On Canyons and Culture Wars
So far, I've been to Philadelphia (America's fifth largest city), Washington DC, Nashville and Dayton in Tennessee, Los Angeles and San Francisco. While in LA, I fell victim to that city's appalling air pollution: you can see the smog hanging over the streets. I caught a bout of acute bronchitis and had to spend eight hours in a downtown hospital's Emergency Department. It's nothing like "ER"; no, I wouldn't recommend it. LA isn't really a city; it's a clump of cities linked together by freeways. I visited Pasadena to meet Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary (now the world's largest seminary) and had lunch with three world-class historians of science at CalTech (the California Institute of Technology).
Richard Mouw, one of America's most respected evangelical thinkers, has spent more than a decade in theological conversations with Mormon theologians. He has a new book coming out soon which summarises his reflections on those encounters. But I can say this much about his findings: he rejects the claim that the Mormon Church is a cult, and argues that Mormonism is to Christianity what Christianity is to Judaism. I think his work will become important in re-locating Mormonism within American religious life.
Also in LA and San Francisco, I met with lawyers and activists working on Proposition 8. That was the California plebiscite which introduced a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. When it passed, it was a great surprise to everyone, because California is one of the most progressive (and Democrat) states in the Union. Now, two of America's best-known lawyers, Ted Olson and David Boies, are fighting to have the ban declared unconstitutional. Olson was George W Bush's solicitor general, so he's not regarded as a liberal voice in America's culture wars. But marriage equality, he says, is about American justice.
I leave the Grand Canyon tomorrow morning and make the six-hour journey to the airport at Phoenix, then travel to Kentucky for a visit to the Creation Museum to take a close-up look at another of America's culture was: the battle over intelligent design, creationism and the science curriculum.