Recently I went to see The Book of Mormon. I knew it was a comedy, a parody, a satire, but Lord knows that I had no idea it was from the Creators of South Park. Pretty quickly I learned that it was by faaarr more irreverent than even I realized.
The funny thing is, despite how over the top ridiculous the plot was – there is a real message deep within.
So, before we get to that message, let’s talk a little about the actual Book of Mormon. As I watched the musical I assumed that much of this must have been exaggerated and dramatized for the plot and humour. But no, The Church of Latter Day Saints was really started by a man in the 1800’s who had a vision from God, a visit from an angel, supposedly found hidden golden plates and believed that reformed Egyptians moved to the Americas and were introduced to Jesus shortly after his resurrection.
For educated folk, it sounds farcical and nonsensical, but then again – doesn’t all religion? I mean, Scientology was begun by a Science Fiction writer in 1952 and believes that we are immortal beings who have forgotten our roots and must pay massive sums to remember them, and let’s not forget, (aliens live in caves).
Deep down, when you think long and hard and learn the origin stories of all religions – do any of them really make any sense? I have had the very rare pleasure (or curse) of learning both sides. Growing up Dutch Christian reformed, I was a blink away from Mennonite and had many of those “spooky hell dreams” as the creators of South Park so humoursly put it. I believed in fire and brimstone, I believed in the afterlife and I believed in always doing your best and being your best. However, after spending years trying to accept others – me and my family were rejected by our church. Go figure – the term Christianity actually means “to be a decent and generous human being following in the ways of Christ” and my Christian teachers ostracized my family for being too different. I guess like Baby’s father in Dirty Dancing, they only meant certain people, people like them.
You told me everyone was alike and deserved a fair break. But you meant everyone who was like you.
I decided to take a very different stance on things as I aged, in University I minored in Classical Civilizations. One of the classes that forever left its mark was Ancient religions…a very in-depth and eye-opening look at the origins of religion. Believe it or not, many pagan religions came first; many female-based, withcraft-based and poligod religions existed long before we had ever heard of Jesus Christ. He was most likely a real person, a martyr, a crusader, but all along – man has had some say in how this all played out. Government wanted to control the masses, only educated men could read or translate the Bible and why do you think so many versions exist? Because each ruler wanted their own version of the word of God. Might as well be called “the word of the King”. And know what? People bought it. The question is why…or maybe more appropriately, why not?
Deep down…people want something to follow. Why do you think we have so many Parrotheads, Deadheads, Beliebers, Hell’s Angels or Hulkamaniacs? People want to be part of something bigger; a deeper meaning, a larger idea, a better future, or a meaningful past. Believe something hard enough and sure enough, somebody will believe it with you.
Does this make it all bad? No, no it doesn’t. It doesn’t make it all true either. It’s up to each and every one of us to decide how much we are willing to think for ourselves and how much we are willing to believe as gospel. There is a morsel of truth in most stories, but there is a mountain of ego too. Even though the characters in my musical realized that in the end there is no difference between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Arnold; what they also realized is that people are searching for an idea. So many things in life are a metaphor and if people have a common belief, they have a common purpose. Like Elder Price said, “No, No, No…it doesn’t matter if the stories are true or not! That’s not the point!” People became harmonized, happy and hopeful. Isn’t that the point? For a girl whose religion is pretty much Disney world…it was almost like…Orlando….
“For an idea that does not first seem insane, there is no hope.” ― Albert Einstein
The Ginga Ninja