Tag Archives: church of latter day saints

Orson Scott Card, Superman and Religious Freedom #DCComics

Recently, there has been an uproar to the point where online petitions are being submitted because of DC Comics’ choice of science fiction author Orson Scott Card. Card is a card-carrying member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He finds his primary source of allegiance and identity with the Mormon Christian community. In his introduction to the first book in his Ender’s Game series, he says about the influence of Isaac Asimov’s influence on his view of the world:

“And yet that fundamentally pessimistic premise (you mean we’ll never change?) was tempered by Asimov’s idea of a group of human beings who, not through genetic change, but through learned skills, are able to understand and heal the minds of other people. It was an idea that rang true with me, perhaps in part because of my Mormon upbringing and beliefs: Human beings may be miserable specimens, in the main, but we can learn, and through learning,become decent people.”

It should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with Christian teaching or who has had Mormon friends what to expect when interacting with LDS Christians. DC Comics knew exactly what it was doing when it recently hired Orson Scott Card to be part of the writing team for the forthcoming series, Adventures of Superman that will have a number of guest writers, be made available online first, and then paper later this year. One opinion columnist for Comic Book Resources, has stated why he does not believe OSC is qualified to be a writer for the series. He and others such as the Huffington Post stated DC Comics recent commitment to “progress” and “diversity” (I would call that questionable, especially when we talk about race). Examples include the relaunched Alan Scott/Green Lantern of the Earth 2 which received criticism from social conservatives. I commented on this incident last June: 1 Million Moms, Green Lantern, the Culture Wars, and Nonviolent Theology.

I have stated in the past that works of fiction are excellent ways of discussing ethics. I followed the link from the CBR opinion post where Orson Scott Card wrote “insane viewpoints on the origin of homosexuality” but I did not find anything about the “origin” of same sex relationships at all. What I did find is Orson Scott Card’s commitment to his LDS religion and its teachings. “One thing is certain: one cannot serve two masters. And when one’s life is given over to one community that demands utter allegiance, it cannot be given to another. The LDS church is one such community. The homosexual community seems to be another.” So, the way that Card sees identity is that we have this one community that we are to be loyal to, and no other. The political implications of this opinion are real for a lot of folks, particularly non-Christians. If we are beholden to only one community’s structure in the world, where will we go to when that community is corrupted? A very relevant example is the case of Megan Phelps-Roper of Westboro Baptist Church. Granted, this is an extreme example, but there are many others I could name, perhaps a pastor who promotes ponzi schemes may be another.

We have multiple communities that we are loyal to. What Card has is a “church against culture” approach to the society at large. This shows in his defense of enforcing laws that would have GLBTQI persons arrested:

“Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity’s ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.”

So, Card is promoting hegemony both in his preferred house of worship and in national politics. Card, while claiming allegiance to the LDS alone, has placed his faith in the state to dictate the behavior of fellow sinners. Card claims he does not want arrests to happen, but his idea still relies upon the violence of the state to enforce his religious opinions. I keep forgetting that not all Christians affirm Soul Freedom. Soul Freedom is a belief held by many moderate Baptists like myself that affirms the right of every person to be free from any compulsion (government or otherwise) that interferes with their religions or non-religious practices. Soul Freedom is the theoretical ground for those who believe in the separation of church and state. It is the freedom of the church to persuade (or not to persuade) others about the Good News about the grace of God and the life of Jesus Christ.

So, DC Comics is showing loyalty to its fan-base who may be Orson Scott Card fans, who may be Mormon, or who could be socially conservative. The dissenters are being loyal to the LGBTQI fans of DC Comics who take exception to DC Comics’ choice. Orson Scott Card being faithful to the LDS community. The point I want to make here is this: we are all complex people, human beings. We should not make one person’s opinions or actions the sum total of who they are. No, in the end, our actions do not define us. We are more than the members of being part of this community or that community. As Card notes, as human beings, we are given a nature “with as complex a combination of good and evil in them.” I am a Christian. I am black. I am a Blerd. I am a moderate Baptist. I am a Whedonite. I am postcolonial. But I am more. And so are you. We are all made of infinite value that no one can truly comprehend. Simultaneously, humanity is both dystopia and utopia.

A Gospel Greater Than Political Cynicism: A Defense of Billy Graham

, American religious figure.

, American religious figure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible Says Respect and Honor our elders, not Manipulate Them!

“My concern is that here’s how things like this continue to work: Franklin Graham (or Franklin and his sister Anne Graham Lotz) have an agenda (in all three of these cases, “traditional marriage”), they get a BGEA copywriter to draft the text, then a BGEA graphic designer does the layout (in the case of the ad), Franklin approves the copy and/or design, then Franklin drives out to Little Piney Cove (Billy’s cabin home outside of Asheville, N.C.) and holds the piece of paper in front of Billy and asks, “Daddy, can we publish this?” And Billy nods (or whatever he’s capable of doing at this point in his life), and Franklin goes back and publishes this stuff with his good father’s name all over it.”-Steve Knight

There’s a scene in Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin where Jafar, antagonist’s pet parrot, Iago, mimics Princess Jasmine, with her own words, “I have the power to get rid of you.” Of course, this is a foreshadowing of Jafar and Iago holding Jasmine captive after *SPOILER ALERT!* Jafar becomes sultan through magical means.

