Accusations of bigotry are objectively worse than accusations of apostasy.

In the back and forth between the more progressive and the somewhat conservative blogs and voices in the online Mormon blog universe (aka bloggernacle), one common complaint is that the conservatives accuse the progressives of apostasy (not following the prophets, ignoring the scriptures, mingling the gospel with false philosophies) and the progressives accuse the conservatives of bigotry (racism, misogyny, sexiism, homophobia).

This is true. In my own limited, subjective experience, the accusations of apostasy tend to be implied whereas the accusations of bigotry are more explicit – and accusations of apostasy tend to be more general (“Failing to support the Proclamation on the Family is apostasy”), whereas accusations of bigotry call people out by name (“John Doe is a racist for failing to support immigration reform”), but I could be wrong in my impressions here, and my argument doesn’t hang on these observations.

However, I don’t think accusations of bigotry and apostasy are equal opposites.  In fact, I think the accusations of bigotry are objectively worse because they can destroy lives, whereas accusations of apostasy are at best (outside of certain rarefied instances) annoyances.

The church seems to have left behind the era of September Six style purges.  I read in the Ensign that President Monson, when he was a mission president, never sent a single missionary home (considering the downright evil things I saw some missionaries do on my mission, this surprised me when I read it).  Accusing someone of apostasy does not quite have the sting it used to.

Now perhaps if you actually work for the church, this might be a problem, but even then I have my doubts.  I know of someone who worked at BYU; someone scoured the internet to find everything written by that person that could be made to sound apostate (mostly by taking them out of context) and forwarded it to that person’s supervisor.  After a long conversation with his supervisor, nothing happened.  He kept the job.  End of story.

Maybe you won’t get a calling, or you might get transferred from Gospel Doctrine teacher to Nursery leader (having done both, I actually love the nursery).  That is not a big deal.

The worst outcome is you get an overly full of himself bishop or stake president who decides to take you to church court and gets you kicked out of the church.  However, this outcome is unlikely. To have it go that far would require multiple steps: Someone accuses you of apostasy.  That person takes it to the bishop or other leader (this is actually rare, but it still happens too often). Usually, at this point, the leader listens to the member’s concerns, promises to look into it, and then does nothing (or maybe calls you in for an interview and then lets the matter drop).  The leader still has to take it to the high council and whatever other leaders have jurisdiction (bishop, stake president).  At this point, you get the chance to make your own case, at which point the issue will die nearly every time. The church as a whole seems to be past the 80s style purges that many intellectuals still complain about, but individual leaders can still exercise unrighteous dominion. However, I know of people who have managed to appeal to Area and/or General authorities and get the court quashed before it happens.

At worst, your church membership is in jeopardy (outside of the rare instances of actually working for the church). That stinks, and if an accusation of apostasy online leads to that, I would stand by you and condemn the leader who went that far (outside of something extreme like you calling for the assassination of the prophet or something along those lines).  One could argue and excommunication like this puts your eternal salvation in jeopardy, which is worse than any this-world consequences, but I do not believe that God would recognize an excommunication brought about by unrighteous dominion.

But it’s still not as bad as accusing someone of bigotry.  Accusations of bigotry ruin lives and careers.  People with jobs and families to support can find their lives in tatters because of accusations of bigotry.

Justine Sacco may have deserved what she got, but it seems like her initial tweet was meant to poke fun at racist white attitudes, not express them (however, it was a really idiotic tweet).  She still lost her job before her plane landed.

However, she’s rich and will bounce back.  Her case shows that merely being accused of racism is enough to lose a job.  Someone like me whose annual salary is below the poverty line can’t afford to have sudden job loss like that.

Of course we also have several cases of people losing jobs and positions due to prop 8 support.  The common response on the left is “they deserved it for being bigots.”  Perhaps, but I doubt it.  However, I believe it’s quite clear that losing your job is objectively worse than losing your position as Sunday school teacher for 13 year olds (or even your church membership – at least you still have a job after that).

Someone who stumbles across a post online when searching my name during a job search or contract renewal consideration is not going to click through, take time to consider all the nuances of a group blog, my individual posts and comments, and then make a decision.  In a field where there are 200-300 applications for every position, they are more likely to just go “well, we can hire someone who’s not a bigot” and toss my file out.  And it depresses me that many of those in the Bloggernacle would think that was just fine.

Whereas the most serious consequence of an apostasy accusation would have to go through multiple steps before it ever got that far, in cases of accusations of bigotry, there aren’t really any steps – the employer or potential employer searches your name, is glad for any reason to toss out an application, and moves on.  Or people call and harass your boss and threaten boycotts, and the boss fires you out of self-preservation. And, unlike a church court, you may never get to defend yourself.

One person basically said that I deserve to be “otherized and marginalized” for associating with M*. Another person even told me “well, you deserve to lose your job if you associate with those people at M*.”  I don’t think my wife and nine kids deserve it (but then I’ve been attacked for having too many kids).

In essence, this is bullying behavior.  Bullies do not suffer from a lack of self-esteem.  Instead, bullies see themselves as so superior to other people, they believe the others deserve their treatment.  Even if it leads to job loss and ruined lives.

Of course, as one person has already said, many of the more progressive minded who are reading this may just write it all off with “you can’t make yourself a victim here.  You’re a straight white male.  Boo hoo.  Straight white male tries to claim victim status.  Here’s the world’s smallest violin.  Nice try, buy you are privileged and don’t deserve sympathy.”

That kind of statement ignores my own individual circumstances and treats me as a series of labels rather than a human being.  I become an “it” rather than “Ivan Wolfe.”  That, to me, shows where the real bigotry is.

 

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About Ivan W.

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was just shy of 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has five kids and four stepkids.

55 thoughts on “Accusations of bigotry are objectively worse than accusations of apostasy.

  1. Over at a certain MoFem blog, much ado was made over a meeting the founder of OW had with her bishop and SP. It turned out okay, and she acknowledged neither leader had been told to discipline her in any manner. But she made a point to say the threat of church dicipline has a “chilling effect” (lawyerese) and implied church displine ought to be done away with. I think apostacy is defined pretty well in the handbook, and given the appeal process that exists to general authorities and even the FP, someone who is “innocent” doesn’t have much to worry about. Many of us stay anonymous on the internet precisely because of the worldy connotations that are given our conservative positions.

  2. Well, I can understand the concept of a chilling effect. I often felt like graduate school had a “chilling effect” on conservative views. However, as bad as a chilling effect in the church could be, I would hope that it’s clear losing your job (or being tossed out of consideration for a job) is a whole lot worse.

  3. Having been in a bishopric and on a stake high council, I think it is important to emphasize that the Church disciplinary process is very slow-moving and is always willing to give the benefit of the doubt to somebody accused of true apostasy. And to be clear: it is not apostasy to disagree with the Church’s stance on something. For example, there were many Mormons who disagreed with the Church’s stance supporting Prop. 8 in California, but none of them were ever disciplined for disagreeing. So, an “orthodox” Mormon accusing somebody of apostasy is not doing any real harm to that person, whereas a “progressive” Mormon accusing somebody of bigotry is truly doing harm.

    There is another point that I think bears repeating (I have stated it several times on this blog): if you are a progressive Mormon and some anonymous person on the internet accuses you of not following the Brethren or even of specifically being an apostate, who cares? Your righteousness does not depend on what some person on the internet thinks of you. Get a dose of self-esteem and realize that your righteousness depends on 1)your personal relationship with God 2)what you spouse thinks of you and 3)what your bishop and stake president and (perhaps) your quorum leader thinks of you. The person on the internet has no authority over you, so their opinion is literally meaningless.

    As Ivan points out, most “conservative” claims of apostasy are general claims. If you don’t follow the Church’s teaching on same-sex marriage, you are going down the wrong road. This is definitely true (imho). But who cares about my opinion? As I said it has no effect on you in the Church. What is more important in God’s eyes is your opinion, the opinion of your spouse (especially if you are sealed in the temple) and the opinion of your Church leaders. And this is a *general* claim. It is not a specific claim aimed at a specific person.

    Ivan is correct to point out that claims of bigotry, calling out an individual person by name, are potentially harmful to a person’s career. People who do such things should be ashamed of themselves.

  4. I know of someone who worked at BYU; someone scoured the internet to find everything written by that person that could be made to sound apostate (mostly by taking them out of context) and forwarded it to that person’s supervisor. After a long conversation with his supervisor, nothing happened. He kept the job. End of story.

    I happen to know this sort of situation has happened more than once, to more than one person, and that it can be extremely trying and emotionally scarring, and that it can result in more than a small chat with a supervisor.

    You’ll need to add this in to adjust the judges’ scores in this, the Grief Olympics.

  5. Anonymous friend –

    I’m sure it’s happened more than once, and some instances were even worse than what I’m aware of.

    I still don’t see how that makes it objectively worse. I’m not saying accusations of apostasy are benign or harmless or lack any trials. “Extremely trying and emotionally scarring” is not the same as “life financially ruined.”

  6. In the case of BYU employment, “Extremely trying and emotionally scarring” can go along with “life financially ruined.”

    In essence, this post appears to say something like the following: “I can call you apostate because it won’t really hurt you. But you can’t call me a bigot because I’m entitled to employment and even if I am bigoted, that shouldn’t hamper my employment for any reason.” Of course, this reads like entrenched privileged thinking.

  7. Anonymous friend –
    “In the case of BYU employment, “Extremely trying and emotionally scarring” can go along with “life financially ruined.””

    I acknowledge that in the above post – but working for the church is a rarefied instance. Accusations of bigotry can have a lot more long range and long lasting impact.

    And nowhere above do I say that accusations of apostasy are okay. You taking it that way only indicates the kind of uncharitable thinking that leads to accusations of bigotry and apostasy.

  8. Right, because true> charitable thinking lines up sins and grievances on a linear scale in order to objectively compare them, making sure to keep score according to What Hurts Worse. Nothing fits more snugly together with “charitable thinking” than “objectivity.”

  9. Anonymous Friend –

    I’m not sure what your point is. If you could explain it without the sarcasm/snark, I’d be genuinely interested in a counter-argument.

