I am fascinated by the reaction to Lawrence O’Donnell’s criticism of Mormon orthodoxy. I understand why many Mormons would feel hurt by O’Donnell’s criticism. Personally, I don’t have a problem with O’Donnell’s criticism, in part, because I find it difficult to disagree with him and, in part, I have embraced the reality that my heritage, which has bestowed many privileges and opportunities upon me, is inseparably intertwined with various aspects of evil. Due to my own journey, I appreciate, however, how trying it can be to be associated with racism and the like for one’s religion.
That is all the more true when one believes that racism, polygamy, and the like are well behind us. Although I disagree because polygamous and racist doctrines continue to rear their ugly heads in our midst, often to the detriment of our children, even I have to admit that there has been progress.
I am wondering though, how any Mormon can possibly be surprised that other Americans would be afraid of us in light of our record of abusing the democratic process at the expense of our gay and lesbian neighbors. Proposition 22 only happened in 2000 and continues to be the precedent for an ongoing campaign against a vulnerable minority. As recently as in 2006, Gordon Hinckley chose to support Bill Frist’s efforts to enshrine discrimination in the United States Constitution.
How can it be that all those people who were so happy when the discrimination against Mormons of African descent was lifted, didn’t object when the next minority was targeted for discrimination? Did you think that this would not affect our own rights?
Thanks to our enduring discriminatory agenda, we are remaining in a poor position when our own rights are under assault.
The need for religious tolerance is predicated on the fact that religion is a matter of conscience, which means that religious obligations can only apply to believers. Believers who want to enjoy the benefits of citizenship in a world of religious diversity should not use their religious organizations to deny other people the benefits of citizenship and humanity.
Mitt Romney’s campaign is inadvertently but predictably shining the spotlight on the ugly reality of communal bigotry. Unfortunately, some of that light reveals our own reflections. There is good indication that we are not beyond institutional, cultural, doctrinal, and personal racism. It is all the more tragic that our leaders have chosen to appeal to our baser instincts once more before we had entirely put the ghosts of christmas past behind us.
Instead of getting angry at Lawrence O’Donnell, we need to ask ourselves how we can assure our fellow citizens that we will respect their rights. That begins with the rights of those who are the most different from ourselves.
If we want to assert our claims on citizenship then we better start recognizing the humanity of others. The most credible way to demonstrate our own commitment to the rights of others is to engage intolerant and illiberal behavior within our own community.
Therein lies the rub. Unfortunately, our leaders, past and present, remain a bad influence in matters of human rights. But until we take on their aggression against blacks, women, intellectuals, and gays and lesbians, we have no right to demand of Baptists and Hollywood liberals that they respect ours.
PS: For those of you who have missed it, here is Lawrence O’Donnell’s attack on Romney and orthodox Mormonism: