Reporters, Baptists, Romney & ‘cults’

Let’s see, how long is it until the GOP primary in South Carolina?

Oh well, whatever, never mind. Apparently, it’s time for another round of the Mitt Romney theology wars. This whole drama is packed with all kinds of religious lingo and complicated arguments, all of which tend to get mashed into meaningless mumbo-jumbo by the time they make it into newsprint (especially headlines).

Before we move into a New York Times report that demonstrates how messy this can get, let’s review some basic guidelines for reporters.

(1) The vast majority of Trinitarian Christians do not believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints is an orthodox “Christian” body of believers. This is not a belief rooted in fundamentalist Protestantism or some sort of raving bigotry (unless you want to pin that label on the Vatican, as well). It’s a statement of fact about doctrinal debates between sincere believers on both sides.

(2) People who insist on saying that “Mormonism is a cult” are not automatically saying the same thing as people who say “Mormons are not Christians.” The complicated truth is that different groups of people use the term “cult” in different ways. Some are using it in a narrow, doctrinal sense, while others are painting with a broad sociological brush. Here’s how I tried to explain that in a Scripps Howard column during an earlier battle over this topic.

… The Southern Baptist Convention’s web site on “Cults, Sects and New Religious Movements” includes page after page of materials dissecting LDS beliefs and practices. It uses this definition: “A cult … is a group of people polarized around someone’s interpretation of the Bible and is characterized by major deviations from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, particularly the fact that God became man in Jesus Christ.”

Hardly anyone still calls the Latter-day Saints a “cult” in terms of a “psychological or sociological definition” of that term, stressed the Rev. Tal Davis, of the SBC’s North American Mission Board. But traditional Christians must insist that they can use a “theological definition” of the word “cult.”

“This may not be the best word and we admit that,” said Davis. “We’re using it in a technical way, trying to make it clear that we’re describing a faith that is — according to its own teachings — far outside the borders of traditional Christianity. … We’re not trying to be mean-spirited. We want to be very precise. We take doctrine very seriously and we know that the Mormons do, too.”

In other words, Jewish historians would have solid grounds for referring to Trinitarian Christians as members of a “cult,” one that has radically changed the Jewish faith.

(3) Mormons believe that they have the true faith and that the Trinitarians are wrong and people of good will on both sides of that divide have not found a way around this clash. Instead of worshiping one God — known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the Latter-day Saints teach that God and Jesus are separate beings, each with a literal body and parts. Jesus was sired by God, with a divine Mother in Heaven.

When faced with people claiming that “Mormonism is a cult” or that “Mormons are not Christians,” reporters simply cannot assume that they know what these people mean when they speak these phrases, even when this takes place in a political context.

If Romney is the GOP nominee in 2012, millions of traditional Christians are going to vote for him despite the fact that they believe his church is a doctrinal cult and, thus, that he is “not a Christian” in the ancient sense of that word. In other words, they will vote for him even though they believe many of his religious/doctrinal views are wrong.

Meanwhile, millions of Democrats are going to vote against Romney, in large part because they believe that his religious/political views are wrong, primarily on matters of sexuality and legal protections for the unborn.

It’s complicated. So what does this argument look like in print, in the New York Times?

WASHINGTON – A Texas pastor introduced Rick Perry at a major conference of Christian conservatives … as “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ” and then walked outside and attacked Mitt Romney’s religion, calling the Mormon Church a cult and stating that Mr. Romney “is not a Christian.”

The comments by the pastor, Robert Jeffress of Dallas, injected a potentially explosive issue into the presidential campaign: the belief held by many evangelicals that Mormons are not Christians. And it raised immediate suspicions that the attack might have been a way for surrogates or supporters of Mr. Perry, the Texas governor, who has stumbled in recent weeks, to gain ground by raising religious concerns about Mr. Romney. …

Mr. Perry did not bring up religion on Friday night as he addressed a Republican dinner in Iowa. Asked by a reporter whether he believed the Mormon faith was a cult, Mr. Perry said, “No.” Asked whether he repudiated the remarks of the pastor, he said, “I’ve already answered your question.”

Later on, the Times piece does offer the following information that helps clarify what is going on in this drama:

Mr. Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, an influential congregation within the Southern Baptist Convention, also expressed surprise at the stir his comments created, saying that his view of the Mormon Church is widely held by evangelicals. “This isn’t news,” he said. “This idea that Mormonism is a theological cult is not news either. That has been the historical position of Christianity for a long time.”

That statement by Jeffress is accurate — depending on how one defines the word “cult.” Note that he said it is a “theological” cult, not a cultural or sociological cult. The problem is that the latter, more damning definition is precisely the one that will be assumed by most readers. Is this the definition that is assumed by most mainstream political journalists?

