Toward the end of the period when I attended the Mormon Church (late 1999 and early 2000), I was still occasionally teaching Sunday School classes and more frequently teaching “Priesthood Meeting Elder’s Quorum” classes. Despite views that varied significantly from Mormon orthodoxy at that point, I had no trouble teaching lessons in good faith. Assigned to teach from the text of a top Mormon leader’s sermon, I would simply cross out the parts I disagreed with and teach the lesson based on what remained. And there was always something important that remained. I suppose some people might think that what was remaining was trite, but I never did. The basics that people with diverging views agree on are often the deepest and meatiest truths of all.
My reaction to Donald Trumps speech in Poland on July 6, 2017 is similar. My disagreements with Donald Trump are profound—particularly on immigration: see for example
But I agree that what Donald Trump called “The West,” deserves to be protected and defended, once one insists that anyone who accepts the values and principles of “The West” thereby becomes part of “The West,” regardless of their national origin. (See my evocation of the principle of openness to newcomers in “‘Keep the Riffraff Out!'”)
And what are those values? Donald Trump’s chief speechwriter Stephen Miller wrote a beautiful passage that were delivered in the Remarks by President Trump to the People of Poland | July 6, 2017:
We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.
We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression.
We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves.
And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization.
Where “God” is mentioned, I need to interpret the passage according to my own view of God. (See “Teleotheism and the Purpose of Life.”) And those with Western values are much more divided about the role of government than this passage recognizes. But otherwise I agree. And I hope you do, too, whatever your view of the man who wrote those words and the man who spoke them.