Sunday in Outer Blogness: Big News Edition!

Everybody‘s talking about the big news items this week: Secularism is rising dramatically in the U.S., and HBO is showing the Mormon temple ceremony! Let’s have a look:

There have been so many posts about this “Big Love” temple endowment episode, that I can hardly begin to organize them! It seems like not only did all of Outer Blogness post about it, but every Bloggernacle blog has posted about it at least twice! And — via The Mormon Curtain — it looks like exmormon.org‘s RfM forum has run a whole extensive series of articles about it! But, since I like a good challenge, I’m going to try my hand at grouping the discussion into themes:

First of all, there are those who join HBO in thanking the LDS Church for so much free publicity! See here, here, here, and here. Then there’s the battle over whose public statement is more ridiculous: HBO’s non-apology or the LDS Newsroom’s petulant response, see here, here, here, and here. Many waxed philosophical, asking why it’s a problem to portray the endowment, see here, here, here, here, here, and here. Some were inspired to contemplate some original tangents, see here and here. Some pointed out that what goes around comes around *cough* invalidating other people’s marriages *cough*, see here and here. And many people were inspired to share their own temple experiences, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Personally, I thought the American Religious Identification Survey news was more interesting, as you can see from my post about being out (as atheist) at Work. Andrew S. wrote a follow-up about religious identity and the battle of wills. Chino Blanco reminds the press about how fast the LDS chruch really is growing (or not). And Chris Smith muses about whether American Christianity can survive and find a balance between theological liberalism and fundamentalism:

Studies have shown that successful religion must be morally and epistemically demanding on the one hand and in touch with people’s basic assumptions and identity on the other. Theological liberalism fails on the former count, while Fundamentalism increasingly founders on the latter. The problem is that when Christianity brings itself in line with the emerging American identity by ejecting its anti-scientism and its intolerance, it does so only at the expense of the foundation of biblical authority. Christians who have made this move have had trouble identifying any alternative ground for religious conviction or ethical compulsion other than the grounds offered by secular humanists.

Whew, that’s this week’s news discussion! I can’t wait to see what happens between now and next week! :D

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14 Comments

  1. 1

    At some level, I definitely sympathize with those who feel the episode of Big Love is an invasion of privacy tantamount to reading someone’s diary in public. On the other hand, the LDS community has made the private lives of others a matter of public debate. That’s about as much as I ever want to say on the topic. :)

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  2. 2
    Lisa says:

    i don’t know that I’d call the Church’s response petulant as much as I’d call it sneaky, insufficient, and ironic.

    “Don’t give them the privilege of your reaction” is one thing they say (which only feeds more reactions), then there’s this which still tickles me on a number of levels:

    “A boycott would certainly be effective, but we didn’t say that.”

    I just shrug. Let’s wait until it’s done, huh?

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  3. 3
    Matt says:

    Nice round-up, Chanson. Thank you.

    The church is a case where mostly only faithful PR is good PR. Seems the wheels have come off the church’s control of its image. In context of the attending growth news this cannot be well taken in SLC.

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  4. 4
    chanson says:

    Jonathan — So true.

    Lisa — I dunno. Perhaps it’s a question of taste, but it seemed rather petulant to me. Particularly the part about how their “tones” were “respectful” when they disingenuously claimed that criticism was an attack on their free speech. Respect is a bit of a two-way street, don’t you think?

    I think the church would improve its integrity by going back to having direct statements come from accountable leaders rather than hiding behind anonymous, slimy spin-doctors. But that’s just my opinion, tastes may vary.

    Matt — Glad you like it! I agree; I think their P.R. strategy has gone into random flailing mode…

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  5. 5
    Lisa says:

    Chanson: Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by petulant (not the meaning of the word, but how it applies)

    I suppose I was thinking of a different part of the reaction which stuck with me particularly. I can see why you’d call it petulant, though I might even go so far as snobbish when they have lines such as this:

    Certainly Church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding.

    Considering most recent events.

    Respect *is* a two way street and often you have to give to receive.

    I could go on about the official statements and stories given to circumvent the “liberal media” which they believe serves only to distort their side of the story. I have to say I find the media’s spin to be much more palatable than the church’s.

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  6. 6
    Hellmut says:

    I agree with you, Matt. That predicament is of the brethren’s own making.

