Decent people can disagree. Decently, even. (It happens.)

Decent people can disagree. Decently, even. (It happens.) June 22, 2018


Where the Senate meets
The Senate side of the United States Capitol     (Wikimedia Commons public domain)


From time to time, I’ve voiced my profound concern about the toxic character of much public discourse today, about the rampant incivility, particularly where religion and politics are concerned.  It’s seems that it’s not enough to disagree.  Those with whom we disagree must apparently be demonized.  They’re not just wrong, they’re evil.  Depraved.  They don’t merely see things differently, they’re lying.  And they should be shown no quarter, no respect, no civility or common courtesy.


I’m a frequent target of such vitriol, of course, provoked by my defense of the claims of the Restoration.  But that’s far and away not my only reason for worry, nor even my principal one.


Such take-no-prisoners total warfare is one of the things that disturbed me most about the emergence of Trumpism.  And I’ve even risen to the defense of former Nevada senator Harry Reid, when certain members of the Church (of which he is also a member) began demanding his excommunication, getting him disinvited from Church firesides, and so forth.  I made it clear that I’m a serious conservative who disagrees at almost every point with Brother Reid’s politics, but that didn’t prevent me from being harshly attacked for days and days on end by a certain type of right-leaning Latter-day Saints.


I alluded to that experience in a recent post here titled “Daniel Peterson, deviationist and heretic,” and received the following note, from a former member of my ward, responding to that post:


Sorry to use your BYU email to contact you, however, your June 19 article in Patheos really struck a nerve.  I will get right to the point.  Prior to [my wife’s] and my departure to the Washington DC North mission I felt that it was my responsibility to understand some of the people with whom I would be  rubbing shoulders.  One of those individuals was Harry Reid.  I couldn’t understand how a fellow Mormon could attack another fellow Mormon (Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential Campaign) in front of the entire nation and claim that he was a tax evader when there were no grounds for such a claim.  (Hold on, don’t turn me off yet!)  In my search I came across an article in a magazine (I think it was Forbes but I am not sure) that talked about Harry Reid’s background and about his personal philosophy.  I was thunder struck.  As Harry Reid was quoted regarding his personal philosophy on life I can only say that this is what I would have expected to hear from the Savior!  I finally understood why Harry proposed some of the legislation he introduced.  It was a good thing I did this because we ended up attending church in the same ward house where I crossed paths with Harry on multiple occasions.  (By the way, as you know, Harry was instrumental in working with the church to obtain visas, etc.  He was also instrumental in the conversion of a US Senator to the Church.) 

I have found that gaining a better understanding (Harry Reid) goes a long way towards C.S. Lewis’ statement, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” 


I was impressed with what my friend had to say.  In fact, I liked it so much that I asked whether I could quote him on my blog.  Here’s his answer, which includes a reference to Jim Matheson, a former Democratic congressman from Utah:


Dan, I don’t know what I said that would be worth quoting.  You can use whatever you want — no attribution needed.  I have been a staunch conservative my whole life, however, after our time in DC I attribute one of my greatest accomplishments being able to call Jim Matheson a good friend.  He has even asked me to work with him on his next campaign.  He is a decent man and I would be pleased to help him.

On another subject, we are now in Hawaii on a mission and we are immersed in another form of cultural immersion, quite different from the cultural immersion we experienced in central city DC.  People need to get out of Utah a little!


I liked my friend’s reply, too, so I’ve quoted it.


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