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Some thoughts on the Mormon controversy

October 10, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Mormon issue with Mitt Romney. And here’s what I’ve come up with (for now):

1. There IS in fact a lot of anti-Mormon rhetoric flying around. And it’s not so different from other religious bigotry we’ve seen in politics in the past (consider the anti-Catholic sentiment directed at Kennedy, for example). Robert Jeffress, the Southern Baptist minister who said Mormonism is a cult and not true Christianity, is holding up a long tradition of religious/political fear mongering. It’s like the Protestants who warned that electing a Catholic would mean submitting to the rule of the Vatican. In this case, electing a Mormon would mean losing God’s favor (according to Jeffress anyway, who may or may not have noticed that his God hasn’t been showing much favor to the U.S. for the last decade … even when we had a born-again Christian in the Oval Office).

2. It’s not just conservatives who bash the LDS church. What’s up with the Obama campaign pushing the idea that Romney is “weird“? Is that code for “he wears spiritual undergarments”? Hmm? For those of you on the left getting all outraged about the religious bigotry on the right, let’s not pretend that liberals like Mormons any better. Republicans didn’t stage that Broadway musical lampooning the church.

3. Religion is wacky. Period. Mormons believe some stuff that seems pretty out there to non-Mormons (Jesus came to the Americas after his resurrection? What?). But it’s also a relatively new religion. Imagine hearing the Christian narrative for the first time ever? A woman who has never had sex conceives a baby (the father is a supernatural entity who can’t be seen). The baby grows up and becomes a street preacher who gets in trouble with the authorities, is executed and then rises from the dead? And if you say you believe the story, you get to live forever. A lot of folks are acting all high and mighty about their beliefs when in fact they think and do some pretty weird stuff, too.

4. It’s OK to explore the question of whether or not Mormons are Christian. Religion, for better or worse, is on the political table. Let’s talk about it. Mormons are not following “traditional” Christianity (and I put that in quotes because it’s hard to define what truly traditional Christianity would look like given the ways in which Christians have strayed from the life and lessons of Jesus). But Mormons believe the Christian narrative didn’t end with the Christian Bible, so of course they are going to believe and do things that don’t make sense to “mainstream” Christians.

(Oh, and by the way, that’s true with Catholicism, too. There are still many Christians out there who don’t believe Catholics deserve the Christian label for the same reasons. The church has its own teachings and authority and rituals that seem cultish and unChristian to some. Of course, that doesn’t stop Catholics from identifying as Christians.)

I say Mormons can identify as Christians if they want to. And non-Mormon Christians can disagree with that claim if they want to. But if the media is going to try to sort this out with the candidates on “Meet the Press,” then they had better be willing to present some serious religious history, theological context and expertise.

Just my .02.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. charleswhitmire permalink
    October 10, 2011 5:59 pm

    Once again the Religious Right make Christians look like total idiots… That being said, any basic introduction to Mormon theology will identify a VERY different theology than that of Christianity. Mormons have been trying to “identify” with Christians for a long time, but that doesn’t make them Christians. …and if you look into what makes a cult a cult its hard to not give them that label. (Where does one even begin. Joseph Smith? Christ’s return to only him? A language he alone interpreted on tablets that disappeared after his revelation? The list could go on for pages.) Yes, religion as a whole is weird – even the Christian story takes faith to believe. …but none of that makes Mormons, Christians. But again – it has no place in the political debate. 🙂

  2. Jack Wirtz permalink
    October 11, 2011 2:09 pm

    Amen, well said Ellen

    The name Christian is not copyrighted, (but woe be to the pretenders).

    Although Mormons are indeed a cult that identify themselves with the name of Christ, but then so are those who go around calling themselves Christian, though having written their own religion, all being so far removed from the religion of Christ that His name is blasphemed infinitely.

    Religion or no religion at all is really of no consequence UNLESS the candidate’s ethos poses a threat to the Country; for the a priori of government is to defend the people from all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

    That being the case, the axiom holds fast, “All is fair in love and war.”
    If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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