Some Evangelicals Despise Us

 

The Crusades actually DON’T represent Christianity at its finest.

 

As this blog should by now have made clear, I’m a committed political conservative with libertarian leanings.  On the whole, this means that my political views cohere fairly comfortably with the majority of American Latter-day Saints–and certainly so in the Western United States.  They don’t fit in perfectly — I’m somewhat more libertarian than most American Mormons, for example, and, I think, a bit less nationalistic — but there’s never been any major friction.

 

I offer this explanation in order to say that I understand the social and political attitudes of the majority of my fellow American Mormons pretty well, and mostly share them.  So I also understand that many Latter-day Saints have felt themselves aligned with conservative Evangelical Protestants on such matters, and that they have felt that they could make common cause with conservative Evangelicals on issues not directly related to specifically Mormon doctrines.

 

This is true, to a considerable degree.  But Latter-day Saints need to understand that there are Evangelicals out there who hate, despise, and/or fear us, and that their hostility toward us is so intense that they really don’t mind fracturing movements to improve our nation and our communities in order to express their disdain.

 

Stephen Robinson tells a story from a time, years ago, when he was both serving as a local Mormon bishop in a southeastern state and teaching at a college there.  Community religious leaders had determined to band together to combat pornography, and, in his ecclesiastical role, he attended an organizational meeting for the group.  Seeing him, though, one or more of the local Protestant pastors announced that, if he continued to participate in the meetings, they would withdraw from the organization.  So, rather than risk scuttling a worthy effort, Professor Robinson withdrew, concluding that these Evangelical leaders hated Mormonism more than they hated pornography.

 

Which may well be true.

 

Many Latter-day Saints were shocked by the Evangelical hostility with which Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy was met in 2008.  I was not.  (I had written about it in Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints, which is now out of print but is still available, at least for the time being, online.)

 

There was considerably less of that hostility on public display in 2012, but it was still there, and, by depressing the vote that Governor Romney might otherwise have received, it probably contributed to (though it probably didn’t altogether cause) the reelection of Barack Obama to the presidency.

 

Now there has been a recrudescence of this kind of Evangelical anti-Mormonism in an ostensibly political venue (Townhall.com), embodied in an arrogant and snarky article by one Mike Adams, a Mississippi-born professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington:

 

http://townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/2013/06/05/my-apology-to-mormon-readers-n1612799

 

The article is an utterly insincere and disingenuous “apology” to his Mormon readers for a gratuitous offense that he had committed in his previous column:

 

“People often try to call something a marriage when it isn’t,” he had written. “Calling a union between two men or between two women a marriage doesn’t make it one. It’s like embedding the name ‘Jesus Christ’ in the official title of the LDS church and thinking that makes Mormonism somehow Christian. Call a square a triangle if you like but it’s still a square. Your hardheadedness won’t make it become a triangle. It will only make you appear obtuse.”

 

And that out-of-the-blue comment, of course, only makes Mike Adams appear a fool — and reinforces the image of (particularly Southern) Evangelicalism as a narrow-minded, noisy, uncharitable, and intolerant sect.  (“When I mention religion,” says Parson Thwackum in Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel Tom Jones, “I mean the Christian religion; and not only the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion; and not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of England.”)

 

My aforementioned book, Offenders for a Word, demonstrates, I think beyond any reasonable dispute — not coincidentally, no serious counterargument to it has yet been offered, anywhere — that attempts to redefine Christianity so as to exclude Mormons from it fly in the face of both Christian history and historical word usage.  For one thing, among the many things that could be said, the question of Mormon Christianity is logically independent of the question of Mormon truth claims.  The Book of Mormon might logically be false while those believing in it are still Christians.

 

To illustrate the point, Evangelicals and Catholics differ on a number of issues — e.g., the necessity of an ordained priesthood, papal authority, the sacraments, the nature of scripture, the role of tradition, celibacy, Purgatory, the intercession of the saints, the status of communion or the mass, etc., etc. — and they can’t both be right on these disputed matters.  Still, to all but a few genuinely extremist Protestants (of whom of course, for all I know, Mike Adams may be one), they’re both Christians.  Or, to choose a less well known example, Ethiopian Christians, like Mormons, have a larger canon than do Protestant Evangelicals, but nobody aware of this thinks that they are, for that reason, non-Christians.

 

Here’s an eloquent response to Professor Adams from an unfortunately no-longer-believing Latter-day Saint.  He delivers me from the obligation of saying some of the things that I would otherwise have felt that I needed to say.  But, of course, I would go further.  “Runtu” concedes far too much, from my point of view.  Every single one of Mike Adams’s claims against my faith is disputable — all of them have, in fact, been disputed — and some of them are just plain demonstrably wrong.  He’s mastered his anti-Mormon propaganda well, obviously.  Not a single one of his accusations is original with him; all of them are derivative.  But it’s clear that he hates Mormonism more than he hates liberalism.  He doesn’t mind alienating fellow-conservatives, and fracturing political opposition to liberal ascendancy, if he feels moved upon (by whatever spirit moves him) to stick it to the Latter-day Saints.

 

This is unfortunate.

 

“The Kingdom of God,” Martin Luther once said, “is like a besieged city surrounded on all sides by death. Each man has his place on the wall to defend and no one can stand where another stands, but nothing prevents us from calling encouragement to one another.”  There’s obviously no point in expecting that Mike Adams will recognize Mormons as fellow citizens in the Kingdom of God anytime soon.  But the same counsel holds for those who seek to defend basic American principles of limited government, personal responsibility, and religious freedom.  To the extent that they train their fire on each other rather than on their actual opponents, they will lose.  And they will deserve to lose.

 

But, on a happier note, inspired by the charming Professor Adams, it’s time to roll out a favorite joke (by Emo Philips) yet again:

 

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump.  I said, “Don’t do it!”

 

He said, “Nobody loves me.”

 

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

 

He said, “Yes.”

 

I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”

 

He said, “A Christian.”

 

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”

 

He said, “Protestant.”

 

I said, “Me, too! What denomination?”

 

He said, “Baptist.”

 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”

 

He said, “Northern Baptist.”

 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

 

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”

 

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”

 

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”

 

I said, “Me, too!  Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”

 

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

 

I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

 

 

  • Bruce Webster

    OK, I thought the joke at the end was hilarious. I may repost it.

    As for the general issue, I think it’s more fear than hate (though fear can lead to hate). I think some Evangelists sincerely fear us as the church of the Devil (or at least _a_ church of the Devil); I think some are unhappy at the LDS Church’s worldwide growth and commensurate increasing acceptance and influence; I think some find anti-Mormonism to be a useful form of priestcraft (“men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world”); and I think some just fall prey to the impulse to savage those who believe other than they do.

    Meanwhile, here’s a tongue-in-cheek post from four years ago relevant to the topic. ..bruce..

    • DanielPeterson

      I love the link, and hope that others will read it.

      What a contrast.

  • JoeT

    When I first read Mike’s original column regarding homosexual marriage, I was surprised that he illustrated the “calling it something doesn’t make it something” argument by referencing the Mormon claim to be Christian. It was not that I disagreed with him. Rather, it was a rhetorical mistake for he moved the focus of his words from his stated point to another issue altogether. It was inevitable that the attention would be turned from “Is gay marriage acceptable or even possible?” to “Are Mormons Christians?” So, unless that is what he WANTED to happen, he made a very rookie writer mistake. Also, his tactic surprised me for it alienated many who would otherwise have agreed with him – now they are just mad at him. It was such a bad mistake it makes me wonder if it was not intentional and a follow up point is int he offing. He has done it before. He has also made some cryptic statements that were never explained.

    But, the whole issue rests on the definition of “Christian.” Ir does have a specific meaning, and, according to that meaning, MOST of professed Christianity is not Christian. Christians are those who believe Jesus is the Christ. It was a term coined by the non-beleivers in Antioch to describe the followers of a new religion that had sprung up among them. There overall message was that Jesus is the Christ. So they called them Christians.

