In Defense of Dogmatism

Amazon’s “look inside” feature has preserved intact a perfect little essay from the book, “Things That Are,” by Amy Leach. I have met Amy Leach–I even hiked in Provo’s beautiful Rock Canyon with her, her husband, and my personal essay class, courtesy of Patrick McMadden, my essay teacher, who I think was involved in getting her to come out to BYU and read from her book during BYU’s Friday Reading Series. If you will follow the above link, use the “look inside” feature, and search the word “hoopoe,” you will find a complete, lovely, and very short essay titled “God.”

In this essay, Amy Leach points out that men take the name of God in their mouths, but they do not speak God’s words. “They say it pleases him, to say his name incessantly. They sing it in songs and chant it together and broadcast it loudly on the radio, on signs. Perhaps it pleases him. I do not know. It does not please me.”

These iterations of his name are totally different from his words. God’s words, according to this essay, are his creatures, who “mount up with wings or leap through brambles or swim blackly in ponds.”

I find this essay utterly charming, like the rest of the book, but I also find something lacking in the treatment of how men speak God’s name. Continue reading

What happens when a liberal professor interviews a conservative economist?

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Actually, a surprisingly amiable conversation. We release this fifth Courteous Conversation about minimum wage fittingly on Labor Day. Today celebrates the contribution of laborers—sometimes underpaid and overworked—to our nation’s prosperity and wellbeing.

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The Problem with Charter Schools: courteous conversation #4

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For a lot of us choosing the right school for our children is an important and stressful question. We even buy houses based on school districts. This is a choice that could determine the future success of our children. So it’s no surprise that people have strong feelings around this topic. To David, charter schools offer some attractive alternatives, but Maura-Lee has large reservations.

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An Open Conversation on Abortion: Courteous Conversation #3

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This is our third Courteous Conversation. They are both a little nervous. Kelly had even called Laura beforehand to explain that she only asked her to do this because she trusted their friendship.

Kelly is very pregnant, which adds some gravity to a conversation about Abortion. She is pro-life and her friend Laura is pro-choice. They’re both young mothers and their children play together in the next room as they talk. During the course of the conversation, one of Kelly’s children has a pretty bad accident, and we stop the cameras while Kelly cleans and Laura gets a change of clothing from her own daughter’s room that they can borrow. Continue reading

Courteous Conversations: Destroying our own freedom of speech


It was not easy to find people like Dan and Jonathan.

The first thing to know is that Dan and Jonathan are both Mormons, a generally conservative group, and yet they disagree over whether homosexual marriage should have been legalized. Dan is strong, confident, and has a beard while Jonathan is clean shaven and skinny.

David explains the rules of Courteous Conversations and then pauses. The camera is already rolling, but as David is about to ask Jonathan to state his beliefs about homosexuality, he second guesses himself, fumbles a little, and then says, “you’re on camera, so we understand if you don’t want to say something.” Continue reading

Courteous Conversations: Talking across political lines

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Brian is a soft-spoken man who invites us into his living room while he retreats into a back room to finish putting the children to sleep. His wife is out playing volleyball with friends. Brian has blonde hair, blue eyes, and holds moderately conservative views.

I mention his political silhouette because that is the reason we have come. Our goal is to find people who disagree over potentially polarizing issues, and find a way to have them talk together and, more remarkably, listen. Continue reading