In light of my recent posts on Arizona SB1062, the bill that Gov. Brewer vetoed the other day, I feel I need to be clear: I don’t hate gays or lesbians. I am not a homophobe. As the saying goes, I have friends (and relatives) who are gay or lesbian. I wish them well and, for the most part*, support them in their quest for equal rights. My religion challenges me to love all people. I try to do that. Most of the time I succeed.
No, my posts—and posts like them on other subjects—come from a deep-seated belief in the value of religious liberty and from an ongoing frustration with those on the left who label my side, the conservative/religious side, “haters,” “deniers,” “misogynists,” “fascists,” “homophobes,” and “racists,” among other things. I know in my heart that I’m none of those things, and I’m confident that all or the vast majority of the conservatives/religious people I know are not. Thus, I’ve made up my mind to push back whenever I see those on the other side of an argument cavalierly throw around such evil epithets posing as reasoned argument.
I want to stress the word “cavalierly.” I am not a Pollyanna. I realize there are people–people on both sides of the aisle–who are, in fact, haters, deniers, misogynists, fascists, homophobes, and racists. When they act out on those traits, they should be called out. That said, it seems that the best way to do that is on a case-by-case basis rather than to label an entire groups of people unfairly and, generally, for political purposes.
That is all.
*I support traditional marriage, again not out of any animus towards the LBGT community but out of a belief in the nature and purpose of marriage that I won’t go into here. I do support civil unions.
Cross posted to GregoryTaggart.com.
You don’t have to be a believer to have a good family. And some families manage to get by without a father, whether because of divorce, death, or abandonment. Others seem all right and do okay without the interaction inherent in a vibrant community. But can I tell you how thankful I am for my membership in a church that stresses the importance of all three, not only stresses their importance but fosters their development?
Last night, for example, I sat in the basement of my bishop’s home with 12 or 13 other men and women–leaders of the various organizations in my church or ward–calendaring for the upcoming year. As we discussed in-service training for teachers, next year’s 4th of July breakfast, and a possible international night in the cultural hall of our chapel (food and festivities from a variety of nations and ethnicities), we also discussed the needs of people within our ward’s boundaries* and how we could help them.
Every year, we have a “Ward Salmon Fry” in early September. This year we changed the name to “Neighborhood Salmon Fry,” so people in our neighborhood of other faiths might feel more welcome to that annual gathering. In the early morning of virtually every holiday–Memorial Day, for example–the young men and women of our ward place flags on the lawns of any and all in our neighborhood. That evening, they return to retrieve the flags. And on and on.
In the end, these efforts build community. In the end, such activities strengthen families and let people know they are not alone. And in the end, our little corner of the United States is a little stronger, perhaps a little safer, and possibly a better place to live. The efforts of other churches in our area to do similar things that increase that sense of community and belonging.
Then comes Sunday, and I get to sit in a pew and be reminded of my responsibilities as a husband and father. Once or twice a month, someone at church will ask whether I’ve done my home teaching (Mormon men and woman are assigned to visit members in their homes at least once a month to visit and to simply check up on their well being). Of course, the corollary is that my wife and I receive such visits into our home at least once a month. (One of the beauties of this “Home Teaching” or “Visiting Teaching” program is that we are assigned people to visit or be visited by. We don’t get to choose. Thus, I often spend time with people I might otherwise not associate with. The benefits of that should be obvious.)
I should mention that I live in a middle class and certainly not wealthy neighborhood. I’d be surprised if the average home price exceeded $180,000. It’s about as racially mixed as Utah gets, with a fair number of blacks, Latinos, and Asians, all of whom I know on a first name basis, many of whom have been in my home. I should also mention that I’ve seen and felt the same kind of support in wards in inner-city Lansing, Michigan and in some of the poorest parts of Brazil.
