Tag Archives: Christianity

What Do The Facts Tell Us About Ourselves?

A few Facts: (Not alternative facts or hopefully cherry-picked facts, but actual facts not meant to appeal to any one ideal or persuasion.)

  • In 2011, President Obama did enact a policy that seriously limited Iraqi refugees from entering the country. He instructed that all processing of new Iraqi refugees be halted for six months. However, he did not place any holds on current Green Card holders, people with current visas or refugees who had already completed the vetting process. (Jessica McBride, Heavy, Jan. 29, 2017)
  • The number of Iraqi refugees that came to the United States between 2010-2012: 2010 – 18,251, 2011 – 6,339, 2012 – 16,369. (State Department Records as reported and linked to by the Washington Post)
  • In 2015, President Obama did establish the list of seven countries that are considered “Countries of Concern” with regards to terrorist activities. President Trump used that list in his executive order and banned all “immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12)” In short, those countries are the list of seven.
  • President Trump’s executive order does include holds on current Green Card holders, people with current visas and refugees who have completed the vetting process but have not yet entered the country. (White House Executive Order, Jan. 27, 2017)
  • On January 12, 2017, President Obama ended the longstanding policy of the United States of “wet foot/dry foot” with regard to Cuban refugees. Previous to that change, any Cuban refugee able to make it to dry ground was allowed to stay in the United States and become a citizen without qualifying for humanitarian relief. As part of this change in policy toward Cuba, the US received no concessions from the Cuban government regarding how individuals returned to Cuba would be treated. Under the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, no Cuban refugee was required to undergo a vetting process similar to that of other countries. (Fox News, Obama Announces End To…, Jan. 12, 2017)
  • Mr. Trump’s executive order places a ban on refugees from Syria entering the country and that ban has no end date.
  • In 2017, the United Nations identified 4.86 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. Of those, about 10% or roughly 480,000 people, are in need of resettlement. (Amnesty International)
  • As of November 1, 2016, 13,210 Syrian refugees were relocated to the United States in 2016 alone. That is a 675% increase over 2015. Of those, 99.1% were Muslim (Christian News Service, 13,210 Syrian Refugees So Far…, Nov. 1, 2017)
  • High Income countries currently offering no resettlement opportunities to Syrian refugees (As of January 27, 2017): Russia, Singapore, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, South Korea, and The United States. (Amnesty International and The White House Executive Order, Jan. 27, 2017)
  • Through February 2016, over 470,000 Syrians have died directly or indirectly due to the on-going Civil War. (Syrian Center for Policy Research as report by PBS, A Staggering New Death…, February 11, 2016 )

Not Facts (Otherwise known today as Alternate Facts):

  • This is a Muslim Ban – This is in fact, not a Muslim ban. It targets specific countries that are predominately Muslim, but it does not prohibit the movement of Muslims to our country specifically. However, the Administration might understand how people could easily get to that belief due to the fact that Mr. Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration during the campaign. Nevertheless, any media outlet reporting that this as Muslim ban is being disingenuous and providing “false news.”
  • This policy “is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.”  – This is not really similar to what President Obama did at all.  At least not based on the information we have available to us today.  In 2011, the Obama administration, in response to the arrest of two Iraqi nationals in Kentucky who were connected to roadside bombs that had been constructed in Iraq in 2005, halted all new visas to Iraqi refugees for six months while they 1) investigated how these individuals had slipped through customs without being flagged and detained, and 2) created more extensive background checks of Iraqi citizens seeking asylum (Washington Post). Thus far, it does not appear the Trump administration acted this past weekend based on any kind of event or evidence that would have prompted this ban. Rather it appears that the Trump administration is seeking to keep a campaign promise. Also, as noted above, the Obama administration policy was much narrower and allowed for those already in the system to be processed. The Trump policy is much broader and does not allow for “pre-existing” factors.
  • This is an immigration issue – This is a humanitarian issue, not an immigration issue. To suggest such is probably unfair to the literally millions of immigrants who have gone through the standard process of naturalizing to this country. Furthermore, a nation can’t as a general rule just open its borders to everyone without some kind of process for providing legal status to those individuals. However, in times of emergency such as this, many of those provisions are often set aside to provide for the welfare of refugees in a timely manner. But again, that would be due to humanitarian concerns, not immigration concerns.
  • This is a terrorism issue – This is a humanitarian issue, not a terrorism issue. To suggest that we should not reach out to the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced and are without basic necessities because one of them might possibly down the road try to kill us is cowardly. Horrifyingly so! Including those who died on 9-11, 3,043 Americans have been killed during terrorist attacks committed on American soil between 2001 and 2014. During that same period, 440,095 American citizens were killed in non-terrorism related gun violence on American soil (CNN). 35,092 American citizens were killed in automobile related deaths on American soil in 2015 alone (NHTSA.gov) It is completely justifiable to suggest that a vetting process be in place to try and protect the citizens of the United States. Prior to January 27, 2017, such a vetting process was in place. In fact, it has been described as the strictest of its kind in our country. Mr. Trump has stated we need to increase that to include an “extreme vetting” process, but has, as of yet, failed to define what that extreme vetting process is above and beyond what we are already doing.
  • Christian refugees will get priority over all other faiths – The executive order does not allow for Christianity to be the deciding factor on whether or not a refugee will get priority. However, it does state, “…provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.” The problem here is that as near as I can find, no country that is currently exporting a large number of refugees is a predominately Christian nation. Therefore, this misconception could actually be argued as partially true because Christians from these war torn nations will get priority under this executive order. Furthermore, a large number of the nations exporting refugees are predominately Muslim nations and therefore, it can be surmised that Muslims will be denied any such priority.

Now let me finish with a couple more facts of which I will make no commentary except for one final question:

  • Jesus said, “As I have loved you, love one another.”
  • Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.
  • Jesus said, “Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst of me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

Does our current attitude as a nation toward our Muslim brothers and sisters who have been displaced from their homes through war reflect our declaration that we are country founded on Christian ideals?



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Christianity And The Hippies

Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged. 

That bible verse, found in the book of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 1, is without a doubt one of the most well known verses in scripture. I also happen to believe it is one of the key pillars of basic Christian faith. By my reckoning, it goes hand in hand with the Golden Rule. Bottom line, if you want to be a good Christian, you have to be ready to give people the benefit of the doubt. And not just some people. Basically all people. I mean, close examination of the scripture itself reveals that it doesn’t seem to come with any caveats or asterisks. It just is what it is.

Which brings me to my current conundrum.

At least once a year, a old dilapidated school bus will pull into our Walmart parking lot and take up residence for some undetermined amount of time. The bus itself is no longer the property of any educational institution in America. Not even third world bus lines would give this rust bucket a second look. Inside this bus is a ragtag band of…pick your favorite moniker; gypsies, hippies, soap-retardant sociology experiments. Whatever your name for them, they come to town, emerge, and quickly lay claim to the small corners of land adjacent to both major entrances to Walmart, as well as the main entrance to the Safeway shopping center. From these vantage points, they then attempt to raise funds by singing incoherently (at least to the passing traffic), dancing and waving ludicrous signs that spout nonsensical slogans that were already on their way out of pop-culture relevance for being cliche in the 1960’s.

And the second they arrive, I will admit, my judge-o-meter starts pinging off the charts. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. I judge their clothes, I judge their lack of cleanliness, I judge their hippidy-dippidy mode of transportation that causes me to feel like I’m pulling into a swap meet for the down-on-their-luck instead of a major national retail store. (Wait, it IS Walmart. So to be fair, the swap meet thing might have been on my mind at least a little bit already before they arrived.) And most of all, I judge their intentions.

Then I start to feel guilty.

But then I get angry that I’m feeling guilty. These people have basically come in and stolen prime real estate from the regular stream of panhandlers, beggars and homeless folks who have shown much more moxie over the last eight months than these interlopers by braving the brunt of a vicious Arizona summer.  In all honesty, those people were making me feel guilty first and really, their signs telling of personal tragedy seem a little more deserving of said guilt. I mean, c’mon, I only have so much guilt to go around.

Once I have this realization, all traces of my good will disappear and I find myself slightly simmering with anger. What’s up with these ne’er-do-wells anyway? (On the other hand, I rarely get to use the hyphenated word ne’er-do-wells much, and so if nothing else, I do appreciate them giving me that. Anyway…back to my other stream of thought.) They look perfectly healthy. Why don’t they go get a job?

As I think these thoughts to myself, a couple of notions enter my brain. One; Good Gosh, I’m now old enough that I can legitimately sound like the Grumpy Old Man character from the 80’s era Saturday Night Live without expressly trying, and two; You’re judging!

AHHHHH!!!! I can’t be serious. How am I not supposed to judge these people? I mean, seriously, is thinking to myself, “Wash your *&@! hair once in while,” really being judgmental?

Okay, fine. And I know I’m not supposed to think curse words even if I don’t say them out loud. But what am I supposed to do?

I suppose I could try and see life from their point of view.

Well…I can’t. I’m sorry but it’s just flat impossible.

So I try visualizing what their day to day lives must be like and this exercise leads me to another of the seven deadly sins, jealousy. (By the way, is judging one of the seven deadly sins? I don’t think it is by itself. But I don’t think it would take much of an argument to lump it in with pride so we’ll go with it.) These people have probably seen more of the world than I ever will. And since I am always day-dreaming about the travels I want to take, suddenly their existence takes on a romanticism that I can’t explain.

Until of course I realize that all of these places and cultures are probably being experienced inside a giant grime and filth covered petri dish filled with vast hordes of fleas and STDs. Suddenly, all of the romanticism is gone and I’m once again disgusted by them. AAANNNDDDD here we are back at the Gate of Hell entitled Unrighteous Judgement. Man this sucks!

All of these thoughts were circling my brain as I entered the Walmart parking lot for the third time this past Saturday. (Man, I hate that store. Why can’t they just help me and have someone follow me around and politely remind me of all the things I need to get the first time I’m there so I don’t have to go back repeatedly on a Saturday. The day when every single person in Graham county decides to come, grab a shopping cart that they don’t need, park it in the middle of the nearest aisle and settle in for the long haul as if they are in line for concert tickets that are never going to go on sale.) Anyway, as I pulled in, I saw one of these individuals standing on the corner dancing around smiling while holding a sign that read, “All We Need Is Love.”

“Yeah, uh-huh, love and my spare change,” I thought grumpily. Because last I checked, love was not going to buy them a drop of gasoline to get that hunk of scrap metal back on the road when they were done with their “winter of love” here in the Safford Walmart parking lot.

Then just as quickly I thought, “*&!@ IT!!!” There’s another demerit for judging again. And a second demerit for thinking that curse word. If there is any kind of accounting system when it comes to our final resting place in the afterlife, these people are screwing me.”

Regardless, I then determined that to cover myself, I would try to be judgement free and provide what spare change remained after my visit to Walmart to the girl with the sign that reminded of me of The Beatles song that I truly detest.

Except, when I got into Walmart, I discovered that Walmart doesn’t carry single Thank You cards anymore. Are You Kidding?!?!?! They had a birthday card with two animated naked butts on it with some line about expecting a crack about your age or some such nonsense, but not one single Thank You card that didn’t come in a package of 10 or more. I HATE Walmart!

Nonetheless, the upshot of the thank you card fiasco was that I had forgotten all about the girl with the sign. To be honest, I don’t remember if she was even there anymore by the time I left…or if I even left by the same exit. I just was so frustrated that I can get birthday cards for a dog, but not an individual thank you card that I forgot all about her.

So I didn’t give her my spare change. And I honestly can’t even tell you this morning if I feel guilty about it or not. In retrospect, I don’t know what that says about me or my devotion to Christian beliefs.

But either way, there’s one thing I am sure of. I don’t need to worry about what any of you who might be reading this are thinking. Because if you are now thinking of me negatively, then HA!!! You’re just as guilty of judging as I am…

…Except now I’m judging you and them. *&!@ IT!!! I need these people to move on soon. Between my unholy judgments and the mental cursing, I’m not sure my Eternal Soul Destination ledger can take much more.

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The Conspiracy Theory To End All Conspiracy Theories

Typically, I am not a proponent nor believer in conspiracy theories. I really do believe most people and situations are what they appear to be. I know Hollywood would have us believe otherwise, but I think at the end of the day, most people don’t have the energy nor desire to deceive on such a grand scale. I mean, even the examples people trot out to prove the rule just make me roll my eyes a bit.

Watergate? I think this basically amounted to a political version of some kids toilet papering a house, getting caught and then scrambling like crazy to avoid getting into trouble…right up to the point that they all got in a lot of trouble.

Iran/Contra? I believe you had some people who were legitimately trying to get some hostages freed. End of story. They went about it the wrong way, but at the end of the day, if it was your family member, wouldn’t you want the government to do just about anything to free them?

The entire Bill Clinton Presidency? Horny guy and his wife who are neither moral nor ethical. But that’s it. There is no grand scheme to rule the world and its entire monetary supply. There is no goon squad that goes around killing everyone who gets on the Clintons’ bad side. They, just like thousands of people in Washington and in every state and every community in this country, like power. They just also happen to really like living in the White House.

I know some would say I’m naive. Maybe so. But constantly looking for the bogeyman wears me out.

Nevertheless, I now have one that has totally sucked me in. And it’s not just any conspiracy theory. This one is the BIG one, because it goes all the way to the top. The White House? Phhh, please! I’m talking THE top. As in, God!

Okay, calm down and let me explain.

Throughout this campaign, there has been a large contingent of Republicans (of which I am one) who have stated their displeasure with Donald Trump. We don’t like him. We don’t want him. And we won’t support him.

On the other hand, there is one issue that gets brought up by those who are either: a) strong supporters of Mr. Trump or b) those who cannot stomach the thought of a second President Clinton to such a degree that they have decided to back the GOP nominee regardless; that causes all of us to pause. And that issue? The Supreme Court.

I’ll admit it. There have been moments when I have seriously considered changing course and doing the unthinkable simply based on who will nominate Justice Scalia’s replacement. And it was in one of those moments that I got to thinking. And that thinking took me down some interesting paths. So for those of you who are not LDS or Mormon, hang with me. There may be some phrases or ideas that you don’t recognize, but I believe you’ll get the general idea.

This land we live in is considered the promised land. In Mormon culture we believe this continent to be reserved by God for those with whom he wishes to share it. And when things aren’t going as they should, we believe that He has on occasion stepped in and nudged things back in the direction they should go.

It doesn’t always work this way. Due to His policy of free will, when an entire population loses their way, He allows them to destroy each other and then He moves on to the next group who will hopefully do better. These beliefs stem from the history provided in the Book of Mormon. However, if you are not of the LDS faith, you can catch the same train of thought around 1776. Christians of all denominations came to this country with the belief they were led here by God. I think most Christians look at the Revolutionary War and see evidence of God’s hand. I mean a ragtag group of colonists defeating the greatest army on earth? The odds are worse than if Eastern Arizona College took their football team to Tuscaloosa and played the Crimson Tide. (For non-football fans, those are…those are not good odds.)

From there, we as a nation formed the idea of Manifest Destiny which stated that it was God’s will that we were here, therefore it must also be his will that we keep going west until we reach another ocean and keep everything we find in between for ourselves.

But along the way, we kept getting a few things wrong. For one, our ancestors realized the economic benefits of growing cotton and tobacco. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of a workforce to actually harvest the crop at a level that would be truly enriching. So as a nation, we decided it would be a good idea to purchase people who had been forcibly taken from their home continent and then keep them as property. I don’t think God approved. Thus He inspired some to begin speaking out against this practice up to the point that things reached a head and…we compromised for thirty years.

You see, things between the north and the south were so bad in 1830 that the nation stood on the brink of war. However, the two sides managed to keep that war at bay for thirty years. Why is that important? Because during those three decades, the north’s industrial capacities increased to such a level that they were ready to win a war should one break out. Had the war started in 1830, the south would have had the decided advantage.

Did God play a role in that? Well, I suppose that is for every man to decide for himself, but I personally struggle to see it any other way.

Come forward a hundred years and we as a people still hadn’t figured out the equality for all men and women thing very well. Supreme Courts from the past had ruled that the races could be kept separate, as long as everything was equitable. One of the key problems with this was that nobody felt it necessary to police the equitable part.

But thanks to the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court who were liberal minded for their time, things began to change in the 1950s and 60s. Despite the overwhelming objections of conservative minded (white) Christians, the court in 1954, led by Justice Earl Warren, handed down the decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. This decision stated that the doctrine of “separate but equal” had no place in public education. In 1956, they affirmed a lower court ruling that the segregation of Montgomery, Alabama’s bus system was illegal. In 1968, the court ruled that racial discrimination by providers of public housing as well as private housing was illegal. And the rulings just kept coming from there.

