Confessions of Languatron’s Bane

“Star Wars: Episode VII” recently resumed production after taking a two-week hiatus to allow Harrison Ford to heal. Rumor has it that the Han Solo actor broke his leg when a hydraulic door of the Millennium Falcon was dropped on it. But other rumors say it wasn’t the Millennium Falcon’s door but, rather, the door of another spaceship altogether, the identity of which would likely constitute a spoiler for the much-anticipated sequel.

The Internet has no shortage of similar Star Wars spoilers. If you believe everything you read, you can piece together a workable plot of the film, despite director J.J. Abrams’s notorious penchant for on-set secrecy. (There’s a poster in his production offices that says “Loose Lips Sink Starships.”) Tight security notwithstanding, you can, with just a few Google searches, find out where Luke Skywalker has been for the thirty years since “Return of the Jedi,” as well as who this trilogy’s bad guy is and what he looks like. You can even see what Han Solo will be wearing in hot and cold weather.

That’s all presuming, of course, that these rumors are all true. And they’re not.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of them are wrong. The Han Solo costume designs look particularly legit, and surely there are some nuggets of truth amidst the gossipy dross. But big genre movies like these tend to bring out the Internet trolls, many of whom spread disinformation just for the cheap thrill of getting away with it.

Trust me. I speak from experience.

The year was 2008, and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was getting ready to hit theaters. That meant that a bunch of movie sites were publishing “advance reviews” that warned that the movie was going to be awful. There were dozens of them, many of which were poorly written, and I started asking how so many illiterate nobodies were given access to what was the most hotly anticipated film of many a year. I concluded that most of these reviews were bogus, and I wondered what it would take to write such a thing and get one of the sites to pick it up.

You can see where this is going.

Yep. You heard it here first. For no good reason, I churned out a piece of nonsense that was essentially a “greatest hits” melange of all the tidbits I had found in other articles. I submitted it to AintItCoolNews.com using the silly pseudonym “Languatron’s Bane,” and I waited to see if they would take the bait.

They did.

“A more positive, yet far more damning, review of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL comes in…” the headline screamed. The piece was peppered with such bon mots as “that’s not to say it’s a bad movie. It’s just an unnecessary one,” and “This is the “Free as a Bird” of Indiana Jones movies.” Despite the fact that I got a crucial detail wrong – I claimed that the movie included the line “It’s not the mileage; it’s the years,” and it didn’t – my error wasn’t enough to expose the fraud. Indeed, my review was quoted by a number of other publications, including the UK Telegraph. That’s right – my piece of hooey made it across the pond! I should have been ashamed of myself, and I probably would have been if I could have kept myself from giggling every time someone else fell for it.

There’s a lesson here. Writing fake reviews and making up phony information about movies isn’t something people ought to do, but people still do it, because it’s fun and because they can. Be wary. And look for my exclusive advance review of the next James Bond movie in my next post.

Our Tribal Future

“And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.”
– The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 7:2

The late Professor Daniel H. Ludlow was fond of noting that The Book of Mormon not only provides counsel written by ancient prophets for our day, but that it also serves as a metaphor for modernity. The Nephites and Lamanites were people who were preparing for the first coming of Christ, and we can expect to see parallels in their society to what the world will be like as we approach the Savior’s Second Coming.

It is in that spirit that I read 3 Nephi 7:2 as more than just a product of its time.

I am now going to give you entry to some of my more bizarre political musings, many of which wander afoul of common sense and veer into mild lunacy. But that said, I’m increasingly of the opinion that the nation state, as a concept, is on its way out.

This isn’t a variation on John Lennon’s “Imagine there’s no countries.” Most who decry the nation state yearn for a borderless Utopia where nobody fights, nobody ever says a cross word, and everyone hugs a lot. That might be nice, I guess, but that’s not where we’re going. Divisions will still be a large part of our future, but those divisions will be increasingly tribalistic, not nationalistic. There was a time when tribalism and nationalism were the same thing, but that’s not the case anymore.

Granted, the nation state itself was born as an extension of the tribe. Most people spent their entire lives in direct contact only with those in relative proximity, and borders sprang up to add definition to an already existing reality. But as travel and communication opportunities have increased, the strength of both physical and cultural borders have eroded, and tribal loyalties can now easily transcend geography. I feel more kinship, for instance, with a Mormon living on the other side of the world than I do with a Muslim who lives just down the street. My tribal loyalties are no longer bound by borders.

Of course, those borders still figure in to my personal tribal calculus. I’m an American, after all, and my American-ness is very much a part of my identity. But I’m a Mormon before I’m an American, and I’m a husband and father before I’m a Mormon. My primary tribal loyalties are to my family and my faith. My loyalty to country, while significant, will never ascend to the top of that list.

And what happens when country fails?

I don’t mean who wins or loses elections. Increasingly, the partisan bickering in every country is over small and relatively silly things. The ship of state is increasingly looking like the Titanic, and the relatively small shifts to the left and right that dominate current politics aren’t going to be enough to escape the iceberg. Within the next decade, the demographics of the modern welfare state will require huge austerity measures and massive benefit cuts in both America and the EU if governments don’t take action now. Well, no one is going to take action now. So we’re all going to follow Japan down the toilet, and people who turn to the state for help will eventually discover that no help is forthcoming.

