The Great Charter at 800

Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “History is bunk.” That’s not quite accurate. What he actually told the Chicago Tribune in 1916 is this: “I wouldn’t give a nickel for all the history in the world. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that’s worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.” Continue Reading »

Ruthless Optimism

Mormon culture, especially in America, exhibits what I call “ruthless optimism,” which is the habit of unreasonable striving to be (or perhaps to appear to be) happy regardless of circumstance. This perpetual optimism is both ridiculous and endearing to outsiders, but for those within the faith, the association of righteousness with happiness can create incredible strain. If you’re not happy, is it because you’re doing something wrong? Congratulations: now you have two reasons to be unhappy. This pressure is compounded by the Mormon emphasis on evangelizing: how can you be an effective missionary if you’re depressed? Continue Reading »

A Visit to Cumorah, Hill of the Mormons

They had evidently not read Stanley Hauerwas. There were perhaps no actual American flags in the visitor’s center—and anyway, this wasn’t a sanctuary—but even so, it’s hard to imagine a more American aesthetic. The brand was boardroom Christianity: well-manicured lawns; well-dressed staff; the whole place conference room clean. “Successful” was mentioned several times, for children, for careers, never in a way that would imply the cross (the martyrs, etc.) as a success. The sculpture of the resurrected Christ was a copy, apparently in plaster, of a nineteenth century Danish marble: that great highpoint of assimilated Christianity, made infamous by Kierkegaard, in its new world simulacrum. Continue Reading »