GOVERNMENT MATTERS: Do FLDS live on ‘ranch’ or ‘compound’? “The sect has long chided the media covering it for referring to the YFZ Ranch as a ‘compound’ and not a ‘ranch.’ (They’re also not thrilled that I keep calling the FLDS a ‘sect,’ but now that People magazine has called it a ‘cult’ on the cover of two issues, ‘sect’ probably looks a lot better.)”
I’m wondering why it can’t be both a ranch and a compound? They raise plenty of range livestock to eat; that makes it a ranch. They have many buildings in an enclosed area; that makes it a compound. They are a “body of persons adhering to a particular religious faith”; that makes it a sect. And please note that I list all these definitions without any spin, judgment, or even any reference to the FLDS. If I were a journalist writing about them I’d probably use compound, if only because I am focusing on the people and not on the livestock. However, if I were to write an article about how the FLDS manages the livestock, I would then refer to it as a ranch.
That said, the primary “business” of the site is religion, not ranching. It is a religious compound with a ranch, just like there are Indian reservations with casinos.
I would suggest that if the words compound and sect are “loaded,” it’s only because that’s how we most often see them used in the news. Compounds and sects that behave (the majority of them) don’t make news. But you do make a point. Compounds and sects that behave might instead be referred to as communities or even towns, even if they comprise less than a hundred people. But ranch is another matter. A ranch should have open land with grazing livestock raised for food. And even if the members of a religious sect are vegans who themselves graze on grass, it’s still not a ranch! (unless it is run by Kanamits)
I just thought of a non-pejorative use of “compound”: the “Kennedy Compound.”
Interestingly enough, the first definition that the OED gives for “cult” is non-pejorative:
“1. Worship; reverential homage rendered to a divine being or beings.”
The earliest citation that the OED gives for the more pejorative meaning, “A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister,” is dated 1927. Most of the non-pejorative uses are from the 19th Century or earlier. I wonder why this pejoration of “cult” took place.
By the way, San Angelo, TX is my hometown (the YFZ ranch is close to Eldorado, which is a little to the south). I actually flew over the ranch/compound in a small airplane a few months before the raid.
Is there any word for a community, built for a specific purpose and out of the mainstream, that isn’t loaded?
I just checked the Wikipedia entries for a couple such sites in my part of the country, Arcosanti (described as an “experimental town”) and Biosphere II (a “man-made, materially-closed ecological system”). Both phrases are probably too long for headline writers to find much love for them.
The latter also uses the term “biome” for the individual substructures making up the site. This term is too specific as to the purpose for its construction, as well as being a bit of invented jargon, so I doubt we’ll see it used the next time the ATF has to storm some cluster of barns and quonset huts.
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