By Tyler Bushman
Growing up in the church I was always told to keep an eternal perspective. This advice is meant to help us make correct decisions, to better understand the context of situations, and to see the significance of our choices in this life. If we live with a narrow understanding of ourselves and our world, we may sacrifice the things that matter most by concentrating on the things that matter least. The eternal perspective is sort of like an equation. We can take any problem or situation and plug it in to the equation and come up with the best resolution to any problem. Growing up, continually getting this advice had an enormous impact on me. It caused me to see the world differently and ask questions about topics that aren’t normally regarded as ethical issues. I realized that there are several choices that would be greatly influenced if considered with an eternal perspective –choices ranging from what eat to where we shop. Considered with an eternal perspective, we realize that international borders are ridiculous man-made artifices. Separating families through immigration laws, promoting pride under the guise of nationalism and creating insurmountable economic restrictions, borders take away our agency and thwart God’s plan.
Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke on the need for an eternal perspective when considering the world situation. “We mortals have a limited view of life from the eternal perspective. By focusing on and living the principles of Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness, we can separate ourselves from the wickedness of the world. If we are anchored to the correct understanding of who we are, why we are here on this earth, and where we can go after this mortal life, Satan cannot threaten our happiness through any form of temptation. If we are determined to live by Heavenly Father’s plan, we will use our God-given moral agency to make decisions based on revealed truth, not on the opinions of others or on the current thinking of the world. The plan of happiness is available to all of his children. If the world would embrace and live it, peace, joy, and plenty would abound on the earth. Much of the suffering we know today would be eliminated if people throughout the world would understand and live the gospel.” As emphasized in this quote, the plan of happiness is for all of God’s children –but that happiness is only possible when we have a correct understanding of who we are. International borders are created to maintain false divisions that segregate us rather than bring us together. Manufacturing a national identity makes possible an attitude of prejudice toward those who would otherwise be neighbors. If the wealthy ruling class can maintain the idea that some vast moral/cultural discontinuity occurs when we step from one side of a boundary to the other…they can maintain the fear and isolation necessary to start their strategic wars. By pitting nation against nation, governments encourage us to see our brothers and sisters as “wholly other,” amplifying our cultural, economic and racial differences. In “The Lowest Animal,” Mark Twain explained: “Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood of his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man”- with his mouth. ” Just as sexism, racism, and classism force us to segregate ourselves into hierarchical ranks, nationalism becomes yet another tool of discrimination. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD aseeth not as bman seeth; for man looketh on the outward cappearance, but the dLord looketh on the eheart. (1 Sam. 16: 7)
Ignorant compliance is the price of nationalism because it creates the illusion of a unified front, while informed dissent is always labeled anti-national. Creating this false identity distorts our understanding of who we truly are and what it means to live in a democracy; patriotism means suppressing our agency and replacing our intrinsic identity. Arrogantly displaying our American heritage, we forget our spiritual heritage. However, to label an “anti-nationalist” as an “anti-American” is to misunderstand the point. Loving the beautiful mountains where you grew up, or the ocean that you swam in as a child does not mean that you have to support the state. A true anarchist sees any state-instituted border as a capricious division which is intended to manipulate, subjugate and segregate. Ultimately borders are destructive to communication, equality and individual autonomy. Arundhati Roy has commented on these senseless dichotomies. “To call someone ‘anti-American’, indeed, to be anti-American, (or for that matter anti-Indian, or anti-Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it’s a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those that the establishment has set out for you: If you’re not a Bushie you’re a Taliban. If you don’t love us, you hate us. If you’re not Good you’re Evil. If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists.” Basically there is a logical breakdown of justification when it comes to any form of national pride. “I’m proud to be an American,” is just as silly as saying that you bleed green because you’re a Green Bay Packers fan. If the fact that you are American means that you have inherited a mind-framework and culture (or lack thereof) that revolves around consumerism, greed, and apathy –then these tendencies should be revealed for what they are. But to imagine that your identity as an American is who