Today I saw a Facebook post by a friend of a friend that really rubbed me wrong. This post was a lengthy stance against the performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump. It contained a few of the stances I have seen elsewhere as well as presenting stances on the most effective means of emulating Christ’s method of ministering to our fellow men. As this was the major crux of the post, I feel it necessary to put into words my own thoughts on the matter.
Sadly, I feel the need to preface my rebuttal with the fact that I in no way supported Trump’s candidacy for president of the United States. I did not vote for Donald Trump. Neither did I vote for Hillary Clinton. I felt that neither embodied the principles or character that I desired in a presidential candidate. I felt that both were threats to liberty in profound ways.
However, I have always felt a strong affinity to the principles of freedom espoused within the holy texts of the LDS church. The Book of Mormon is resplendent with stories of people who stood for freedom and liberty. These principles have been echoed in the founding of the United States; and while I see so much in our society today that would abandon those principles, I see the choir’s choice to sing at the inauguration not as support for the individual being inaugurated, but as support for the principles of freedom enshrined in the founding documents and throughout the scriptures.
The post I wish to rebut was made with the intent of addressing, “sophistries floating around that defend the Tabernacle Choir’s decision to sing at [Trump’s] inauguration.” So let’s dive into these sophistries (italicized portions are direct quotes from the other post):
First is the idea that Jesus ministered to sinners, and that is what the choir is doing. Might I suggest that this view does not understand Jesus at all. Yes, Jesus ministered to sinners – but always to the weak, poor, sick and rejected sinners – to these he ministered personally and lovingly.
It is no sophistry to assert that Christ ministered to sinners. The sophistry is that he ministered only to certain kinds of sinners. Christ would minister to all those who would give a listening ear and an open heart. He preached in synagogues, on mounts, and even while fishing (Matthew 4:23, Mathew Chapters 5-7). The gospel has always been taken before those in high government like Christ before Pilate, Peter before Agrippa, Abinadi before King Noah, or Moroni to Pahoran. So to say that ministration is only reserved for the poor, sick, and rejected, this is absolutely not the case. And anyone familiar with Romans 3:23 knows that we are all sinners. None are exempt from this class and the gospel was only reserved to certain peoples at certain times, but today is to be extended to all.
But to the Pharisees – the people who through their priestcrafts created the very classes of weak, sick, and rejected people in order to enrich themselves (the Donald Trumps of the day) – Jesus did not minister, but gave only rebuke and condemnation.
This, too, is false. While Christ absolutely did have moments of strife with the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jerusalem, he did not exempt them from his desire to bring them into his fold. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not (Matthew 23:37).” Christ’s ultimate desire was to have the gospel reach every ear and penetrate every heart. While the presidential inauguration is a highly secular ceremony, it is still an opportunity for the choir to help achieve this same goal.
The way to minister as Jesus did is to serve those that Trump mocks, to build bridges with those whose interests are not represented by a system of power meant to enrich a few, and to stand up and condemn the demagoguery, tyranny, priestcraft, selfishness, dishonesty, and xenophobia which has been rampant in Trump’s campaign.
The poster acts as if such opportunities for the choir are a zero-sum game. The poster implies here and elsewhere in their post that the church’s choice to accept the invitation to perform automatically then rejects everyone else. I also find it sad that the poster seems to only see demagoguery, tyranny, selfishness, and dishonesty only in the candidate who won the election. Washington is full of these kinds of people, and while it is true that Trump’s election has little chance of reversing this condition, the choir choosing to perform is a chance to stand in solidarity with those outside of Washington who would see it purified. It is an opportunity to share the light of freedom and hope that it spreads throughout those who watch the performance.
Another idea floating around to defend the choir is that it will build bridges and bring healing to a contentions political campaign. Our political campaign has indeed been contentious, and I wish this were not the case; I also think that it is time to work on building bridges between people of various political beliefs. But working with Donald Trump is not how either of these things are done. If you want to build bridges, you find people who have the same values as you, but different opinions, and you open up dialogue
Again, I fail to see the sophistry in maintaining the need for healing of the divisiveness that exists in this country today. However, I also recognize the fact that it is hard for many to separate support for the freedoms and the nature of the peaceful transition of power that exists in the US political process and those that it elects. I was no fan of Obama when he was elected. I still do not see his presidency as something that was good for this country. I see the transition as going from a golfing president to a twittering president who both desire only to further erode liberty. But it is no error to stand for liberty and freedom and the unification of our country. The choir’s performance stands for truth and light and rooting out the evil that exists in the hearts of men. Music has a profound ability to do so. It is possible to not support an individual’s despotic character but hope that those in congress might stand and oppose him.
And, I’m going to be honest, if the choir singing was about opening doors and healing contention, then it should have sung at all of the presidents who Mormons, or at least Utah, did not end up voting for. The Choir has always sung for the presidents that Utah overwhelmingly voted for, and never any other presidents. This is not how political divisiveness is healed.
The greatest problem with this is the erroneous assumption that all those presidents that Utah did not end up voting for still extended an invitation for the Choir to sing. The poster seems to assume that the choir chooses to sing for the president rather than the president needing to extend them an invitation to do so. The choir has only sung at five prior inaugurations, but has performed for Democrat presidents Taft, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Carter. One thing I know is that if I were to personally choose a performer or group of performers that would greatly minister the principles of freedom and liberty, I would much prefer the Mormon Tabernacle Choir over Madonna, Beyonce, or any number of other pop culture performers even if it meant they were singing for Clinton or Sanders.
The final sophistry is that singing at the inauguration is required to be patriotic. My friends, Donald Trump is the greatest threat to our Nation to ever ascend to the White House, and the greatest threat to the union of all Americans. Patriotism in this case means standing against bigotry and tyranny – and quite honestly, it has always meant this.
I’m not sure where the poster got the idea that the choir singing is required to be patriotic. And while I think the poster is begin hyperbolic in putting for the notion that Trump is the greatest threat to our Nation, I do agree that he is a threat. I agree that we all must do our part to stand against tyranny and those that seek to further erode freedom in this country. But that means standing against more than just Donald Trump. It means ceasing to vote for career politicians that have long been part of the descent of our country. It means standing against those who would devalue life, that would strip away access to means of self-defense and self-preservation, that purport that big brother will take care of you from cradle to grave, and those that create barriers of entry to the market place where all should have a guarantee of equal access, but not equal outcomes.
And to conclude, the poster’s father then posted this comment on the post:
So for me I am going to celebrate the inauguration of our new president and I hope as citizens of the United States of America we all do. To show our respect and honor towards our country and government regardless if I voted for that individual. I know if we do this we bring peace, freedom and civility to this country and its people, that this government was established to do. I’m afraid if we do not respect the things we have we will lose them and with it the rights and privileges we so greatly enjoy.
I invite you to join me in celebrating the inauguration of the President of the United States of America, along with the Mormon tabernacle choir and others invited to be there.