Apr 12, 2008

On the FLDS, Age of Consent, and the Concept of Normalcy

Left: Screen capture of CNN coverage of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

I have been scratching my head for weeks over the events related to the raid on the YFZ Ranch (Yearn for Zion), a religious and residential compound owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Admittedly, I find some of the philosophies of the FLDS - such as promoting polygamy and child marriage, or condemning interracial marriage - to be abhorrent and alien to the culture in which I grew up. To my way of thinking, these folks are attempting to recreate an antiquity that long since passed, and I can't say that I miss some of that cultural past that FLDS members choose to venerate.

Yet I must admit that there is a part of me that is disturbed by the ability of the state to interfere with the religious and political beliefs of a group of separatists, even misguided ones. Sure, the FLDS is an organization that few Americans would find attractive, and the idea of old men marrying young teens certainly borders on pedophilia, at least by mainstream definitions. However, there are still states like New Hampshire that permit males as young as 14 and females as young as 13 to marry, so the beliefs of the FLDS might not seem so archaic as a first glance might seem.

Moreover, even mainstream America is only a few generations removed from a time when younger marriages were common. As creepy as the idea seems to me of a 50-year-old man marrying a young teen, I have no doubt that among my not-so-distant ancestors there were similar relationships.

Is the targeting of the FLDS an example of the proverbial slippery slope? Will we next be targeting religious groups that, for example, require male circumcision, or groups that encourage the piercing of the ears of infants?

I am also shaking my head at the coverage of the raid by Texas authorities, as evidenced by the CNN headline pictured. Here is the front page text that accompanied the story entitled "Mental health experts enlisted to help with children of sect":

Texas officials have brought in mental health professionals and behavioral experts in an effort to ensure a sense of normalcy for the more than 400 children removed from a polygamous sect's enclave.
"Normal," for these children, is the compound and families with which they lived until April 3. The splitting up of families and intervention by the state is just about as "abnormal" as life can get for these children, irrespective of our dislike for their lifestyles. After all, the outside world is obsessed with age-defying nonsense like botox treatments and the search for the best wrinkle cream, while members of the FLDS simply want to live the way that their forebears lived.

Again, the allegations by the as-yet-to-be-located 16-year-old FLDS member deserve to be investigated, but the removal of 416 children from their homes based upon two telephone calls seems extreme to me, and anything but "normal." Yet quite a few people with whom I have spoken have no problem whatsoever with the raid on the FLDS compound, and they justify their views almost exclusively on the issue of teenaged marriage and sensationalized media reports, like this BBC headline that screams Texas sect temple 'used for sex'.

But heck - why should I question the demonization of the FLDS, a group thousands of miles and philosophical light years away from me? Why, these inbred rubes don't even have Internet access, so it's not like they will flood my Comments section with a ton of spam, and besides - I have trash to take out, and NetFlix just sent me a few DVDs with which I can forget troubling government raids on unpopular groups.

For a few hours, at least.


microdot said...

So, Mike, you're down with my worship of the big stone in the forest?
Say, do you know any virgins?
We've run out of them around here....

Tim Higgins said...

If only someone had been thoughtful enough to bring in mental health professionals for the adults in this community years ago, perharps none would be needed now.

I'm down with microdot, except it's not the big stone, it's the great circle. What comes around, goes around.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Sounds like sour grapes over other's (secretly coveted) lifestyle.

Just think of it, all of those quiet,shy, young girls...

Why it's enough to drive most old geezers (and pervs) insane ;-)

microdot said...

Very intersetingly enough, I read a mainstream piece on this today that tried to defend FLDS by comparing them to the Roman Catholic Church and it's spate of Sex Scandals.
They were being persecuted as a shameful "cult" while the Roman Catholics were untouchable because they were an Organized Religion.

Of course this is a flawed argument on so many levels, but in reality, myself, I have absolutely no yearning or desire to experience the oppressive medieval caste system which the FLDS was immersewd in. This was a form of slavery, brain washing and abuse.
Yes, perhaps in your distant past, there were relationships between 50 year old men and 14 year olds, but we do not live in that world and we live in a world in which children can be children and grow up and mature to become free thinking adults and not sexually abused mind controlled zombies.
Now, we have not heard of the other side of the coin, the excess male breeders....the adolescent boys forced out of these communities because they represented a threat to the dominant males.
This is the next story which will be reported. It already has, but now it will be refocused on. Stay tuned!

historymike said...

(laughing at the new religions Tim Higgins and Microdot invented)

I am the first to agree that the FLDS is about as far from the modern world as people can be, but I still resist the urge to concede such sweeping powers of the state in the lives of individual citizens.

And - for the record - the demographic of women I find especially attractive (after my beautiful and loving wife, I have to hastily add) is the 35-50 age range (i.e., close to my own age). I don't even speak the same language as teenagers and twentysomethings any longer, let alone the idea that I have any cultural commonalities.

Increasingly, as Grammy warards get announced each year, I find myself further alienated from youth culture.

Mad Jack said...

I don't feel real good about the raid and the power of the State either. Waco, Ruby Ridge, Rainbow Ranch are just a few raids that possibly should not have taken place, and definitely should have been handled differently.

You caught that glitch about 'normal' as well? What's normal for a resident of Berkina Faso is not normal for Queens, NY.

My real objection stems from the incredible amounts of apathy about this raid, and about the shooting in Lima, OH. I have the opinion that apathy is tacit approval, which begs me to ask the rhetorical question: Who's next?

See you in the morning paper, Ace.

Anonymous said...

Well I suppose you may have heard of the Cripps family from the brethern church. Well ...intermarriage with cousins and them poor young wives bred to death so many men went through 3 or 4 of them.Mostly the laws were 13 yr old gals and YEP older men. So except for how many wives at once; it seems the early 1900 had problems too.CPS has enough lives to ruin without these kids.