Secularists have an odd way of arguing with people of faith – odd in that they even try. Their frames of reference are too different. A secularist telling a person of faith what God thinks in the very same breath the secularist decries a person of faith for proclaiming what God thinks is, well, absurd. But it happens time and again and, in Utah, typically within the esteemed pages of The Salt Lake Tribune.
Most recently, George Pyle and, to a certain degree, Robert Gehrke have risen in defense of people of faith for whom they feel have been slighted, insulted or oppressed by other people of faith. This week’s offender before their secular court of justice is President Dallin H. Oaks, a prominent leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His crime? Telling people of the same faith what God thinks about His plan for His children.
The secular premise in play here is that regardless of what God may or may not think, He certainly does not hurt people or make them feel uncomfortable. Pastor Gehrke knows what God thinks. He knows God thinks that Dallin Oaks pretends to love Jesus and feigns piety while condemning as satanic a family with a transgender son – because, of course, Jesus never would look to hurt anyone’s feelings about how to live and behave (except for Dallin Oaks). Pastor Gehrke is the true saint. He is “not going to disparage Oaks.” He’ll allow the father of the transgender boy to do it.
Preacher Pyle simply wants to ensure that everyone, especially people of faith, do not fall “for the argument that someone who seeks to tell you what to think or do is really telling you what God wants you to think or do.” After all, there is no difference between Pope Francis, Russell M. Nelson and Brain David Mitchell, the latter having kidnapped and brutally raped Elizabeth Smart. Don’t they all claim to speak for God, Preacher Pyle wonders aloud?
In their secular church, Preacher Pyle and Pastor Gehrke will not “pound the Bible” to foment “institutionalized cruelty.” But they will speak for God about Dallin Oaks, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its plan of salvation and its doctrinal understanding of gender and sex. Be clear: God does not condone anything perceived as hurtful to others from the mouths of these Mormons.
I like and respect George Pyle and Robert Gehrke. They have been true to their secular faith and never have given me offense. I do not ascribe to them ill motives. I understand how difficult it must be for them to reconcile ideas, words and behaviors from people of faith that seem to them to be irreconcilable. They see illegitimate or false paradoxes from people of faith such as Dallin Oaks. What does he mean by conjoining love and law?
But neither good man should kid himself about their Latter-day Saint problem. Either somebody speaks for God or nobody does. They choose nobody – the only possible choice for them as they so freely associate a prophet, a pope and a pedophile rapist. Meanwhile, millions of people of faith know the difference between a prophet and a pedophile.
Just because my friends do not believe in my God does not mean my faith is incorrect. It simply means we don’t agree. I no more impose my will on other people than they do. They choose the private behaviors and public laws they want for the reasons they champion and so do I. The fundamental difference between us in these matters is that I think they are merely wrong, while they think I, and my kind, are intentionally insolent.