Dressing in the Dark

Mormons have long been hesitant to discuss the subject of temple garments in casual conversation, because such garments serve as reminders of sacred covenants that aren’t to be taken lightly.

That’s why I bristle every time someone dismisses them as “magic underwear,” or worse. I don’t think such comments are always intended to be cruel, but they demonstrate a lack of sensitivity with regard to a religious practice that requires a great deal of context to be properly understood.

A few decades ago, I felt that such context was unlikely to be found in the loosey-goosey atmosphere that often prevailed in dressing rooms when I was a theater student at the University of Southern California. So when it came to changing into costume, I initially tried to find ways to do it out of public view. This was easy in the Bing Theatre, USC’s largest proscenium, because I could change in a bathroom stall without calling any attention to myself. But in the smaller theaters, the bathrooms were too tiny, so I ended up trying to put on my costumes in the dark corners of crowded spaces, which was very much a hit-or-miss proposition.

So I eventually gave up.

After a few semesters of this pointless hide-and-seek, I got dressed right alongside everyone else and braced myself for a wave of ridicule that never came. Oh, sure, there were a few questions here and there, but they were never unkind.  If there were rude or nasty comments, I never heard them.

All this is prelude to the news, reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, of an upcoming ABC-TV drama showing a Mormon character wearing nothing but his temple garments.

“Quantico,” which premieres on Sept. 27, follows the lives of several FBI recruits in training. At one point when they are disrobing, a Mormon recruit gets asked if he is wearing “pajamas under (his) clothes.” This raises more questions, and the Mormon explains that Latter-day Saints are appealing to the FBI because they “respect authority, don’t drink or take drugs, spend time in foreign countries, and they speak several languages,” according to the Tribune. And that’s pretty much it.

If that’s all that happens, I don’t really see this as much of a problem. Certainly it could be a whole lot worse.

In discussing this with a friend, he pointed out that ABC would never feature a scene where someone was wearing, say, a T-shirt with a Mohammad cartoon. That’s true, but I think it’s because writers fear backlash, not because they intrinsically respect Islam more than Mormonism. In addition, it doesn’t sound like the point of the scene is to make fun of Mormons or temple garments, but rather to depict a moment that has surely had several real-life antecedents with LDS FBI recruits, and one that is not that different from my own experience.

As for those who insist that it is never appropriate to show temple garments in any context, they need to take issue with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially released an explanatory video and pictures of temple garments earlier this year.

Don’t misunderstand me. This is still an insensitive thing for “Quantico” to do, and I’m troubled by reports that suggest that, over the course of the series, the Mormon character doesn’t live up to the standards of his faith. There’s also still a question as to whether or not that particular scene will make it to air. But what I find encouraging is the fact that there’s a Mormon character at all. Television now seems to be willing to depict a Latter-day Saint as a three-dimensional human being rather than as a stereotype used to openly mock religion.

As Mormons become more prominent, we should expect pop culture to take notice and also anticipate that there will be a few bumps in the road along the way. That shouldn’t be a reason to go back to dressing in the dark.

Birthday Thoughts

This may seem odd, but I’m over here at my blog hiding from Facebook, where, so far, 180 very sweet, wonderful people have decided to wish me a happy birthday.  (Yes, today is my birthday. I am a year older, not much wiser, and still devastatingly good-looking.)

Every time someone is thoughtful enough to take time out of their day to wish me well, I think that act of kindness deserves a personalized response, and it takes time to respond to 180 different people, and if I get started mid-day, more well-wishes from others pop up as I’m writing back, so I end up feeling like I’m falling behind, and what ought to be a fun exchange with friends ends up feeling a bit like a chore, which is an ungrateful way to respond to good folks who care enough about me to say so. So I’ve decided to steer clear of Facebook all day until everyone’s news feed moves on to the next birthday, and then I can begin the response process on the second day of my 48th year on Planet Earth.

So for all of you wishing me well, thank you so much. You have made me loved and appreciated, and that’s no small thing in this lonely world of ours.

So if I’m not going to hang out on Facebook, the least I can do is to keep this blog from drifting off into oblivion. I thought I’d weigh in on a few issues that have been rumbling around in my brain, each of which could easily merit a blog post of their own.

1. ON DONALD TRUMP

donald-trump-hair-photos-mystery-transplant-combover_2014-09-14_21-59-27-573x430
I’ve written the definitive piece on Trump’s candidacy in my most recent column for the Deseret News, but I fail to mention the issue that is of primary concern to most of those following this bizarre reality show circus, which is that of The Donald’s hair.

Consider the “Hell Toupee” meme:

6834e99713f262a9ab2c72125c46085eIt’s funny, sure, but The Donald doesn’t wear a toupee. That’s all his own hair, which is why there’s so dang much of it. A toupee wouldn’t consume such a large degree of Trumpian scalpular geography. It would just sit there like a dead raccoon, much the way William Shatner’s has done for lo these many decades.

trump-twilight-zone

Much better is the “We Shall Overcomb” meme:

we-shall-overcombe-shirt-square-heather-grey2I’m convinced Trump manipulates huge swaths of bleached hair to cover scalpular* portions which God hath left desolate. A toup would just fly off in a strong wind, not flutter askew like a pencil troll gone to seed.

trump-hairThe evidence clearly suggests overcombing, not hairpiecing.

