Newsweek’s Offensive Mormon Cover

Hey Newsweek, this is not okay.

Frankly, it is about as far away from okay as you can get. Newsweek’s current cover mashing up The Book Of Mormon musical with Mitt Romney would probably be too much for Mad Magazine, and their entire business model is predicated on uncomfortable stabs at humor. But on the cover of one of the two major newsweeklies, it is just too much.

I’m obviously no fan of Mitt Romney or his brand of politics, but this cover trivializes his Mormon faith in a way that simply wouldn’t be acceptable with mainline Christian politicians. It just wouldn’t. Romney is a legitimate candidate for the presidency who doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment from a publication that purports to be a serious journalism product.

I don’t even think this cover would be tasteful in the hands of an ideological publication opposed to Romney and his ideas (eg. The Nation, The American Prospect), let alone Newsweek. If we’re going to have an atmosphere that encourages and embraces freedom of religion (or the lack thereof) we should be respectful of denominations no matter how small.

I think Newsweek went with this cover for a couple of reasons.

One, Mormonism is not often in step with mainstream American Christianity, and is unlikely to prompt outcries of solidarity when it is attacked or smeared. That is, a guy like the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue is unlikely to defend Mormons with the same zeal he attacks victims of Catholic church abuse. It’s a cheap hit that doesn’t cost them anything.

Secondly, and more obviously, Newsweek is desperate. In recent weeks Newsweek’s covers have showcased The Olsen Twins and the royal wedding (and there was that pinup-style Palin cover from a couple years ago). There isn’t anything wrong with a provocative cover on a newsweekly designed to sell issues, but those covers made much more sense when People magazine did them.

Tina Brown is presiding over the merged Daily Beast/Newsweek in a bid to be relevant once again (doomed to fail, I predict) and covers like this are the byproduct. I can hear the editorial team now: OMG! He’s a Mormon, let’s Photoshop him onto the poster of that Mormon play that’s doing so well right now! Because… Mormon!

It’s lazy thinking, bigoted, and simply not okay. Our fellow Americans, who happen to practice Mormonism, deserve better than this.

  • MRMacrum

    C.S.Strowbridge says:”Here’s the problem, religions are supposed to be led by a god or gods. So if the leadership is doing something really wrong, then their god(s) should step in and fix it.”

    You then go on to explain religious fervor and idolatry like it is based on facts and hard evidence. Religion is based on hearsay and wishful thinking. Therefore, no religion can be labeled “wrong” or for that matter, even “right” based on any hard evidence. Faith is what keeps religion ideology going. The efforts of some religious leaders to turn that faith into physical manifestations is nothing but using their beliefs to justify their actions aimed at changing the culture they exist into one more in line with their own world view. It then becomes more about power here on Earth rather than what a particular god might think.

  • trakjoe

    @Marco:

    If you want to confront Farris personally for his offensive and homophobic comment, I will pay for the flight. His particular brand of crap went beyond the pale this time.

  • Marco21

    What the hell have gay people done to be ashamed of their history?

    The Village People
    Will & Grace
    Cher’s Oscar dress
    Charles Nelson Reilly
    Richard Hatch
    San Francisco
    Barney Frank
    The Macarena

    On behalf of all gay people, please fuck off.

  • C.S.Strowbridge

    MRMacrum says: “Like any organization, religious or otherwise, the members are often judged by the policies and direction of the leadership…”

    Here’s the problem, religions are supposed to be led by a god or gods. So if the leadership is doing something really wrong, then their god(s) should step in and fix it.

    “Qui Tacet Concentit”

    Your silence implies consent.

    And since this bigotry is based on the religious teachings of Joseph Smith (sorry for that error earlier) it is even more troublesome for the religion. Either their god changed its mind, or the religion turned its back on god’s teachings, or Joseph Smith was wrong. If god changed its mind, then god was wrong before, which I’m pretty sure is not allowed by the Bible. If Mormonism turned its back on god’s teachings, then it is a false church now. If Joseph Smith was wrong, then it has always been a false church.

    And like I said, I’ve known people who have switched churches for less. Or for that matter, you could give up on organized religion entirely and just pray in your closet. That’s what Jesus said you were supposed to do.

  • C.S.Strowbridge

    “If you are Mormon, either you don’t know the history, or there is something wrong with you.”

    MrGreyGhost says: “Now replace ‘Mormon’ with ‘gay’ and it’d be a problem, right? But then liberal bigotry towards religion….SHOCKING!!!”

    Do you have evidence of systematic racism based on gayness? If so, post it. If not, shut the fuck up.

  • timmy

    Some of the best ministers, priests, teachers, monks, anti-gay legislators and rhetoricians were gay. And those were just the conservative ones who were eventually outed.

  • MRMacrum

    Not sure why Oliver got his panties in a twist over this cover. If a Mormon is offended by this cover I would tell them to take a breath and calm down. And I wonder where he got the notion “Newsweek” was at any point “serious” journalism. It’s a magazine that deserves it’s place in the doctor’s office right next to that crumpled copy of “Guns and Ammo”.

    Like any organization, religious or otherwise, the members are often judged by the policies and direction of the leadership. In my opinion, the leadership of the Mormons are doing more damage to the political landscape than any other religion at this time. Money has poured out of Utah to fund social agenda issues all across the country. And to claim this money is not being influenced by church doctrine is being at best naive, at worst just being stupid.

    And to Zython – great reply. I read the original comment and thought, “What a moronic analogy.”

  • Zython

    Hahahaha. Real fucking funny, Farris. Really, those things are FAR worse than polygamist communes. See, this is my serious face.

  • KXB

    Hey – The Macarena was the fault of the Puerto Ricans. No need to blame the gays for that one.

  • SaveFarris

    What the hell have gay people done to be ashamed of their history?

    The Village People
    Will & Grace
    Cher’s Oscar dress
    Charles Nelson Reilly
    Richard Hatch
    San Francisco
    Barney Frank
    The Macarena

  • http://frankdisalleisadummy.wordpress.com/ The Dark Avenger

    Wait a minute – Mormons have pushed the Jews out of accountancy?

    Since you need to work for a CPA firm in order to qualify to get a CPA in the first place, you can see how much of a barrier of entry can be created vs. the law as the way it used to be, when only a degree in accountancy and passing the CPA exams were barriers to entry in CA in the past.

  • Zython

    Now replace “Mormon” with “gay” and it’d be a problem, right? But then liberal bigotry towards religion….SHOCKING!!!

    That doesn’t even make sense. What the hell have gay people done to be ashamed of their history? Damn, MGG, I don’t know how you did it, but you managed to suck at being a bigot.

  • KXB

    Wait a minute – Mormons have pushed the Jews out of accountancy?

    Jokes aside, whatever oddities of the faith, or shameful conduct of church officials – it is hard for me to see the downside of courting Mormons as a political bloc – wealthier than average, fewer social maladies, low rates of divorce or single-parenthood, well-educated, and not averse to business success, which as I noted earlier tends to be in real business, and not just financial chicanery. They vote overwhelmingly Republican, yet it is Republican primary voters that view them with suspicion. They are shooting themselves in the foot.

  • http://frankdisalleisadummy.wordpress.com/ The Dark Avenger

    KXB, my wife is an accountant and she says many of the CPA firms are filled with Mormons, and now that you have to work in a CPA firm for a while in order to get the CPA, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be a selective pressure that would work towards the Mormon side of things.

    She also calls them “Morons” because don’t know what to do in real-life situations when something comes up, and it often does.

  • serfdood

    “Frankly, it is about as far away from okay as you can get.”

    Nope, I think it’s perfect, and perfectly awesome!

  • KXB

    It’s no more wacky that when a billion Muslims believe that while napping in the desert, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mohammed and gave him God’s revelation. Plus, the fact that Mohammed did not actually write the Koran, as he was illiterate. While Islam forbids idol worship, millions of them descend on Mecca every year to walk in awe around a giant cube.

    Or, is it wackier than Jews who believe Moses walked through the desert for 40 years, when that was probably the average lifespan for a human at that time?

  • Burn

    Let’s see how this works: God sends an angel, appropriately named Moroni who appears like a Native American to Joseph Smith and tells him where this special box is buried in the ground. But he cannot get the magic box right away, since he didn’t follow all the special instructions given by Moroni. It takes a few years, then one fine day he managed to get the magic box open and found inside a book made of golden plates for pages. The angel was also very insistent that no one else see the book so Smith refused to show it to anyone. Smith, being the divine person he is, manages to translate the pages with his ‘seer stone’ from ‘reformed Egyptian’ into English, and voila, the Book of Mormon is now here on Earth. Hooray.

    Seriously, this is what they believe!

    I’ve always viewed judeo christian religions as the biggest scams ever perpetuated on the human race, but this one really takes the cake.

  • Willie Stark

    Gary: “Maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up. But I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the Church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.”

    Cartman: “Damn, that kid is cool, huh?”.

  • chuff80

    I, for one, did not find the cover offensive. Silly, yes. Commercial? Absolutely.

    In all reality, most people who choose to learn about the church, without a pre-formed negative agenda, come away with at least a positive impression of the good works that the church does, if not respect and admiration for how individual members try to live their lives.

    This has been my experience with hundreds of conversations that I have had with people about my faith.

    I wrote my own longer response here: http://www.coryhuff.com/the-mormon-moment

  • KXB

    C.S.Strowbridge,

    Again, draw a distinction between the leadership of an organization and the members of that organization. For example, I have no problems with my Muslim colleagues here in the U.S.. But I would hesitate to live in a Muslim-majority nation, even relatively moderate ones such as Indonesia or Malaysia. Should I fault my eye surgeon, who is Catholic, for the failures of that church?

    If you want to criticize Romney, or wonder about his motivations, leave his religion out of it. He was never that religious to begin with, and only talks about when the issue is brought up. Jewish candidates are not asked why they can be quite leftish in the U.S., but almost Likud-like when it comes to the Palestinians.

