The recent Change.org petition battle between the “Once Upon a Deadpool” poster either 1) being a “form of religious discrimination” or 2) being based on a painting that itself is “racial discrimination” is coming to a head. Be prepared for multiple social media comments of outrage and articles in the Utah news cycle.
Clearly, both petitions are incorrect in their assumptions and attempts at changing the world, one movie poster or painting at a time.
The Christianity that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purports is a Christianity of turning the other cheek. After all, it is the Savior who heals the ear of the soldier about to be partisan to the murder of a god. It is a Christianity that teaches to love enemies.
The church practices this principle in an ad it placed in the playbill of “The Book of Mormon” musical: “The book is always better.” Instead of showing anger toward a musical that mocks every aspect of Latter-day Saint theology and culture, the response is the turning of a cheek.
A petition to take down a poster because it looks similar to a painting is ludicrous. A quick Google search will show that the “Deadpool” poster ripped off multiple depictions of the second coming of Jesus Christ. The church and its members do not hold a monopoly on depictions of the second coming of Christ.
On a semantics note, this is not discrimination. Religious discrimination is an institution or individual treating someone or a group of someones differently because of their religious belief. This poster and the people who make “Deadpool” are not treating members of the church differently by withholding certain rights or privileges from them.
The response that an ex-Mormon decided to post is a petition that requests the taking down of “The Second Coming” painting because he claims it is racial discrimination.
While I do not disagree that the painting is sadly devoid of racial presentation, I would like to point out that this is a white man using race to get across his personal agenda of harming an institution.
There are many faithful black members of the church who venerate the teachings of the gospel, while feeling a lot of pain when interacting with the depictions of heaven as white. This petition does nothing to help alleviate the pain of these people; instead, it is a white man using black figures — or the absence of them — to argue his personal agenda.
In attempting to get a few laughs by creating a petition, the petition creator reminds black members of the church of the pain they must feel every time they do not see themselves represented in the church’s sacred art.
In both cases, the arguments are sad, and I would hope that instead of signing either petition, we could at least do two things:
Learn what religious persecution really is and use our one-click, petition-joining fingers to fight back against it. (Perhaps with more action than one simple click.)
Recognize that we shouldn’t use black pain to forward our own agendas.
(Note: In writing this, I recognize that I too am a white person attempting to assess black pain. I cannot write fully and completely on this subject.)
Our time on this Earth is precious. Let’s use it to improve our institutions and leave a better world for those who will inherit it.
Adam McLain, Watertown, Mass., is a graduate of Brigham Young University now attending Harvard Divinity School. He studies medieval presentations of gender and sexuality in religious texts and contemporary issues in Christianity, specifically The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and LGBTQ+ spirituality.