December 14th, 2007

Acceptable Bigotry


photo credit: uglysheep

Is there such a thing as acceptable bigotry? Do we as a society condone, practice, or turn a blind eye toward certain types of bigotry, while condemning others?

On an episode of the ever-contentious McLaughin Group earlier this week, Lawrence O’Donnell lambasted Mormonism, vociferously listing alleged reasons why the faith itself is evil. And lest he be seen as incredible, O’Donnell states that he plays a Mormon on TV. Well, then. He’s now an authority.

If you’re patient and thick-skinned enough, you can review the video here and transcript here.

Such a display of anger leads me to wonder what types of bigotry our society sees as acceptable. Is it more politically correct to bash Mormons than it is Jews or Muslims?

As one Deseret News columnist noted, the double standard is quite apparent. Mormonism is continually painted in a negative light in mainstream media, yet no public outcry ensues. One might attribute this to the “turn the other cheek” mentality most Latter-day Saints will assume, whereas a similar bigoted comment regarding another faith might meet with uproar and public demands for apology.

Some still argue that a scrutiny of one’s faith is not bigotry, but O’Donnell’s was not an analysis of doctrine, but an outright, unsubstantiated accusation on several fronts. Those who claim that such comments are not bigoted most certainly have an agenda (or agree), as this author himself discloses:

As an evangelical Christian theologian, I must clarify that Mormonism is in no way consistent with orthodox Christianity. It borrows Christian themes and texts, but its most basic beliefs directly contradict the central teachings of Christianity.

An objective assessment of bigotry is thrown right out the window when two large paragraphs of one’s article are dedicated to an attempt at showing how Mormons aren’t Christians. Birds of a feather…

Seriously, though, when has it become okay for civil discourse to feature the outright bashing of another person’s faith, especially when such claims are far-fetched, misrepresented, or outright lies?

Perhaps it’s time for an LDS Anti-Defamation League of sorts. This double standard needs to be exposed for what it is, such that the Lawrence O’Donnells of the world are shown to be the lying, inflammatory people they truly are.

What I find most interesting is when so-called “christians” (whom I use a lowercase ‘c’ to represent) refuse to consider Mormons as Christians. If such contentious invective is to be considered the fruits of a christian, then I’ll gladly be identified by a different moniker.

Bigotry is unacceptable in all its forms, even when masked with a disclaimer such as “oh, well that religion is a cult and false, so it’s okay”.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

13 Responses to “Acceptable Bigotry”

  1. December 14, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    To understand where O’Donnell is coming from, read his post on HuffPo.

    Basically he’s pointing out Romney’s utter hypocrisy in (1) claiming his Mormon faith is relevant to being President of the United States and (2) refusing to answer questions about it. You can’t have it both ways. You just can’t.

  2. jasonthe
    December 14, 2007 at 4:38 pm #

    Before we start parsing this one, we should remain rational enough to admit that Jews, at the hands of Nazi Germany, experienced a level of bigotry much greater and with more devastating impact than having Lawrence O’Donnell railing on Mormon’s on an irrelevant talk show. One could also argue Muslims, at the hands of other Muslims and many American’s have experienced a much greater level of bigotry (when is the last time you heard of anyone freaking out because a Mormon was on the plane with them?).

    The comparison you try to draw here is quite self-serving, and a disservice to the LDS faith. Also, it’s a bit whiney.

  3. Connor
    December 14, 2007 at 5:04 pm #

    …Jews, at the hands of Nazi Germany, experienced a level of bigotry much greater and with more devastating impact than having Lawrence O’Donnell railing on Mormon’s on an irrelevant talk show.

    I completely agree. I’m not trying to equate the levels by any means. My reference to others faiths was meant as a modern comparison only, not one from Nazi Germany. Now that things have calmed a bit, most bigotry is not physical, but I do still argue that some bigotry is more acceptable to use as a society than others.

    The comparison you try to draw here is quite self-serving, and a disservice to the LDS faith. Also, it’s a bit whiney.

