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.