So where to turn? Simple. We’ll turn to our tribes.

When the state can longer keep its promises, it will also lose its power to govern. That has happened in Iraq, where tribal identities have nothing to do with nationalism. No one in Iraq thinks of themselves as an Iraqi – they think of themselves as Sunnis or Shiites or Kurds. The state there is failing because it bears no relationship to the tribes it supposedly represents.

It will take longer for the state to fail in Europe, where common ethnicities and languages and centuries of shared history have shaped the culture for all of recorded history. But the EU is an artificial construct that can’t survive the coming economic implosion. Does a Frenchman think of himself as an EU citizen, or as a Frenchman? Certainly when the EU implodes, no one will cling to their EU citizenship as their tribal identity. And when France can’t keep its commitments, how big a deal will it be to identify as a Frenchman? People cling to tribes because there is strength and protection in them. When countries can’t provide such things, then their citizens will, of necessity, turn to something else.

I’m not saying the nation/state will dissolve in a puff of smoke, or that the shift to tribes over nations will necessarily be apocalyptic. I think the tribal future will have its good points, too.

For example, Mormons are of the opinion that Jesus can’t come back until the Restored Gospel is preached to every nation, kindred, and tongue. The assumption is that this process will require legal recognition in every country on earth, and young men on bicycles will pedal their way through Saudi Arabia before the end finally arrives. But is this really necessary to fulfill the prophecy?

There was a time when a nation state could control the information that flowed to its citizens. That era has long since passed, despite North Korea’s best efforts to stem the tide. Missionary work is shifting from bicycles to wireless connections, mainly because that’s where the conversation is. A Muslim living outside of Mecca is far, far more likely to come into contact with the Book of Mormon through a Google search than through two Mormon kids in the desert knocking on their door. When the nations stop mattering as much, the kindreds and tongues will take over, and the gospel will spread online to anyone who seeks it. When Isaiah said that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea,” (Isaiah 11:9) he was likely anticipating the universal reach of the World Wide Web. Borders are floodgates, and once they’re opened, the knowledge of the truth will pour into every corner of the globe.

I recognize that erosion is usually a slow process, and that the Grand Canyon wasn’t born in a day. But the nation state is definitely eroding, and the collapse of the unsustainable welfare state concept will likely break a large hole in the dam. I don’t think nations will disappear altogether, but I do think the nation state will collapse into irrelevance far faster than anyone currently anticipates.

This is why I find myself increasingly uninterested in the political enterprises of great pitch and moment whose currents will soon turn awry. Both Democrats and Republicans are going down with this ship. It’s time we all started to look to the tribal lifeboats.

The Languatron Party

I have a political metaphor for you today that involves our old pal Languatron, but it occurs to me that some of you Johnny-Come-Latelys to this blog may not even know who Languatron is.

Oh, how I envy you.

To educate yourself about the Internet’s most prolific and brain-dead troll, you can peruse my own Languatron Chronicles, which begin here. To summarize for those of you too lazy to read the unexpurgated version, Languatron was a supposedly ardent fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, but his over-the-top lunacy alienated him from those who would otherwise support his position. He lashed out at everyone who didn’t agree with his every word, labeling them corporate spies on the payroll of Universal Studios. (He also hated gays, Jews, Mormons, and “Mormon Jews,” whoever they are.) The net result was that he made his allies look like idiots, which ended up damaging the case he was supposedly trying to advance.

I thought of this as our old pal Moisture Farmer, who is quite a skilled Languatron opponent in his own right, wrote some comments to my last post that referenced RINOs – Republicans In Name Only – and took me to task for my distaste for the Tea Party. I have apparently begun a “fundamental transformation into one of the collectivist pod people” because I’m “attempting to ingratiate” myself to a “clique of shallow mental adolescents.”

He ends by saying “Snap out of it. We need you.”

To which I replied, “Well, if you need me, then it might be nice to stop insulting me.”

I’d like to expand on that premise, if I may.

The demonization of one’s ideological opponents is the modus operandi of both parties, but the hard truth is that one party needs converts, and the other party doesn’t. Democrats begin every presidential election with at least 246 out of 270 electoral votes in the bag, and Republicans have to run the table of everything else. The fact that the Dems demonize Republicans just as viciously as the GOP demonizes them back is of no practical value.

Democrats can afford alienate those outside their party. Republicans can’t.

One of my primary problems with Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Sarah Palin, and the uncompromising, perpetually aggrieved self-righteous patriots who would prefer reading the Constitution to the nation’s problems to actually solving them is that there is nothing they are doing that would attract new converts to the fold. They are nasty, condescending, and arrogant beyond measure. They ridicule not only Democrats but Republicans – i.e. RINOs – under the assumption that those who disagree with them are “pod people” and “shallow mental adolescents,” not decent people who happen to disagree on matters of policy. Public Enemy #2 for the Tea Party – Obama is #1 – is “Establishment” Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who beat a Tea Party primary challenger because he had the gall to reach out to black voters that the Tea Party deem illegitimate.

Not a winning strategy, folks. If the Tea Party are going to continue to savage the Republican Party alongside the Democrats, how are they ever going to get 270 electoral votes?

They won’t. They can’t. The Tea Party has become the Languatron Party, because they are an embarrassment to those who should be their allies. The GOP frontrunners right now – Cruz, Perry, and Paul – don’t even appeal to everyone in their own party. There’s no way on earth they’ll appeal to independents, let alone Democrats. They’re doomed to go down to a Barry Goldwater-style defeat. Goldwater, like the Tea Party, valued a narrow definition of ideological purity over electoral victory.

I say this dispassionately, as I have come to the conclusion that America is careening toward collapse, and it will get there within the next decade or two regardless of whether the person in the White House has an R or a D next to their name. (Spoiler: it will be a Democrat for the rest of my lifetime.) So I put my faith in God and my community, not in a nation that refuses to fix itself. I therefore feel no loyalty to either party, and as I fatalistically watch the Languatronization of the party that used to matter to me, I feel a mix of resignation and freedom, as I no longer feel duty bound to defend the GOP when it errs, which it does with increasing frequency.

Have a nice day.

Mitt won’t run

I went all in for Mitt in an embarrassing way last time around, and I would vote for him if he ran again. But he isn’t going to run.

I don’t say that as a rhetorical device, or as a tease, or as a temporary sort of condition. (“He’s not running now, but who knows?”) This is a done deal. Mitt Romney will not run for president again.

Period. Full stop.

Yes, there is significant Romney buzz, mainly because the Republicans have no one else. And I confess that, on occasion, I found myself thinking that Mitt could be persuaded. My assessment, until recently, has been that Mitt actually wants to run, but that Ann doesn’t, and so Mitt won’t run in deference to his family. Then I had a conversation with someone who actually knows Mitt and is close enough to understand his thinking.

“The thing you’re missing,” this guy told me, “is how much Mitt hates to lose.”

Apparently, his 1994 Senate loss to Ted Kennedy was absolutely devastating to him. He thought he was going to win, and he came up short. It was the first time in Mitt’s life that he had failed at anything, and he did so publicly in a way that was personally devastating to him. He didn’t dip his toe back into the electoral waters until nearly a decade later when he successfully ran for governor of Massachusetts. And he did that against a weak opponent and with every confidence that he wouldn’t have to lose again.

Then he ran in 2008 and lost. And, once again, it was devastating. On that occasion, it was Ann who persuaded him to pick himself up and get back in the ring again. The thinking was that he had made enough mistakes that he was sure to win in 2012. And he ran that campaign with the full expectation of victory. His pollsters told him he was going to win. His family told him he was going to win. And, of course, I told him he was going to win, which, clearly, was the most important endorsement of all.

And up until election night, he thought he was going to win.

Think about that for a moment. When I doubled down on a Romney victory and dared to defy the wisdom of Nate Silver, everyone told me I was nuts or just plain deluded. And I probably was. But so was Mitt. In spite of it all, he went into Election Day 2012 with the full expectation that he would go to sleep that night as President-Elect of the United States.  And then he lost. And he lost big.  He isn’t willing to expose himself to that again, nor should he.

Because if he runs again, he will assuredly lose.

The Electoral College landscape now makes it next to impossible for any Republican to win the White House, and one that has run and lost isn’t going to be able to leap that impossibly high demographic hurdle. Plus Tea Party types still distrust him, and the Mormon thing is still a lead weight around his shoulders. He has too much baggage to even attempt the leap.

And he knows that now, which is why he won’t run.

People are therefore misinterpreting his ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail now. Mitt wants to be useful, and, to be cynical about it, he doesn’t really have anything else to do. So he has been crowned the kingmaker/elder statesman/great guru of the GOP, and, as my insider friend told me, “that’s not a position he can be fired from.” I’m sure Mitt appreciates the good will and good press as he’s proven right, and he probably enjoys the attention that comes with being entreated.

But if he runs, he will lose. And he hates to lose, so he won’t run.

This message brought to you by the Jacques Cousteau 2016 Campaign Committee.

What It Doesn’t Mean

So Kate Kelly, leader of Ordain Women, has been excommunicated.  If my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, this is a critical turning point in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It apparently represents the stifling of all future dissent, the permanent second-class citizenship of all Mormon women, and very possibly the collapse of the creaky, falling-apart-at-the seams Mormon patriarchy, which resembles the old Soviet Union before the Berlin Wall fell.

But here’s the thing. My Facebook feed isn’t representative of anything, because this doesn’t mean any of those things. Indeed, other than its impact on Kate Kelly herself and her family and friends, it doesn’t mean much of anything at all.

That may be very difficult for some to believe, but this episode is hardly a watershed moment. It has been preceded by similar supposedly watershed moments that most have forgotten. The history of the church is replete with examples of members with a grievance who insisted the church needed to change, and the members were excommunicated, and the church continued unchanged. If Oliver Cowdery didn’t derail the church by leaving, then neither will Kate Kelly.

Please understand my purpose here. I am not rearguing – or even initially arguing – for or against what happened with regard to Kelly’s disciplinary council. There are plenty of other blogs where you can find passionate essays on both sides. I am saying that those who think the church can’t possibly survive this need to take several steps back.

For my part, my steps back were taken as I drove from my home in Sandy, Utah, up to the Pacific Northwest where my in-laws live. I am writing this post safely ensconced in Port Angeles, Washington, far removed from the Wasatch Front echo chamber. When news of Kelly’s fate came online, I said aloud, “So it looks like Kate Kelly has been excommunicated.”

