Hey Mormons, Help a Guy Out

As part of a long commissioned piece that I am currently writing, I use a joke. Would any Mormon Jeremy Lott’s Diary readers please let me know if the highlighted part in the first sentence is correct. Bonus: If you read all the way to the end of the joke, I may have improved the punchline. Here it is:

There’s an old joke about the flood and the true believer that gets recycled endlessly in sermons from Protestant, Catholic and Mormon pulpits. Heavy, pounding rains have busted a local levy and water starts pouring into a Midwestern town. The evacuation order goes out. Almost everybody gets out of town to avoid being swallowed up by the flood.

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Devout This!

This morning, I would have been almost on time for Mass. Fortunately, yours truly got so caught up with a Darrell Issa interview on the radio that Father Flapdoodle’s homily was half-way over by the time I walked in. Listening to him tell us the story of his week made me wish I had listened to This Week a little longer.

The above is included to demonstrate, dear reader, that I am not a devout Catholic. “Devout” is an emphatic. If someone goes to daily Mass or weekly confession or prays the rosary regularly, it is an appropriate way to describe him. I do none of those things and don’t plan to start.

For a better modifier, try grudging Catholic. I go to Mass weekly, at best, and complain about it — the ugly A-frame building, the awful homilies, the awkwardly worded prayers of the faithful — and manage to not eat meat about every third Friday in Lent. The Vatican says Catholics have an obligation to go to confession once a year, and so I do.

And yet, during my recent seven-year sojourn in DC, I was often described as “Jeremy Lott, devout Catholic.”

Language shifts over time. Sometimes that works out well. The world “cool,” for instance, has no problem doing double duty describing a both a breeze and a temperament. Other times it results in unnecessary and unfortunate confusion. To call grudging Catholics “devout” robs the term of most of its meaning and usefulness.

Exclusive Jeremy Lott Q&A!!!

Q: Why Jeremy Lott’s Diary?

A: So my readers will have something interesting to read on the train.

Q: People still take the train?

A: I did recently, all the way from Bellingham to DC.

Q: What were you doing in DC?

A: I went to cover the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, and I went there to help launch the latest website for my company, Real Clear Policy.

Q: How many Real Clear websites do you edit?

A: Three-and-a-half, roughly. I edit Real Clear Religion and Real Clear Books outright, co-edit Real Clear Policy and lend a hand on Real Clear Science when needed.

Q: How do you sleep?

A: Deputies, colleagues, and co-editors help me do most of this. Joseph “Joe” Lawler handles the day-to-day with Real Clear Policy and Real Clear Religion is a thorough collaboration with Nicholas “Nick” Hahn. Alex Berezow is the insomniac mad scientist behind Real Clear Science. I mention them here because they are sure to get name-checked from time to time.

Q: Sounds like a busy schedule. Why are you making time for a blog?

A: It is busy, but I’ve always done a lot of writing for Real Clear and other outlets. Writing is a way of thinking. Forcing oneself to write regularly is a way of staying sharp. It is thus a good way of giving readers the best “intelligent aggregation” possible, because the product we are really selling is our best judgment.

Q: You mentioned you went to CPAC. Are you a conservative?

A: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Republican Party, but party membership doesn’t mean much in the great state of Washington. Rush Limbaugh one day repeatedly called me a “liberal” on air. My Baptist minister father was flooded with calls from parishioners telling him he ought to call up Rush and set him straight. Dad wrote an e-mail and called Rush a liberal. I found the whole thing highly amusing.

Q: Why amusing?

A: It’s consistent with my general outlook. One stock question that I will ask old friends and new enemies alike is: “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?” Their off-the-cuff answers can tell you a lot about what animates them. I’ve gotten answers from a general sense of duty to “hatred of the left” to fear of being deported to Canada.

Q: OK then, why do you get out of bed in the morning?

A: Because I find life so very amusing.

Q: You wrote “my Baptist minister father.” Was that a way of drawing a distinction?

A: Yes. He’s Baptist, I’m Catholic.

Q: What’s the story there?

A: It’s a long one. The shortest way of getting at it is to say when I was 13 the Baptist congregation we were at went through a very painful “church split.” Some of the pastors and about half of the members walked away to start a new church. I thought that was clearly a bad thing, but that presented a logic problem to my young mind. I was aware there had been this little thing called the Reformation. So I thought: this could be OK now and OK then or wrong now and wrong back then, but it didn’t seem possible it could be a bad thing now but A-OK back in the day.

Q: So you, a pastor’s kid, joined a church that requires clerical celibacy?

A: There always have and always will be PKs, of varying shades of legitimacy, but we’re not the greatest idea. I often tell people that PKs know where all the bodies are buried. I could add “literally.” We’re too close and see too much too early. It becomes pretty hard to shock us with church scandals.

Q: So why not just chuck God, religion, the whole metaphysical ball of wax?

A: Tried that. It didn’t take.

Q: You were an atheist?

A: No, I wanted to be an atheist. I just never could find a way to pretend God doesn’t exist or that what we do here and now has no greater significance. Francis Schaeffer put it memorably. God is there and — in the long run, anyway — he is not silent.

Q: What do you do for fun, when you’re not being ponderous?

A: Too many things. I bowl and go for long, meandering walks. Dirt races are fun. Just got a set of golf clubs and a ridiculously high powered bb gun. All the neighborhood crows are suddenly giving the house wide berth. Of course I read, for fun as well as profit, and go to a ridiculous number of movies.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

A: It’s a tie between Tombstone and My Fair Lady. Val Kilmer’s Doc Holiday and Rex Harrison’s Henry Higgins are both immortal fictional characters.

Q: Real Clear Religion has been described as a “Mormon-interested website.” What’s your own take on Mormons?

A: They’re great!

Q: Sarcasm?

A: No I really have liked most of the Mormons I’ve met and corresponded with and I find their religion deeply fascinating. It’s the most ambitious religion I’ve ever encountered.

Q: So when are you going to convert?

A: Oh, probably never. I think you get one conversion in life before you start to court absurdity and I’ve already did that. Besides, my religious notions are pretty well fixed at this point — basically a Baptist-flavored Catholicism, a degree in Biblical Studies and an Irish temperament, and the Jeremy Lott prayer thrown in for good measure.

Q: What in the world is the Jeremy Lott prayer?

A: It goes like this: Dear God: I’m wrong, you’re right, I’m going to bed.


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