Those Episcopalians who now fancy themselves Anglicans have learned a bitter lesson. The Mormons this week have learned the same one: Those who differ with the gay community will be accused of hate. In a time when escalated language is de rigeur, the accusation of hatred is not enough, so it is made more graphic by associating the opponent with a heinous act. Cue Matthew Shepherd. So Mormons and Anglican by differing with the gay community, are now often accused of complicity in the murder of Matt Shepard, the countless murdered gays through the ages, gay bashings, Hitler. It always goes back to Hitler, doesn’t it?
Today I am shocked by one thing only: that nothing shocks me and that being called worse than Hitler is a kind of badge signifying that someone was actually listening to what I said. Phony outrage is a rhetorical weapon as old as the hills, but the gay community has mastered the craft.
Since November 5, when it became clear that Prop. 8 passed in California, the gay community has become unglued, focusing its rage against the Mormons. How interesting that we now have two formerly persecuted tiny minorities vying for influence over a public debate which is central to the identity of each now playing out their persecution narratives on each other, each waiting for the other to back down out of shame. The gay community fully believes that their protests will shame the Mormons and embarrass them into passivity. But, the Mormons are strong on this issue. Marriage and family is the very core of Mormon life. They will not back down especially because they understand what it is to be persecuted and to fight for their existence.
Similarly, the Mormons expect that the gays will become embarrassed enough by their own bad behavior including threats to burn down a Mormon temple. But, for they gay community, hating (or h8ting) Christianity and bashing Christians is their stock in trade. Their only power is to hook the anti-authoritarian/libertarian strain of the American psyche. Crying for the separation of Church and State (or Church and Hate), the gay community is making reference to the situation of the established Church of England in colonial times and its oppression of all who disagree. The Mormon church could not be more unlike the Church of England in the 18th Century. The Mormons make up only 1.7% of Californians. They hardly dominate anything. The Methodists are a zillion times more dominant in California, if they could only take a stand on something. That Mormons organized and raised funds independent of the church is their civil right. Mormons do not have less rights for being Mormon than, say, blacks or even gays.
For the moment, I dont think either side is capable of embarrassment for their positions. Neither side is likely to back down in California or anywhere else.
But, there is more that is odd about the demonstrations of the past week. As A Simple Sinner has observed, “When was the last time you saw an outraged protest after a ballot issue?” I can’t think of one. The demonstrations also appear to me to be largely misdirected. It is well established that the African American turnout for Obama is most responsible for the Yes on Prop. 8 result. I doubt that the arguments for Prop 8 were as influential among black voters as the moral matrix of the black Christian Churches. The gay community obviously felt that they could not demonstrate against the black community, especially in the week the first black President was elected. So, the target that was selected, the Mormon churches, was at least in part chosen for the relative respectability of being anti-Mormon. This is American identity politics at its ugliest. It is understandable that gays could mock the sacred undergarments of the Mormons but could not get away with mocking black sexuality in any way.
Another thing that strikes me about the gay marriage demonstrations is their tantrum-like quality. Enraged taunts and placards and chants as well as calls for the burning of Mormon temples strike me as forms of hate speech all the while denouncing Mormons for being haters. The projection going on here would make a thousand therapists spin in their chairs. The tossing around of the “hate” word reminds me of the flares of rage common among adolescents revolting against authority. Mom to son: “No, you cant take my car to a rave and stay out all night.” Son to mom: “Why do you hate me so much. You know I really hate you.” The adolescent who quickly runs out of rational arguments resorts to epithets, mockery, accusations, insinuations and so often the “h8” word. Rather than give in to such irrationality as if those words had a power of their own without reference to the reality they fail to represent, the electorate ought to just calmly move on. The charge of hate is empty. It is untrue. And, it has only the power we give to it.
So, buck up, Mormons. You will take a few hits from among those you had no hope of converting and you have raised the admiration of those who share your principles. Welcome to the public square. Now that you are here, roll up your sleeves. We need you on the abortion issue and many others as well.
For an example of the irrational and vehement hatred of Mormons and others against gays: