Hi gang. I’m delighted to accept Steve’s invitation to come blog with Bcc’s talented crew. I think I’m the only West Coast blogger on board, so for those of you sitting in the Eastern time zone I’ll be the late night PJ (post jockey), spinning out Top 40 posts after midnight. When I first started blogging (here’s my first post way back in August 2003) it was fun just to publish something Mormonish to the web and the world, but with the emergence of the Mo-Blog I have really enjoyed trading comments and ideas with fellow bloggers. And if I ever said anything too blunt or even a little ugly to any of you in times past, I swear it was my evil twin.
To get started on a pleasant note, I’d like to take up Richard Bushman’s recent challenge “to name one concrete, personal thing [I] like about the church.” I have noticed that Church members extend full fellowship and friendship to those individuals who are physically or developmentally disabled. In classes, in choirs, in sacrament meetings, if these folks don’t quite fit right in, adjustments are made rather seamlessly and no one bats an eye. It’s not even a case of “making special arrangements,” which can take on a condescending tone sometimes, it’s more like just recognizing them as equal members of the group.
By contrast, I was sitting in a Berkeley bookstore one evening a few years ago as one of the 20th century’s finer philosophers was starting to share some selections from his latest book with a few dozen assembled fans before a book signing. A young man with Down Syndrome was browsing at an adjoining bookshelf and began calling loudly across the bookstore to an attendant, asking a question three or four times, oblivious to the fact that he was distracting the group. The philosopher, not quite sure how to handle the interruption, directed a couple of comments at the young man. Not mean, but not kind either, kind of “hey, can’t you see we’re busy here?” I recall feeling troubled, more than just uncomfortable. Not to judge, but I think this was a “kindness and decency” test that the speaker failed on that day (perhaps he did better on other days). Funny, I can’t think of ever hearing similar remarks in an LDS setting, even for one who was rather distracting or who missed all the notes or even who missed easy grounders or layups. On this score, at least, Mormon culture hits all the right notes.