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.

Would conservative Christians vote for a Mormon?

Two of the Repubican presidential candidates, the alleged front-runner Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, are Mormons.  Both addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an organization of conservative Christian political activists:

“I came today not to give a political speech,” former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. told the crowd in a downtown Washington ballroom Friday, “but simply to introduce myself and my family.”

There was, however, nothing simple about it. The audience he was addressing consisted of hundreds of politically oriented Christian conservatives. Huntsman, who is expected to announce soon that he is running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is a Mormon.

The message that Huntsman, who is largely unknown nationally, seemed to be delivering to the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition was this: My values are no different from yours.

The other Mormon in the race — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is presumed to be the early front-runner — also addressed the group. But where Huntsman made overt references to God, Romney made none. Instead, he emphasized economic themes: unemployment, declining home prices, debt, foreclosures.

via Can a Mormon presidential candidate win over the Republicans’ evangelical base? – The Washington Post.

In principle, would you be bothered by having a Mormon president?  Would you vote for a Mormon?  Would you vote for either of these two Mormons?

Would refusing to vote against a candidate because he is a Mormon be an example of bigotry?  An unconstitutional imposition of a religious test and an establishment of a religion?  A violation of Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms?


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