Now the interesting thing is that hundreds of thousands of people had to be drug, kicking and screaming, into compliance with these rulings. Many of them were good solid Christian conservatives who saw their long held beliefs, and in fact their very way of life being torn down right in front of them. And although we as a people are all critical of those beliefs today, it is still important to understand how difficult it must have been for them. Important so that we might better understand ourselves.

Regardless, if one is so inclined to look for the Hand of God in all things, one in retrospect would have to acknowledge the role God played in putting those men on the benches of the Supreme Court. From today’s perspective, it’s an easy conclusion to draw. I suspect unless you were one of those disadvantaged, praying daily for a better life for your children, it might not have been so easy then.

So let’s come forward to today and let’s get into the conspiracy theory I spoke of at the beginning. By all the rules of politics, Barack Obama should have been a one-term president. The economy was incredibly weak at the end of his first term, he had recently suffered a shattering loss on the world stage (Benghazi) and his signature issue of Obamacare was still two years away from seeing any of the benefits while many of its detriments were in full force. For those who don’t recognize it, this is the same recipe that doomed Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

But he won. And those in the political class have spent four years dissecting why. Was it the 47% comment? Was it Romney’s inability to connect with Evangelicals. Was is the Republicans lack of outreach to the Hispanic voters? The list goes on and on. And I’m quite sure every entry on that list played a role.

Yet there is one thing that occurred that doesn’ t get mentioned much anymore because there is no way to explain it nor calculate its effect. Hurricane Sandy.

Most political junkies agree, in the days leading up to this natural weather event, Mitt Romney was on fire. The polls were trending in his direction, the enthusiasm for his campaign was electric and all signs pointed to good things on election night. And then Sandy hit. And for three days, Romney (in what I believe is one of the classiest moves by a politician who understands how valuable those three days would be) chose to step back and not campaign. Meanwhile, President Obama was on every American’s television set arriving in New Jersey, hugging Governor Christie and in every way looking presidential. It was his right to do so. He was the president. But for his campaign, it was a…for lack of a better term, a Godsend. He hadn’t had the opportunity to appear presidential for months. But he got it then. And everybody paying attention tends to agree, Hurricane Sandy sucked all of the wind right out of Mitt Romney’s sails.

Again, how much did this actually impact the final results? No one knows. But here’s what I do know. In the middle of what was shaping up to be one of the closest elections in history, we had a LITERAL Act of God that by all conventional wisdom helped President Obama and hurt Mitt Romney.

Now, four years later, here’s where we’re at. Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative standard bearer on the Supreme Court, has passed away. Unexpectedly I might add. If a liberal judge is confirmed to take his place, it will affect the balance of power on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Meanwhile, Democrats have nominated one of the most unpopular candidates for president ever in our lifetime. Her negatives are unbelievably high. Republicans could have nominated just about anyone and they would have likely had a cake walk defeating her.

Instead, they nominated Donald J. Trump.

To be fair, he could win. It is possible. But I believe all the signs point to an outcome where he will not. The rise of Trump is inexplicable. It has defied all the rules in the game of politics we have ever played by up to this point in our history. So if he loses, what does that mean?

And here’s where my conspiracy theory comes to its full fruition. What if God is trying to pack a liberal Supreme Court?

Okay, okay. Everybody stop yelling. Just hear me out.

You see, as I have stated before, I believe Mitt Romney to be one of the finest men who could have ever served as president. Those who know him best only echo these thoughts. But there is no doubt what kind of justices he would have appointed. They would have been in the mold of Justice Scalia. Donald Trump has come out and told us who he would nominate and they are, I believe, even more conservative than Justice Scalia.

So what if there’s something about our nation, that in God’s eyes, needs to change. And what if it’s something that we the believers aren’t getting? Couldn’t the logical conclusion be made that in His infinite wisdom, God could once again step in and provide a way for His will to be done?

Now I know the immediate clamor from the religious crowd on the right is that liberal justices will do more than has already been done to tear down religious freedoms. Possibly. But ultimately, who’s really in charge here? And why does it seem that at every opportunity where He could step in and make a difference, the outcome seems to illogically go the other way?

So here’s my suggestion. If I’m wrong and Mr. Trump wins, disregard everything I’ve just written and then feel free to ridicule me mercilessly. On the other hand, if Mrs. Clinton wins, maybe all of us who hold strong religious and conservative convictions should take a moment and reflect on our religious and our political beliefs and see if we can find a place where maybe they don’t exactly line up. See if there’s an area where the new liberal majority on the Supreme Court might lean that sounds closer to the teachings of Christ than do our closely held temporal “truths”. Do I have any ideas what those differences might be? No. I’m not going to even begin to suggest that I know the mind of God. I just wonder if I ought not ask for His opinion a little more fervently.

