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July 17, 2012 9:10 PM   Subscribe

"Confessions of an Ex-Mormon: A personal history of America’s most misunderstood religion." by Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air and Lost in the Meritocracy. (Via)
posted by zarq (45 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
In case anyone wants it, here's the single page version of this article. Be forewarned that it brings up a print dialog.
posted by zarq at 9:10 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really liked this essay, though I found myself reading it as an eloquent defense of churches in general, as opposed to Mormons in particular. Maybe that's because it captured a lot of how I felt about growing up as a church (Presbyterian), even though I'm not religious today.
posted by TheWash at 9:36 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a great article. Thanks for posting it.

I'm one of those sons (ok, great-great-grandsons) of stubborn pioneers he references. I often wonder how many people in the church actually believe the folk beliefs like Adam-Ondi-Ahman and walking to Missouri. There are certainly many who do. But it's part of a body of Mormon folk belief that isn't really doctrine in the modern church and is not the subject of teaching from church leaders, really, at all.

I had similar experiences to what he describes, and I guess I just approached it in a different way than he did (stubborn pioneer stock, after all). I spent most of my teenage years rolling my eyes at that stuff and instead embracing the stuff that actually works - the stuff that resonates with me. And then I just kept on rolling my eyes and keep doing it now. I've been fortunate to build a network of friends in the church whose beliefs are like my own. And, for whatever reason, I've never caught any grief for being outspoken in my opinions, even when they're opposed to things that lots of people in the church seem to believe.

It probably also helped that my church leaders when I was growing up never really grilled me about things or gave the impression that they bought into the more ridiculous folk beliefs. I never felt any obligation to confess anything to any church leader, nor did I have the sorts of interviews that the article describes. Somehow, between my parents and a select group of church leaders, I learned that it's OK to roll your eyes at dumb things and remain faithful to the things that are not dumb.

I suppose I should write a long-overdue thank you letter to the Bishops and other church leaders who never interrogated me or gave me crap about my clothes and my hair, and who saw me rolling my eyes at Mormon folk beliefs and made it clear that they didn't believe all of it, either.
posted by The World Famous at 9:51 PM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if taking someone who appears to be having a breakdown or serious depressive episode to your church and then following up with teenage missionaries is a good idea. Maybe a counselor or something might have been better; even though it worked out here okay this time, it certainly could've gone other less positive ways.

Plus, it's kind of a skeezy way to recruit church members, by catching them at their very lowest.
posted by PJLandis at 9:59 PM on July 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


I find myself wondering whether this would be an acceptable, even applauded, post if it were about Islam instead of the LDS.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:04 PM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Plus, it's kind of a skeezy way to recruit church members, by catching them at their very lowest.

From the group's perspective, who is more in need of your particular version of the Good Word than someone at their lowest with no other apparent support network? The ability to recognise that what worked for you might not work for others is rarely present in the evangelist mindset.
posted by kithrater at 10:10 PM on July 17, 2012


Plus, it's kind of a skeezy way to recruit church members, by catching them at their very lowest.

It's also a long long tradition in a lot of religions which espouse conversion experiences. Ever been to a tent revival? They're full of testimony of exactly that sort. So were the sort of conversion stories which were held up to me during my youth in a (admittedly low-church quasi-Evangelical) Presbyterian church when I was growing up. The whole "long dark night of the soul" narrative followed by a sudden Come To Jesus moment after which Life Held Meaning And All Was Resolved (Or At Least A New Approach Was Now Apparent) was, and still is, an extremely common thing which is held up as an example of exactly how much religion can change a life.

Similar narratives are found in 12-step programs.

I'm not sure what the point is of that second thought, but it's true.
posted by hippybear at 10:14 PM on July 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think churches can do very well for people at their lowest, so long as they aren't trying to exploit that for financial gain or something else that's going to be harmful. You don't have to stay a member if it turns out it doesn't work for you, or if you start feeling better and it no longer suits you. I think a lot of medication-resistant depression does well with community involvement and support, and a lot of religious groups do well with that. The LDS church does better than many, and I wish more of us could learn from that. (I wouldn't personally be bothered by Muslims doing the same thing, either, or Wiccans, or anything else, although I know many would.)

Not that counseling and medication and whatnot aren't also great for all sorts of mental illness, but I'm thinking back to a time an alcoholic individual of my acquaintance attempted suicide. Just attempted, thankfully. The church wasn't able to fix that person's depression or their alcoholism. We were able to give them the people who they knew cared enough that they could show up out of the blue and someone would be there for them, and that was the part that saved a life just then. It's not a good replacement for other services, but I think it's a good thing in general.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:16 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


>I find myself wondering whether this would be an acceptable, even applauded, post if it were about Islam instead of the LDS.

It's a fairly sympathetic account of a religious minority group.

Would it be acceptable, and even applauded, if it were about Islam?

On MetaFilter, probably.

I suspect there'd be more lashing-out against a sympathetic post concerning a (conventionally) far-right Evangelical Christian church.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:20 PM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have never been Mormon, but I did have a teenage churchgoing experience. For three years, I was a true believer and tried to do things the right way to be saved. But my faith left me; I just found I couldn't believe anymore no matter how hard I tried to convince myself.

And this is why I liked this article, because I can relate. When I was part of the church, I was going through a low point in my life. Family life was really bad at the time. But the youth groups and the church families brought me a lot of what my life was missing. I had a friendly ear when I needed it, people to help, and places to stay when things were really bad at home.

While I'm gone from the church, I hold no hate for it. I miss the people and still care deeply about a lot of them, even ones I haven't seen in years. I do miss meeting everyone for a friendly night of volleyball or basketball. I miss camp; singing songs around a campfire at a mountain camp where you're two hours from civilization really is a spiritual experience. I get upset when people start ripping on their faith, even though I'm agnostic now. Because for the most part, these are good people.

I don't subscribe to the Mormon belief system, and the LDS church does a fair bit that I disagree with (hello, prop 8.). But I still hate to see the "magic underwear" remarks some people make, and I cringe when people crack on Mormons for following their faith. People believe what they believe, and someone's faith or lack thereof isn't a reason to judge them as good or bad. I love how he frames that in the article. He's more about the good in the people than he is about their faith.

I love how he says it's OK not to believe all the really crazy stuff, because even the "good" members don't believe all of it. Had I figured that out, I might still be a member today. (But I have been thinking of checking out the UU church.)
posted by azpenguin at 10:23 PM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Lost in the Meritocracy link is pretty fantastic, though it reads more like fiction than fact.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:29 PM on July 17, 2012


My motives were personal, not political. I’d never been a good Mormon, as you’ll soon learn (indeed, I’m not a Mormon at all these days), but the talk of religion spurred by Romney’s run had aroused in me feelings of surprising intensity. Attacks on Mormonism by liberal wits and their unlikely partners in ridicule, conservative evangelical Christians, instantly filled me with resentment, particularly when they made mention of “magic underwear” and other supposedly spooky, cultish aspects of Mormon doctrine and theology. On the other hand, legitimate reminders of the Church hierarchy’s decisive support for Proposition 8, the California gay marriage ban, disgusted me. Deeper, trickier emotions surfaced whenever I came across the media’s favorite visual emblem of the faith: a young male missionary in a shirt and tie with a black plastic name-badge pinned to his vest pocket. The image suggested that Mormons were squares and robots, a naïve, brainwashed army of the out-of-touch. That hurt a bit. It also tugged me back to a sad, frightened moment in my youth when these figures of fun were all my family had.

As for Romney himself, the man, the person, I empathized with him and his predicament. He no more stood for Mormonism than I did, but he was often presumed to stand for it by journalists who knew little about his faith, let alone the culture surrounding it, other than that some Americans distrusted it and certain others despised it outright. When a writer for The New York Times, Charles Blow, urged Romney to “stick that in your magic underwear!” I half hoped that Romney would lose his banker’s cool and tell the bigoted anti-Mormon twits to stick something else somewhere else, until it hurt. I further hoped he’d sit his critics down and thoughtfully explain that Mormonism is more than a ceremonial endeavor; it constitutes our country’s longest experiment with communitarian idealism, promoting an ethic of frontier-era burden-sharing that has been lost in contemporary America, with increasingly dire social consequences. Instead, Romney showed restraint, which disappointed me. I no longer practiced Mormonism, true, but it was still a part of me, apparently, and a bigger part than I’d appreciated.

Sometimes a person doesn’t know what he’s made of until strangers try to tear it down.


Oh my. I sense that he struggles with Mormonism every day of his life. Unless a leaver or reject addresses the questions of legitimacy, they typically stay mired in the personal memories and aspects of the culture they feel estranged from.
posted by Brian B. at 10:55 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good article by a talented writer. Okay, he won't be living in the golden city, but I think he gave the story a fair airing. Anyhow, he figured out that if it ain't the pills or God that makes his stomache feel better, then it must be the people. That's a lot to know.
posted by mule98J at 11:16 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The core of Mormonism isn't communalism and sharing as Kirn alleges, its multilevel marketing. That Utah has the highest number of MLMs in the nation is no accident.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:18 PM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Confessions of an Ex-Mormon

I'm so ignorant about Mormons that I didn't know they confessed. I thought it was more of a Catholic thing.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:27 PM on July 17, 2012


Thanks for sharing; wow, the Lost in Meritocracy piece hit me closer than expected. Down to the bit about a failed Rhodes Scholarship bid (although I didnt even make it to the interviews), and obviously, didn't do drugs. Still trying to find that avenue to (re)-start learning though; I suspect I will forever be trying to find it.
posted by the cydonian at 12:02 AM on July 18, 2012


I'm also from a small town in Minnesota and went off to a fancy-pants university where I had something of a breakdown and the name of Walter Kirn shall follow me for the rest of my days. I've yet to actually read any of his work cover-to-cover, so this must be a sign. I did see him speak and read from Meritocracy (I think) a few years ago, and he was kind of funny and slightly awkward, so I don't know, kinship.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:48 AM on July 18, 2012


Turnabout is fair play: isn't therapy a pretty sleazy way to make money off of people? To convince them that they need to pay you for your continued help when they're at their lowest? ...

But from the therapist's perspective, who is more in need of their particular style of Therapy than someone at their lowest woth no other apparent support network? The ability to recognise that what worked for one might not work for others is not really present in the therapeutic mindset.


Or maybe people are just trying to help other people the best way they know how, and one style of help does not prevent another from happening simultaneously, and no single person or group should be expected to help in every way, and some help is better than none.
posted by windykites at 3:27 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I further hoped he’d sit his critics down and thoughtfully explain that Mormonism is more than a ceremonial endeavor; it constitutes our country’s longest experiment with communitarian idealism, promoting an ethic of frontier-era burden-sharing that has been lost in contemporary America, with increasingly dire social consequences.

That would be interesting.
posted by Houstonian at 4:07 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Last I heard, therapists didn't go knocking door-to-door to drum up new business. But, times are tough, so maybe there's been some changes in the industry.
posted by kithrater at 4:29 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's true, they don't go door-to-door, but they do have some pretty aggressive advertising campains (around here, at least).

And in a slightly tangental but still very related subject, so do manufacturers of popular mental-health and behavioural pharmeceuticals like anti-depression and anti-anxiety meds

(Not at all trying to imply that those meds aren't absolutely important, beneficial, and even life-saving for a large number of people who use them; they are. But that doesn't change the fact that those products are agressively marketed, to the degree of lobbying for regulatory changes, manipulating data from clinical trials and research studies, influencing popular opinion away from alternative modalities of managing lesser grades of dysfunction, and free samples to get people hooked. Probably at least equally effective as going door-to-door).
posted by windykites at 5:12 AM on July 18, 2012


Last I heard, therapists didn't go knocking door-to-door to drum up new business. But, times are tough, so maybe there's been some changes in the industry.

I don't think many of therapists are interested in being an active part of someone's life post-therapy. They may stay in contact with a patient to see how the patient is doing, or develop a friendship with a patient that continues on outside of therapy, but beyond that, I think many therapists would be satisfied if a patient who was responding very well to therapy, gradually drifted away from it.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:26 AM on July 18, 2012


I had a Mormon roommate in the Marines for a year. He would try and convert me every once in a while, didn't like having beer in the fridge, and had some interesting cleaning habits, but he was obviously (to everyone) one of the most polite, most generous, gentlest and most kind people you were ever likely to meet.

Other religions have a much higher built-in capacity for doing harm, and I'm not talking about Islam (think of the impact the growing fundamentalist Christian movement is having on the US government - that is an actual cause for concern). People who attack Mormonism for its quirks and bizarre beliefs should re-examine their own doctrines with the same level of snide.

