I’m back with a new post finally.
Another Facebook conversation that bugged me. I don’t reply with challenging comments to my friends’ own Facebook walls, so I express myself here:
FB Friend – One of the things I don’t get about the morality of the middle east, is how it is OK to kill people because of a movie made by someone else from their country but they never riot over pedophiles or raping someone before killing them. I’m offended almost daily by the disrespectful things people say about Jesus, God, Joseph Smith, and simply being a person who relies on faith. Yet it is when I hear of a police chief molesting a young man or soldiers raping someone before killing them that I truly feel rage and a desire for vigilantism. Why are there no voices speaking to these issues in the middle east? Rant over now.
- 4 people like this.
- YYYY – Actually they do. I suggest if you are truly curious about international cultures watch some international media. American media is not going to give you the full story. It’s ok for you to go into a movie theater and watch someones head get chopped off but it’s “too graphic” to show the burnt chopped off leg next to the body of the soldier that just got bombed on tv.
- ZZZ – Its honestly barbaric. 12 and 14 year old girls sold as sex slaves in the label of a “bride”. The right to kill a female to remove shame from the males name. and it happens so often its incomprehensible.
- XXX – You’re right though. They are conveniently picky at what is moral and immoral in their view. Many will gladly kill, rape, beat, throw acid on whoever does not believe the same way as they do. I think what they’re missing the most is education and free thinking. Without that you’re prone to intolerance of alternative views and bound to fall for anything. I made a point of watching this film on YouTube yesterday and although insulting and degrading, no more so than Borat or any other that pokes fun of something in a gross way. I cannot rectify in my head why they feel and many have laws supporting killing and executions over expression of personal religious views or lack of while ignoring other injustices.
Dear Facebook Friend….
I think you get the contradiction much better than you think you do.
Let’s start by eliminating a couple of the logical fallacies inherent in your question. First there is the fallacy that the most vocal of a group accurately represent the entire group. The Muslims who are killing or even just crying for the killing of others over supposed blasphemy do not necessarily represent the “morality of the middle east.” They are just the most vocal and the most visible, so they will be the ones to make the news.
Obviously the actions of some in the middle east do not equal the culture of all Muslims or all middle easterners any more than the actions of some in Utah equal the culture or approved behavior of all Mormons or all Utahns.
Next is the common inability to see in ourselves or in our own system of beliefs the very same weaknesses that are so easy to point out in others. Our own biases get in the way of seeing things as they really are, rather than the way we experience them.
Trying to break down the crimes you cite to their least common denominator, I’d suggest that the moral weakness inherent in each one is obedience…obedience to scripture, or obedience a religious figure head. When obedience trumps our internal moral compass our actions are often ripe with contradictions, but they can also be dangerous as you point out.
Take, for example, recent news items that point to similar contradictions in your own belief system and culture (I’m not saying YOU necessarily). In Utah, KSL declined to schedule a new sitcom which would portray a loving homosexual couple as “normal” yet they seem to have no problem with the portrayals of rape, child molestation, or human trafficking on Law and Order, Special Victim’s Unit.
Why? Does their religion approve of rape, child molestation, or human trafficking? Of course not, but their leadership has placed special emphasis on opposing homosexuality and so in a gesture of obedience to that leadership the TV station censures any thing smacking of pro-homo. Followers then get so fanatic over their perceived obedience to that one point of emphasis that they become blind to other seemingly greater moral flaws
Never mind the fact that young gay Mormons commit suicide at a much greater rate than in other communities. Never mind that the rate of those who seek help to medicate their depression in Utah is #1 in the nation. Never mind that rape is grossly under-reported in Utah. Never mind that Utahns are the biggest porn consumers. What they need to prevent in that state is their community viewing homosexuality as normal. Seems like a lot of misplaced morality in a very obedient state.
Likewise, as one who has left Mormonism, I can attest that the perception of “blasphemy” and the offense taken by members when one of their own apostatizes and turns from their God is present and dramatic in that system as well. The shunning and hysteria, though unofficial, is real and pervasive. The absence of death and violence don’t make those reactions any easier to understand or any more “Godlike.” Nobody sentenced me to death and no one burned down my house, but family and friends averted their eyes, refused a handshake, ignored my presence at family functions, dis-invited me to their homes, discontinued friendships, falsely accused me of greater crimes, etc… It has been difficult to not ascribe all of this to misplaced morality or to not desire some sort of retribution. But the truth is that those are the actions of individuals blindly obeying what they perceive to be God’s will. It is not necessarily the morality of Mormonism or of their God.
