Sunday, January 29, 2017

On the Muslim Ban: The Church Will Not Save Anyone

Last night I joined a few hundred people at the Salt Lake City airport to protest Donald Trump's ban of Muslims from a number of Middle Eastern countries. I won't delve into the technicalities of that here; information is easy to find. As things currently stand, an ACLU lawsuit led to the order being stayed nationwide late last night, but there are reports that the Department of Homeland Security may not respect the court. How that will resolve itself, and what the implications will be, remain to be seen.

Instead, I want to focus on the role the LDS church has played in this, or rather, not played. Across Facebook I've seen a number of progressive Mormons lament the church's passive role as hundreds of incoming immigrants and refugees nationwide have been detained without due process or sent away for the crime of being members of the wrong religion, of being born in the wrong country. On Saturday the Mormon Newsroom released a statement that reads:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God's children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war and religious persecution. The Church urges all people and governments to cooperate fully in seeking the best solutions to meet human needs and relieve suffering."
Whether you regard this as adequate most likely depends on whether you believe there was a problem to begin with. My goal, however, is not to change anybody's mind about that. If fear and prejudice have rendered you incapable of empathizing with the innocent people being targeted by our government, if your beliefs do not compel you to welcome the immigrant and the refugee, I have nothing to say to you. Your religion is nothing to me.

Instead, this post is directed at members of the church who, like me, are horrified and infuriated by what's happening, but who, to some degree or another, still maintain some kind of faithful church affiliation. I mean this as a call to action and hope I don't come off as condescending, because I know a lot of you are doing a hell of a lot more than me. But as it relates to the church, I have this to say:

The church will not stand up.

The church will not join us.

The church will not save anybody.

We have to do it ourselves.

The church may eventually release a more specific or strongly worded statement, or it may not. It will continue its admirable charity efforts, and individual leaders may give inspiring talks next April. But the church will not join any protests. It will not take part in any resistance campaigns. It will not take an adversarial role against the United States government. It will not condemn the Trump administration and the politicians who enable it.

My point is not that the church should do any of these things. I'm long past trying to argue that, though I respect those who are trying. I'm not trying to say that anyone should disaffiliate or distance themselves; that is entirely a personal matter.

But if what we see bothers us, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a vessel for change. We have to do it ourselves. We can protest, strike, call representatives, donate to good causes, and talk to people who are more involved in activism. We should enlist other Mormons wherever we can. I'm just beginning to try and be more than a keyboard warrior, and I have much more to learn than to teach.

But we cannot expect the church to lead us anywhere on this issue. We cannot expect it to follow. We cannot wait for it. We should not expect anything at all. The church will not save anyone. It's okay to be upset about that, but let's not stop there: let's find likeminded people and join them in doing something. These are dark days, but if I have faith in anything, it's that, despite my pessimism about the church and the country as a whole, we can still make a difference. We have to.