Define anti-Mormon

mitt romneyMassachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s likely bid for the Republican presidential nomination means we get to read lots of profiles about him. Saying absolutely nothing about his political positions, the man has got charisma and charm for days and certainly adds a nice new face into the never-ending campaign cycle.

James Taranto has an excellent run-down of where Romney stands in his Wall Street Journal article today, the focus of which is whether conservative Christians could support the Mormon. As a Lutheran, I don’t vote for elected officials based on their religion. I vote for elected officials based on their policies and ability to do the job well. I judge church officials, on the other hand, based on their religious views. So I could vote for a Druid for the Municipal Water Authority — or President — in good conscience so long as he shared my political views. Apparently other people don’t feel the same way.

A crucial question will be whether Mr. Romney’s religion is a handicap. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indigenous to America, but many Americans view it with suspicion. In a 1999 Gallup poll, 17% of those surveyed said they would not vote for a Mormon for president, far more than said the same of a Jew (6%) or a Catholic (4%). . . .

The trouble is that much of today’s anti-Mormon sentiment is found on the religious right, a constituency that looms much larger in the GOP now than it did in 1968, or than it ever has in Massachusetts. Ask a conservative Christian what he thinks of Mormonism, and there’s a good chance he’ll call it a “cult” or say Mormons “aren’t Christian.”

The only problem is that it is not necessarily anti-Mormon to say Mormons are not Christian. It is true that Mormons call themselves Christian and may take umbrage that other folks disagree. But if a Christian thinks that a non-Trinitarian conception of God, a belief that God has a wife, and the belief that men can become gods puts Mormons outside of the Christian faith, that’s not anti-Mormon. One can believe that Mormons are not Christian and still donate gobs of cash to Mitt Romney for President. Reporters need to understand this distinction.

Reporters should also realize that it’s not just those on the “religious right” who don’t consider Mormons to be Christian. Officially speaking, almost all Christian church bodies do not consider Mormons to be Christian or believe their baptisms to be valid — meaning converts are baptized. This includes the United Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church, which accept baptisms from other Christian church bodies. Would it kill reporters to study this or understand why?

Admittedly, learning about Mormonism can be challenging. Mormons believe in ongoing revelation, which is how substantial church doctrines change over the years (polygamy, blacks not having the right to hold the priesthood). There are also difficulties in understanding which statements from the church’s authorities are ex cathedra, so to speak, and which are just personal thoughts. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Especially since the country might have its first Mormon president pretty soon. I wonder what James A. Garfield would say?

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  • Daniel

    Is calling a faith a “cult” anti-Mormon? Will religious conservatives–who control the GOP nominating process–back someone who they believe is a member of a cult?

  • Bob Koch

    Would it kill reporters to understand this…Well, yes. Might I add, “Duuuuuh”. I guess you didn’t see Diane Sawyer actually trying to lend validity to the myth of Pope Joan on “Ptrimetime” a couple of nights back. A more transparent and inexcusable Catholic-bash you couldn’t ask for. Do reporters understand a theological issue? No more than they can a historical one. Your aim is far too high if you thought otherwise. They will see the name of Jesus Christ and think anything, Mormon or Moonie, is a Christian. By the way, ever notice how often the conservative will happily quote the Washington Times, seemingly unaware that the owner is under the impression that he is the Messiah?

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    Well, yes, Mormons say THEY are Christians. But I also believe they say they are the true and only Christians, because Jesus’s followers founded a Church contrary to divine will. Thus Catholics, Orthodox, Presbyterians, Quakers, Methodists, etc., are not Christians, they say.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    What would Garfield say? Well, I hope that after having been smeared with the accusation of championing “rum, Romanism and rebellion”, he would have the decency to refrain from slur’s on another man’s religion. But I have particular reason to know how uncommon that is.

    For me, the proverbial last straw was the spectacle of factions bickering over who they would consent to “recognize” as REAL Satanists. So I solemnly vowed that I am NOT going to go around telling other people what they are or are not.

    Will
    Member of a “strange church” that “doesn’t believe in normal things” according to the Party of Compassion.

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  • http://www.joannakelleher.com JoAnna Kelleher

    I am always amazed at how much emphasis many Christians put on who’s “Christian” and who isn’t. I find it interesting because Jesus didn’t embrace a “us vs. them” mentality. Rather he taught us to look beyond who’s “in” and who’s “out” and love all people unconditionally. This is reflected in his parable of the Good Samaritan as much as it is in the second commandment which was agape (love unconditionally) others as you agape yourself. They will know we are Christians (followers of the Christ) by our love, not by our labels.

    Peace,
    JoAnna

  • Stephen A.

    “Jesus didn’t embrace a “us vs. them” mentality. Rather he taught us to look beyond who’s “in” and who’s “out’”

    Oh?

    How about: “He who is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23)

    And I think the Pharisees were definitely “out.”

    Jesus was a DIVIDER, not a UNITER.

    It wasn’t all about agape. It was also about taking sides.

    I’m always amazed at how many forget that.