My mother-in-law then asked, “Who’s Kate Kelly?”

As I filled her in, she recalled hearing in passing about Ordain Women’s march on the Conference Center and their attempt to gain admission to the priesthood session. But she had no real opinion on the matter, and she shrugged off the news without a second thought.

Now I recognize I’m being anecdotal here, and it’s silly of me to suggest that somehow my Facebook friends are entirely unrepresentative where my mother-in-law is somehow emblematic of the church at large. But the reality is that most members don’t comb the Bloggernacle on a daily basis and don’t weigh in on Salt Lake Tribune comment threads. (And thank goodness! Trib comment threads on Mormon subjects contain more bile per byte than any other form of online communication.)  Yes, this has gotten some national media attention, but Mitt Romney isn’t running for president anymore, and the news cycle will quickly move on to something else.

This will frustrate and disappoint many, but likely far fewer than Kelly and her closest allies would have you believe. And the vast majority of church members will take little or no notice, and the work will progress. And persecutions may rage, a few mobs may combine, and maybe even some armies may assemble, and more calumny may defame, but the truth of God will still go forth boldly, nobly, and independently until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear and the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

I paraphrased that last bit.

But the fact is you either believe that or you don’t. And if you believe that, you’re not going to panic when the expected mobs arrive and the predicted calumny does its defaming. You may be bent out of shape by the fact that fallible people have been tasked with doing the work of the Lord, and that this fallibility comes into focus at times like these. But this work is bigger than you, me, or Kate Kelly. And it will continue with or without us.

Carry on.

Ordain Women: A Royalist’s Perspective

As the Mormon Bloggernacle continues to ponder the fate of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women, I am pleased to report that I am more important than other Mormons commenting this subject.

For you see, I am Mormon royalty.

“What?” I hear you virtually scoff. “Mormon royalty? Just who does this guy think he is?”

First of all, it’s not wise to scoff at royalty, even virtually. And secondly, my regal status has been affirmed by no less an authority than Kate Kelly herself.

It all began over at timesandseasons.org, one of the more prominent Mormon group blogs that opines on all LDS subjects without fear of reprisal and even, at one point, had its own Languatron infestation. My brother-in-law Nate Oman is a contributor to that particular blog and so happened to have the occasion to write a brilliant piece with a rather provocative title:

“Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of the Ordain Women Movement”

Even if you are the most ardent of OW supporters, Nate’s piece is worth your time, as most of Nate’s pieces are. He does not take issue with anyone in OW personally or belittle their objectives, but rather details why lobbying efforts directed at the church tend to be counterproductive. (I said essentially the same thing in my last post, only not as well and without all the messy research.)

Nate’s post generated 166 comments and a direct response from Kate Kelly over at feministmormonhousewives.org. Titled “Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of Male Mormon Privilege,” Kelly’s post cleverly mimics the structure of Nate’s initial essay to provide a lengthy ad hominem attack on Nate himself for being too frickin’ male to be allowed to have an opinion on the subject.

The considerable substance of Nate’s piece was not addressed at all. Instead, Kelly reveals that Nate Oman is “oblivious and pejorative,” “insulting,” and “dismissive,” and he is quick to “spout unemotional, scorched-earth critiques while somehow ironically and simultaneously being completely blind to and fueled by [his] own male privilege.” He also rides a “high horse of unearned authority,” which, when ridden during what Kelly describes as a “a hazed-out binge of [his] own male privilege,” is likely to cause considerable chafing.

The first wave of responses are largely sycophantic, but down the line, one commenter refuses to pile on:

Rosalynde Welch writes:

Just wanted to put in a word for Nate, who can certainly defend himself without my help. But I think you’ve pegged him very wrongly, and done it in an unnecessarily nasty way. Nate is *exactly* the kind of Mormon man who is most likely to materially aid your efforts in the future, and I regret that you’ve reacted in this way to his piece. I think it reflects poorly on your efforts, and it certainly has alienated me.

But Kate Kelly is having none of it.

Kate Kelly writes:

Rosalynde, I would have to respectfully disagree that a man who writes a post entitled “Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of the Ordain Women Movement” is “most likely to materially aid [our] efforts in the future.”

But then another Oman supporter chimes in:

RMM (Random Mormon Mommy) writes:

I agree with Rosalynde. If you see Nate as the enemy, you might not be familiar enough with the influential members of the online Mormon community, and you may want to remedy that ASAP.

Which allows Nate Oman himself to finally jump into the fray:

Nate Oman writes:

I deny that I am an influential member of ANY community.

“Oh, dear,” then writes someone named hkobeal. And the game is on.

Nate Oman writes:

Regardless, I have to admit, that “hazed-out binge of their own male privilege” is a great turn of phrase.

For what it’s worth, I am not sure exactly which of the claims that I made in the post you believe to be mistaken or wrong. I’m willing to concede that the title and first and last sentence were meant to be a bit flippant and provocative. I certainly seemed to have succeeded on the provoking front.

Kate Kelly writes:

Nate, it’s actually not your intentionally titillating and “provocative” title to which I am responding, it’s the fact that, apparently, you can’t see that the fact you have the luxury to be so flippant as to intentionally provoke for sport is direct evidence of your hurtful use of male privilege.