    Since very few people (relatively speaking) know what “Jesus is the Christ” means, they cannot have a clue as to what it means to be a Christian since they likely do not know what it means to be a Christ.

    Most of Mike’s argument had nothing to do with whether Mormonism is Christian. Virtually all Mike did was demonstrate that Joseph Smith was another in a long line of false prophets and that some of the claims of the Book of Mormon are demonstrably false and some Mormon doctrine is at odds with Scripture.. And that is only if Mike’s “facts” are accurate. I have no idea whether he is right. And I do not care, for I do not care if Mike thinks Mormons are Christians or if he thinks I am a Christian. What he believes about such matters says more about him than about the ones he talks about.

    Of one thing I am rather certain: It cannot be that a Mormon and I are both Christians, for my beliefs are incompatible with Mormon beliefs. We can theoretically both be non-Christians. If a does not equal b, then it cannot be that a and b both equal c.

    • DanielPeterson

      Thanks for your irenic note.

      I’m afraid that I have to disagree with it at several points, though.

      It is, for example, entirely possible that we differ with each other and that we’re both Christians. Arians and Athanasians, for example, disagreed with one another about the Trinity and the status of the Son, yet were both referred to anciently as Christians and continue to be described as Christians still today.

      Of course, I don’t know what incompatibilities you have in mind. Mormons believe, for example, that Jesus is divine, that he atoned for our sins, that he represents our only hope of salvation, that he rose physically from the tomb and sits at the right hand of the Father, and that he will return again at the end of time. If you reject those claims, then it may well be that, in fact, you’re NOT a Christian. But they certainly represent enough common ground, if you DO accept them, that we can both justly claim Christianity on that basis.

      I do, actually, believe — and am quite prepared to argue — that Professor Adams’s claims are false and misguided.

      Finally, I agree with you that, unless his deliberate plan was to switch topics to a hate-fest about Mormonism, he incompetently obscured his original subject (same-sex marriage) with an irrelevant but predictably inflammatory and alienating aside that insults the faith of the Latter-day Saints (of whom I’m one). A “rookie mistake” indeed, if not intentionally disingenuous.

    • Thad Gillespie

      JoeT,

      “If A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C.” This is the more familiar formulation of the transitive property, but in the way you use it, it is misleading, since it would require every element of Mormonism to conform with every element of You and with every element of Christianity. Equals means identical in every way.

      A better way to think about it is through set theory:

      If A ∩ B = ∅ (the intersection of A and B is the empty set)
      and if B ⊆ C (B is a subset of C)
      then A ⊄ C (A is not a subset of C).
      {False}

      You are asserting that Mormons (A) and You (B) contain no common elements (∅) and you are testing the hypothesis that if You (B) are in the set of Christians (C), then Mormons (A) cannot be a subset of Christians (C). This conclusion does not follow. Mormons and You may be mutually exclusive and both still be Christians.

      • DanielPeterson

        Precisely.

      • JoeT

        Thad,

        If the intersection of my theology and Mormonism is an empty set then one or both of us is non-Christian. There are essential theological truths in Christianity without which a person has no valid claim to being a Christian. So, if two claimants to the title of Christian do not agree on those points, at least one of them must be non-Christian. For your last paragraph to be a valid point, one must assume that a person can be a Christian by holding to any fraction (subset) of Christian doctrine. If that were so then two persons or groups could hold mutually exclusive subsets of Christian doctrines and still both be Christian.

        Plus, I meant more by “mutually exclusive” than what set theory means. When I say that there are mutually exclusive doctrines I mean that the systems are such that both cannot be correct.for they positively deny one another. If A and B are not equal, and you say 2+2=A and I say 2+2=B then we have made what I call mutually exclusive statements. We can both be wrong but we cannot both be right.

