@askmormongirl Joanna Brooks should say the Inaugural Benediction.

The invocation at President Obama’s Second Inauguration will be delivered by civil rights hero Myrlie Eger-Williams.

The benediction is going to be offered by…well…we do not know, yet. Rev. Louie Giglio was scheduled to deliver the benediction, but because of controversy of his past comments about homosexuality he withdrew from the program.

This has raised some important questions:

1. Is the large segment of society which believes that homosexuality is a sin being ostracized from the public square?

2. Who will deliver the benediction instead of Giglio?

I will address question #1 later this week. However, we are only a week away from the inauguration, so I will start with my recommendation for another benediction speaker.

Since my wife and I got our official invitations to the inauguration on Saturday, I am sure the Inauguration Committee will be very interested in what I have to say.

Last week, I wrote about the selection of a layperson, the civil rights hero Myrlie Evers-Williams, to offer the invocation at the same ceremony. I think we should move past the use of clergy in these types of settings and we should continue along those lines for the benediction as well as the invocation.

I nominate Joanna Brooks. She is an English professor and chair of the English department at San Diego State University.

Joanna is also a  feminist and a champion of gay rights.

She is also a Mormon. Continue reading “@askmormongirl Joanna Brooks should say the Inaugural Benediction.”

Faith as a Relationship

I recently heard somebody refer to faith as a verb. While many verbs are involved in faith, I would say that faith is itself not a verb, but it is a noun.

Faith in Jesus Christ is not believing in Christ. Having faith in Christ is having a relationship with Him. A relationship is a noun. What then does this thing involve? That is a more complex issue.

What does any relationship require? We could probably come up with a long list, but I will note a few that stand out to me.

Trust. We must be able to trust that the people we have relationships will be there for us. Our relationships with colleagues and co-workers is rooted in a trust that we will see them at certain times and places. They will follow through with their duties and responsibilities. Often times my favorite colleagues are not the ones that I work with directly on specific tasks or committees, but the ones that are there to chat about a rough day, a rough class, pop culture, or maybe Foucault.

Our relationships with family are deeper, more intimate, and they usually are longer in duration. The longevity of family relationships often has to do with the fact that such relationships are not as contingent upon geography and situation as relationships with neighbors and co-workers. My relationship with my wife involves both the good times and the bad times. Landing the new job…and getting dismissed are things that I experience with her in ways that I do with nobody else. Part of what makes our relationship such a large part of my life is that what happens to one of us…happens to both of us.

Continue reading “Faith as a Relationship”

Public Prayer: Myrlie Evers-Williams to Pray at Inauguration

The Obama inauguration team has announced that Myrlie Evers-Williams will be delivering the invocation at the public swearing-in of the President on January 21.

Evers-Williams is the former chairwoman of the NAACP. She is also the widow of Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader who was gunned down in front of their home in Mississippi in 1963. (I am including a brief video of her talking about their work below).

While the choice of Evers-Williams is historical because of who she is…it is also historical on a number of other ways.

She will be the first woman to offer a prayer at a Presidential Inauguration. This somewhat surprised me, though given the relatively recent entry of women into the clergy, maybe it should’t be so surprising.

Ever-Williams will also be the first layperson to offer a prayer at a Presidential Inauguration. This aspect of the announcement stuck out to me the most because it symbolizes a change the role of both prayer and clergy in American society. Continue reading “Public Prayer: Myrlie Evers-Williams to Pray at Inauguration”

Santa as the Ghost of Christmas Present (What Santa Means to Me) 2012 Edition

Author’s Note: this is a minor revision and update of a post I wrote for FPR back in 2010.

I like Santa Claus. He is not real, but he has spiritual significance for me. In this way, Santa is like Job. I do not think that Job was a real person, but I do think that Job is one of of the most powerful books of the Bible. Symbolic meaning sometimes has the greatest impact.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Watching A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version…of course), I realized that, for me, Santa Clause is the Ghost of Christmas Present. Now, I am not an expert on Dickens as a literary figure, but I have always loved this story and I have grown to appreciate it even more in recent years.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (GCP) focuses on two things: the merriment which we have as family and friends at during the holidays. This is symbolized by the joy which nephew Fred has with his wife and friends. It is also symbolized by the joy which the Cratchit family has despite the their poverty and worry about tiny Tim. Yet, they are together.

I love the social part of Christmas. I ALSO LOVE THE PRESENTS! I love watching my children open their presents. I love going out with my wife in November and December looking for gifts that will be perfect for our three children. Like my daughter Geneva (7), I am also very excited about seeing family in Utah between after Christmas Day.