    While I don’t desire to hype the persecution complex or throw a pity party, I do think there are plenty of examples you ignore. Is feeling uncomfortable at riding a plane with a Muslim better or worse than having parents who refuse to allow their children to play with their Mormon friends? I think there are several flavors of bigotry (almost always stemming from misinformation or sheer hatred) that are manifested in our society, and it remains my observation that bashing Mormons is more politically correct than bashing others (by bashing I mean a proactive, vocal opposition, not simply a personal distaste or held belief).

  4. Daniel
    December 15, 2007 at 9:44 am #

    Perhaps an analogy.

    I think the beliefs of the Church of Scientology are obscenely stupid. I’m happy to explain why to anyone who asks me. And if a Scientologist were trying to be president of the USA, I’d say (even on a talk show) that this person should be kept far away from the levers of power because a person who believes such obviously false things does not have the judgement or reasoning capacity to run a country.

    Am I a bigot?

    It seems to me that bigotry is something different. The essence of bigotry is that I see a [ black person | American | man with a wooden leg | Taurus | steel worker | Southerner ] and I automatically assume that this person possesses certain qualities by virtue of their being a member of this group. Such assumptions usually come from stereotypes and other half-baked notions, and are very often wrong.

    But Scientologists really do have all those crazy beliefs, don’t they? So I’m not making unfair generalities about supposed characteristics — I’m objecting to beliefs that they actually have.

    And they could change those beliefs if they wanted to, couldn’t they? (Unlike the colour of a person’s skin.)

    I’d say that while my attitide toward Scientologists is certainly unpleasant, it’s not bigotry.

    But having said that — I don’t have a blind, unreasoning hatred of the organisation or the people, and their beliefs are just as well-supported as other religions I could name.

  5. December 16, 2007 at 6:50 am #

    After listening to this poor soul offer his hatefully ignorant invective, I was immediately struck by the fact that we have yet to see the iceberg breaking through the surface, let alone seeing the proverbial tip. This is not about bigotry, this is about hatred.

    We must prepare ourselves spiritually because, it is my belief that, we ain’t seen nothing yet. This is about what we are all going to face. We are all going to be facing situations which will test our faith in Christ and our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I sincerely believe that some of us may be required to defend our faith in ways we have heretofore never really considered.

    The adversary knows all too well that the truth is the only thing standing in the way of his lies. He is not going to relinquish his hold on mankind without a fight, and I do not mean a “war of words.” I believe many will find themselves in a position where they will be required to defend the truth with their very lives. While I am uncertain just how much I might be able to endure to show the Lord my absolute love for, and faith in Him, I pray that I will have the faith of Abinidi.

  6. December 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm #

    …if a Scientologist were trying to be president of the USA, I’d say (even on a talk show) that this person should be kept far away from the levers of power because a person who believes such obviously false things does not have the judgement or reasoning capacity to run a country…..

    Of course, the same argument might be applied to any religious group, if we could demonstrate that such religion contains irrational or superstitious beliefs!…(Mormonism isn’t immune to this…..)

    Lets imagine that instead of voting for a particular candidate for president, we were human resource managers interviewing job applicants. The things we would want to know about the applicant would be their skills, experience, competence, and reliability. If at the end of an interview, we were to ask them if they were scientologists, and then choose whether or not to hire them based on that fact, it might be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.

    In other words, one’s own personal beliefs do not generally address other aspects of our person, such as our skills, experience, reliability, or competence; especially as candidates for public office.

    ……I automatically assume that this person possesses certain qualities by virtue of their being a member of this group……

    For example, “all scientologists should be kept out of public office, because they are incompetent, ‘obscenely stupid’, and ‘crazy’?”

    Furthermore It is one thing to state that we feel that certain specific beliefs held by “scientologists”, or any other religious group are irrational, inconsistent, or superstitious. It is quite another thing to imply that all scientologists as a group, are irrational or incompetent or stupid. The former may or may not be true, but the latter is clearly a “universal” statement of prejudice rather than a “particular” statement of fact. In other words, a particular premise does not imply a universal conclusion.

    But Scientologists really do have all those crazy beliefs, don’t they? So I’m not making unfair generalities about supposed characteristics — I’m objecting to beliefs that they actually have.

    So, are you merely “objecting to their beliefs”, or are you in fact “making unfair generalities?” (One does not necessarily follow from the other.)

    Prejudice and bigotry aren’t defined by a “blind, unreasoning hatred…” there are plenty of “positive” prejudices too. Prejudice is primarily defined by bad logic.

  7. Daniel
    December 16, 2007 at 8:39 pm #

    Yeah, I agree that even positive prejudice is still prejudice.

    For example, “all scientologists should be kept out of public office, because they are incompetent, ‘obscenely stupid’, and ‘crazy’?”

    Read again. I haven’t applied these terms to Scientologists. It’s the beliefs that are stupid and crazy. There’s a difference; sane people can believe insane things. Just add a social support network, and communal reinforcement does the rest.

    Even so, I wouldn’t vote for someone who held such beliefs. The job of president requires judgment and the capacity to think critically. Someone who thinks that we were brought to Earth by Xenu (or that God lives on Kolob) just doesn’t have the reasoning capacity to lead the country. This isn’t City Dogcatcher we’re talking about here. The president has to work on solving problems, negotiating international relations, determining the direction of the national science program, and loads of important things. That’s going to require a grounding in reality.

    Now substitute ‘Mormon’ for ‘Scientologist’, and you’ll understand the hubbub. Sure, there are a lot of people who just ‘don’t like them dang Marmons’, but I don’t think O’Donnell fits into that camp. He’s expressing the view of a lot of people who think that religious beliefs, including LDS ones, are just plain insane, and not a basis for good government.

    Unfortunately, since the American electorate is allergic to atheists, I suppose I shall have to vote for some kind of moderate who tries to use the good bits of religion that actually help people. Kevin Rudd, the Australian PM, is one such person, and I’m pleased with what he’s doing so far despite the god-talk.

  8. December 17, 2007 at 9:39 am #

    You have to admit that waiting until 1978 to grant Blacks equality in the LDS was way overdue.

  9. Daniel
    December 17, 2007 at 6:05 pm #

    The talented and cuddly Christopher Hitchens has, I think, the right take on this.

    This Is Not a Test: It’s perfectly reasonable to reject a candidate because of his religious views.

    However, what Article VI does not do, and was never intended to do, is deny me the right to say, as loudly as I may choose, that I will on no account vote for a smirking hick like Mike Huckabee, who is an unusually stupid primate but who does not have the elementary intelligence to recognize the fact that this is what he is. My right to say and believe that is already guaranteed to me by the First Amendment.

    Great stuff.

  10. doug
    December 21, 2007 at 10:11 am #

    Before we start parsing this one, we should remain rational enough to admit that Jews, at the hands of Nazi Germany, experienced a level of bigotry much greater and with more devastating impact than having Lawrence O’Donnell railing on Mormon’s on an irrelevant talk show.

    Agreed. Let’s also admit that Africans who were enslaved and brought to America experienced a level of bigotry much greater and with more devastating impact than having Lawrence O’Donnell railing on Mormon’s on an irrelevant talk show.

    In addition, it is important to admit that Native Americans (killed, driven from their lands, and discriminated against) experienced a level of bigotry much greater and with more devastating impact than having Lawrence O’Donnell railing on Mormon’s on an irrelevant talk show.

    Also, we can admit that…I dunno…I’m running out of straw men.

    This isn’t City Dogcatcher we’re talking about here. The president has to work on solving problems, negotiating international relations, determining the direction of the national science program, and loads of important things. That’s going to require a grounding in reality.

    Funny…Romney seems more than capable of doing those things. By all accounts he did a decent job running Massachusetts, he turned the Olympics around, and was a spectacularly successful businessman turning around and building large companies like Staples, Domino’s Pizza, etc.

  11. Connor
    January 11, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    Phil aptly illustrates the sheer bigotry in a recent interview done by Crunch Gear. The double standard amazes me.

  12. January 13, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    An applicable article:

    http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695242228,00.html

  13. February 5, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    I can’t be the only one to notice that Michael L. McKee is absolutely aching to shoot someone.

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