Are you still sad the Romney/Ryan ticket lost?

Do you have fawning admiration for staunch pro-life politicians whose absolutist viewpoint on abortion successfully tricks you into thinking they have titanium backbones? Are you sad that your country’s laws won’t be influenced by men who believe that a foetus is a person with equal human rights to the human that carries it? Are you depressed that there won’t be a constitutional personhood amendment that bans all forms of abortion and many popular forms of birth control such as The Pill and IUDs, as well as In Vitro Fertilisation?

If you’re still sad about that, I’d like you to meet somebody. Her name is Savita Halappanavar:

Oh, I’m sorry. You will not be able to meet her. Savita passed away last month in Galway, Ireland, because doctors were unable to perform a life-saving abortion. They had to wait until the miscarrying foetus inside her no longer had a heartbeat before they could remove it from her body. By then she had blood poisoning and her body shut down and died over the next 24 hours. Even though this woman’s husband pleaded with doctors, reminding them that the couple were not Catholic, the law of the land imposes Catholic belief on everyone.

This is what happens when politicians insert themselves into health care decisions. No person can serve two masters, especially when that person is a medical doctor trying to observe the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath and the demands of politicians’ hypocritical laws.

So. I’ll ask again. Are you still sad that the Romney/Ryan ticket and so many anti-abortion candidates lost? Or have you finally realised that when it comes to this painfully, tragically complex personal issue, these politicians haven’t got a damn clue?

Open Thread: Romneyfail

Believers and skeptics alike, I’d like to hear from you. Here’s the question:

Has Romney’s seven year failed pursuit of the white house been good or bad for the public image, visibility, and viability of the LDS Church? Is Mormonism seen as less peculiar or weirder than ever?

Keep in mind that I am inviting personal opinions. There will be many different viewpoints. Arguing will be less productive to this exercise than simply laying out your opinion and seeing what others have to say.

GOP: Team Rape!

I recently received an e-mail from a reader. The author didn’t specify whether or not they wished their identity to be known, so I have not included it here. If the author wishes, that person may choose to identify themselves in the comments. Here is the question:

I know you are outside the US, but one of the subjects that has been glossed over in the Presidential race is Romney’s view on rape. He states that he allows for abortion in the case of rape or incest, but has refused to illuminate the particulars, especially after Todd Aiken’s outrageous comments re:”legitimate rape”.

From my own experience in the mormondum, the church has very strict guidelines given to the bishopric and stake presidents as to what constitutes legitimate rape. The victim has to fight and has to scream loud enough to be heard. In my case, I asked (during my church court “hearing”) what if you are tied up? gagged? what if they threaten your toddler daughter sleeping in the next room?

None of that applied. And it was noted by the bishops first counselor that had I been righteous, the Lord would have taken me (I would have died) before the assault. Also, in the State of Utah, even if convicted, in the case of incest the judge has the right to waive jail time for the convicted rapist.

I believe this is a legitimate line of inquiry to ascertain Romney’s views on the subject. But I can’t get anyone to be more pointed in asking this question. Any thoughts on a post on this?

Establishing a legitimate line of inquiry on any issue related to Governor Flip-Flop is difficult due to general lack of consistency, but let’s do our best to establish the larger context here. A quick search on YouTube yielded this hall of shame of rape quotes:

These comments are so horrible that only comedy can make sense of them:

A full timeline of Republican RapeGate 2012 would fill five blog posts, so I’ve tried to pick out the most prominent events from the War on Women that have to do with rape. I hope that I can use these events to string together a narrative on why Republicans have stepped in it over and over again when it comes to rape.

January 28 – Redefining Rape

Mother Jones reports on the Republican plan to decriminalise non-forcible rape. Under proposed legislation, rape would only be really rape in cases where women struggled, screamed, or attempted to fight off their attacker. Pregnancies resulting from assaults where a woman was unable to put up a fight due to being frightened, coerced, too young, incapacitated, or disabled would no longer be considered “rape” and would not be eligible for most forms of financial assistance for an abortion.

Why would Republicans take this position?

It’s in the Bible. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 makes it clear that if a woman has sex with a man in a location where others might be able to hear her cries for help, she wasn’t raped and should be stoned to death as an adulterer. Verses 25 and 26 make it clear that if a woman is raped in a location where nobody could have heard her scream out, then only the rapist should be killed and the woman should be spared.

