Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pedophiles and Polygamists on Parade, All Under the Banner of Heaven

The 'lost boys' - no, not those lost boys, from Sudan, but our homegrown lost boys, thrown out of fundamentalist Mormon families in their mid-teens for committing sins that none of the rest of us consider sins - finally are getting some attention. Now there's a place where some of them can go to get a roof over their heads and some much-needed help finding a place in the world.

Timely that the story describing this neglected group of boys appeared just today in the NY Times. I happen, following my recent perusal of The Book of Mormon, to be reading another book about Mormons, this one a little more convincing and illuminating. It's Under the Banner of Heaven, a truly appalling account of that religion's splinter fanatics and the people they destroy on their happy way to realizing God. Like all religious lunatics, the creepy characters described in Under the Banner of Heaven are earnest, wily, dead set on discovering the actual Truth, and determined to reform their old, inadequate religion (in this case, the Mormon version of Christianity, which is already weird enough) by bringing it back to the Fundamentals. As they see them, of course, and see them selectively and self-servingly.

It turns out the lost boys, hundreds of them, are pushed out of fundamentalist outposts in the deserts of Utah and Arizona - where polygamist communities set up shop after their founders split off from the mainstream Church of Latter-Day Saints - for a very commonsensical reason. Sure, the boys are sinful; some of them even sneak out to movies, or read forbidden magazines, or look at girls and have sexual thoughts. But the sin isn't what really gets them bounced. Since each of these communities is run by a single "prophet" whose word is absolute law, they get bounced because he says they do. They became, by virtue of age and puberty, competition for him. He wants the pretty young teen girls, but the boys presumably want them too, and there simply aren't enough to go around. It's that simple.

Most boys have only a junior-high education when they're pushed out, and of course they don't know a soul on the "outside." Often their own parents weep while packing their bags. But everybody's going to straight to hell, no maybe about it, if the prophet's command isn't followed, so there's nothing to be done. The boys go out into a wider world they know nothing about, with the curse of damnation over their heads.

The child abuse and perverted psycho-sexual dynamics are beyond anybody's ability to describe, but Jon Krakauer tries. His writing isn't particularly elegant, but he's more fair than he probably should be, given that some of the sickos he follows actually end up slitting the throats of their relatives on the direct order of God.

Religion, apparently, will always unleash violence in that small percentage of the population who takes it completely seriously, especially when there are historical strains of violence in that religion that can be turned on and off like a tap, by those who know how. (And in the case of this religion, a scriptural justification for polygamy, introduced by none other than the religion's founding father, who had an astonishing libido and God's convenient instruction that it be satisfied with "plural" marriages.)

Does this cynical, self-justifying use of religion sound familiar? All too, unfortunately.

Shame, shame on the states of Utah and Arizona for not tracking these woman- and child-hating narcissists down and arresting them with anything approaching vigor, and for failing to protect the dozens of children that each of these men father. The group home the states just funded for these bereft, broken boys is a good start, but still a paltry response.

1 comment:

DRPI said...

These communities don’t sound that far removed from Jim Jones and his crowd. People like Koresh, Asahara, Manson, etc. would fit right in as “prophets”. Amazing that people still live like this in America today.

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