Nate Oman writes:

Got it. So it’s not that I said false things, but that I said perhaps true things or perhaps false things but I said them flippantly without apologizing or noting the luxury of speaking flippantly in the first place.

Kate Kelly writes:

As many have, successfully in my opinion, argued in the comments section of your OP, Nate, history and contemporary happenings (see in re: http://www.mormonsandgays.org) do not support your “it’s only well after the media storm has passed that the Brethren can ever feel ok inside about making any changes” type argument.

However, you have also completely (willfully?) misinterpreted our goals and dreams.

Is it possible for you to see that the success of our movement is not measured by what the Brethren do or don’t do?

We trust in the Lord that our prayers will be answered, and women will be one day ordained… But if not… we have been transformed in the process.

Nate Oman writes:

Kate: I am not sure that it’s entirely unreasonable to think that success for an organization called “Ordain Women” might consist in…well…the ordination of women.

Ouch.

Others jump in here, including some defending Nate, and one who says that Kelly has pegged Nate wrongly, and that he is precisely the kind of person who could build bridges between OW and priesthood leaders. But Kelly is not at all convinced.

Kate Kelly writes:

Men should start groups for men about how to not be sexist and how to purge themselves of harmful paradigms and behaviors that being raised in a patriarchy has imbued them with. I live 2 hours and 22 minutes from Nate & would be happy to be an in-person guest speaker at his newly formed “Mormon Male Allies” group, should he choose to form one.

Nate responds to this in the only reasonable way possible:

Nate Oman writes:

I find it slightly bizarre and perhaps just a little creepy that you know within minutes exactly how long it would take you to drive to my home.

That pretty much ends the exchange between Kelly and Oman. But then comes the Coronation!

Kate Kelly writes:

I don’t give a rat’s rump if Oman is well-connected, married to Mormon royalty or a generally swell chap.

And there it is!

Nate Oman, you see, is married to my sister. And my sister, according to Kate Kelly, is Mormon royalty. And if she’s a royal, then I, her older brother, am ahead of her in the Mormon royalty succession.

Here’s my sister’s royal response:

Heather O. writes:

SWEET! I’m Mormon royalty!?!! YES! I expect some minions to order about and some drinks with little umbrellas in them IMMEDIATELY, as befitting my Mormon Royalty Status!

(On a more serious note, Kate Kelly–did you seriously just call me that? I don’t…I can’t…I just…wow.)

Wow indeed.

Kneel before Stallion, Mormon peasants!

That is all. Dismissed.

The Third Option

As a follow-up to my non-Catholic post, allow me to share with you a statement made by John Dehlin as posted over at The Millennial Star:

Being active and in full fellowship with the church (i.e., temple recommend holding, attending meetings weekly, paying tithing, holding a calling, etc.) is not likely going to work for me (as I’ve mentioned before — I’m not comfortable supporting the church financially, and they have sent me the message that they don’t want me as a vocal semi-believer).

But leaving the church completely has the potential to negatively impact the reach of Mormon Stories podcast, since possibly some TBMs are willing to listen to Mormon Stories because I remain active (I get this feedback from time to time). In essence, active church participation isn’t working for me, but I don’t want to harm the good that Mormon Stories can do. For those of you who are genuine supporters of Mormon Stories…what should I do? I’d love your perspective here…again…especially from those who are financial supporters…

To sum up, then, Dehlin refuses to participate in the church in any significant way, but he won’t stop going completely because it might hurt his website and alienate his financial supporters. Make of that what you will.

Let me then turn my focus to Kate Kelly’s case.

Kate Kelly, as near as I can tell, is not as far gone as John Dehlin seems to be. She has not openly rejected the central claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the way Dehlin has. Her circumstances, therefore, don’t seem anywhere near as clear-cut to me as those of Dehlin, who essentially left the church himself a long time ago and is now aghast that the church is going to formally acknowledge that. But Kelly doesn’t think the church is a fraud; she just wants women to be able to hold the priesthood, too.

For my part, I would welcome the ordaining of women to the priesthood should revelation be received to implement such a change. At the same time, I think lobbying for such revelation is inherently problematic.  Lobbying is an effective means to influence democratic institutions, but the church is not a democracy. Our doctrines are not the product of a majority vote.

It’s true that we frequently vote in church, but those are sustaining votes, not election votes. Nobody’s running for Sunday School President. The Bishopric decides who’s going to fill which office, and then they put those names forward to the congregation, which then chooses whether they will sustain those choices or not. If someone opposes a bishop’s choice for Nursery Leader, they are not given the option of another candidate.

It’s therefore difficult for me to reconcile this reality with the public behavior of Ordain Women, which has often seemed designed to embarrass the church into taking action that meets their goals. That’s usually a counterproductive approach in a church that prides itself on its unwillingness to accommodate the shifting standards of the world at large. The more likely outcome of lobbying church leaders is that those leaders will dig in their heels rather than appear to cave in to a lobbyist’s demands.

OK, fine. But does that mean Kate Kelly deserves to be excommunicated?

I honestly don’t know. I’m not in a position to answer that. And many in the blogosphere are too willing to draw sweeping conclusion about the very few people who are.

Over at patheos.com, a blogger named Gina Colvin posed a series of pointed questions to Kate Kelly’s bishop that make it clear where she stands on this issue:

Firstly, I wonder if you could confirm whether or not you initiated this action. It would be nice to know if we are dealing with another case of local ecclesiastical idiocy, or if these orders are from those in high places.

Note the unstated assumptions here. Either this is “local ecclesiastical idiocy,” or this bishop is acting on orders from the Brethren. He’s either an idiot or a puppet. To Colvin, and many other bloggers like her, there is no third option.

So let’s consider the two options we’re given. The Church has explicitly stated that discipline in Kelly’s case has not been “directed or coordinated by Church headquarters.” If you take the Brethren at their word, and I do, that puts the “puppet” option off the table. So what about the “idiot” option?

In her post, Colvin tells this bishop that even if he is a puppet, he’s an idiot, too:

You had a faithful member of your congregation sharing and confiding, inviting you to ask questions, to correct and counsel. You did none of these while you were with her in your office, your ward.

Really?

“Actions to address a person’s membership and standing in their congregation are convened after lengthy periods of counseling and encouragement to reconsider behavior.” So reads the next-to-last sentence in the church’s statement on this subject. If the bishop truly did “none of these,” as Colvin maintains, his inaction would constitute flagrant negligence of his responsibilities. Such flagrant negligence would likely be grounds, at the very least, to have this bishop released from his office and perhaps subject to church discipline himself.

Yet bishops do not function in an ecclesiastical vacuum. If a disciplinary council is going to be held, the steps leading up to that eventuality would be discussed with the stake president, too. If this bishop had truly not made any other attempt to correct Kelly and is launching a banzai attack from out of the ether, any remotely competent stake president would have put the kibosh on it before it got this far. So to believe that this bishop is a rogue imbecile requires you to believe this stake president is in on it, too.

OK, fine. If you believe that this church is run by corrupt and clueless men, then you should have no difficulty accepting either option one or two. (I don’t particularly understand why you would want to stay in a church led by the clueless and the corrupt, but that’s another story.) For my part, I don’t think the Brethren are lying, and I don’t think this bishop and stake president are in cahoots to boot people out of the church in defiance of clearly defined procedures.

That leaves me with Option #3: Kate Kelly, at least in part, is misrepresenting how the church has handled this situation.

I don’t wish to pile insult onto Kelly’s injuries, but this is easily the most plausible of the three possibilities. I think it likely that this bishop did more – much more – to correct and counsel Kate Kelly than she admits. Again, the caveats I outline in my last post on this all apply here. I don’t know Kate Kelly personally, and I don’t know her heart. I hope every effort is made on both sides to keep her in full fellowship with the Saints. I wish her and her family well, and I hope the church will not cease its efforts to minister to her and work for the welfare of her soul.

All I ask is that we all consider the possibility that the church is not the bad guy here. This bishop’s stewardship requires him to maintain complete confidentiality on the subject. So while Kate Kelly has a direct line to the New York Times to tell her side of the story, this bishop has no outlet to tell his.

Thoughts from a Non-Catholic

I’m a big fan of Catholicism. I love and respect the Roman Catholic Church immensely, as well as many of its members and former members.  I believe in many of the central, non-distinctive moral teachings within Catholicism (e.g., love, kindness, charity, forgiveness, faith, hope), but I do not believe in papal infallibility, transubstantiation, Catholic apostolic succession, or the necessity and efficacy of Catholic ritual or priesthood authority, or any of the other principles that are unique to the Roman Catholic Church.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, since I’m not a Catholic. My position on these issues, therefore, isn’t really controversial.

But if I were to join the Catholic church, these positions might cause some problems, both personally and institutionally. That would be especially problematic if I were to publicly announce my disbelief in the church’s central tenets on a website that provides a forum for some of the church’s most virulent critics, all the while doing so under the auspices of being a Catholic in good standing.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

“I have deep love for the LDS church, for its members, and for its former members,” writes John Dehlin, the proprietor of the Mormon Stories website, whose front page now features a four-part hagiographic interview with Sandra Tanner, arguably the most prolific and prominent anti-Mormon of the past fifty years. Dehlin goes on to say the following:

I believe in many of the central, non-distinctive moral teachings within Mormonism (e.g., love, kindness, charity, forgiveness, faith, hope), but either have serious doubts about, or no longer believe many of the fundamental LDS church truth claims (e.g., anthropomorphic God, “one true church with exclusive authority,” that the current LDS church prophet receives privileged communications from God, that The Book of Mormon and The Book of Abraham are translations, polygamy, racist teachings in the Book of Mormon, that ordinances are required for salvation, proxy work for the dead).

In other words, Dehlin wants The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to continue to allow him to represent himself as a member of that church, while, at the same time, publicly rejecting that church’s doctrines – some of which he misrepresents in that statement – and running a website that is largely antagonistic to both the church and its mission.

That simply doesn’t make any sense to me, but others seem to see it differently.

Recently, a New York Times story announced that Dehlin and Kate Kelly, the founder of the Ordain Women movement, are facing church discipline and possible excommunication for apostasy from church teachings. This set the Mormon blogosphere afire, and many of my friends lamented that that my church refuses to accommodate any doubt or dissent within the rank and file.

I’m not going to get into Kate Kelly’s case here. While it has considerable national prominence, I’m less familiar with it than I am with Dehlin’s situation. (Perhaps I will research and discuss Kelly and Ordain Women in a later post.) Instead, I want to demonstrate that Dahlin’s defenders seem to be missing the point altogether.

