Friday, February 29, 2008

Are you a bigot?

Well, think about it -- are you a bigot?

What does the term bring to mind?

Archie Bunker?

Actually, bigotry doesn't seem to be a very exclusive categorization, these days. Everyone can get in on the act. Apparently, anyone who doesn't like your thinking can call you a bigot.

Look at the short list of entries in Wickipedia:

Forms of Bigotry

* Ableism
* Adultism
* Ageism
* Anti-Americanism
* Anti-Atheism
* Anti-Catholicism
* Anti-Mormonism
* Anti-Polish sentiment
* Anti-Protestantism
* Anti-Semitism
* Biphobia
* Chauvinism
* Chronocentrism
* Classism
* Discrimination
* Hate group
* Heterophobia
* Homophobia
* Islamophobia
* Misandry
* Misogyny
* Narcissism
* Nazism
* Racism
* Religious persecution
* Religious intolerance
* Reverse Discrimination
* Sectarianism
* Sexism
* Stereotype
* Supremacism
* Transphobia
* Xenophobia

What an imposing list of pitfalls we must steer clear of, to avoid bigotry.

It would seem that bigotry is not a new manifestation.

The philosophers of ancient Greece wrote about it:
τήν τε οἴησιν ἱερὰν νόσον ἔλεγε καὶ τὴν ὅρασιν ψεύδεσθαι. (Original: Greek)
o Translation: Bigotry is the sacred disease, and self-conceit tells lies.
o Heraclitus, The fragments of Heraclitus, no. 47, c. 500 B.C.

κύνες γὰρ καὶ βαΰζουσιν ὃν, ἂν µὴ γινώσκωσι. (Original: Greek)
o Translation: Dogs bark at every one they do not know.
o Heraclitus, The fragments of Heraclitus, no. 97,c. 500 B.C.

Alexander Pope wrote poetry about it:
All seems Infected that th' Infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the Jaundic'd Eye.
o Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1711), Part II, line 358.

George Washington extolled the virtues of freedom from bigotry and persecution:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
o George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790).

Thomas Jefferson apparently had cause to deplore it:
Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education & free discussion are the antidotes of both.
o Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (August 1, 1816).

Abraham Lincoln argued against it:
You enquire where I now stand. That is a disputed point. I think I am a whig; but others say there are no whigs, and that I am an abolitionist. When I was at Washington I voted for the Wilmot Proviso as good as forty times, and I never heard of any one attempting to unwhig me for that. I now do more than oppose the extension of slavery.
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].
o Abraham Lincoln, letter to longtime friend and slave-holder Joshua F. Speed, Esq., August 24, 1855.

Even George Bush gets in a lick against it:
Some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less–-the soft bigotry of low expectations.
o George W. Bush, 2000, campaign speech before the NAACP.

Of course, the question is only rhetorical. You may rest in assurance that you are not a bigot, because we all know that term only has utility when it applies to others.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You no longer belong to evil, but to good...

Vignette of a scene from Les Miserables.

As the brother and sister were about to rise from the table, there came a knock at the door.

"Come in," said the Bishop.

The door opened. A singular and violent group made its appearance on the threshold. Three men were holding a fourth man by the collar. The three men were gendarmes; the other was Jean Valjean.

A brigadier of gendarmes, who seemed to be in command of the group, was standing near the door. He entered and advanced to the Bishop, making a military salute.

"Monseigneur--" said he.

At this word, Jean Valjean, who was dejected and seemed overwhelmed, raised his head with an air of stupefaction.

"Monseigneur!" he murmured. "So he is not the cure?"

"Silence!" said the gendarme. "He is Monseigneur the Bishop."

In the meantime, Monseigneur Bienvenu had advanced as quickly as his great age permitted.

"Ah! here you are!" he exclaimed, looking at Jean Valjean. "I am glad to see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs. Why did you not carry them away with your forks and spoons?"

Jean Valjean opened his eyes wide, and stared at the venerable Bishop with an expression which no human tongue can render any account of.

"Monseigneur," said the brigadier of gendarmes, "so what this man said is true, then? We came across him. He was walking like a man who is running away. We stopped him to look into the matter. He had this silver--"

"And he told you," interposed the Bishop with a smile, "that it had been given to him by a kind old fellow of a priest with whom he had passed the night? I see how the matter stands. And you have brought him back here? It is a mistake."

"In that case," replied the brigadier, "we can let him go?"

"Certainly," replied the Bishop.

The gendarmes released Jean Valjean, who recoiled.

"Is it true that I am to be released?" he said, in an almost inarticulate voice, and as though he were talking in his sleep.

"Yes, thou art released; dost thou not understand?" said one of the gendarmes.

"My friend," resumed the Bishop, "before you go, here are your candlesticks. Take them."

He stepped to the chimney-piece, took the two silver candlesticks, and brought them to Jean Valjean. The two women looked on without uttering a word, without a gesture, without a look which could disconcert the Bishop.

Jean Valjean was trembling in every limb. He took the two candlesticks mechanically, and with a bewildered air.

"Now," said the Bishop, "go in peace. By the way, when you return, my friend, it is not necessary to pass through the garden. You can always enter and depart through the street door. It is never fastened with anything but a latch, either by day or by night."

Then, turning to the gendarmes:--

"You may retire, gentlemen."

The gendarmes retired.

Jean Valjean was like a man on the point of fainting.

The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:--

"Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man."

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:--

"Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

SLC Liberals

Here's a fine representation of foaming-at-the-mouth liberalism, alive and well in Salt Lake City. The argument is ostensibly over "domestic partners", though it ultimately reads "gay rights campaign". It runs downhill from the start.

Inevitable references to Hitler and charges of totalitarianism against Church members and everything related to Utah government.

Leading the charge, another typically scintillating commentary from columnist Rebecca Walsh...

Rebecca Walsh: Anti-gay patriarchy takes SLC to woodshed

The Eaglets were getting restless. While the matrons of the Eagle Forum looked on, state senators debated the doomsday consequences of Salt Lake City's domestic partnership registry - the stuff of conservative creed and eternal salvation, no less.

But these two fledglings seemed to miss the outraged breathlessness of Monday's debate; they were bored. So while practicing sign language flashcards, they pretended to pick their noses.

And on the Trib's comment blog, some choice words from the elite cadre of SLTrib readers, who claim to deplore Utah Senator Chris Buttars because of his "hateful" demeanor:

These folks aren't like parents; they are like Nazis, who also persecuted gay people.

And Mormons wonder why us liberals remain silent when Mitt Romney runs into a buzzsaw of evangelical Jesus Freak bigotry?

Oh, the irony, the irony!

I suspect that "Mormons" seldom wonder why liberals remain silent in any circumstances -- since there is no evidence that they ever do.

Inevitable reference to Nazis -- one of the standard themes of liberals characterizing those who don't share their bias.

A certain local organization headquartered at 50 E. N. Temple presumes to direct every little detail of its members' lives, down to choice of beverages and underwear. Its silence on this hatemongering by some of its members is deafening. Apparently its leaders, both the recently-departed and the living, have abdicated their role as prophet, seer and revelator to certain reactionary elements within their society.

That group should be called The Church of Chris Buttars and Gayle Ruzicka, at least until those two individuals are hauled before a bishop's court for mean-spiritedness and making the church look silly!

This comment starts off with the standard complaint that Church leaders dictate everything to members. But then rolls into a contradictory assertion that leaders have now "abdicated".

Most ironic in all such spiteful and antagonistic tirades are charges of "hatemongering". You can always invalidate logical argument by calling it "hate speech" or something equally ambiguous.

And then there's the perfect illustration of why we avoid using terms like "compassion", which are an exclusive liberal trademark. Another editorial gem in today's SLTrib, from Rebecca Walsh, liberal warrior for gay rights and whatever else violates the laws of reason and legality. In her lexicon, liberals have shifted toward the middle to become "moderates", while everyone who has read the Bible becomes a right-wing fascist.

Ten years ago, LDS General Authority Marlin Jensen gave Mormon faithful permission to be Democrats.

We all know how well that went.

Now, Jensen has been dispatched to speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' First Presidency on immigration.

"I believe a more thoughtful and factual, not to mention humane, approach is warranted and urge those responsible for enactment of Utah's immigration policy to measure twice before they cut," he said last week.

In house editorials, the church-owned Deseret Morning News has called on lawmakers to pause in their rush to demonize and purge Utah's undocumented immigrants. LDS Apostle Elder Russell M. Ballard signed an Alliance for Unity statement against a bill that would repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students. And Jensen, the urbane and moderate face of the church, called out legislators in direct and pointed language, saying immigration is a moral and ethical
issue - code for legislative intervention from South Temple.

Walsh now has me convinced that Elder Jensen is an ally in her pro-lesbian camp, and Elder Ballard has joined the Gay Alliance to ensure that Church members get their measure of compassion. Remember, the term "compassion" equates to a morality that withholds judgement of sin and evil, and lovingly embraces whatever "alternative lifestyle" form of depravity happens to be in vogue. And "moderate" means anyone to the left of Hillary Clinton.

I'm trying to understand why the SLTrib would mount a smear campaign like this.

They're the ones who are always harping on "the great divide" -- the gulf that separates Church members from "normal" Utahns.

This has all the looks of a nuclear bomb set between us. I'm thinking of burning down the SLTrib editorial offices myself.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Political Musings III: Illegal Immigration

Deseret News article revisits this issue -- Debate resumes over illegal immigrants' status in LDS Church.

Comments made by an LDS Church leader this week again stirred debate in Mormon circles about whether the church should baptize illegal immigrants or allow them to enter its temples.

"The church's view of someone in undocumented status is akin, in a way, to a civil trespass," said Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, relating it to coming onto someone's property uninvited. "There is nothing inherent or wrong about that status."

Elder Jensen's comment came Wednesday during an interfaith forum on immigration at Westminster College in response to an audience question.
While I admire Elder Jensen's charity, he apparently misspoke in asserting that there is "nothing inherent or wrong" about illegal trespass. It is clearly a violation of the law.

