Update on Mishies in Switzerland!
You may recall that recently Switzerland recently stopped the practice of routinely issuing visas to [foreign] Mormon missionaries (i.e. mishies from outside the EU). And — if you’re like me — this may have left you full of questions like: What will the CoJCoL-dS do??? Do they have enough European mishies to keep the mission going? Will they quietly shut it down? After all, Switzerland is an insanely expensive country, and I doubt they’re converting enough rich Swiss bankers to offset the cost of maintaining operations…
Fortunately for the curious, MSP’s Switzerland-based correspondent recently ran into some mishies at a tram stop and asked them!
So, it turns out that they do, in fact, have enough EU-citizen mishies to keep Switzerland fully stocked. Of the pair I met, one was from England and the other was from Germany. I’ve met mishies in various countries, and this was the first time I’d ever met a pair where neither one was from the US. (Once I even met a pair where both had attended the same high school in Utah.)
While it’s kind of too bad that many kids from Utah will be deprived of the experience of being rejected by the Swiss, this development may have a positive side for the CoJCoL-dS — if you think of the mission in terms of grooming the missionary himself for a life of Mormonism.
The one French guy I met who served an LDS mission told me that one of the key factors in his disaffection from the church was serving alongside the corridor-Mormons who already knew how to play the Mormon-corporate game. That is, the people who are raised in Mormon-land already know they want to be DL, ZL, AP, etc. because those distinctions mean something in their culture. And the mission experience is already disillusioning enough without watching people earn their leadership positions through all manner of polished, hypocritical butt-kissing. And I get the impression that Hellmut’s mission experience was similar.
It may well be beneficial for the European missionaries to get some Mormon leadership experience without having to compete with the corridor Mormons for it. That European guys that is. Ladies — still SOL, sorry!
My mission experience was definitely like that. The president only gave leadership to those missionaries that played to political game, going around shaking everyone’s hand and patting them on the back at conferences, mingling with the important people, sharing jokes with the president, informing on the lessers, etc.
This points to how different countries are understanding the relationship between economics, religion, immigration and culture in a globalized world in a recession. I mentioned before about Nepal kicking out foreign Christian proselytizers to protect its culture of Hinduism and Buddhism. From the perspective of Christians in America who want to go in and proselytize (because they have the money to do so), Nepal is being “authoritarian” and “limiting freedom of religion.”
But perhaps Nepal just has a keen sense of how “freedom of religion” is used these days for modern-day imperialism. If an American Christian corporation puts a lot of money into a country and has a lot of people in that country tied back to the company in America, this seems an economic issue before it is an issue of “freedom of religion.”
I can see perfectly well how the Swiss would think the same thing about Mormons. The missionaries might be unpaid interns, but if they do their jobs well, there will be an establishment of funds that are geared for Salt Lake City. I’m correct on this point, right? Don’t international tithes go to the SLC hub?
I also see what is happening here as tied to the question of Islam in Europe. The Swiss are clamping down on foreigners/immigrants because of the “glocal” recession, but it also seems to be a preservation-of-culture thing. A referendum was passed in Switzerland in 2009 that banned the building of minarets (an architectural feature of mosques).
Here’s a very interesting opinion piece by a Somali-born Dutch “feminist” (and the only reason I put feminist in quotes here is because, IMO, there comes a point in which a degradation of Islamic culture becomes anti-feminist). She opines how the Swiss ban on minarets is for “tolerance” because it’s against “political Islam,” as opposed to being against Muslims, per se. She says that in Europe, the upper classes are pushing for tolerance of Muslims, but
Thus, she says that working class people in Europe who usually voted on the left, now find themselves voting on right because of the immigration issue alone. But, again, I take issue with the way she’s framing working-class Europeans to be necessarily against working class Muslims, as if Europeans can’t be Muslim, and so on.
To bring Mormonism back into this, consider this passage:
Now other than being anti-Jew or pro-sharia (which I’m not convinced that Islam is necessarily anti-Jew any more than Christianity is), I think it’s very easy to categorize “Mormon” in the same boat as “Muslim” from this particular “secular” perspective. Mormons are in the crossfire of Europe’s anti-Islam war.
Alan — You make some very good and interesting points.
The first thing I’d like to emphasize when talking about immigration vs. xenophobia in Europe is that the cultural attitudes and political strategies vary widely from one country to the next. Switzerland, Holland, France, Germany, Sweden — they’re essentially as different from each other as from the US when it comes to assimilating immigrants. So I’d be careful when coming up with an analysis of [monolithic] “secular Europe vs. Muslims.” For people in the US who want to understand Europe and Muslim immigration, I recommend starting by thinking about American attitudes towards Spanish-speaking (especially Mexican-origin) immigrants. That will give you a good first approximation. As you point out, the economic aspects are key.
I’m not an expert on Holland, but my understanding of the Dutch situation is the following: The country is traditionally divided into Catholic and Protestant regions that are somewhat autonomous from one another, to the point of having somewhat different laws. Ayaan Hirsi Ali (whom you quoted above) is opposed to allowing Muslim sharia law the same legal recognition as the Catholic and Protestant laws — largely because of domestic violence within the immigrant community.
