Religious violence in Paris, 1988 edition

On October 22, 1988, Christian fundamentalists associated with the French National Front launched a Molotov cocktail attack inside the Saint Michel theatre in Paris. In the subsequent fire, thirteen people were injured, four with serious burns.

The attack was the result of the theatre’s screening of the film The Last Temptation of Christ. The Archbishop of Paris condemned the attack but also condemned the film saying, “One doesn’t have the right to shock the sensibilities of millions of people for whom Jesus is more important than their father or mother.”

The Minister of Culture at the time said, “Freedom of speech is threatened, and we must not be intimidated by such acts.”

Similar attacks in France in protest of the film included graffiti, the use of tear-gas and stink bombs, and assault.

Fascinating Priesthood

A book sits on our shelf in our home: Helen Andelin’s infamous tome on marital manipulation, Fascinating Womanhood.  The book details for women how to get a man (if they don’t have one) and how to control the one that they do have.  It includes helpful tips such as dressing and acting in a childish manner, nonsensically flattering your husband’s superiority [intellect, strength, driving skills, etc.], and deliberately playing dumb, even sabotaging household items for your husband to fix, so that your husband can feel proud of his manliness.  It also condones marital rape and domestic violence. [Read more…]

Prophecy and Overcoming the Moral Relativism of Past Generations

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely
for the hateful words and actions of the bad people
but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

― Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968 (source: http://tinyurl.com/p5xmmbh)

Martin Luther King, Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968 (source: http://tinyurl.com/p5xmmbh)

Looking upon his people “seared in the flames of withering injustice”[1], God told Moses that he had observed their affliction and sorrows, had heard their cries, and that he intended “to bring them up out of [Egypt] unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8, KJV).

Thousands of years later, God looked upon another of his peoples. Though this people had been technically emancipated from American chattel slavery — one of the most pronounced moral evils in the modern era — fully 100 years previously, they were still “sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination,” living “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity” in this American promised land. Through the words of some of the most powerful biblical prophets (Moses, Isaiah, the Psalmist, Amos), and through His Holy Spirit, God whispered to a modern prophet, inspiring Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to demand, on behalf of not just “his people” but also all Americans, payment upon the great American “promissory note” signed with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which guaranteed “the riches of freedom and the security of justice” to all Americans. [Read more…]

Super Snide Gay Remarks

Those of you who are super cool have probably already read them, but the rest of you should check out Eric Snider’s remarks about the new TLC show My Husband’s Not Gay. Here are few snippets for your thoughts, but you really should read the whole thing here.

reading about the show reminded me of two things. One, that the people on reality TV are pathetic attention whores who should be ignored, for their own good and the good of society. And two, that I don’t like the term “same-sex attraction.”

[Read more…]

On Faith and Choice

Faith doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has, and I suspect it never will.[fn1]

And still I go, every week, and teach and learn and take part in ordinances and community and church culture and all the rest. And why?

Because I’ve chosen to believe.
[Read more…]

Religious studies and Mormon studies: Good or bad?

MormonStudiesCover_Vol2What’s it like to study about religion in a university setting?

I’ve come to believe that the answer to this question largely depends on what university you attend. Some universities are privately owned and overseen by particular religious organizations. Others are overseen by state governments. The immediate context of scholarly pursuits always impacts the work that results, but not always in predictable ways. As with many academic pursuits, there’s no simple one-size-fits-all definition of religious studies. This suggests we should be skeptical when we encounter generalities like this: “Religious studies is a secular enterprise which excludes and damages faith and dismisses believers,” or “Religious studies is what happens when apologists and theologians try to gain academic respectability.” [Read more…]

Religious Exemptions, BYU, and Beards

About two months ago, BYU admitted in the New York Times that, although it had a medical and a theatrical exception to its no-beard policy, it didn’t allow for religious exemptions from the policy.

That struck many of us as outrageous (see this prior BCC post and the comments), especially in light of the LDS church’s sincere commitment to encouraging and protecing religious liberty. Well, the policy has changed.  [Read more…]

My mission was the hardest mission ever.

All easy missions are alike; every hard mission is hard in its own way. [Read more…]

Face to Face with the Unknowable God

Given how frequently we come across other people in our day-to-day lives, it’s somewhat shocking how rarely the depths of their humanity become manifest to us. Even walking down the street in a crowd, as often as not we perceive people primarily as objects to be taken into consideration as we navigate the spatial world. Through mindfulness and other such techniques we can, in the novelistic manner advocated by David Foster Wallace, work toward empathy by imagining stories for the people around us. While there’s much to be said for this approach, in the end it only makes the prospect of our really coming to see another person seem all the more improbable. [Read more…]

Print Culture and Orality in Early Mormonism

Working through the Funeral Sermon book, trying to put together a real draft, I’m attempting once again to write an introduction (presently designated as Preface). I’ve written large chunks that have been (and no doubt others that will eventually be) discarded. This post is stuff on the chopping block, but it has some important features that deserve some discussion I think. So I am dumping it on you all. No doubt it is terribly boring stuff, but that’s the nature of the beast. What follows was just an initial draft, so I don’t claim a serious stake in it. I put the pictures in to entertain Steve Evans.

