I’ll admit it: I’m a Bill Maher fan. Sure, he can oversimplify things in nicely packaged quips. But I’m a sucker for libertarian boilerplate. On his Friday night show, he was complaining about one of his favorite targets, religion. While discussing the differences between red states and blue states, he pointed out that he knows it’s politically correct to pretend like we’re supposed to respect everyone, regardless of their beliefs and not think less of them. But, he reasoned, this is foolish. You shouldn’t respect people who believe blatantly ridiculous things. Then, he pointed out that Mormons believe in magic underwear.
I’ve always put up with Maher’s swipes at religion, even though I largely think it’s too broadly applied, because he makes many of the same points I’ve always tried to think about or make: That religion is too often about saying we know who the Man in the sky is, and you don’t; that if women under Islam were treated that way for any reason other than religion, we wouldn’t put up with it for a second; that it’s a bit silly to put your faith in another human being, whose brain is no bigger or brighter than yours, and believe what they tell you about God, afterlife, sin, etc. But his comment on Mormons and magic underwear bothered me. Mainly because I know most Church members, even the most literal among us, tend to see garments as sacred symbols of covenants made in the temple. They know it isn’t going to stop a speeding bullet or have them leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
But it also got me thinking about how close the Church is to obtaining politically correct status. If Bill Maher is taking shots at us, we’re almost there. A book a couple of years ago argued that one of the last acceptable prejudices left was anti-Catholicism. Be it through Kevin Smith’s movie, books like The Da Vinci Code, or good old fashioned jokes about priests and little boys, it’s a-ok. But remember the uproar over the Passion of the Christ and its so-called anti-Semitism? Few people would get away with jokes about Jews or criticism of Judaism.
I’ve seen Mormonism trying very, very hard to position itself to be like Judaism and not like Catholicism. The outrage over Jon Krakauer’s book, and the public affairs response to it, sounded similar to something the anti-defamation league would print. The “how dare he” attitude seemed to suggest he had no right to even publish the book, rather than advocate an approach of open discussion.
So, is it still open-season on Mormons — are we more like our Catholic friends or are we more like our Islamic and Jewish friends (ironically), where criticizing our faith is largely, if not entirely, off-limits?