Are you scared of Mormons?  The media hopes you are, especially our friends at the New York Times, which has been beating a steadily-increasing tom-tom of Mormonophobia.

We first noticed this strangeness when the Times ran an editorial which referred in one sentence to “the Mormon Romney.”  There was no particular reason for this religious reference; the sentence had nothing to do with faith or any related topic.  Because of this, the modifier jumped out as though it had been printed in fire, and immediately brought to mind its ancestor-in-chief, “the Jew Roosevelt,” a favorite of a former European leader.

The tempo increased with other bizarre similar references over time, but this weekend, we were treated to a one-two punch.  First, on Saturday, we got Timothy Egan murmuring darkly about Romney’s “incendiary” polygamous great-grandfather:

His great-grandfather was a fugitive, tracked by federal marshals as he tried to plant polygamy throughout the Southwest for a radical new American faith. It’s a hell of a tale, Butch Cassidy with five wives.

Great-grandfather?  Really?  Butch Cassidy?  He shot people?  Robbed banks?  Are you insane, Mr. Egan?

Today, however, the Sunday opinion pages carried an article with the title “Why Race Is Still A Problem For Mormons.”  The article notes that the church has been an aggressive recruiter of blacks both here and in Africa, has a black membership in the “hundreds of thousands,” and from the days of Joseph Smith was “egalitarian” and unbiased in its attitude towards minorities.  But the notoriously problematic Brigham Young was in fact unfavorably disposed towards black people” which, of course, was a very unusual idea in the mid-1800s here in the US.

Yet the Times runs a headline that asserts that racism is a problem for Mormons.  How many people read the article?  Few.  How many read the headline, nodded, and moved on?  Many, many more.

We should by now have learned the silliness of holding people of earlier eras to modern standards of attitude and behavior, but when it’s convenient, we can’t resist it.  Washington, Jefferson, and even Lincoln had very unfashionable ideas about race, and, to be blunt, back in Lincoln’s day, very few black people would dare show their faces in a white congregation of any denomination.  Or in Roosevelt’s day.  Or in Eisenhower’s day.  Maybe even, in some places, in Obama’s day.

That the Times, and other so-called “mainstream media” outlets would resort to Mormon-bashing is unhappily unsurprising, given the general tenor of this campaign thus far, but distressing just the same.  Surely there are sufficient unsavory aspects to Romney — his wealth, his unapologetic pride in his accomplishment (he thinks he built that), his patrician upbringing (oh, wait a minute — he’s a Mormon), his Harvard diploma (oops), his joy in firing people, killing off the elderly poor and starving the rest — for the media to feast upon.

But then again, when you consider that the very survival of the nation rests on the outcome of this election, and are dealing with such an obvious and  fundamentally evil man, I guess anything goes.  Anyone know if Obama’s great-grandfather was polygamous?  Just wondering.