Category Archives: Opinion Pieces

80-85% Ally, or 100% Bigoted Homophobe

Ronald Reagan said “My eighty percent friend is not my twenty percent enemy.”  I was thinking about that while bumping into yet another rant about Orson Scott Card being a “huge homophobe,” and decided to see how it might play out.  So I came up with 10 statements (one divided into two) that I could make about gay people (GLBT if you prefer, although I’m not certain all will apply as well to the BT folks as they will to the GL) which I think most GLBT advocates would agree with, and that would be useful in determining percentage of friendship a la Reagan.  Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Gay people should not be subject to violence due to their orientation.
  2. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in employment due to their orientation.
  3. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in parenting due to their orientation.
  4. Gay people should be able to engage in civil unions which bring them the same legal protections for their partners that heterosexual people have for their spouses.
  5. Homosexual orientation is not a matter of choice.
  6. Homosexual orientation is not primarily about sex.
  7. Gay people should be welcome in regular LDS meetings, regardless of their membership status.
  8. Gay people should be able to function as leaders in Boy Scouts of America on the same basis as straight people (ie, subject to criminal background checks).
  9. Gay people should be allowed to marry their same-sex partners
    1. civilly
    2. in the temple
  10. Gay marriage/civil unions should be recognized by the LDS Church for the purposes of the Law of Chastity as equivalent to heterosexual civil marriages.

Now, I recognize that not all of these statements would be weighted equally by the hypothetical GLBT advocates mentioned above, but I don’t think those differences in weighting are so huge as to totally invalidate their usefulness.

Speaking just for me, I can agree with almost all of those statements.  I can’t go with #10, and I could probably go with #9.1 at some point, but don’t see #9.2 happening ever.  That would put me at a 80-85% score.  From more extensive reading of OSC than the average person (ie, I have read more than Ender’s Game and his columns opposing Same Sex Marriage), I think he would reject #9 and #10, and I have 50% confidence he would agree with #4 and #7, and reasonably confident he’d accept the remainder.  This would put him at 60-80%.  That might be high — he might be at 50% or even 40%.

And what does this mean?  Am I an 80% ally, or a 20% homophobe?  Or am I just 100% homophobe because I don’t whole-heartedly agree with SSM and reject the Church’s standard for sexual behavior?  There are Mormons who will be uncomfortable with my support for #8, and with me even suggesting #10 as a possibility, although agreeing with 100% of these statements would not make me ineligible to hold a Temple Recommend.

I do believe in the principle that we need to accept those who agree with us most, or even some of the time as at least partial friends as opposed to constant and total enemies.  I’ve never found anybody I agree with 100% of the time — not even myself.

Dear Dove World Outreach Center

I just heard about your plan to have a Quran burning event.  I am stunned at the stupidity and hatred you are demonstrating in the name of my master who commanded me to love my enemies.  I would request you suspend said stupidity, and spend your time gaining a better understanding of the message of Jesus Christ than you are demonstrating.

If, however, you are bound and determined to burn something, please burn copies of the Book of Mormon instead.  My Muslim friends are very sensitive to how you treat the physical text of the Quran, but I don’t care how many copies of the Book of Mormon you burn.  I don’t worship the physical text, nor the words of the text — I worship God, and love the text, and no amount of burning on your part can take it away from me.

Have a nice day,

Thoughts on the Prison System

This is a comment I made on Slashdot on a thread titled Building Prisons Without Walls Using GPS Devices, particularly a comment that said  “How about a compromise? A touchy-feely hippie ultra-authoritarian regime that prevents rape, gang fights, and drug dealing while providing education and therapy.”

A system that prevents rapes, gang fights and drug dealing while providing education and therapy would be hugely labor intensive, and would consume a huge proportion of people of very high moral character available in society, if there was a way to reliably identify them, if you had an incentive for them to want to do this. It would explode the costs of staffing prisons by whole number factors, when the existing system costs more than states can afford. Most of that increase would go for your first three criteria — stopping rapes, gang violence and drug trafficking. Continue reading Thoughts on the Prison System

All Forms of Islam Oppress Women?

A response to a column on problems in all categories of Islam due to their treatment of women:

An interesting column, but the reasoning gets a little strained in the middle. It conflates, and then condemns, all forms of Islam because they all fail to demand complete equality for women. If we are to condemn every culture/subculture who fails at that line, we’re going to find very, very few still standing. The feminist ideal of total gender equality has proven to be very difficult to define in detail, let alone to accomplish, even in societies which have made the attempt to pursue it.

Islam is a different religion than Christianity or Judaism. The cultures which practice it are different than Western culture. And some in that religion, from those cultures, are attacking Western societies in an effort to destroy them. They draw their reasoning from the Islam of their understanding, and some of that reasoning will resonate, to a greater and lesser degree, across Islam. But their goals, strategies and tactics are not shared by all Muslims, and we need to exercise caution in casting too general a blanket over all Muslims. Not all are our enemies, and we benefit greatly by having some as allies. They are not unlike Christians who shoot abortion doctors and blow up abortion clinics, or who protest the funerals of soldiers, or who build compounds and gather weapons and explosives, in that these do not represent the view of all Christians. However, the Muslims who are trying to destroy our culture very much want to have this defined as a fight between Christianity/Western Culture and Islam. They want to frame it as the New Crusade. It’s the only chance they have to get wide-spread support among Muslims for what they are trying to do.

I think it is wiser for us to reach across the tribal barrier here and make allies than it is to continually reinforce that barrier and make all Muslims categorically wrong simply because they are Muslims. That is not only logically flawed reasoning — it’s counterproductive.

The “real” issue in the Shirley Sherrod case

A response to a column by Joan Walsh on the Shirley Sherrod incident:

I think there are several important issues that need discussing here, and that those who don’t want to discuss one will want to accuse those who do of trying to not discuss another.