[Cross posted at Boap.org’s blog.]
[Read more…]

Galileo Galilei

Galileo-Galilei-z3“The Book of Nature,” wrote Galileo (d. January 8, 1642), “is written in mathematics.”

“Philosophy [i.e. physics] is written in this grand book — I mean the universe — which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interpret the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering around in a dark labyrinth.”1

In these words from Saggiatore—his mid-career manifesto setting out the principles of the scientific method—we find one of many examples of Galileo’s genius. Everyone knows him for his adaptation and improvement of the telescope and for the astronomical discoveries he immediately began to make as he pointed it toward the sky. But he revolutionized more than just astronomy. It was Galileo who brought the promethean fire of celestial mathematics to the dark labyrinth of the Earth and physical bodies in motion here below. [Read more…]

Do What We Can

“…do what we can, to deliver any we can, from the poverty that holds them captive and destroys so many of their names.” Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2013

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Last fall, during the October General Conference, Jeffrey R. Holland delivered a supernal sermon on caring for the poor, and on what that means to our everlasting obligation as followers of Christ. (I wrote up my response to the talk here for BCC.) For myself, and for many Latter-day Saints, Elder Hollands words have had long echoing ripples. They were supposed to, frankly. I have found myself, particularly over the holidays, keenly aware of the comforts and blessings of my life, and of the responsibility I bear with those blessings and comforts. As we were admonished in the sermon, in clear, cutting words, being a follower of the Savior means acknowledging very real commandments, not mere suggestions, on how to live. [Read more…]

“Wholesome” Recreational Activities

Good clean family fun. Until grandpa’s ruthlessness emerged.

Nearly from its inception, the Proclamation to the World has been a controversial document as people have different ideas about how to have a successful marriage and family when God only approves of one way [1].  At the heart of this controversy:  so-called wholesome recreational activities.  Just what is a wholesome recreational activity? [Read more…]

Epiphany II

We celebrated “Little Christmas” in my house growing up (mostly as the day to take down the Christmas tree), but it was only vaguely connected with the arrival of the magi in my understanding until much later. In college, I sang for the morning prayer service, a wonderfully awkward mashup of Harvard pomp and attempts at Christian humility. It was there that I first heard this memorable passage from Evelyn Waugh’s forgettable and forgotten novel Helena. In a passage near the end of the book, the titular Helena, sainted (literally!) mother of the emperor Constantine, has made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem in search of the vera crux. At the Feast of Epiphany, she muses on the Wise Men’s belated arrival to worship the infant Christ. This prayer has become the beloved ending of my personal observance of Christmas. [Read more…]

Epiphany

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Epiphany

Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12, 1 Nephi 13:40-42

The Collect: Our Father in Heaven, we thank thee for the life of thy Only Begotten Son who is our Good Shepherd leading us through the darkness in the paths of salvation just as the light of thy star led wise men in ancient days, and all people, to thy Son’s presence; and we ask thee to ever fortify our faith in Him, through the latter-day revelations of Him and the Restoration of thy Priesthood authority, by which we as disciples of Jesus Christ may join in the act of anointing each other kings and queens, priests and priestesses unto thee, the Most High God, as our Lord was once Anointed as the Messiah to reign with thee and thy Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. Amen. [Read more…]

Out of the Mouths of Babes or The Remarkable Influence of Media on the Rising Generation

Yesterday we took our seats in the chapel just as the sacrament hymn was coming to a close. As if our late arrival wasn’t disruptive enough (you’ve got to arrive in good time in order to occupy the more discrete but even more coveted last row), our toddler broke the silence between the hymn and prayer by standing up on the bench and exclaiming, finger pointed to the center section of pews: “Da sind ganz viele Michael Häupls!” (There are a whole bunch of Michael Häupls!). Unlike most of you, I knew that Michael Häupl is the long-serving mayor of Vienna where we live, but I was still quite bewildered why sacrament meeting would prompt such a response. After church my wife told me that our daughter was referring to this poster: [Read more…]

