I have always enjoyed David Brooks’ political commentary on the Friday PBS nightly news . . . even though I’m politically liberal. He represents the “right” (but not necessarily the “Tea Party”) very admirally with his cogent comments. In a recent NYTimes opinion piece (21 Apr 2011), he makes the following comments about “The Book of Mormon” musical (which he liked):
The warm theme infuses the play with humanity and compassion. It also plays very well to an educated American audience. Many Americans have always admired the style of belief that is spiritual but not doctrinal, pluralistic and not exclusive, which offers tools for serving the greater good but is not marred by intolerant theological judgments.
The only problem with “The Book of Mormon” (you realize when thinking about it later) is that its theme is not quite true. Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiousity doesn’t last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False.
That’s because people are not gods. No matter how special some individuals may think they are, they don’t have the ability to understand the world on their own, establish rules of good conduct on their own, impose the highest standards of conduct on their own, or avoid the temptations of laziness on their own.
The religions that thrive have exactly what “The Book of Mormon” ridicules: communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth.
Brooks is correct here. The churches that succeed are those with rigid belief structures. That is why Mormonism and other conservative religions put believers in the seats and more liberal religions (like the Reorganized LDS Church, Unitarianism, etc.) struggle. But this places a great responsibility on the leadership of the more structured religions to do the right thing . . . which in my opinion involves the creation of a more just world.