Tuesday, January 5, 2016

LDS Church Dissociates Itself from Bundys: More on Mormon Connection to Oregon "White Privilege Performance Art"

Yesterday, I wrote about how one of the fascinating aspects of the way in which non-mainstream sources, at least, are reporting about the occupation of a federal building in Oregon by a ragtag band of white supremacists, Islamophobes, and right-wing Mormons is that — in contrast to the coverage of the Bundy standoff in 2014 — these sources are taking note of the right-wing Mormon connections of the Bundy family. I find this development heartening, for two reasons.

In the first place, American media tend entirely to overlook the religious roots of various right-wing terrorist movements in the U.S. — in sharp contrast to the hyper-vigilant way in which they look for signs that terrorism by Muslims is fed by religious belief. In the second place, online media are increasingly forcing mainstream media (which are beholden to big-monied folks who often have a vested interest in filtering the news in the media) to tell stories they have not wanted to tell, especially when those stories pull back the veil on things like the connection of white supremacist ideology in the U.S. to religious systems.

Yesterday, commentary on the Mormon connections to the Oregon story continued to pop up. These accounts have now reached such a pitch, in fact, that, as Jaweed Kaleem and David Badash reported yesterday, the LDS Church has made an official statement dissociating itself from the Bundys and their appropriation of Mormon beliefs and texts.

I also recommend for your reading Jack Jenkins' thorough and accurate analysis of the Bundy family's fringe Mormon beliefs at Think Progress, and the appeal by Mormon blogger Jana Riess at Religion News Service yesterday to the Bundys to knock off the misuse of Mormon scripture and beliefs to support their gun-brandishing defiance of federal laws. Riess concludes her appeal as follows:

Ammon Bundy is not a moral hero, standing up to a government that systematically harms citizens; he’s illegally opposing a government that dares to ask his family to pay taxes like everybody else. 
A government that says whenever they graze their cattle on lands legally owned by the government, they should pay a fee for that. 
Or that people should not set fire to federal lands. 
Or that they should honorably serve their prison sentences when they’ve been convicted in a court of law. 
It’s a blight on the Mormon faith that some of the armed militia men taking over a federal building are LDS. This is a place where innocent people go to birdwatch, for crying out loud. 
Moreover, they have caused the whole county to cancel school this week because people are afraid to send their children to school when armed strangers have set up shop in town. 
Enough with this crazy and illegal behavior – and with pretending that it is sanctioned by God.

And she's correct about that. 

(The fine phrase "white privilege performance art" to describe what's going on in Oregon is Josh Marshall's.)

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