Like a litter of puppies whose young eyes have not yet learned to focus, Utahns, at least politically, are still in the La-La Land of sucklings. The sad reality is that, as long as they rely on a religion and a party to tell them what's OK, they can never emerge from the ignorant-innocence of neonatal bliss.
Safely bedded down in its kennel, Utah's population somehow misses a critical challenge: to make individual choices on the basis of right and wrong, rather than holding to the fragile, flawed belief that religious and political labels make the candidate. What's happening to Utah's electorate is symptomatic of a cancer eating away at our country. I realize that I'm just one, small voice, but I am screaming, "Utah, wake up!"
In a recent Deseret News article, Kelsey Dallas, its national religion editor, asked the question, "Faith and Grace: Where was religion during the Democratic debate?" Really, now! I gasped when I saw it—not that I should be at all surprised by the sophomoric stupidity of the article's title. It simply wasn't the work of a mature adult, nor is Dallas' question one that an incisive American would ever ask. Fortunately, there were quite a few reader comments regarding the article, and almost all of them flatly denounced Dallas' shallow assertion, that, somehow, religion should have been center-stage.
In a direct response to Dallas' question, one reader wrote, "Where was religion? ... Where it was supposed to be." Another noted, "The environment, education, immigration, gun violence, health care—let's bow our heads and pray for answers." There were a bunch of comments that chastised the writer, particularly over the blurring of church and state, noting that the question of a candidate's religiosity is a taboo subject, and that the Constitution itself prohibits the application of religious affiliations or standards to candidate qualification.
Frankly, I have to shake my head—not just because of the low quality of the journalism, but because printing such garbage is an abject waste of trees. The sad thing is that the Dallas article is a symptom of Utah's sickness—not that such rabid misuse of religion doesn't infect other states and regions. Many have similar problems, but journalism in Utah is a glaring failure in its post as "watchdog of society" and bears at least some of the blame for masking some of the most important issues.
There was a time when there was some semblance of balance in Utah's print media, but that disappeared after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became the effective owner of Salt Lake's two daily newspapers.
For years, The Salt Lake Tribune had been the voice of mostly-nonpartisan reason and provided a place for ideas that were not part of Utah's religious mainstream. Whatever independence the Trib had in taking on the matters of minorities was lost when investor greed effectively made it just another Dereset News, and, more importantly, an additional voice for Mormonism. The two newspapers might have different names, but they are now mostly the same, carefully refraining from saying anything negative about the LDS church. Utahns should have held a solemn funeral, because, when the independence of the Trib was lost, a good friend was buried and gone. That's the sad truth.
Getting back to Dallas' article, castigating the Democrat candidates for not talking about religion, Utahns need to start asking the more relevant questions, rather than accusing the Democrats of being ungodly. The absurd nonsense of equating a political party with some informal alliance with the forces of evil needs to end. Instead of requiring the specious use of God as a campaign prop, Utahns should instead be asking: 1. Does the married candidate frolic with hookers and grab crotches on a whim and then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying their silence? 2. Can this candidate be trusted to be truthful? 3. Will this candidate work to unite our country? 4. Is this person capable of admitting mistakes and taking responsibility? 5. Will this candidate use care in making decisions that impact the future of our country? 6. Will this candidate respect the voice of the press and its importance in our society? As a journalist, Dallas has failed to take a balanced approach to the news, making it clear she is merely a pawn for the myth of the "Christian right." (Remember, it was the waving of that banner that put us in our current Trump-predicament.)
If what we're looking for is a candidate who breaks virtually every one of the Ten Commandments on a daily basis and still claims to be a Christian, we have plenty of them. Wearing religion on one's sleeve is no indication of goodness or quality. I'd much rather have irreligious, good men running for office than a bunch of morally depraved Bible-toters telling voters how important God is in their lives.
The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org