The Synoptic Problem

So this coming Sunday we start our New Testament curriculum year. I plan to do an introduction to the New Testament, much along the lines I did four years ago, the gist of which you can read from my blog post at that time. I also think I may add a little bit about NT scholarship. Gospel Doctrine is not an academic course in the NT, but it is useful for students to have some sense of some of the issues that would be broached in such a course. Some of the things I’m toying with briefly describing are textual criticism, the delay of the Parousia, pseudonymous writings (although I’m thinking this last topic might be too much to bite off for only a portion of a single lesson and am leaning away from mentioning it). The other thing I’m thinking about describing is the Synoptic Problem. So I thought I would take a shot at describing this issue here in case it might be useful to others preparing similar introductory lessons. [Read more…]

Oxfam

Through the end of today, BCC will match your charitable donation to Oxfam, up to a total of $1000. Let us know if you’re in. Email admin@byc_______ with the amount you have donated if you want to keep things private.

(In 2015, Oxfam will be part of a charitable drive here at BCC. More later . . .)

Beautiful Imperfection

IMG_2689

What does it mean to be perfect? As the Christmas cards poured into and eventually overflowed my mailbox this year (the mail lady begrudgingly asked me if I knew everyone in the western hemisphere, as she once again put the mail wagon in park at the curb and made her way to my door with the things she couldn’t stuff in our regulation US mail box. I paid her off in a giant box of hazelnut fudge, so don’t feel too bad for her. We’re pals now.) I would stand at the kitchen counter, hoarding the Good Mail and loving tearing open the thick red, blue, green, and cream paper envelopes, hand addressed, calligraphied, stamped, labeled, whatevered… bringing the faces and tidings of loved ones the world over. Everyone picks their best faces for their cards— and every last one of them was perfect. Utterly perfect in all their beautiful, glorious imperfections. [Read more…]

Holy Innocents

The Mormon Lectionary Project: Holy Innocents

Jeremiah 31:15-17Revelation 21:1-7Matthew 2:13-18Psalm 124, Moses 7:28

The Collect: We remember today, Heavenly Father, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Let us not deceive ourselves: The collect is wholly at odds with the narrative in Matthew 2:13-18. We pray, of course, that “innocent victims” be received into God’s eternal love, but we sadly wonder why God’s “great might” does not actually seem to turn very often to the “designs of evil tyrants” despite our prayers. As I write this I am thinking of the recent slaughter of the innocents in a school in Pakistan. No doubt if the Christ child had been born in Peshawar, an angel would have warned his parents to flee before the bullets started to fly. No matter that the murder of so many children in Bethlehem by Herod is historically questionable; the fact remains that innocents do die “among wailing and loud lamentation” every single day. Could not God have saved all of the children of Bethlehem, helped them all “escape . . . the snare of the fowler” (Psalm 124)? [Read more…]

Christmas and Sacred Time

Every year the same thing happens. Once Christmas week arrives, the profane calendar stops. No more Wednesday or Thursday, just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yesterday was Sunday but didn’t feel like it, just Christmas + 3. The effect lasts until about New Year before we return again to the rhythms of the sun and the times and seasons bequeathed to us by the Romans. This is why marking sacred time is so important, not because we are fundamentalists who despise the secular calendar but because we are Christians who need to find some way to extricate ourselves from its utter dominance. Christmastime offers a glimpse of how this works. [Read more…]

Your Sunday Brunch Special: A Christmas for Geeks. The James Adams Sermon.

Way back in the day, in blog time, I wrote about James Adams, and Joseph Smith’s funeral sermon on his behalf. James Adams was a father figure to Joseph Smith, important to him especially with the death of Joseph Smith Sr in 1840. Adams befriended Joseph Jr in 1839 when the latter set out for Washington to plead the case of Latter-day Saint claims for redress of damages in Missouri. Adams rapidly became privy to the deep secrets of Nauvoo: polygamy/sealings, endowments, and politics. Joseph’s innermost spiritual and confidential circle did not necessarily coincide with church leadership. When Adams died, it was a blow to Joseph. Since I previewed the Funeral Sermon book a bit a few weeks ago, I thought some of you may be interested in specifics. I mentioned that each chapter centers around a particular sermon, studied in different ways, but each methodology orbiting around a particular text (pivot text), one derived ca. 1855 (well after Joseph Smith’s death) by the church’s history clerks. Below there are some pages from a draft of chapter 5, the chapter that studies Adams’s sermon. The pages come from section 3 of that chapter. This section shows how the various editions of the sermon compare with the pivotal manuscript. [Read more…]