Elder Jensen's analogy goes too far in attempting to paint illegal immigration as benign and harmless. The attendent issues are fraught with difficulty, starting from the assumption of legal and financial liabilty, including welfare and taxation, and continuing on to more esoteric considerations such as cultural integration and nationalism.

If matters were as simple as someone merrily tripping across my front yard to ring the doorbell, the subject would not be attracting the kind of attention it currently draws.

The basic issue turns on our responsibilty to honor and sustain the law. Even when we believe the laws are wrong, or when we think application of the law results in some kind of injustice, we are obligated to continue to act within legal constraints. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has addressed this issue in public comments -- Some Responsibilities of Citizenship Dallin H. Oaks, America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, Marriott Center,July 3, 1994.

Even when victimized by what they must surely have seen as very severe government oppressions and abridgments of freedom, the Mormon people and their leaders have remained loyal to their government and its laws....As long as a government provides aggrieved persons an opportunity to work to enlarge their freedoms and relieve their oppressions by legal and peaceful means, a Latter-day Saint citizen's duty is to forego revolution and disobedience of law. Our doctrine commits us to work from within. Even an oppressive government is preferable to a state of lawlessness and anarchy in which the only ruling principle is force and every individual has a thousand oppressors.
In this campaigning season, some suggest that interest in this issue is all about pandering for votes.

While that is obviously a factor in bringing this issue to the forefront, apparently Church leaders see it as a greater priority -- not just the election scheming that dominates the news just now.

I looked at this issue a while back on my blog --

Political Musings II.

In the early openings of this legislative session in Utah, the Utah legislature met with LDS Church leaders in a sort of advisory session. One of the messages from the Church was a suggestion that illegal aliens deserve a lighter treatment than the current harsh rhetoric in legislative consideration seems to indicate.

The context here is that Utah lawmakers are now sponsoring a number of new laws to deal more harshly with the problems of illegal immigration in this state. Perhaps the suggestions from the Church were intended to be a word to the wise. He that hath ears...

We'll see.

I am thinking too that it cannot be a small consideration for the Church to look forward to a large pool of potential converts in this tide of illegal immigrants.

Several years ago, I heard this idea suggested by an area representative who was addressing our stake conference.

More recently, a general conference address from President Hinckley, deploring racial discrimination.

When a man grows old he develops a softer touch, a kindlier manner. I have thought of this much of late.

I have wondered why there is so much hatred in the world. We are involved in terrible wars with lives lost and many crippling wounds. Coming closer to home, there is so much of jealousy, pride, arrogance, and carping criticism; fathers who rise in anger over small, inconsequential things and make wives weep and children fear.

Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.

Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?

Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.

Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.  (Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Need for Greater Kindness," Ensign, May 2006, 58-61)

President Hinckley's words cut me deeply at the time he spoke them. I still feel myself condemned, as one who has often been guilty of enjoying "racial slurs and denigrating remarks".

I'm still trying to be better.

When I get to considering the human issues involved in the illegal immigration picture, I am reminded of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.   Jean Valjean, condemned to a lifetime of servitude, because he tried to steal bread to help feed his starving family. The underlying message of the story is that the society he lived in created the environment of privation and repression that led to his criminal act. The evil part of his society and culture imposed every effort to create an evil man. And still, through many twists and turns, the story eventually celebrates the triumph of freedom and good will.

Human need and suffering has to be a significant consideration in weighing the law and circumstances that result in someone breaking the law. I don't know how to measure or judge these things -- I'm just a foolish old man. But I know that they must be in our thoughts, if we ever wish to understand the truth of such matters.

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Church Presidency

Thomas S. Monson is the new president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was announced today at a news conference in the Church Office Building. President Monson, 80, succeeds President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died 27 January 2008.

The new world leader of the Church has called to serve with him in the First Presidency, the top governing body of the 13-million-member faith, President Henry B. Eyring, 74, first counselor, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 67, second counselor.

Church Newsroom article

Deseret News article

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Divine Love

Elder Russell M. Nelson offers to correct some loosely defined terms that often lead to misunderstanding...

While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional.

Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly “unconditional” can defend us against common fallacies such as these: “Since God’s love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …”; or “Since ‘God is love,’ He will love me unconditionally, regardless …”

These arguments are used by anti-Christs to woo people with deception. Nehor, for example, promoted himself by teaching falsehoods: He “testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, … for the Lord had created all men, … and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.” Sadly, some of the people believed Nehor’s fallacious and unconditional concepts.

In contrast to Nehor’s teachings, divine love warns us that “wickedness never was happiness.” Jesus explains, “Come unto me and be ye saved; … except ye shall keep my commandments, … ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Does this mean the Lord does not love the sinner? Of course not. Divine love is infinite and universal. The Savior loves both saints and sinners. The Apostle John affirmed, “We love him, because he first loved us.” And Nephi, upon seeing in vision the Lord’s mortal ministry, declared: “The world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” We know the expansiveness of the Redeemer’s love because He died that all who die might live again.