We have covered here before the Venture man and his ugly, nasty sign. That story has now broken big – New York magazine. The story is about a Ventura, California nutcase that erected an enormous neon sign in the build up to the election proclaiming Romney a racist because of his Mormon faith. Post election local authorities have tried to force him to take it down. It is, after all, one heck of a zoning violation. The guy won’t do it and is now doing a little jail time.
The story – nutcase violates zoning laws, ends up in jail due to eccentricity – is not uncommon. It is usually fodder as a local feature and everybody gets to chortle a bit at the odd and colorful local strange guy. But for such a story in a small California community to make news in a major New York outlet, well, that is extraordinary. Why is it happening? It cannot be a Romney angle really, he is done politically.
Is it a Mormon thing? Liberals, especially the same-sex marriage advocate arm thereof, bear a deep and abiding animus towards Mormons for their role in the passage of Prop 8. So accusing a prominent Mormon of being racist is something liberals are going to latch onto – it seemingly helps make their point that opposition to same-sex marriage is robbing someone of a fundamental right. I think there is something here – but even that, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decisions does not seem like enough to drive this story onto the national stage.
Of course there is the “freedom of speech” angle. But that is long settled law when it comes to zoning issues and local neighborhood covenants. That angle is usually reserved for the fellow-nutcase sections of the Internet. That is certainly ot enough to drive this to this someplace like New York Magazine.
Buried deep in the story is this goody:
Showers, a surprisingly soft-spoken 60-year-old white Christian Republican…
And there dear friends is the heart of the matter. This is intrareligious conflict threatening to explode into “sectarian violence.” Not to mention it paints religious people as unreasonable and bad neighbors. That’s what this story is about – it is a chance to paint religious people of several strips as bad. They quote Showers extensively in his accusations of racism inherent in Mormonism. And while he, the Evangelical, does so he makes Evangelicals look bad too. Why, it’s just like the Shi’a/Sunni conflicts in many Islamic nations.
Any opportunity to paint religion as unreasonable and discriminatory and wrong is the order of the day in the mainstream media. This unremarkable, ancient history, local story gives them an opportunity so we read about it in the pages of New York magazine. Showers bona fides as a traditional Christian are not really established – no church affiliation is mentioned, no training, just an assertion. But that makes little difference in a an age of dying denominations and “spiritual but not religious.” The quality of the journalism is not the issue, religious intolerance is.
It is going to get ugly for those of us of faith and we have got to get smart about how to respond.