    If they had not been spinning more gold than Rumpelstilzchen’s princess, they would be less embarrassed by bad news.

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  7. 7
    Craig says:

    As an ExMormon, the LdS church has no place to tell me or any other person that we aren’t allowed to share our temple experience. Whether that’s in a personal conversation, or on TV, we have the right to share whatever we wish about our experiences in Mormonism, including the temple ceremony.

    And having seen the episode, I can say that HBO was very fair and neutral in how they portrayed it.

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  8. 8
    chanson says:

    Craig — That’s interesting, I didn’t realize it’s already over. I’ll be curious to hear other reactions!

    Lisa — Exactly.

    Actually, of all of the things one can criticize about the LDS church, the institution of the “LDS Newsroom” is the one that really sticks in my craw. It ties in with the discussion Andrew and others were having on McKonkie’s Mormon Doctrine: The leaders discovered that it’s convenient to have a body of quasi-official statements that can be used or denied in accordance with the winds of expediency. It shields the official leaders from having to make statements on controversial subjects and saves them the whole embarrassing “maybe the prophet was ‘speaking as a man’” thing when it comes time to pretend they never said XYZ.

    Forgive me for using a Seinfeld metaphor, but the thing this most reminds me of was when George Costanza said that wearing sweat pants all the time means that you’ve given up; you’re not even going to try. The “LDS Newsroom” is the sweatpants of the LDS Church’s integrity. The church isn’t even trying to be forthright. They’re not even pretending to try to be forthright anymore. P.R. is now their God.

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  9. 9
    Chino Blanco says:

    From what I gather from comments here and elsewhere, it sounds like most viewers came away sharing Craig’s impression that the episode served up a fair depiction.

    If so, it sounds like maybe somebody’s got a new dilemma to ponder: will anyone notice if/when we quietly edit/remove the evidence of our premature petulance from the Newsroom?

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  10. 10
    chanson says:

    OK, now that it has been shown, all of the Bloggernacle blogs have written about it again! I’d link to all the new posts, but… Well, just click on all the Bloggernacle links in our sidebar to get the full experience.

    I’ll just highlight two: Mormon Coffee posted the clip, so of course I had to watch it. Actually, I think it was pretty artfully done, and you get a sense of why this ritual is important to this character. Personally, I’ve never seen the temple ceremony IRL, but from what I’ve heard about it, it always sounded way more corny than this.

    Then, the best of the Bloggernacle reactions was this one, where Kristine talks about the complexity of the situation and about how the show humanizes a tradition that is unfamiliar to so many. I especially like the conclusion:

    This was not the show’s finest hour as a work of art, but it is perhaps the most interesting, because the several gears here ground more loudly than usual. However, it’s insufficient to simply (as the Newsroom did) lump what happened in this episode in with September Dawn, or either of them with South Park. If nothing else, this affair might convince us that the usefulness of the hypersimplistic term “anti-Mormon” is rapidly narrowing.

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  11. 11
    Lisa says:

    Chanson: ha! Have you seen the South Park episode? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop – the punchline. For SP, that was a ridiculously respectful episode. Not entirely accurate, but then again the Church isn’t entirely accurate about its history either.

    I want to see September Dawn now. I found the Church’s claim that it played a part in the movie’s demise rather entertaining :D

    Church PR is very, very convienient.

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  12. 12
    chanson says:

    That South Park episode is hilarious!!! That has got to be one if the funniest Mormon-interest pieces I’ve ever seen!!!

    As for September Dawn, I really don’t feel like bothering with it. Reviews are pretty much unanimous that it royally sucked, as a film. Whether it’s “anti-Mormon” or not is pretty much irrelevant to the raw suckage factor. I know, I know, I haven’t seen it, so I can’t judge, but my brother wrote a pretty amusing review of it, and I trust his judgment.

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  13. 13
    chanson says:

    update: It looks like Dissenting in Part agrees with me on which was the most thoughtful Bloggernacle take on this (and was a little more careful than I was with the citation, since the author was actually Matthew Bowman).

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  14. 14
    Matt says:

    I think in terms of art, the surreal and even sterile “pre-taste of what we hope for” makes a profound backdrop to the character’s sense of loss.

       0 likes

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