If I were a traditional journalist, I would not interview Bishop Jon Fish of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He makes no accusations, nurses no grudges, minimizes conflicts, ignores those who denigrate his faith, and works to spread understanding and inclusion. He’s a “glass half full” kind of guy, and a journalist or an editor looking for a quick piece of clickbait or a mean-spirited comment for “controversy” would come up empty.
That’s because, as past president of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento, Bishop Fish thinks the similarities between people, groups and faiths are more important than the differences.
“We all live in the same house, we just came in through different doors,” he says. “We seem to get along knowing that God is the head of our family, but we sometimes don’t want to get along with our brothers and sisters very well. I don’t know how to overcome that except by being with them and before long, they are just your dear and valued and precious friends and you don’t really care which faith they practice.”
The Bishop and his family have long practiced what he preaches, making friends with people who do not share their faith, and thus discovering the values they hold in common.
His father was a long-haul truck driver who attended many different houses of worship while away on his job, and brought home religious materials and ideas to discuss with his family. Bishop Fish himself estimates he’s attended nearly 2,000 services in houses of worship not his own over the course of the last 20 years. “And the big differences are that they call the same thing by different names,” he said. “But God is still preached and taught, and love and decency and goodness and honor and faith and truth — all those kinds of things — are taught.”
Three of Bishop Fish’s sons went on mission in Japan, Holland and Argentina. Other family members served in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Dallas. Most went out as boys and girls, he said, and came home as men and women, having grown spiritually and become deeply involved in service of caring for others.
And while the mainstream media trumpet the clash of religious liberty versus LGBTQ rights, and decry or praise the addition of religious justices on the Supreme Court and how they might (depending on viewpoint) ruin the country or save it, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and pro-gay-rights organizations helped engineer something called the Utah Compromise, which creates a middle ground to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people while protecting specific religious liberties.
Unlike Bishop Fish, traditional media and those who do its bidding have long sought to highlight and exploit differences, scandal and controversy. Like a boat buyer probing for rot with an ice pick, this single-minded quest for badness can damage solid wood and create suspicion, distrust and uncertainty.
Nevertheless, there’s no question the Founding Fathers made sure that in this new nation, the press and the public could speak freely. “The only security for all is a free press,” said Thomas Jefferson. And the “ice-pick school of journalism” has had some spectacular successes like Watergate and the exposure of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program.
But as revenues have dropped, with the consequent layoffs of investigative reporters and editors, traditional media has sharpened the pick and joined with tabloids and social media in dredging up, manufacturing or distorting information and lies which exacerbate confusion and conflict.
The truth is, those on the sniff for badness will find it. There are no perfect human beings. But there are those like Bishop Fish — who build, create and spread understanding — and then there are those who search for faults and specialize in blame. As a society, we are infested with ice-pick pokers, and with attention focused on them and their quest, we may miss the fact that they are poking our trust, our nation and our humanity full of holes.
Look, and you too may discover that we all live in the same house, we just came in by different doors. We carry within us love and decency and goodness and to discover it in ourselves and others is a joy.
This article was reprinted with permission from STANDleague.org.