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‘Double Standards’? Really?

No one seems surprised by Andrew Sullivan’s most recent anti-Mormon blast at Mitt Romney [1], but it sure is disappointing. Sully lights into Romney for being a member of a church that had a racist theology until 1978. Excerpt:

A simple question: Do you think this issue would not come up in a general election or a primary? If Obama was subjected to news cycle after news cycle of clips of Obama’s actual former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, can you imagine the outrage if Obama had actually been a part of a black supremacist church – that denied whites equal access to the sacraments – for over a decade in his adult life?

I raise this because it is a fact that Mitt Romney belonged to a white supremacist church for 31 years of his life, went on a mission to convert Christians and Jews and others to this church, which retained white supremacy as a doctrine until 1978 – decades after Brown vs Board of Education, and a decade after the end of the anti-miscegenation laws.

Actually, it’s more plausible to imagine that Sullivan raises this because the election is very, very close, and his candidate, Obama, is in trouble. I share Sullivan’s disgust with the anti-black theology the Mormon church had until relatively recently, but he should well remember that his own Roman Catholic Church has until also recently preached things he finds appalling. Even today, the Church to which he belongs officially teaches that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered,” and condemns some of the things that he treasures.

Yet he remains a confessing Catholic.

The Mormon church has repudiated its racist teaching. Romney himself says he opposes the racist teaching, and was glad to have it rescinded. What more can Sullivan expect of him? Is a man supposed to reject entirely the religion in which he was raised because of one ugly teaching? Most of us struggle, one way or another, to believe certain things our faith proclaims. If Sullivan still remains a Catholic, even though the Catholic Church teaches doctrines he finds hateful and bigoted, then why won’t he give Romney the same grace and understanding he expects for himself? At least the Mormon church no longer teaches racially bigoted theology; from Sully’s perspective (not my own), the Catholic Church still proclaims anti-gay theology that is as bigoted as anything the LDS Church taught back in the day.

Besides, the comparison with Obama and Rev. Wright is that Obama joined Wright’s church as an adult with no particular religious background. Romney was raised in Mormonism. It’s easier to understand why someone raised in a particular religion would find it harder to leave over painful and difficult teachings of the religion, versus why someone not raised in a particular church or religion would choose it as an adult, despite some painful and difficult teaching. Again, why hasn’t Sullivan left the Catholic Church, despite his very public dissent from its core teaching about human sexuality, especially homosexuality? The answer will surely go far in explaining why Romney never left the LDS Church back in the day — or at least should go far enough to prompt Andrew to give Romney grace on the matter.

Besides, most people’s relationship to religion is a complicated one, and not a matter of clear, consistent acceptance of propositions. This is something I have come to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older. In fact, I was hard on Obama for his affiliation with Rev. Wright and his racism, but it was my conservative friend Caleb Stegall who helped me understand why Obama might have been right to stick with that church community, despite the racism of its pastor. It has to do with why we remain faithful to our families even when our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters do or say things we find offensive.

It’s called tolerance. And it’s called love. That, I am sure, is why Andrew remains a Catholic. And I am sure it’s why Romney remained, and remains, a Mormon. It’s why I am a Christian too, despite certain things I can’t fully understand about the faith, or entirely accept.

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120 Comments To "‘Double Standards’? Really?"

#1 Comment By Judith On October 26, 2012 @ 10:25 am

Church Lady 3:31, Oct 26th: “do you really think God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost actually work by such rules, as laid down by men? One can make all the claims one likes, even pontificate, literally, about God, but He has no contract that binds him to those ideas,”

Thank you Church Lady. People who describe others with the blind phrase “secular humanist” are usually unaware of the secular basis and practice of their own religiosity.

#2 Comment By Church Lady On October 26, 2012 @ 3:52 pm


I agree, and said so at the outset of this thread, that I agreed with Rod and thought Andrew’s guilt-by-association was nonsense.

That Andrew still considers himself a Catholic and takes communion is due to his belief that the Church will one day see the light and change their policies. That’s different than Romney’s approach to his Church’s attitude about race back in the 1970s. Not that I see much point in the comparison, but Andrew sees himself as a reformer, and as a “conservative” in the social sense, that he doesn’t want to leave the Church he was born into. But I think at some point Andrew really does have to decide whether it makes sense to stay a Catholic. That’s up to him however.

#3 Comment By Church Lady On October 26, 2012 @ 4:33 pm


This is getting tiresome. Do have some common courtesy and stop associating me with ideas and groups that I have nothing to do with.

