I had determined that I had said all that I was going to say about Romney – I wasn’t going to dignify the man with any more attention, nor give his groupies yet more fuel to respond with their ‘correctives’. But I’m too gob-smacked at the moment to be restrained.
Firstly, I don’t know where Romney gets off complaining about anyone who pays no taxes when he’s used every trick in the book – (financial instruments I think they are called) to avoid paying his own.
Secondly – and not to put too fine a point on it – I’m deeply uncomfortable about sharing a faith community with him, and frankly anyone like him. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone who is a registered Republican went hoarse in their ecstasies at Romney’s nomination. Many of them (I’m hoping) will be that cherished brand of Republican who refused to tip off the edge with the Tea Party and are probably just as staggered as everyone else by this new brand of post-truth, post-fact, post-ethics, anything-just-to-get-elected, politicking.
At least I hope so. At the bottom of my heart and from the bottom of the world I am hoping that Romney is courting a vocal minority. A vocal minority who has painted broad brush-strokes on our religious identity without getting permission from the rest of us. A minority who have so effectively nudged Mormonism down the neo-liberal rabbit hole with memes and discourses that rattle around the cage suggesting that true Mormonism:
- is the free-market
- isn’t government
- is the GOP
- isn’t state assistance for the most needy
- is personal wealth accumulation at any public cost
- is pro-war
- isn’t expansive and thoughtful
- mustn’t try to address socially inequality with political measures
- is fearful of everything, everyone, and everything everyone does, but mostly feminists, gays and intellectuals.
So I have a few words to say to the vocal minority who have so brazenly claimed a religious identity for Mormonism that they had no right to manufacture in the first place- its time for you to repent! And here’s why.
- Whether or not there are dubious historical anomalies in the church record,
- Whether or not polygamy was sanctified by the heavens, or a convenient sexual innovation for some libidinous pioneersmen,
- Whether God didn’t think Blacks should have the priesthood (and then changed his mind because of the civil rights movement),
- Whether or not men or women or both are divinely entitled to administer the ordinances of the gospel,
- Whether or not an Apostle, a General Authority, a Stake President or a Bishop is speaking at any given time as an oracle of Christ himself,
- Whether or not the City Creek Mall battle cry to ‘lets go shopping’ was prophecy, revelation, or counsel,
IS ALL BESIDE THE POINT!
All of these tensions are the unavoidable consequences of the struggles and contests that a faith tradition in the religious market place invites. But there is one constant in Mormonism that has never changed (aside from the 3,913 editions that have been made since 1830) – and that is The Book of Mormon.
Whether or not The Book of Mormon is a literal account of a Meso-American people is somewhat redundant. The fact of the matter is, The Book of Mormon is our story, our religious and social manifesto, our uniquely Mormon road map for navigating the vicissitudes of mortality, our morality tale, and the only consistent (aside from the 3,913 editions) reservoir of philosophy, theology, and thought that is uniquely Mormon. As a companion to the Holy Bible (which has had absolutely no editions – never, ever), The Book of Mormon is Mormonism’s theological constant that has the power to inform our public ethics, our public morality, and our politics. In this respect, it is stunning, coherent and nothing short of a miracle.
But if we can’t or refuse to read The Book of Mormon as the grand narrative and the tragedy that it is, and merely default to a cut and paste morality tale with ‘nice’ stories of all-day prayers, and naughty boys who fancy the local harlot, we miss the import, we miss the big picture, we miss sharing with our children a moral, ethical and spiritual road map that points us to our own apocalyptic end times if we don’t wake up and put on the whole armour of righteousness.
As the Nephites and Lamanites spiraled into a cycle of mutual destruction I am reminded of the following verse in Alma:
And thus because of iniquity amongst themselves, yea, because of dissensions and intrigue among themselves they were placed in the most dangerous circumstances.
In this verse the root cause of their vulnerability was named. Iniquity. We are used to hearing iniquity being storied as sins of personal morality – bad behaviour in bed, buggering, boozing and blaspheming. These are the flagship Mormon morals that appear in little books that we give to our youth as their coming of age gifts. But in the case of The Book of Mormon the problem that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the entire civilization was surprisingly NOT that Isabel’s skirt was too short, or that Shiblon watched an R-rated movie. It was much, much more than that. Iniquity in this account is documented as, a) dissension, and b) intrigue.
So what is dissension?
Eris, Greek goddess of discord, angry at not having been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, sought to foment discord among the wedding guests. She threw into their midst a golden apple inscribed “for the fairest.” When Hera, Pallas Athena, and Aphrodite each laid claim to the apple, Paris was called upon to decide the issue. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, thus bringing upon himself the vengeance of the other two goddesses, to whose spite is attributed the fall of Troy. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dissension, accessed 20/9/12)
Dissension is the human struggle to win that one elusive golden apple. The golden apple is an illusion that fuels human vanity, that tells us we could be the finest if we could just obtain it. Its that great and dreadful story that abundance and goodness and beauty and entitlement belongs to one alone. Dissension is the lengths we will go to in order to win the prize, and is accompanied by the idea that the majority needs to suffer for the prosperity of a few. It’s the story of the 99 – but in a satanic reversal. Dissension is what fuels the heart sickening scramble for more than we need, for the illusion that ‘we can buy anything with money’, for the foundationless, vanity filled, large and spacious mansion that sits above the earth with little other than hot air needed for its levitation.
Intrigue is the method that drives and inflates dissension. It is all the seemingly legitimate machinations that take place underneath the surface, the secrecy, the handshakes, the deals, the plotting, the lack of transparency, the legal loopholes, and smoky backrooms where a sign is hammered to the door ‘Private – No Admission’. It’s the $50,000 a plate fundraisers where the language of exclusion is constituted because it promises a new Lexus for the affluent attendees.
I’m embarrassed and furious that my faith tradition has courted a strain of Mormonism that is so at odds with its own scriptures. I’m angry that American Mormon neo-cons have been allowed to grab the microphone and dictate an identity that is a startling contradiction to the central message of its canon. I’m peeved that Mormonism in the US, in an effort to manage itself into the mainstream, has bedded down with a brand of uniquely American, conservative Christianity and manufactured an orthodoxy out of it.
But I’m glad of one thing. I’m glad that I’m a New Zealander and that I live in a free country. It might be expensive to live here, but I value my ideological, political, philosophical freedom in the antipodes. I’m especially glad that come election time, the equally free members of my ward will vote all over the political spectrum, and whether they are social democrats, neo-liberals, left libertarians, Greens, or will vote for the Maori party, New Zealand First or even ACT, it will have little bearing on whether or not they are entitled to call themselves true Mormons.