplished with minimum bloodshed (relatively speaking). They had a common wedge issue. They made opposite choices. And yet, they obtained a common — approaching ideal — outcome. Why?
Is it unreasonable for someone to believe in the right of “free speech” and simultaneously in the right of government to limit free speech when it directly harms another (e.g., convincing/encouraging some vulnerable person to commit murder or suicide)? Is there any “right” that can’t be taken to some irrational, morally unjustifiable, extremist position? Additionally, if everyone is to choose between Shiz and Coriantumr on every wedge issue, will anyone be left to seek for, pray for, find and obtain rational compromises and sane alternatives? Are choices between two absurd extremes even choices? It seems that either way, Satan wins.
So by way of example, should the government of a God-fearing people force masks and quarantines in a time of pandemic in order to protect the vulnerable from the tyranny of the exercise of agency by the majority? (Note that some would claim it isn’t the majority making these choices, but some self-serving, secret society.) Or, should it sacrifice the vulnerable in order to maintain freedom of choice? (Note that this isn’t the case of I’m willing to die to protect your freedom of choice, but rather I’m willing for you to die to protect my freedom of choice.)
Is it irrational to believe that few of our current health, financial, educational, and related issues would exist if believers or all faiths would follow their own creeds and put others before themselves and choose — continuing the example — to wear a mask and to self-quarantine and adopt every other reasonable intervention out of love and respect for others? In our absurd world, it appears that it is primarily atheists and agnostics that adopt that perspective.
In fact, it is difficult to find any logical consistency in the positions people take on all these various wedge issues. In the words of my son-in-law, “we are doomed.”