I do not associate you with the Salafists, I compare you to them. In particular, I compare the relish you both seem to take, in your different ways, in excluding from your religion all but the most “pure” fundamentalists, and in condemning to hell to many who don’t accept the authoritative structure of your views about God.

It matters not a whit what you happen to think the pope would suggest. No one cares what the pope suggests. What matters is his infallibility in promulgating the Magisterium of the Church. Deal with it.

I know this is official Church policy, but I also know that very few Catholics actually believe in the infallibility of either the Pope, or the Magesterium, on a whole lot of issues, including of course birth control, but a lot else, including the whole teaching on ‘hell’.

It really does matter what is true, and what people think is true, and not just what the Magesterium says is true. The idea that the Magesterium must in all case be literally and completely true, is simply not tenable to most people, including most Catholics. Andrew is just one of many on that count.

Mine? LOL! Damn, the light went out again. A bit drafty in the precincts of your cranium? Define fundamentalism. How many degrees of fundamentalism are there?

Fundamentalism is the rigid belief that one is in the possession of, or belongs to a group that possesses, the one and only truth, and that this truth is true by reason of its authoritative source, and cannot be challenged on any other grounds, i.e., by argument from scripture, or by the inspired decision of duly elected (by God) authorities.

What characterizes extreme fundamentalism and how is it different from ultra-fundamentalism? Do you have any idea what you are talking about?

Yes, I do. Fundamentalism occurs on a spectrum, from mild to ultra, as in any bell cure distribution.

I would consider extreme fundamentalism the kind that sees all those who disagree with the fundamentalist doctrine as not just enemies of one’s own faith, but of God, and that they will be punished severely for this by God, such as by eternal torment in hell. Ultra-fundamentalists would be those who try to enforce these rules on others in life, using force, violence, and the power of the state. History is full of such people.

Let me give you a couple of hints: unshriven, unrepentant, in a state of mortal sin.

I already acknowledged that your prophesy of hell can be lifted if they repent. But I already pointed out that Andrew most certainly is not going to do that in the realm of SSM, and so you most certainly are saying he is destined to suffer eternal torment and separation from God in hell if he stays his course. Again, why all this petty condescension when the terms are quite clear? You are pretending to be misunderstood, when you are so easy to grasp.

The bottom line here is that this is not about you or what you think. But that is something you’ll never understand.

Of course it doesn’t matter what I think. But neither does it matter what you or the Pope think, or what the Magesterium says. It matters what Gods thinks and does, and what God is. And neither your nor the Pope nor the Magesterium can tell God what to think or do, much less what he has to be. He isn’t bound by your ideas about him. The fact that you believe in the Magesterium or the Pope has not a fig of significance in relation to the truth of God. It is all simply a claim, worked out by various highly fallible human beings, about what they think of God, and what they think God thinks of us. Some of it even has value in that respect, just as I think some of what I think about God has value. But non of it is determinative.

But you, Church Lady, are all about your magisterial personal self. The sacred trinity of “me, myself and I”. The use of the first person singular pronoun as theologic writ. “Me, me, me.”

No, not at all, or at least, much less so than you in my view, in that fundamentalism is only a mask that the ego puts on to pretend that it’s own ideas about God and the world are absolute, and come from outside itself, but which the ego has grasped so much better than anyone else, which is far more egocentric than my own views, which I openly acknowledge to be only my own, and without binding authority over others, even myself, since I am quite aware of how fallible I am. And almost all my ideas are derived form one or another religious source that I have found convincing. Some even from Christianity. But I’m not of the view that any of those sources is the one and only truth, that binds God to their laws and ideas. God is beyond me, and beyond you, and beyond the Pope and the Church and the Magesterium. Even more, appropriating binding authority to the Church and the Magesterium is the height of human egocentric folly, and lacks all humility and deference to the mystery of God, and how profoundly transcendent his point of view is in relation to all human discourse and activity. Trying to bind God to our human ideas about him is a travesty of egotism, and setting up authoritative institutions that pretend to carry the authority of God is itself the worst example of me, me, me-ism. Anyone not wearing blinders can see where that kind of extreme institutional religious authoritatism leads, regardless of the religion and its original value.

And I would say the same of the Salafists.

Here is a prayer for you to ponder. And to say if you want to. It is called an Act of Contrition. I have highlighted certain phrases for you and parenthesized some terms which you will remember from my original comment. Go argue with God if it doesn’t come up to your omniscient standards.

I really hope you read that full article in TNR about the Salafists. The main Salafist there is also trying to get the journalist to repeat the words that will make him a convert to religion. Your resemblance to him is eerie, even creepy, I must say, though I gather your views are not as extreme as his, at least on the issue of violence.