  10. Anonymous Friend, I am going to assume that you are not aware of all of the ins and outs of the Mormon blog world, but actual personal accusations that “xx person is an apostate” are extremely rare, both from “orthodox” and “unorthodox” Mormons. In fact, I cannot recall a single instance of somebody saying, “you are an apostate” in more than a decade of being involved in the Mormon blog world. What you do see, actually quite often is, “I don’t think that position is in line with Church policy” or “you seem to be ignoring the teachings of the prophets, which are…” I fail to see how this could possibly ruin the career of anybody at BYU or anywhere else. And as a point of fact, unorthodox Mormons are just as quick as orthodox Mormons to call out others on supposed transgressions — they just concentrate on issues like “not being civil” and “not favoring equality.” On the other hand, the claim that xx person (using the name and calling the person out in a post) is a “bigot” happens all the time, and almost always from unorthodox Mormons. So, your comments appear to have little knowledge of how the actual Mormon blog world works.

  11. Let me say that calling someone an apostate or a bigot should be a rare event. And calling an entire blog or group apostate or bigot because one person may have expressed such thoughts does not mean the whole group has gone astray in either direction.

    I have no doubt that recent statements on other blogs about statements made recently on this blog have a little to do with this post. Such statements can be very harmful. Call a person an apostate, and let it get back to his/her ward, and the gossip can last forever. Call a person a bigot, and the same thing can happen.

    There are certain loaded words which we must be very careful in choosing to use. And when we do use them, be careful in how we use them. Nazi, racist, misogynist, hater, apostate, bigot, are just some of these words. These words work well to shut down a person or conversation, yet do nothing to help people understand one another or to change minds. They are based on hatred, negative emotion and fear.

    I remember many years ago being on a conservative email list (even moderating it for several years). Then came the day when someone thought I had become too liberal and labeled me a Signaturi (uber-liberal/apostate as in Signature Books is viewed by some). That shut down the conversation immediately, and I chose to leave that list, after being on it for over 15 years. Why? Because I knew the list had reached a point where some were too eager to hold onto their beliefs that they were unable to consider other ideas without attacking first. It was no longer worth my while (though some in the group still ask me if I’ll ever return).

    Recent claims that M*, as a group, are racist bigots, was a very frustrating time for me. I felt I was being held responsible for someone else’s statements, whether I agreed with them or not. Some people’s words were being quoted out of context, and because others in context were not good, they made us all look bad. Interestingly, the worst posts handled themselves, as Geoff B, me and others tried to put some sanity into them – showing we are not the bigots other posts were claiming. Being Libertarian meant that voices should be heard (within reason), and to let the reasoning of thinking minds moderate the outliers. But it is a process that was attacked before it could work itself through. Freedom is an ugly thing, but like the ugly duckling, ends up looking better than the average-looking mocking ones in the pond.
    In a world of charity, there should be no calls of bigotry or apostasy. There should be loving guidance and counsel for others. Sadly, we do not yet live in that world, but I still hope for it. Hope for the day when the lamb and the lion, the liberal and conservative, and wackos from all spectra will sit down together in peace.

  12. Anonymous friend hasn’t answered the million dollar question. Is LDS opposition to gay marriage bigoted?

  13. This is something I’m scratching my head over, as I increasingly find myself “the man without an LDS blog (or Facebook group) he feels comfortable with”. Too many go off on tangents, or hold to a certain ideology. In short, I usually feel like an Iron Rod among Liahonas, or a Liahona among Iron Rods, or sometimes both at the same time.

  14. Isn’t the dynamic you describe here — where accusations of your association with bigotry run the risk of ruining your career — reason enough to make sure you’re NOT associating with the bigotry? Why focus on the hurt the accusations might cause you when even without those accusations, it’s possible an employer will discover the association on his own and take action accordingly? I’m not trying to be flippant, I just truly think you’re missing an obvious problem here.

  15. “Let me say that calling someone an apostate or a bigot should be a rare event.”

    I’d go even further – I think both should be very, very, very rare events – if they happen at all. There’s too much name calling and not enough attempts to act charitably towards others’ views.

  16. Aaron –

    Because if an employer types my name in, what’s most likely to come up are my own personal posts on this blog, not other peoples’ posts. The employer is not likely to spend time poking around others’ posts.

    On the other hand, if they come across a post on another blog that says “this guy associates with bigots” they’re not likely to click through and read my personal posts. They’ll just take that post at it’s word.

    And, with the (possible) exception of jettboy, I don’t think people at M* are bigots.

  17. Also, Aaron, your comment seems to smack of justifying accusations of bigotry. You appear to be saying ‘if you are accused of bigotry, it’s your own fault for associating with these people. It was going to ruin your life either way.’

    Please correct me if I am wrong. What are you saying? And do you think that it’s okay to call people out by name for bigotry on blogs and social media?

  18. Aaron B, I think you are missing the point that accusations of bigotry can have a very long-lasting effect *whether or not the person really is a bigot*. I hope we can agree that calling somebody a bigot when they are not is a pretty uncharitable thing to do. And associating with bigots? Wow, that is even more difficult to disprove, but the effects are really, really lasting. And it puts all of the onus on the person who is supposedly associating with bigots. If you are not associating with bigots, how do you prove it or disprove it? Is it reasonable for you to know all of the things that your friends/associates/family/co-workers have ever said or done, and then who decides if they are bigoted or not? I hope you can see that this is not a fair standard by which to judge anybody.

