Prisoners of Our Own Echo-Chambers

Have you ever watched a film or television show with a staunch Christian? I’ve watched many. Even the suggestion of sex produces tightly closed eyes, a turn of the head, and a comment like, “fast forward this!” Or, “let’s watch something else.” My favorite reaction is from an individual with whom I am well-acquainted. She is cautious regarding all topics that involve the perineum or breasts. Scandalous conversations such as the particulars of discomfort with wearing Mormon underwear or a nursing baby making a slurping sound. This woman, who neglected to even discuss menstral cycles or the birds and the bees with her daughters, can’t abide a mature discussion surrounding body image or marital intimacy. Her classic response is and always has been the passive-aggressive, “Can we talk about something else?”

So, consider television shows that depict the happenings of the Branch Davidians, news programs that expose Fundamentalist Mormons that continue to practice polygamy, or simply a fictional film depicting to loving adults sharing a kiss while lying on a couch? The Mormon mind is programmed to turn off, not allow itself to think and especially not to feel anything from these depictions or descriptions. Not only are Mormons under an injunction to “let virtue garnish [their] thoughts unceasingly” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:45) they have the condemnation from their merciful, forgiving Jesus in Matthew 5 that “that whoeverlooks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

They have countless sermons that extol the necessity of controlling their thoughts to the point that they subdue even the slightest infatuation. Those that entertain such thoughts are on the path to adultery, STD’s, unplanned pregnancy and, worst of all, hell itself. Such an addiction are the actions that come from sexual urges, that they are to be completely and utterly quelled. In marriage, it seems, there is license to pursue them with the spouse. A little software programming can be altered at will, but when the firmware is designed and programmed to shame and disgust at anything sexual, the resources to reprogram it are not to be had in Mormonism. 

Ultimately, this prevents the devout from confronting unfavorable realities. They don’t refuse to see the parallels of disgusting cult leaders on television and their own, revered leaders, they simply can’t. Their brain shuts off to avoid lustful thoughts, and their hearts seal out all natural feelings a typical human primate capable of empathy has to child rape or sexual coercion of one’s acolytes.   

I’m not suggesting that Mormon leaders program their adherents in this way to prevent members from contemplating the ironies that coincide with their own sordid history. The rational conclusion would be that they are simply continuing the puritanical ideals in which the church began. However, that does not defeat the fact that such training in children and childish adults works to keep them from feeling and understanding the reality of what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early church leaders did to their followers. 

If you won’t let yourself consider the plight of child brides amongst Fundamentalist Mormons in your own day, empathy for Helen Mar Kimball, fourteen-year-old bride to Joseph Smith. She only agreed after the Prophet promised that her marriage to him would ensure both she and her family eternal salvation. Others received similar promises and some threats of damnation if they did not. The same mind-forged manacle will not let them hear David Koresh convince his followers that he is to take the burden of sex for all the men to allow them to be celibate. 

Christopher Hitchens summarized a portion of Thomas Paine’s commentary on John Milton’s, Areopagitica, in a debate defending free speech. He said, “One of the vice’s of those who would repress the opinions of others is that they make themselves the prisoners of their own opinions because they deny themselves the right and the means of changing them.”

When we suppress speech or ideas that make us uncomfortable because they challenge our preconceptions and ardently-held beliefs, we make ourselves a prisoner of those beliefs. Such ideals are often indoctrinations we received as a child. And the means to changing or, at least, challenging them, is not to be found in a carefully constructed echo-chamber. 

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