Four Stories; One Salient Point

Allow me to string four disparate life experiences into what is, I hope, a single, coherent and salient point.

1. Yesterday on Facebook, I announced that it was snowing right before June, which means, and I quote, “global warming can bite me.” Over 70 comments ensued, most of which followed a familiar pattern – global warming cap trade consensus climate inconvenient change hoax denier Al Gore bibbitty-bobbitty-boo-fill-in-the-blanks. One of the arguments, of course, was that the “scientific consensus” is that climate change is a big frickin’ deal, so I ought to stand up and take notice. That’s nothing you haven’t heard before, I know, but it provides an important point of reference that will make that coherent and salient point that I will make at the conclusion of this post extra salient.

2. As I have chronicled extensively on this blog, I have wasted a good decade of my life battling Languatron, an Internet simpleton who believes I am Glen A. Larson, creator of Battlestar Galactica. Early in our battles, I actually tried to engage him in substantive debate to prove, using reason, that I am not, in fact, the good Mr. Larson, but when it became clear that Langy was naught but a clod, latter skirmishes simply involved mocking him both subtly and openly in an attempt to draw laughter at the expense of his inexhaustible fount of foolishness.

3. Tonight, whilst I was supposed to be doing dishes, I hung out at YouTube and listened to several choice selections from the smash hit musical The Book of Mormon. They were, as advertised, shockingly juvenile and crude, and, yes, often startlingly funny in the way that all jokes that involve the violent expulsion of poop are funny. I will have more to say on the subject, although much of what I might say was said better by columnist David Brooks of the New York Times, so maybe you ought to read his bit and then come back and let me finish mine. (It’s OK. I’ll wait.)

4. Shortly after my daughter Cleta injured her spinal chord in a skiing accident, members of my local congregation – our “ward” in Mormonspeak – went wildly out of their way to make our lives easier. One organized a massive, successful fundraiser that covered most of our more-than-significant medical expenses, and another assembled a team of thirty-or-so people who came into our house and scrubbed it from top to bottom. They also fixed broken cabinets, replaced damaged electrical wiring, and installed a new kitchen sink, three new toilets, an entire handicapped-accessible bathroom, and double railings on two stairwells and in our front and back entrances. Their main focus, however, was completely redecorating Cleta’s bedroom, which now includes an entirely new bedframe and bedding, new furniture, a fresh coat of paint, and a beautiful mural of a flowering tree just above her bed. And just to make sure that my other daughter, Chloe, didn’t feel left out, they entirely redid her room just for good measure, installing a built-in new window seat at the base of her bed.

There. Those are the four stories. I had hoped to do it in three, which would have felt cleaner, but, alas, all four are necessary to make my point. My salient point. Again, David Brooks already made it, kinda, but I thought I’d give an insider’s perspective to add a dash of ultra-salience.

So here we go.

If Global Warming – or, rather, “Climate Change,” the new, hip moniker that takes into account the fact that the globe’s temperature hasn’t risen significantly in over a decade – represents the “consensus” of the scientific community re: the state of the earth, then surely The Book of Mormon – the musical, not the book – represents the consensus of the secular world with regard to my faith. Once again, I find myself outside the consensus looking in, and I’m clearly not in sync with what the cool people think.

They don’t see us as evil; they see us as well-meaning, ultra-polite imbeciles – cheerful little Bizarro Languatrons who, while lacking Languatronic bile, are not deserving of serious intellectual or spiritual engagement. This became crystal clear when one of the pseudo-missionaries sings “I Believe” and passionately proclaims his absolute faith that Thomas Monson speaks to God face-to-face on a daily basis, that God lives on a “planet called ‘Kallub (sp)’ and that said God “changed his mind about black people in 1978,” which will ultimately result in the day that “I get my own planet.” (As a side note, is there any Latter-Day Saint who recalls a single lesson in a single church setting where personalized planets, and the ownership thereof, has ever been discussed?)

In my previous post on this subject, I stated that it’s probably better to be mocked than hated. After listening to the specific mockery in question, I’m far less sure. At least the people who hate us take us seriously. The people behind The Book of Mormon – again, the musical, not the book – simply condescend to us. We’re just too silly to hate. To use a Mormon metaphor that you non-Mormons probably shan’t get, they’re the ones jeering and laughing as they point fingers at us from their Great and Spacious Building, which, eight times a week with two performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays, can now be found running indefinitely at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th Street, New York, NY 10038.

It’s no use taking offense, really, and I’m rather proud of the fact that most in my church haven’t bothered to do so. But it’s worth noting that very few other faiths go in for this specific brand of dismissive, pithy ridicule. As I listened to these tunes that involved, among other things, Joseph Smith casually raping infants and frogs and the Savior himself insulting missionaries with crude epithets, I tried to imagine what a Jewish or Catholic version of this musical would look like. Unquestionably, over the centuries these religions have produced far more than their fair share of hateful, mocking bile, but I’m betting that most of it took the idea of Judaism or Catholicism seriously enough to really, truly hate it. To illustrate: Nazi propaganda would depict Jews as snarling, demonic Shylocks, but it would never have thought of producing a musical where a chirpy, cheerfully diarrheic Moses sings a song about how “[poop] comes out the butt,” enhanced by a live demonstration of same.

Still, I told my fourth story because I know, from firsthand experience, what my church does. On the whole, it makes bad people good and good people better. And it does this not with the kind of Stepford-style “niceness” that The Book of Mormon – once again, the execrable musical and NOT the inspired book of scripture – paints in garish colors. This church is transformative because people have had a genuine, powerful experience with Jesus Christ through the Book of Mormon – the book, not the musical – that is anything but silly. That book hasn’t turned them into department store mannequins with smiles pasted on their faces. It has inspired them to pattern their lives after Christ. It has taught them that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” (Non-Musical Book of Mormon, Mosiah 2:17) And I have seen, firsthand, what the power of Christ can do, what miracles it can work, and anyone else who has seen the same could not possibly conceive of such a flippant, gaudy parody that doesn’t even have the courtesy to look us in the eye as it spits at us.

Still, I hear they’ve fixed Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. That might be fun to see.

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