Kirby: Isolation is no longer an option

I read this in the Salt Lake Tribune this past Saturday, and thought to myself, AGAIN, "this guy gets it." So many parents around here try to make sure their kids don't get "polluted" by sending them to other places or allowing them to hang out with kids of "other" religions. 2 examples come to mind. About a year ago, a high school class decided they were going to take a field trip to Las Vegas to see a rare art collection at the Bellagio hotel on the Strip. Well, it was all dandy til the permission slip went home and parents figured out that their little gems were going to *gasp* Las Vegas... OMG!!! what will they come back from that place like??? Gimme a break... almost every parent opposed the trip, and the students missed out on a highly educational experience.

The other instance is more of a personal observation: I know MANY parents who choose to keep their children back from travelling with sports teams or cheerleading groups, etc., out of state, because they might run into "bad" people who don't hitnk like they do. These are people who still think that the Mormons should legislate the Mormon platform to all residents of the state, regardless of their own personal beliefs, because it was the Mormons who were here first and it is still their state. "If you don't like it, leave and go somewhere else." I have stopped counting the times I have heard that argument. If that's the case, we should curtail all federal funding of things like roads and education, health care, etc., because the Mormons should be allowed to do their own thing and support their own programs. Maybe the Church should be paying property taxes, since they want to exlcude everyone from the benefits of living in a very pretty state... I could go on... and on....

Here's the article:

Got a letter from the Salt Lake Theological Seminary. Being a seminary graduate (three years, two of them early morning) myself, I opened it before realizing that it wasn't Mormon seminary. It was evil seminary. The Salt Lake Theological Seminary is - and keep in mind that this is coming from an expert in evil - some sort of secret non-Mormon doing that may involve virgin sacrifice or, worse, a straight-faced attempt to explain the Trinity. Well, I'm having none of that. Being a member of the only true church on the earth today, I already know everything I need to know for my salvation. I threw the letter away. Later, I fished it out and burned it for safekeeping. An impressionable child might have found it at the dump.

I am, of course, kidding. But if it makes you feel better, crank out that e-mail. Lord knows I wouldn't want you to hold back and have your head go pop. The letter was actually from David Pascoe, assistant vice president of communications at the seminary. We met last week at a screening of Richard Dutcher's movie "States of Grace." I'm not saying David is bad. But since he readily admits to being "a former Catholic now a practicing Methodist," what could he possibly know about the workings of God unless he first repents, gets baptized, becomes a member of the true church and - let's be very clear about this - gets all his home teaching done?

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the letter. I'll tell you what it says, but first cover the dog's eyes. David actually had a number of things to say. Mostly he wanted to tell me about a DVD he's promoting for Christian youth. It instructs them on how to maintain friendships with Mormon kids, a tough gig considering the intensity of their respective beliefs.

I know what some of you are thinking, that it's a real shame we can't set people on fire anymore for stuff like this. Faith mixing? Crossover friendships? He can't be serious. He is and he's probably right. The world is too small anymore to stay away from each other forever. Insulate yourself all you want but eventually you're going to bump into someone who isn't like you.

Although the DVD deals with religion, this is true no matter what the difference might be. Person-to-person we have far more in common than not. Makes sense to reinforce that rather than the differences, especially given how much success we've had with the latter. At the risk of quoting someone who doesn't belong to the right church (still kidding), the letter said: ''Find out who I am as a person before you start telling me what's wrong with my beliefs.'' Dang right. There's solid human understanding in the irony of discovering that someone who isn't like you is, um, well, pretty much just like you.

Our religious differences aren't going away, people. Maybe there's a reason for that. There could be an education in the very things we try to avoid. Given our own foolishness and his apparent love of irony, it would be just like God to have allowed all the different religions just to see if we got the point of having our own. --- You can write Robert Kirby at 90 S. 400 West, Suite 700, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, or e-mail rkirby@sltrib.com.

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