[Aside: If you don’t think she’s really a feminist, then instead of calling her a “feminist” and then explaining the quotes, you could simply say “a well-known Somali-born Dutch writer/politician.” After all, feminism isn’t the only thing she’s famous for, and her feminism isn’t relevant to the quote.]
Regarding Switzerland: Switzerland is a bundle of contradictions. It is very rich and very historically important — disproportionately so for its size. And there are some amazingly good things and some amazingly bad things there.
Economically, Switzerland is doing better than a lot of its neighbors. [Note: Switzerland is not in the EU.] One result of the strong economy is that a huge proportion of the population of Switzerland is comprised of foreign guest workers (like me!). Having so many unassimilated foreigners is naturally a source of stress. You may know that one thing Switzerland is famous for is shockingly openly racist political ads (see some of my posts about them here and here). It’s the same with the law about the minarets. I disagree with Hirsi Ali — there is no secular justification for that law, it’s xenophobia, pure and simple. Keep in mind that by European standards, Switzerland is quite religious, and has plenty of laws protecting and favoring its majority religions.
As far as Mormonism is concerned, I sincerely doubt that the LDS outpost in Switzerland is big enough to make any kind of blip on the economic radar. Again, I think it’s more a question of xenophobia, and simply favoring the local religions over foreign religions.
Your point about all the countries being different, and having different attitudes/policies about immigration is very important, and where I think Ali fails (and where I failed in my comment). She actually talks about “European” this and “European” that, as if the “Arab world” is clashing with the “European world,” when in reality, Somalians in Holland is a different phenomenon than Libyans in France. Much of xenophobia is wound up in a kind of racist linking of dark bodies in traditional garb, or even outside of that garb. And the fact that she perpetuates this in a way seems problematic. On the other hand, if there’s domestic violence in various Muslim immigrant communities, and she sees the “Islam” as the reason for it (over, say, poverty), then I’ll leave her to that battle.
I do think Ali is a feminist (and the quote I used above did include feminism: she related middle-class feminists as being “in touch” with working-class “Europeans” in being anti-“political-Islam”). I guess I feel that there are bad feminisms in the world, and that a person can be both feminist and anti-feminist when taking up these multiple feminisms, working both for and against the interests of women. And I guess I feel like the way she talks about Islam (at least from what I’ve read) is not really helping things.
In a lot of ways, though, since she’s an ex-Muslim, and here we are as ex-Mormons, I can get how some of the critiques of a culture can veer into spaces that those not of that culture would think are over the top. And as exes, we should be allowed to make those critiques, because we might have more insight into how to change things for the better.
At the same time, though, whenever monoliths are painted — whether it’s “European,” “political Islam” or “Mormon” — I get wary.
I also take your point about Switzerland being religious…perhaps the Swiss actually still use their cathedrals? When I lived in Germany (as a kid), the cathedrals were tourist attractions. =)
Or, more generally, people have difficulty empathizing with any other culture that’s different from one’s own culture.
Islam is almost certainly one factor, but the political questions can get very complicated very fast. You can have a situation where a person who is an advocate for women’s rights voting on the same side of the same issue with people who simply don’t like Muslims. That’s why I hesitate to pronounce further on this issue since I don’t have a strong grasp of the situation in Holland.
Sorry, I should have read more carefully.
I think one of the keys of understanding feminism is that women aren’t a minority — they actually make up more than half the population of the world. So you can have different groups advocating opposite policies and each calling themselves “feminists”. Every feminist ends up strongly disagreeing with at least some branches of feminism simply because some feminist schools of thought conflict with others.
Yes, I was thinking the same thing.
I think they do. This was one of the interesting differences when moving from France to Switzerland. In France, it seemed the default assumption was that you don’t actively practice religion or believe in God, whereas in Switzerland there’s more an assumption that people are religious. (And I’ve got quite a collection of various religious pamphlets that random people have handed me on the tramway over the past few years in Switzerland, whereas I don’t think I got any in my seven years in France.)
Again, another point of variation from one country to the next (w.r.t. Muslim immigrants in Europe). In France it really is more a question of a strongly secular tradition coming into conflict with religion, whereas in Switzerland it’s somewhat more a question of one religious tradition vs. a different religious tradition.
Oops, I meant to say “the xenophobia” (the particular xenophobia in this instance, which is racialized), as opposed to xenophobia generally.
I don’t know enough about all these details to opine on comments so far. I’ll just say that my mission was the first step in my eventual disaffection from the church for precisely the reasons stated in the OP.
I was quite naive and started off thinking the mission president was always inspired and so all mission assignments were too. When I saw the (now) predictable crew of ladder-climbing self-anointed Spiritual Star missionaries doing all the politicking and manipulation and sucking up to grab the leadership slots, and it WORKED, that was Major Cog Dis Episode Number One on my now long list of events and reasons that led me out of the church. I never engaged in any of that and was always revolted by those who did. That’s why I was so surprised when I got picked to be a zone leader! And that ended up being Episode Number Two, because the job was nothing but administrative headaches, busywork, and settling other peoples’ arguments. And I saw repeats later on in other callings. If that’s LDS leadership, no thanks.