Which brings me to my second item of the day:

2. “EVIDENCE” IS NOT A SYNONYM FOR “PROOF”

Rummaging through one of the many pointless, bait-click online lists I stumble across far too frequently, I bumped into a statement by actor John Malkovich where he was quoted as saying the following:

johnmalkovich“I believe in people, I believe in humans, I believe in a car, but I don’t believe something I can’t have [sic] absolutely no evidence of for millennia. And it’s funny — people think analysis or psychiatry is mad, and THEY go to CHURCH…”

John Malkovich, Non-Combovering Atheist

While I respect the fact that Mr. Malkovich has made far less ridiculous scalpular choices than The Donald, I find it very tedious that so many atheists keep claiming there is “absolutely no evidence” of God’s existence, which is false, when what they mean is that there is “absolutely no proof” of God’s existence, which is, in fact, true.

Mormons deal with this a lot.

For quite some time, the Mormon blogosphere, known by the faithful as the “Bloggernacle,” has been engaged in a long-running discussion/argument/flame war as to the historicity of The Book of Mormon – the book of scripture, not the rancid musical. For those of you who are unaware, The Book of Mormon purports to be a translation of ancient religious records of people that migrated to the American continent and established a civilization that all but collapsed circa 400 AD. It is now fashionable in certain circles to refer to The Book of Mormon as “inspired fiction,” and, while it represents a tour de force of religious insight by purported-translator-but-assumed-author Joseph Smith, there is “no evidence” that there were actual people called Nephites and Lamanites who lived and died and did stuff.

Over at a blog called “Enigmatic Mirror,” Mormon scholar William Hamblin has been exchanging posts with a non-Mormon academic named Philip Jenkins, who likens belief in The Book of Mormon as a historical, non-fictional document to belief in Bigfoot – who we all know is Cain, punished to wander the earth swathed in matted, unbleached Donald Trump combover strands for thousands of years until he finally guest stars as Andre the Giant on The Six Million Dollar Man.

I digress.

Jenkins refuses to either read The Book of Mormon or even acknowledge that there is any reason to do so, because there is – you guessed it – “no evidence” that it’s historical. When Hamblin suggests that Jenkins has “tacitly” admitted that at least some evidence exists, Jenkins gets quite huffy.

“At no point have I ever suggested that there is any evidence whatever in support for the historicity or historical value of the Book of Mormon,” Jenkins huffs, huffily. “I have never suggested or stated that tacitly, or openly, and it is wrong to suggest that I have.”

But there is a great deal of evidence of the Book of Mormon’s historicity, much of which I’ve talked about on this blog. What Jenkins is complaining about, like Malkovich, is the lack of proof, not evidence. (Hamblin himself makes the same point in his response.)

This is the primary argument, incidentally, on an issue of far graver importance than the nature of God or scripture – namely, the identity of William Shakespeare. There is considerable evidence, but no proof, that William Shakespeare was not the similarly named William Shakspere/Shaxper/Shagspur of Stratford-on-Avon who currently gets all the credit for those plays, sonnets, and poems, but rather that William Shakespeare was the pseudonym of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, much the same way Stallion Cornell is the pseudonym of Jim Bennett, the 47-year-old wannabe Duke of Earl.  Yet if you go to Wikipedia, source of all wisdom, Oxfordians base their case on “the dearth of evidence for any conspiracy as evidence of its success.” So not only is there “no evidence” that Oxford was Shakespeare, but the lack of evidence is our evidence? What the crap is that?

If evidence were always proof, then why would we have a criminal justice system? Jury trials involve two opposing advocates using identical evidence to argue for diametrically opposite conclusions. Even the most devoutly religious concede there is no conclusive proof that God exists, but they’ll offer up a great deal of evidence for why they believe he does.  But if the intellectually lazy can equate a lack of proof with a lack of evidence, then they can end all arguments before they begin.

This bugs me.

3. GEEKY PEEVE
You know what else bugs me? Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who.

As I announced in one of my columns, I’m binge-watching Doctor Who, which has conveniently incorporated the changing actors in the lead role into the plot structure of the show. The show’s title character is the Doctor, a time-travelling, nigh-unto-immortal alien whose surname is not Who. When the Doctor is close to death, he “regenerates,” i.e. turns into an entirely different person played by an entirely different actor. While he retains his memories from previous incarnations, his personality changes with each new body, too.

This first happened at the end of the first season of the new series, and I thought I would never accept David Tennant as the Doctor after Christopher Eccleston, who was the first to play him in the 21st Century. So imagine my surprise when David Tennant turned out to be a far superior Doctor to Eccleston. Yet after three Tennant seasons, Tennant regenerated into Matt Smith, and I thought there was no way I could make the Tennant-to-Smith transition. But Matt Smith was so brilliant in the role that he won me over almost instantly. So when Matt Smith’s tenure came to an end and the Doctor became Peter Capaldi, I thought, “well, I did this twice before, and it turned out OK. How bad can it be?”

Well, pretty bad, as it turns out.

Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith played the Doctor as a sort of dashing, eccentric rogue, but Capaldi is a 57-year-old arthritic curmudgeon. He’s a full three decades older than Matt Smith, and his Doctor is so far removed from Smith’s interpretation that it’s very difficult to suspend disbelief and pretend they’re the same person. I’m three episodes in to Season 8, and I was hoping I’d accept Capaldi by now. I don’t. But at least there’s no combover.

And so we’ve come full circle. Again, thank you for you kind wishes, and maybe I’ll post here a few more times before my next birthday.

_______________
* I have used the word “scalpular” several times in this blog post, when, to my knowledge, “scalpular” isn’t really a word.  Autocorrect keeps trying to change it to “sculptural.” If you can’t tell by the context, I use “scalpular” as an adjective with a definition meaning “of or pertaining to the scalp.” Should this word be incorporated into common English parlance, I will therefore expect Webster’s Dictionary to send me royalty checks. In any case, I have copyrighted “scalpular” and reserved all ancillary rights thereto. Should you decide to say it in conversation, you will owe me $.25 per usage.

Can forgiveness win, too?

The Civil War was brought to a close when General Robert E. Lee arrived at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia to surrender on behalf of the Confederate Army. The terms of the surrender were remarkably generous. Confederate soldiers were promised immunity from prosecution even though they were officially guilty of treason, and they were allowed to keep both their weapons and their livestock. As General Lee rode away, many of the Union soldiers felt that a certain measure of gloating was in order. But as they burst into applause, General Ulysses Grant ordered them to stop immediately.

“The Confederates were now our countrymen,” General Grant reasoned, “and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”

We can be grateful that the war over gay marriage was not fought with muskets and bayonets, and that the casualties have been, for the most part, emotional and spiritual rather than physical. The war is now over, and gay marriage has won. But I fear that the divisions between the combatants over the rainbow will be harder to heal than they were between the Blue and the Grey. Neither side sees the other as fellow countrymen, and there are plenty who stand ready and willing to exult over their enemy’s downfall.

This is why I’m uneasy in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that is the cause for so much celebration among the victors and such major lamentation from the defeated. Personally, I think this conclusion has been all but inevitable for quite some time, and I’ve said my peace on the subject numerous times on this blog. I see no point in revisiting any of the underlying arguments, which are largely irrelevant at this point. The decision, in my mind, was merely a confirmation of an already existing reality, much like when the electors gather to select a president months after all the actual votes are cast.

So it’s not the fact that gay marriage is legal that makes me uneasy. Indeed, I’m happy for my gay friends and family, and I think there are a great deal of positives to a future where married gay couples have access to the benefits and responsibilities that married straight couples have. My uncertainty, then, is rooted not in where we are, but in how we got here.

It is an unhealthy reality of our civic life that ideological opponents increasingly see those on the other side not just as misguided or incorrect, but as the embodiment of evil. Where General Grant saw the defeated confederates as “our countrymen,” today’s politicos insist that those who oppose them are either devil-worshipping Stalinists or Nazi Klansmen, depending on whether you watch Fox News or MSNBC. Victory is not achieved by persuasion, but rather by character assassination. The opposition must not only be defeated; they must also be destroyed.

Which brings us back to gay marriage, i.e. the Forces of Love vs. the Army of Hate.

#LoveWins was the trending hashtag in the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and the unambiguous implication was that hatred had lost. From the outset, gay marriage advocates have characterized those who oppose them, even to the slightest degree, as motivated solely by terrible, horrible, hideous feelings of animus. There is no such thing as principled, good faith opposition to gay marriage – there is only bigotry, ignorance, and white-hot hatred. And now that love has won, it’s not enough that hate has lost.

Hate now has to be punished.

Already, a columnist at Time Magazine has called for religious organizations to lose their tax-exempt status. Expect these calls to increase and intensify as the Forces of Love rally against the Churches of Hate. Already, Catholic Charities is being limited in their adoption services because they refuse to place children with same-sex couples. Businesses that won’t bake cakes or take pictures for gay weddings are getting sued into oblivion. Gay marriage opponents have long been branded as “intolerant,” but now the haters themselves will no longer be tolerated by the Forces of Love.  Apparently, intolerance is only a bad thing when the bad people are doing the intolerating.

So here’s my message to those who are tempted to gloat:

Congratulations! You won! I look forward to sharing a bright future with you in a world where two people who love each other can legally marry without opposition. But those who oppose you are still your neighbors, your friends, and your family, and some of them may have behaved abominably during the battle. Shouldn’t the goal now be to help them understand rather than punish them for their ignorance? Can you accept them for where they are rather than demand that they move to where you want them to be? Is it too much to ask for a modicum of grace from you for those you have defeated?

If love wins, can forgiveness win, too?

Jenner Thoughts

Recognizing that anything I write on this subject will be offensive to somebody, I decided to plow ahead regardless. Batten down the hatches; here we go.

While surfing the web, I stumbled on an article in Canada’s National Post that introduced me to the concept of “transabled” people. According to the article, transabled individuals feel like “imposters in their bodies” and have an overwhelming desire to create some kind of physical disability in themselves. Such was the case with a man who now calls himself “One Hand Jason” when he deliberately sliced off his own arm with a power tool in order to feel normal.

