Letters

Letters 10-27-2014

Paging Doctor Dan: The doctor’s promise to repeal Obamacare reminds me of the frantic restaurant owner hurrying to install an exhaust fan after the kitchen burns down. He voted 51 times to replace the ACA law; a colossal waste of money and time. It’s here to stay and he has nothing to replace it.

Evolution Is Real Science: Breathtaking inanity. That was the term used by Judge John Jones III in his elegant evisceration of creationist arguments attempting to equate it to evolutionary theory in his landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Board of Education decision in 2005.

U.S. No Global Police: Steven Tuttle in the October 13 issue is correct: our military, under the leadership of the President (not the Congress) is charged with protecting the country, its citizens, and its borders. It is not charged with  performing military missions in other places in the world just because they have something we want (oil), or we don’t like their form of government, or we want to force them to live by the UN or our rules.

Graffiti: Art Or Vandalism?: I walk the [Grand Traverse] Commons frequently and sometimes I include the loop up to the cistern just to go and see how the art on the cistern has evolved. Granted there is the occasional gross image or word but generally there is a flurry of color.

NMEAC Snubbed: Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) is the Grand Traverse region’s oldest grassroots environmental advocacy organization. Preserving the environment through citizen action and education is our mission.

Vote, Everyone: Election Day on November 4 is fast approaching, and now is the time to make a commitment to vote. You may be getting sick of the political ads on TV, but instead, be grateful that you live in a free country with open elections. Take the time to learn about the candidates by contacting your county parties and doing research.

Do Fluoride Research: Hydrofluorosilicic acid, H2SiF6, is a byproduct from the production of fertilizer. This liquid, not environmentally safe, is scrubbed from the chimney of the fertilizer plant, put into containers, and shipped. Now it is a ‘product’ added to the public drinking water.

Meet The Homeless: As someone who volunteers for a Traverse City organization that works with homeless people, I am appalled at what is happening at the meetings regarding the homeless shelter. The people fighting this shelter need to get to know some homeless families. They have the wrong idea about who the homeless are.

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A Story of Violent Faith: Jon Krakauer Probes America‘s Version of the Taliban

Nancy Sundstrom - July 24th, 2003
Jon Krakauer is the respected author of such outdoor-based books as “Eiger Dreams,“ “Into the Wild,“ and “Into Thin Air,“ insightful stories about people who lives are pushed to the fringe of extremes. In his latest book, he moves into new literary territory in the extremes of religious belief primarily within American borders and based on the Mormon faith. The result has made for fascinating storytelling and more than a bit of controversy.
“Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith“ is the title of Krakauer’s hot-off-the-presses tome, and the author seems to be everywhere these days, both promoting and defending his new non-fiction work, which is as creepy as it is absorbing and provocative.
The book centers around a brutal double murder committed in 1984 by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who say they received a mandate from God to kill their innocent and blameless victims, Brenda, the wife of their younger brother Allen, and their 15-month-old daughter. Apparently, the pair were killed because Brenda was beginning to speak out against the level of wifely submission being required by the faith practiced by the Laffertys, which was a renegade faction of Mormonism not practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The heinous crime, though, wasn’t Krakauer’s original focus in writing his book. A non-religious person himself who was raised in the west, he has long been fascinated with the strength of others’ convictions about faith, and wanted to explore the general nature of religious belief in some significant way. A few years ago, he discovered the town of Colorado City, AZ, which is a polygamous community with citizens who are Mormon Fundamentalists. Fascinated, he sought to understand more about them, and then learned about the Lafferty murders. Their true crime story became a means of exploring why and how people can do the unthinkable in the name of God.
Early in the book, Krakauer sets the stage for his “multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith“ by describing the structure of life in Colorado City:

“Extreme and bizarre religious ideas are so commonplace in American history that it is difficult to speak of them as fringe at all. To speak of a fringe implies a mainstream, but in terms of numbers, perhaps the largest component of the religious spectrum in contemporary America remains what it has been since colonial times: a fundamentalist evangelicalism with powerful millenarian strands... Snaking diagonally across the top of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is a stupendous, 277-mile rent in the planet‘s hide that functions as a formidable natural barrier, effectively cutting off the northwestern corner from the rest of the state... There is, however, one relatively large municipality here. Colorado City, home to some nine thousand souls, is more than five times as populous as any other town in the district... All but a handful of the town‘s residents are Mormon Fundamentalists. They live in this patch of desert in the hope of being left alone to follow the sacred principle of plural marriage without interference from government authorities or the LDS Church.
Straddling the Utah-Arizona border, Colorado City is home to at least three Mormon Fundamentalist sects, including the world‘s largest: the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. More commonly known as the United Effort Plan, or UEP, it requires its members live in strict accordance with the commandments of a frail, ninety-two-year-old tax accountant-turned-prophet named Rulon T. Jeffs...
“A lot of people here are convinced Uncle Rulon is going to live forever,“ says DeLoy Bateman, a forty-eight-year-old science teacher at Colorado City High School...Members of the religion, he explains, are forbidden to watch television or read magazines or newspapers. The temptations of the outside world loom large, however, and some members of the faith inevitably succumb. “As soon as you ban something,“ DeLoy observes, “you make it incredibly attractive. People will sneak into St. George or Cedar City and buy themselves a dish, put it up where it can‘t easily be seen, and secretly watch TV during every free moment. Then one Sunday Uncle Rulon will give one of his sermons about the evils of television. He‘ll announce that he knows exactly who has one, and warn that everyone who does is putting their eternal souls in serious jeopardy...As the TV prohibition suggests, life in Colorado City under Rulon Jeffs bears more than a passing resemblance to life in Kabul under the Taliban. Uncle Rulon‘s word carries the weight of law. The mayor and every other city employee answers to him, as do the entire police force and the superintendent of public schools. Even animals are subject to his whim. Two years ago a Rottweiler killed a child in town. An edict went out that dogs would no longer be allowed within the city limits. A posse of young men was dispatched to round up all the canines, after which the unsuspecting pets were taken into a dry wash and shot.“

Krakauer’s references to the Taliban, a theme that rumbles underneath the surface of the story, are significant here. In a time where many Americans have great difficulty comprehending what drives fundamentalist Islams to kill in the name of their faith, Krakauer is strongly suggesting that we look in our own back yard. To do just that, he takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where more than 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists have broken away from the mainstream Mormon Church and actively practice polygamy. They also defy civil authority and believe they need only be accountable to God, something that led to the murders committed by the Lafferty brothers.
That chilling and tragic story of the brothers and their like-minded fanatical brethren reveals an underbelly of American religious extremism that is quite disturbing. Carefully researched , historically based and quite open-minded in tone, Krakauer is not grinding an axe with the Mormon faith or church as most know it (the fastest-growing faith in the Western Hemisphere), but has focused on the patriarchal, cult_like offshoots that not only exist, but continue to thrive in certain parts of our country and elsewhere. In them, there are belief systems that are amazingly similar to those of fundamentalist Islams, and seeing that reflection in this literary mirror will not be an easy one for some readers. Still, much like any other form of belief, faith can be taken to extremes in the name of God, and its results can be devastating, as is shown here. Atheist, agnostic or believer, it’s a sobering concept indeed.

 
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