There are problems with race in the country, but there is more to it than there are some vestigial fragments of the institutional slavery of the past several centuries. There is wide-spread distrust and anger along racial lines which does not seem to be improving. And there are voices in the civil rights movement who will only engage in the conversation if it is agreed that all and only white people are racist, because they benefit from a racist system. Since I recognize the realities of multiple brands of racial privilege (and identify this as one of them) while rejecting the legitimacy of any of them, we are unable to have a conversation on those terms. I don’t see a way around that impasse with those individuals. The only solution I can see is to bypass them, and engage in the conversation with real individuals who are prepared to have it without preconditions or privileged positions.

When Ms. Walsh claims that “people on the right” are trying to label as racist any black person who has ever said a bad thing about white people in general (without substantiating anything approaching that level of generality), the discussion becomes more difficult. Even if there were a significant number of individuals like she is vaguely describing, they would have a more sustainable position than the one mentioned above, where white people are racist even when they have never said or done anything remotely negative about black people, and that black people are incapable of being racist no matter how much hate and violence they manifest to people just for being white.

There is also a problem with the rush to make this problem entirely about Fox News and Glenn Beck in particular (although Ms. Walsh does not mention Beck in her article). Particularly when the narrative was established before the fact pattern was there to support any portion of it (and it does not support every portion of that narrative). Are Fox’s contributions to this situation really worse than the blanket labeling of Fox News, Glenn Beck, without regard to their participation in any part of this, as racist simply by associating with Fox. Or for claiming that Fox is trying to create white fear of black people by talking about this and asking why the Justice Department dropped the case against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation.

Clearly, what is needed is to detoxify the topic of race, so we can talk about real issues on top of the table, and can spend less time trying to focus on hidden racism. And also less time trying to use race as a trump card to “win” on things that have only a minimum to do with race, if that.

Perhaps it was fear of criticism for racial aspects of this case that drove USDA and the WH to demand Ms. Sherrod’s firing. Responsibility for that fear is to be found on those who have it. Passing blame for their unwise and capricious choices, which clearly and unarguably damaged Ms. Sherrod, to Breitbart and Fox, is simple denial that a “friend” would hurt you and projecting blame for their bad behavior on your “enemy.” It is legally indefensible, and morally vacant.

Perhaps Ms. Walsh’s attention to the wrongdoing of Breitbart and some at Fox is justified by the evidence. Some of it, anyhow. But trying to wrestle every other question the incident raises into nothing other than a conversation about the wrongdoing of Breitbart and Fox is wrong in its own turn. There is more than one thing to talk about here, and more than one valid thing to say.

From CNN Belief Blog’s thread on the Vancouver Temple

Some of my comments to this thread, in case I want to use them later.  They also discuss quite a few anti-Mormon claims you may have seen or heard in the wild:

1.  In response to a comment listing a bunch of Mormon “beliefs’ and “facts,” including the abundance of Masonic symbols in this (or, presumably, any) temple:

Interesting claims. I’ve been in that specific temple a dozen times, and will be back there next Tuesday and Wednesday. Please inform me of the many Masonic images to be found there. There’s the compass and the square, but then what? Two hardly qualifies as “many.” Continue reading From CNN Belief Blog’s thread on the Vancouver Temple

Whining is not an alternative to political parties.

Two of my comments on a post on the Bellingham Herald’s Politics Blog regarding the desire for a “third party.”


Everybody wants another party so they can get something politically viable that doesn’t have the things they don’t want about the real parties that elect people. Here’s the thing:

Unless you outwork and outspend the people you don’t like, they will win more often than not. And they are likely to still be busy working after you decide you want to do something else. And this will not change, no matter how much or how loudly you whine. Continue reading Whining is not an alternative to political parties.

Divinity v Mortality in our lives

This is a response to someone who wrote about the need for us to define our lives in terms of the divinity within us, rather than our mortal nature.  It included the idea that we could live in that divinity every moment of every day.

I don’t see how this can work. Seriously. I think it’s good to keep ahold of that little divine thread we’ve each got, so we don’t get totally overwhelmed by the mortal. But there’s way, way more mortal in us at this stage than there is divine, and that little bit of divine isn’t up to running every moment of every day for people who are still breathing. We were put in this world to learn how to develop that, and I think that’s great, but we are categorically unable to live divine all the time. That would put us above the need for divine grace, and that doesn’t happen.

We make mistakes. And we make bad choices. We sin. That’s not ideal, and it’s not really acceptable, but it’s also inevitable. There will not be a day that we aren’t going to have something to take to God to say “I’m sorry, but I screwed up again.” That’s not permission to do something really bad, which it could very easily be heard to be. It’s just part of the annoying truth in this life. We just need to do the best we can (which is so pathetically inadequate compared to the needs of the moment so often), and continually invite the Savior into our lives and hearts to fill the gaps, fix the breaks, and chip away the parts of our hearts that are like us so he can replace them with parts that are like him. This grows the divine in us, which is certainly good. But we can’t have a divine life until we are in a divine world, and this one isn’t.

So hang on to the hope that comes in remembering our little fledgling divinity, and our massive divine potential, definitely. But don’t expect to do that all the time — it’s a set-up for a failure to believe it’s even possible.

Health Care Bill Realities

Based in a comment I made elsewhere that I want to keep.  I may build on this at another time.

If the Democrat leaders in Congress want to pass a health care bill, they’re going to have to settle for consensus points.  If they really want to improve the health of Americans, they’re going to have to find the guts to tell people about the choices they are making that are exploding the costs of health-care across the board, and nobody likes to tell people they are dependent on that they need to eat their spinach.   Continue reading Health Care Bill Realities