Even less disturbing examples point to silly contradictions where perceived obedience trumps clear, rational thought no matter which belief system is being obeyed. And note that I wrote “perceived obedience.” What seems to motivate individuals is when they perceive themselves as obeying a higher figure whether or not that higher figure ever really issued the command or not. Implied commandments can often take a life of their own, but in the end it’s the unwavering obedience that is the danger.
You and I both grew up in Southern California where being “in the world, but not of the world” took a bit more work and more thought than if we had been raised in Utah. I’m guessing (though I’m not certain) that drinking caffeinated sodas was never really a part of your religious observance. I grew up in a strong LDS family that drank Coke and Pepsi products without much guilt…or maybe it’s because we actually read the Word of Wisdom. Yet families in Utah and the administration at BYU felt strongly enough about caffeinated sodas that they banned them from dining services and vending machines. They perceived, as many Mormons did, that caffeinated sodas violated the Word of Wisdom. And yet that perception was just recently pointed out as faulty by the very leadership those people thought that they were obeying.
Yes, it’s a fairly trivial example, but it’s one that points to the fact that when a religious people believe obedience should trump clear, rational thought…it will. It’s this perceived obedience that has led to prejudice, death and violence in your own religious tradition as well.
- Abraham sacrificing Isaac
- Nephi killing Laban
- Mountain Meadows Massacre
- Denial of Priesthood to Blacks
- The heartache of polygamy
- Teen gay suicides after their Mormon parents reject them.
- “Electric aversion therapy” of homosexuals at BYU
- Excommunications of dissenters
What these examples all delineate are the consequences of valuing obedience to religious standards rather than instilling in religious followers an individual moral compass.
Believe me, I’d never claim Mormons or Muslims don’t have moral standards. They have moral standards up the wazoo. But a gazillion moral standards do not a moral compass make.
Moral standards are a set of rules and guidelines to point the way in specific situations. A Moral compass, on the other hand, is an internal scale of justice and mercy that can be used throughout one’s life to guide decisions and actions. My suggestion is that if obedience to moral standards is your first and highest law then that prevents you from developing, nurturing or utilizing a moral compass.
You see it when:
- Current Mormon women turn their nose up at Michelle Obama’s bare shoulders when their own necklines and bare ankles would have horrified their own Mormon great-grandmothers.
- People believe that terrorists of 9/11 are evil, but God really wanted the Israelites to murder and plunder whole cities, men, women and children. THAT was God’s work.
- It matters to God if my wife wears two earrings.
- It matters to God if I wear a white shirt, tie or suit jacket.
- God cares whether or not I drink coffee because he’s concerned for my health but he’s OK with obese junk food addicts. Even though heart disease is the #1 killer, He’s not worried about that.
- Follow Jesus…except don’t drink wine like he did. It’s bad…but Jesus never sinned…it’s just bad.
- Free agency is Christ’s greatest gift to us… except in church.
As a lifelong follower of Mormonism having frequented Primary, Aaronic Priesthood, Elder’s Quorum, Institute, BYU, the MTC (both attending and teaching) my experience was of being taught obedience to moral standards, but not much in the way of developing an internal moral compass. As an ESL teacher I’ve also had significant exposure to Muslims who have been raised with the same sort of moral value placed on obedience to scripture and leadership. The fruits are dramatic as you pointed out in your original question and I only suggest that the contradictions and failings of such a system shouldn’t be as surprising to you as you claim.
In your own belief system, the morally universal messages to children of love, free agancy and kindness such as “Give Said The Little Stream” are drowned out by commands to “Follow the Prophet” or “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus,” morally neutral standards requiring no thought or inner choices. The concept that obedience is the first law of heaven rests it laurels squarely on the heads of the leaders. Mormons even believe the morally dubious concept that if the leaders get it wrong occasionally then the obedient follower will still be justified before God.
“Always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it but you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” (Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78)
“When the Prophet speaks the debate is over”.
N. Eldon Tanner, August Ensign 1979, pages 2-3
Mormonism has been fortunate in that its standards for obedience haven’t required the spilling of blood lately. Many Muslims haven’t been so lucky, but at the core their beliefs are the same…Obedience to scripture and leadership trumps all other moral values even when it violates your own inner voice.
Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of god. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.