During all the huff and noise following the dreaded release of Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven, one subtle but not small point was missed: The LDS Church ought to be grateful. Not for Krakauer’s book, of course, but the timing of its release. Under the Banner of Heaven mercilessly dissects embarrassing moments in the early history of the LDS Church, but all it really concerns is the tragic tale of two brothers who went off the deep end. Hitting stores at roughly the same time was Sally Denton’s American Massacre, a book pointing blame for the Mountain Meadows Massacre more or less squarely at the forehead of Brigham Young, a figure second only to Joseph Smith. Denton argues that John Doyle Lee, who led the attack on 200 members of an Arkansas wagon train, was fueled both by “blood atonement” and direct orders from Young. Suits over at the church office building can rest easy that Krakauer’s book will get the lion’s share of sales and publicity.
Now it’s the Catholic Church’s turn. As if the scandal of pedophile priests wasn’t enough. Perhaps you had to live in Ireland or the Catholic neighborhoods of Scotland to hear about the Magdalene Asylums, harsh boarding houses where “sinful” Catholic girls washed clothes under the iron fists of sadistic nuns to atone for sins ranging from flirtatious natures to extramarital sex. The last Magdalene Asylum closed shop in 1996, but film director Peter Mullan’s Magdalene Sisters pulls no punches in portraying the horrors some young women endured there. Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was none too pleased, calling his film a “rancorous provocation.” Mullan, according to an article in The New York Times, has defended his film as an indictment of people who operate in the absence of doubt and the presence of absolute religious certainty. Mullan and Krakauer should meet for coffee sometime.
But are Catholics picked on? Current judicial nomination hearings in D.C. are turning ugly. Republicans charge that Democrats have an inbuilt bias against Catholic nominees who wear pro-life sentiments on their sleeves. Our own Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch mumbled something about an “anti-religious litmus test.” Then again, House Republicans including Utah’s Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon recently voted in favor of federal funding for faith-based programs that let religious organizations tilt hiring practices in favor of their own members. Who’s biased?
Booking Baghdad. “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the U.K.” never topped charts in the United States. That never stopped the Sex Pistols from playing a seven-date bill across the American South and on into San Francisco in 1978. Not content with their 1996 reunion, the Pistols have recently booked 13 concert dates from Boston to San Diego. Despite red tape, the band also has its heart on playing Baghdad. “If you want to give them democracy, do it properly. Give them the Sex Pistols,” the band’s singer, John Lydon, told Billboard magazine.