Mormonism as the fourth Abrahamic religion

In a New York Times op-ed piece, David V. Mason admits to being a Mormon and most emphatically NOT a Christian:

I’m about as genuine a Mormon as you’ll find — a templegoer with a Utah pedigree and an administrative position in a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also emphatically not a Christian.

For the curious, the dispute can be reduced to Jesus. Mormons assert that because they believe Jesus is divine, they are Christians by default. Christians respond that because Mormons don’t believe — in accordance with the Nicene Creed promulgated in the fourth century — that Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Jesus that Mormons have in mind is someone else altogether. The Mormon reaction is incredulity. The Christian retort is exasperation. Rinse and repeat.

I am confident that I am not the only person — Mormon or Christian — who has had enough of the acrimonious niggling from both sides over the nature of the trinity, the authority of the creeds, the significance of grace and works, the union of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and the real color of God’s underwear. I’m perfectly happy not being a Christian. . . .

Being a Christian so often involves such boorish and meanspirited behavior that I marvel that any of my Mormon colleagues are so eager to join the fold.

In fact, I rather agree with Richard D. Land, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who calls Mormonism a fourth Abrahamic religion, along with Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Being set apart from Christianity in this way could give Mormonism a chance to fashion its own legacy.

Christianity, you’ll recall, had to fight the same battle. Many early Christians grew up reading the Torah, living the law, observing the Sabbath and thinking of themselves as Jews. They were aghast to find that traditional Judaism regarded them as something else entirely.

In addition, these Christians had to defend their use of additional scripture and their unconventional conception of God and explain why they were following a bumpkin carpenter from some obscure backwater. Early Christianity’s relationship with non-Jews was even worse. Roman writers frequently alluded to rumors about the cannibalistic and hedonistic elements of early Christian rites. One after the other, Christians went to the lions because they found it impossible to defend themselves against such outrageous accusations. They did eat flesh and drink blood every Sunday, after all.

Eventually, Christianity grew up and conceded that it wasn’t authentic Judaism. Lo and behold, once it had given up its claim to Judaism, it became a state religion — cannibalism notwithstanding — and spent the next 1,700 years getting back at all the bullies who had slighted it when it was a child.

Eventually, Mormonism will grow up. Maybe a Mormon in the White House will hasten that moment when Mormonism will no longer plead through billboards and sappy radio ads to be liked, though I suspect that Mr. Romney is such a typical politician that, should he occupy the Oval Office, he’ll studiously avoid the appearance of being anything but a WASP. This could set back the cause of Mormon identity by decades.

Whatever happens in November, I hope Mormonism eventually realizes that it doesn’t need Christianity’s approval and will get big and beat up all the imperious Christians who tormented it when it was small, weird and painfully self-conscious. Mormons are certainly Christian enough to know how to spitefully abuse their power.

via I’m a Mormon, Not a Christian – NYTimes.com.

Read what Justin Taylor has to say about this.

HT:  Paul McCain

Mormonism & Islam

Brigham Young University has its first non-Mormon student body president.  He’s a Muslim.  This is being reported like it’s an example of Mormon tolerance, but is it really so unusual?  I mean this with all due respect to both religions, but isn’t Mormonism much closer to Islam than to Christianity?

Both Mormonism and Islam reportedly had their origins in a prophet receiving a supernatural book from an angel.  Both involve elaborate systems of laws, including dietary rules and regulation of virtually every facet of life.  Both have practiced or currently practice polygamy.  Both promise an afterlife that includes sex and sensual pleasure.  Both recognize Jesus but consider Him as being less than true God.  Both reject the Trinity.  Both believe in salvation by works-righteousness.

Shouldn’t Mormonism and Islam be classified together as very similar religions?  Aren’t they both together on the other end of the extreme from Christianity, which is about God’s incarnation, grace, and redemption from the Law?

Muslim becomes BYU-Hawaii’s first non-Mormon student president | Following Faith | The Salt Lake Tribune.

Are Christians Mormons?

Joel Osteen, minister of America’s largest church, joins David Barton among others Christian leaders, in believing that Mormons are Christians:

Megachurch pastor, best-selling author and perennial optimist Joel Osteen has good news to share.

“I see faith in America at an all-time high,” he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Monday.

Yes, people are struggling, but “our message is so much about hope,” said Mr. Osteen, whose weekly television services are seen by 7 million people in the U.S., as well as by people in almost 100 other countries. . . .

Mr. Osteen expressed admiration for home-state Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry — “I pray for his candidacy, I pray for him as a friend” — and disagreed with another pastor who said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is “not a Christian” because he is a Mormon.

“I believe that [Mormons] are Christians,” Mr. Osteen said. “I don’t know if it’s the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with. But you know what, I know Mormons. I hear Mitt Romney — and I’ve never met him — but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God,’ ‘I believe he’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues.

“I’m sure there are other issues that we don’t agree on. But you know, I can say that the Baptists and the Methodists and the Catholics don’t all agree on everything. So that would be my take on it.”

via Osteen: Americans’ faith at ‘all-time high’ – Washington Times.

The usual question has been “are Mormons (or some of them) Christians?”  I think we should turn that around:  “Are Christians (or some of them) Mormons?”

There are lots of people today in churches and in various ministries that are dismissive of historical Christianity and care nothing for theology.  They don’t care about the Trinity and they never say anything about the Incarnation.  They focus on attaining a happy life in this world.  They are moralists.  They have a ramped-up civil religion.  And they think Christianity is mostly about having a certain kind of family.   Isn’t that Mormonism?

So without thinking that Mormons are Christians, I do think some people who think they are Christians are actually Mormons.  Is that fair to say?

It’s going to be Romney

It looks like the Republican presidential nominee will be Mitt Romney.   Tea party favorite non-candidate Chris Christie has endorsed him, as have former candidate Tim Pawlenty.  Meanwhile, many conservative pundits are writing columns about how terrible it would be for someone to oppose a candidate just because he is a Mormon.  True, not a single primary has been held, but it looks like Romney will be the last man standing.  If that proves true, look for my Obama re-election prediction to come to pass.  That would mean not even Republicans will vote for a conservative candidate.

Columnist Michael Gerson notes the antipathy of many conservatives and Christians to Romney’s Mormonism.  “About 20 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Protestants tell Gallup they would not support a Mormon for president.”  Gerson thinks many of them will come around to supporting him as an alternative to Obama.  But, he points out, the dislike of Mormonism is even greater among liberals and secularists.

In 2008 Mormon leaders raised their heads in support of Proposition 8 — the California initiative against gay marriage. Their commitment to the traditional family runs deep, and no issue is currently more likely to provoke liberal ire. Secular progressives will add this transgression to a history of Mormon offenses against women and minorities and raise, as usual, the specter of theocracy. . . .

Secular tolerance for the emphatic faiths has been thinning for some time. To many liberal thinkers, conservative religion is inherently illiberal. Mormonism only magnifies those concerns. Damon Linker has warned that Mormon leaders, claiming prophetic authority, might dictate to an American president. Jacob Weisberg has insisted, “I wouldn’t vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism.” Twenty-seven percent of Democrats currently say they would not vote for a Mormon — a higher percentage than among Republicans or Protestants.

via Who’s afraid of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism? – The Washington Post.

Do you think Christian conservatives will vote for Romney despite his Mormonism?  Will you?  Would you rather have a Mormon in the White House or Barack Obama?  If you refuse to vote for either, what will you do?  Vote for a third party or just stay home?  Or does the candidate’s religion not really matter in the task of running the government?

Glenn Beck and his allies in Israel

Glenn Beck is in Israel, holding a big rally supporting that country against its Islamic enemies and calling for solidarity with the Jewish people.  What’s interesting, as Sarah Pulliam Bailey shows, is the way certain media outlets are confounding Beck, a Mormon, with “Christian fundamentalists” and “evangelicals” who believe that Israel is playing a role in Christ’s second coming.  See Israel a la Glenn Beck » GetReligion.

On the other hand, some ostensibly conservative Christians are indeed embracing Beck and his cause.   These include David Barton, the revisionist historian who claims that America was founded as  a distinctly Christian nation and who maintains that Beck is a Christian on the basis of his “fruits.”  And also TV Bible-prophecy preacher John Hagee.

I think what we can conclude from this is that certain “fundamentalists” are not necessarily conservative theologically at all, that they can be very ecumenical and tolerant of other religions, to the point of theological relativism.

More important to them than theological conservatism is political conservatism.  But to have politics trump theology is a characteristic of liberal theology.  Theirs is a social gospel of the right, rather than the left, but it’s still a social gospel.

 

Mormons rule on the Web

Go to Google and type “church.”  (Go ahead.  We’ll wait.)  How close to the top of results was Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a., the Mormons)?  Now try a search for another word like “Friend.”  Or “Old Testament.”  Note how the Mormons keep coming up towards the top of the search.  (For that matter, note how often they come up in the Google ads on this blog!  I suspect this post will attract a lot of them!)

This phenomenon is noted in a Washington Post article by Michelle Boorstein, who writes about the Mormon PR machine and the way it makes use of the internet:

In the age of the Internet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has found a way to dominate what is arguably today’s most important information source: the search engine.

It’s all about Mormons controlling their own image, church officials say. They’ve been doing that for a century or more. And now, with two of their own vying for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential race, and a Broadway hit and reality television generating huge interest in the denomination, much is at stake. . . .

They have always stood apart in the religious world when it comes to marketing. Savvy and aggressive, they were among the first to have a public relations shop, run public-service announcements and have a 1-800 number. The church at one time changed its logo to highlight the words “Jesus Christ,” then shifted to “Mormon” and even tried to trademark the word once it became better known. . . .
Image experts and researchers who study how people search the Web have been impressed by the church’s powerful use of the Internet. The site lds.org is the most-visited of any faith group, and Mormon church-wide conferences sometimes rank at the top of Twitter while they’re underway.

The Mormons also are the subject of publications and conference lectures for techies who specialize in the complex business of online searching, called “SEO” or “search engine optimization.”

These SEO experts debate how the church has managed to dominate the search engine box.

“They have infused SEO into their culture,” said Justin Briggs, a consultant who wrote a well-read blog post called “Breaking Down the Mormon SEO Strategy.”The church has run multiple campaigns to educate its flock about the power of search engines, and it produces high-quality information on spiritual topics such as the New Testament, Briggs said.While the details of the church’s Web strategy are proprietary, outside experts agree that the Mormons’ success is a combination of investment, focus and an unusually tight faith community. Adherents almost always attend their assigned local church, check in with official church announcements and zap anything written about Mormons around their very own blogosphere, called the Bloggernacle.

Some SEO experts say the church and grass-roots groups of members also conduct “link-building campaigns,” rallying lots of people to click on a link, and thereby raising its placement in search-engine results.

LDS officials declined to comment on the church’s specific SEO plan, but some of its strategy is laid out on a site set up to help church members become more SEO-savvy. It asks members to help boost traffic to a different site about church teachings on self-reliance, which covers a variety of topics, such as the importance of keeping a three-month supply of food and water, creative ways to find a job and adoption services for people considering abortion.

The SEO advice site says the church is trying to snag Google users who type in general terms, such as “employment” and “debt management.” Among other things, it recommends that people write articles that can include LDS links.

But the Web has not been the sole focus of the Mormons’ image strategy. Last year, the church launched a marketing campaign called “I’m a Mormon,” using television ads, taxi and subway signs, and billboards to introduce people from a range of backgrounds as Mormons.

via Mormons using the Web to control their own image – The Washington Post.