  • Jen7

    C.S., it’s Joseph Smith, not John Smith. As an ex-Mormon, I’m comfortable with saying that Mormonism is a crock. With that said, I don’t hold it against anyone practicing their religion. I don’t particularly find the cover offensive though. There’s nothing misleading about the cover, is there? I think it mainstreams Mormonism. Now, whether it does in a negative way….that’s another thing. But, I think it’s good for Mormon’s that Mitt is running.

  • Quaker in a Basement

    Phil gets it.

    Tina Brown has control of Newsweek, so expect it to reflect Village sensibilities from here on.

  • MrGreyGhost

    “If you are Mormon, either you don’t know the history, or there is something wrong with you.”

    Now replace “Mormon” with “gay” and it’d be a problem, right? But then liberal bigotry towards religion….SHOCKING!!!

  • C.S.Strowbridge

    According to John Smith, black people are black because they are cursed and if they pray heard enough, they will turn white.

    I’ve seen people leave their religion for less reason than that.

    If you are Mormon, either you don’t know the history, or there is something wrong with you.

    And before anyone attacks me for being anti-Mormon, I feel the same way about Catholics and the pedophile priests.

    Either that or you are a Dara O’Briain type Catholic.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUVNZFylTdo

  • KXB

    Dark Avenger,

    That is also a common slur directed at Jews. Growing up in NY, you would often hear that once Jews get a seat in local government, they would push out gentiles.

  • http://frankdisalleisadummy.wordpress.com/ The Dark Avenger

    KXB, the Mormons have a history of getting into institutions like local governments(the county government where I live, for example) and excluding non-Mormons after doing so.

  • KXB

    “”As an atheist, I am not impressed by “good works” that seem to be PR cover for evil.”

    “Evil” is a rather loaded term, and should be used with caution. An institution, whether a church or a government, can be corrupt without being evil. The LDS, Catholic Church, mosques, synagogues, temples, and DC politics all experience serious corruption, but I would not label their existence as evil.

  • http://sonic.net/~ckelly/Seekay/index.htm Repack Rider

    I would draw a distinction between the politics of the church itself, and the behavior of everyday Mormons.

    That’s where we differ. The church is composed of lots of ordinary Mormons, who have allowed it to descend into corruption. The hardworking, industrious image comes at a personal price paid behind the scenes. The stories of Mormon apostates are more illuminating than anything the Church says.

    One of my friends from kindergarten and Boy Scouts converted after high school. He is my window into their world, and I don’t like what I see.

    As an atheist, I am not impressed by “good works” that seem to be PR cover for evil. I do my “good works” without announcing them to the world, ironically enough a philosophy attributed in the Book of Matthew to Jesus and not followed by any organized church.

  • http://www.politicususa.com Phil Perspective

    OW:
    You hit it. Will anyone call out Tina Brown for this? Last I remembered, she was still a Villager of good standing. So, why this cover?

  • http://www.oliverwillis.com Oliver Willis

    What KXB said. Every religion has its silliness. Every.

  • KXB

    I would draw a distinction between the politics of the church itself, and the behavior of everyday Mormons. In addition to what you wrote, the LDS explicitly barred black people from joining until as recently as the 1970s. There is some understandable concern about church authorities supported ballot initiatives that oppose gay marriage/civil unions.

    But, should the LDS be held to a different standard than other religions?
    After all, the Catholic Church has had a horrific record in bringing child abusers to justice, that does not mean that Catholic-affiliated charities, hospitals, and schools do not do good work.

  • http://sonic.net/~ckelly/Seekay/index.htm Repack Rider

    In my view, anyone who accepts the LDS theology already has a problem with reality.

    Underneath that Leave it to Beaver exterior there is a lot of moral corruption This is to be expected in a church whose founding principle was to get a con artist named Joseph Smith lots of teenage sex. It was the LDS who financed and championed the bigoted proposition 8 in California from the HQ in another state.

    Read what Mark Twain said about them. He was onto something. The church hasn’t changed as much as it has gotten better at public relations.

    I don’t hate Mormons, but I hate what they do. When someone claims to speak for God, they don’t speak for me.

  • KXB

    BTW – Newsweek also got into some trouble when it portrayed Obama in a dancing Shiva pose. I’m not a particularly observant Hindu, but I doubt they would portray Obama holding the Ten Commandment like Moses or on a crucifix.

  • KXB

    I never understood the suspicion that some people view Mormons. I mean, I could not join a faith that does not allow alcohol or caffeine. But, by and large, Mormons’ social indicators would indicate that they are a catch – large families usually with a mom and dad at the head, high percentage of college graduates, and when they go into business, it is usually making a real product or service, not Wall Street shell games. Because of their missionaries, many speak foreign languages. Huntsman’s dad developed the clam-shell container for Big Macs, Marriott hotels was founded by a Mormon, and while I do have some problems with Romney’s politics – he did get Staples off the ground.

    IMO, Romney would be a serious challenge to Obama, especially if the economy remains soft. The problem is will he be able to convince the large Evangelical base of the Republican party, and the Tea Partiers who opposed Romney-care.