The Mrs. and I have spent the last few weeks taking breaks between vacations to go in and (sigh) get to work.
Life's hard, isn't it?
Well, one such vacation was up to our dearly beloved West Yellowstone and Hebgen Lake. My wife and I both grew up going to Hebgen, although we had cabins on totally different parts of the lake. We still adore the area and when we get a chance to go up there, we tend to jump at it.
Part of the fun of going up to Hebgen, aside from lake activities, hiking, cabining, and chilling, is the little town that is West Yellowstone. It's a collection of Mom & Pop stores run by long-time residents catering to tourists and vacationers. The most culturally significant places on Main Street include the Dairy Queen, the Playmill, and the local Soggy Log Bar.
In short, West is awesome.
Part of the deal at Hebgen is, if you're up on Sunday, you go to church in West (unless it's Stake Conference, which was the best Sunday of my youth up there). The LDS ward in West is a small congregation that swells to overflowing on holidays and throughout the summer. Usually it's the same ol' same ol' of preachin', teachin', and upward reachin' by a good mix of locals, summer employees, and Idaho/Utah residents spending the summer there at their cabins. It's usually tame...
...but this Sunday was different.
This Sunday was special.
We were treated to some very interesting talks from church speakers over Memorial Day. I'll only leave you with the first one today (The second merits its own discussion):
A young returned missionary (only a month home) from Maseo, Brazil, got up to speak for about 10 minutes. I'm always interested to hear how Brazil is having spent several years myself as a missionary and later working in Sao Paulo for a summer. Needless to say, I have an enormously soft spot in my heart for that happy country and perk up whenever I hear anyone speak of her.
Because he was speaking on Memorial Day, I get the gist that the local leadership had asked this newly off the presses Missionary to speak about his mission experience and, if he felt it appropriate, tie it in to some of the themes of remembering our veterans and the devastation of war (again, I'll assume actual warfare, but maybe, hopefully, an emphasis on spiritual warfare).
Wow, was I surprised. Instead of the normal spiritual powerhouse talk, we were treated to a 15 minute diatribe on
1. How a third world country like Brazil was not like America, where no one was free, and how the populace was fighting desperately to secure its rights against a corrupt government.
2. A quote from President George W. Bush on how America was a light on a hill (actually, I thought this quote was going to segue into something better, when in fact it just devolved to…), which he promptly equated to us being superior to any and all countries (natch!).
3. How this young man was so grateful when his airplane home crossed into American airspace that he turned to his companions on the flight and said "Now, boys, if this plane goes down, at least it will be on American soil! Yeehaw!" I can only imagine the reaction his fellow missionaries gave him. I would have loved to have punched him in the nose.
4. How America was the most American Americana of them all and wasn't America the greatest rootin-tootinest country there ever was, dern-it-all!
Writing that, I want to make certain that you understand that I love my country. Living outside of the USA for many years has only deepened my appreciation for it and dedication to making it a fantastic country for myself and the future.
But that said, man, this kid missed the point. Bad.
Missionaries are supposed to go out and serve. Love others. Do the whole Christian thing--that is, forget themselves, and sacrifice themselves to a bigger cause. For other people. Without a thought for themselves.
Or the country they left behind.
For example, I was so apolitical and out of the loop on my mission that when the United States invaded Iraq in 2002, I didn't hear about it until three days later. I was more interested in what was going on with the neighbors across the street (who, although very nice and interested in what we were doing, later turned out to be the front of a city-wide drug cartel... whole 'nother story there).
My point is this: America is great. We are extremely lucky and very blessed to live here. Period.
But to adopt an attitude of superiority, especially one that reeks of "We're in an American world (or religion) where we merely tolerate your presence in it", is about the most unAmerican attitude I could imagine.
As he wrapped up his rhetoric, my sweet wife summed up the young man's talk very succinctly, as she turned to me and whispered "Wow. That was right wing."
Yes. So far right as to be simply wrong.