Catholics, Mormons, and Stephen Crane

My Organized Response to an LDS Missionary

Chapter 1 - Serene Futility

July 2001


XXIV

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never-"
"You lie," he cried
And ran on.

Stephen Crane: Black Riders #24

Brent,

Thank you for writing. I will state again that I enjoyed our evening discussion and receiving your nice note. It is through the honest exchange of ideas, through give and take, through speaking and listening that each man grows. By hearing your thoughts, and listening to them, I learned and grew.

I mentioned that Stephen Crane is my favorite poet. Have you ever read any of his poetry? Like your note beseeching me to read the Book of Mormon to find spiritual insights, I offer the same challenge back to you. I have the public domain text of his work on my site (and links to his society's web page). You can link here to read my Stephen Crane pages in entirety.

He is a rather obscure author that lived during America's civil war (most famous for his novel "The Red Badge of Courage"). While I find his fiction and novels mildly interesting, I found many of his small biting snippets of poetry extremely challenging and insightful to my developing intellect and reason. They served as a catalyst to help me better understand myself and others during my personal time of adolescent spiritual awakening.

One of Crane's first works to affect me is shown above.

I first read this poem in high school, an age where a normal young man seeks the meaning and purpose of life. I was not attending "seminary" six days a week, predestined to fulfill a "mission", constantly barraged with testimonials of the "correct" definitions for the meaning and purpose of life and the "proper way" to recognize that I had received it. I was allowed to seek these very personal lessons in my own way and from my own divine sources. I read A LOT of literature (yet have never had time to read the Book of Mormon). I will encourage you to read the poetry of Stephen Crane with the same enthusiasm (and probably the same success) that you encouraged me to read the works of your favorite author, Joseph Smith.

This particular verse was an early insight for me, revealing first the notion that in future years I would often see things that others could not (or would not) see for themselves, and second the fact that a man will not be thanked for pointing out the futility of another's hopeless efforts. Some would say this verse specifically applies to any attempt for open exchange on the subject of religion with a Mormon (or for that matter, any charismatic evangelical).

I often encounter others that consider my words "lies" when my words are simply insights from a perspective that they themselves do not or cannot possess. But the speaker in Crane's poem does not seem to express any personal anguish that his advice is unheeded or any need to pursue that advice beyond his simple passing comment. The speaker seems able to serenely accept the fact that others will righteously pursue a folly, that he will be attacked for his effort to help; and to be satisfied that he did his part simply by trying to save that man from foolishness. The man doing the "accosting" is definitely not a missionary in deeds or attitude. He is simply doing God's work as the opportunity is presented to him.

The willingness or necessity to pursue the pointless task of convincing another, of fixing something that is not broken, is a behavior that is drilled into young men before they are sent off to do missionary work. I am not talking only about LDS/Mormons, but any religion. I was forced one recent Sunday to sit and listen to an 8 year old stand at the pulpit of my Methodist church and proclaim his personal testimony that Jesus had spoken directly to him and called upon him to accompany his parents on a mission to convert the residents of Honduras to a particular sect of Protestant Christianity. Of course, his parents stood behind him and beamed with pride. The poor child sincerely believed the words he spoke (and who knows, they may even have been true). But when that family arrives in Honduras, they will be in a foot race with an LDS missionary, and a Jesuit Catholic, a Baptist, a follower of Islam and a Jewish fundamentalist, too.

Is that what "Jesus wants"? What would Jesus do?

I'm sure you've read about the Inquisition and the Crusades. You know well about the Intifada and Zionism and Jihads, the IRA and Orangemen, all acts of terror played out in the name and honor of God. From Joan of Arc to the Martyrs of Nauvoo, it is a basic truth that more hate, more death, more wounded feelings, and personal misunderstanding have come from disagreements about the earthly manifestations and human interpretations of that force which each antagonist individually considers to be the representation of "perfect love".

Those that do not kill or pester for their God, most certainly exclude or deride. And like it or not, Mormons are on that list. Like the woman that would go to bed with a strange man for a million dollars but not twenty, we've established she's a whore and are now only negotiating price. There is no philosophical difference between any religion that practices exclusionary and derisionary love, only a matter of degree. There is more in common between the exclusionary sacred rites performed in locked-up Mormon temples and the deranged acts of Middle Eastern subway bombers than any saint of these latter days will admit. And all of this dehumanizing of unlike people of unlike perceptions is done in the name of God's love, to "save" those misguided souls from the loss of access to the one most holy, the one whose very premise is forgiveness and perfect love. Jesus bent over backward to open the temples to the masses, forgave the Romans, and preached his message that any man need only accept him to receive his love. Did your "prophet" proclaim or pervert that all loving promise?

 
Copyright, 2001, All rights reserved

Introduction Return to Main Page Chapter 2

Introduction & Background

7.

I'm Right and They're Wrong

1.

Serene Futility

8.

Under Duress

2.

Damning Hypocrisy

9.

Money in the Bank

3.

Institutional Corruption

10.

The Carrot and the Stick

4.

God's Voice

11.

Heaven Must Be Laughing

5.

"All Religions are Corrupt"

12.

God the Bouncer

6.

Sealed with Chains

13.

Unlock the Temple Doors

Catholic & Mormon Links Page




Originally Written: April 2001
First Upload: July 2001
Last Update: November 4, 2001