But here’s one definite conclusion I’ve come to. I know in my heart that God wouldn’t expect me to vote for Korihor in order to save Zarahemla. (For my non Mormon friends, insert Judas Iscariot and Jerusalem.) Something is at play here and maybe, just maybe, it’s incumbent upon each of us to look deep into our hearts and find out what it is.

Or maybe this is just a crack pot conspiracy theory. In fact, the more I think about it, that’s more than likely what it is. I mean, this is almost as unbelievable as thinking that Hillary Clinton’s sole plan once she gets into office is to mobilize the military and come confiscate every living American’s guns.

I mean, that’s crazy right?

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When Did Civility Become the Dirtiest Word?

…there are times when the lack of civility in sports is embarrassing. How is it that normally kind and compassionate human beings can be so intolerant and filled with hatred toward an opposing team and its fans?…unfortunately we see today too often the same kind of attitude and behavior spill over into the public discourse of politics, ethnicity, and religion. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I remember the exact moment I heard those words the first time. I was sitting in a darkened chapel, watching the priesthood session of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as I do every six months. When President Uchtdorf gave this particular talk, President Obama had been in office for just under two years and we were a month away from the mid-term elections. At the time, it was one of the most powerful and influential talks I had ever heard. To this day, it still is. I remember looking around and wondering if everyone around me felt as changed as I felt. I couldn’t sense any cosmic shift in the mood of the room and so I assumed that maybe my epiphany was mine and mine alone. My feelings only seemed to be confirmed as the election got even closer and the discourse, even among church members, continued to decline.

Now, many hot-button issues and one more general election later, I feel certain that the message given that night is one that has either been interpreted differently or altogether forgotten by many of my faith.

There are two things I will refer to specifically. There would be three, but I have addressed the ugliness over illegal immigration before and choose not to rehash that issue now.

The first thing that causes me a lot of heartburn is the vicious bile spewed constantly toward President Obama. I will be the first to admit that I disagree with the man on most issues. I believe in many instances, his economic policies are detrimental to the well-being of our nation.

But frankly, he is not the devil. He is a fellow child of our Heavenly Father who loves his two daughters, enjoys golf and has a passion for college basketball. Take politics out of the equation, and he sounds like a person I would very much enjoy getting to know. For my friends on the left who are nodding their heads vigorously, hold up a second. The same could easily be said of his predecessor.

Furthermore, I have to respect the man for his convictions. While I may disagree with many of them, I recognize in President Obama a belief that he is trying to do what is best for this country. For instance, I don’t agree with most of his healthcare bill, but at the end of the day, his goal is to provide coverage for more individuals. Is that really a terrible goal? He’s also trying to push preventative care and healthier living.  Advances in both of those areas would definitely bring down healthcare costs. I’m not a huge fan of forcing people to live a certain way, but the reality is, freedom comes with a price. And if you choose to live unhealthily, where does society’s responsibility end when it comes to footing the bill for your costs?

Now, I know many on the right would say, “Exactly. That is why we shouldn’t have Medicare or Medicaid. Either you can afford your healthcare or you can’t.” But come on. Are you really willing to be the one who stands there in the ER and say, “Well, tough luck there, buddy. We have the technology to save you, but your credit card is maxed out. I guess you should have made better choices. Soyonara, pal.” I would hope you are not. And if you are not, don’t be so quick to put that onus on someone else.

And so when the President comes at this issue from his point of view, I find it hard to vilify him for it. He is trying to solve a problem. I may think there are better solutions, and I can voraciously defend my views, but I have no business as a follower of Christ making the whole thing personal.

The second item I will address that gives me heartburn is the ugliness that has been brewing for years over same-sex marriage or marriage equality. And yes, there is a reason I use both monikers.

The older I get, the more I become convinced that we might be missing the point. History is full of examples where time and again, one part of society has a distinct advantage over another. What is interesting is how the majority segment of society then uses whatever weapons they may have in their arsenal to keep the minority in their place. But eventually, every majority gets their turn as the minority. It happens over and over again.

And so, I’ve started to believe that on an individual basis, we each will be judged on how well we lived up to God’s expectations of us. But I think there might also be a second part to that test. And that is, how did you treat those over whom you had an advantage?

So I hope I cause no one offense when I say that I care very little how the Supreme Court rules on the issue of marriage. Mainly because I don’t believe the issue is really about marriage at all. I believe it is about legitimacy.

I believe every human being wants legitimacy. As a Mormon I want legitimacy. Why else would I bristle every time a Christian of a different denomination says I don’t belong in their fraternity? Why should I care what they think? But I do. Because I am the minority in a Christian world and I am offended when I am told that my belief in Christ isn’t real…isn’t valid…isn’t legitimate.

I also believe gays and lesbians have the natural human desire to be seen as equal and fellow human beings. And it is impossible for them to feel they have that status if they are denied the ultimate expression of a committed relationship in our society. Frankly, I can see their point.

However, I believe this issue would be in a much different place today if society’s treatment of the LGBT community had been different stretching back decades ago. Not necessarily starting with, but specifically, the 1980s.

When the AIDS epidemic hit, if Christian people everywhere had opened their arms and their hearts to scared individuals who were facing a plague they didn’t understand; if they had put their arms around terrified people who were dying and ministered to them the way their Savior would have, and not ridiculed and cursed those afflicted by saying, “it’s what they deserve,” I believe the national discourse between mainstream Christianity and the LGBT community would be quite different today. And most of us in the Christianity camp would probably be happier with that. Because guess what. Little by little, Christians are getting their shot at being the minority. And come to find out, we don’t like having many of the same tactics used by our side in the past now being used against us. It’s not near as fun to be labled a “hater” as it was to make snide comments regarding “Adam and Steve.”

I’m sure many people will read this as my endorsement of gay marriage. It isn’t. But at the same time, I am not endorsing its opposition either. I do believe that the ideal situation, and the one God would prefer, is that each child enter a home with a loving father and mother. Basically, my beliefs adhere to the LDS Church’s Proclamation on the Family. But I am also aware of the fact that the ideal isn’t always reality. In fact, quite often it is not reality even in homes with a traditional mother and father.

I’ve heard the arguments bandied about that if gay marriage becomes the law of the land it will cheapen those with a traditional marriage and lead to the further destruction of society as we know it. Well…

1. Most Christian faiths don’t recognize my marriage in an LDS temple as anything special. To everyone not of the LDS faith, my marriage is no different than anybody else’s. But to me, I believe it has special significance. And if the state of Arizona were to someday not recognize my temple marriage as a legitimate ceremony, and we found ourselves in a situation like that in England where we needed to be married civilly before we could be married in the temple, it would not change my view of the importance of my marriage. Neither would a government law redefining one nation’s defnition of marriage.

2. Which vaunted society would we be destroying? The same one that once declared a black man as only 3/5 of a person? Or maybe the one that rounded up every Japanese American during WWII and put them in prison internment camps? Or maybe the one that still perpetuates a reservation system for the Native Americans that has done more to destroy a once proud people than any war that was ever waged against them? Letting two people of the same gender get married hardly rises to the level of any of these previous examples.

3. I cannot help but comment on the fact that I belong to a church with a tenuous position when it comes to this issue. I’ve heard arguments to the fact that the difference between gay marriage and the plural marriages practiced among the early saints is that each marriage within a plural marriage was performed between one man and one woman. Maybe so, but the fact remains that we once held a stance outside of the traditional marriage argument being waged today. And if you take into account our eternal view of things and the current practices allowed for a man whose wife has passed on,  you could make the argument that we still do. It is uncomfortable, but true.

Once again, I’m not trying to use these arguments to advocate for gay marriage or marriage equality. I know it probably sounds like I am, but I’m not. The truth is, I don’t care. In my view, the issue has become so toxic that there is no chance for winners, only losers. No matter which way the Supreme Court rules, the fighting will continue. And Christian families with children or siblings who are gay will still not have any idea how they are supposed to act or feel. People will continue to be hurt and relationships will continue to be lost. All because winning has become more important than caring.

There is an old saying, “Love the sinner, not the sin.” How I wish we could rewrite that phrase to say simply, “Love the sinner.” That way, there is no wiggle room to justify a lack of civility. We are all sinners and all in need of love from each other and from God. How different would our discourse (and our facebook news feeds) be if we could get to that point?

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