Granted, this kind of compulsion is extraordinarily rare. The article identifies only 37 people worldwide who identify themselves as transabled. But in light of the current media frenzy surrounding Bruce Caitlyn Jenner, I think it’s a phenomenon that challenges the rigid cultural authoritarianism that has sprung up in the wake of Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair cover photo.

The conventional wisdom is that everything surrounding Bruce’s transformation into Caitlyn should be celebrated as brave, bold, and wonderful. Conversely, no one is permitted to publicly deviate from that opinion even in the slightest degree. One programmer created a bot with the handle “@she_not_he”  for the purpose of “scrubbing Twitter, looking for anyone who uses the ‘he’ pronoun in conjunction with Caitlyn Jenner’s name.” And when actor Drake Bell tweeted, “Sorry… still calling you Bruce,” he was raked over the coals by both the press and the public and ultimately forced to delete the offending message. He has repeatedly apologized, but it’s still not enough. Twitter users continue to call on him to deactivate his account and, in the words of one especially harsh critic, “deactivate his life.”

Apparently, tolerance for Caitlyn is as mandatory as intolerance for anyone who disagrees.

For my part, I think kindness is always a good approach. If Bruce Jenner wants to be called Caitlyn Jenner and wants me to use the “she/her” pronouns to describe she/her, I’ll be happy to comply with her wishes. I don’t know Caitlyn Jenner personally, and I don’t feel like I’m in any position to pass judgment on her. I wish her and her family nothing but happiness. In any case, nothing about this entire episode will have any personal impact on me, and I don’t want to waste even a minute of my life getting upset over it.

That said, I think the unanimous applause for what Caitlyn Jenner is doing is drowning out many legitimate questions that society ought to be asking.

For instance, how are the drastic changes Caitlyn is making to her body all that different in kind from what One Hand Jason did to himself in order to feel comfortable in his own skin?  If we know someone’s about to slice off their arm, would we tell them, “Hey, if it makes you feel better about yourself, have at it?” I don’t think we would, yet we don’t apply that same logic to our approach to transgender surgery. In addition, we don’t celebrate those who commit suicide because they loathe their own bodies, but how are the desires of such people so different from Jason’s or Caitlyn’s? If a person feels compelled to surgically alter themselves in irreparable and potentially disabling ways, shouldn’t we do everything possible to find psychological solutions before putting anyone under the knife?

It’s also odd to me that the arguments used to applaud Jenner’s choices are precisely the opposite of arguments made against anti-gay bigotry. If you’re gay, you’re born that way, which means that you need to find happiness with who you are rather than try to be something you’re not. But if you’re transgender, you ought to take radical action to surgically alter yourself in a way completely contrary to how you are born. Isn’t that wildly inconsistent? Shouldn’t the emphasis be on accepting who we are rather than taking extreme measures to try and transform ourselves into something we can never be?

Because the cruel fact is that Caitlyn Jenner will never truly be a woman, at least not biologically. Sure, she can use feminine pronouns and make all the cosmetic changes she likes, but her DNA and internal organs will remain decidedly male, and nothing she can do can change that.

I recognize that even these questions will likely brand me as a hater or a “transphobe,” and that’s unfortunate, because these are questions born of genuine concern, not hatred or fear. Indeed, it’s hatred and fear that are being used to silence legitimate discussions and vilify anyone who departs from the media-enforced orthodoxy. Those praising Caitlyn for her bravery ought to be brave enough themselves to consider other points of view.

OSC nails it!

It’s remarkable to me how many people are asking me about my assessment of the 2016 presidential field. I suppose I should be flattered, and to some degree I am, but I have largely lost my appetite for American electoral politics. I also think our republic is riddled with deep structural fault lines that cannot and will not be repaired by means of a national election. 

I also feel somewhat excluded from partisan debates, as I’m deeply disgusted with both Democrats and Republicans, although I’m ideologically far closer to the GOP than the party of Obama. But the ideological excesses of the Tea Party combined with Republican recalcitrance to do anything significant on immigration make it difficult for me to find anyone in the political arena who shares my point of view.

And then I read this article – “The American Disease” by Orson Scott Card. 

I agree with this article. 

That doesn’t sound as significant as it ought to sound. The fact is, I agree with all of it. I agree with every word. Indeed, had I decided to sit down and effectively summarize the entirety of my current political unorthodoxy, I would not have been able to do as fine a job as Card does with this essay. 

Let me share just a few of my favorite excerpts:

Card on Obama

Barack Obama is not the cause of America’s ills. He is only the most visible symptom.

We think that because he has spent his term systematically weakening the power of the United States in the world, his removal from office will make us strong again.

Not likely… The disease is already so deeply rooted that washing out one handkerchief is not going to cure anything.

Card on foreign policy/global warming:

When Barack Obama is no longer President, our children will still be taught… that if we weren’t so aggressive and arrogant, all the other nations would be nice.

That this is obviously false, after six years of Obama’s “nice,” apologetic foreign policy, will not change the ideology.

Since there was never either truth or evidence supporting this belief, contradictory evidence will hardly make a dent in it, any more than twenty years of global cooling has made a dent in the “climate change” panickers.

Card on leftist economics:

The Leftist ideology does little harm to the economy — as long as it’s just talk, and business is left alone to do its job.

Thus someone as deeply ignorant of economic laws as Barack Obama and his entire administration think that they can fiddle with the economy and redistribute it “fairly.”

No, they can’t. Their “fairness” is, in fact, sabotage — literally, putting a wooden shoe into the machinery so it grinds to a halt. The irony is that when the whole thing crashes, the people who are hurt the worst are the very poor people whom the Left meant to help.

Card on the GOP:

There are smart Republicans who understand the economy, the process of government, and foreign policy, but they are constantly and savagely attacked by the fake “Tea Party” Republicans as RINOs — Republicans In Name Only… The Republican Party deserves to fail, has chosen to fail, and this deathwish continues in full force.

They could have elected Mitt Romney in 2012 and stopped the national nightmare by installing in the White House the most competent man to be a major party nominee since Dwight Eisenhower.

But the evangelical Christians stayed home in droves rather than vote for an evil Mormon — thus remaining “pure” but refusing to govern.

Card on Republican opposition to immigration reform:

In practical terms, the “no amnesty” litmus test for Republican candidates is a political mistake… But I think the harm it does is far deeper. It’s a hypocritical, hateful attitude, that the poorest of the poor should never be forgiven for the crime of going wherever they had to, regardless of risk, in order to feed their families.

It poisons the Republican Party the way support of slavery poisoned the Democratic Party before the Civil War.

Card on Republican refusal to compromise:

But when every compromise that leads to good government is treated as an indelible stain on a candidate’s record, how can the Republican Party nominate anybody with the capacity and wisdom to begin to repair the damage to America caused by eight years of the disease of which Obama is the symptom?

Card on our 2016 choices:

Both ideologies are insane, self-contradictory, and destructive, and we give power to either of them at our peril…The Democrats are poised to offer us the proven incompetent, dishonest Hillary Clinton. The Republicans are selecting from a menu of people crazy enough to pass their purity tests.

Card’s solution:

There is a cure for our current ills. It’s for one of our political parties to grow up and decide to govern for the public good, seeking, not purity, but consensus…And since both Parties are grimly determined to purify their faction rather than unite the nation, we have no reason to hope for any improvement.

Again, I recommend that you read the whole thing. He doesn’t get into entitlement spending, which is the specific problem that will ultimately break us, but he addresses the philosophical reasons that created that problem in the first place.

So when you ask me what  think of the current political landscape, maybe you should be asking OSC instead. I cannot recall stumbling upon any other opinion piece that so perfectly encapsulates my own positions without qualification or exception. It’s pretty cool, albeit more than a little bit spooky. Is this guy reading my mind? 

Say, where did I put my tinfoil hat?

I survived “The Dr. Phil Show.”

From the outset, you need to understand that I didn’t watch an episode of “The Dr. Phil Show” by choice.

Here’s how it happened. I took my car in for a safety inspection and an oil change, and my iPhone was dead. So there I was at the lube job place, and there were no magazines or other diversions to occupy my time. I had no other option but to watch the waiting room’s flat-screen TV.

With no remote control available, I was unable to escape Dr. Phil McGraw and his guest panel of brain-dead, morally repugnant miscreants swapping tales of infidelity, alcoholism and slug-like stupidity. If aliens with ray guns had intercepted this transmission, they would have concluded that humanity is a lost cause and blown Planet Earth to Kingdom Come. And they would have been right to do it.

I spent the whole time trying to understand the thinking of the people who volunteer to be objects of Dr. Phil’s derision. If I were having booze-fueled affairs with random strangers, the last thing I would want to do is show up on daytime TV to advertise the fact. Then again, we’re talking about people with the kind of judgment that leads to booze-fueled affairs with random strangers in the first place.

But these folks had camera crews follow them around to capture B-roll footage of them looking shifty in cutaway shots before commercials. Conceivably, they were asked to do multiple takes of shots recreating them doing sleazy things. Wasn’t there some point in that process that one of these people thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll just conduct my depravity in the privacy of my own home”?

Of course, they’re not the only ones engaged in questionable behavior. This kind of show remains on the air because millions of people like to watch it, which I don’t understand.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming to be high-minded in my artistic tastes. It takes all kinds, I guess. Personally, I like superhero movies where grown men in tights and capes make things go boom, so I’m in no position to deride someone else’s viewing choices. But what could possibly be entertaining about watching terrible people discuss their self-inflicted misery? Perhaps people enjoy feeling superior to the worst specimens the human race has to offer. Or maybe it’s so bad, it’s funny. Or perhaps they just can’t live without a daily dose of Dr. Phil’s artificially folksy wisdom. But I doubt that very much.

The “Doctor” label attached to his name gives him a credibility that he doesn’t earn by means of his on air behavior. At least “The Jerry Springer Show” made no pretense of being anything other than a showcase for freaks. Dr. Phil pretends that he’s actually doing some good, and every now and again, he offered some obvious piece of advice like, “You know, you really need to be there for your children.” But does one really need a medical degree to think up stuff like that? One could open a fortune cookie and get thoughts more cogent than the kind of bon mots Dr. Phil delivers between copious commercial breaks.

I’m pitching this concept to producers, incidentally. I really think “The Stallion Cornell-Reads-Fortune-Cookie-Fortunes-to-Lowlifes Show” could be a huge hit. Plus, I’d probably get to eat a lot of free cookies. And it would be more fun to watch if you were trapped in a waiting room with nothing else on TV.