For what it’s worth. I don’t argue with God. I argue with human beings like you, and even the Pope and the authors of the Magesterium, who I find no more authoritative than any other religious source from around the world. Which is to say, interesting and worth pondering, but not in any way binding. With God, I merely converse, and commune, and worship, and love. God seems not to care what sect I belong to, or what beliefs I have. The last thing God seems interested in, as far as I can tell, is conversion to some set of fixed doctrines or practices, or membership in any club with secret handshakes or initiations. Least of all, does the God I know have any intention to send anyone to hell, no matter how terrible their sins. But who knows, perhaps we commune with different Gods.

#4 Comment By Judith On October 27, 2012 @ 9:50 am

Thank you again C.L. I rarely see anyone online react to anger with anything other than more anger.

Your previous post on Conservatism and the French Revolution was so well written I printed it out and showed it to my 94 year old father who is living with me now.

I also feel that you write to communicate. There are not a few contributors to this blog who write, I feel, to impress.

#5 Comment By Roland de Chanson On October 27, 2012 @ 9:54 am

Church Lady,

You converse with God? My hat is off to you. Do tell us what he says.

I have always found my “conversations” with him to be entirely one-sided.

Again, I admonish you. You don’t know from anything I’ve written in this thread what I believe. I merely presented the Church’s teaching and Sullivan’s hypocrisy. It was about Sullivan, not me, and certainly not you.

BTW, it’s Magisterium, with an “i” not an “e”,

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 27, 2012 @ 11:50 am

But you, Church Lady, are all about your magisterial personal self. The sacred trinity of “me, myself and I”. The use of the first person singular pronoun as theologic writ. “Me, me, me.”

Roland, you have hit on the essence of Church Lady’s presentation. I cannot associate myself with your statement that the Pope IS infallible, but Glaivester is correct that it is a tenet of Roman Catholic faith to ACCEPT his ex cathedra pronouncements AS infallible. In the absence of a chorus of ordained clergy crying “Fiat!” Church Lady also dispenses with all dissent by crying “Deal with it.” Oh, we do, but she doesn’t want to hear it.

#7 Comment By Roland de Chanson On October 27, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

Siarlys, you’re right about infallibility. However badly I put it, I merely meant that that is one of the “givens” in the Roman Church and must be believed by Catholics. It is restricted to the domains of faith and morals only. The doctrine was the cause of several schisms following the First Vatican Council.

#8 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On October 27, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

I think entirely too much like a heathen. If they haven’t thrown you out the door then keep doing what you are doing. When they finally throw you out the door start your own religion like that guy Rod linked to a few months back. He started his own version of the Catholic religion and was wearing robe like garments.

#9 Comment By Church Lady On October 27, 2012 @ 2:25 pm


It was not I who responded to dissent with
“Deal with it.” That was Roland. So you ought to direct your criticism to him, not me.

And once again, are you really the right person to be criticizing anyone for valuing their own opinions on matter overmuch?

As for the Church’s teaching, I have no problem acknowledging that it teaches what it does, and that it has some kind of high-falutin fundamentalist belief in its own infallibility – far greater than mine, I can assure you – but there’s been zero acknowledgment that most Catholics simply ignore these claims, and act otherwise. To single Sullivan out, without condemning every other Catholic who in any way ignores the Church’s claims to infallibility, is the height of silliness.

As MH says, when they start throwing everyone out the door who doesn’t take these claims with absolute certainty and faith, then we can come to some agreement. But as I say, the issue is not what the Church teaches, but what is true. I understand that Roland and Rod’s notion of what is true is a matter of some Divinely inspired source who can be taken on faith to be both Divinely inspired and true. I’m just saying that what is actually true isn’t determined by the alleged source, but by its actual veracity in reality. One’s attention should therefore be on the reality, which is its real source in any case.

And Roland, as for conversing with God, in some religious approaches it is something expected of everyone, and cultivated by everyone. It isn’t for only the few, the saints or doctors of the church, or priests and Popes, but every heart that yearns for God. If you commune with God from the heart, rather than merely through ritual, you will find a natural conversation occurring. I suggest you try it. You might actually like what you hear. It requires that you cultivate the attitude of listening to God, rather than imagining you already know what he thinks, and that can be very hard for those who only like hearing what they already think to be true.

#10 Comment By Church Lady On October 27, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

Thanks, Judith. I seem incapable of impressing even if that were my purpose, but that’s fine. My God is a patient one.