Five Blessings from Reading (Really Reading) the Five Books of Moses

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

A few months ago, I began reading the Old Testament, a book of scripture which I have never before been able to read all the way through (the closest I ever came was 25 years ago while on my mission in South Korea; reading from Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible, I made it all the way through Jeremiah, at which point I simply couldn’t take it any more and gave up). This reading, once I determined that I was going to do it right, involved my trusty Revised English Bible (my favorite translation out of the four or so I own) and Robert Alter’s wonderful translations and commentary. Just before Christmas I finished working through his largest chunk of the Old Testament, The Five Books of Moses, and I figured I ought to be able to come with at five statements of gratitude for my reading of this, the oldest and most foundational text of the whole Western religious and philosophical tradition. [Read more…]

Christmas II

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

Christmas II

Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:1-7, 8-20, Mosiah 5:7-9

The Collect: Heavenly Father, as we celebrate thy Son’s birth of the virgin Mary this day, we thank thee that thou hast sent him as a beacon in the gathering darkness, and we ask thee to lead us to this light, granting us power through thy Spirit to overcome the natural man as we learn to trust the Grace available to us through the Atonement of thy Son in our effort to create a Zion based on the teachings of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we give honor and glory, together with thee and thy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. Amen. [Read more…]

Christmas I

From Luke’s account of the shepherds we get the idea that Jesus was born at night. In telling us of a people walking in darkness, the reading from Isaiah invites us to see this circumstance of Jesus’ birth as symbolic of our lives without him. If the babe in the manger is Isaiah’s “great light,” though, why does such darkness persist in our lives, even for us who believe? Should not the holy event have wiped forever the tears from our eyes?

How can we love God in our hours of darkness, when we feel that God’s presence is nowhere near? To have Jesus born at night means that God chose to become present precisely when the world was dark. His coming, though, divides the night into before and after, absence and presence—and yet many of us still await him, as though he were absent, the manger everlastingly empty in anticipation. The world, which should be light, taunts us with its continuing darkness. Although the Book of Mormon peoples were treated to an exception, the very moment of Jesus’ birth did not bring the dawn. Night persisted still. [Read more…]

Seeing Him in 2014

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

This year our youngest daughter turned eight, and as her older sisters are busy with other things and her mother has been working, it’s been mostly me who has spent time with her, reading Christmas books (J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters From Father Christmas is the new favorite this year) and watching all the essentials. A few days ago she told me about a friend at school who told her “Santa Claus is fake,” and wanted to know what I thought. I told her the truth, of course: Santa Claus is real. She wanted assurance, and wrote him a letter, asking if he was real or not. I happen to have an advance copy of what Santa wrote back, which I share with his permission with you all here: [Read more…]

Book Review: Hicks, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography

hicks coverTwenty-five years ago, Michael Hicks published one of the most enjoyable books about Mormon history I’ve ever read. Mormonism and Music still flies under the radar when people compile lists of their favorite Mormon history books, but his analysis of LDS music as influenced by nineteenth and twentieth century culture holds up as a must-read study of Mormon religiosity to this day. He also contributed the entry on Music to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Hicks is adding upon that solid foundation with a new book: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography. And it’s just as fun, lucid, and intriguing as his earlier effort. [Read more…]

The Mormon Lectionary Project: Fourth Advent

Mormon Lectionary Project: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 7:10-16Romans 1:1-7Matthew 1:18-25Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18, 1 Nephi 11:16-22

The Collect: Heavenly Father, purify us through the Spirit, that thy Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; and if not a mansion, then a manger, for there is room for him with us.

[Read more…]

The Importance of Advocates

All of us, as Paul said to the Romans, sometimes do the very things we hate. We measure with wicked scales and bags of dishonest weights, and the consequences are just as Micah predicted: we eat and are not satisfied. The thing about injustice is that it harms everybody involved—both oppressor and oppressed—and yet the power dynamics of this relationship serve to perpetuate it. Oppressors enjoy the profits of deception, while the oppressed often lack means to improve their situation, no matter their personal qualities.

Such situations call for advocates to serve as mediators. What makes a good advocate? While Jesus is the model advocate, I believe that the life of Esther Eggertsen Peterson usefully illuminates what Jesus did for us all—both oppressors and oppressed. [Read more…]

Christmas Memories from Korea

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Despite recent (and ongoing) changes to the Mormon missionary program, the majority of those charged with traveling the world and evangelizing on behalf of the LDS Church are (and will likely remain for a good while yet) young white men from supportive Mormon families in the western United States. Being young, usually not very worldly-wise, usually not very experienced in dealing with foreign cultures or differing sensibilities, and usually carrying around with them expectations shaped by growing up in a family- and tradition-centered church, the Christmas holidays can be a rough time. Twenty-five years ago I was one of them, going through my second Christmas as a Mormon missionary in South Korea. My second Christmas in the country was better than my first. Why? Well, let me explain. [Read more…]

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