Bigotry is bad; how hard is that to remember?
Apparently, very hard for a lot of American liberals who have allowed their dislike and suspicion of Republican politics to lower their defenses against cheap and ugly religious bigotry. Nasty, ill-founded slanders against alleged Mormon plans for theocracy are spewing forth from news organizations and writers who, when the better angels of their nature are more fully in control, recognize the vicious and evil nature of religious bigotry in other contexts.
An article at Tablet should be the last word in this discussion. Yair Rosenberg not only takes these temporarily deranged partisan bigots (who never objected to Harry Reid’s Mormon faith when he ascended to the leadership of the Senate’s Democratic majority but discovered dark Mormon plots when a member of the church became the front runner in the GOP nomination fight) to task for the double standard; he demolishes the half-truths and rumors on which the Mormophobes erected their paranoid framework and illustrates the parallels between this form of bigotry and anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Tellingly, the sort of specious argument that Salon’s Denton makes about the perils of Mormon theocracy is exactly the sort of conspiracy theory that the same publication rightly denounces when it comes from Robert Spencer about Muslims and the threat of creeping Sharia. The latter narrative is clearly seen as false, but the equally problematic nature of the anti-Mormon argument is obscured by partisan blinders.
But one need not agree with Romney’s policies to recognize that it is wrong to play Da Vinci Code with his faith’s traditions, picking and choosing questionable texts from LDS history and using them to demonize an entire diverse religious community. One need not agree with those policies to understand that Romney’s positions are his own, and not dictated secretly by his church, which sometimes openly advocates for diametrically opposed policies.
Ultimately, there’s only one way to understand Mormons. “Meet a Mormon. Talk to a Mormon. Not about the church—just find out who we are,” said Card. “You’ll find out we’re perfectly normal. We have the normal percentage of wackos, like any other group—you can find wacko Baptists, wacko agnostics, and wacko college professors—but most of us are ordinary people. We keep up our yard, we pay our bills, we buy our houses, pay our mortgage, do our job, work hard.
When it comes to questions of faith and doctrine, I am not a supporter of the LDS church and find some of its core teachings deeply opposed to what I believe to be the most important pillars of Christian faith. But being an American involves knowing when to pay attention to questions like those and when to set them aside. And being an American involves speaking out when others, temporarily deranged by partisan heat, seek to turn bigotry into a political tool.
When he’s not writing for Tablet under his own name, Yair Rosenberg writes on this site as part of Team Mead. I’m pleased and proud to see one of our contributors doing such good work on such an important subject at this early point in his career.