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.