Iago (Aladdin)

Iago (Aladdin) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I think what is interesting in these contrasting scenes is the idea of whoever has the power, they have the ability to determine who is speaking and what constitutes speaking, a premise that Gayatri Spivak discussed at length in a famous essay. The news of Billy Graham‘s re-politicization has come somewhat as a surprise. As both a political science major who was fascinated with Richard Nixon’s rise (and fall) to power, as well as a Baptist who has some personal admiration for Graham for his effort to racially integrate his crusades, I have my serious doubts about this new turn of events of a few reasons that I wish to briefly mention here.

First, let’s go back to the 1970s, even before that, the 1950s. Let’s say you have a best friend who is a war hero, a patriot, and devout man who is in the White House named Dwight Eisenhower. Of course, you are going to try to be good friends with his strange Vice President, from California, right? Billy Graham was at his peak starting with the “We Like Ike” era, andIke was a very good President, one of America’s few (dare I say outstanding at some points!).

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the U...

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, in the late 1960s/early 70s, Richard M Nixon is elected then re-elected as President. Nixon’s history of fear-mongering is undone by his own political ambitiousness in the Watergate scandal. Watergate was a turning point in U.S. American history for a lot of reasons. The Presidency (by now, increased in power) but lowered in terms of stature in the eyes of the public. Journalists (and consequently, now, bloggers where everyone is a journalist) became the defenders of democracy to check the power of the President and his control of misinformation. The truth is a powerful thing. The truth was, Nixon was not as decent as he lead his friend of a friend Billy Graham on to be. Perhaps this is why a couple of theologians, James Cone and Vine Deloria assessed Billy Graham’s theology as covering up racism. It wasn’t that Graham was attacking people of color in his sermons, he was doing it with his actions, being too cozy with President Nixon who used the racist Southern Strategy to win votes, and who opposed busing so that schools could become racially integrated, you know that thing that Nixon’s Republican predecessor Eisenhower fought for. Graham’s reputation, because of his refusal to follow the Baptist tradition of Separation of Church and State, was diminished by his friendship with Nixon. Burned as naive, and hurt by political cynicism, the Reverend Billy Graham stayed out of partison politics for nearly four decades.

And now, he has made a return! Magically, he has become friends with another moderate Republican who is pious and even more of a pessimist than Nixon himself. Mitt Romney is a man who up until 2008, was a socially liberal GOP politician, until he made his “there’s only one real conservative in this primary” speech at CPAC. Mitt Romney is probably one of the worst politicians (Democrat or Republicans) from public policy standpoint when it comes to consistency. Politicians post-Nixon are supposed to lie, but should they be refuting their own arguments in public?:

Like John Kerry, Mitt Romney is another flip-flopper from Massuchussetts, but the thing about “flip-floppers” is that they believe that the U.S. American public is stupid, and will use any means necessary to maintain power. As long as I have been Christian, evangelicals have referred to Mormons as “a cult” but today, because of politics, that isn’t the case anymore. Personally, I would say the LDS is a heretical Christian sect in comparison with the likes of Unitarian Universalists, and academically speaking, the term “cult” could refer to any religion, but we know in popular culture, cult means any “extremist” religious sect under the dictates of an authoritarian leader. Hey, here’s an idea, how about we NOT rely on FreeDictionary.com for our definition of cult is, okay? There are dangerous suicidal cults, and that’s one thing, but another is anything that is seen as “new or bizarre.”

The thing about our notions of the bizarre is that they reveal what we view to be normative, and since Mormons have (hypothetically speaking) worked really hard to go mainstream, is there a reason to call them a cult? This leads me directly into the changes that have taken place at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association‘s website. We act as if an almost 94 year old man suffering from Parkinson’s disease, who’s btw has gotten fluid drained from his brain over the past decade or so, has the ability to go on his own website, and take down his longstanding views on Mormonism as a cult in the past few days. Religion, properly understood, in the first place, let me reiterate, Mormonism is a heretical Christian sect. As a Baptist and believer in separation of church and state, I affirm that there is to be NO RELIGIOUS TEST for political candidates at any level here in the United States. I can both affirm Billy Graham’s stances on social conservativism and agree with Steve Knight’s article doubting Billy Graham’s comeback. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that Richard Nixon’s resignation was a life-changing event for Billy Graham from all that I have read.

Richard Nixon has indeed been resurrected, in the form of his heir Mitt Romney and (IMO) Graham’s son Franklin. Franklin has had the history of being politically partisan for the right wing since the George Bush presidency, but even Bush (wisely) marginalized Franklin after controversial statements about other religions. It would seem this marginalization has lead to a desire for a political comeback in the form of being Iago for his father, doing damage to his father’s legacy while keeping Franklin’s own hands clean.

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New Years Eve: My Conversation with a Mormon Elder

On New Years Eve, on a bus filled with black people, two white male Mormon elders decided to evangelize. Little did one of them know that I had theological education, but since I was feeling too nice that day, I decided not to use it. What follows is that conversation. Enjoy!

p.s.: If I had brought up the Mormon beliefs in the past about black people, it would have been ugly. Also, I do not appreciate the fact that the elder lied to me about the book of Mormon and what it says about the United States of America. It was dishonest and disgraceful. I had mercy however since it was 2010. Not in 2011.