by liberal japonicus
The Washington Post has an article on the immigration reform package in Utah, and it might be surprising to a lot of people here. Some key grafs below the fold
Utah, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by better than three to one in the state legislature, has passed the nation's most liberal - and most reality-based - policy on illegal immigration. And the Republican governor is expected to sign it.
The legislation includes both a watered-down enforcement provision that police say won't make much difference and a guest-worker program that would make all the difference in the world - if it survives constitutional challenge - by granting legal status to undocumented workers and allowing them to live normal lives. In a nutshell, it's a one-state version of the overarching immigration reform package that Congress has repeatedly tried, and failed, to enact.
The article goes on to note that while Republicans advocating tougher penalties dominate the national stage:
But it's in Utah that the Republican deportation caucus has been treated to real abuse. What's interesting is that it's coming from unimpeachable conservatives. If you want to see the most corrosive long-term wedge issue facing the GOP, come to Salt Lake City.
Utah's guest-worker bill doesn't grant citizenship, of course, but in every other way it's exactly what national Republicans have derided as "amnesty." It would grant work permits to undocumented immigrants, and their immediate families, who pay a fine, clear a criminal background check and study English.
Devils tend to be found in details, and there aren't a great deal of them in the article. It notes that the Mormon church has taken a big role in pushing it, which makes a big difference since 90% of the people in the state legislature are Mormon. Put against the church's intervention in the Proposition 8 battle in California, it seems to provide another one of those 'churches do the craziest things' moments. I'd like to think that the backlash they got over Prop 8 made them rethink, but that is highly unlikely, and a far more cynical take would be to think that their "market niche" is evangelizing to those Hispanics. Still, is anyone from Utah around here to explain what things are like on the ground?
To put it another way, it has me wonder what to think about churches as social structures. I was a regular church goer when I lived in my small Mississippi town, but getting to university, things obviously changed a lot. (an anecdote about my college town is grist for this week's Friday open thread). But church for me wasn't really about doctrine, it was more like Cheers, except with a regular schedule. The church softball team was as much a part of the experience as anything else.
After I went to university, one of my roommates made a principled decision to start attending a Lutheran church, but I used to joke that if I were going to start going to church, it would be Russian Orthodox, for the smells and bells. Still, what a church provides, at least for me, is a community that you get to know and be a part of.
Now I'm in Japan and naturally, the situation is a bit complicated. There are a few churches that cater to a foreign population, but the act of gathering to worship in a foreign country seems to make it a lot more serious than it was when everyone else in town was going. I'd personally like to go to a Japanese church but that would be a committment that would again require a lot more faith and belief. Alternatively, you could say that I think it would be too much of a lie to go, whereas in a small Southern town, you don't have the questions that you have to answer.
One thing I do fret about is that my daughters miss out on that understanding of the church that comes from being in a community like where I grew up. It seems necessary to understand a lot of things about Christianity because they are fundamental to the experience. But I've resigned myself to living in a country that thinks Christmas means KFC.
Still, what to make of this and what to make of churches?