you really are is indeed mindless acquiescence to the terms given to you by the establishment. In Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut places nations among those unnatural abstractions he calls granfalloons, which he defines as “a proud and meaningless association of human beings.” You do not bleed green. Or purple or yellow or brown for that matter. If you think that your only choices are between being a Red blooded Republican or a True Blue Democrat, you truly have forgotten what it means to be human, to believe in equality, and to live in a true democracy. Howard Zinn stated, “Surely, we must renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed. We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation. We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.” Waving a flag is like flaunting your narrow-mindedness, proclaiming to the world that you do not recognize your complicity to the human family’s predicament. It is like claiming that chocolate ice cream is inherently better than vanilla ice cream. “Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use to first, shrink wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.” (Arundhati Roy)
In the scriptures, we are taught that divisions and inequality do not come from God, who is the father of us all. “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he ainviteth them ball to ccome unto him and partake of his goodness; and he ddenieth none that come unto him, black and white, ebond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the fheathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Ne. 26: 33) By creating artificial divisions among us, whether it be in terms of race, class, gender or borders, we are restricting the blessings that God would freely give to us. In the Book of Mormon, we read about the kind of society which was built when these physical and psychological borders were destroyed. “And it came to pass that there was no acontention in the land, because of the blove of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no aenvyings, nor bstrifes, nor ctumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of dlasciviousness; and surely there could not be a ehappier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in aone, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings.” (4 Nephi 1:15-18)
Leaders of the church have repeatedly spoken about the importance of the family unit as the primary component of society. Conversely, immigration laws (which are one of the fruits of international borders) have divided millions of families. Jim Reed from the Tampa Tribune reported this month, “No one knows how many immigrant families in the United States are divided because a parent was forced to leave the country. The National Immigration Forum, however, reports that 3 million children born in this country have at least one parent who is undocumented and at risk of deportation.” The Family Proclamation states the church’s stance on the evil of breaking up the family. “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another […]The family is ordained of God. Children are entitled to […]be reared by a father and a mother. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
Ultimately the Christian, eternal perspective of borders is the same as the anarchist view of them. It is not possible to “love one’s neighbor as oneself,” be forgiving and charitable –and be a patriot. “A man can be a Christian or a patriot, but he can’t legally be a Christian and a patriot–except in the usual way: one of the two with the mouth, the other with the heart. The spirit of Christianity proclaims the brotherhood of the race, and the meaning of that strong word has not been left to guesswork, but made tremendously definite- the Christian must forgive his brother man all crimes he can imagine and commit, and all insults he can conceive and utter- forgive these injuries how many times?–seventy times seven–another way of saying there shall be no limit to this forgiveness. That is the spirit and the law of Christianity. Well–Patriotism has its laws. And it also is a perfectly definite one, there are not vaguenesses about it. It commands that the brother over the border shall be sharply watched and brought to book every time he does us a hurt or offends us with an insult. Word it as softly as you please, the spirit of patriotism is the spirit of the dog and wolf. The moment there is a misunderstanding about a boundary line or a hamper of fish or some other squalid matter, see patriotism rise, and hear him split the universe with is war-whoop. The spirit of patriotism comes easy to man’s nature for it is jealous and selfish, but the spirit of Christianity is not so easy.”
Sincerely looking at the world with an eternal perspective has really made me an anarchist. As Paul in Hebrews 11 describes the faith of Abraham, Sara, and Enoch who were “pilgrims on a strange earth,” we, as Mormon anarchists, declare that we too strive to build a world where no human is illegal, where we are not separated from our families because of the artifices of property and wealth, and where the label of “nationality” does not stick. Seeking to build Zion, we strive for justice and equality for all of God’s children without regard to the world’s artificial borders and false divisions. “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a acountry. But now they desire a better acountry, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11: 13-16)