Mormon doctrine, when taken literally, may seem wacky, but it leads to healthy, generous, and loving community, which is more than I can say for most religions. The only other religious group I've come in contact with who matched the Mormons in terms of being peaceful and welcoming were the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). Quakers really have their shit together!
posted by amcm at 5:47 AM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't know about that healthy, generous community stuff. Ask a gay Mormon how healthy and generous their community feels. Or get your hands on a copy of I Was A Teenage Mormon, or any other literature put out by former mormons who have bothered to actually do the hard thinking and the soul searching that Mr. Kirn seems reluctant to do.
posted by palomar at 8:05 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ask a gay Mormon how healthy and generous their community feels.

I think the answer to that would depend largely on the age of that individual and which local Mormon community you're asking about. It would also depend on whether you make a distinction between the Church's doctrinal position on the one hand and the way that the actual community of members of the Church in their area behaves on the other hand. I've worked as a Mormon Church leader alongside gay Mormons who were also in leadership positions, including coordinating efforts to help gay members of the ward in need of financial and medical help. At best, I'd describe the community in those situations as healthy and generous, if complicated and in need of a lot of growth. We're a long way from where we need to be, but when it comes right down to it on a community level, we're there for each other in a way that transcends the bigotry inherent in the official position. If we continue to progress as a community, focusing on understanding one another and exercising the Christ-like love and fairness that is supposed to be the foundational principle of the religion, I'm confident that we will eventually get to where we need to be. It's frustrating that cultural sea-change takes a long time. Nevertheless, I've seen plenty of evidence that the tide is turning in the right direction on that issue.
posted by The World Famous at 8:14 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, if Mormonism is communitarian, then Mitt Romney is not a good example of that ideal. That's just one point.

Mormonism is *not* my cup of tea. I do however know several Mormons. They all know I am not joining. They have made in one case minor stabs at it. Probably they have because they think they see Mormon characteristics in my temperament.
After a sincere religious discussion, they realized that it was not happening.
I have had a Unitarian try to convert me. That discussion was pretty hilarious. He tried again recently and I had to school him again.
On the one hand, I feel likes candidate's religion ought not bar him/herfrom an office, on the other hand. If their office will allow the candidate to impose his/her religious views on the U.S. and the world, maybe it becomes the business of the people.
The office of President of the United States is still an office of such consequence. I think being able to think objectively, and to set aside doctrinaire views is very important.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:22 AM on July 18, 2012


Actually, if Mormonism is communitarian, then Mitt Romney is not a good example of that ideal.

You mean the guy who worked for several years as a volunteer Bishop, overseeing the local church welfare system, coordinating service efforts and devoting probably at least 20-30 hours a week to guiding and overseeing the local Mormon community while he was also working a full-time job as the head of a busy company? There are plenty of things not to like about Mitt Romney. But when devotion to a religion leads a guy like him to step down from his position of material wealth for a few days every week to do stuff like visiting sick and needy members of the ward, helping members of the ward to manage their personal finances, pay the rent and mortgage payments, as well as providing meals and staples for members in need, and a list as long as my arm of other things Bishops do as a matter of course, I'd say Mitt Romney is a fantastic example of how that ideal is strong enough to include even those who, all other things being equal, would probably never participate in those communitarian activities.

When I was a kid, our family moved to a different house within our ward boundaries. My parents, I learned later, were not sure how they would afford to rent a truck for the move. A few days before the move, a semi pulled up in front of the house. The driver unhooked the trailer, knocked on the door, and gave my folks a phone number to call when the trailer was full and ready to be driven over to the new house. Without prompting or saying a word to my parents, and without my parents ever telling anyone in the ward they were in need, a member of the ward (who happens to be a sort of relative of Mitt Romney and at least his equal in terms of material wealth) had used his own resources and connections to arrange for the truck.

And that anecdote is lame compared to others that I won't relate here. I grew up as a solidly middle-class kid in an extremely wealthy town, in a Mormon ward with lots of people like Mitt Romney. And the communitarian ideal of Mormonism was as strong in that ward as anywhere I've ever been. I don't know Mitt Romney other than having met him a few times many years ago. But, notwithstanding his personal flaws and his politics, I'd say he's a pretty good example of the Mormon communitarian ideal.
posted by The World Famous at 8:55 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


The World Famous, would you agree that the community you're speaking of is, for the most part, limited to fellow Mormons? I feel that the Mormon church has an excellent support network for those in the community, for the most part (I also know people who have lost their Mormon friends when they came out of the closet) but there's a resistance to any sort of recognition of community outside of the religion, especially by the government.

