During the Reformation, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was chained together with the Bible in protestant churches. One of the tenets of Christianity has long been that believers are persecuted. Persecution somehow proves one is righteous. Today some churches still use stories from the martyrs in sermons, and Christian media outlets run news updates about the persecution of Christians worldwide.
I think we can agree that we, as Mormons, sometimes display a persecution complex. Like sects that cling to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, we routinely use Our Heritage and stories from our history to illustrate times of persecution and the sacrifices made in behalf of our faith. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it is our history. One of the things it does for good and bad, is tie us together in the common cause of defending our faith against persecutors. But some members of the Church are always on the defense, with arrows aimed for any slight against Mormonism, firing often when no shot was fired at them.
The Book of Mormon Musical has been heralded by some as good publicity for us (which I believe in the end it will be); while in contrast, seen by others as a gross misrepresentation of our faith as a whole. Is making fun of us okay if it’s good for us in the end? Does it set a bad precedent in a cultural landscape where religious tolerance is supposed to be the rule? Is mockery an expression of intolerance, and is intolerance synonymous with persecution? When should we ignore, or even laugh along at ourselves, and when should we take a stand?
Last month Rep. Peter King held hearings about Islam. For more see here, here, and here. It isn’t surprising that many people, including many Mormons, have labeled the King hearings persecution. People are more distrustful of politicians in general, and look at historical precedent for what can happen to religious groups (including our own) under the power of the state. However pop-culture is often seen as innocuous, mocking things that are endearing to us. But I am wondering if politics set the climatefor society as a whole. Would there be moral outrage among us if, in this political climate, there was a Broadway musical about Islam? Does the political climate (see Utah) ultimately determine what religious persecution is? Or, as Michael Otterson claims, are we really just turning the other cheek?