I was reminded of the importance of all this when I read a piece today by Walter Russell Mead, titled Obama Flub’s Inequality Message. The title is unfortunate because I not writing this to take pot shots at President Obama, though I agree with Mead that he and others need to focus more on the following:
. . . there’s plenty of evidence that unwed childbearing, father absence and fraying kinship and community networks exacerbate the problems of low-income people and make it incredibly hard for them to gain a foothold in the middle class. These are thorny problems that aren’t easily solved by the kinds of government measures Obama champions.
I often wish the President of the United States (all of them) would more often use the bully pulpit much like speakers in my church use the church’s pulpit. Use it to speak to the themes of family, fathers, and community; to tell (shame?) absentee fathers into shouldering their responsibilities; to plead with young men and women to marry first, have children later; to encourage young and old to get more involved in their communities. In church, we refer to this as a call to repentance, which is just another word for change. All of this would ultimately strengthen the family (families of all types) and thereby strengthen the community.
Yes, economics are important, but without a firm foundation of family, fathers**, and community, all that economic help is apt to trickle into a sink hole rather than help anybody.
*In the Mormon church, local congregations are called “wards,” each of which have defined boundaries. Approximately 10 wards make up a “stake.” Wards typically have around 250-300 members.
**To the women reading this, I speak of fathers not because they are more important than mothers but because to my knowledge, we don’t have an epidemic of absentee mothers.
Back in the summer of 1995, I was sitting on a grassy hill in the middle of UC-Berkeley’s campus with my daughter Caroline. It was new-student orientation week, and she and I were there to be oriented before she began school that fall. We had driven to Berkeley from Provo, Utah, our home for the previous four years and just 45 minutes down I-15 from Salt Lake City, the epicenter of Mormonism. Now if Mormonism teaches anything besides Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon, it teaches about the importance of families. We have Family Home Evening. We have the song “Families Can Be Together Forever.” We have temples where families are sealed together for “time and all eternity.” We have “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” In short, Mormons like families. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that some of us may actually believe Mormons invented the family.
So there I was sitting on that hill with my daughter in the middle of possibly the most liberal college campus in the United States, across the Bay from possibly the most liberal city in the U.S. and the second largest city in maybe the most liberal state in the Union–sorry Massachusetts. And what did I see? Hundreds of mothers and fathers sitting on the same grassy hill with their sons and daughters, eating box lunches before the afternoon’s activities. Their children, like my daughter, were about to separate from their family and move on. Then it hit me: Most, if not all, of those parents were not from Utah. Few were Mormon. Yet, like me, they were excited for their children’s future even as they were anxious for their safety. Like me, they were going to miss their children. Like mine, their family was about to be changed forever. I laughed because I realized that I had spent so much time in the Utah Bubble that I had almost come to think that Mormons had the corner on families. Seeing all those mothers and fathers on that grassy hill brought me back to reality.
Now Utah doesn’t have a corner on bubbles either. I’m mean count ’em: There’s the Beltway Bubble, the Liberal Bubble, the Media Bubble, the Conservative Bubble. Bubbles here, bubbles there, bubbles everywhere. The world is a virtual Lawrence Welk Show.
With that in mind, I’d like to step outside my Conservative Bubble for a moment to point you towards a blog post by Nina Camic, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She tells the story of her stint as an au pair to the daughter of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. Upon hearing about his recent death, she wrote:
A pause for reflection.
I came to live in the States as an adult (if you can call 18 adult) because of the goodness of a person who died today. I was an au pair to his little girl. I learned through him and his wife how to transition from Warsaw to New York again. I came with barely a flight bag full of clothes and possessions and joined a household that had a staff of helpers and an extended family of cousins, aunts, nephews — all intensely close, bonded in ways that history sometimes bonds people because of unusual circumstances. That I was treated kindly is such an understatement that I can’t even quite say it. The father of my charge will always in my mind be the person who liked nothing better than to drive away from the city, to the country home, fire up the grill and throw some meats for an evening supper with just his little girl, his wife and the au pair from Poland. After dinner, he and I would clean up in the kitchen and if I learned how to wipe down every last inch of counterspace it was because he taught me well. He was too kind for words and his little girl was just like him, making my au pair duties about the easiest that could be.
