There’s an LDS film out called New York Doll. By all accounts the movie is a moving portrayal of the story of Arthur “Killer” Kane, the bass guitarist for the ’80s glam band, New York Dolls.
Mr. Kane led the stereotypical self-destructive life of a rock star. When he finally hit rock-bottom, he turned to religion and found deliverance through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He thereafter lived a quiet life as a Church employee, but always longed to be on stage again. His dream was realized when he was asked to do a reunion concert with the surviving members of the New York Dolls in 2004.
Reviewer Steve Kline described viewer’s emotions during the film:
Quietly resigned, even as one sits thinking, “Wow, [Kane] can do it. He can achieve stardom; he’s on his way. Wow, what a great come back. What a story!” And then [Kane] dutifully returns to Los Angeles, and within days he dies of leukemia–just two hours after his diagnosis! Sad? Yes. Fulfilling? Yes. His dream has come true. His life has been fulfilled. Up from the depths of hell on earth to paradise, his change from booze and nihilism to Mormonism is well, a great story. “It’s like LSD–a trip without drugs.” That’s how “Killer” described being LDS. Unfortunately, “Killer” never further questioned if LDS is similar to LSD–a trip that doesn’t fit with reality. (Review of New York Doll by Steve Klein)
Last week, while chasing down news stories connected to Mormonism, I came across another review of New York Doll on Willamette Week Online. I’ve read several reviews of this film, but something in the Willamette Week review caught my attention. As the reviewer describes the lowest point in the rock star’s life, she says that following a fight with his wife, Mr. Kane
“…leaps out the kitchen window and lands on his head. It takes him a year to walk again. One day, while convalescing, he finds himself with a Bible in one hand and a TV Guide in the other. In the TV Guide is an ad for a free copy of the Book of Mormon. He calls the number. So long, rock star. Hello, Latter Day Saint.”
The mental picture of Mr. Kane weighing the Bible against TV Guide was just too much for me. I had to leave a comment. I quoted a portion of the excerpt above and wrote:
“I find this to be a sad illustration of human nature. Given a choice between God’s Word and Hollywood, we go for the glitz. “Killer” Kane made yet another bad choice when he decided to jettison the Bible in favor of the Book of Mormon, for it is in the Bible that God offers sinful people the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Unlike the Bible, The Book of Mormon–“Killer’s” choice–promises salvation only “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). Seems that we humans are prone to dismiss or ignore what God has told us in His Word in favor of having our senses stimulated by something different, something new. Like “Killer” Kane, we prefer the glitz–and thereby reject our only hope.”
I admit that my observation was a bit provocative, but I was still surprised by some of the comments that followed — pretty much all directed at my post rather than at the story of Killer Kane or the review of New York Doll. One of them is so illustrative of a certain mindset that I want to share it with you here. This is what “Trevor” wrote:
“I was surprised to see his [Kane’s] journey of faith being attacked by a latter-day pharisee. Rather than rejoice over the return of a lost sheep Sharon belittles his sincere attempt to grow closer to God by stooping to sectarian point scoring. In doing so she repeats deliberate distortions about what Mormons believe.
“Quite apart from not checking facts, Sharon has no right to speak on Kane’s behalf or on behalf of the Mormon church.
“To confirm for yourself what Mormons believe about the Bible and Jesus you can simply visit here: http://www.mormon.org/question. To see that the quoted verses are in harmony visit here to read them in context: http://scriptures.lds.org/2_ne/25 and here: http://scriptures.lds.org/eph/2
“To get an idea of the depths of Sharon’s delusion and personal problems, I dare you to start reading the Book of Mormon and come to a Mormon service and then ask yourself how much ‘glitz’ and ‘stimulation of the senses’ is on offer.
“The truly sad illustration of human nature is the fact that after reading this inspirational story Sharon cannot feel happy for Kane – just because he found Jesus in a different church to hers. If bitterness toward others and an ability to spout proof texts for Calvinist dogma is all she gets from the Bible then it is clear that she understands very little about Jesus and his message. Maybe it’s time for Sharon and her fellow Bible-worshippers to set aside their prejudices and have a look at something new.”
I am baffled by Trevor’s comments. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I have several questions:
- What is a “latter-day pharisee” and what did I say to be labeled as one?
- What is the “sectarian point scoring” to which I stooped?
- How did I deliberately distort what Mormons believe?
- What facts did I get wrong because I didn’t check them?
- In what way did I speak on behalf of Mr. Kane and the Mormon Church?
- What did I say regarding “what Mormons believe about the Bible and Jesus”?
- What delusions and personal problems do I have, about which Trevor wants people enlightened?
- Where did I indicate that I did not, on any level, “feel happy” for Mr. Kane?
- How did I demonstrate “bitterness toward others”?
- Where did I “spout proof texts for Calvinist dogma”?
- What is the basis for the accusation that I am a “Bible-worshipper”?
Trevor seems to have drawn quite a few conclusions about me from a mere 130 word post.
So what made Trevor lash out at me, hurling accusations and shame about like he was searching for deals at a bargain basement sale? The comment I posted at Willamette Week included one Bible verse, one Book of Mormon verse, and a personal observation about human nature. But Trevor saw it as an attack; he said I attacked Mr. Kane’s faith journey, but I wonder if Trevor thought I had also attacked him.
The way I see it–or the way I meant it–my post was a type of Gospel message: human beings, left to their own devices, don’t want God. We want what we want and we’re perfectly happy not knowing what God says about it. In fact, we prefer it that way. Though we may couch our rebellion in religious terms, it is, nevertheless, rebellion to accept as truth that which is not truth, that which is opposed to God’s revealed Word. Yet God still “offers sinful people the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).”
The Bible says that the message of salvation is perceived by the world as foolishness and as a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). The apostle Peter wrote:
“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'” (1 Peter 1:7-8).
Was Trevor offended by the message of the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ? I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe his sharp response just came at the end of a very bad day. But isn’t it interesting that when all is said and done, Trevor’s solution to my “problem” is a validation of my post?
Trevor suggested I should “set aside [my] prejudices” (which in context I believe means my understanding of the Bible) and “have a look at something new” (i.e., the Book of Mormon). This, of course, is exactly what Mr. Kane did, and precisely what my post described as our sad but natural human proclivity. Trevor wants me to dismiss what God has said in the Bible and go for the “glitz” of something new and different.
There’s another aspect to Trevor’s post that I would like to discuss, and that is his accusation regarding my alleged distortion of “what Mormons believe.” Next week on Mormon Coffee I’ll look at 2 Nephi 25:23 to see how LDS leaders understand the Book of Mormon teaching that we are saved by grace “after all we can do.”