Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sacred Silence, Temple Types, a Changing World, and Big Love

I hate to bring this (Big Love) up again, but I believe that the world's response to this is telling. For those of you who don't know what happened, HBO's TV show, "Big Love" portrayed the LDS Endowment in one of their episodes, which started a large controversy on the web, and greatly offended many members of the LDS Church.

Many of them can't understand what we are so upset about the portrayal of the endowment. One person said in effect: "there are many more offensive parts to the show than this, so why all the commotion? The show openly mocks Church leaders... why don't Mormons care about that, but are so upset about the Endowment? ... after all, they portrayed the endowment with 'reverence' and 'respect.'" It was those last two words that I found so interesting. One member responded to this line of reasoning: "that is like saying that you slept with my wife, but you treated her with all the reverence and respect that she deserved." Clearly these people are talking past each other, and as a community, we seem to no longer share a common vocabulary/understanding with which to communicate these ideas effectively. Especially lacking is a common understanding of the ideas of sacred silence and sacred space.

There was a time when the world would have understand this idea of sacred silence. What makes something sacred? When evaluating the ancient world's use of the sacred, things/places/time are usually sacralized by exclusion and inclusion, you exclude the unclean, and you include sacred events that happened on/near the place/time/object, as well as sacred acts (such as dedication rituals) performed over/near/on the place/time/object. This concept has been largely forgotten I think. Especially by most Western Christian churches. Most of them have sacred rituals, but portraying them would not be offensive if they were done with "respect" or "reverence." What
Baptist would complain about a tv show portraying their sacrament or baptism rituals? Because the world has forgotten sacralization through exclusion by sacred silence, they no longer understand us, since we are one of the very few religions that still practices this once common ancient tradition.

I thought this non-member's analysis was telling, he was one of the very few non-members that really got it I thought:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-blankenship/ibig-lovei-wife-watch-rou_b_175861.html

It was fascinating to listen to a non-member (and fan of the show) respectfully come to grips with the use of the sacred for entertainment, and with the ideas of sacred silence that he doesn't share, but that he finally came to understand because of the issues raised by the show. As is almost always the case, these things tend to end up doing more good than harm. This seems to be the case yet again.

2 comments:

craigaestep said...

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the Big Love Temple Episode. I really appreciated the take of the critic who seemed to understand: it increased my optimism in people out there and I wanted to share this with some of my family and friends to increase their optimism, too. Thanks
(by the way, in case you don't remember me, I was in your Book of Mormon class and tried to get photos from the Karnak Temple for you. Or was it the Luxor?)

James Carroll said...

Thanks Craig, it is good to hear from you.