At the end of the story, readers learn that Jeffress says he will have no problem endorsing Romney or voting for him. In other words, his differences with the candidate are theological, not political. In the end, millions of people with similar beliefs will pull levers in voting booths, knowing that they are voting for a president, not a pastor, bishop or Bible teacher.

Journalists are going to have to get up to speed and learn how to tell the difference between bigoted believers who reject Mormons, period, and those who reject their theology, but are willing to work with them in the political arena. Otherwise, there is no way to make sense of these events.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Could part of the problem be that many people, including many journalists, equate the words “not a Christian” with “not a good person”? I think of the old-fashioned phrase “That’s mighty Christian of you,” in which “Christian” is merely a semi-secular compliment.

  • Tregonsee

    Comment #1 is part of my view, and I will also add that they are confusing not being a mainstream Christian with being a member of a cult. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc are not members of cults, but neither are they Christians. If Mormons are Christians, instead of Mormon Christians, then it is a very, very close call.

  • kristy

    Very good points, all. I appreciate the way you explained point #2. I sometimes wonder if there are occasional journalistic entities that knowingly obfuscate the theological with the socialogical meanings. I also wonder whether some church leaders & spokespeople also do that. (Not necessarily in this instance.)

    I know my daughter automatically assumes that if I mention the word ‘cult’ near ‘Mormon’, I’m being judgemental, and I mean it in a bad way. The word really has too much baggage to be used in a serious conversation without at least a qualifying adjective.

  • Fralupo

    Does it seem like the media’s coverage of the “Mormon issue” is better this time around than in 2007/2008? I would imagine that having the same religious issue come up so soon would mean that the controversies are still fresh in reporters’ minds.

  • Jerry

    Speaking of reporting, I read in one place that Perry dodged the question when asked if Romney was a Christian. So I suspect this litmus test won’t go away because people who have strong theological and doctrinal frames-of-references will focus a lot of attention on this issue.

    depending on how one defines the word “cult.”

    If people are going to use a word in a sense that most Americans will misconstrue, they should either try to use another word or try to make sure their definition is part of every statement they make. Even then, I’d bet that many reporters would just omit the definition from a story thus exciting and confusing people.

  • Dave

    My personal view is that Jeffress’s technical accuracy in use of “cult” is less important than the raking up of sectarian coals in the middle of a political campaign, and that the latter is reprehensible.

    Evidently reporters covering him tacitly share this view. I cannot bring myself to blame them for it.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    I don’t see the Times article linked in the post, so hereit is.

    I suppose it would have over-burdened the article, but there is a great deal of background to First Baptist, Dallas that makes the phrase “an influential congregation” a major understatement. For one thing, 40 years ago it was a mega-church before you heard of mega-churches. Membership was 25,000 (not 10K) but that included a variety of ethnic and speciality congregations that may have been spun off into independent churches. More significantly, it was pastored for 50 years or so by one W.A. Criswell, a fundamentalist who was one of the driving forces behind the fundamentalist resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention.

    tmatt, I think your point about separating the faith from the man is critical to understanding the perspective of men like Robert Jeffress. Pardon my presumption, but full quote might emphasis your point:

    He also said that he believed Mr. Romney is a “good, moral person,” and that he would endorse him over the president.

    If it comes to that, he said, “I’m going to instruct, I’m going to advise people that it is much better to vote for a non-Christian who embraces biblical values than to vote for a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces un-biblical values.”

    This is reminiscent of a medieval comment (St. Francis, maybe?) that it’s better to be ruled by a wise, virtuous Muslim than a corrupt Christian.

    Finally, I heard about this yesterday from my step-father, a fundamentalist Baptist. He pretty much said the same thing as Mr. Jeffress.

    And btw, someone might want to tell The New York Times that’s Doctor Jeffress.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    I truncated by father’s point, which is that it’s policy, not doctrine, that will determine his vote.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    PASSING BY:

    Duh. Thanks for the heads up.

    DAVE:

    That’s your personal view, but it’s terribly unprofessional. It’s bad news when reporters start reporting that they are convinced a person said, rather than accurately reporting what was actually said.

    That will really help build public trust of our endangered public press.

  • Will

    Try imagining someone publicly calling a political figure he dislikes a “Fascist”. Would you say “It depends on how you define ‘Fascist’” or complain he was using “an incorrect definition”? Or regard it as “mere vulgar abuse”.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    WILL:

    The word fascist is a political word.

    The word “cult” is a religious/theological word that turned into a sociological word.

    You are saying that it is bigotry for people to use the word accurately, simply because journalists don’t have the ability or willingness to ask follow up questions to pinpoint the meaning?

    I would argue against the word’s use in the public square (as opposed to dialogues between religious leaders), but last time I checked it’s hard to silence people in the public square.

    Come on, reporters, do the hard work. Ask the follow up questions. Cover the details.