I appreciate what the Mormon church does for those who stay in its sphere, but I feel that a lot of the basic needs of society -- food, shelter, clothing -- in bad circumstances should be able to be addressed regardless of your ability to conform to a religious community.
posted by mikeh at 9:13 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I imagine that katjusa's point was more that Romney's Mormon communitarianism didn't stop him from driving oodles of people out of work, impoverishing them through pension shenanigans, or otherwise treating people as mere obstacles in the path of gathering wealth.

But unless those were somehow Mormon firms or operations of the local ward, it doesn't argue against Mormon communitarianism. [unfair] It just says something about where Romney draws the boundary of his community and how he treats people he thinks are outside it. [/unfair]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:16 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You mean the guy who worked for several years as a volunteer Bishop, overseeing the local church welfare system, coordinating service efforts and devoting probably at least 20-30 hours a week to guiding and overseeing the local Mormon community while he was also working a full-time job as the head of a busy company?

It's wonderful that Romney does all these things. He's probably a highly stand-up guy for the LDS community. But at issue in the election and in the office for which he's running, not as LDS stake leader but as the leader of hundreds of millions of people who aren't in the church, is what Romney espouses for the larger community that comprises the country that he's saying he wants to lead for the next four years.

Just one example. There's plenty of evidence that the communitarianism for which Romney is well-known within LDS circles would not extend to all of the folks outside the LDS sphere who want "free stuff" from the government; after all, one of Romney's standard applause lines on the campaign trail is "If you want free stuff, vote for the other guy." Romney's persona on the campaign trail does not give rise to the image of someone who is a communitarian. It gives rise mostly to questions about who the heck he really is and what values he embodies, since he and his campaign are unwilling to divulge much of anything at all about what in his personal background or makeup, other than the constantly-hammered bullet points about how being a business executive with "intimate knowledge of how our economy works" and about being a "superb manager" of the 2002 Winter Olympics, makes him well-suited to be in the White House. Romney's campaign bio on his website doesn't mention his membership in LDS at all, let alone that he's the selfless, tireless communitarian that you describe above.
posted by blucevalo at 9:29 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


But at issue in the election and in the office for which he's running, not as LDS stake leader but as the leader of hundreds of millions of people who aren't in the church, is what Romney espouses for the larger community that comprises the country that he's saying he wants to lead for the next four years.

Sorry, but small-scale communitarianism is not mutually exclusive with conservative, free-market economics. I know it's bash-the-Republicans season on Metafilter but there's no contradiction here.
posted by downing street memo at 9:34 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. I thought I made it clear that I was speaking of something distinct from politics or Romney's political views. I guess I should have put those parts of my comment in bold or surrounded by stars or something.
posted by The World Famous at 9:44 AM on July 18, 2012


Kirn's essay here is the first piece of journalism I've seen in a while that I feel communicates part of the *soul* of the Mormon faith. There's a lot out there that tries to come at things by discussing history, policy, and theology, and those things all matter as context, but probably less than the day-to-day experience of what it's like to be part of the community, and Kirn managed to get at an important side of that.

I don't know about that healthy, generous community stuff.

There are unhealthy aspects and portions of the community, and as someone whose place in that community is sometimes rather uneasy, I can state confidently there are many members of the Mormon community that could do with a bit more introspection about that. But I don't know that the Metafilter community really needs the same thing. The healthy and generous aspects that Kirn and TWF describe are reality for many Mormons, and it's nice to see it show up on the blue.

[unfair] It just says something about where Romney draws the boundary of his community and how he treats people he thinks are outside it. [/unfair]

I don't think this is unfair; there's a very fair criticism to be made about what Romney (among other Mormons) seems to bring from the faith into discussion about the public sphere. As pointed out in this excellent Pew Forum interview with historian Richard Bushman on Mormonism and politics, there's plenty of history, doctrine, and tradition that would support a more progressive and communitarian approach to civic practice, but for some reason, there's now a tendency to glibly draw an overly hard line between a private religious communitarianism and similar values in public practice.

As Bushman points out, given the history of Mormon interaction with the US state, it's not entirely surprising there's a strain of distrust of the state. But I don't think that's all there is to it. This is not a uniquely Mormon problem. Christianity at large has a communitarian side to it, and it's been facing a similar tension as well, becoming increasingly tribal and outsourcing its civic conscience to the Republican party.

Also, I can't look at Romney (again, among other Mormons) dressed in the trappings of management and success without thinking of this piece of (Mormon) criticism of management culture.
posted by weston at 10:28 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


But unless those were somehow Mormon firms or operations of the local ward, it doesn't argue against Mormon communitarianism. [unfair] It just says something about where Romney draws the boundary of his community and how he treats people he thinks are outside it. [/unfair]

This echoes my experience growing up among lots of LDS kids -- the flip-side of communitarianism is what happens when you don't toe the community line, for whatever reason (gay, non-Mormon, "unruly", etc). As others pointed out in the BSA thread, the Boy Scouts have essentially been remade into a toy model of the LDS' ideal community, in spite of the wishes of many Scouts who aren't LDS and don't want to live by their rules. Everything I've seen (particularly Prop 8) suggests that the Church would love to make America into that kind of community, too, and that's where I find I must oppose it.

There's plenty to admire about Mormon community, especially their doctrines of preparedness and mutual aid, but communitarianism plus a refusal to limit doctrine to their own religious community makes them very different from groups like the Friends.
posted by vorfeed at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


We're a long way from where we need to be, but when it comes right down to it on a community level, we're there for each other in a way that transcends the bigotry inherent in the official position.

I really wish my experience matched yours, but sadly it does not.
posted by ambrosia at 10:51 AM on July 18, 2012


when i watched the Frontline special on Mormons, i learned many scary things.

one of them however was not scary.

Mormons were in New Orleans after Katrina a long time before FEMA showed up.
they had trailers full of food and clothes and stuff.
they knocked on doors and helped people clear trees and debris.

i still think there's a lot of weird stuff about mormonism, but they went down there on their own dime and volunteered for non-Mormons in what was a pretty bad situation - downed wires, no plumbing, no running water. so someone upthread wondering if they only show that sort of support to their own, i think the answer is no.
posted by sio42 at 1:53 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Frontline special was roughly as accurate as every other Frontline special. So don't get scared unnecessarily.
posted by The World Famous at 1:59 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yet Utah has twice the national average use of antidepressants. To me, that shows there's something not right with the happy family picture. There are many things to like about Mormonism compared to other religions, and I think this article shows that. But it's capable of producing a deep and lasting unhappiness too, which can't be overcome by the difference between the official and the grassroots positions (if you're lucky enough to have a sympathetic grassroots, which many many people don't).

I think Romney's religion is hugely relevant to American voters: how strictly does he follow it? is he a casual hypocrite like many business leaders? It appears that he compartmentalises his religion so that it's precepts don't get in the way of him getting rich; will he compartmentalise the patriachal attitude as well, or the anti-gay attitude? And can you really call yourself a member of a religion if you only follow the bits you like?
posted by harriet vane at 9:16 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You mean the guy who worked for several years as a volunteer Bishop, overseeing the local church welfare system, coordinating service efforts and devoting probably at least 20-30 hours a week to guiding and overseeing the local Mormon community while he was also working a full-time job as the head of a busy company?

He was a tithe collector, helping to put families at risk for bankruptcy (where Utah consistently ranks number one per capita). Then they get depressed, and go out and prey on each other in local scams.

Conservatives and Mormons prefer their minimal charities in-house for their own anti-government reasons, because they hate welfare. It doesn't make him a saint compared to his hatred of universal medical insurance. It's also the Mormon way of flaunting successful businessman as their religious leaders.

I assume that Mitt isn't releasing his tax returns because it shows that he didn't pay nearly enough tithing as his worshipers expect. That would put so much shame and guilt into the equation that this would entice him to gamble everything on it, and I mention this because I know that he's proud of dodging taxes, like most Mormons.