So, my thoughts are very much with the kids he leaves behind. Kids… How oddly stated! Kids. We were that once.
Yup, we were all kids once, and we’re all grown-ups now, men and women. Most of us, most of the time, are even good grown-ups. In the last days of this never-ending and way overheated presidential election, it’s worth remembering that even the former publisher and CEO of The New York Times–that bête noire of conservatives everywhere–was a kid once and was, apparently, a very good, kind, and generous man.
No other LDS hymn captures the majesty of God’s creation than does “If You Could Hie to Kolob,” for me anyway.
Here are the words to all 5 verses:
If You Could Hie to Kolob, 284 – William W. Phelps
1. If you could hie to Kolob In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever, Through all eternity,
Find out the generation Where Gods began to be?
2. Or see the grand beginning, Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation, Where Gods and matter end?
Me thinks the Spirit whispers, “No man has found ‘pure space,’
Nor seen the outside curtains, Where nothing has a place.”
3. The works of God continue, And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter; There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit; There is no end to race.
4. There is no end to virtue; There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom; There is no end to light.
There is no end to union; There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood; There is no end to truth.
5. There is no end to glory; There is no end to love;
There is no end to being; There is no death above.
There is no end to glory; There is no end to love;
There is no end to being; There is no death above.
As I mentioned earlier, my brother Jeff passed away recently on February 6. Today a relative posted the following on Facebook. It’s an article in the Cody Enterprise about Jeff’s election to the presidency of NAIFA, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. And here it is for you to read:
As I mentioned in a previous post, my brother Jeff died on February 6, 2012. He was predeceased by his father, grandparents, various uncles and aunts, cousin-uncles and cousin-aunts (a Taggart family genealogical category that should be standard issue), and friends. All of which makes the opening choir number at his funeral even more moving.
The Cody Combined Ward Choir sang “Going Home” to open the funeral. Then I spoke. My first words were, “I’m going to pay the choir the highest compliment that can be paid a choir: I thought I was at a funeral in Cowley.” Those from or with roots in Cowley will understand. For those who don’t have those ties, here’s another comparison: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Orchestra at Temple Square, and choir member Alex Boye performing Dvorak’s “Going Home.” Yes, the Cody Choir was that good:
UPDATE: This is a bit embarrassing. I was so caught up in the music “Going Home” that I misremembered. In fact, the Cody Choir sang “Homeward Bound,” an equally beautiful piece. If there’s a redeeming feature in my mistake, it’s that Jeff would have been the first to correct me–humorously, of course. Instead, it was my cousin Dana. Here’s “Homeward Bound”:
Interesting article by David Pimentel of Florida Coastal School of Law on overprotective parenting, the resulting laws, and the implications for so-called free-range parents (I’m probably one). From the abstract:
In the last generation, American parenting norms have shifted
strongly in favor of Intensive Parenting, placing particular emphasis
on protecting children from risks of harm. Recently, a backlash to
this trend has emerged. “Free Range” parenting is based on the
concern that coddling children through overprotection inhibits the
development of their independence and responsibility. Indeed, a
growing body of literature suggests that parental overreaction to
remote and even illusory risks of physical harm is exposing children to
far more serious risks to their well-being and development. But the
powerful influence of media has sensationalized the risks to children,
skewing popular perceptions of the genuine risks children face and of
what constitutes a reasonable or appropriate response to such risks.
Consequently, individuals who do not buy into Intensive Parenting
norms, including those from different cultural and socio-economic
backgrounds, may be subjecting themselves to criminal prosecution
for child neglect and endangerment.
It appears that I’m on the anti-nanny-state warpath this morning, what with my Tweet about Santorum’s take on gambling.