Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On Religion and Community

Here’s an interesting article that I recently read. It’s an older article, written about thirty years ago that really encapsulates the feeling that we as Christians feel when confronted with information that may not necessarily comport to our previously-held beliefs. The part that really stuck out in my opinion is the following quote:

“One thing that brought me back to the church was asking simply: What are the alternatives to the church? Where are the communities that sanction the pursuit of meaning and truth as a legitimate enterprise? that have material and personal resources to assist in this search? that provide regular occasions for confession of failures? that renew and inspire? that provide a setting where children are nurtured? where family members can be buried? where births can be celebrated? where social issues can be debated? There are a number of institutions that deal with one or several of these questions, but historically the church has demonstrated its ability to energize all of these activities.”

Perhaps sometimes when we get embroiled in historical and theological debates, we miss aspects of our religion that are authentic, inspiring and good. Instead of sending forty thousand monks up in arms about an inch or two of cowl, maybe we should focus on the aspects of our culture and beliefs that bind us more tightly together and develop our community. Can there be any wrong in that?

Monday, September 10, 2007

On Tal Bachman

Disclaimer: The following is an ad hominem attack on Tal Bachman. If you are Mr. Bachman, or one of his small number of ever dwindling fans, I suggest that you not read this post. I will try to be objective, but be forewarned; I do not have a lot of good things to say about this pretentious, washed-up has-been.

I don’t like Tal Bachman. I’ve read a lot of his posts, and if they are any reflection of who he really is, he must really be one pathetic son of a bitch. Am writing this because he left Mormondom? No, I can’t really say that I’m sad to see him go. Some of the nicest, coolest, warm-hearted, generous individuals I know have left the Mormon church and I have yet to launch a single ad hominem attack on them. In fact, we continue to be good friends regardless of varying religious choices. Membership in an organization is no arbiter when it comes to friendship. With that in mind, let me turn my attention to Mr. Bachman. His singular claim to fame is that he wrote and sang a hit song, “She’s So High.” As a one-hit wonder, he’s in the same category as the illustrious Right Said Fred, Vanilla Ice and Lou Bega (of Mambo No. 5 fame). I’m surprised he hasn’t starred on the Surreal Life yet. Maybe he’s holding out for a spot on Dancing with the ‘Stars’. Marie Osmond made it, why not him?

He has written a voluminous amount of material regarding his thoughts on Mormonism. I’m not sure if he intends to sound like a pretentious, holier-than-thou, pseudo-intellectual, but everything he writes is pretentious, holier-than-thou or pseudo-intellectual. Take a blog post he published a few months ago in May. He criticizes the Mormon conception of heaven and hell, but he makes himself sound like a self-satisfied jerk in the following quote (which can be found here)

“I think heaven isn't a place we go to after we die; I think it is a place we can live in everyday, if we are determined to, and perhaps, if we have a bit of luck. I think it is something we create and find here on earth...and right now. Heaven can be right now...

“I feel sad sometimes when I think of how long I lived always thinking of heaven as another place, and another time. I was too often blind to all the beauty right before me, because I was too often straining so hard to see something far, far off in the distance - which, it turns out, there is no reason to believe is even there, at least in the way I thought.

“I submit that true heaven isn't crazy stories, or distant stars, or strange names and strange clothes and strange spouses. I think it is something that we all have, within us, the power to create and experience, at least to some extent, right here and right now...”

Yeah, whatever, buddy. And with three paragraphs, he assigns those who don’t share his easy rockstar lifestyle to a hell worse than any that God proposed. What happens to those sorry souls, who, for whatever reason, don’t have ‘a bit of luck’? What happens to them? Mr. Bachman would consign them to misery and woe because they are not determined enough, I guess. Or chastise them for hoping for some kind of better existence in the next life? And what is the basis for Mr. Bachman’s faith in humankind? He claims there is no reason to believe in heaven. I agree, at least as far as objective evidence is concerned. But what evidence does he have the mankind can make a heaven here on earth? His own Shangri-La lifestyle, where his biggest complaints are that nobody in the record industry wants to hear his music? He wants to argue both sides of the fence. He has to have a reason for the distant heaven, but offers no reasons for the heaven ‘within’.

Other posts focus on his inability to talk to females in the past because of his worry about temptation. Obviously this is the Mormon church’s fault. The most common complaint I hear about this church is that it stultifies relationships between members of the opposite sex who happen to be married to other people. It would be completely illogical to assume that Mr. Bachman stultifies himself. Maybe someone should tell him that just because he feels ‘tempted’, it is highly unlikely that the person he is talking to feels the same way. When I talk to women at work or at school, I usually don’t get the impression that they are chomping at the bit to go to bed with me, regardless of how naturally charming I am. It must be a rockstar complex to think like that. Maybe Mr. Bachman should evaluate how he internalized the teachings of the Mormon church, rather than make unwarranted generalizations about the impact those teachings have on the general membership.

I think most of my invection comes from the colossal waste of time it was to read what he had written and the colossal waste of time writing this post represents. I don’t usually like (or write) ad hominem attacks, but when someone practically begs for it, can I be anything but obliging?