    “Peace”
    Stephen

  • FCL

    Maybe Stephen forgets the parable of the wheat and the weeds. It is not for us to pull up what we “think” are “weeds”, for we might also pull up wheat as well. The wheat will be separated from the weeds at the last by the only one who is qualified to do so. Remember always that God is God and we are not.

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  • Scott

    But FCL I don’t think that the parable you are speaking of prevents us from recognizing heresy as such when we see it. We are supposed to hold one another accoutable and prevent our brothers from falling in the ditch. If a Mormon wants to call himslef a Christian I won’t stop him, but I may just disagree with him and if a former Mormon wants to join my church I expect he will need to understand that his former doctrine is heresy.

  • FCL

    Scott,
    I do not disagree with your last post. My only point was that before we speak with great certainty about who is “in” or who is “out” we should remember who we are in relation to God.

    It is, I think, acceptable to draw appropriate boundaries between what is Christian and non-Christian. Humans need such definition and the faith needs such definition or we risk becoming lost in a haze of confusion. On the other hand we should always draw such boundaries humbly.

    Peace

  • Half Canadian

    Victor,

    We may think that, theologically, you are wrong, but I have yet to read an LDS church publication that said that Mormons were the only Christians.
    Think about that difference a little.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Half Canadian,

    Mormons baptize all Christian converts — as well as all other converts.

    They are not likely to refer to themselves as being Christian and others not. But they are likely to say they are the only true church. Which is sort of a variation of the same.

    FWIW,

    Mollie

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    I was hoping somebody would clarify a point I was pretty vague and unsure about.

    Yes, I understand the difference between “true church” and “only Christians.” But assuming Mollie’s not outright wrong about the LDS practice of baptising converts (if she is, please say so), I think that distinction is … um … washed away.

    Part of what makes the various Christian denominations acknowledge each other, whatever their differences, as at least somehow part of the Christian church — the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church mentioned in the Nicene Creed — is that we all recognize each other’s baptisms, as in “we acknowledge one baptism,” etc. As pointed out, since LDS converts to Catholicism, but not Lutheran converts to same, are baptized, that’s de facto teaching that Mormons are not Christians. Why wouldn’t the same logic apply to the reverse?

    And since it speaks to the Nicene Creed, I may as well ask for confirmation on this, Half Canadian. Was I wrong to state that the LDS Church teaches that the manifest historical-fact church established in the Near East from 33AD through Nicea at 325 is an essentially apostate body. If I was wrong, how was I? And if not, isn’t this the mirror of the Church’s claim that the LDS Church is an essentially apostate body?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    From the NYT article I linked to above:

    “We rebaptize Catholics, we rebaptize Protestants and we rebaptize everyone else,” said Michael Otterson, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • Stephen A.

    FCL: I actually agree that only God knows who is “right,” and I want to clarify that I think Mormons are great folks and may very well be ‘right’ when we meet God and ask Him. Let me hasten to say, I don’t think they are.

    (And in retrospect, my post may have seemed like an attack on the Mormons. It wasn’t.)

    But surely, every denomination and group says they are more right than others, and we have to do our best to determine which one is “right” in our eyes (if any) based on our view of God and scriptures.

    My point earlier was that Christians have every right to say “THIS is Orthodoxy, but THAT isn’t.” Clearly, Christ did the same thing. He didn’t blindly say, “Do your own thing” when it comes to faith, as the Pharisees learned.

  • Stephen A.

    Victor, I know it’s not an official church page, but the Wikipedia article on the phrase “Great Apostasy” (a phrase it notes is shared by other groups outside the Christian mainstream) has some information on this.

    In short, apparently you are correct that they see Christendom as going off the tracks soon after Christ’s resurrection.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Apostasy#The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints

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  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Uh, Baptists repbaptize those who were “pedobaptized”. Does that mean saying they “aren’t Christians?” What about those who are rebaptized by Catholic churches (with or without “conditional” formulas) because of doubts that their baptisms were “valid”?

  • Christopher

    Will,

    I can’t answer for the Baptists, but conditional Baptism and re-Baptism are two distinct things.
    Oh, and it’s not just the Catholics who do conditional Baptism. The Anglicans do so as well when there is uncertainty about a candidates Baptismal status.

  • http://www.MormonWiki.org Aaron
  • lisa

    What I don’t understand is why christians aren’t happy to support such an obviously pro-family, moral person for president as Mitt Romney. The fact that he is a mormon is incidental. You think maybe he would try to “convert” the country?

  • http://www.mormonwiki.org Aaron Shafovaloff

    “Mormon doctrine (or beliefs) is typically hard to “pin down” for a number of reasons. The Mormon organization seems to struggle with sorting out their own basic theology. Some of this comes from change (new revelations), some of this comes from internal disagreement, and some of it comes from an unwillingness to be unequivocal about controversial doctrines (especially with the desire to mainstream). In the end, it is largely due to the fact that Mormonism is generally atheological. However, it is still possible and helpful to systemize much of what Mormons believe.”

    “There is no authoritative systematic development of Mormon beliefs. There is no final, once and for all, statement of the truth.” (Exploring Mormon Thought, p. 69).

    http://mormonwiki.org/Doctrine


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