In discussions of poverty’s ills and cures, it doesn’t take long for the subject of root causes to come up. Not everyone agrees what those root causes are, of course—or whose fault they are. But it’s often taken for granted that you can’t just tackle a presenting problem directly; you have to go for the root, whatever it is. This certainly isn’t always wrong, but it does have a way of obscuring simple, obvious solutions.
The musical The Book of Mormon portrays two naïve Mormon missionaries in Uganda proclaiming that “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.” The joke isn’t mere whimsy; the LDS Church is widely perceived as racist. The irony is that had the church followed its initial trajectory, by now it likely would have become the most racially integrated and progressive church in America.
When people who don’t know a lot about American Christianity hear that I am Mennonite, they sometimes ask if it’s the same as being Mormon. No, I say, and add a stock reply: other than starting with the same letter of the alphabet and being inscrutable to outsiders, the groups are quite different. After reading Joanna Brooks’s memoir The Book of Mormon Girl, I will no longer answer with such alacrity.
The great newish online journal Religion & Politics alerted me to the fact that today is the anniversary of JFK's speech to the Houston ministers.
Romney's faith, like Obama's, is distinctly American yet often misunderstood. And campaigns are rarely an occasion to increase understanding.
An annotated list by the author of Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction.
The LDS canon's four books carry equal weight of authority. All are read as historical witnesses to God's promise of salvation.
It has become fashionable to narrate the lives of books. Paul Gutjahr offers a brief and readable account of the Book of Mormon's history.
The 19th-century Mormon kingdom emphasized the common good. Later came a shift toward personal morality as the mark of saintliness.
So a pro-Romney Super PAC planned to focus on Jeremiah Wright--you know, because those decontextualized clips of a black pastor sounding angry didn't get played on the news enough last time around--but quickly changed its tune based on Romney's unenthusiastic response. Then a pro-Obama Super PAC clarified that it won't be going after Mormonism, and David Axelrod agreed. I'm certainly glad to be spared a barrage of prime-time crap about how black liberationists hate America (and even say "damn" about it!) on the one hand and about polygamy and special underwear on the other. But note this news story's assumptions.
John F. Kennedy's famous Houston speech on church and state during the 1960 presidential campaign elicited Rick Santorum's after-the-fact disgust. Though Santorum misrepresents the speech in some ways--Kennedy didn't say anything about limiting religious institutions and leaders from speaking on public issues--he is right to find the speech theologically lame.
Mormons are in the familiar situation of being on the defensive theologically and politically. But they are also in terra incognita: they are viewed as leading the way in preserving family values.