I amend my earlier comments about Kirn getting teary over his Mormon childhood, because I believed him when he said he wasn't political. But Kirn's Wikipedia page reveals that he stood in for libertarian gadfly Dan Savage once. That alone makes it political, despite his persistent denials, and the fact that he forgot to mention the famous Mormon opposition to the equal rights amendment, where they infiltrated women's groups and organized their communitarian selves to sink the momentum.
posted by Brian B. at 10:30 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mitt isn't releasing his tax returns because it shows that he didn't pay nearly enough tithing as his worshipers expect

Oh snap! That would be a really sticky wicket, if true...
posted by Chekhovian at 10:36 PM on July 18, 2012


I always figured Romney would give a Kennedy speech about how his religion doesn't speak for him and he doesn't speak for his religion. Not just for his campaign, but it would be good PR for Mormons in general.

Unfortunately, I think a certain portion of the Republican base would be alienated by anything that emphasizes or acknowledges the legitimacy of separation of church and state.
posted by PJLandis at 10:08 AM on July 19, 2012


I had a Mormon girlfriend back at the tail end of a high school. I was and am secular, going for a metaphoric reading of any religious text (they mean so much more to me in that fashion). She didn't really try to push it on me directly. Instead it was indirectly. She invited me to a dance at her church that would be preceded by a short sermon. I was fine with that.

During the sermon she kept looking up to me to see if I was impressed. I was not. One part was about how the existence of aqueducts in Central or South America was proof that Jesus had visited that side of the world and brought aqueduct technology with him. I thought to myself that's not what the existence of aqueducts in different parts of the world means at all. It's basic physics. Water flows downward from a higher spot. If you need to channel water there is an example of rivers. Take these two basic elements and people the world over are likely going to come up with a way of channeling water that is aqueduct like and later, pipe like.

The second half of the sermon was about "the gays" and "drugs". How if you're standing too close to a painting you only see what is right in front of your eyes and not the big picture. I can't remember what the issue was with "the gays" other than is was dangerous stuff apparently and sinful.

She could see I was not impressed. I asked her outright how she could look to something like this to enhance and guide her spiritually. She didn't respond. I told her everything about that sermon has nothing to do with the Bible and if it that was in the Book of Mormon I'd also be surprised because the sermon reminded me of the many other unpleasant experiences I had in various churches.

We then proceed to the dance where a great number of the guys blatantly tried to butter her up and pick her up right in front of me. She said that wasn't it, they were just being nice. I disagreed.

I then asked for a coffee. Everyone in my vicinity stopped and got serious looks on their faces and then told me how that was not allowed and how horrible caffeine, an addictive substance, is for you. I said I was not addicted to it, I rarely drink coffee (and writing today I think I my last one about 20 years ago). I was not allowed to drink it. I felt pretty isolated and my girlfriend seemed embarrassed. We discussed the sermon afterward and a couple of weeks later we broke up. I really couldn't respect what was said at that sermon by that particular individual. I told her that all of my exposure to organized religions left a bad taste in my mouth mixed with sugar. Some great people, some great community support coupled with deeply flawed reasoning and outright hatred for "the gays". We'll help you is great. We'll help you and deliver these messages is not. We debated the meaning of the gospels and in the end my interpretation was a dangerous one riddled with sin and misconceptions, and her and her Church's was the only valid one. I had no problem with her going to Church and believing in something in a different way than I did but the reverse wasn't true.

She was a great and giving person, fairly sheltered and I felt that that environment would ultimately leave her unhappy. It was like you were being watched by everyone else in a very 1984 manner. Years later when a friend ran in to her serving alcohol at a bar she told him not to tell me. I hadn't seen her in years. Why would I care if she was doing something she was so against before? I hated that duality of present yourself like this but when reality comes into play, pretend it doesn't. She may have felt I would have judged her, but I didn't grow up or willingly submit myself to judging environments.

Reading this piece reminded me of that feeling. People judging a person based on their religion or what they think of the religion is largely similar. Each individual is different and may take different things from their particular faith. Romney appears to be a complete clown. His faith has little do with that.
posted by juiceCake at 11:28 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always figured Romney would give a Kennedy speech about how his religion doesn't speak for him and he doesn't speak for his religion.

He did give a speech that was supposed to be his "Kennedy speech", but what he ended up saying was exactly opposite to what Kennedy said. [NY Times Transcript]

...But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong...
posted by Chekhovian at 1:24 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're not a person of religious faith that is a disheartening speech.

""Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

Apparently I'm an enemy of freedom.
posted by PJLandis at 6:54 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apparently I'm an enemy of freedom.

Your subscription to Atheist-Facist-Commie Quarterly doesn't help matters either.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:41 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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