Friday, December 07, 2007

It's not the wierdness

It seems I need to correct ,Deseret News Columnist Lee Benson on his version of history.
Still, for all that, in comparing and paralleling himself to Kennedy, Romney did rather dance around the real issue surrounding Mormonism.

His problem is way different than Kennedy's.

His problem is this: 160 years since they drove us out of Nauvoo, people still think Mormons aren't normal.

They think we're weird.

Kennedy didn't have to fight not being mainstream; on the contrary, as a member of by far the world's largest religious group, he had to fight being too mainstream.

Romney's problem is just the opposite.
If you didn't notice the "we" and "they" and find it problematic, then it is not worth discussing (and if you did find it problematic, I don't need to tell you why it is).

But anyway, let's get to my main criticism of the article. Anti-Catholicism has a much longer and stronger history than anti-Mormonism in America.

It even pre-dates the 13 colonies themselves. England was rife with fears that the Catholic Church would tell them what to do ever since Henry VII wanted to divorce another wife (kill her) and marry another in search of a male heir. It lead to "Bloody" Queen Mary who tried to change the country back to Catholicism, and the "Glorious Revolution" of William and Mary who pledged Protestantism in exchange for the crown.

These fears of Catholics traveled with the Puritans to Plymouth and the Jamestown Settlers. Maryland was set up by the Earl of Baltimore (upon permission of the Queen)as a Haven for Catholics because of their persecution in the other colonies. One of our Founding Fathers, John Jay, President of the Continental Congress, author of some of the Federalist papers, and the First Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court "urged the New York legislature [in 1788] to require officeholders to renounce foreign authorities 'in all matters ecclesiastical as well as civil.'" A clear reference to Catholics.

Hatred of Catholics was also tied to racism against the predominantly Catholic Irish, which also hearkened back to the British Isles. Irish were lampooned in cartoons as monkeys and mocked for their large families. They were considered stupid, in part because of their "blind fealty" to the Pope.

Around the time that Joseph Smith was murdered and the Nauvoo Temple was destroyed, there was a whole movement against Catholics, which like Mormons in Missouri, resulted in angry, violent mobs that burned Catholic property, and killed Catholics. This political movement was nativist and especially anti-Irish, whom protestants blamed for taking away their jobs and ruining their culture (sounds familiar doesn't it). Remember, John F. Kennedy was not just a Catholic, but an Irish Catholic.

While my ancestor and his friends were settling into the Salt Lake Valley, a nativist party called the Know-Knowings ran against Catholics (and blacks) featuring ex-president Millard Fillmore as its presidential candidate in 1856. Six years earlier, Fillmore, Utah was named the official capitol of Utah territory and proclaimed neutrality over slavery.

The KKK, founded by a Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, was not just a racist anti-black organization, but also a anti-Catholic one.

My point is that if we are going to get into a pissing contest as to which religious group was/is the most despised for the longest time in America, Catholicism beats Mormonism in a landslide. Not such a contest has any worth or import.

Pretty much any ethnic group can tell you of their group's persecution and victimization, whether it happened in the Middle Ages or during World War II. It is part of a natural human tendency to feel special and build solidarity within a group by pitting members against an Other who persecuted them.

While we can never forget or apologize for the wrongdoings one group did to another, we also cannot let this aspect of a group's shared past become their defining characteristic.

Otherwise, you end up with places like the Balkans and Iraq and Israel/Palistine.

No comments: