Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Misuse of The Book of Mormon

A column in the Boston Globe -- I perceive no ill intent -- this morning shows one of the great problems I have with media coverage of religion:  The handling of sacred texts.

(I found this Dear Margo column on Lexis-Nexis, but, for some reason couldn't find it on Boston.com, so sorry about no link.)

In the advice column, a woman having an affair says the two men in her life fulfill different needs and that this is why polygamy must get started and what should she do, like that.  To Margo's credit, she is critical of the affair but then, jokingly, says that her reading of the Book of Mormon (actually her watching of Big Love, she jokes) makes her think that the writers assertion about polygamy's origin was also misguided.

The point here is not that the writer is making an invidious comparison between a mean-spirited television show and a sacred text.  The point here is that sacred texts are only very rarely consulted as sources in news articles.  This leaves the books open to caricature and joke because they are lessened in the media discourse through neglect.

 We don't learn what these books actually say in news accounts.  This is troublesome because sacred texts govern so much of how people actually live their lives and how they shape worldviews.  We can't learn how the world works without understanding how sacred texts often shape lives and purposes.  

In an era of terror and religious dispute, this is a mistake for journalism.

Were anyone actually serious enough to read it, the Book of Mormon is critical about polygamy -- save in unusual circumstances.  If anything, the Book of Mormon seems deeply critical of Deep Love with its focus on the prurient.

In fact, the Book of Mormon has much to say on torture, on peace, on war, on terrorism -- much of it deeply challenging and insightful.  Accordingly, why not consult what it actually says and make journalism more insightful?

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts here. The cliche, "Is nothing sacred," comes to mind.