Friday, January 27, 2017

Mormons Have Nothing to Fear From the Federal Government



(Start at about 3:50.)

Like Samantha Bee, I oppose Donald Trump. I believe it is particularly important for conservatives and libertarians to be out in front in denouncing Trump, because not only do Trump's policy go against conservative and libertarian values, there is a very real danger that our opponents will accuse us of supporting the very kinds of policies that we have long denounced. Think of the milage that liberals have gotten out of claiming that the "free market" policies of George W. Bush caused the financial collapse of 2008. It is important that this resistance to Trump be peaceful and should focus on not granting him any kind of respectability or moral authority. For example, journalists should not agree to interview him or his staff or even attend his press conferences. His rallies should not be covered. Entertainers should not agree to perform at his events. In this cause, conservatives and libertarians should be willing to reach out to liberals whenever they are willing to offer a big tent opposition (which the Woman's March was not).

While I believe that musicians, who played at Trump's inauguration concert should be denounced, I must admit to finding Bee's comments about the Mormon band Piano Guys to be disturbing. She mocks them saying: "You are four white Christian guys from Utah. Things are going to be ok for you." Her statement, reveals an incredible ignorance of history. There is no religion that the Federal government has worked harder to destroy than the LDS Church. This ranged from passively allowing Mormons (including their founder Joseph Smith)  to be murdered by mobs to actively seizing church property and mass arrests of Mormon polygamists. (Bee would be better served reading the Supreme Courts' 1878 Reynolds decision rather than make snide remarks about polygamy.)  Even after Utah became a state, Mormon Apostle Reed Smoot was not allowed to be seated as a Senator from 1903-07 because of his leadership position within the Church. (If only the Senate refused to seat him for being one of the worsts protectionists in American history.) So Mormons have good reason to fear the Federal government. It should be noted that government persecution of Mormons continues today. Mormons are very good at providing social services and keeping their needy off of welfare. So to make a Mormon pay taxes to fund social services on top of what they already donate to their Church's social programs is not only theft but a violation of their First Amendment rights. If we apply strict scrutiny, the government should not be allowed to pass a law that so blatantly harms a specific religious group, particularly one that the government has conspired in the past to harm.

Will Trump directly go after Mormons? I consider that unlikely, but then again I consider most of the liberal nightmare scenarios being thrown around to be unlikely. The danger of Trump is less what he might actually do in office and more the precedent he sets for someone with the intelligence and ideological willpower to do something truly terrible. This is in much the same way that Obama and Bush must carry a share of the blame for what Trump is going to do because they gave him the precedents in abusing executive power.

Bee's "hate speech" and "Mormonophobia" is a good example of the Left's hypocritical lack of universalism. They do not march to protect all groups. Some groups are "more equal than others." You only count as a minority group if you march in step with the liberal agenda. Get out of line and you will be transformed into "white Christians" and your history of persecution will be conveniently sent down the memory hole.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Religion Reading List


My Episcopalian aunt (she is married to my wife's step-uncle) works in her church's Sunday school and is interested in improving her religious education so she asked me for a suggested reading list. Here are my recommendations. My criteria were books that are intellectually sophisticated that avoided the obvious polemics from either an orthodox or anti-religious positions. I also made a point of including books dealing with Church attitudes towards Jews and women. I would be curious as to what other suggestions blog readers would make. 


Bible:

Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book by Timothy Beal.

Prophets by Abraham Heschel.  

The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs. 

In God's Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible by Michael Walzer. 


Judaism:

Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism by Sarah Bunin Benor. 

American Judaism: A History by Jonathan Sarna. 

The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised by Marc B. Shapiro. 

This is My God by Herman Wouk. 


Jewish and Christian Relations:

Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism by Daniel Boyarin 

Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism, 1500-1750 by Elisheva Carlebach.

Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages by Mark Cohen. 

Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Jewish Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times by Jacob Katz.

Judaism on Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages by Hyam Maccoby.  


Early Christianity:

Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart D. Ehrman. 

When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger. 


Medieval Christianity:

Holy Feast and Holy Fast: the Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women by Caroline Walker Bynum. 

The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements by Norman Cohn.  

Proving Woman: Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages by Dyan Elliott.

Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950-1250 by R. I. Moore. 


Modernity:

Theological Origins of Modernity by Michael Allen Gillespie. 

God is Back How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. 


Secular Age by Charles Taylor.

United States:


Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat. 

Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction by Kathryn Gin Lum.

Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll.  

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - And Doesn't by Stephen Prothero.

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell. 

The Unlikely Disciple: a Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose. 

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of it Back by Frank Schaeffer.


Psychology:

Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.

Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion by Rodney Stark and Roger Finke.