mad in pursuit journal


"Big Love" & Revelation

One of my must-see shows this season is HBO's Big Love, Season 2. (Season 1 is available on DVD.) It's about an independent-minded polygamist businessman hidden in plain sight in suburban Utah with his three wives and seven children.

On the face of it you start thinking, "why not?" Can polygamy be the next civil rights issue? Just another form of marriage? Our cozy family of 11 seems organized and has no more interpersonal problems than the average close-knit, extended family.

But then there are the family's roots in "the compound," the backwoods clan of polygamists ruled by the Prophet. Only the Prophet can sanctify marriage. You can't get your marriage sanctified unless you pay your tithe. The Prophet gets rich. Power goes to his head. Absolute power. Corrupts absolutely. Name a deadly sin and the Prophet is doing it.

The queasy thing is that it's all disguised under the veil of religion. "God" reveals who the Prophet will be. The "Spirit" informs all his business and compound decisions. "Revelation," we begin to see is nothing but politics. Everybody with a yen seems to talk themselves into a revelation. Receiving "testimony" they call it.

I worry about policies and philosophies based on "Revelation." Revelation goes beyond instinct and intuition and it's a form of "knowing" that bypasses both logic and experience. By definition it makes you right. Ever hear anyone says they were mistaken about a revelation?

When beliefs become institutionalized and authoritarian, then before long "official" revelations come only the guy with all the power. (Like infallible papal decrees.) In the wrong hands "revelation" can be the tool of the conniving against the witless. The power-hungry against the innocent. The cynical against the faithful.

Or maybe there are spoiled simpletons, like our President, who ride their mountain bikes long enough to think a state of anoxia is a divine revelation about bringing Christian Democracy to the Mideast and Central Asia. The True Believer, surrounded by the cynical handlers, who see the path to power and riches.

Every way of "knowing" something has its trickery. Hunches are wrong. Logic goes awry. Experience is misinterpreted. But today it's divine revelation that has me mumbling to myself, thanks to the good writing of "Big Love."


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HBO—Big Love