A “Fiddler on the Roof” or “Sound of Music” of Our Own?

A “Fiddler on the Roof” or “Sound of Music” of Our Own? April 22, 2024


Brunei waterside mosque
The Mosque of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin, in Brunei
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

Some of you might find this interview of interest.  I did it with Ben Hancock, who is based in the United Kingdom, on his podcast “For All the Saints”:  “Latter-Day Saint Scholar Discusses Fasting, Muslims & Ramadan – Daniel C. Peterson”  If you can just get past all of my characteristic sneering, slandering, cruelty, irrationality, lying, and buffoonery, you might find one or two worthwhile moments in it.

Marquee of Eugene O'Neill Theatre in NYC
Many who have seen the play are largely unaware of the book.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

Newly posted on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:  “Interpreter Radio Show — April 14, 2024”

For the 14 April 2024 episode of the Interpreter Radio Show, the program’s hosts were Terry Hutchinson, Mark Johnson, and Kevin Christensen, who hosted special guest Jared Ludlow during the program’s second hour. They discussed Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon lesson 19, the Enoch Seminar, and BYU’s Religious Studies Center.

Their discussion was recorded and it has now been edited to remove commercial breaks and made available for your delight and delectation.  The “Book of Mormon in Context” portion of this show, for the Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon lesson 19, will also be posted separately on Tuesday, April 30.

The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard live each week on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, as well as on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com.

Within the past few weeks, my wife and I attended a live performance of Fiddler on the Roof at the Hale Centre Theatre and, with the western edition of the Unbearable Cuteness of Being, watched The Sound of Music.  Which reminds me of a comment made years ago by an outspoken critic of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was, at that time, still nominally a member of the Church.  He was referring to the hit Broadway and West End musical The Book of Mormon.  “Catholics have The Sound of Music,” he gushed, “and Jews have Fiddler on the Roof, and now we have The Book of Mormon.”  His statement seemed remarkably fatuous to me then, and it still does.

The Sound of Music touches fairly lightly upon Catholicism in a (then, at least) very Catholic country, Austria.  Its portrayal of Austrian Catholic nuns — including Julie Andrews’s own Maria — is affectionate.  They come across as lovable people.  Fiddler on the Roof is much more pervasively Jewish, and it engages Jewish faith much more seriously.  Again, though, it is affectionate.  Even though its characters live in the now vanished and, to us, very foreign setting of a Ukrainian shtetl, they are recognizable human personalities who are not so very different from us and our own neighbors.  Fiddler draws us right into their world.  The play pokes gentle fun at their foibles but never ridicules their faith.

The contrast with The Book of Mormon is patent.  To say nothing of the racism that many have seen in its portrayal of Africans, it caricatures, distorts, and mocks the beliefs of Latter-day Saints as well as portraying its two missionary protagonists as (seemingly representative) idiots.  Whatever may be said of its merits as musical, comedy, or theater, it certainly is not The Sound of Music or Fiddler on the Roof for Latter-day Saints.  It’s a crude but very popular and very profitable lampoon of a culturally marginally religious minority.

Himmler at Mauthausen
Well fed and rested, and not bearing an enormous block of granite, the Reichsführer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, walks up the notorious “staircase of death” at KZ-Mauthausen in April 1941.  Having grown up with stories and photographs from my father’s involvement in the liberation of the concentration camp at Mauthausen, and under his admonition never to forget, I cannot abide the stench that is issuing from Columbia University and other American institutions of higher learning.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)

What a mess:

“Columbia University Moves To Remote Learning As Campus ‘Rancor’ Puts Jewish Students On Edge”

“Put Down the Protests”

“Jewish New Yorkers Rally outside Columbia to Remind Students They’re Not Alone: ‘Crying for Our Country’”

“Dearborn Muslims Chant ‘Death to America!'”

Happily, though, “Group that held Dearborn rally says ‘Death to America’ chants were wrongful”

I want to make my position absolutely clear:  I have no problem at all with criticism of the state of Israel.  I myself am critical of the state of Israel.  I have no problem with sympathy for Palestinians.  I myself have sympathy for the Palestinians, and I’ve openly expressed it for decades.  Moreover, I have Palestinian friends.  I’ve been in their homes and eaten with their families.  And I’m very unhappy about the tens of thousands of dead men, women, and children in Gaza.

But I have no patience at all for people who praise Hamas, a murderous and oppressive organization that has victimized not only Israelis but its own Palestinian subjects and that refuses to consider any kind of peace with Israel.  I have no tolerance whatever for anti-Semitism.  And I cannot grant the moral legitimacy of complaints against Israel’s invasion of Gaza that refuse to acknowledge and condemn the inexcusable and completely unjustifiable brutality of the Hamas attack on Israel back on 7 October 2023.  It is one thing to feel sympathetic concern for the Palestinians.  It is quite another to endorse terrorism, genocide, and anti-Semitism.

Second completed temple in Missouri
The Kansas City Missouri Temple  (LDS.org)

As this year’s Super Bowl recedes into the past, here are a couple of pieces that I think you might like.  They are about a pair of Latter-day Saints on the staff of the champion Kansas City Chiefs.  The second article is, to my mind, positively astounding:

“Coach Andy Reid says he never misses sacrament meeting, even helped bless a baby hours before Super Bowl win”

“The Story of Porter Ellett: Andy Reid’s Left-Hand Man: Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s left-hand man Porter Ellett knows how to face obstacles, and he’s helping the Chiefs do the same.”

North Korean military parade
Marching toward our glorious secular future!  Imagine!
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

And finally, just in case those two stories haven’t already left you sufficiently disheartened, I close with an entry from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™.  The Hitchens File continues to belch out horrors that leave many decent people — i.e., Brights — fervently yearning for an end to theism and, in one way or another, to theists altogether:

“Back from the brink: The intellectual tide is turning on marriage and civil society: Cultural elites seem to be coming to their senses about the importance of family, faith and community”

Happily, though, as he is doing in so many other ways as well, Vladimir Putin is fighting the good fight:  “Russia is waging a war against religious freedom in Ukraine”

And, in this and in other regards, Mr. Putin has allies:  “Escalating Christian Repression: Beijing’s Crackdown in Mainland China and Hong Kong”



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