        The heretics in Galatia held much common doctrine with the faithful in Galatia. Their theological intersection was not an empty set. But Paul considered one side to be Christians and the other side accursed from Christ, followers of another gospel.

        • Thad Gillespie

          In my analysis I was thinking of people, not doctrines, as the elements of the sets. That is, You (B) are an element of Christians (C) and Mormons (A) are a subset of Christians (C) without requiring You (B) to be a subset of Mormons (A).

          If we get into doctrines, then it gets flipped a bit.

          Let’s define P as the most fundamental set of doctrines that defines Christianity. Q is the set of doctrines You believe, and R is the most fundamental set of doctrines that Mormons share.

          If, as you claim, you are a Christian, then P ⊆ Q (P is a subset of Q). That is, the fundamental set of doctrines that defines Christianity is contained within your personal set of doctrines.

          You are then saying that Q ∩ R = ∅, and therefore P ⊄ R. But Q ∩ R = ∅ implies that You and Mormons hold absolutely no doctrines in common, which I find highly unlikely. One case in point: do You believe that Jesus arose from the dead? Do Mormons believe that? If the answers are both “yes” then Q ∩ R = {“resurrection”}, which is not the empty set.

          Furthermore, if P ⊆ (Q ∩ R), then You are a Christian and Mormons are Christians.

          In your second paragraph above, you subtly introduce a fourth set without realizing it, S: the set of doctrines that are true. This set has an interesting inherent property: it cannot contain negations of its own elements.

          I think we are both willing to assume that P ⊆ S. You believe that Q ⊆ S. Mormons believe that R ⊆ S. It would be safest to assume that S intersects with both Q and R, but doesn’t fully encapsulate either one.

          Your contention is that there are elements in Q that are negations of elements of R, such that Q ∪ R ⊄ S (the combined sets Q and R cannot be contained in S, the set of true doctrines, since S cannot contain negations of its own elements).

          But as long as those negations are not contained within P, there is no issue. I think you are operating under the assumption that P = S. You must remember that P ⊆ S. See this diagram for context:

          http://demo.drawitlive.com/whiteboard/agdhenBkZW1vchMLEgpXaGl0ZUJvYXJkGMqF1QMM

        • DanielPeterson

          Joe T.: “If the intersection of my theology and Mormonism is an empty set then one or both of us is non-Christian.”

          But, assuming that you believe in such things as the deity of Christ, his atonement, and his resurrection, that intersection isn’t an empty set.

          Joe T.: “There are essential theological truths in Christianity without which a person has no valid claim to being a Christian.”

          Yes. And Mormons assert ALL of them.

        • Stephen Beecroft

          For the record, this is nonsense. If Christianity consists of {A,B,C,D}, and the term “Christian” applies to (let us say) any set including at least two of those elements, then you could devise three mutually exclusive pairs of “Christian” sets that have empty-set intersections: {A,B} and {C,D}, {A,C} and {B,D}, and {A,D} and {B,C}.

          Which is the entire point. When the antiMormon bigots want to exclude the LDS Church from their “Christianity club”, they simply narrow the definition to include some extraneous and extraBiblical element outside LDS doctrine as a central tenet that all “Christians” must possess, such as Athanasian Trinitarianism.

  • Richard Gardner

    I’m not sure if my first try worked so I’ll try again. Thanks Br. Peterson for this. I read townhall.com daily and have always really enjoyed Mike Adams’ columns, until now (or actually his column of a couple days ago). I read all the comments so far to both his columns and wrote plenty of my own, many of which try to make the point that the Bible never claims to have all truth, and doesn’t even mention the word Bible, and wasn’t even compiled until 300 AD, and by some definitions that antiMormons use, early Christians wouldn’t be Christian.
    Richard Gardner, Buena Vista, VA (hopefully you remember meeting me 3 yrs ago)

    • DanielPeterson

      I remember you very well, and I’m feeling guilty. I owe you a response.

  • aloysiusmiller

    Mike Adams isn’t really a conservative and evangelicals are hardly Christian. But God loves them in spite their lowbrow populism and addiction to cheap grace.

