In this season of "Mormon Moment" fatigue there are some real gems amidst the noise. Here are my top three posts and articles from this past week, from the political (will African-American Mormons go for Romney or Obama?) to the theological (what enables agape love?)
1) Kristine Haglund offers up a gorgeously unsentimental account of the way a crummy job as an aide for severely disabled kids taught her what Paul might mean by connecting agape love with visions, prophecies, and being "fully known" in 1 Corinthians 13:
Charity is, impossibly, both the prerequisite for and the consequence of vision. Paul warns that in this life, we will see “in a mirror, dimly.” Our vision of others is distorted, because we see them only through the refracted image of ourselves. We play at love, but perform it immaturely, childishly. Paul doesn’t really explain how being able to “know, even as we are known” is related to enduring charity. . . . Because charity is a gift of God, and not an act of will, it bears all things–even human contradiction; it can come to us even in anger, disgust, or fear, as the infant Christ came to a dark, forgotten corner to dwell among the beasts and his beastly and beloved human kin.
This post prompted me to explore a well-worn Bible passage in a wholly new way. What would happen if we glimpsed one another truly in all our divine potential? As C.S. Lewis once wrote, it is a serious thing "to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship." How might that transform our love?
2) Is Mormonism ridiculous? That's the question Taylor Petrey's asking over at the Patheos blog Peculiar People. He observes that some of the anti-Mormon rhetoric of this election has settled into a kind of "love the sinner, hate the intellectual sin" approach. In other words, people are more willing now to concede that Mormons are good, decent folk, but they are still likely to single out some of the religion's oddest-sounding beliefs of the past and present. These portrayals aren't just unfair to Mormons, Petrey argues. They damage religions more generally:
Religious people of all stripes should be concerned with the way Mormonism is portrayed because it reveals the inability of people to ask the right kind of questions about religion and to discern how religious people construct their worlds. Discussion of Mormonism in the media tends to reveal the fundamentally unethical way that Americans think about religion, engaging in reductionism, decontextualization, and stereotyping.
In other words, focusing on peripheral ideas like Kolob when describing Mormonism opens the door to decontextualizing -- and therefore misunderstanding -- other religions as well. "It would be like saying that Christianity is about the belief that three Zoroastrian magi followed a star to a house in Bethlehem or Islam is about the idea that Mohammed flew on a horse to Jerusalem," Petrey notes. "These may be accurate details, but shorn from the broader context they reveal essentially nothing about Christianity or Islam." Well said.
3) Also surrounding the election . . . I loved this New York Times article on "Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity." With both an African American and a Mormon running for President, where will black Latter-day Saints cast their votes? The article had me at hello with this opening caption underneath a photo of Prof. Marguerite Driessen, a woman I have never met but now want to be my new best friend:
Being black, liberal and Mormon, Ms. Driessen represents a small but emerging point of view that is in stark contrast to the traditional profile of American Latter-day Saints, who tend to be conservative, Republican and white.
Eight of the twelve African-American Mormons interviewed for the article say they are committed to re-electing President Obama. Two were undecided and only two were gung-ho for Romney.
The thumbs-up image is used with permission of Shutterstock.com.