  19. I’m in favor of less vitriol and name calling. It is the internet however. Any degree of anonymity seems to breed nastiness. I would protect myself and my reputation – even if its not “fair”.

    Even without the swipes at your character, being completely transparent about your identity on the internet brings a lot of other problems. A potential employer could also notice that you’re simply active in an online Mormon community – and not particularly like what you have to say in your posts. Or *they* can make the connection between you and jettboy on their own.

    Again, the name calling is stupid, but you have to take some responsibility for posting your first and last name on the internet.

  20. The flaw I see with the logic of your post is that you mix what people actually write themselves with what others write about them in response to what they’ve actually written. The example you give (Justine Sacco losing her job) is a clear case of someone’s (very idiotic) personal writings getting her fired. It had *nothing* to do with anyone calling her a racist per se, she provided all of the ammunition herself. I see that as fundamentally different from someone responding to something they observe. The fact that her chosen profession was in the PR sector just makes this story all the more ridiculous/ironic.

    I highly doubt that what any “liberal” posts in response to what a “conservative” writes in the Bloggerrnacle would have any effect what-so-ever on a job or interview. Now what you write yourself may have a huge impact on a job, interview, or service opportunity, as such one should only write what one is willing to have very publicly aired. (I also highly doubt that a conservative accusing me of apostasy has any effect at all either.)

    But anyone would do well to remember that anything one puts on the internet is being logged by various servers in near real time and almost none of it disappears.

  21. One other comment/response: A poster above wrote:
    “Anonymous friend hasn’t answered the million dollar question. Is LDS opposition to gay marriage bigoted?”

    (Note: I am NOT Anonymous Friend)
    I would say the LDS Church’s position is not bigoted – because the Church is very careful to separate the activity of engaging in homosexual acts from the state of being homosexual. (Note this is a VERY recent evolution of approach on the Church’s part.) The Church has supported laws which guarantee the housing rights (and other forms of anti-discrimination) for homosexuals. And it has issued statements calling for civility and compassion. So (to use a cliche) the Church has worked to separate the sin and sinner. To the extent they can successfully do that I think the Church can reasonably claim not to be bigots in this instance. But if you read some talks or Church pamphlets for two or three decades ago, I don’t think you can reach the same conclusion for that time period. Reading material from Church head quarters we were given as missionaries in the 1980s was bigoted. No other description really fits.

    Having said all that, I must admit there are *currently* bigots in the Church who point to the Church’s position that the behavior is sinful as a justification of their attitudes. Obviously they don’t understand the Church’s actual position.

    A similar thing happened with the priesthood ban. Go back and read some of the statements made over the pulpit at various General Conferences from the 1860s to the 1950s – there is simply no way to conclude those weren’t (incredibly) racist statements. There were people who joined the Church because they were racists and thought they had found a home. As an example of the racist attitudes – when my Aunt served a mission in the Southern States in the 1960s she met many members of the Church who were amazed/disgusted that she thought black people actually had souls (their term, the doctrinally correct term is spirits – or to put it more bluntly they did not believe blacks were actually human)! Her mission president (acting on directions from SLC) told the missionaries that were NOT to teach black people. That if they tracked into them they were to ask directions to a location, or ask for a glass of water, but they were NOT to mention the Gospel or Church in any context.

    The Church’s official statements and policies on both the priesthood ban and homosexuality in the past were full of racist and bigoted statements – but the current policy statements are not.

  22. I have no idea what chris’s point is.

    John Harvey – I agree with most of your second comment, but I don’t like the first one. You and Aaron seem to take a “blame the vicitm” mentality.

    As for Justine Saaco – you really, really have the facts wrong on that one. The only reason she lost the job was do to an internet mob decideing to turn her into the latest object of destruction. I admit her tweet was dumb, but from everything I’ve read, she really intended to make fun of racist attitudes rather than express them (but who knows for sure?).

    I honestly believe that if I were judged soley on what I wrote, other than perhaps a general prejudice against Mormons, very little (if any) of my M* output would cause me to lose a job. TT’s post at FPR, however, could cause an employer to toss out my application or decide not to renew.

    Saying it would be my fault for what I’ve written is like saying the girl really shouldn’t have worn such a provocative outfit (and, yes, that’s an extreme example, but when I consider what it would do to me and my family if I lost a job, I think I’m justified in that comparison).

    And you totally glossed over how people lost jobs and positions merely for donating to anti-Prop 8 groups. Are you okay with that?

  23. It’s an interesting conundrum, that one can never really defend against being called a bigot (or racist or whatever). It’s a particularly pernicous conspiracy theory – all evidence against it is actually evidence for it.

    You can try to point to other aspects of your life that indicate non-bigotry, but those get brushed off as cover.

    You can show you have good friends that belong to the category that you are suppossedly prejudiced against – but then you get the “some of my best friends are black” snark thrown back at you (which is odd, because the original problem was that someone who claimed that was lying – his only “friends” might be the shoe shine boy and the bellhop – but now anyone with close friends can’t use that as defense due to well poisoning).