The moral of the story is simple: always keep your phone charged.

From the desk of Scott C. Kuperman

By way of introduction regarding our guest post today, I ought to recount some blog history. I have recounted this history in-depth previously here, but newbies may want a more streamlined explanation for why this is relevant.

In the early days of this blog – September 16, 2007, to be precise – I wrote a post titled The Order of the Arrow. In it, I recounted my unpleasant introduction to the Boy Scouts of America’s goofy secret society which I don’t much like, as you’ll discover if you read the post.

I never expected to mention the Order of the Arrow again. I certainly had no desire to become the online locus for all things Order of the Arrow, nor was it my intent to lead some kind of crusade against it, despite my lingering distaste therefore.  However, in a Google-fueled irony, my site ranks high in searches where people are trying to find out the secrets of the Order of the Arrow “ordeal,” i.e. the O of A initiation ceremony. Consequently, this blog still gets a steady stream of daily visitors to my various O of A-themed pages, even six-plus years after the first one was written.

This occasionally makes for some colorful comments, the latest of which I received today from our new friend Scott C. Kuperman, who, unlike me, does “not hide behind anonymity.” I offer you Scott C.’s full diatribe unedited and intact, but I must confess that, as of this writing, I haven’t actually read the good Mr. Kuperman’s full remarks. I started skimming after he assured me that “no one can be you but you,” and I checked out soon after. I did like the cryptic paragraph about “Lord of the Flies” and decaffeinated polygamists reading inscriptions on rocks, though. You don’t read stuff like that every day.

There was a time when I found O of A defenders to be charming in a Dudley-Do-Wright-Gone-Sour sort of way, but now they just bore me. However, this one seems more literate than most. I still enjoy passing the better ones along because I’m of the opinion that highlighting the humorless scolding I receive on the subject helps to reinforce the original point I made six years ago, which is that the Order of the Arrow is, you know, kinda dippy.

So, without further ado, I’ll let Scott C. Kuperman take it from here. He gets the last word.

__________

Greetings, “stallioncornell”. I do not hide behind anonymity.

An obvious, but pertinent statement: “No one but you, can be you.” None of us can or should comment on your personal experiences since your perceptions equal your reality. Neither I, nor anyone else besides you can understand your experiences as you have.

Having first explained that fact, it is important to explain another: I don’t believe the year or ‘era’ in which you experienced your ordeal has anything to do with your hazing experience. Hazing has never been permitted by the Order (or the BSA for that matter). Both the written and unwritten codes expressly forbade and currently forbid it. To this end, how you now hold the entire Order accountable for the actions of a few miscreants is equally abominable to your experience.

Whether you experienced your ordeal under the heavy hands of Budweiser-fueled, Silent Generational sadists, and Lord Of The Flies driven Scouts; or loin cloth wearing, no caffeine, weird rock transcription worshiping polygamists, and brain washed, Children Of The Corn driven Scouts, should make no difference. Hazing is as wrong as *stereotyping*. And what is right is right even if no one is doing it. And what is wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.

I first experienced my honor into Brotherhood in 1991 at the age of 16. I experienced my Ordeal at 14. I endured events as you have similarly described by action, but I took away nothing but positive feelings. After I was told not to look, I’m sure I peeked. I’m sure I got a quick, but gentle slap on the back of the head. I learned not to peek and instead to hold my honor as I had originally promised not to peek. I took part in ceremonies designed to unify and solidify bonds of fellowship…

I had a day of eating similar foods (minus the gum drop). I encountered days of similar work. However, my take away to this day is still a feeling of alignment with those who walked the path before me, of understanding the value of service to others. My “slave labor” afforded thousands of campers the ability to experience a great summer week instead of a crappy, bug infested week without campfires or fun activities. No one “hazed” me. If I had felt hazed for one instant I would have reported those who hazed me in conflagration with the values espoused by the Order. If it became an even larger issue, I would have quit.

It is exactly what you describe in your original post that offers controversy. Your story tries to indicate that you were “hazed mercilessly”. While the term hazing can have different meanings to different people, your description of hazing, to me at least, makes you seem like an intolerant, immature, whining infant. You accepted your Troop’s nomination into the Order. You had to have known what the Order was about long before you conducted your ordeal. For someone so tied to the proper use of vocabulary and grammar, what part of ‘ordeal’ do you feel was misrepresented? Why not just quit if Scouting wasn’t your bag?

It is a good thing you do not remember anything about the Order to further denigrate it, and yourself (by proxy having taken the oaths,) any further. The “secrets” of the Order exist to elate future Ordeals and Brothers who desire a path of self discovery through trials. This is why such secrets are now completely open to parents who wish to be assuaged that their sons are not joining a cult. The Order’s “secrets” do not exist to create a secret society to be falsely feared, let alone by small minded individuals with an apparent childish vendetta against a group with values and methods he cannot understand.

It is true: No matter where you go in America, you can find small minded people in positions of power over others. Whether you’re looking at Paris Island or Salt Lake City; the “City of Brotherly love” or the state of multiple matrimony… Unfortunately, the internet provides those with even false gripes to have a limited amount of power. Your blog exemplifies this. You now feel that you have the power to ruin for others what you felt was ruined for you.

Your problem isn’t with the Order of the Arrow, sir. The problem you have is with yourself. Once you realize this, you will be able to see that your fellow Scouts didn’t haze you – instead, as a youth you allowed yourself to take part of an honor that simply wasn’t meant for you.

Your experience wasn’t tragic. However, what is tragic is your current need to denigrate the Order.

__________

Brian, Beck, and Bitterness

So NBC anchor Brian Williams was caught telling a lie. He was not in a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq, despite having said he was on a number of occasions.

The reaction to Williams has been widespread outrage. Most people recognize that lies don’t happen in isolation, and someone willing to make up one story is likely to make up a lot of stories. And, predictably, tall tales told by Williams are now coming out of the woodwork. His reputation is shattered, and his career is likely over.

But what if I were to tell you that the people who called Williams’s falsehoods to light didn’t like him? What if they worked for ABC News or some other competitor? What if they had a longstanding grudge against the guy? Or, for you Mormons out there, what if Brian Williams were a member of the LDS Church? Would any of those qualifiers lessen the severity of what Williams did? Would any of them make him an honest man? Would they restore his credibility and salvage his career? Of course not.

But when you change the name “Brian Williams” to “Glenn Beck,” all bets are off.

This began on a Facebook thread, where noted Mormon scholar Daniel Peterson linked to this article about Glenn Beck’s “crisis of faith.” I jumped in and pointed out that Glenn Beck, like Brian Williams, doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story, so, like Brian Williams, he can’t be trusted. Beck’s defenders then leapt into the fray with weak attempts to claim Beck was just misquoted by his own website, but the conversation quickly shifted to… me. Because, see, I worked for a Democrat at one point, and Democrats are Beck’s ideological enemies. And I’m just a bitter Beck hater because Beck said nasty things about my father. Also, Glenn Beck is a fellow Mormon, and one Mormon has no business calling another Mormon a liar.

That same sentiment spilled over into the comments section of my previous post. A comment from Andy said my  “infatuation with all things Glenn Beck is… disturbing,” while a commenter named Nate directly referenced the Facebook exchange and concluded that my behavior there was “at least as” bad as Beck’s original lie – meaning it was probably worse.

“In a recent Facebook thread where you repeatedly attacked Beck as a “liar” who had embarrassed the church, I couldn’t help but feel that your behavior in that Facebook thread was at least as deplorable and embarrassing to the church as you think Beck’s comment was on that radio show.”
– Nate, February 7, 2015

Nate and I discussed this further in what was, I hope, a civil exchange in the comments section, but I wanted to bring this to light on the main page here, because  many who read my original posts may not pore over what is said about them in the comments.

I found it interesting when I raised the Brian Williams comparison, Nate had no problem with using the “deplorable and embarrassing” language he criticized previously. To quote Nate again:

It is beginning to look like Williams is a pathological liar. How could he possibly retain his position as the face of NBC News?

How, indeed? Also, why is it okay to call Brian Williams a pathological liar but not Glenn Beck? Referring to Williams as a liar is entirely appropriate, but referring to Beck as a liar is “deplorable and embarrassing” – indeed, “at least as deplorable and embarrassing” as the vicious lie Glenn Beck told to millions of listeners.

I don’t get that at all.

I also have no patience for the idea that because Beck is a Mormon, he should get a pass. If anything, Latter-day Saints should have less patience for dishonesty from one of their own than for someone like Brian Williams. Beck’s prominence as a Mormon requires more moral accountability, not less, and Mormons ought to be the first in line to expose Beck’s dishonesty.

Also allow me, for a moment, to address the issue of my oft-cited “bitterness” and “infatuation with all things Glenn Beck.” I have repeatedly written on this blog about the damage that festering hatred can do to the soul. You’ll have to take my word for it that my so-called “obsession” with Glenn Beck – who is mentioned in only 32 of my 833 posts here, and usually only in passing – is not fueled by half a decade of festering bile. Rather, it is motivated by concern for the damage Glenn Beck is doing to the church, which is considerable. A dishonest, inaccurate, and apocalyptic prophet of doom is the most prominent public face of the church to which I belong and a stumbling block for good people who are rightly disturbed by his bad example. I have a big problem with that.

Still, you may not believe me. You may think this is nothing more than a schoolyard grudge. Such is the way of things – I’m the only one who knows my heart on this subject, and there’s nothing I can do about whatever judgment you choose to make on that score.

So let’s suppose my detractors are right. Suppose I really am nothing more than a seething cauldron of anti-Beck bitterness, and that I spend every waking moment of every day nursing my anti-Beck wrath to keep it warm.

How does that change the facts I’ve cited?

How does my being a terrible person make Glenn Beck an honest one?

Peeves

I’ve never really understood the expression “pet peeves.” I love my pets. I don’t love my peeves. But I have a lot more peeves than pets. So, that said, here are some things bugging me at the moment.

1. I just read this article, where Ordain Women leader Kate Kelly comments on podcaster John Dehlin’s likely excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She asserts that Dehlin “is facing a church trial for supporting marginalized Mormons and the ordination of women.”

This is factually inaccurate.

The LDS Church keeps strict confidentiality about the reasons for its discipline, yet Dehlin has chosen to publish the letter from his Stake President that specifically outlines why he faces excommunication. (I don’t want to link to it, as I have no interest in sending any traffic Dehlin’s way, but Google will back me up on this.) The letter does not mention, either directly or indirectly, Dehlin’s support for the ordination of women or support for marginalized Mormons as reasons for discipline. It does mention the fact that Dehlin has very publicly and repeatedly rejected every foundational truth claim upon which his church is built. Specifically, John Dehlin has repeatedly and publicly stated that he believes there is no God, that Jesus was not only not the Son of God but that he likely wasn’t even a historical figure, and that Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are both abject frauds.

I wish John Dehlin no ill will, and I think he is entirely welcome to believe what he wishes. It so happens that I have many friends who believe there is no God and no Christ, that Joseph Smith was a con man, and that the Book of Mormon is 19th Century fiction. In fact, there are many fine people believe such things, so John Dehlin will find no shortage of companions and allies who share his point of view. I am not even remotely upset that he believes these things, and his difference of opinion with me is not at all peeve-worthy.

Here’s the problem that earns peeve status.

The people I know who believe the things John Dehlin believes are not Mormons. They have no desire to be called Mormons. They certainly don’t expect that a church filled with Mormons should endorse their belief that Mormons are part of a massive theological delusion. Yet, somehow, Dehlin – and Kate Kelly, if this article is to be accepted at face value – both think The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should allow people to remain members of said church while they are publicly and passionately fighting against it. On his website, Delhin himself puts it this way:

“One can be Mormon or claim a Mormon identity without necessarily adhering to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization. We can retain the label ‘Mormon’ but remake it and redefine it in the public mind as a mere cultural label.”

Or, in other words, John Dehlin does not wants to stay Mormon so much as he wants to fundamentally change what a “Mormon” is.  He is not trying to stay a member of the church; he is demanding that the entire church declare itself meaningless. Were he to succeed, he would diminish what it means to be Mormon for every Mormon on the planet.

This peeves me to no end.

The church welcomes a much wider diversity of thought than Dehlin and Kelly suggest, but it should not and cannot continue to accommodate those who are actively working to destroy what it means to be a Mormon. Whether or not his name is on the church’s membership records is largely irrelevant at this point. It’s obvious that John Dehlin has made the decision not to be a Mormon, and he doesn’t get to avoid the consequences of that decision by making all Mormons less Mormon in the process.

2. Hey, did you know Glenn Beck thinks it’s terrible when Mormons mix religion and politics?

“There is something really wrong in Utah. There is something really, really wrong,” he said. “Remember, it was the Mormons, the two Mormons Smoot [and] Hawley, they were two Mormons that brought us the Smoot-Hawley Act which brought us the Great Depression.”

Yeah, great. Just another instance of Glenn Beck not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. Not sure this is as deliberate as when he manufactured a meeting with my father out of thin air, but Willis C. Hawley of Smoot-Hawley Tariff fame wasn’t a Mormon. And he was from Oregon, not Utah. So when our pal Glenn complains about Utah Mormons mixing politics and religion and cites a non-Mormon and non-Utahn as one of his key examples, he’s once again making stuff up.

But it gets better – or worse, as the case may be. “Sometimes [Mormon] theology can go and mix with politics and go wildly wrong! When Mormons go bad, they go really bad. They go socialist. They go socialist. They mix the Gospel with government.”

Good heavens. So, SO peeved.

To hear this man complain about mixing Mormonism with politics is to witness a white flash of hypocrisy so potent that it could make Spock go blind.

spock-is-blinded(That above image is from the episode “Operation: Annihilate” in which Spock goes blind during an experiment designed to keep people from being murdered by flying pancakes made from plastic vomit. Look it up.)

Mixing Mormonism and politics?! Glenn Beck’s entire existence is predicated on mixing Mormonism with politics! And not just any Mormonism and politics – he taps into the very worst of both worlds to produce a Cleon Skousen/John Birch society paranoid nightmare that has God sending tsunamis to Japan because of gay marriage.

Beck is famous for predicting ridiculous things, so I don’t feel bad about making a few Beck-centric predictions of my own. Prior to his “Utah-Mormons-like Willis-Hawley-are-socialists” rant, Beck made cryptic rumblings on his Facebook page about a “crisis of faith” that involves rejecting “men of the cloth” in his own church.

Now, I have no hard evidence for what I’m about to say, but if Glenn Beck has taught me anything, it’s that evidence is the enemy of wisdom.

I think it likely Glenn Beck has had a negative experience with one of his local church leaders, perhaps a bishop, who, hopefully, asked him to tone down the apocalyptic hooey and stop saying dishonest and/or crazy things. Given that Beck’s instability correlates directly with his messianic delusions, I think he’s currently chafing at the limitations of reasonableness imposed by church membership. The day is not far distant when Beck parts company with the Mormons in order to have an unfettered hand to practice his unique brand of moonbattery, which will likely lead to him becoming an outspoken enemy of the church to which he now belongs.

You read it here first.

3. I have other peeves but I’m tired of writing. So you only get two peeves. But that’s more than you had before I started, so don’t get all peeved on me.