  • bob

    Journalists will also have to learn what things all Christians accept as true. You mentioned the fact that most reject Mormon teaching on the Trinity. On NPR the press seems to think that is the opinion solely of “evangelicals”. THEY are the ones rejecting a Mormon candidate. It never occurs to them that Orthodox and Roman Catholic, not to mention Protestants who might not fall under the “evangelical” definition might also find their theology sub-christian. Listening to reports about this it just seems to blow the minds of the reporters; that anyone would DARE to say someone else is *not* a Christian — based on what they believe. That could almost be a story itself! One they are as able to grasp almost as well as the idea that neutrinos go faster than light.

  • Jeffrey

    Did the NYT call or infer the minister was a bigot? Is the NYT story flawed? I’m confused by the critique.

    While I appreciate your defense of the comments, I’m wondering whether that’s really a journalist’s responsibility? I also wonder if there’d be call for context if the pastor made similar comments about Jews?

  • sari

    Jeffrey #13 said, “I also wonder if there’d be call for context if the pastor made similar comments about Jews?”

    You betcha. And, tmatt is right, context matters, though the word Jews would use for Christianity, at least those Jews who have issues with any type that uses Hebrew Scripture to validate its version of Christian theology, is not cult.

  • sari

    … It is incumbent on reporters to be clear. If Jeffress uses cult in a way specific to his particular brand of Christianity, the reporter who is aware should anticipate the misunderstanding and clarify. I have similar issues with my local paper’s religion reporter, who uses the term “observant” to describe any Jew who walks into a synagogue once a year. Observing a holiday is not the same as being observant, a word which has a very specific meaning within the Jewish community. Misusing the word misrepresents the interviewees and the community to both Jews and the larger, non-Jewish community.

  • Joshua

    … The history of the “cult” meme is relatively recent in the history of evangelical congregations having been brought to the fore some 60 years ago. An excellent overview of this phenomenon is “Bearing False Witness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult” by Douglas E. Cowan. He mentions the Sociological Countercult as well. But his focus is on the Christian end of things. For anyone not conversant with the subject it will explain the furious reaction of minority religious groups to these people and their language.

  • Joshua

    Sari,

    Jeffress’s use of “cult” is at odds with the SBC’s which does not label the Catholic Church as a cult. More specifically he is quoted in numerous places, as well as appearing on video, referring to it as a non-Christian Babalonian Mystery Cult. This is clearly at odds with the SBC.

    So he clearly does not use his denominations teaching or definition on the subject. It would require pages to cover the subject in any article. I think the reporters are doing fine.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    JOSHUA:

    URLs please for his remarks on Catholicism.

    Sorry, but GetReligion is never going to argue in favor of misleading journalism. It would not take pages to stress either (a) his differences with the SBC or (b) how he is using the term, especially in light of his pledge to endorse and support Romney.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    The Jeffress comments on Rome are actually quite easy to find and they are totally different from what one would encounter in an SBC seminary:

    http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&hl=en&gl=us&btnmeta_news_search=1&q=Dallas%2C+Jeffress%2C+Catholicism%2C+Babylon&btnmeta%3Dsearch%3Dsearch=

  • Jeffrey

    Well, the pledge to support Romney only reinforces the context of him calling it a cult. He made the remark not as part if a theological discussion, but while politicking for a REAL Christian. As the NYT reported, the political intent was clear and that his use I’d the term cult was done as part if a political act. That’s why people are appalled.

  • sari

    Jeffrey, I can’t speak for Jeffress, but I can speak to how practicing Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Christian fundamentalists of my own acquaintance have referred to LDS as a cult in my presence over the years. Some have also used the same word in regards to the RCC (a particular Methodist friend comes to mind) in addition to the word pagan. So I don’t think for a minute that Jefress’ use of the word “cult” is unique to him or to the SBC. Again, journalists need to learn the lingo of the groups they report on and translate that lingo into language easily understood by the reader.

  • Jeffrey

    Sari, did any of your friends call it a cult while stumping for a presidential candidate at an Evangelical political event? Context is key for more than translating cult in the most positive possible light. That’s why the reporting focused on the political context. I agree that we need to let people explain the context of their statements that are offensive to others, but we don’t need to whitewash and play apologist. While this may be a “translating Jesus-land speak” issue, it’s also offensive to Mormons no matter what they say at SBC seminaries.

  • Mike O.

    I agree that journalists need to make sure that they are communicating what a person is saying, and ask questions if they are not sure. If someone being interviewed is using the word “propaganda” it needs to be clear if that person is using the original neutral meaning of the word or the more common pejorative meaning.

    But some of the blame has to fall on Jeffress. He can’t use that term without clarifying which meaning and knowing how most people would interpret it, then act all shocked like Captain Renault when people might have “misinterpreted” him.

