It seems to me that church members are becoming enamored of the political groups which are often identified “Christian Right” — politically powerful, vocally conservative groups like the Family Research Council, American Family Association, and Focus on the Family. I receive many e-mail messages from family members, forwarding petitions or other communiques from such groups. Matt Evans, of our blog and other blogs’ fame, has written about positive experiences he has had in communicating with one such group.
I can certainly see why Mormons are drawn to these groups. Such organizations are well-organized and able to wield political power. They appear to be “on our side” in the perceived culture wars. And if such groups disagree on doctrinal matters — things like the nature of the Book of Mormon or of Joseph Smith — well, those are little things which can be ignored for now. Right?
Despite these similarities, I am deeply doubtful that much good can come from these groups. It appears to me that, if such groups are prepared to send gays out of town on the first train — a goal many church members would probably support — that the groups are nevertheless also ready to send Mormons out on the second train.
For example, Professor Eric Rasmussen at Indiana caught a lot of flack for his suggestion that homosexuals not be permitted to teach. Christian groups weighed in supporting Rasmussen, and many Mormons may have felt that he was unfairly treated. However, in that very same discussion, Professor Rasmussen also suggested that Christians can rightly be opposed to “Hindus . . . atheists, Mormons, and so forth as teachers.”
Similarly, I get frequent e-mails from church members (family and friends) urging me to support “school prayer.” Yet a leading recent “school prayer” case was brought by a church member — represented by the ACLU — because LDS kids at school were being told their religion was wrong. (More on this in a future post).
I realize that these are anecdotal evidence. However, when combined with the inflammatory rhetoric of these groups, and the history of church persecution at the hands of other religious groups, I cannot help but feel suspicious. “Christian Right” groups may welcome our support now, but they are not our friends.
Perhaps church members are aware of these problems, but feel that, by supporting “Christian Right” groups, they can demonstrate to such groups that Mormons and fundamentalist Christians are not so different after all, and that our support now will lead to future support from these groups. I do not think that this is a realistic expectation. Most “Christian Right” groups appear from their rhetoric to be my-way-or-the-highway in outlook. We may be given a chance to join their inner circles — provided we jettison the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, temples, and most of our other unique beliefs. If we do not do so — and I suspect that most church members would not wish this type of transformation — then the day will come that the “Christian Right” groups will turn on us. Our earlier support for these groups will mean nothing, and we will be attacked as vociferously as their other targets are today.
I do not know if there is a way to avoid this future. However, my intuition is that, if such a future can be avoided, one key will be Mormons forging political alliances elsewhere, and refusing to lend political support to such “Christian Right” groups.
I’ve also heard Mormons talk about how as a nation we are falling into sin because we can’t have school prayer. As you imply, most LDS kids outside of Utah would discover that school prayer would be another opportunity for a newly self-conscious Protestant majority to proclaim that their faith is unacceptable. More importantly, however, these newly minted LDS Chirstian right wingers show much less political sophisitcation than their allegedly theocratic forebears who got Utah statehood. If Mormons had insisted on public school prayer when it was commonplace in America, in the late 19th century, Utah would not have been possible. Just because opposition to school prayer is often asserted in secular, anti-theistic terms does not mean that there aren’t prefectly good Christian, pragmatic reasons for banning school prayer in our American context.
Kaimi – I think the assertion that we as Mormons aught not jump to ally ourselves with those who believe in wholesale discrimination against those who think or believe differently than themselves is valid. Clearly any group that is willing to openly persecute gay people is just as likely to persecute Mormons.
You recommend that Mormons seek alliances with other groups that are less likely to ultimately reject and turn against us. But if one is a politically conservative Mormon who feels that the basic family structure is under coordinated political and legal attack, with whom else do you recommend we make alliances?
Surely banding together with other Christian folks with similar viewpoints on these issues is not tantamount to supporting religious tyranny.
Are you really trying to say that by banding together with Christian evangelicals on certain political issues, Mormons are likely to help bestow so much power on a group so intolerant that we need to fear losing our hard-earned place in civil society?
Or are you simply saying that just we are likely to get our feelings hurt when evangelicals do not ultimately accept us as real Christians despite our support on these political issues?
In other words, do you perceive real danger from such alliances, or merely the liklihood of disappointment?
Kaimi makes a great point re: the majority/minority distinction that LDS folks face inside/outside of Utah (primarily). One of the first cases that killed school prayer was actually brought in Texas by LDS students & their parents who, if memory serves, were not allowed to be on the list of those who got to offer prayers because they weren’t “Christian.”
Whether the ‘Christian’ Right are/aren’t ‘our’ friends is up to individual LDS & Evangelicals to decide. Ignoring &/or Belittling them (I am not accusing anyone here of doing this) will only re-inforce the divide [see “How Wide the Divide” by Stephen Robinson] between us & our Sisters & Brothers in Christ.
I’m interested in the notion, both here and in the other thread, that “allies” somehow means “friends.” It seems to me that the two things can in fact be very different. The Soviet Union was our ally for WWII, but they never were our friends. We have some very real allies in the war on terror who cannot honestly be considered “friends” by any stretch of imagination (ie Pakistan), in addition to friends who are allies but refuse to behave like either (tangential but obligatory slam on the French and Germans).
Can’t we make allies of like-minded groups for the purposes of accomplishing political and social goals without getting worked up that they will not really ever accept us as their equals and friends?
I guess we can be allies, if you’re talking about in the sense of watch-that-guy-he’ll-backstab-you-as-soon-as-it-fits-his-purposes.
Kind of like the X-men and Magneto, in X2 [spoiler, if anyone hasn’t seen the movie] — teaming up for a bit to defeat a common enemy, but Magneto bails as soon as it fits his purposes.
If we’re looking for more than that from our allies, then I think we need to be awfully careful about accepting the evangelical right as allies.
Kaimi – Apt analogy. I suppose sometimes the expedient has to do when the mission is critical and the ideal is unavailable.
I think the Mormons, who claim to be the truth, should be a little more accepting of other “Christian Rights” considering that they are just another Christian Right. And as far as the allies friends thing is concerned, if you can’t be friends then you shouldn’t be allies. Allies are political relationships, and I thought religion and politics were seperate. Saying that lack of prayer in schools causes sin is so insanely ridiculous. You can pray at home, prayer in schools infringes on others constitutional rights not to engage in religion. Praying in school is done by people who seek attention for their beliefs. Also by making yourselves out to be correct above other religions and not allowing yourselves to be friends with people who aren’t Mormons, you are separatists. You have no proof to back up your religion and until you do you shouldn’t claim that you’re right. By the way, don’t just listen to your side of things, because that is just plain arrogant. I would say arrogance is the problem, not prayer in schools. You should look at things from all perspectives.
Kizzy, did you read the original post and the comments or did you just let your knee jerk and start writing? No one on this thread has argued for school prayer. No one has said that Mormons don’t allow themselves to be friends with non-Mormons (and several have said the opposite). It isn’t humanely possible to look at things from all perspectives, only from some, and no one one this thread has suggested that we ought not to look at other perspectives on issues. You are welcome to post your thoughts in response to the discussion, but please make them comments that are actually directed at the discussion at hand.
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