Reread Dehlin’s statement where he rejects the church’s priesthood authority and denounces The Book of Mormon as a fraud. Why, then, would he be upset that this church he calls fraudulent no longer wants to associate with him? And why would he want to continue being recognized as a member of a fraudulent church?

Dehlin’s defenders cite President Uchtdorf’s masterful conference talk “Come Join With Us,” where he calls for inclusion for people who struggle with doubts. “To those who have separated themselves from the Church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here,” President Uchtdorf said. “It’s natural to have questions… There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions…If you are tempted to give up: Stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.”

So, in light of that, how could anyone say there may not be room for John Dehlin?

The answer, I think, is that doubts are different from decisions. Genuine doubt is rarely a permanent condition, since it usually resolves itself on one side of the question or the other. It is one thing to stay in the church if you doubt whether or not The Book of Mormon is true. It is quite another to decide that it isn’t true, actively and publicly preach against it, and then expect the church to accommodate your antagonistic efforts.

Dehlin, therefore, is no longer a “doubter,” because he’s pretty well made up his mind.

There is plenty of room for the people who haven’t figured out which way they’re going to land. But those who choose to come down on the other side of church teachings ought to be intellectually honest enough to voluntarily disassociate themselves from the church they reject. At the very least, they ought not be surprised or upset when the church ratifies a decision they’ve already made.

Again, I recognize many disagree and insist that the Church ought to be inclusive of all points of view, even if it means retaining members that are openly hostile to church doctrine. But ultimately, that means the church ceases to be much of anything at all. How can the church continue to preach The Book of Mormon if it accommodates those who actively preach that Joseph Smith made it up out of whole cloth? How could the Catholic Church survive if it gave people like me equal time at Mass to tell congregants that Thomas S. Monson, not Pope Francis, is the true heir of St. Peter?

I also recognize there are plenty of caveats to consider. I don’t know John Dehlin personally, and I don’t know his heart. I also don’t know what his local leaders are considering, and the confidentiality of church disciplinary proceedings prohibits them from telling their side of the story. As of this writing, Dehlin has not yet been disciplined, and it is possible that he will remain in the church. Regardless of what happens, I wish him and his family well, and I hope the church will not cease its efforts to minister to him and work for the welfare of his soul.

The larger principle here is that a church that permits everything ultimately stands for nothing. Granted, there are churches like that – the Unitarians come to mind – but, thankfully, neither the Roman Catholic Church or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fit that description.

I hope they never do.

Obama’s $500 Billion Dollar Tax on the Poor

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama made it clear that taxing the rich required the rich to pay not just more money than the poor, but to pay at a higher rate, too. When Charlie Gibson, of all people, pointed out that a lower capital gains rate actually brought in more government revenue than a higher one, Barack was having none of it.

“I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness,” Obama said. “[T]hose who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s not fair.”

So, to sum up, even if a lower tax rate generates more money, “fairness” trumps all. In practical terms, this means soaking the rich was more important than funding programs that help the poor.

Given that position, it’s stunning that he is now bypassing Congress to unilaterally implement the most regressive tax in the history of the country, and left-wingers, by and large, are cheering him on. “[This regressive tax] re-establishes the moral authority on the part of the United State of America in leading the world community,” bloviated former veep and current hypocrite Al Gore. His sentiments are echoed by lefties throughout the blogosphere, and none of them seem to notice that what they’re applauding is a $50 billion-per-year tax that will be borne largely by the poorest of the poor.

Of course, that’s not what they’re calling it. No, this tax is disguised as new EPA regulations on coal-fired power plants designed to combat global warming.

Oh, here we go. Now your eyes have rolled up into the back of your head. “I really don’t understand your obsession with climate change denial, Jim,” a friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook. “I find your position on this subject very strange and counterproductive.”

Well, fine. Strange and counterproductive is the story of my life. And, yes, I often feel like the guy in the loony bin who screams at the walls and thinks everyone else is crazy except him. But it’s just staggering to me that people who would never accept an annual $50 billion regressive tax on the poorest of the poor when it is framed as such will applaud the same thing when it’s wrapped up in a pretty “Stop Global Warming” label.

I didn’t lead off here by mentioning global warming because that always veers the discussion away from the point I’m trying to make. This is not an article about “climate change denial.” This is an article about how global warming alarmists are oblivious to how their actions are exacerbating poverty and death right now, not in some distant polar-ice-capless future.

It’s very simple. The president is unilaterally forcing coal plants to cut their emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by the year 2030. A study conducted by the United States Chamber of Commerce has determined that this will cost the economy $50 billion per year. That’s a whopping $500 billion over ten years, and by the time we reach 2030 and hit those emissions targets, the cost will be close to a trillion bucks.

Who’s paying that trillion bucks? Only people who use electricity. Or, in other words, everybody. And the rate of payment isn’t even remotely progressive.  99% of this expense will be shouldered by the 99%. This is as regressive a tax on the poor as anything that has ever been done in the history of the nation. Bill Gates and the 1% can afford a 15-20% increase in their heating bills. The 85-year-old widow whose only source of income is her Social Security checks cannot. It’s the poor who are getting soaked.

And for what?

