Six weeks ago, a post appeared on By Common Consent proposing a “Scientology Rule” by which Latter-day Saint bloggers and, presumably, even non-blogger Latter-day Saints could measure themselves to determine whether they are appearing cultish to outside observers:
If your religious behaviours are such that if practiced by a Scientologist and observed by you would seem cultish, reevaluate them pronto! The best way to imagine this is to place our behaviours in the context of Scientology.
I have felt uncomfortable about this formulation and rule since the first day it was posted at BCC.
This week, the rule has reemerged over at BCC in the context of discussions of Andrew Sullivan’s insensitive and ridiculing posting of pictures of underwear worn by Latter-day Saints in his bid to discredit Mitt Romney’s potential ambitions to run for President of the United States. Again, reading references to the “Scientology Rule” made me cringe.
The “Scientology Rule” depends on ridiculing Scientologists’ beliefs. More precisely, it depends on setting up beliefs held by and the practices of Scientologists as the standard of what is ridiculous in order to evaluate what Latter-day Saints should avoid in constructing their own world view. If LDS beliefs look as ridiculous to the outside observer as Scientologist beliefs do, then Latter-day Saints should “reevaluate them pronto”.
I am as uncomfortable ridiculing Scientologists’ beliefs as I am in seeing Sullivan and ex- or anti-Mormons around the internet ridiculing the deeply held religious convictions of Latter-day Saints. I would hope that the Bloggernacle does not adopt the Scientology Rule into its daily vernacular. Rather, LDS bloggers should reject the Scientology Rule and the logic behind it. It doesn’t matter if an individual thinks that the “doctrines” or beliefs of Scientology are silly; those beliefs are held by real people with real feelings who don’t need to be made a baseline of ridicule.
Also, the reasoning behind the Scientology Rule is flawed. It doesn’t actually matter what our beliefs and practices look like to outsiders. We are not performing for outsiders. Rather, we are following our conscience to do what we believe is God’s will and that which is pleasing to God in our worship and behaviors. If Andrew Sullivan finds it as weird as he finds Scientologists, then so be it. Nothing definitive actually establishes that either Scientologists or Latter-day Saints really are weird at all except as defined by people who hold to their own arguably bizarre and ridiculous beliefs. Why ridicule anyone‘s deeply held convictions?