Certain Mormon apostates and critics have derived a huge kick from the arrest, the other day, of Michael Crapo, the senior United States senator from Idaho, for driving in Alexandria, Virginia, under the influence of alcohol. And, admittedly, there is something unusual about the DUI arrest of a senator, and far more so still when he’s sixty-one years old, a life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a former bishop and stake president, and a self-described teetotaler. (A graduate of Brigham Young University and Harvard Law School, he’s a longtime resident of Idaho Falls.) It’s a sad story, and I have no special knowledge about it and nothing in particular to say about it. I don’t know what was going through Senator Crapo’s mind.
At least a few critics seem to think that the Crapo matter makes a significant statement, of some kind, about Mormonism. Or something. I can’t really see the point, myself. (Though I do take drunk driving seriously. Among other things, a girlfriend of mine was killed, many years ago, by a drunk driver.)
But I wonder why, if this incident is at all significant with regard to Mormonism, Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal can’t be said to tell us something significant about atheism. (Mr. Armstrong is a self-proclaimed atheist.) I suspect that, if theists were to make merry over Lance Armstrong’s downfall and to claim that it exposed the core moral vacuity of godlessness, or something of that sort — and, perhaps, for all I know, some have done it — atheists would cry foul.
And justly so. I don’t think either case tells us anything much about either atheism or Mormonism. One might wonder whether Lance Armstrong’s areligious views have made certain decisions in his personal life easier for him to rationalize, but there’s no real evidence that they did and, of course, there are plenty of genuine religious believers who fall short, and sometimes far short, of their professed ideals. (Difficult as it may be for readers to believe, even I have, on occasion, noticed certain . . . well, let’s be blunt and just outright call them imperfections . . . certain imperfections in my life.)
I suppose that one important element of the Crapo story is the fact that he has been a leader in his church and that he has publicly affirmed his abstinence from alcohol. Stories about politicians’ hypocrisies are always hits in the popular media — which is partly why conservative “family values” politicians caught in affairs or with prostitutes, and the like, always make such juicy scandals. Politicians who profess no such ideals — Barney Frank, say, or Marion Barry, or the late philanderer Edward Kennedy — draw little attention when they behave the way they do, because they never really claimed to aspire to anything else. Another contributing factor may be the leveling ideology that believes (or hopes) that, in reality, there aren’t any truly good people. (But more on that at some other time.)
On a somewhat related but much brighter note: Have a look at this.
Posted from Orlando, Florida.