This is where the concept of “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape” come from. Jews and Christians who actually read the Old Testament and understand it will naturally arrive at this conclusion. Let’s repeat that: The Bible specifies that rape isn’t rape unless a woman cries out for help. Staying silent for any reason — roofies, a gun to the head, or the threat of violence to people in the next room — means it isn’t really rape.

February 16 – State Sponsored Penetration

Slate reports on a proposed Virginia law that would require women seeking abortions to receive a medically unnecessary vaginal probe whether they wanted it or not, leaving them with the choice of being sexually assaulted by their doctor or carrying an unwanted fetus to term.

Why would Virginia Republicans do this?

The Bible can shed some light once again. Women are described quite clearly as property to be managed by men. They are listed behind cattle in many cases describing property distribution, and abduction and rape was considered a legitimate means of securing a wife. Exodus 21, Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 20, Deuteronomy 21, Deuteronomy 22, 2 Samuel 12, Judges 5, and Judges 21 are just a few very clear examples of the status of women in the sight of Yahweh. Opposition to abortion is almost exclusively based on biblical-based belief. Is it surprising that people who utilise this book for their moral compass would merely reflect the callous misogyny found in its pages? These men don’t hate women. They just don’t know how to love them as full human beings.

March 6 – Women are Livestock

Georgia State Representative Terry England compares women to chickens, cows, and pigs giving birth while arguing against an exception to Georgia’s strict abortion laws that would allow women with non-viable fetuses to obtain abortions rather than carry them to term, only to result in stillbirth or instant death of the baby. The bill later passes.

Why would Republicans in Georgia do this?

Women having the status of livestock is in the Bible. Noticing a trend yet, anyone? The Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) treats a woman as exactly the same as a man’s other pieces of property: his house, his servants, his ox, his donkey, or any other personal effects. Including his wife.

April 5 – Women are Caterpillars

GOP Chairman Reince Priebus dismisses the idea of a Republican War on Women as fictional as a “war on caterpillars.”

Why would the leader of the Republican Party say this?

We may live in a modern world where Christians heavily cherry-pick from their scripture, but there are still consequences to reading a sloppy text written by nomadic warlords and strung together by politicians thousands of years later. In the Bible, men are the prophets, lawmakers, priests, and kings. God is male and so is his son. Women are auxiliary substances to maleness. They are on the same level as real estate, livestock, and household goods. Is it really that surprising that someone who chooses the Bible as his ultimate moral guide would be influenced by its lack of serious treatment of women as full human beings?

August 19 – Legitimate Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy

Senate candidate Todd Akin insists that “legitimate rape” cannot result in pregnancy. This implies that the 30,000+ women every year who conceive after rape must have enjoyed the attack and therefore can’t complain about the government forcing them to bear their attacker’s child.

Why would a Republican Senate Candidate say this?

This goes right back to Deuteronomy 22, where rape isn’t rape unless it’s physically forcible and the woman screams for help. Anything else, according to the Bible, isn’t really rape.

August 20 – Romney Condemns Akin

Mitt Romney calls Akin’s words “insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.” Romney, Ryan, and other GOP higher-ups call for Akin to resign from the race, which he refuses to do.

Why would the Republican Presidential Candidate say this?

At the time I hoped it was because Romney, a former pro-choice candidate, was at least reasonable enough to see that comments like this are horribly offensive and political cyanide. Also, being Mormon rather than Catholic or mainstream Christian, he’s able to adhere to official LDS policy of allowing abortion in cases of rape. The fact that this reaction may have been part of an effort to get a more palatable Republican candidate in the Missouri senate race did come to my mind but I could not be sure.

Until . . .

October 23 – Rape Pregnancy is a gift from God

On October 23, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana expressed his belief that even when conception occurs as the result of rape, it is a “Gift from God” and no abortion should be permitted. Romney, who the previous day had endorsed Mourdock with the only television commercial he has ever recorded for a fellow candidate for office, sends an aide to release a mild statement saying that he does not share Mourdock’s position, but continues to support him for office.

Why would Romney do this?

I don’t think Mitt Romney cares much about the issue of rape at all. When it was politically convenient, he spoke out against Akin. This allowed him to appear chivalrous and to help his party by trying to get rid of a toxic candidate and find a replacement before the ballot deadline. In Mourdock’s case it’s too late. Pulling support for Mourdock this late in the season would mean automatic victory for the Democrats. As usual for the wannabe CEO-in-Chief, politics take precedent over principle. Achieving the goal of the White House and Republican control of the Senate as well as the House is far more important than defending the rights of women to the GOP. That’s the business they are in. Their goal is power, not compassion. Let’s not be sentimental or hand-wringing about that reality.

