Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Under: The Excerpts Of 'Heaven'

Posted by codemorse

My discussion with Jabs on Evangelicism inspired me to take out Jon Krakauer's incredible (and incredibly disturbing) book, "Under The Banner Of Heaven." It's a revealing and uncomfortable look at Mormon fundamentalism/evangelicism.

"Members of the religion are forbidden to watch television or read magazines or newspapers....life in Colorado City under Rulon Jeffs bears more than a passing resemblance to life in Kabul under the Taliban. Uncle Rulon's word carries the weight of law."

"Uncle Rulon has married an estimated seventy-five women with whom he has fathered at least sixty-five children; several of his wives were given to him in marriage when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties. His sermons frequently stress the need for total submission....Uncle Rulon likes to remind his followers of Brigham's warning that for those who commit such unspeakable sins as homosexuality, or having sexual intercourse with a member of the African race, 'the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.'"

"Over the years, the Mormon leadership has made several pronouncements about the "dangers" of the feminist movement and has excommunicated several outspoken feminists.....the Church actively and very effectively mobilized Mormons to vote as a bloc against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (despite a poll published in the church-owned Deseret News showing that 63% of Utahans approved of the ERA)."

"Men, and only men, are admitted to the priesthood and given positions of ecclesiastical authority, including that of prophet. And only prophets may recieve the revelations that determine how the faithful are to conduct their lives, right down to the design of the sacred undergarments individuals are supposed to wear at all times....the fundamentalists take those rigid notions - of obediance, of control, of distinct and unbending roles for men and women - to a much greater extreme. The primary responsibility of women...is to serve their husbands, concieve as many babies as possible, and raise those children to become obediant members of the religion."

"For all their fecundity, Mormon Fundamentalists are strangely squeamish about sex. Boys and girls are forbidden to date, or even flirt, before marriage. Sex education consists of teaching children that the human body is a shameful vessel that should be veiled from the eyes of others at all times....Women and girls are required to wear long dresses, even while swimming. Boys and men wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Both genders must wear sacred long underwear beneath their clothing at all times, even on sweltering summer days. According to the Law of Chastity, sexual intercourse is officially forbidden even between husband and wife unless the woman is ovulating."

12 Comments:

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Ben Miro said...

Oh man, that book blew me away.

Check this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Jeffs


Rulon Jeffs' son, who is setting up a compound in my backyard.

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

I've read up on him, too, but that wiki article's got some new information for me. Namely, this:

In May 2006, he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, for such counts as, but not limited to, sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. According to the FBI alert, Jeffs is to be considered dangerous, primarily because he typically travels with a number of armed bodyguards. He is said to have about 80 wives and over 250 children.

Scary stuff, especially considering that he now controls Rulon's followers.

The amount of pedophilia, quasi-incest and rape that occurs in the fundamentalist Mormon community is STAGGERING.

I'm thoroughly convinced that the world's greatest violent threat comes not from terrorism, per se, but from religious extremism.

And this is some extreme shit.

What's remarkable/scary is how those quotes do a nice job of painting a generalized scary picture, but come nowhere close to capturing the horror of the women's stories in the book.

 
At 11:46 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

My feeling on this is (and I'm not defending Mormonism in general as I believe it to be kooky heresy) that these fundametalist Mormons are like any "Christian" wackos that take the Christian faith and warp it to their own ends (something Brigham Young did IMO actually). Most Mormons probably find this stuff as out there as I find people like Benny Hinn (on the mild end) and David Koresh. Unfortunately religon in the hands of a corrupt and charismatic leader is a very, very terrible thing.

As a side note I HATE that the words "fundamentalist" and "evangelical" have become associated with the extreme fringe. I guess all I'm saying is I think that people need to choose the breadth of their brush carefully when discussing religious matters.

As a secondary side note I like reading Dooce because she is a recovering Mormon.

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

My feeling on this is (and I'm not defending Mormonism in general as I believe it to be kooky heresy) that these fundametalist Mormons are like any "Christian" wackos that take the Christian faith and warp it to their own ends...

Mormonism is one of the world's fastest growing religions, and Mormon fundamentalism is not truly a "fringe cult" in it's numbers, even if it's one in extremity of belief. Christian extremism in general is the only sort of religious extremism we seem to tolerate in this country, and that tolerance has led to some "interesting" developments.

As such, I think it's fair to start asking the question "How do you combat extreme religious belief?" not simply "How do we fight Islam?"

And Joseph Smith's location of the Golden Plates sounds wacky to me, but at the very least, the Book of Mormon provides the signatures of eight people who claimed to witness the Golden Plates in person.

Which is more than I can say for the Bible, and I'm a professed Christian.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Actually considering the number of ancient manuscripts we have from various books of the Bible I feel a little better about its authenticity than that of the BoM.

And this "How do you combat extreme religious belief?" is a good question, you just have to ask, who gets to define what's "extreme".

I believe that only a man should be the lead pastor of a church. The only prophets in my religion are male. I believe that the primary responsibility of women is to serve their husband (and vice versa). Biblically speaking it is my obligation to raise my children to become obediant members of the religion. Now granted my opinion on underwear and sex is more lenient than the Mormons, but some of my views probably seem extreme. What do you do with that?

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Well, in the effort to provide a "practical" answer:

You ask how those beliefs play out in practical society, and how those beliefs effect individuals in a democratic society where free will and free worship are equally balanced, with American legal precedent pretty firmly falling on the side of free will.

You tackle the problem of extremism within a given religion, and do not confuse that with attacking a religion.

