I wouldn’t vote for a repressed gay black atheist Mormon liberal
Jon Adams and his facebook friends have been having the most heated discussion responding to this Deseret News article discussing whether anti-Mormonism can be considered the prejudice of our era. (And I was thinking that gay was the new black? But I guess Mormon is…) Within it, a quote from another guy in another article:
“The gap between these two episodes — clear condemnations of racism, but silence and ambiguity about anti-Mormonism — illustrates a fundamental weakness in our understanding of bigotry,” Saletan writes. “We’re always fighting the last war. We hammer a politician’s connection to prejudice against blacks … because nearly everyone recognizes this bigotry as bigotry. Denouncing it is easy.
“What’s hard,” he continues, “is speaking out against a bias that isn’t so widely recognized. It’s politically difficult because challenging a common prejudice could cost you votes. And it’s morally difficult because the biases of your era are hard to see.”
The discussion on Facebook got off on an interesting start (I have trimmed comments as I have felt necessary):
…You just can’t compare religion to race. Race is inborn, unchangeable and not a contingency for behavior. Religion is very much the opposite. If I don’t want to vote for a black candidate because he’s black, yes that makes me racist. If I don’t want to vote for a mormon candidate because he’s mormon, it may just mean I don’t want to vote for some one who willfully devotes his life to something that is very arguably false. It’s discrimination on the basis of behavior, NOT genetics.
So, not voting for someone because of an inborn, unchangeable characteristic = bad. Not voting for someone because a willfully chosen characteristic = OK.
At this point alone, I’d like to get on my belief-is-not-chosen soapbox. Belief is not chosen. (Thank you.)
But, more broadly, this represents a dichotomy that I do not like elsewhere…namely, instead of arguing for moral acceptability of something on its merits, we look at whether it’s chosen or not. If it’s not chosen, then it’s good or acceptable. If it is, then it’s bad or unacceptable.
But actually, that’s not how people actually evaluate things. The people who disagree with homosexuality are going to disagree with it regardless of whether they believe it to be a choice or believe it to be unchosen (hence the LDS shift in discussion to recognizing that perhaps same-sex attraction is something people will just have to deal with in mortality…but if people just choose to be celibate, then they can look forward to being transformed in the afterlife!)
Similarly, someone who dislikes a person’s religious status is still going to dislike it, even if they come to believe that one doesn’t just choose one’s beliefs as easily as one chooses what she has for breakfast.
…anyway, the discussion did not go that way. No one likes my Foucault-ian baby’s-first-queer-theoretical-discourse.
The discussion went a number of different ways, including but not limited to:
- Is it ok to have your vote influenced by whether someone is a practicing homosexual or not? (actions are chosen, even if orientation isn’t?)
- What about those for whom sexuality is fluid? (Baby’s first queer theoretical discourse!)
- Aren’t people’s political (and other) beliefs informed by their religion? Couldn’t we just say we would be less likely to vote for x (e.g., Mormons) because of the implied commitments he might have to believe y (e.g., free will)?
- Aren’t people’s political (and other) beliefs informed by their race and sexuality as well? So aren’t these practically in the same category as above?
There were some interesting comments:
There is nothing about being a Mormon that forces you to believe anything in politics, or even really in religion – one day in my elder’s quorum in Colorado would make this clear to you guys. Religion is part of identity. My identity is Mormon…You guys identify as atheists (if I’m wrong and you self identify as something else please correct me). This label really only tells you what group a person associates with. It’s speaks very little to the content of their beliefs.
Now, to an extent, I understand what the guy was trying to say. Just because you’re a Mormon doesn’t commit you to social conservatism. However, Jon’s original point was that Mormon theology commits one to believing in, say, free will, which could have some political implications to which Jon might be politically opposed. With respect to this claim, it seems strange to say that the label only tells you who a person associates with, but not about the content of beliefs.
In a way, this seems to be the cultural Mormon enterprise, distilled into pure form. But I don’t think everyone would (or should) agree.
(I was going to conclude this topic by offering some serious thoughts on why it is problematic [but why one might argue anyway] not to vote for each of the items in the topic title…repressed…gay….black…atheist…Mormon…liberal, but instead I’ll take the easy way out and say that I wouldn’t vote for a repressed gay black atheist Mormon liberal because I probably wouldn’t vote.)