Have you heard the term “fanboy”?
It’s a term that carries with it a fair amount of negative connotation, and a suggestion of obsessive loyalty to a product or company. This loyalty is usually to the point of (unfairly) deriding that product or company’s primary competitor, not to mention users of that product or supporters of that company.
Video game console fanboys, for example. are locked in seemingly eternal (and silly) warfare:
It’s not perfectly analogous, but I thought about this term during the fallout from this post. Some folks are (understandably) pretty upset.
There is a lot going on here, and others have written on it. I wanted to focus my comments not on how Paredes was right or wrong, but on what I see as some underlying causes. Take it for what it’s worth.
Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks
The first problem I see is that we, as the saying goes, think we can pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other.
I often find that when liberal Mormons describe the reasons behind their political affiliation, those reasons tie strongly into faith and spirituality. For example,
- The banner at mormonliberals.org reads WE’RE LIBERAL BECAUSE WE’RE MORMON.
- I read the blog (just today!) of a Latter-day Saint who says that she cannot call herself a Christian unless she subscribes to a liberal worldview.
Great! No problem!
Both of those assertions are just fine! I generally disagree with liberal politics (which is also fine), but I have no doubt that these statements were made with the utmost sincerity, goodwill, and genuine desire to do the kind of good that the Savior himself would do.
But those statements are just one end of the stick. What’s the other end?
- “BECAUSE WE’RE MORMON, WE’RE NOT CONSERVATIVE.”
- “We’re I to subscribe to a conservative worldview, I could not call myself a Christian.”
Great! No problem!
While these statements are initially a little more shocking than their inverse counterparts, there’s really no disconnect between the two. Sure, there is some nuance you could throw in to tone it down, but they basically say the same thing as they did before.
More importantly, these statements are no more vitriolic.
That doesn’t mean that these statements are not hard for conservative Mormons or Christians to hear. They themselves are likely conservative for reasons that, like liberals, tie strongly into faith and spirituality, so hearing this stings.
And yet, I would imagine that this stinging feeling is not foreign to liberal Mormons. I, for example, feel like I cannot call myself a Christian unless I subscribe to a conservative worldview. I would not be surprised if many Latter-day Saints felt the same way.
But just like us conservatives, liberals know what the other end of the stick looks like. When they hear me say this, they know that I’m also sort of saying that were I to subscribe to a liberal worldview, I could not call myself a Christian.
And that stings.
Disagreement, Not Hate
Enter in that second problem, the feeling that to disagree with someone means some degree of hatred or malevolence.
Frankly, the vilification of disagreement sometimes terrifies me. In relation to less serious things like fanboy wars, just thinking about this makes me tired.
We Latter-day Saints like to say that we belong to the true church (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30). What’s the other side of that stick? Basically, it’s that all other churches are wrong.
And we cringe.
“Well… but… you see, uh….” And we start to couch that phrase with additions like, “Of course, there is truth in every religion.” I won’t argue that couching isn’t sometimes appropriate, but still – in every way that ultimately matters, the Mormon Church is “right” and other religions are “wrong.”
Now, it’s good to add those nuances, and to sometimes tone back the rhetoric. But even when we stick hard and fast to the “only” in “only true and living church,” it doesn’t mean that we carry hatred or disdain for other religions and peoples.
Heck, other Christians think I’m going to hell (unless of course I’m one of the Mormons who has really accepted Jesus). So they disagree with my theology. Does this mean that they hate me? No!
(Although I do get snarky sometimes when I feel like people aren’t being fair. Maybe I need to work on that.)
I wrote about Obama’s Mama Drama the other day, and someone suggested the post was an anti-Obama political rant. Sigh. Does my disagreement with Obama constitute a rant? No.
(it’s still up. Go read it, and judge how rant-y it is.)
And does his view that I’m an anti-Obama ranter mean that this commenter hates me? No!
(I got snarky with him, too. Dang it!)
It’s okay to disagree, and we shouldn’t assume that if someone else disagrees with us – whether with one end of our stick or the other – that they are harboring hatred for us as well.
Living with Differences
Once again, I go back to Elder Oaks’ talk from the most recent General Conference (which I’ve already discussed here). I like this paragraph:
“On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12)”
My guess is that we can probably all be a little better at this. We also can also probably all be a little better at recognizing that when others disagree with us, they probably don’t hate us – they just forget that when they’re picking up that one end of the stick, they’re picking up the stinging end, too.