There are many, many Mormons, Christians, and Muslims that practice their faith without doing physical or emotional harm to their fellow men.

Do your beliefs lead you to pedophilia? Do they create small, closed societies that openly flout the laws of the Nation you choose to live in? Do your beliefs require that the "submission" of the wife extend to beatings with a leather belt until the skin is bloody? Do you preach that sex with a black person results in "death on the spot"?

If so, you're probably an extremist, and someone who should be taken with more concern than a person like yourself, whose particular beliefs on certain issues may, on surface, appear to be somewhat "extreme," but which do not result in immediate physical harm to the people around you.

In your belief system, unless I've woefully miscategorized you, you do not believe in the "God given" right to impregnate thirteen year-old girls, and as many of them as you'd like, some of them your step-daughters from marriage with other, older women.

And I have to ask, why is it that women can't be involved with the church? Early Christian history shows a remarkable number of women acting in "Preacher" roles. History also shows the subsequent patriarchal decision to eliminate women from those positions.

Considering that both women and men both held positions of Ministerial authority before they didn't, which view is correct?

And if it's a toss-up, do you err on the side of God speaking through humanity, not just man? Or do you restrict half the populace from a deeper relationship with the Lord?

As always, asked in respect to your faith, but with sincerity.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

"And I have to ask, why is it that women can't be involved with the church?"

I didn't say that. Women have always had roles to play in the church, very important ones. Who was the first to see Christ after the Resurrection after all? What I said was "I believe that only a man should be the lead pastor of a church." That's a very specific role.

Regarding the rest there are certinaly those of our further left brethren that would paint me with the same brush that you (and for that matter I) would use on these Mormons. I wouldn't imagine that you think I'm an extremist. So are we the arbiter or are they? At this point I suppose no one is in any meaningful wasy and it's all a matter of opinion. If we are to "combat" extremism though I guess we have to also ask what "combat" means.

 
At 4:38 PM, Anonymous portia said...

The amount of pedophilia, quasi-incest and rape that occurs in the fundamentalist Mormon community is STAGGERING.

I'm thoroughly convinced that the world's greatest violent threat comes not from terrorism, per se, but from religious extremism.


I have to wonder, given the list above, how it is you don't come to the conclusion that the world's greatest violent threat isn't a threat at all, but rather it's the stunning normalcy of violence against women in all cultures, races, and creeds.

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Women have always had roles to play in the church, very important ones. Who was the first to see Christ after the Resurrection after all? What I said was "I believe that only a man should be the lead pastor of a church." That's a very specific role.

And that's the role I'm specifically referring to. Women did possess that role in certain early Christian cultures, and certainly in religion prior to Christianity. So is it God's will that women not lead? Or man's?

Regarding the rest there are certinaly those of our further left brethren that would paint me with the same brush that you (and for that matter I) would use on these Mormons. I wouldn't imagine that you think I'm an extremist. So are we the arbiter or are they? At this point I suppose no one is in any meaningful wasy and it's all a matter of opinion. If we are to "combat" extremism though I guess we have to also ask what "combat" means.

I can't believe I'm going to use the term "moral relativism" in a sentence that isn't defending my own case of same, but I think what you suggest here is a relativism of the highest order.

The extremists I refer to physically beat and rape their women. They advocate violence against minorities. Is there really no difference to you between what you practice and what they practice?

Because that opens a whole world of questions. Is murder really wrong, if it all comes down to a matter of opinion?

Maybe the extremists in Krakaeur's "Heaven" who killed an infant in her crib because "God told them to" were really acting on God's will? who are we to say that they weren't? Why should they be punished?

Well, they should be punished because Murder is societally wrong. It's a social ill. It's a crime. So is pedophilia. And rape. And molestation. And beating women til they bleed.

And I'm somewhat confused by your comment, Portia.

I'd imagine that the umbrella threat of religious extremism covers the threat to women. In point of fact, much of the excerpting I've done from "Heaven" relates to the Mormon treatment of women.

We're discussing religious extremism here. If you'd like to open a conversation or discussion on the relative horror of violence against women separate from a religious motive, I'm sure there'd be eager participants, myself included.

 
At 5:14 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Scott - that may have come off as a rant, but it's not. Just questions your comments brought to mind.

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

And that's the role I'm specifically referring to. Women did possess that role in certain early Christian cultures, and certainly in religion prior to Christianity. So is it God's will that women not lead? Or man's?

Then those "early Christian cultures" weren't paying very close attention to what early Christian tradition taught. Can you give me some examples? Keep in mind I'm not arguing against women teaching or preaching. I'm aware that women have done that in the Christian religion since its inception. I'd argue that if we know God's will from the Bible then it's God's will. My question to you is how do you know what God's will is if it's not found in the Bible?

Is there really no difference to you between what you practice and what they practice?

Of course there is. I said as much. What I'm telling you is that there are people on the left that woul tell you that a) I'm insane or delusional b) I'm an extremist and c) I'm part of some dangerous movement. I know I'm not. You know I'm not. They don't. Are we defining extremists as religious people whose religious practices break our laws? I can agree with that. So do we combat them by jailing them? That's fine too. Of course be prepared for lawyers to bring the First Amendment into play.

 
At 11:23 AM, Anonymous portia said...

And I'm somewhat confused by your comment, Portia.

I'd imagine that the umbrella threat of religious extremism covers the threat to women. In point of fact, much of the excerpting I've done from "Heaven" relates to the Mormon treatment of women.


My apologies for the perceived derailment; I think violence against women feeds religious extremism, rather than the other way around.

Carry on.

 

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