May 5, 2008

Wright And Wrong

OK, I'm going to get a little political now. I will start off by saying that I'm not a staunch supporter of Obama, I just like him slightly better than the others and I think that he will be the next president. I certainly don't think that he should be immune to criticism.

I just read this commentary by Glenn Beck on CNN.com regarding Obama trying to distance himself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (you can read the entire article here: http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/05/beck.obamawright/index.html). I'm not extremely familiar with Beck, since I've only caught a few bits of his shows here and there. I wouldn't say I share his point of view on some things, but I appreciate his approach to politics and different issues. I actually didn't know he was a Mormon until President Hinckley died and there was a tribute by Beck circulating on the Internet. I like the guy and I admire how he's been able to turn his life around after a rocky past.

I know that Beck claims to be a "conservative who just who happens to not be a Republican." I don't know whether he supported Romney while he was still in the race, but if he did, I wonder if he felt a little funny writing this commentary.

Beck writes:

"It wasn't Wright's overbearing volume, hilarious comedy, hand movements, or dance quality that made me think he was a dangerous peddler of conspiracy theories. It was his words that did that. I don't want someone like him with access to the president for twenty minutes, let alone twenty years."

Where have I heard this before? Hmmm... isn't that "access to the president" phrase roughly the same concern that a lot of people had about Mitt Romney? Only, instead of being criticized for associating with a "dangerous peddler of conspiracy theories," Romney was accused of being associated with a prophet some would regard as a dangerous peddler of a homophobic, anti-feminist agenda and the leader of a religion with a racist and polygamist past. Those of us familiar with Mormonism can easily laugh off such ideas, but put yourself in the position of someone who knows little or nothing about the Church and how it works. Can you see why people could be concerned, just as a lot of people are now concerned about Obama? In no way do I agree or sympathize with Wright's racist rantings, but I know at the same time that one need not dig too deeply to find some pretty disturbing teachings on race, among other things, in Mormonism. The only real difference I see is that Wright is alive and current, while the most controversial Mormon leaders are mostly dead.

Beck continues:

"Do I think for a second that Obama believes the government created the AIDS virus to kill African-Americans? No. But at this point it's rational to wonder whether he is either lying or has an awful sense of judgment. He either knew Wright's views and didn't tell the truth about them, or he somehow missed the core beliefs of the man who was spending his Sunday mornings teaching core beliefs.

I'm glad Obama has come to the same conclusion that Wright's critics came to long ago. I just wonder why it took me two minutes and him two decades."

While I was reading this article, that scripture came to mind from Matthew 7:3, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to accuse Beck of any sin here, but I do wonder how he could have missed the parallels. It might take him just two minutes to see through Wright, but how long would it take him to see through Brigham Young for his fiery, racially-charged speeches, or Joseph Smith for his underaged brides? To be quite honest, as much as I am deeply disturbed by some aspects of my faith, I wouldn't be willing to stand in front of America and publicly denounce past prophets of my religion. But apparently neither Beck nor Romney is willing either. And either that makes us people of integrity or huge cowards, depending on how you look at it.

I was anxious while Romney was still in the race, particularly if it had turned out to be him vs. Obama, in other words, White Mormon Republican vs. Black Democrat. I think that Romney would have found himself under intense scrutiny, just as Obama is now, or even more so, because of Mormonism's former doctrines related to race. Honestly, I was scared to death that it would come to that, and at the same time I was hoping it would, merely for the fascinating religious and ethical debates that could have followed.

But I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be in their shoes.

6 comments:

angryyoungwoman said...

I'm new to your blog, but you've captured my feelings pretty blasted well with this one. I've never understood where we (mormons) get off criticising other religions. Out, mote! Out, beam!

Sanford said...

I hope I am not totally thread jacking here but I have been thinking about your post for a couple of days and here is my take.

I listen to Glen Beck sometimes on my way home from work. I am intrigued by the fact he is a Mormon by I am mostly astounded at what a race baiter he is. Today he was talking about drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico and he talked about how laughable it was that Nigeria was getting the contract to do the drilling instead of America. He practically spit out the word Nigeria several times as he talked about how pathetic is was that Nigeria was doing drilling that America should be doing. No, he did make any direct racial statements, but the overtones were there and it was clear the prejudices he was pandering to.

I have found his comments on the Wright matter equally designed to appeal to and foster underlying currents of racial distrust and fear among certain groups in this country. Obama, to me is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the discussion of race in this country while Glen Beck is voice for division, discord and anger. In fact, Beck is close to the flip side of Reverend Wright in terms of bombast and polarization.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Sanford, I'm not the type to jump on anyone's political bandwagon and there are some things about Obama that I don't like. However, you are absolutely right that he is a breath of fresh air and I think that IF there's really going to be a positive change in America, Obama is the guy. I think America is ready to elect a black president and I hope that (some) members of the Church are able to keep up with the changing times.

Mormon Heretic said...

Dissident,

You are exactly right on this!!! I have been saying this for a few weeks, and I should've posted it on my blog too. I have never understood why mormons are comfortable pounding Obama's preacher, then get uptight when other's pound Romney's mormonism.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I remember this commentary by Beck, and I couldn't quite put it together why at the time I felt uncomfortable about what he said. Something seemed hypocritical. And now I read your post! Exactly!

Well stated, FD.

This is totally off subject, but I'm somewhat of a faithful dissident myself. I need to connect with others who LOVE the church, but can't accept EVERYTHING.

I feel totally guilty right now because I've just come back to church after leaving for four years.

I tried to be VERY VERY good for about four months, but it was driving me crazy. I was turning into this zealous missionary person, and my husband (a Catholic) and I were getting into arguments.

One day, several days after we'd had a particularly bad argument (fueled by my religious zeal, actually), I just said: That's it.

And I made a cup of coffee. It tasted SOOOO good. I had been wanting to do that for four months.

That weekend, I decided to have a whiskey drink with my husband while we watched a movie. It was nice to just relax.

Suddenly, my life seems 100% better. But I had to turn down a church calling because I don't feel worthy.

I have no intention of giving up coffee or alcohol in moderation.

Does that make me an Unfaithful Dissident???

The Faithful Dissident said...

Anonymous, thanks for your honest commentary. I appreciate people who are open about the "bad" things that they do, though they are striving to be better people. If you're looking for someone who "LOVES the Church, but can't accept EVERYTHING," then we sure have something in common.

I admire you for your honesty regarding that calling that you had to turn down. Whether it was the "right" or "wrong" thing to do probably depends on who you ask. I think that you should know better than anyone else whether or not you are worthy. I recently asked to be released from my RS counsellor calling and I haven't been to the temple in over 2 years. When I talked about this with my branch president, he still seemed convinced that I was "worthy" and that I could honestly pass all the temple recommend interview questions. I realize that I could still perhaps enter the temple without bringing condemnation upon myself, but I don't feel confident enough in that. Maybe because I feel like if I did go to the temple right now, I would be putting on an act as being someone who has a strong testimony. I don't feel that I do. Strangely enough, I still feel that I have a strong faith in God and the Church in an overall, general way. But in all honesty, I have too many negative feelings regarding certain doctrines at this time to be able to say that I have a testimony in the way that we are used to hearing from fellow members. It would be odd for me to say that I have a testimony of this, but not that. I feel like there are holes in my faith, testimony, whatever you want to call it. Right now I'm trying to fill in those holes, without the assurance that they can be filled in because I wonder whether I will ever get the answers to certain questions that I have. Probably not. I realize that I have to either be in the Church or leave it, and I honestly feel that I'd rather be in it because it makes me a better person and I don't believe there is any other religion or philosophy out there that will give me more answers or meaning to life. But that sure doesn't mean that I'm getting all the answers I want in Mormonism.

I realize you might feel guilty for your relapses regarding the Word of Wisdom. I'll be honest, I've always obeyed the W of W to a tee, but only because it's not a challenge for me. We all have our Achille's heels. The W of W may be yours, but not mine. On the other hand, my pride or stubborness could be my downfall. Or if the Church suddenly banned pizza and chocolate, I'd probably really start to understand what it was like for you to have to give up coffee and whisky. We are all different.

Never think that you have to live the Gospel perfectly in order to be in the Church. That is the biggest misconception out there. If you knew everything that your fellow members were up to in their personal lives, some things would probably shock you. I think the important part is to never be in denial and always be open and willing to improve. I applaud you for being honest enough to say that you are breaking the W of W and realizing that that perhaps makes you unworthy for a certain calling. At the same time, I hope that you will always be honest with yourself and true to your conscience, whatever it is telling you that you should do. Our deepest, purest, inner-most conscience, the one that we don't try to cloud with rationalizations or excuses, is usually our best guidance. (I talked a bit about that in my last post.) We have to be 110% honest with ourselves.

I never like to tell people what to do, but I will say this: don't ever be a religious zealot, especially not with your husband!! I know that we're a missionary church and should do our best to spread the Gospel (I admire and support the work of full-time missionaries around the world), but I've always personally felt that we should let people come to us. Think of it as telemarketing. Most people hate telemarketers and will never buy anything over the phone. But when that person is looking for something in particular and is ready to buy it, they will call whoever is selling it and then the seller should be more than glad to help them. I think it's like that with the Gospel. We need to make it clear where we stand and wait until people realize that they need/want our "product." When they do, we can receive them with open arms. Now, that's my personal missionary style but it's not a perfect philosophy because somewhere out there, there is always someone who doesn't realize he is missing out on something that he needs until a "telemarketer" brings it to his attention.

So those are some of my thoughts. I'm also married to a non-member, so read my post called "The Marriage Mission" on the subject.