It’s a Metaphor . . . Stupid

Well . . . the punchline to The Book of Mormon musical comes when the Ugandan villagers find out that many of the stories that a missionary with an over-active imagination has told them are not true.  The Ugandan heroine is devastated.  But the villagers, come to her rescue.  They tell her that the stories are a metaphor, not literally true.  And the villagers go ahead and join the LDS Church.

I guess this is where we all are.  We need to decide what is real and what is metaphor, and then make a decision.  I think most of us would agree that the Book of Genesis in the OT is a collection of metaphors.  That is a leap that requires little effort.  But what about other religious stories, other histories, other scriptures, other miracles, etc.?  When we decide that maybe some of these are metaphors, what are we to do?  How important is reality?

Some GAs in the Mormon Church have decided that metaphors are more important than reality.  Stories need to be faith promoting, no matter how inaccurate they are.  Do we need accurate history, or do we need inspirational stories?

Ultimately, the Ugandans in TBofM musical see the good, and accept the metaphors.  In a twenty-first-century world is this a practical solution?  What happens to the individual member when he or she finds out that much of his or her religion’s history, scripture, and faith-promoting stories are, in fact, metaphors?

This is a question that all thinking conservative believers will face eventually.  And it took the South-Park boys to ask the question.

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This entry was posted in Entertainment, mormonism, Religion, theatre, uganda. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to It’s a Metaphor . . . Stupid

  1. Carl Youngblood says:

    Roger, I’d be curious to hear your reaction to this review.

    http://bit.ly/m5uBQN

    Setting aside the musical’s satirization of Mormonism, I think he has a point about the racism. It is really just a modern retelling of Kipling’s white man’s burden. Is that really something you want to endorse?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Hi Carl, I enjoyed the musical, but was very uncomfortable about using Uganda by name. I have made 5 trips to Uganda, and love the country and its people very much. (That is the reason I return.) I wish the South-Park boys had used a made-up name for the African country. (Suprising, I think I read somewhere that the Ugandan Mission is one of the most successful.)

      Uganda does have issues. The north is currently trying to recover from the impact of a terrible conflict with a disgusting rebel group (Lord’s Republican Army). Uganda was (and still is) ground zero for the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The population is exploding, partially do to the country’s inability to control its birthrate. Poverty is rampant. So I suppose Uganda makes for a target, but still. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

      So, to answer your question: no that is not something I want to endorse. But I guess I don’t see TBofM musical as a retelling of Kipling’s white man’s burden. I think the South-Park boys are using Uganda more as a polar opposite to middle-class Mormonism. They are saying more about religion than they are about Africa.

      Much of the review you reference seems silly. To criticize a satire for being factually inaccurate is stupid. I thought the portrayal of the Mormon missionaries were suprisingly on target. (I spent 2-and-one-half years in Belgium and France.) The musical has a happy ending; it leaves the audience with a good feeling.

      If people are prepared to handle the profanity, I strongly encourage all to attend. I liked David Brooks’ review of TBofM musical. Roger

  2. roger hansen says:

    Tom Hafen in an op-ed piece in the SLTrib (1 Jul 2011) writes:

    “The musical invites the audience to celebrate when the Mormon characters and the Ugandans together discard their literal acceptance of the Book of Mormon and embrace religion as a sunny metaphor . . .

    While this is great theater, it is poor philosophy. To its adherents, Mormonism has power not because of the optimism of its message, but because of the absoluteness of its beliefs. Unlike many organizations, it’s tough to be “kind of” Mormon. . . .

    In the Mormon world, the dividing line between a nice story and absolute truth is the same line which divides those who would stay home or who actually would go to Uganda if called . . . .”

    I would say to Hafen, life and religion is not quite that simple. Much of Genesis is metaphor. And many Mormon stories are metaphors. The question is: Where is the absolute truth?

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