The Mo-Lympics

  This weekend many of us will watch more TV than usual as we cheer our athletes on at the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. But these games are more than about skiing and ice-skating. As the shots of the Mormon Temple behind Bob Costas remind us, they're also about Mormonism's place in American life.   The Mormon church with 11 million members and estimated worth of 25 billion dollars has an image problem. That's why, as Newsweek puts it, "Mormon leaders . . . regard the Games as a God-given opportunity to flash the many facets of their faith around the globe."   And the key facet the leaders wish to communicate is Mormonism's tie to Christianity. For instance, they want the media to stop using the term "Mormon." Instead, shorthand references to the church, whose official name is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," should simply be "Church of Jesus Christ."   Films shown to the foreign press emphasize the relationship with Christianity by pointing out the role of the Bible in Mormon faith and practice.   But none of this alters the fact that Mormonism is an entirely different religion. For instance, Mormonism believes in many gods, not just one. Christians believe that God is eternal and is a spirit. Mormons believe that the god of this universe -- like other gods in other universes -- was once as we are. God "progressed" in knowledge and became divine, but retained his body.   God is married to a being the Mormons call "the Mother." The "Mother" is not the same person as Mary, who Mormons believe was impregnated by God physically. For Mormons, Jesus is God's son in a very different sense than that taught by Christianity.   Well, these are just a few examples of how different Mormonism is from Christianity. And that's why no Christian body, even those liberal ones, accepts Mormon baptism as valid. It's not a Christian baptism because Mormonism is not Christian. And we must be ready to lovingly point out these differences when opportunities arise.   Such an opportunity presented itself to me a few years ago when I spoke at the spiritual seminar of a leading business group. I spoke first. And then it was the turn for a famous Mormon author and self-help guru. He began his lecture by putting up a transparency on the screen. On it, there was a broad curving line coming right down the center.   He then asked one side of the room to close their eyes, and the other saw a picture of a young woman formed by the broad line in the center. Then he did the same thing with the other side of the room who saw a different transparency -- the same broad line, but an old woman. This, the author said, shows that we can see the same thing in two different ways. His intent was clearly to show that Mormonism is the same as Christianity, simply seen differently.   After his presentation, I asked him, "But which way was it, an old woman or a young woman? It can't be both." He got very upset, stammered, and never raised his Mormonism again that week.   Just as the picture was either an old woman or a young one, Mormonism either affirms historic Christianity, or it doesn't. Since it doesn't, it can't call itself Christianity -- a fact that all the good will and public relations in Utah can't change.         For further reading:   Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (ISI Books, 2001).   Kenneth L. Woodward, "A Mormon Moment," Newsweek, 10 September 2001.     Wrinkle & Emotion Free   By: Chuck Colson|Published: February 18, 2002 9:42 AM     Botox & The Boomers   In the 1975 film, "The Stepford Wives," the women of the town have been replaced by robots who spend all day cooking, cleaning, and otherwise fulfilling their husbands' needs and wants. One of the clues that something is wrong is that the women are always smiling. They're mechanically programmed so their faces can't display anger.   The film is considered a feminist classic about the subjugation of women. So it might surprise you to learn that many women are voluntarily rendering their faces incapable of displaying anger.   They're doing this by having themselves injected with a drug called Botox, the commercial name for botulinum toxin A, a purified form of the poison that causes botulism. The drug is injected into the patient's facial muscles and paralyzes the muscles that cause wrinkles. This eradicates existing wrinkles and prevents future wrinkling for a while.   Additional injections are required lest, as one doctor told the New York Times, a woman could go from having a "flawlessly even face" to looking like a Shar-Pei in four months.   As a side affect, Botox limits the range of facial expression, especially those associated with anger, like the furrowed brow. Constant treatments have led, as the Times puts it, to whole social circles where it is rare to find a woman over thirty-five "with the ability to look angry."   Botox is so popular in Hollywood that directors like Martin Scorcese and Baz Luhrman complain about actresses whose faces "can't move properly."   But at least they look good. And that's what Allergan, the maker of Botox, is counting on. It has submitted Botox, which is currently only approved for treating eye spasms, to the FDA for approval for treatment of wrinkles.   If approved, Allergan plans an advertising blitz, and it's estimated that within a short time Botox would join Viagra and Prilosec, an ulcer remedy, as a billion-dollar-a-year drug.   The market is already there. As Gregg Gilbert, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, told the Times, "America is aging," which means "there is an openness about these procedures now . . ."   Part of this "openness" stems from the shift of cultural attitudes about youth and aging. While it's true that American culture has always celebrated youth, it has managed to do so while still honoring its elders and valuing experience and wisdom.   That changed in the sixties and seventies. America came under the sway of a youth culture that did more than celebrate youth; it made youth the measure of all things. Thus, a dollar spent by a teenage consumer is deemed more significant than five dollars spent by someone over fifty. Traditional hierarchical relationships, such as those between parents and children, have given way to a culture of peers.   The Botox phenomenon is more than vanity run amok. This attempt to look young is an attempt to maintain membership in the group whose likes and dislikes matter -- that is, the youthful. Our worldview makes it hard to understand aging gracefully because we fail to see grace in age.   And in the process we deny our true worth as individuals made in the image of God, wrinkles and all. We defy God, wanting to be something else, and we voluntarily will paralyze our faces rather than revise our thinking. Now that's real subjugation.   For further reading:   Deborah Newman, Loving Your Body: Embracing Your True Beauty in Christ (Tyndale House Publishers, 2002).   Alex Kuczynski, "In Quest for Wrinkle-Free Future, Frown Becomes Thing of the Past," The New York Times, 7 February 2002.


Chuck Colson


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