and so my needs are great

1/31/12

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the “Y Mountain” in Provo, as seen from my Grandma’s old place

Let’s get a few things straight about this Mormon thing before we go back to talking about sex, grammar, and half-baked grand unifying theories of pop culture. I’ve spent the last day hearing variations on the following themes:

• I’m a bigot for singling out a particular group’s belief system

• If you substitute “Judaism” for “Mormonism” in the article, it would never have been published

• They had the same worries about JFK and his Catholicism, and he turned out fine

• I’m actually just shilling for Obama’s reelection

• The New York Times is a liberal rag that’ll print anything to get its weak-kneed readership into a lather.

Indulge me in a thought experiment. In many ways, I’ve never understood why we can’t be honest with our feelings concerning religion. Besides “not hurting the feelings of the ones you love,” I don’t get why expressing an opinion about a belief system is verboten. Here’s the Wikipedia definition of bigotry:

…persons hostile to those of differing sex, race, ethnicity, religious belief or spirituality, nationality, language, sexual orientation, and age…

To me, bigotry is intolerance of a trait you had no control over. That fits every item in the list except one: religion. While you can’t help being raised in a certain religion, you eventually advance to an age where continuing that faith is a choice. In a free country, you have the right to practice a certain religion, and I have a right to have an opinion about it.

Obviously, in the real world, it isn’t so simple – Judaism is a different case, because the religion and the ethnicity are so intertwined, and because recent history (the last 75 years) begs prudence and sensitivity. And honestly, if you’re the kind of guy who endlessly talks shit about everybody’s faith, you’re going to stop being invited to parties. (cue shot of my mailbox covered with cobwebs)

But I hold fast to the idea in the abstract: it is okay to have an opinion about religion. And further, some religions are different than others. Some, viewed through the lens of history, through the language of their leaders, and the politics they affected, cause more concern than others. And a Mormon placed in the most powerful position in the world causes me concern.

I wasn’t around in 1960 when the same issues were allegedly brought up about JFK and his Catholicism, but there are some important differences. During the election, both Jackie Kennedy and JFK himself expressed how he wasn’t a particularly good Catholic (something we now know to be, um, accurate) and he made an outright promise to the nation that no church would affect his decision-making process.

Besides, Catholicism was changing (Vatican II was gurgling in the upper chambers) and the very nature of “being Catholic” was – and is – completely different from the essence of modern Mormonism. In short, you could be kinda Catholic, and you could kinda think the Pope was infallible, but let’s be honest: there was plenty of wiggle room.

There is no wiggle room in the LDS Church. It’s binary; you either have your “temple recommend” or you don’t. You’ve either been sealed to the post-existence, or you haven’t. You either believe the church President is a living Prophet with a divine link to God… or you’re lapsing into Jack-Mormonhood.

Mitt Romney, as we’ve now learned, has affirmed that he is not a pick-n-choose Mormon, but a full adherent to the faith. Line upon line, precept upon precept, Romney has said he “would seek the guidance of Providence in making decisions”. If you think that doesn’t mean consulting with church elders, one in particular, I don’t know what to say.

I want someone to ask Romney point-blank: Which document would you foremost uphold in your Presidency – the Constitution or the Book of Mormon? I guarantee you he will not answer.

That may not bother you. That’s awesome. It bothers me, however. Go ahead and say that’s just me “shilling for Obama” if it makes you feel better. If chalking it up to pure cynical politics allows you to disregard the argument, go for it.

Would I trust a President Perry not to carpet-bomb Iran for some nutty evangelical reason? Would I trust President Lieberman to prioritize New York City’s interests over Israel’s? Would I trust President Harry Reid to keep church elders out of our business? No, no and no. That’s my opinion, something the Constitution allows for.

As for the usual complaints about the New York Times from all you conservatives out there, please, for the love of God, give it a rest. Your arguments are based on anecdotal bias, false equivalency, and a desire to disregard any information you don’t agree with by impugning the source.

When progressives fault Fox News, they do it by pointing out factual errors – or in the case of “The Daily Show”, by consistently showing how the pundits contradict themselves. When conservatives fault the New York Times, they blame the fact that it’s the New York Times.

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rocking the NYT 1990-style

Sometimes I wish I understood religion in an emotional way. While I’ll always opt for the opiate of music, dialogue, stories and science for my version of religious ecstasy, I do occasionally long for the comfort of belonging and believing. This shortcoming has always led me to being impolitic and vaguely Aspergian when it came to faith. You true believers scare me sometimes, and I don’t want you running the country, but I salute you and your spirit all the same.

0 thoughts on “and so my needs are great

  1. Paula

    When Obama was elected, my son came home from school with news that (according to another kid at school) now Obama will be giving all the money to the black people.
    I didn’t believe it for a minute.
    Turns out I was right. Whoever told that kid that Obama would be issuing black people a free ride was wrong.
    Which brings me to your point about Romney. You sound a little like that school kid to me. “Romney’s church and its people will get all the green jello [power] if the dude’s elected.” Nah. I believe you are wrong about Romney and his church. I think the guy will do what he can with his job like Obama has. He’s not in it for his church.
    P.S. That’s a lot of hair in that picture, man.

    Reply

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