September 15, 2014
Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air, Into the Wild) in his typically understated yet gripping style, interweaves two stories in his book Under the Banner of Heaven: the 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her infant daughter by Mormon fundamentalists, and the origins and early history of Mormonism itself. It is a chilling and fascinating book that has stuck with me for several reasons. First, it opens up a lot of helpful background about Joseph Smith and the reality behind the polygamous communities popularized in the TV show Big Love. Second, it made me, as a person of faith, think seriously about the dynamics of any kind of fundamentalism.
As I read the book, I was forced to ask, "What went wrong? Why did these people go off the rails? What were the mistakes they made in their thinking that put them on such a disastrous and violent path?" And, of course, "How can I spot signs of these errors in myself or others?" My preliminary conclusions are that behind their errors were a deep subjectivism, inadequate interaction with a broader community of believers (and non-believers) and the flawed origins of the religion itself.
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Scripture, tradition, experience, reason) commends itself as one viable alternative for theological reflection and decision making. (There are other helpful systems as well.) When we rely on only one of these four to the exclusion of the others, we are potentially headed for trouble. The robust combination of all of them is essential.
The Mormon church, understandably, responded negatively to the book, saying it gave the impression that every seemingly friendly, generous, community-minded Mormon is actually a murderous maniac. And that would be wrong to think that way. That is not the book's intent. Rather, on the one hand, it highlights a history that we must acknowledge and deal with honestly, and on the other, it challenges us all to understand our faith at a deeper, more wholistic level.
May 14, 2014
When I was young, a movie was based on a novel, a lecture was based on research and a joke was based on current events. But now movies are based off novels, lectures are based off research and jokes are based off current events.
Call me a curmudgeon ("You're a curmudgeon!") but doesn't the metaphor of a base suggest a foundation on which something else rests? Now I suppose one could argue that a base can also be a launching pad from which something lifts off. But to me that implies that the connection which once existed is now lost, in the past, left far behind.
Now if "based off" is questionable at best, "based off of" is completely out of bounds. The extra "of" is utterly unnecessary--a perfect example of clutter that desperately needs to be expunged.
Anne Curzan offers interesting analysis of this trend based on searches with the Ngram Viewer. She is a little more forgiving (and probably a better human being) than I am when it comes to recognizing that metaphors in English are not always strictly observed and probably don't have to be.
Nonetheless, if I ever do something like that, it had better happen by accident rather than on accident.
May 9, 2014
"But," said Chris, "if I felt one way and acted another, I'd be a hypocrite." You've probably heard from others what I heard from my friend. In our therapeutic society, feelings are thought to be the most essential, most authentic aspect of who we are.
If I'm upset and don't express it, I'm a phony. I'm sugar coating reality. I'm not being true to myself. If I stuff my true feelings, I'm engaging in unhealthy suppression.
Luckily, George immediately saw through to the core of the issue.Continue reading "True Hypocrisy"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:11 AM
April 22, 2014
I was recently rewatching the 2002 Kurt Wimmer film Equilibrium when I suddenly realized this is Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451 all over again. But it wasn't a crass failure of imagination. No, Wimmer was doing what many writers, artists and movie makers do--borrowing from a past work to offer an homage while providing a few twists of his own.Continue reading "True Equilibrium"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:32 AM
April 15, 2014
March 25, 2014
Every once in a while a kerfuffle bubbles up about whether or not the United States was founded as a Christian nation. The question can take many forms. Were the Founding Fathers personally committed Christians? Did they expect the Bible or parts of it to be the bedrock of the country? Was Christianity intended to be the unofficial established religion of the land?Continue reading "A Christian Nation? Schaeffer Weighs In"