The GCP also draws attention to those who are suffering. Not only are they suffering at Christmas, they are suffering while Scrooge has much. He also introduces this suffering to Scrooge to show the cruelty of his own comments about the poor and disadvantaged. Ebenezer Scrooge is the embodiment of 19th century Social Darwinism. Christmas is the cure for this vile outlook. For me, the Santa part of Christmas is as much part of that cure as the religious part of Christmas.

What does this all have to do with Santa? Santa Claus is the symbol of holiday cheer and giving. While he has become the symbol of Christmas consumerism, it is not Santa Claus that is the problem. Our society is the problem. It is our greed that is the problem. If we make Christmas about others, then we can make Christmas…and Santa…a force for fighting against that greed.

Santa has also been given the God role of deciding who is good and who is bad. I reject this view of Santa…much in the way that I reject this view of God. I have no interest in making Santa an all knowing figure who may condemn us with coal in our stocking. Even if it is Wyoming coal.

Like the story of Job, I think that the meaning and principles, not the myth itself, is what we should preserve. The best part about my children getting older is that the older ones now get to be part of the fun. They know that Santa does not come down the chimney (good thing…we do not have a chimney). However, they now realize the joys that can come from being Santa in the lives of others…particularly their little sister.

In reclaiming Santa, we can reclaim faith in sense of community and faith which binds us together at what is a cold and difficult time of the year. He is about giving to family and friends, He is about connecting with our fellow humans. Now we could probably do these things without the symbol of Santa Claus, but I think that symbols are useful in bringing us together. They are also worth fighting for.

Who will you be this year? Ebenezer Scrooge or Santa Claus?

Does Santa distract from the Christian themes of Christmas? If you fight for the Cratchits and the family living under the viaduct, you understand Him who came. That is what Santa Claus does. That is what Jesus Christ has taught us to do. Go and do likewise.

Protesting at Church

I protest at church all the time.

I scoffed out loud at a hideous comment about the Connecticut shootings just last hour in Sunday School.

I am wearing my University of Utah tie today.

Utah Tie

(Update: I just stomped out of priesthood over pontificating against secularism in relation to recent tragedies…by same guy I scoffed at during Sunday School.)

Maybe these are more tantrums than they are protests. Y’all know me well enough.

Democrat Tie

I wore my Democrat tie to church two weeks ago.

My church bag has a small Rage Against The Machine button on it.

I used to wear Crocs to church. Okay, no good principle involved there. Some of my protests are not against any solid institution, but against bourgeois norms of fashion and dress. (Sure, maybe I just lack fashion…freaking bourgeois fashion)

I read my NRSV for my personal scripture study and at Church. I do this because I love reading a good serious bible. Oh, and the KJV…well…you know. I also do it because I love that my wife rolls her eyes at me when I pull out the large hard-cover version I have from Oxford University Press.

RATM Button

In many ways, these are neither protests or tantrums (okay, sometimes they are tantrums).


These are breeching experiments. Like Judith Butler, I am not just bucking norms (me in a very minor way), but I am also watching to see how people react or respond.

Rarely do I get any response.

I am curious to see what kind of response women got wearing pants to church today (I will address protests and the Church later in the week). Not because I think any change will come about because of it, but because I think the reactions will tell us much about certain individuals, though I would be hesitant to make sweeping generalizations.

Wallace Bennett on the Role of Compromise in Government.

The June 1976 Ensign magazine has long been a favorite of mine. It deals with a number of political and social issues from a variety of LDS perspectives. One brief entry has been coming to my mind lately.

Wallace F. Bennett served in the United States Senate from 1951 through 1974. My uncle served on his staff for a period of time. So I am biased in my deep respect for the Bennett family.

In this issue of the Ensign, Sen. Bennett addresses the following question:

What is the role of compromise in government? Is it a good principle, or does it inevitably involve lowering one’s standards?

His response:

Before we can answer this question, we need to learn the true meaning of the word “compromise,” which is “a mutual promise.” It properly describes an agreement reached through mutual concessions, or an acceptable adjustment between conflicting ideas or desires. It may also require the presence of a third or disinterested party as arbiter.

There are those who maintain that any compromise is evil or shameful because it may involve some surrender of “principle” or freedom. Unfortunately, my years in the Senate have taught me that those who talk of “principle” in this context really mean “interest”—their self-interest. Nor is compromise a true diminution of one’s freedom or free agency, because the scriptures are full of admonitions to use our freedom in the service of others and not for our selfish ends. Christ said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly.” (Matt. 5:25.)