    • DanielPeterson

      LOL!

    • JoeT

      I would be interested in what are your definitions of conservative and evangelical as nouns.

      As to “cheap grace”: the grace which God’s people possess cost the Son of God His life, so it is by no means cheap. However, they, themselves paid nothing at all for it, for the Scriptures teach that, with regard to them, it is “free grace.” In that sense I am entirely addicted to cheap grace for I am a bankrupt sinner (both Scripture and my experience tell me this) and free grace is the only kind of grace I can afford.

      • JoeF

        Hook, Line, and Sinker.

        Expertly done, aloysiusmiller.

  • John Kirk Williams

    Thanks for the kind remarks, Dan. Correct me if I am wrong, but this may well be the first time you’ve linked to my blog approvingly. I’ll take that as a huge compliment. I agree that Adams’s list of Mormon errors is certainly debatable, but then he seems to be relying on contextless polemics (no surprise). I had never heard of him before, but it always bothers me when people take it upon themselves to attack Mormons and Mormonism unfairly and dishonestly. That his piece was so sarcastic and smug was just icing on the cake. Darn it, I really need to stop writing about Mormonism.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    I spent my youth listening to the musings of self righteous Christians who feared for my eternal soul and were always willing to tell me where I was going. If there is an afterlife, and if I somehow mistakenly end up there, I doubt I’ll enjoy it much if it is populated with souls like Mr. Adams.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Mike Adams is a very embattled conservative and religious believer of only a few years vintage. I get the sense from his columns tgat he was indifferent to religion until relatively recently. I admired many if his columns so was concerned a few years ago when he spouted some of tge standard ignorant anti-Mormon junk that is sold by professional Mormon bashers of the kind who make their living by engendering hate in church meetings, as they bolster their listeners’ sense of spiritual superiority. I not only commented on his blig but also sent an extended email pointing out the inaccuracies in his columns. His response was dismissive and lacking in any evidence of a willingness to be corrected on any fact he has chosen to believe.

  • RaymondSwenson

    I am reminded of the way the various factions of the Jews turned on each other when rebelling against Rome’s dominion over Judea circa 70 AD, killing each other rather than Roman soldiers. I guess a lot of people have such a short range focus that they don’t know who their real enemies are.

    Recently Christianity Today had an article in which three people who work in youth and college ministry programs for Evangelicals commented on the tremendous surge in young LDS missionaries. They admired how successful the Mormons are in motivating their youth, much more than Evangelical churches did, but they ended up excusing Evangelicals because a “grace alone” gospel cannot be expected to motivate people to make such sacrifices, which they argued was more important than the mobilization of Mormon youth in support of their religion. They appeared to have totally overlooked the faith in Christ and charity that animates Mormon youth. On reflection, I think their denial of the reality of Mormon’s faith in Christ as Savior is Evangelical’s defense mechanism because if they admit that Mormons are Christians the contrast with their own members and their difficulty in passing faith to their children becomes even more confounding. They think that God is supposed to do His work through the true Christians, so they find being in second place to Mormons an apparent favoring of Mormons by God. They have to disqualify Mormons from being candidates for God’s favor because competing against us as equals us too humiliating. I think resentment toward Jews has some si.ikar elements. don’t think the success of other churches bothers Mormons as much, because we are like Avis, having to try harder because of starting as a despised minority.

  • joe e.

    have lived my entire 46 years in the same place in NC. grew up going to Baptist Church, then after HS and for several years to come, i attended many different denominations and some non-denoms. knew “mormons” growing up, never heard any really off color remarks said about them or the Church. but boy did that change, once i was Baptised into the LDS Church nearly 2 years now!

    what’s so odd about all this, those whom seemingly display the least knowledge of the Church, are usually the one’s pointing the most direct finger as they allege us not to be Christian.

    i spent the better part of 2 years learning the history of the Bible, and a lil over 1 of those years also investigating the Church. i was mentored by a husband & wife who were 92 & 93 then and they are 94 today! the husband told me, several times & and still today that i was one of the few who recognized the truth when i heard it cause i remembered it from before? i can’t say for sure how i knew, but that learning about how the Bible came to be i know helped a lot. plus scripture reading & prayer, then heaping helpings of Margaret Barker’s books, PGP reading & reading, Hugh Nibley’s work, and the many BYU professors work,….etc

    hard to believe someone wanting to be taken seriously as i suppose that author @ townhall hopes, could reiterate such non-sense? but sadly, there is many a Baptist Church in the SE pushing similar beliefs upon their congregations when “Mormonism” is brought up today. joe

    • DanielPeterson

      It’s good to hear about your experience. Thanks for sharing it.

      I’m two years late, but welcome to the Church!

  • Darren

    Dan;

    Did you place a link on the Adams Townhall thread? If so I tried to follow the ink only to take me to a website not here. I concluded it was a fake Dan posing as you and libeling you so I got on his case a bit. Sorry if that was you but I still think it’s was a fake you, just seeking some confirmation.

    • DanielPeterson

      Hmmm. I did post a link. Twice. There are nearly 2300 comments there now, though, so I’m probably not going to go back in order to see whether some fraudster posted a false link in my name. I have the kind of critics, though, who might well do such a thing.

  • mike

    Here’s a great apology letter from Nate Hogan to Mike Adams. Would be nice if Townhall’s editor’s posted it on their website.
    http://njhogan.blogspot.com/2013/06/an-apologists-response-to.html

  • Hello Bruce

    Strange. I found a short article on the interwebs and it looks to be authored by the same Mike Adams who wrote the Townhall piece.

    http://radicalacademy.uni.me/studentrefreligionadams1.htm

    From the above link (written by Professor Adams in 2006):

    “Throughout my study, I consistently heard two harsh accusations levied against Mormons — first, that the LDS Church is a cult, and, second, that the Mormons are not Christians. I reject both of those accusations.”

    I wonder what changed between his 1996 article and his 2013 position?

    • DanielPeterson

      Mental decline? Moral deterioration? Early-onset Alzheimer’s? Too much sniffed glue? Addiction to anti-Mormon propaganda?

      Interesting find!

  • wayfarer

    Dan, I think you’re taking this Mike Adams stuff with humor and aplomb.

    The problem is that Evangelicals like Adams have been our (LDS) enemy for a very long time. I fail to understand why LDS ally so readily with a group of people that think of LDS and our religion as the antichrist incarnate. (yes, they do use that term pointed at Mormons, which is why I object to Mormons implying that other Mormons are ‘anti-christ’…I thought you’d appreciate me bringing that up…NOT).

    All Mormoms, including some “vocal cultural mormons” like runtu and wayfarer, unite with you in defense of Mormonism against such attacks.

    What drove me from the Republican party was this alliance with evangelical christianity — the infiltration of the Christian right into the republican party is at odds with freedom and the core principles laid out in the constitution (no religious test) and bill of rights (anti-establishment).

    But more importantly, it divides those who would stand for something. In Lord of the Rings, Legolas objects to being blindfolded in is way into Lothlorien. Haldir, his guide, says, “Folly it may seem — indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly manifest than in that which divides those who still oppose him”.

    Time for people like Mike Adams and others of a like mindset to realize that they are making the Republican Party a joke by these antics, and as well, shame on the editors of TownHall for allowing such divisiveness to tank the publication.

    • DanielPeterson

      I agree that it’s shameful for Mike Adams’s rant to be on Townhall.com, and that Mike Adams has embarrassed himself, whether he realizes it or not.

      But I arrived at my libertarian/conservative political and economic views without any concern for who else out there might hold analogous positions, and I can’t (with any intellectual integrity) abandon them simply because some potential political allies turn out to be jerks.

      For that matter, many on the political left and in the Democratic Party, it so happens, are also raving anti-Mormons when the occasion presents itself. They just do it a little differently, and on different grounds.


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