#11 Comment By Judith On October 27, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

Roland, your recent suggestion;

“You converse with God?…. Do tell us what he says”

Do you believe that one’s communion with God is germane to all, and that the communicant should tell others about it?

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 27, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

Church Lady, I never insinuated I don’t have a high opinion of my own opinion. I think I may have invented the acronym IMSHO. But I have yet to proclaim that my opinion or preference or chosen allegory is The Truth Incarnate.

Indeed Roland did use the phrase “Deal with it.” A bit ironic, since you have used to too.

#13 Comment By M_Young On October 28, 2012 @ 4:33 am

““wah-wah, Affirmative action!”, when not being used for nefarious political benefit, is simply the whine of white-boy losers who want to blame their failures on people who do not look like them.”

The last two big challenges to affirmative action have come from women, not ‘boys’. And the people doing the challenging the system of privileging blacks and others are most definitely not failures.

#14 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On October 28, 2012 @ 8:04 am

Church Lady, are you a Quaker? You sound a bit like some of the Quakers I’ve met.

#15 Comment By Roland de Chanson On October 28, 2012 @ 10:06 am

Judith asks: Do you believe that one’s communion with God is germane to all, and that the communicant should tell others about it?

Yes. No. I don’t know. Maybe. Wait….

Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou. (“I am the Immaculate Conception” in the Bigourdan dialect of St. Bernadette Soubirous.)

So, yes, sometimes. In the few cases in which God communicates with His creatures.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 28, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

M_Young, the big challenges to affirmative action, e.g. in the courts, have of course come from people who are far from failures, just as the big challenges to Jim Crow came from Americans of African descent with excellent qualifications.

In neither instance does that prevent incompetent morons with a congenital melanin deficiency from crying “Wah! Affirmative action!” to excuse themselves, nor rude, loud-mouthed, unqualified people of African descent from crying “racism” to excuse their own failures.

If an institution with a limited number of slots to fill has more applications than it has slots, SOMEONE is going to be left out. Whoever that is WILL be disappointed. There is nothing magical about black people getting the rare privilege of sitting in the same room as white people (intended to be read with maximum sarcasm), nor should manifestly incompetent people be admitted based on a rigid racial quota, but if an institution wants a mix of phenotypes, religions, cultural or class backgrounds, etc., without excluding any group as unfit, I do find it whiny for people to moan “But I was better qualified than THIS person who got admitted.”

#17 Comment By Church Lady On October 28, 2012 @ 9:12 pm


I have yet to proclaim that my opinion or preference or chosen allegory is The Truth Incarnate.

Neither have I. I certainly didn’t use the phrase “deal with it” in this thread, and if I have before, it would only be in relation to some easily verified facts, not my own theories of how the world works. In fact, everything I argue is against the notion that anyone has possession of “Truth Incarnate”, which all too often seems to coincide with their own opinions.

Which is part of my argument against the authoritarian claims of the Magesterium, some of whose proponents, such as Roland, really do seem to think it is “Truth Incarnate”, and not just a claim. I don’t even have a problem with people who make claims, as long as they acknowledge them as such and subject them to argument and refutation. I have quite a love for some crazy-ass ideas, as a matter of fact. I just don’t pretend that simply because I like them, or think they are true, that they must be. I don’t have a problem with people who have strong opinions, such as yourself even, as long as they don’t present those as “Truth Incarnate”.

#18 Comment By Church Lady On October 28, 2012 @ 9:17 pm


I’m not a Quaker, but I do have many Quaker friends, and some of their ideas do rub off on me.

I am not of the view that God only communicates with men on some rare special occasions, through special, Divinely annointed priests or prophets. In my view, and experience, God is always communicating with us, because that is an inherent aspect of his nature, and of our relationship to him. People tend not to notice this, only because they are so noisy and busy, and seldom actually listen. Even in prayer, they talk to God, but do not cultivate that attitude of listening. To me, genuine prayer is not in what we say, or how we say it, but in listening to God in silence, and learning his language, which is not of the mind, but of the heart.

#19 Comment By Judith On October 29, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

Roland,if you are still reading, thank you for responding to my question with,

…”Yes. No. I don’t know.”…

I understand. We don’t usually have a ready vocabulary with which to express our personal relationship with God, and yet still we want to. We do communicate it, indirectly, just through the way we live.

#20 Comment By Roland de Chanson On October 30, 2012 @ 11:06 am

Judith, I didn’t mean to be so ambiguous — I really don’t have a good answer. I guess I’m content to leave it to the saints and prophets to do the communicating. I suppose if God ever did get in touch with me, I’d be so terrified I’d give up sinning altogether! 😉