So What Now?

Perhaps the GOP will continue to add to RapeGate, but hopefully they’ll adhere to the wisdom of Steven Colbert in this case.

As far as Romney goes, I believe that if elected he would continue along the Republican Party’s path of strict Biblical literalism when it comes to legislating the status of women. Romney isn’t quite the same as a Christian for the purposes of this discussion, as he adheres to additional authorities like the Book of Mormon and the President of LDS, inc. Mormonism lacks the clear-cut Canon Law that Paul Ryan can adhere to, making it harder to know exactly what he would believe. The closest thing that the organisation has is the Church Handbook of Instructions. The boring half has been made public on LDS.org, but the really good secret stuff is periodically leaked online. The most recent edition of CHI Book One contains some pretty revealing information.

Nowhere in the Church Handbook of Instructions are Priesthood authorities told that they should immediately inform civil authorities when they learn of a crime. The book simply tells them when formal versus informal religious discipline should be imposed.

In section 6.7.3 of CHI Volume one, murder and incest are mentioned. Bishops and Stake Presidents are told how to contact internal LDS Authorities regarding spiritual discipline. Nothing is mentioned about contacting police. Later on the same page, Priesthood leaders are informed that people identified as predators must have a disciplinary hearing. Once again, there is no mention of alerting proper authorities.

Section 6.10.3 informs Mormon leaders that “aggrieved victims” should be counseled internally by the Church’s own helpline. “Great care must be taken,” the passage reads, “to avoid causing further trauma, especially to a victim of physical or sexual abuse.” Ironically, the Church’s prime policy document says nothing about reporting abuse to doctors, law enforcement, or professional services for abuse victims — which greatly increases the chances of creating further trauma.

The Church Handbook of Instructions is a treasure trove of bizarre and shocking policies, but what I’ve listed here should present a broad enough picture of what the problem is when it comes to Alpha Mormon Males like Mitt Romney and the issue of sexual violence against women: there is nothing in their training or culture that would lead them to treat sexual violence as seriously as the integrity and reputation of the church. Without explicitly stating that crimes like murder, rape, and incest should be immediately reported to police, the CHI creates a web of policies that will encourage Mormon leaders to keep these issues as internal matters. This leaves children and women who have been victimized at the mercy of male lay ministers who have no professional qualifications when it comes to dealing with criminals or assisting victims.

This is why, unlike so many Republican goose-steppers, I find the story about Mitt Romney’s efforts to stop a life-saving abortion to be entirely plausible. It’s also why I find the prospect of a Romney-Ryan presidency and the possible impact on the U.S. Supreme Court’s makeup to be horrifying.

Rape is rape is rape. And rape is evil. And no woman should be forced by the government to bear the child of her attacker. And no legislator should presume to meddle in this area. How many times have we got to say it? Perhaps I’m not articulate enough on the subject. Perhaps this gentleman can help me say it more clearly:

Romney and the Book of Mormon Witnesses

US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was called out for lying when he claimed he “saw” his father march with Martin Luther King. As it turns out, he couldn’t have ever seen this happen because it never happened. But that didn’t even cause him to blush when he weasled his way out of a literal meaning of the word “saw”.

Hmmm . . .

Did Mr. Romney “see” this event with his “spiritual eyes,” a bit like how the alleged Book of Mormon witnesses “saw” the golden plates with their spiritual eyes after being forced to pray for hours and hours and coerced into signing an affidavit?

Just a thought.

Mitt’s Mormonism Matters

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the news lately over Evangelical Christians calling Mormonism a cult and preferring presidential candidate Rick Perry over Mitt Romney for this reason. The most reasonable explanation of the opinion I’ve seen came from Rev. Robert Jeffress:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=bestoftv/2011/10/07/tsr-romney-values-voter-mormon.cnn

The other Republican candidates keep taking the high road and saying that being a Mormon should be a non-factor in Romney’s candidacy. I believe they are doing this so they can look magnanimous and also to keep from having anyone apply scrutiny to their own religious beliefs.

So let’s try a little exercise. Let’s bridge the gap between Romney’s religion and muse about what Mormonism might mean in terms of real life presidential policy.

