This evening my friend Momedy posted on Facebook a link to an interesting article about prejudice. Based on the article, she posed the question, “Is Mormon bashing socially acceptable?” Unfortunately, the answer still seems to be “Yes.”
Should it be, obviously, is ”No!” It’s a good article, and there were great comments on her thread. I made a study of the LDS Church in college, and since then have been to visit the public parts of the Temple in Salt Lake City. I should note (while many of those who know me well are saying “Wait, what?”) that I was raised Roman Catholic, and I have studied a LOT of religions – I find belief and faith fascinating, largely since I have very nearly none myself. I think of myself as a militant agnostic: I don’t know, and you don’t either.
I’ve found that the important part of any such study is to respect not only the beliefs in question but also the people who hold those beliefs, no matter what religion they identify with. Robert Heinlein said that one man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh – and it’s true, but it needs to be a belly laugh behind closed doors, in private, because the other guy is laughing just as hard at your beliefs. In the end, it is our ability to be simply polite to one another that will save us.
(Go read the article now, it’s short. I’ll wait.)
So, why do people still think it’s OK to disparage Mormons? I think it’s because the LDS church is still very young, in the broad sweep of history, and can still be considered to be in a “cult” stage of its evolution. The difference between a cult and a religion is time and money. The last time I checked on such things the LDS Church as an institution was able to keep several billion in cash on hand – these days, not as much as the Vatican, but a respectable sum. The money’s there, and over time, money can buy respectability. What the LDS Church hasn’t had is 2000 years of training people to expect that, hey, lots of people are Mormons and that’s fine. Christianity was a cult to start with, just as Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam were. That these are all considered mainstream religions now has everything to do with the numbers of faithful of these faiths and with the number of years that “everyone’s heard of them.” I have several friends who attend Unitarian services; the Unitarians don’t have much of an organization, but they’ve been around for nearly 500 years. Nobody really blinks anymore.
The good news? The LDS Church is growing up at a time when all the world’s connections are growing together faster than they ever have before. It won’t take 2000 years for Mormons to be completely mainstream and for Mormon bashing to be socially passé – it might take 200, but hopefully even that may be guessing wide. I believe in the power of the Internet to highlight this kind of irresponsible prejudice, shine a light on it, and get people to think before they talk.
You know who we can sit around and tell jokes about? Intolerant people. I met this guy once, he was so intolerant, he wouldn’t let his kid have a sherbert because all the store had left was rainbow. He was so intolerant, he had to ask for a different straw for his soda because he couldn’t bring himself to use one that might bend. He was so intolerant, he asked his wife not to discuss sex while they were having it. He was so intolerant, he was the only man Will Rogers didn’t like.
Are there better intolerance jokes out there? Any thoughts on the main point? Can’t we just all get along?