Even when I believed, I had a problem with a common fallacy in LDS Cultural thinking. It’s an equation that doesn’t add up, but I hear it all the time: If X = Mormon, then X = Good. The logic makes sense . . . sort of. In theory if the Mormon church is The True Church(TM) and Mormons are following God’s Plan of Happiness(TM), then yes, it follows that observant Mormons would be both correct and good at all times. I also understand that people within a religious or cultural community frequently support one another and do business with one another. That’s just fine, too. It makes sense to work with people you know and trust, and whose values you share. But sometimes this mentality goes too far.
During the Olympics, I saw friends cheer on “the Mormon from Australia” in a snowboard event. They did not begrudge her beating two Americans for the gold, because she was Mormon, and they said that a Mormon winning was better. I bit my tongue when I thought to myself that the athlete deserved to win because she performed the best. Her religious affiliation shouldn’t be the motivating factor for how they felt her victory. But since Mormons think of their religion as a religious, cultural, and even quasi-ethnic or national identity, it kind of makes sense.
Usually the X=Mormon therefore X=Good theorem is harmless enough. If you support a business because it is Mormon-owned, it’s possible you’re missing out on a non-Mormon company that might be marginally better, then who cares? Where it becomes harmful is when a bad person who happens to be Mormon is endorsed by LDS culture just because of the religious connection. I believe Glenn Beck’s popularity among Mormons is due not just to his right-wing politics, which most mainline Mormons share, but the fact that he is one of us. And since Mormon = Good and Glenn Beck = Mormon, Glenn Beck = Good and any rejection of Glenn Beck = Bad.
I have never cared much to get my news or political insights from entertainers on the radio or on television. TV can’t provide truly in-depth coverage, and the quest for ratings compromises neutrality. Even then, some journalists still do their best to behave with professional decorum. Glenn Beck is a terrible example not only of a journalist, but he’s also a bad example of what it means to be a Mormon. When my Beck-worshipping relatives put him on the TV, I see a man who:
- Touts his lack of expertise on everything as a sign that he is right
- Is so emotionally unstable that he makes teenagers look mature
- Traded in his alcoholism for an addiction to hating those who are different from him
- Engages in hyperbole and stretches of logic that make me wonder if he is, after all, just parody
- Uses hysterics and melodrama to scare people, rather than using facts and logic to convince them
- Screams at people so loudly that his vocal cords give out
- Frequently mentions that he’d like to kill people with a shovel
Don’t believe me? Listen to him for yourself.
I don’t care how you feel about Mormonism. I don’t want anything to do with someone like that. And the idea that rejecting Glenn Beck is some kind of betrayal of Mormonism based on the “If X = Mormon then X = Good” equation scares me. I have seen signs of backlash against Beck building among Mormons who disapprove of screaming, crying, and talking about murdering people in public. But it’s going to take a bit more than that to overcome the Beck = Mormon = Good logical train wreck.