Because conflicts and disagreements are natural experiences in the lives of everyone, the search for a solution through “a mutual promise” is natural and praiseworthy. Nowhere is this more true and real than in the divinely ordained institutions of marriage and the family. And when conflicts arise that do not cure themselves, the power and responsibility to act as arbiter rests upon the parents, and chiefly upon the father, who holds the priesthood. Hopefully, compromise within the family circle will be motivated and moderated by love. When one or more family members in the name of their “free agency” will not compromise, but seek to go their own way, this is pure selfishness. It could, and often does, break up the family as a viable unit of the kingdom of God.

The same thing is true as we move out beyond the family into the community and the nation. Here, however, the potential conflicts are greater in number and complexity, and usually instead of dealing with individuals, many groups are involved. At the same time, the healing power of family love has disappeared and self-interest has risen to fill the void. All this makes the need for an outside arbiter more imperative, and the obvious entity to secure this role is government, which has power to enforce its decisions. The fact that God intended this or at least approves of it is set forth clearly in the twelfth Article of Faith.

In our American form of government, the responsibility to find solutions to the problems of our citizens rests chiefly upon the Congress. As a member of the Senate for twenty-four years, I learned that nearly every issue that comes to Congress for solution represents a conflict of interest between groups or forces within our society or our economy, or between other elements of the government itself—conflicts which those involved have been either unable or unwilling to resolve themselves. When they come to Congress, these problems are made complicated because of the Congress’s own set of internal conflicts, created because each member must represent not only his state or district, but also the nation as a whole, and his own personal philosophy of government and moral standards. Nor are the bills considered ever limited to single, simple right-versus-wrong issues to which you can give a simple yes-or-no answer. In fact, in nearly every case when a Congressman tries to serve his constituents by standing firmly on an “all-or-nothing” basis, he gets nothing.

So compromise is an important element in lawmaking, the search for a combination of ideas that will not only provide the highest level of satisfaction for each and all of the groups whose interests are in conflict, but also, of necessity, attract the support of the needed majority to get the bill passed. But this is not all. There is still another dimension to the problem of which most people are unaware. This might be called “involuntary compromise.” Most bills are made up of many separate and often unrelated sections. This is particularly true of tax and appropriation bills, the parts of which sometimes run into hundreds. Inevitably every Congressman and Senator must support some and oppose others, but when the vote for final passage comes, he has to vote either yes or no on the whole package.

Having explained why I believe that legislation is impossible without compromise, I can now explain why this is not essentially evil. Must a legislator sacrifice his moral standards when he votes for a compromise? Never, unless he makes his personal decision for dishonorable reasons such as personal gain or paid-for political support. The most effective legislator is one who always keeps himself free to use his best judgment in doing all he can to see that every bill on which he works contains the best possible and fairest possible balance between the interests of the various entities that will be affected by it.

Is compromise good or evil? As with many processes, the answer to that will depend upon the reasons for a compromise—and the mode of its use.

This sense of the purpose and art of legislative law-making has largely been lost. When Utah turned on Senator Bob Bennett, they turned on a great legislator…much like his father.

Sandel’s Intro to Rawls and Distributive Justice (Video Fixed)

Rawls is not easy to understand. This is largely because of how Rawls presents his ideas, though this difficulty creates opportunities for debate within political philosophy.

Below is a lecture by Harvard Government Professor Michael Sandel on Rawls and issues of wealth, inequality, and distributive justice. While I disagree with much of Sandel’s academic criticism of Rawls, I think that he does an excellent job in this lecture and in his recent books looking to present the concept of justice to a broader audience. In particular, I like how he presents a number of key points in Rawlsian thinking, though this is still just an introduction.



Be Still, My Soul: Remembering Heidi and Jim at Casper College

Yesterday, Casper College held a memorial service for Jim Krumm and Heidi Arnold, the two faculty membered murdered here in Casper last Friday.

This performance of “Be Still, My Soul” by the Casper College Choir will never leave me.


(Thank you to K2 Radio for the video)


Rorty on Truth

I do not go as far as the late Richard Rorty when it comes to “truth.” I do believe that their is such a thing as truth, I just find almost all claims to such truth to be utter rubbish. It is largely because of Rorty that I have come to this point.

I personally think that we are rarely interested in truth. Instead, we are merely deeply committed to defended certain narratives about “truth.” Like Rorty, I feel that we are too often willing to be cruel to others in the name of truth, when we are really just defending a certain narrative and are otherwise completely lacking in any actual commitment to truth or metaphysics.

Something like that.