    You can just flat out deny the charge, but then you’re attacked as being in denial.

    There is no good way to defend against accusations of bigotry, and once they are out there and attached to your name, there are potential consequences for the rest of your life.

    That alone should cause many commentators in the ‘Nacle to be more charitable, but instead it seems to cause some to relish the power that gives them, the same way a bully relishes his power over others.

  24. Regarding losing a job or being boycotted for your political or religious views. That’s rough, I agree. But when we go out into the public sphere while we have the freedom to say almost whatever we want, we do not have the freedom to choose the consequences of our speech. We often teach our youth the same thing with respect to sin, they can choose whatever activity they want to engage in, but they can’t choose the consequences. What we write is the same, I can’t control how anyone responds to what I write (and being a liberal in Utah I often get challenged for my views). But I can decide what is worth writing about. I guess that is blaming the victim to some extent. But I think that is just how the world works.

    As an example, I have a Ph.D. in economics earned at a top ten school in my field – but BYU (where many LDS scholars want to end up) would not even have interviewed me because of some of my beliefs and practices. Never mind that I had/have a current temple recommend, was serving on a high council, and had served in a bishopric (prior to that) at the time I was “actively” on the job market. But that outcome/result was OK with me because I had no intention or desire to be employed by BYU. I knew one of the career paths I was severing by making certain statements and having certain attitudes was BYU employment, and I was willing to “preemptively” give that up. Now if jobs had been a lot scarcer when I graduated, and a BYU position was a job I really wanted to be considered for, would I have been so flippant about it? Probably not. But my point is I chose what things I said knowing there where consequences that would attach to the paper trail (electronic trail today) I was leaving behind. Knowing I wanted to end up in Utah and knowing the job market for economists is incredibly small (basically about eight major employers max in Utah, which only sporadically hire – maybe once every three or four years each) dropping BYU from that list significantly reduced the possible job pool. But my point is it was an informed choice. I accepted the natural consequences of my behavior.

  25. That’s a nice analogy, John: “We often teach our youth the same thing with respect to sin, they can choose whatever activity they want to engage in, but they can’t choose the consequences.”

    I’m a sinner, then? and posts like TT’s over at FPR are just natural consequences I should accept? I should never try to explain why that sort of behavior really should be unacceptable, but instead I should just suck it up? Wow.

    I don’t agree, but I’m not sure how I can make you see it from my viewpoint. You’re very secure in your world, apparently.

  26. The labels of racist, sexist, misogynist, bigot, and homophobic hater, are to be worn proudly, as a badge of honor, in this the age of irrationality. Embrace them. Cherish them. Recognize these labels for what they are: indicators of a bright, discerning mind, and evidences of a healthy moral conscience.

  27. I don’t think I’d go that far, Xenophon, since actual bigots of all stripes do exist (I have a relative that used to state he was sure that black people had to be inferior, because white people did all the good stuff in history – I tried to get him to read Guns, Germs, and Steel, but he wouldn’t have any of that “liberal nonsense”).

    However, I have noticed that racism is becoming an overused term. When I spent a year teaching and coaching at a jr. high, I was suprised at two things: 1.) That “gay” was still an acceptable slur among the kids (I know it was in my day, but I was sure it would have been replaced by something else – I did tell every kid that used it to stop doing that, though), and 2.) that racist just meant “something I don’t like.” If someone tripped and dropped their books, that was “racist.” If someone didn’t like broccoli, they were a “food racist.” Being assigned lots of homework was “racist.”

  28. Ivan’s point is a good one, and I think it explains a lot of the liberal ethos in the church.

    As a sensitive liberal, typically concerned with how I am percieved by my non-member liberal friends, I am accutely aware of belonging to a “bigoted, racist” church. As Ivan points out, there is nothing worse in today’s culture than being thought of as bigoted or racist. So being Mormon is extremely difficult, because that is our perception in the outside world. Those like myself, who are surrounded by a liberal culture they admire, take great pains to distance ourselves from “those other Mormons” from which the accusations arise.

    For liberals, support of same-sex marriage is often a defense mechanism, like Peter saying “I know not this man.” Defense of traditional marriage is untennable in modern intellectual circles, so LDS liberals have surrendered en masse, falling all over each other trying to leave the sinking ship. Liberal Mormons extreme horror at being percieved as “one of those Mormons” puts them in an antagonistic relationship with “those Mormons,” and often leads them to adopt the language of the Gentiles in describing conservative believers. For a liberal Mormon, concerned with appearances, it is far more preferable to be seen as “apostate” by members, than to be seen as “bigoted” by non-members. We fear man more than God.

    Of course Conservative Mormons likely also feel the shame of the stigma against them. But they don’t respect liberal intellectuals, and don’t mind being hated by people they don’t respect. It is much more difficult for liberal Mormons, who admire and aspire to the Great and Spacious Building of liberal enlightenment. Priority number one is to create a special space for themselves as New Order Mormons, who retain only those non-offensive aspects of their religion.

    This dynamic explains much of my own blogging behavior, particularly my desire to relate to Gentiles as Christ relates to Rome. I’d rather be percieved by the Gentiles as a strange madman, who believes in “a kingdom not of this world,” a mystic, a Quaker, a sage, a wanderer in the wilderness. I’d rather not be percieved as being in the same group as the “bigots and racists:” conservative crusaders, Christian coalitions, take back America, Evangelicals, orthodox Mormons, fundamentalists. Nothing is more abhorent to the vanity of a liberal Mormon than this association.

  29. I should mention, not that it really matters but it somewhat relates, that when I was a graduate student at BYU, I was accussed of being apostate.

    I had a student who insisted on writing essays on why evolution was evil, evil, evil. I told her to find some other topic to write on, since all her sources were the Ensign magazine and the assignments in the class were focused on using academic sources and addressing academic debates.

    Her father posted an open letter to me on his website and sent me an e-mail, all accussing me of being on the side of those liberals at BYU who were infiltrating it and trying to destroy the faith of students.

    I ignored the e-mail and nothing much happened. Make of it what you will. It was an interesting episode, at the very least. For all I know, the open letter is still out there, somewhere.

    [I am not claiming the same level of persecution as someone who may have had to endure hours or weeks or months of scrutiny over the actions of some overzealous Phraisee like the incindents I and Anonymous Friend discussed above]

  30. Judenfreund was an accusation of people who were guilty by association for being friendly with the Jews. I must admit, it’s very strange to see liberals bringing up guilty by association with what they consider bigotry, because not too long ago liberals were all about understanding and cultural relativism, and all that.

  31. chris suggested the association is like “Judenfreund” (a non-Jew who associated with Jews).

    I do associate with Jews and do not mind associating with them. Thank you.

    That said, your intent is saying that if one hangs out with bigots means they are also bigots, has some problems to it.

    Jesus hung out with taxpayers, bigots, and others. He hung out with Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, who would not associate with Samaritans. Is that not a form of bigotry? Is Jesus guilty by association? Would you slander him?

    Several prophets of the restoration believed in the curse of Cain, what we now know is a racist (and inaccurate and wrong) concept. Does this mean that because we are Mormon, and some Mormons were racist, that we are guilty by association?

    That some members today are still getting used to the idea of such ideas being rejected by the Church as being wrong (Jettboy, and even some BYU professors of religion), are we all guilty by association if they retain their church membership (or job at BYU)?

    Yes, we should actively work to end such thoughts. But attacking a person, rather than helping him to understand the greater light, is perhaps the greater sin against the charity of Christ.

  32. If those who are regulars to this blog bring my name up one more time then I will resign from this blog. I am not what you all claim I am, and to say that I am while at the same time claiming how damaging it is accuse someone of such things is hypocrisy. In fact, I strongly request you strike my name out of this conversation altogether.

  33. Someone contacted me over e-mail to point out that TT actually only refers to me as “I. Wolfe” and so an internet search for my name likely won’t find that post.

    That ignores how internet searches work. Since it links directly to my post at M* (which has my full name) and some of the incoming links from the over 1500 social media links refer to me by name, it would still show up in internet searches of my name (and with 1500+ incoming links from social media not to mention any other incoming links from other blogs, it may wind up being a major result for a search of my name). At that point, it would be pretty clear which “I. Wolfe” it refers to.

  34. chris –
    I know what Judenfreund is, I just wasn’t sure what the point of bringing it up was. I’m still not clear on that point, but I just may be dense.

  35. Jettboy, you know I love you and am a big defender of yours. You really need to be more careful about the comments you leave on other blogs. I know you were just trying to be provocative, but being provocative has its costs, i.e., you must deal with the consequences of being provocative. There is no doubt in my mind that you are not a bigot, but most people are not going to know that. Your posts here have all been good, and I enjoy them, so I hope you continue to post on M*.

  36. Sheesh. Chris’ comment could not have been more clear (at least to me). He was saying that some people are accusing people at M* of being bigots because they associate with a supposed bigot, just as the Nazis accused people of being friendly to Jews just because they associated with them. He is pointing out that guilt by association is evil. And of course he is correct: as I said above, how can any reasonable person expect people to know all of the things all of our associates have ever said or written? Liberals were quick to defend Pres. Obama for associating with the terrorist Bill Ayers, and they raised an important point. You can’t go around blaming people for all of the things their friends/associates/relatives have done. People are responsible for their own actions, not the actions of all of the people around them.

  37. Goeff B, thanks and I know you have been nothing but supportive, and patient with me with those things you have disagreed. Nothing against you or M* in general. My comment still stands for those I know who post here that are not themselves usually finger pointers.

  38. Ivan,

    Genuinely I wish you all the best with getting/keeping your job.

    About the post, my thought is that no Latter-day Saint in academia needs anyone to accuse him/her of bigotry. It’s liable to be assumed based on simple affiliation with a religion that denied priesthood to blacks, denies it to women, and actively opposes same sex marriage not only in the church (which would be one thing) but also in the state.

    Sure, some people on hiring and review committees will know that there is variety of opinion in Mormonism like anything else. And so they might consider you as an individual who happens to be LDS (and also happens to blog here, which happens to be kinda dismissive of ‘the liberal agenda’ on average; but realistically they are not going to know much about Mormonism let alone dig into the curiosities of Mormon blogging).

    Unfortunately, though, some of our co-religionists reinforce the stereotype by the things they say (online). How would you propose to handle situations of that sort? Might it be just as damaging to academic job prospects for LDSs across the board (since we are talking about things as pragmatic as that) to do nothing or very little when some of our co-religionists say certain things?

    I do appreciate that you want to be considered as an individual and not lumped in with everything posted here. But it seems to me to be kind of a lot of nuance to ask for, when we all belong to a religion with a history such as ours.

  39. Ivan, I’m truly sorry you took my example as calling you a sinner. I was just trying to express the idea that actions have consequences and we can’t choose them. As Geoff B. says above in reference to jetboy: “. . . I know you were just trying to be provocative, but being provocative has its costs, i.e., you must deal with the consequences of being provocative.” That is the idea I was going for. We can chose our actions/words, but can’t chose or control how people respond to them.

    I just don’t get why people are surprised that donating to, or supporting, a controversial cause will anger those people who don’t like your chosen cause. In the case of Prop 8 a lot of people who supported homosexual rights got upset with those who actively worked against those rights. The result was they (the homosexual rights supporters) tried to retaliate against (what they viewed as) a very personal and forceful attack by striking back anyway they could. Economically just happened to be something available to them (among other things). Do I think it is sad that some people got a much more damaging response then they had expected? Absolutely. Do I think such retaliation caused significant economic harm in some cases? Absolutely. Do I think some of the retaliation was illegal (vandalism, physical harm, etc.) Absolutely. But was I surprised it happened? Not a bit.

    The current debates in society are very significant and serious. (I think everyone probably agrees on that point.) They will tend to stir up strong emotions on all sides. Part of our role (as the Church has reminded us in recent statements) is to not respond to vitriol with the same, but to act reasonably and with civility *even when* those opposed to our positions don’t act that way themselves.

  40. History tends to make new bigots and exonerate old heretics. Whether it’s culture or God that moves us to accept people/things we once thought unclean/wicked, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both. But I suspect we sometimes fight so hard against the progressive culture and cling to precedence that we close ourselves off to new directives.

  41. And nate, I think that kind of clinging is its own sort of vanity. I believe all that God has shown me I was wrong about, all that He does now show me I’m wrong about, and I believe He will yet show me I’m wrong about many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Such is the nature of revelation.

  42. John S. Harvey, I think that is exactly the point: Ivan Wolfe has done *nothing provocative.* He mostly writes book reviews or posts about science fiction. All he did was write a harmless comment warning about people dividing into tribes and all of a sudden he is a “bigot?” I don’t recall him ever posting on Prop 8. I mean the guy is just as mild as mild can be.

    This is the evil of the “guilt by association” lynch mob. The only reasonable response you can have when it comes to the OP is “wow, that’s really not cool for you to be accused of bigotry when you did nothing at all to even provoke such a response.”

  43. It is very convenient to be in a war where the opponents are not allowed to freely fight back. But it will eventually prove that the true battle is not the obvious one. Those of us who claim to be Christians would do well to remember that winning the principle is less important than the honor with which we conduct the battle itself. In the long sense, the principle has already been won.

  44. John Harvey –
    I’m sure you don’t mean to, but it seems clear you’re basically saying “don’t publicly take any conservative positions unless you’re willing to have your life ruined.” I don’t think people deserved to lose jobs for support of Prop 8 (well, maybe if their job was working for an anti-prop 8 group) in the same way that I don’t think people should lose jobs or church membership for opposition to Prop 8 or similar measures.

    You are basically excusing the behavior of bullies (even if you disagree with their tactics) and, as said above, blaming the victims for daring to have conservative opinions and act on them.

  45. I somewhat don’t like how this has somewhat become all about me, as if the accusations of bigotry against me were to vanish, I suddenly wouldn’t care. I would still care, because I find that these accusations (and ones of apostasy) are too carelessly thrown around, yet have the potential to do serious damage.

    I use my own experience because that’s what I’m most familiar with, but that doesn’t mean I consider this issue to be all about me.

  46. I wasn’t referring to you specifically Geoff – it was more the general trend of the discussion seemed to be headed that way. I don’t mind having some discussion of my life, since I brought it in in the initial post – just that it seemed to be heading toward being all about me.

  47. Some Mormon commentators like Lou Midgely and Bill Hamblin have argued that terms such as apostate, anti-Mormon and antichrist, when applied by them to some Mormons, are used as pure descriptives, and that therefore such people should be “proud to carry the label.” Midgely regrets that “the label antichrist . . . [is] so profoundly potent so as to make the Saints uncomfortable, thus preventing its use even when fully justified.”

    http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/defending-the-king-and-his-kingdom/

    I’d like to see this post as a rejection of all such thinking. Midgley rightly calls antichrist a label. Such words are labels only and have lost all value of description. Rameumpton says “that calling someone an apostate or a bigot should be a rare event” and Geoff B “that calling somebody a bigot when they are not is a pretty uncharitable thing to do.” This assumes there are times when it is, in fact, justified to call people “apostates” or “bigots,” but I can only think of one: when you want to label them as unworthy, of attention or consideration or, yes, maybe even a job. The sky’s the limit for implication. It’s pure shaming and otherizing by means of lexical warfare.