Women

If you’ve read the Church Handbook of Instructions, you’ll know that the LDS Church threatens stiff punishment for anyone who has an abortion or assists others to have an abortion. Many religious politicians have been able to strike a reasonable compromise by saying that while they personally opposed abortion, they recognised the right of individuals and society at large to determine that matter for themselves. Mitt doesn’t get that liberty. If he sincerely is Mormon, then as head of the US Government he would be responsible for assisting others in obtaining abortions so long as it remained legal.

The good ol’ CHI is also strictly opposed to in vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination, and single parenting. How would that translate to a Mormon president’s social policy?

There’s also the problem that comes with Mormonism’s teachings that a woman’s place is in the home and a man is head of the family. If Mitt really believes in his faith, then Americans can’t count on him to address the wage gap between male and female workers or do anything about the glass ceiling that affects women’s job progress.

Minorities

Racial and sexual minorities might want to consider what it would mean to have a Mormon president. Herman Cain graciously sidestepped the question over Romney’s faith when asked, but I wonder if the African-American candidate knows what Mormonism has to say about black people. Would the ironically named Mr. Cain have a problem with a president who believed him to be a descendent of THE Cain, born in this life with The Curse of Cain because he sat on the fence during the War in Heaven between God and Lucifer?

A Mormon president would be under massive pressure to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and revoke any marriage-like benefits currently available to same-sex partners. A Mormon president would be obligated by his faith to oppose gay adoption or birth to gay couples via surrogacy or artificial insemination. Since Mormonism sees homosexuality as a form of delusion or even a mental illness, would a Mormon president be in favour of recriminalising gay sex acts?

But let’s not forget the extra-fun perennial issue:

That, er, Israeli-Palestinian Thing

Mormons are pro-Israel. Not because they are anti-Arab or anti-Islam, but because Mormonism was founded as a type of neo-Judaism. Mormons consider themselves literal descendants of Israel (usually through Ephraim) and borrow heavily from the Old Testament for their religious rituals. Mormons look forward to The Second Coming, when Jesus returns to Earth and reigns in glory before the final judgement. However, very specific prophecies must be fulfilled before this can happen. The nation of Israel needed to be established. That’s been done, and Mormons are in favour of its continued existence. (Sorry, Ahmadinejad.) One of the biggies is that the Jewish temple needs to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Israel then needs to be on the brink of annihilation, at which time Jesus descends and shazam, world peace.

Prophecies are all well and good and abstract, but let’s think through the physical realities. If you are a faithful Mormon you aren’t anti-Palestinian per se, but you are definitely pro-Israel. What’s more, if the temple is to be rebuilt then a Mormon would have to favour Jewish control over Jerusalem to the point of making the reconstruction of the temple feasible.

I doubt most Mormons know what the Al-Aqsa Mosque is or why it’s important to Islam. I also doubt that most of them know that it’s parked right on top of the ruins of the Jewish temple. So let’s review. Translating abstract belief into real-world foreign policy, if he truly believes in his faith, he’d like the Second Coming to happen as soon as possible. This means peace in the Middle East doesn’t really benefit God’s plan. The Al-Aqsa Mosque has got to go, and the Jewish Temple has got to be rebuilt. And if one thing could trigger Armageddon, it would be knocking down the Dome of the Rock. How on earth can a US President shape foreign policy with this kind of awkward religious doctrine hanging over his conscience?

But of course this is just theoretical

Would any of this actually affect a possible Romney presidency? I doubt it. Romney is a politician first and a Mormon second. His political track record shows that. Like Obama, I feel that Romney pays lip service to religion because he knows it’s required for the American public to feel that he is firm in his convictions. But this little exercise does demonstrate how difficult it is to elect a Mormon because you simply can’t predict how serious someone like Mitt is in implementing his faith in the real world. Mormonism isn’t just a religion. It’s a social, cultural, and foreign policy rolled up into a church.

The repeating refrain among the flock of GOP hopefuls is that religion doesn’t matter when it’s inconvenient to a candidacy but it matters very much when it’s helpful. I’d hope that voters notice this and carefully consider what exactly they’re signing on for when endorsing a candidate.

New feature: Feminist Fail and Woman Win

I haven’t had a lot to say lately on Mormonism. To tell the truth, a lot of my grasp on it is slipping away. Over time my conviction that the LDS church is a load of psychologically harmful groupthink based on comforting but false fantasies has been solidified and borne out through personal reflection, empirical evidence, and anecdotal experience. But I feel less interested in talking about it. My teeth are still set on edge every time I see one of those “WE’RE NORMAL” ads on YouTube, and the thought of Mitt Romney being the next US president makes me want to cancel my visa and go back to where nobody’s ever met a Mormon, let alone wanted to know how “normal” they are. I still feel anger when I think about the fact that 90% of my family will now have nothing to do with me because they don’t want me as I am — they want me as they would have me.

