Controversies Past and Present

Controversies Past and Present August 31, 2022

 

A 2015 Wikimedia Commons public domain image of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

 

I should call your attention to the 2022 annual meeting of IANDS — the International Association for Near-Death Studies — which begins today, 31 August, and runs through 4 September.  It is convening in-person in the Hilton Salt Lake City Center, at 255 South West Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, and will apparently also be available on-line.

 

They're really close together
A side view of the Van Gogh Museum, with the Rijksmuseum in the background, in Amsterdam’s Museumkwartier

(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)

 

Other than saying the other day that I’m perfectly happy to see the jerk who evidently yelled racist insults and threats at a player for the Duke University women’s volleyball team being banned from athletic events at Brigham Young University, I’ve had nothing to say on this recent controversy.  I’ve been saddened, though,  to see the University as a whole and its sponsoring church damned on account of the incident, and I’ve thought that some criticisms went far beyond what is justified.  In my years of experience at BYU — which represent most of my adult life, as either student or faculty member — I did not find racism endemic or even very common.  (As a matter of fact, although I assume that it existed, I never saw it at all.). But I wasn’t there at the BYU/Duke game, and I know nothing about the case beyond what I’ve read.  So I appreciated these two articles:

 

“Opinion: The view from the stands at the BYU-Duke volleyball game”

“Perspective: I’m Black, and I bleed blue. We all need to confront racism: As Christians, as a community and as a country, we all need to do better”

 

A photo of the museum dedicated to Van Gogh
Another view of (another part of) the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)

 

I think that this interview is important, and it’s obviously on a really important topic:

 

“Episode 99: Former federal Judge Thomas B. Griffith on the importance of religious liberty and political civility: Quoting President Dallin H. Oaks, Judge Griffith says: ‘On contested issues, we seek to moderate and to unify’”

 

Looking the other direction, with the Van Gogh Museum on the right, at the famous Concertgebouw
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

I haven’t heard much in recent years about Kate Kelly, the former leader (?) of Ordain Women.  Maybe I just haven’t been listening, or perhaps I don’t move in the right circles.  I’m afraid that I also don’t think about her very much.  However, in looking for something else, I’ve just run across these two items, from blog entries that I posted all the way back in February 2015, and — I dunno — I still like them:

 

I.

“Sadly, the Mormon faith has become a place that incentivizes the survival of the least fit. Since strict obedience is demanded and harshly enforced, only the least talented, least articulate, least nuanced thinkers, least likely to take a stand against abuse, and the least courageous people thrive in the Church today.”

Kate Kelly, founder of “Ordain Women,” in The Guardian (6 February 2015)

 

II.

As I noted yesterday, Kate Kelly, the founder of “Ordain Women” has pronounced the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unfit, untalented, inarticulate, unnuanced, cowardly, morally acquiescent, and conformist.

Now, it seems unlikely to me that the Saints suddenly became inferior and inadequate overnight, just when Ms. Kelley was excommunicated last summer.  Presumably, they were already low specimens of humanity even when she was still a member of the Church.

Moreover, her judgment of the Saints seems merely a superficially more civil variant of the description often given of Mormon believers on some apostate message boards, as “sheeple,” “Morgbots,” “Mor(m)ons,” and “Utards.”

So, I confess, I’ve been led to wonder why she was ever demanding to be ordained a leader among such a defective people.

Do successful corporate executives crave appointment as Boy Scout patrol leaders?

Do Nobel-laureate physicists aspire to take first prize at junior high school science fairs?

I suspect that the Lutheran theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted to abolish the Hitler Youth, not to join the boys and become their leader.

But perhaps I’m failing to grasp the self-sacrificial and compassionate nobility of her offer to receive ordination and to help us.  I’m reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s famous 1899 poem “The White Man’s Burden”:

 

Take up the White Man’s burden—

Send forth the best ye breed—

Go send your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need

To wait in heavy harness

On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child

 

Take up the White Man’s burden

In patience to abide

To veil the threat of terror

And check the show of pride;

By open speech and simple

An hundred times made plain

To seek another’s profit

And work another’s gain

Take up the White Man’s burden—

And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better

The hate of those ye guard—

The cry of hosts ye humour

(Ah slowly) to the light:

“Why brought ye us from bondage,

“Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden-

Have done with childish days-

The lightly proffered laurel,

The easy, ungrudged praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood

Through all the thankless years,

Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,

The judgment of your peers!

 

I grant that the concept of a “White Man’s Burden” is racist, and that Mr. Kipling’s poem and the Pear’s Soap ad [below] are gender-exclusive.  Thank History that we’ve evolved beyond such sexism and ethnic bigotry.  But their unashamedly condescending statements of a felt mission to help lesser people, even at considerable cost to oneself, may be relevant here.

 

Pear's soap ad
More than a little bit painful to modern sensibilities, I think.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

Finally, I close with three disgusting stories that I’ve drawn from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©, followed by a brief meditation on the glorious future that is, perhaps, just over the horizon from us:

 

“Hundreds of Latter-day Saints Volunteer in Eastern Kentucky Flood Recovery Efforts: Helping Hands spends two weekends cleaning up hundreds of homes”

“The Church and UNICEF Help Refugee Children from South Sudan: Since Learning for Life began in 2018, more than 115,000 children have gained access to education”

“Latter-day Saints Volunteer, Donate Supplies for The World Games: International multi-sport event was held in Birmingham, Alabama, July 7-17, 2022”

 

The world would very obviously be a much better place if only theism and religious belief were to go away!  Pending that utopian future, though, here is some thinking on the topic:

 

“Plug-In: Why faith still matters – Bob Smietana on how religion is getting reorganized”

 

Posted from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 

 

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