The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) held a press conference today. The LDS Church rarely holds press conferences so when it does, most news organizations take note. Today it addressed the issue of nondiscrimination and religious freedom. Leaders of the Church reiterated that the LDS Church believes that people of all beliefs and lifestyles should not face discrimination in any form because of their beliefs or the way they choose to live their lives.
So far (about three hours after the conference ended), response has been generally positive. Following the conference Equality Utah issued its own new release in which it praised the LDS position and called for cooperation between “people of faith and the LGBT” lifestyle. The Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City issued a statement supporting the Church.
There were two points to the news conference, however. In addition to the call for nondiscrimination, the Church made a plea for recognition of religious freedom. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church, cited several examples of how religious freedom is being eroded in the name of equality. In California, two dozen Christian student groups have been denied recognition by the University of California system because they require their own leaders to share their Christian beliefs. In one city pastors of several churches had their sermons and notes subpoenaed and face not only government intimidation but also criminal prosecution for speaking out against a proposed city ordinance on gay rights and arguing that it should be put to a vote of the people. And we all remember the call to boycott Chick-Fil-A because the owners hold certain beliefs, among them being that they want their stores closed on Sunday. Elder Oaks full statement can be read here.
It is a sad commentary on the state of society that a major religious organization feels compelled to make a plea that its rights and those of its members be afforded the same respect the rest of the nation takes for granted. Some time ago I ventured the opinion that there may come a day where someone tries to forbid any religious organization from proselytizing on the grounds that trying to convince others of the benefits of that particular religion is a form of hate speech. It appears that others share that opinion and are trying to prevent that day from coming.
Sometime in the past few years I discovered that I’ve become irrelevant. I remember precisely how it happened, though not exactly when.
I was reading a magazine. On the back cover was a full page ad for some kind of alcoholic beverage. The headline blared “YOUR OLD MAN DIDN’T DRINK DRINKS WITH LITTLE UMBRELLAS IN THEM.” The subliminal message (because that’s what advertising is all about) was that fancy drinks are not for real men. To drive this point home the ad featured a photo montage of the old man in his younger days doing guy things: camping, playing ultimate frisbee, driving for a layup in his Chuck Taylors. Each photo was cleverly Photoshopped to look 1970s-ish.
That’s when it hit me. I’m the old man. That was my era in those pictures. I’m no longer the target market. The only advertising aimed at me is for incontinence, pills to help me have sex or pills to make sure the sex doesn’t kill me by giving me a heart attack.
I recall a backpacking trip nearly 30 years ago. On a 10,000 foot summit in the Uintas we met a couple from Wisconsin. They were in their mid-60s and had been coming to Utah every summer for several years to hike. My buddy and I left vowing to be like them when we got to our 60s. In the folly of youth I thought it was just a matter of remaining active. It’s that and luck and a whole lot more, not the least of which is refusing to go quietly into the night of irrelevance. There’s more to this age than Depends and Viagra.
We’re all fairly familiar with helicopter parents, the kind who figuratively hover over their kids, regardless of the child’s age, ready to swoop in at the first sign of trouble and resolve the issue, regardless of what it is. It could be a coach who benched the kid for a bad attitude, a professor or teacher who dared give the budding Einstein a “B” (thereby ruining the child’s chances for Harvard) or even attending a job interview.
Now a counter-culture is growing, the idea of Free Range Kids. These are parents who buck the norm, who let their kids walk to school unaccompanied by an adult, drink from a hose, and actually climb on the jungle gym at the playground (if you can find a playground with a jungle gym anymore). Whereas helicopter parents don’t, as far as I know, have an official organization and spokesperson, Free Range Kids do. They even have a website. On the website you can download (for free) a “Free-Range Kid Card” that identifies the carrier of the card as a free-range kid, one who is just out on his or her own but is not lost or abandoned.
Now all of this sounds humorous, if a bit off-the-wall. But when you consider that a Maryland couple is being investigated for allegations of child neglect for allowing their two children to walk a mile to school unaccompanied or hear about parents who will only let their child use his skateboard on the lawn and then only if he stands still on it, you wonder: what happened to society? And more importantly, what kinds of adults will these kids grow up to be?
And lest you read this, shake your head and say something about those poor kids who have helicopter parents, ask yourself, “Am I a helicopter parent?” For some insight on how you might be one without realizing it, read this great blog post from The Sisterhood of Sensible Moms. You might be surprised at what being a helicopter parent really means.
2014 is now just a memory. Christmas decorations are coming down and Monday marks a cold-water-in-the-face return to the reality of life. Lots of people are making New Year’s resolutions. Gyms are doing a great business as people sign up to make good on their resolution to lose weight and get in shape. By Valentine’s Day the gyms will be empty.
What is it about an arbitrary point (January 1) in the space-time continuum that gives us cause to celebrate and vow to change? Why do humans mark a physical, unalterable event, the earth’s completing another revolution around the sun, as a time to propose change in their lives?
I suggest it’s because there is a divine spark inside each of us that tells us that this world isn’t all there is, nor is this frail existence in this world the sum total of our lives. Something, perhaps on a deeper and more fundamental level even than our subconscious mind, tells us we are strangers in a strange land. And it may be that this spark flares more brightly at this time because we have just finished the celebration of the birth of the one who gives us hope that there is more in store than a marble headstone after we depart this world.
Whether you choose to believe or not it’s hard to ignore the coincidence of this fairly universal desire to be better people, to live better lives, with the conclusion of the Christmas season and Christ’s invitation to come, follow me and be perfect, even as He and His Father are perfect. Let that tiny spark grow. Keep your resolutions burning brightly.