February 17, 2010

If You're Going to Salt Lake City

I recently visited Salt Lake City to interview for a position with an allergist there.  Once I found out I was going to go out there I could not stop thinking about Scott McKenzie's San Francisco.  But in my head it's something along the lines of:

If you're going to Salt Lake City
Be sure to wear a three button suit with care.
If you're going to Salt Lake City
You're going to meet some business people there.

It's a work in progress.

At any rate, the trip was very good, and we'll see what comes of it.  The opportunity seems like a really good one for a lot of reasons.  Professionally it's very good: a solo practice that is growing, with people that seem like they would be very good to work with.  The timing is right, as the doctor wants to make a decision in the next few weeks.  The area is stunningly beautiful.  Maybe for people who grew up in the mountains it's no big deal, but I sort of feel like a landlocked person visiting the ocean for the first time.  "Look!  Snow!  Mountains!  Seasons!"  The city itself is an interesting issue.

The SLC area seems to be growing, and from a professional standpoint that's of course a good thing.  We initially were looking at Portland, Seattle, etc.  While those are great places, it turns out that we're not the only ones who think so, and the market for allergists is pretty saturated.  There are a couple of advertised jobs in SLC, which says something right off the bat.  Some people speculate that Salt Lake of today is Portland or Denver from a decade or so ago.  Soon maybe it too will be a hip destination where all the cool kids will want to live.  We had some concerns about the LDS influence there, but I think we've become much more comfortable about that.  For starters the city is very kid friendly as a result of their influence, and in many ways they are fantastic neighbors.  But in SLC itself the population is only 30-40% LDS.  It goes up as you get out into the suburbs and other parts of Utah, but Salt Lake itself turns out to be a fairly liberal college town.

The LDS issue made me think on a number of levels though.  The biggest one is what it will be like for our kids.  Will they be socially isolated for not being Mormon?  If so I think it's probably our fault in large measure, for not finding some of the few thousand kids who also aren't Mormon for them to relate with if need be.  It would also be very interesting to live in a place where orthodox Christianity is undeniably the minority opinion.  If we're being honest with ourselves pretty much every place in the country fits this bill.  But we're not honest, and still hold to the notion that this is a Christian culture and a Christian country.  Perhaps in name it is, but in many respects that name has been co-opted by politics and agendas and a great many non-spiritual driving factors.  I have to imagine that living in a place where the dominant religion is not your own will help you to understand the first century church better.  It will force you to decide what it really means to live what you believe.  Plus I don't think the Mormons are going to be burning any evangelicals on the stake.

In fact, I find it interesting to ponder the very systematic and organized way that relationships are built between the LDS and their neighbors.  I was told that each house on a street is assigned to an LDS-member who lives nearby.  They are responsible for that house, regardless of what type of people live in it.  Should a natural disaster or a power outage or whatever occur, it is their job to make sure everyone in that house is OK.  Say what you will about the structure and the expansion efforts and such of the LDS church, and you could argue that being told to do these things by your leadership is merely legalism and not true spirituality, but how much of that has mainstream Christianity lost?  Maybe you're being a good samaritan because you were told to, but for the person you help the impact is the same.  I am forced to wonder what the country would think of evangelicals if each one had to look out for their neighbors and do good deeds in the name of the church.  To my discredit I don't even know most of my neighbors.  We drive all over the city to go to work, shop miles from where we live, and go to churches that have little to do with location and much to do with finding the people and the beliefs most similar to our own.  Not that these things are all bad, and some of that is a natural result of how we build our cities and organize our lives.  But I have to wonder if a little forced neighborliness would really be a bad thing.