Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Better duck if you are Mormon? Not quite.

Doug Robinson wrote a piece in the DesNews which gave his take on the recent torrent of ignorant statements about Mormons.  It hasn't been since High School in Montgomery, Alabama that I had to deal with this kind of stuff.  It was really awkward in High School. 

This time around, it is much clearer to me that Mormons just aren't well-understood in popular American culture.  That lack of knowledge is easily converted to prejudice. 

An interesting analogy for Mormons to think about is the recent Tom Cruise Scientology video release.  If you are Mormon, it's likely that your first reaction to the video was a lot like most American's initial reaction to anything about Mormons. 

For me it was.  I don't know much about Scientologists, so it was easy for me to get creeped out by the video.  But once I slowed down and listened to the what he was saying (at least in the clips I heard on Nightside with Ethan Millard (Etahn you rock!) while remodeling the bathroom), it's really not that weird.  It's all about believing that you have some kind of power to help people and that that gives you an obligation to help.  I don't know much about Scientology, but on the surface, that's not too different from the Mormon belief that "where much is given much is required." 

Like I said, I don't know much about Scientology and comparisons between Scientologists and Mormons isn't the point.  The point is that I was willing to get creeped out by a video about Scientologists because I just don't know much about them.  My ignorance made me vulnerable to sensationalism. 

I think that for many (normal) Americans, the reaction to something Mormon is very similar.  Because they know so little, they are willing to get creeped out by something presented with just the right spin.   I think that Mormons are currently faced with a great chance to define themselves rather than letting other people do it for them. 

Duck if your are Mormon?  Not quite.  More like stand up and define yourself if you are Mormon. 

I don't mind criticism (in High School it wasn't so fun, but that's just an awkward age for everyone) but I'd prefer to be criticized for things I actually believe and do rather the for a stereotype put forth by someone else. 

Of course, there's a group of people which seem to be obsessed with attacking Mormons on pet issues over and over again in Newspaper comment pages, on CNN's Hardball and so forth.  I don't understand those people either and arguing with them seems pointless.  They've already got their mind made up (as do I). 

1 comment:

UtahTeacher said...

Good comments. I think the comparison of how we react to what we perceive as "weird" religions is right on. The rest of the country kind of regards us the same way we often regard Jehovah's Witnesses. Vaguely admirable for their dedication, but a nuisance on my doorstep.