    But I’m not sure OP goes so far as to advocate banning the use of these terms in civil conversation. I disagree with OP’s premise that, in “objective” terms, “bigot” is a bigger beatin’ stick than “apostate.” He seems to define “objective” as “potential to compromise employment,” which is why “accusations of apostasy are at best (outside of certain rarefied instances [i.e., for church employees]) annoyances.”

    But how being effectively excommunicated by others of your faith possibly be a mere annoyance? What if you love the church more than your job? What if being attacked as an “apostate” is experienced as a religious and personal violation? What if that makes you suicidal?

    And why should it matter which term is worse? If they are being used as hostile labels, let’s all just quit using them. If you would not use it of someone you love, do not use it of others. It’s terrible to be on the receiving end, but FWIW, I think anyone who uses either term has a certain love of confrontation that would give any potential employer pause. It’s hate speech and it cuts both ways.

  48. Alex, I agree with 80% of what you just said, so thank you for your comment.

    However, I think Geoff B. covered your objection to my post in his first comment. You overestimate how damaging a charge of apostasy can be. In some cases, it can lead to being “effectively excommunicated” (by which, I guess, you mean community shunning instead of actual excommunication), but that’s rare. If you have a good relationship with your friends and fellow saints, they aren’t going to give a hoot for what some internet commentator says about you.

    However, charges of bigotry have much more potential for harm in depth and breadth, as discussed in various comments above. Bishops generally don’t do internet searches on members, whereas employers do. Also, if someone in your ward accuses of you apostasy to your face, you can defend yourself. As I discuss in comments above, the way societal discourse is, it’s almost impossible to defend oneself against charges of bigotry.

  49. Ivan, by way of hopeful explanation of my views: I think my thought process is colored by my experience of growing up (and remaining) a progressive/liberal in the Church (beginning life in Utah County, leaving for college and a mission, spending time in Wisconsin for graduate school/employment, and returning to Utah after that). While it would be theoretically possible to catalog the number of times I’ve been told by other members of the Church things like: “You are on the wrong team” and my “eternal prospects are bleak” I couldn’t personally begin to count the instances. I’ve long since given up on ever reaching a point where the jokes, suspicions, and condemnations will stop. However, I still share my opinions when I think I might positively contribute to a conversation, or if asked, *IF* I think there is reasonable chance they will listened to (rather than just ridiculed). Hence why I would consider posting at M* – many of the people here (in my opinion/experience) tend to respond to my posts in a way which suggests they actually thought about what I wrote. Occasionally there are even areas of agreement. Now I don’t comment on the VAST majority of threads on this site because it is clear my views would be the equivalent of a rubber ball bouncing off a concrete wall – there would be no effect whats-so-ever on the wall and I would expend energy writing the post for no good reason. There are also some “liberal/progressive” websites I’ve left, and others I only occasionally read or post to – for much the same reason for my limited participation here – my views would inflame instead of contribute.

    In this case I wholeheartedly agree with you that the terms of bigot, racist, and apostate ought not to used in general conversations (I would say basically never) in the “Bloggernacle” to describe someone who doesn’t quite see the world in the same way that one’s self does.

    That being said I really don’t think opinions, logical arguments, and responses need to stated in such a hot headed manner that they inspire such emotion from the recipient. When people brag that they are proud to be considered an enemy of the other Church members with slightly different views, that other Church members don’t understand the Gospel, or something similar it does not inspire reasoned discourse. This thread (with a few exceptions) is a good example, in my opinion, of people explaining their viewpoints without calling people names. But as has been pointed out there are a lot of threads around the Bloggernacle where that restraint is not exercised. And I would say that Ivan’s post about tribes, and his follow-up responses, were models of civility; but there were certainly some responses from others which were of the name calling or self righteous bragging variety. I can’t understand why someone would take Ivan “tribes” post as an indication that he was anything even remotely approaching some of the terms above.

    Further, I agree with Ivan that the potential here and now consequences (however small they may or may not be) of labeling someone (in public) either a racist or a bigot are more economically significant than calling a fellow Church member an apostate (or implying the equivalent – which is what usually happens). But having said that I still think it is incumbent on BOTH progressives and conservatives to think before they type (or sign or donate). I see no need to toss gasoline onto a fire which is already burning fairly brightly.

    But Ivan, I think you misunderstand what I’m attempting to express: I’m not saying don’t take any *conservative* position in public unless you are willing to live with the consequences. I am saying that whether you are progressive, conservative, liberal, or reactionary (or anything else) no matter what you wish would happen people are going to respond to what you write and do so *without considering* your feelings or economic situation. Many simply don’t care. They just want to fight the fight. I self-censor myself pretty much every week when I go to Church or attend other Church meetings. I self-censor myself on pretty much every blog or website I frequent because I know the vast majority of my fellow Saints disagree with many beliefs I hold to be revealed truth. For anyone willing to engage in real discussion I’m happy to discuss any topic they like, but I recognize there are simply a lot things it makes sense not to publish to the world.

  50. John Harvey –

    Thanks for that explanation. I feel like I understand you a lot better and you’ve retroactively improved my perception of your earlier comments.

  51. Ivan,
    Thank you as well. I think your points in this and the previous “Tribes” posts are significant and useful to consider.

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