It’s getting harder, though, to be able to deliver the sort of commentary that I had in mind when I started this blog. I’m not interested in torturing myself by watching Ginrul Confernz. Conference is predictable to a fault. One or two token female speakers breathing the vapours of recently swallowed antidepressants into the microphone. Generic choral music sung by white people. Mind-numbing, bland feel-good pablum about sharing or something. Praise of the virtues of Doublethink and excoriation of the vice of Thoughtcrime, especially as they apply to naughty ideas about civil rights and secular government. There’s always at least one zinger, but GA misbehaviour gets enough press that I don’t need to bother listening to the old windbags all weekend to glean the inevitable bigotry.

That’s why this weekend Ginrul Confernz sneaked up on me. I simply forgot it was happening. I’ve forgotten a lot of things. Like the chill that used to go up my spine whenever someone told a 4 REELZ story about The Three Nephites that was passed along from their Bishop’s wife’s nephew’s sister-in-law. Or the reason I used to get choked up whenever some shrill-voiced Mia Maid got to the line “AND THEN THEY PEEEE-YURCED-THEM” in the Kenneth Cope song “His Hands.” (Wow, did I actually just admit that? The shame and horror.)

Some memories are fresher. Like the way people treated me when they learned I was getting a divorce from a philandering closeted criminal (BUT LDS!) husband who had used up his seven times seventy chances. Or the way people suddenly vanished from my life when they learned I had finally dropped off the deep end and was committing the final crime of marrying a non-member. (Mr. Molly, by the way, is loving, devoted, honest, stable, chock-full of integrity, and treats me as a partner. However, he is not a return missionary with a temple recommend, meaning he is clearly an agent of Satan. If so, then consider me the sinfully happy bride of Hell.)

I remember the peaceful realization that I didn’t want to pretend any more. I remember the sad acceptance that, while I would always love the family, friends, and community from my life as a Mormon, it meant more to me to stand up for what I believe is right than to keep myself in the closet. I remember the relief of knowing I was going to stop pretending to be affiliated with an organisation that is based on a rubbish work of Bible fan fiction written by a sex-crazed megalomaniac.

The Internet was the beginning of the end for groups that keep members in line through psychological intimidation and misinformation. We’re now at a point where the Catholic church cannot hide its sexual abuses of children. Jehovah’s witnesses, Scientologists, Mormons, and other groups with shoddy truth claims are having a hard time accepting that the public now has the ability to document abuses and scrutinise their every word. No one can hide hypocrisy any more. With the Internet nearing 20 years old, an entire generation has now reached adulthood reared on the idea that truth is something they can find for themselves. Let’s be honest; Google answers a lot more questions than God does.

Religion, politics, and cultural change is still something that interests me. But my scope has moved beyond a specific critique of Mormonism. LDS, Inc. represents a fairly insignificant religious movement in world history. Judging by the high attrition rate, the desperation of Mormonism’s marketing campaigns, and the increasing role of Mormonism as a cultural joke, its future as a significant cultural force seems dim. Mormons who reach prominence (such as Harry Reid or Mitt Romney) make progress only by downplaying their faith. (By comparison, mainstream Christians gain a political benefit from being overtly religious.) Mormon celebrities tend to be poor examples of a religion that penetrates most member’s lives twenty-four hours a day.

I’m more interested in looking at the bigger picture. Mormonism contributes a great deal to both overt and latent sexism, racism, and homophobia in Western culture, and the religion deserves its share of the blame. But I’m growing more interested in seeking out the common threads that bind human beings to outmoded ways of thinking. And then hopefully cut through them with a rhetorical chainsaw.

So as I come off my blogging hiatus, I’d like to introduce the first set of features I’ll be focusing on: Feminism Fails and Woman Wins. For example, this week’s Feminism Fail goes to Gisele B√ľndchen, who not only promotes a standard of beauty that devalues almost all women on Earth but somehow managed to do her part to encourage negative stereotypes about Brazilian women even as women make unprecedented progress in that country. Fail.

As always, I’m eager for contributions by guest writers. If you’re interested in smashing through outmoded cultural expectations and contributing the the growing arsenal against bullshit, drop me a line.