Well, if you pay attention to Al Gore, we’re getting our moral authority back, so, you know, there’s that. But $50 billion a year is a steep subscription rate for moral authority, and I don’t see how that’s worth further impoverishing 85-year-old shut-ins. If we’re going to grind the faces of the poor into the dirt, shouldn’t our climate change tax actually have a positive impact on the climate?

Because it won’t. And before you start waving the “Denier!” flags around, my source on this isn’t Fox News or Glenn Beck. It’s the Obama administration. It’s the United Nations. Using the numbers and projections that form the backbone of the oft-touted consensus, we discover that shutting down all coal-fired plants in America would reduce the projected rate of global temperature increase by…

(Drum roll please…)

a whopping .05 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100! 

That’s it.  Now reduce those temperature savings by 70% to account for the fact that we’re not shutting down all the plants but only reducing the emissions by 30%. Suddenly, you’ve managed to slow the earth’s temperature increase by only .015 F. But you have to reduce those savings by another 70% to account for the difference between 2100 and the 2030 target date.

That means that Obama is asking poor families to choose between heating their homes and putting food on their tables to achieve a projected reduction in the temperature increase of .0045 degrees Fahrenheit. $50 billion collected from the poor to prevent warming of less than 5 thousandths of a degree.

That’s not just science – it’s math.

So, please, spare me the pointless discussions about the 97% and the whole “denier” nonsense. Because even if Al Gore’s worst case scenario of boiling oceans happens to come true, this onerous new tax, which one Democratic senator has admitted will mean that a “lot of people on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum are going to die,” will do nothing to prevent climate armageddon. No, I stand corrected – it will lessen the impact of that meltdown by .0045 degrees.

You want unfair, Mr. Obama? That’s unfair.

So if you still find this obsession with the biggest assault on the poor I’ve seen in my lifetime “strange and counterproductive,” then I don’t know what I have to do to convince you that this is a big deal.

Maybe I’ll just scream at the loony bin walls for awhile longer.

Bergdahl: Obama’s Katrina?

“Bergdahl is Obama’s Katrina.”

That was my father’s assessment as I discussed this latest Obama debacle with him this morning. He reminded me that even George W. Bush’s enemies grudgingly admitted that he was a strong leader until his administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina shattered that image forever. His administration never recovered, and, for all practical purposes, the Bush presidency ended in 2005.

Dad thinks, then, that Obama’s veneer of confidence and intelligence has been stripped away by the blithering idiocy of swapping five key Taliban commanders for an alleged America-hating deserter whose betrayal cost the lives of six other soldiers who went to look for him.

Maybe my father is right. Maybe now America notices that their president, however well-meaning he might be, is utterly incompetent.

But I doubt it.

Remember that in his first term we had the failed stimulus.  We had a vastly unpopular healthcare law. And, of course, there was the staggering and unprecedented levels of debt and long-term unemployment.

And then in 2012, a solid majority of Americans went to their voting booths and said “More, please!”

Since then, we’ve had the Benghazi fallout, the botched Obamacare rollout, the IRS scandal, and now the VA mess. The economy shrank by 1% last quarter, which means we’re on the edge of yet another recession. And, finally, on top of all this, we’ve got this Bergdahl debacle. And somehow, Bergdahl is the tipping point that will convince America at large that this president is a colossal failure.

But why? If they didn’t notice this man’s incompetence before, why should they notice it now?

Granted, this is such a boneheaded move that it defies rational explanation. Who on earth could have reviewed the facts in this case and presumed this would be a good idea? Who thought America would cheer the trade of a guy who abandoned his post for five high-level terrorists ready and eager to go back into action? I could have run this whole scenario past my nine-year-old son, and he’d have been able to point out that this was probably the wrong move. So how on earth did Barack Obama, supposedly the smartest president we’ve ever had, blunder into something so transparently dumb as this?

But I get tired of asking that question. It’s a question that could have been – and should have been – asked by the press when it was clear that the Obama White House was lying about the protests at the Benghazi embassy, or when the president repeatedly told Americans they could keep their plans and their doctors when he knew that wasn’t true. And yes, those questions were asked, but the askers were and are dismissed as right-wing cranks at best and racists at worst. And the process has already begun to do the same to those who dare to find fault with this Bergdahl mess.

Witness Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast, who distills the entirety of the Berghdal story down to “right-wing crack.” He also makes the ludicrous assertion that “if a Republican president had swapped five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl, all the people howling today would be spinning it positively.” First of all, no Republican president would be imbecilic enough to do something like this. And before you say “George W. Bush,” remember that W. once wore the uniform himself, which means he would have spoken to some of the soldiers who knew Bergdahl’s history and have a far more realistic sense of what the military reaction would be to something this wrong.

Secondly, if George W. Bush had brazenly defied the law by bypassing Congress in releasing five high-level Taliban operatives for one guy that walked out on his unit and got several guys killed, would any spin for right-wing defenders prevent W. from being strung up by his thumbs? The press would be relentless in shredding him to bits, and those talking impeachment wouldn’t be dismissed as crackheads.

But this is Obama, and the Obama administration has two things that Bush’s didn’t have: 1) widespread incompetence, and 2) a free pass for said widespread incompetence.

Bergdahl won’t change #1, but maybe it will change #2. And then maybe Mitt Romney will be appointed president and monkeys will fly out of my butt.