Will you join me in a thought experiment, please? Think of the various groups you belong to and then pick the one that defines you the very most--Episcopalian. Republican. Humanist. Liberal. Presbyterian. Vegan. Whatever "it" is for you.
And now imagine that someone does something reprehensible. Something so ugly and evil that there aren't really words for it. However, this person takes the title that identifies you and adds a single word to it. They commit this atrocity and defend it using your cherished identity. "I did this because I belong to the Fundamentalist Baptist Church" or "the Reformed Democratic Party."
How do you feel whenever you hear the story reported in the press? Can you imagine how time slows whenever you hear the name of your beloved organization repeated in the same sentence as this monster? How much more upsetting is it if there is irony involved--not only was this act abominable, but it was specifically opposed to what you really believe.
Or, imagine that someone gave money to a cause you abhor, but they did so using your name, with possibly a different middle initial or slightly different spelling, but your name just the same.
That's how I felt this past week. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For several theological reasons, child abuse is one of the most damnable, serious offenses someone can commit. Next to murder, I can't think of anything that the Church's teachings more vigorously condemn. In addition, one of the fastest ways to get excommunicated is to practice polygamy. There is absolutely no tolerance for it.
So, in the news is Warren Jeffs who leads The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Comparing the titles makes us sound very similar, doesn't it? Sort of like Baptists and Southern Baptists or Greek vs. Roman Catholics.
In reality, the gulf is unbridgeable. I am appalled by Jeffs' behavior. It sickens me and he deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I weep for the lost innocence of those girls and for the suffering the rest of his followers endure. Evil, evil, evil. Skin-crawlingly, gut-wrenchingly evil! I find polygamy ugly and troubling no matter what the age of it's adherents. But it's one thing for adults to choose that lifestyle. It makes me queasy but I move past it. To drag little girls in, though, moves beyond ugly to monstrous--and I mean that literally. Something a monster would do.
And while I weep, I seethe and boil with anger that he did these things using a name that is so similar to mine that the casual listener or uninformed observer might not catch the difference.
It's a sort of spiritual identify theft and it infuriates me. And I want to speak up and make it clear that the church to which I belong does not countenance or approve of this in any way.
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