Mormons are just fine with differences of political opinion---so long as your views are conservative. They don't care if you are a member of the GOP, a full blown Libertarian, voted for Ross Perot, or even if you campaigned for Bo Gritz.
That's right. I am referring to the Bishop Paredes, who recently wrote about my senator (I live in Nevada) Harry Reid, basically sharing his opinion as a Bishop of the Mormon Church, that he found it difficult to accept Harry Reid could be a Mormon in good standing. As a Mormon (though to meet full disclosure I must admit I am an inactive Mormon) who is also a liberal, I am annoyed at this comment, but I am not surprised or offended. I am not offended because I know too many Mormons who are hypocrites to continue to be offended by seeing exactly what I already knew about them.
I am saying this on Veteran's Day for two very specific reasons.
1. This is a political post about Mormons and their perceptions, and as a liberal Mormon I have something to say about this.
2. As a liberal veteran, I break the mold yet again.
Again for the record, I was a liberal Mormon long before I became inactive, and my inactivity has nothing to do with my politics.
You see, Mormons are a special breed. On a cultural level, Mormons do some pretty strange things. They classify most of the world's population into two categories. There are Mormons and Jews, and there are Gentiles, which consists of everyone else. Yes, Mormons consider themselves a strange and peculiar people, right along with the Jewish people of the world. What? Do you think it an accident the original article written by Bishop Paredes was on The Jewish Journal?
Mormons also claim the Church does not direct any of its members towards any specific political affiliation, which is true. You will hear it again and again. The Church encourages participation in the political process without ever once endorsing any specific political party. I even grew up in an era where you would never hear anything political spoken from the pulpit, though the debate over gay marriage ended that. And though the Mormon Church does not espouse (see what I did there) any specific political party, it bleeds and sweats conservatism. Liberal Mormons are rare, and as such, Bishop Paredes could not contain his exultation when one lost his leadership role in the U.S. Senate.
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I opened with the fact that most Mormons don't care which political party you belong to, so long as it is conservative. I stand by that and I dare any Mormon to challenge the truth of that statement. I have seen from people I know personally, unspecified contests conducted to see who can run to the right faster and harder than the other Mormons they know. And believe me when I tell you it gets pretty frightening. I have debated toe-to-toe with some of these people, pointed out the hypocrisy of the GOP, only to have them retreat to the all-too-familiar trope, "Well, it's all politicians, not just Republicans." You see, one of the great truths of Mormon conservatism is that while 95% of Mormon conservatives vote a straight ticket with the Republican Party, you will never get more than half of them to say they are Republicans. They will swear oaths to affirm they are staunch independents or libertarians. But try asking them to mane one non-GOP issue they disagree with and they will go blank, blink, gulp for air like a carp, and then say they don't think the GOP goes far enough to preserve gun rights or eliminate the capital gains tax.
Another dirty secret: Most Mormons don't really hate President Obama. They are actually happy to see him be president. No, really. Most Mormon' anti-Obama sentiments are a knee-jerk reaction, rooted deeply in the historic racism of the Church's history and its people. Not to mention the firm doctrinal belief they are waiting for the historical moment when the U.S. Constitution is 'hanging by a thread,' when a Mormon will save the nation from its own demise. That's why so many Mormons had such a hard-on for Mitt Romney. They just forgot about subjectivity. Depending on who you talk to, The U.S. Constitution has been 'hanging by a thread' for most of our nation's history.
I grew up in Utah, so I understand Bishop Paredes' disconnect. Not his political disconnect, mind you, but his inability to comprehend the liberal position. I am okay with people disagreeing with my politics. I think the debate needs to happen. I actually believe it's healthy for the political process. However, I am a liberal Mormon, and as such I have no choice to accept the other side's legitimacy. The problem Bishop Paredes and his ilk have is they use their group-think mentality to collectively erase any part of cognition which might allow for the liberal philosophy to have any legitimate basis. They claim the reason they do not accept liberalism as legitimate is that the liberal ideology has shifted so much it has corrupted all of its original tenets. They say this with a straight face, too. Irony is not a strong card for conservatives, and even less of one for Mormons. They have all but forgotten Richard Nixon signed into law the EPA, that the tax rate during Eisenhower's Presidentcy was 92%, and that Ronald Reagan was in favor of reasonable gun control measures. Remind any Mormon of that, and they will most likely tell you they are more of a "conservative independent" than Republican.
One final example before I leave you to your day:
Mormons are a little shaky on regular history of the 19th Century. Mormon History and Utah history they have in spades, but general U.S. or World history of the 19th Century are real blind spots for Mormons. Ask a Mormon about the Second Great Awakening and you will get the Joseph Smith Story. Ask about the Bill of Rights in the 19th Century and you will hear dozens of "true" stories about Mormon persecution. Ask about Westward expansion and you will get more stories about Mormons trying to get to Zion, complete with hardships and fortitude. Ask them how immigrants fared during the Gilded Age (1875-1900) and you will get stories about Mormons immigrating' to and settling different parts of Utah.
One of the many charges leveled against me is that I am a communist or a socialist or some kind of Socialistic Fascist, though I am still trying to figure out how that is possible, seeing the goal of socialism is the dissolution of government and fascism is the strengthening of government. Ask your conservative Mormon friends about the Law of Consecration. Then ask them to explain the difference between The law of Consecration and Socialism. After they tell you that the Law of Consecration is based on voluntary participation (as mandated by The Mormon Church), ask them the same question again, because there is no real difference. Ask about Collectivism and the myriad of Utopian efforts during the 19th Century, and Mormons will look at you because all they know is that mean people did their best to stop Mormons from being able to live their lives in peace or as a Utopian collective. Ask them to read up on the popularity of Utopian movements in America during early to mid 1800's which helped inspire the mechanics (if not the doctrine itself) of The Law of Consecration. But because I believe in universal health care for all Americans, I'm some kind of Commie Bastard.
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Now, of course Bishop Paredes apologized for the appearance that what he had to say had any real connection to his being a Bishop and that connection having anything to do with temple worthiness. For those who are wondering about that, I will tell you it's business as usual. There are a lot of Mormons who simply have an embarrassing level of hubris when anything related to or even peripherally associated with theology. They simply lack the ability to comprehend how anyone can see the world differently. In that regard, they are a strange and peculiar people.
Of course I will come under fire from some Mormon for saying these things. Not much, as mine is not a popular blog, but some. To those people, feel free to share your anger and outrage. Feel free to comment and to rail against my position. Accuse me of generalizing, exaggerating, and perpetuating stereotypes. Do whatever helps you sleep at night.