Out from “under God”

Well, what a surprise.  In filing belated expense disclosures with the State of California after a failed bid to keep donors secret, which is against California law, the Mormons report that in addition to the $20 million its members donated to the Yes on 8 campaign, it seems that the church itself coughed up about $190,000 to this noble and holy effort to preserve traditional marriage.  Just little things, really, like travel expenses and office work; all in a day’s work for another big, bloated, and domineering political organization masquerading as a religion.  Why, indeed, shouldn’t a Utah-based fringe religious group with a rather curious history regarding marriage, not to mention civil rights, send its brainwashed followers into a neighboring state and impose its punitive and questionable morality on the latest minority it doesn’t like?  Numerous polls show that if this was a PR move, or designed to in any way advance the image of the Church of Latter Day Saints, it backfired miserably.  The leaders, in their wisdom, chose to take on this battle in the name of God, sorely testing what few laws govern them when it comes to political meddling from their privileged nonprofit, non-taxpaying status.

And why wouldn’t they?  Like the other growing corporatized religions, Catholics recently having joined Evangelicals in jumping into conservative politics, the Mormons have decided that what’s good for the political Right is good for the Saints.  Perhaps the less doctrinaire religions, who don’t tell their adherents what to wear, how large their families should be, and which politicians not to vote for, are seen by this bunch, let’s call them Big God, as a tired, slow-growth model they emulate at their peril.  Or perhaps they just can’t mind their own business.  But at any rate, it’s a dumb, mean, and disastrous strategy that makes a mockery of Christian teachings, and pegs their future to a failed and discredited political movement, which will eventually show up the only place they’ll notice: the collection plate.

Back in 2004, when Catholic bishops went whole hog for Bush, even refusing communion to Kerry and his supporters, I had an easier time understanding it.  After all, the only growth in the Catholic Church is among the most conservative, not to say sexist, parts of the world, and “tort reform” is an awfully tasty-sounding sweetener to a wealthy organization with a whole lot of tort liability.  Never mind what the Pope said about Iraq.  Better yet, get a new Pope with a touch of the Nazi, and suddenly Bush almost seems like the prince of peace himself.  Leaving aside that namby-pamby New Testament for the moment, were I a shareholder in Catholics, Inc. at the time, I could at least see I the rationale for the move.

Of course, the founders and high priests of Big God, the bible-thumping nitwits who drove the Republican party off a cliff, got in the game early, and amid the usual sex scandals and financial improprieties, are suffering from their choice to render unto Caesar, and maybe have Caesar do a little rendering for them, too.  Younger members are now either discounting hateful claptrap about gays, or more often, protesting the demented notion that God wants us to destroy the planet.  Others are simply leaving.  It is telling that the remaining white evangelicals are the only group on earth who still hold a favorable opinion of Bush, who knew what he was talking about when he said, “You can fool some of the people all the time.  And those are the ones we have to focus on.”  A few years later, the Crystal Cathedral itself may go on the block.  Coincidence?

For Catholics as well as Mormons, the idea of ruling, if not a country, at least a political party, was obviously too great a temptation to resist, and it was clear which party it would be, given both church’s deplorable histories regarding race and minorities, and stupendous untaxed wealth.  Too bad they got there a little late, when massive electoral defeats and economic collapse were about to leave turds floating in the holy water….  But then again, the Catholics just got around to pardoning Galileo a few years ago, and the Mormons, who didn’t allow blacks in leadership positions until the 1980′s have never been able to resist hitching their wagon to another bigoted star.

The good news is that this could be, with a little help from pending lawsuits, the beginning of the end of Big God thinking it’s well, God.  And it’s high time…  Bush’s little “crusade” didn’t turn out so well; let’s hope the Mormons’ little “Mission Accomplished” moment in California meets a similar fate.

13 Comments

  1. Pedinska says:

    I think they should all have their tax exempt status removed. Period.

  2. cocktailhag says:

    Well, this Prop. 8 thing might be just the thing to accomplish something like that. Not remove tax-exempt status, of course, but lay down much firmer boundaries about political activity. No one’s ever going to take away Big God’s tax goodies, unfortunately.

    • Dirigo says:

      I’d agree that, while eliminating the full benefit of tax exemption for religious organizations may not be feasible or desirable, some tightening of rules related to political activities, would be good.

      Yet, the tradition of activism, led by people in the pulpit, is a part of our history, with some notable results too.

      Black revival churches got some things done, as did the holy warriors of abolition. Prohibition was a mixed bag. People never were into temperance all that much

      I can understand various doctrines concerning sexuality and marriage (understand, not necessarily endorse), but it seems those debates should concern members of a particular sect, not the public at large.

      Keep it in your house. Harp at your own. Herd your own sheep.

      How to slice it.

      • cocktailhag says:

        “Herd your own sheep.” You’re a master of metaphor, Dirigo. Remember back in 2004, when the IRS clamped down on a liberal church spoke out against the war? Being against war didn’t used to count as “partisan,” but thanks to the Bushies, that’s what it turned into.
        And since abusing their power was a way of life for them, they picked on any church that disagreed with them. Nixon was impeached for the same… We’ve come a long way, Baby.

        • Dirigo says:

          Not to forget Reagan, with the immortal formulation: “Ketchup is a vegetable.”

          Considering ways and means to keep organized religion close to home and, hopefully, out of politics, how about restrictions on interstate proselytizing?

          Operate only in your state, except for occasional, state approved, cross-border inter-faith picnics or conferences, to be limited to the grounds of the host church, or its basement. Permits must be displayed for inspection. No provocative signage will be allowed.

          Religious broadcasters should emit direct appeals to the almighty only from radio and television stations with a 50 mile signal limit, with electronic barriers surrounding each state to bounce signals back to wherever they came from. Unusual fire and brimstone should only be allowed on-air from 2 to 4 a.m., so as not to frighten children or the emotionally disturbed. Inspirational music, from organ etudes to polkas, should be played in extended, uninterrupted music blocks, say, three hours at a time, seven days a week. These music blocks should be mixed in such a way as to relax (or put to sleep) believers as much as possible. Polka selections will be regarded as short opportunities. or sound bursts, for believers to get up and do a little exercise.

          Jehovah’s Witnesses should only be allowed to knock on their own doors.

          Mormons should stay within the city limits of Salt Lake.

          Religious discussions about the sanctity of marriage and sex within it should be held in whispers in the parlor of the vicar, priest, or rabbi of the institutions where such things may come up.

          How’s that for starters?

          • cocktailhag says:

            I say, the more polkas the better. Lots of religious types appear to need exercise. I do like the idea of quarantining Mormons, though. As a former Delta flyer, I’ve spent a lot of time in Salt Lake, but nothing could ever persuade me to leave the airport. The perkiness and number of children scare me. People who wear suits on bicycles scare me more…. And whatever a “Stake Dance” is, I want no part thereof. I think I have bunions.
            I’m chuckling over the Jehovah’s Witnesses thing; knocking on their own doors. Would they hide? Would they march to the door, as my Mom used to, and declare their devout Catholicism? Would they just grab the Watchtower and slam the door? Maybe they’d try all those, to gear up for when they might get to try other doors.

          • Pedinska says:

            Well, I have Rod Parsley in my back yard so you all will have to excuse me if I seem a bit adamant about keeping them out of politics. In Ohio, those bastards are waaaaay too busy for my liking. And it always seems to be more about hating on others. The rural religimous folk around here are big into the Old Testament. New Testamen? Not so much.

          • cocktailhag says:

            That’s it, Pedinska. All the punishment stuff turns them on, but that pussy “least of my brothers” crap… can’t be bothered. It’s funny, but growing up Catholic in the 60′s and 70′s, the church was pretty liberal politically, except for their universally ignored BS about birth control. I never got a brimstone-y message, but I saw some of it in my grandparent’s generation.
            Like too many things, they went backwards. (I’d have bailed anyway, of course….)

      • rmp says:

        The solution may be more transparency. The Mormons tried to hide their $190,000 but were forced to admit it because of law and legal action by Prop 8 opponents. Political donations should be required to be posted on a public website before the money can be used.

        • cocktailhag says:

          That’s a great idea, rmp… The righties got their money and ads up without any disclosure; and with the M$M having the collective memory of a fruit fly, expected to slip away scot-free.
          The suit they filed to avoid disclosure cited whines about boycotts and harassment, threats and the like. The poor dears. I couldn’t help but imagine a bunch of drag queens ready to scratch their eyes out with their press-on nails. What a bunch of chickenshits, afraid some big old lesbian is going to beat them up. I rather wish both things would actually happen, but the disclosure, however belated, is close enough. Most Californians are rightly horrified to find that businesses they patronized and people they thought were their friends were sponsoring something so hateful and useless, and are understandably acting accordingly. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

          • Pedinska says:

            I’ve been going to SLC to ski for the past 6 years and my closest encounter with the Mormons (other than some rather cute and very earnest snowboarders on a lift) was when we made a quick stop downtown to take some pics of the Temple and went into a building that was open to the public. We were greeted by this dessicated old guy in the atrium (creepy = looked like an escapee from the crypt) who started feeling us out about whether or not we were interested in conversion. I’ll stick to the mountains, which are also populated by some really interesting europeans these days due to the currency exchange rates.

  3. cocktailhag says:

    Wow, Pedinsk… You made me feel a lot less silly about being scared; it’s like I imagined but worse. Something about windblown, all-white towns among the tumbleweeds. I was always afraid my car would break down, and I’d be stuck there. (My dad ended up in Burns, Oregon after my parents’ divorce, the DA of Harney County, and I developed my image of Hell visiting him…)