Harold Bloom’s Recent Op-ed Rant in the NYTs

According Thomas Burr reporting in the SLTrib (8 Nov 2011):

“The secular liberals are going to mock Mormonism,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission [stated], “they’re going to start doing documentaries on Mormonism and try to scare independents about him.  They ought to be ashamed of themselves . . . “

Well, to a certain extent, the mocking has started.  An early salvo was launched by Harold Bloom, Mormon observer and Yale University scholar.

Harold Bloom, Yale University Scholar and Mormon Observer

In an op-ed piece for the NYTimes (12 Nov 2011) titled “Will This Election Be the Mormon Breakthrough?”, Bloom goes after conservative Christian religions, Ronald Reagan economics and politics, and Mormonism in particular.  His article is a rambling mess and has already been eccoriated on websites like getreligion.org and religiondispatches.org

While there is much to disagree with in Bloom’s polemic, I think there is also some things we need to consider.  Quoting Bloom:

  • “I recall prophesying in 1992 that by 2020 Mormonism could become the dominant religion of the western United States.  But we are not going to see that large a transformation.  I went wrong because the last two decades have witnessed the deliberate dwindling of the [LDS Church] into just one more Protestant sect.”
  • “The Salt Lake City empire of corporate greed has little in common with the visions of Joseph Smith. . . .  The hierarchy’s vast economic power is founded upon the tithing of the faithful . . .  That dark insight (money is power) has animated the Mormon hierarchy all through the latter 20th and early 21st century.”
  • “The Mormon patriarch, secure in his marriage and large family, is promised by his faith a final ascension to godhead. . .  From the perspective of the White House, how would the nation and the world appear to President Romney?  How would he represent the other 98 percent of his citizens?”

As a reaction to each of the above, I would propose the following questions:

  • Mormons may, in fact, be trying too hard to make accomodations to Christian conservatives.  Are we giving away too much of our doctrinal identity?
  • To many Mormons, the LDS Church is losing its moral high ground by being so involved in economic endeavors in Utah and around the world.  Could tithing money be used better in humanitarian causes?  What can we learn from Christ’s example and from the teachings of President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder Marion D. Hanks?
  • Many Mormons are too inwardly focused.  Shouldn’t we try to relate better to the rest of the world?  Can we be more engaged, in a non-political and non-religious ways, with the entirety of mankind?

In many respects, the Bloom op-ed piece is similar to The Book of Mormon musical now being performed on Broadway.  The South Park boys and the Yale scholar are both shooting at a bigger target–conservatives religions in general.  Mormons just happen to be the easiest bullseye.

The difference is that the Broadway musical is surprisingly sweet and the op-ed piece is surprising bitter.  But just because Bloom’s piece is mean-spirited, doesn’t mean that some of his observations don’t have merit.

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7 Responses to Harold Bloom’s Recent Op-ed Rant in the NYTs

  1. Roger, great thoughts. Can you please learn how to include links in your blog posts? A web page that refers to an article without linking to it is broken, plain and simple.

  2. roger hansen says:

    Carl, you need to remember that I’m 66. I’m still proud of myself for learning how to include images in my posts. But you are right, I should and will learn. Thanks for the constructive criticism.

  3. Pingback: Southern religions | Rageinthemachi

  4. susan says:

    Carl. don’t sweat the small stuff.

    • Susan, I’m not sweating it. But I am a regular reader of Roger’s blog, and every time he refers to an article I have to go onto Google and hope I can find it because he didn’t include a link. I’m trying to do him a favor here. Believe me, it will make the blog better. If he chooses not to do it, no big deal.

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