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Under the Banner of Heaven

2003-07-27 23:35:36.842547+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

I've felt like crap this weekend with a sinus infection, so beyond getting the requisite exercise I've sat around and read. Specifically, John Krakauer's latest book, Under the Banner of Heaven[Wiki]. A bit of a departure from his previous works, most notably Into Thin Air[Wiki], this one isn't about climbing. It weaves the tale of a brutal double murder by two brothers who were part of a Fundamentalist Mormon sect into the history of the Mormon church and its various offshoots and subsidiaries, in the process delving into polygamy, spirituality, prophets, the Powell expedition down the Grand Canyon, and the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping.

A fascinating history of religion gone astray, it wasn't as gripping as his previous works, possibly because it's about a topic that I care less about than climbing. I've lived in an area with lots of religious fundamentalism, I know how closed communities can stray from sanity, it's not news to me that believers can do horrific things in the name of deities.

On the other hand, especially in this time when we're descending from the "it was for the weapons of mass destruction" through "it was because of a regional threat" to "we needed to free the Iraqi people", it's a reminder that strict social codes and oppression don't only happen outside of the United States, and that as we look to cleaning up the Middle East we should probably also do a little soul-searching with the South and West, and probably a bit in the Midwest too.

And it has a fascinating rundown of the path that the Mormons took from New York to Missouri to Illinois to Utah.

Not a gripping must-finish read, but certainly not wasted time.

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-28 12:04:52.709982+00 by: meuon

Although the ending could be a little better, I just finished "The Da Vinci Code", which was a good read, presented some interesting ideas about the evolution of Christianity, the roles the Catholic church and Knights Templar played, and the amount of 'pagan' symbology absorbed by Christianity. - As for the social codes and oppression.. it affects many on a fundamental level, and I am beginning to believe, more than ever, that it is the core of many people's mental issues. They are taught: "You are not worthy, you are a sinner.. you must do penance and beg forgiveness", the other side of that veneer is self-rightous, but it is usually a thin and fragile veneer. All of this repression causes unhealthy attitudes, stress and oppression. And BushCo's self-rightousness has us over-involved in the Middle East due largely to his mainstream Christian point of view. I'm sure his God will forgive him for all the death and destruction on both sides, but as I am an American, I really care more about our fellow Americans that are being killed trying to occupy and control these territories (Iraq, Afganistan..). We are not going to fix THOUSANDS of years of religious and cultural differences.. and I think we have added to the mix.

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-28 14:55:15.393374+00 by: ziffle

Well Meuon, I am shocked actually that we agree on the 'core' of many mental issues. I applaud your journey! Who wants to teach their children that they are bad etc.? Awful. Should be outlawed.

As for BushCo, hopefully Iraq is only the first step in rearranging the Far East. I think its less Christianity than it is simply Western Civilization values (freedom, individual rights, reason as primary etc.) simply acting from a sense of certainty and clashing with Islam. In the end Islam will not be defeated by guns so much as air conditioning, make up and wall to wall carpet. Christianity today is really 'Christianity light' as no one lives according to pure Christian dogma. Christianity has been defeated by the values of freedom of thought, and the same will happen to Islam.

In the mean time we need to push them back using force until they have cooled down - they are dangerous to us - which could take 100 years, just as it took Christianity time to cool down. In the end reality is the final arbiter and will wash the fundies away of whatever type.

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-29 03:17:01.940663+00 by: susan

I was wondering if you had forgotten about that book, Meuon. Glad to know you enjoyed it. As a female, I found some of the theories in it especially gratifying. It's refreshing to see female spiritualism cast in something other than the shadow of the whole "Eve, apple, and the fall of humanity" thing. When or if you get the chance, please pass the book on to tom kunesh.

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-29 11:34:05.257387+00 by: meuon

Susan, As I just finished it, He'll get it this week. - What did you think of the way that men can know God? - Sure answers why we scream it sometimes.. :)

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-30 04:32:15.554074+00 by: susan

You know... Sunday morning services could have a whole new meaning. However, if straight out sex lets you know God in a personal way... I wonder where oral sex would leave you? I'm guessing the Big Guy is aware of you, but only in a casual way. Grin.

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-30 20:35:20.15763+00 by: meuon [edit history]

On CNN, BushCo wants marriage reserved for heterosexuals. Again, the government treading where it should not.. and he re-iterates the Christian Creed of Guilt: "Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners".. and the rightous attitude: "...that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage." - It seems that it might be a decision for States to make, as opposed to the whole country by the feds. Then, if Iowa wants to recognize a wider variety of legal marraige scenerio's (Love your pig? Move to Iowa!), they can on a more regional level.. closer to the local population's morality. Of course, insurance companies and the other entities that take a legal view of "family' can make their own policy. Example: If I designate Dan as my 'LifePartner' and we cohabitate at least 51% of the year, then I can get him covered on my health insurance at work.. or not, depending on where I work, and the inurance company involved... and there are already such policies available. These are the real issues.. where money is involved, ignore the smokescreen of ignorant rightousness.

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-31 01:24:30.064531+00 by: Larry Burton

I've got no problem with reserving the word "marriage" for use only with a heterosexual bonding of a man and a woman entering into a family life contract. I do have a problem with government restricting who I can and can't enter into a family life contract with. That's an individual decision that should be made by the consenting adults involved. Call that contract between a man and a woman a marriage and limit the term to that contract but don't restrict anyone from entering into a similar contract, just call it something else.

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-07-31 21:19:22.123276+00 by: ziffle

The reviewed this book on NPR yesterday - it sounds good enough for me to go read it - wackos!

#Comment Re: Under the Banner of Heaven made: 2003-08-27 16:03:13.156957+00 by: Dan Lyke

Bryant points out that perhaps Krakauer artificially restricted some of his investigations to fundamentalist Mormons when much of the zealotry that inspired the Lafferty killings is just part of fundamentalist religion in general.