Tag: Religion

A Clear Piece on Romney’s Mormonism and Its Impact on Election

This piece on Salon.com today does an excellent job (with only rare forays into sarcasm) of discussing the parts of Mitt Romney's Mormon religion that ought to be of interest to voters and therefore fair game for journalistic inquiry.

As a former (excommunicated by request) Mormon Elder myself, I can attest to the veracity of everything Sarah Posner says about the LDS Church, its polity and its politics, its leadership and its stance on social issues. I would add that another troubling aspect of Mormonism for me is its teaching of the doctrine of blood atonement which leads to the conclusion that only an execution can atone for certain offenses. Back in the late 1970's when I was an active member of the LDS Church and living in Salt Lake City, I ran afoul of its rules by refusing to picket a local X-Rated theater as ordered by my priesthood leader and by participating in vigils protesting the pending execution of Gary Mark Gilmore. Those incidents led to my request to be removed from the Church rolls, which proved to be a long, drawn-out process during which church leaders continued to try to "minister" to my family.

I do not believe that Romney's Mormonism ought to disqualify him from holding office, of course. But I do think that given the uniqueness of Mormonism and the degree to which it governs — or attempts to govern — the thoughts, positions and behaviors of its members, the subject of his role in the church and his response to anti-feminist, racist and other public policy statements made by the church leadership ought not be off limits.

The Magic of Christianity

Fred Plumer of the Center for Progressive Christianity has released a thought-provoking, insightful and, for me at least, resonant column that provides interesting parallels between Christmas and Christianity from a progressive perspective.

Building from a childhood Christmas experience, Plumer sgues to a discussion of how Christianity is faring in the midst of deep questioning of its roots and essence by an increasing number of clearly qualified, brilliant scholars who are grounded in that faith. The column is well worth reading, but whether you read it or not, perhaps you can identify with this quotation that seems to summarize his thoughts on the subject. I know I did.

You see for me the magic of Christianity is not in the miracles, or in the beliefs, or in the written word. It is not even so much in having the correct information about the historical Jesus. The magic of Christianity is in the living and being. It is more about praxis than it is about belief. It is more about trust than it is about blind faith. The transformative “magic” can only be discovered in the doing, by opening, not closing, by letting go, and not by clinging. It is not about trying to decide what is divine and what is not. It is about discovering the divine in all things.


Does a Killer’s Religion Matter?

The recent mass murder in Oslo and the extreme reactions among some members of the U.S. media have brought into sharp focus an issue that comes up periodically for me. The apparently confessed perpetrator of this calamity, Anders Behring Breivik, has described himself on Facebook and in other places as a Christian. Many in the U.S. media have taken umbrage at that characterization, suggesting that anyone who could do what he did isn't a Christian. Yet these same commentators are quick to paint Muslims who commit crimes against the Q'ran as exemplars of Islam and thus, in their eyes, representative of a religion that advocates violence.

Apart from the easily provable fact that Islam is no more violent in its teachings than is Judeo-Christianity if you see them through the lenses of literal interpretation of ancient texts, the deeper question is, "What does it matter from a news perspective?" I'm sure that Breivik, like many others who have committed crimes and proclaimed themselves to be Christians, was also a blogger, a reader, a bicyclist, maybe a stamp collector, a fan of some specific movie star or style of music. Why, then, aren't the media referring to Breivik by one of those equally irrelevant labels? Because none of those labels gives rise to antagonism and passion, perhaps? I've read some of Breivik's public writings and I don't see anything in his "manifesto" that makes his embrace of the label of "Christian" nearly as relevant as his anti-multi-culturalism or his anti-Muslim bigotry. 

Add to this the grave difficulty associated with attempting to define for someone else his or her Christian nature, and you have the makings for entrenched and potentially violent defenses of cherished beliefs. To say, as some commentators have, that, "He couldn't be a Christian because his actions are contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ" is to suggest that anyone who behaves contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ cannot be called a Christian. That would, by the religion's own definition, disqualify every single Christian as worthy of that label because "All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." This in turn demonstrates the absurdity of anyone saying that anyone else is or is not a Christian.

But the really important bottom line here is simply this: using religious labels — particularly when to do so is almost always to misuse them, however subtly — to identify someone and expect that simple act of identification to brand all others who also bear that label as guilty of the same behavior, is practically a textbook definition of prejudice,.

The real story, the real tragedy in Oslo, is not about whether the perpetrator is or is not a Christian according to any standard. The real story is that dozens of people, most of them budding youth, are dead because a single individual believed others needed to die at his hand because they acted, looked, behaved or believed differently from him. Bigotry is the point. Not religion. Not spirituality. Not even politics.