  • sari

    No, Jeffrey, they weren’t stumping. But it is clear to me that the word cult has a very particular meaning for some groups and a different meaning for others, and that this code word has been in use for a long time. It is not, btw, a word applied to Jewish or other non-Christian groups (Christian being defined as those who believe in Jesus). Frankly, I think his choice of words was deliberate, a way to address simultaneously both insiders and outsiders.

  • tmatt

    MIKE O:

    Jeffress DID clarify his words. Also, his remarks were made on a religious talk radio show, correct?

    Yes, he was using insider language. All the more reason to accurately report what he actually said.

    Explain it. It’s still offensive, as the SBC official in my column admitted. But the reference needs to be accurate.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Terry, here’s a related question. I went looking on the SBC.net site for the section on “Cults, Sects and New Religious Movements.” I can’t find it. I did a search using the site’s search engine for the word “cult.” No joy. What the what?

    I haven’t done a Wayback Machine look to see if I could find where/when that was eliminated. Yet.

    (And btw, that old column of yours does say pretty much everything relevant to the current discussion. Nice work.)

  • Ryan K.

    This is where some basic religious homework does a lot of good for reporters and politicians. Many of these conflicts arise because their is a journalistic ignorance as to the founding of Mormonism and the convictions of Joseph Smith.

    Joseph Smith would have bristled at the idea of Mormonism being considered just another denomination of Christianity. In addition, Mormons in their Holy Writings such as the Pearl of Great Price and D&C teach things about the eternal nature of God, the person and work of Jesus, and the means of Grace.

    I do not write any of this to be inflammatory but only accurate and factual. It seems the media is more obsessed with trying to get someone to say something non-PC and sensational about Mormonism, than doing the actual homework to find out if there is any merit to considering Mormonism part of the Christian faith.

    Even some interviews of religious scholars like Stephen Pothero could clear this stuff up.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Ah. The SBC has moved its cult and new religions stuff to its own site. http://www.4truth.net/new-religions/

  • Mike O.

    tmatt, yes he did clarify his words. I didn’t say otherwise. And as I mentioned we agree that it’s important that the journalist makes sure that he properly conveys what is trying to be communicated.

    My one point of contention is that even though Jeffress was speaking on a religious radio show that doesn’t mean that all or even most of the people listening would correctly assume which meaning of the world “cult” he’s using. Just because the listeners are religious does not automatically mean they interpret the word cult solely in terms of a theological cult. To me, he had to have known how some would see it and should have stated clearly at that time that he was referring to a theological cult.

  • Passing By

    From Reuters</a, an additional quote by Dr. Jeffress :

    “Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person, or one who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?”

    It’s interesting to compare the SBC site pages on Mormonism (in the cult section) and Catholicism (in the denominations section), then compare those pages to Dr. Jeffress.

    tmatt, you should check out the page onEastern Orthodoxy. They allow as how ya’ll trace your origens to Pentecost (the Catholic Church dates from the 6th century), but also gives tips to witnessing to you. :-)

    tmatt, you should check out the page on

  • Jared

    This was a well-written article that hit the root of the issue: The varied definitions of the word “cult.” But Jefress was given too much credit – Mike O is right on point that the journalists are only partially to blame. Jefress should have used a word that conveyed his intended meaning rather than an inflammatory one that amounts to name-calling. “Non-Orthodox Christian” is much clearer to average joe than “cult member.” …

  • Rod

    “…the Latter-day Saints teach that the God of this world and Jesus are separate beings, each with a literal body and parts. Jesus was sired by God, with a divine Mother in Heaven.”
    This isn’t an accurate statement of Mormon beliefs. Rather Mormons believe that before he was born, the pre-mortal Jesus existed as Jehovah/Jahweh. That He was the creator and God of this world.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Spiking away, killing the anti-Mormon posts and posts that are essentially Mormon apologetics.

    The image with this post came from a pro-Mormon apologetics site, where it was used without comment. In what sense is it offensive?

  • Tim

    As a Mormon, I don’t find the image at all offensive.

    The common usage of the word “cult” will always be offensive. Regardless of what it might mean in theological circles, it has no positive connotation whatsoever in the general public’s eye.

    Like other Christians, Mormons believe Jesus Christ was the literal son of God the Father and was born of Mary. And I can’t imagine many Mormons being offended with the term “Non-Orthodox Christian,” which identifies us as believers in Christ and as Christian, but also identifies us as being distinct and different from mainstream Christians. That’s a much better solution than claiming we’re not Christian or calling us a cult.

  • Will

    You are saying that it is bigotry for people to use the word accurately

    I am saying that this is as unrealistic as talking of an “accurate” definition of “n*gg*r”.

    Are we supposed to ignore the great god Usage in this one instance? Like neo-pagans insisting that everyone using the word “witch” in the sense it had before 1948 is “wrong”?

    How has it been going trying to put the genie back in the bottle with “fundamentalist”?

    Will, member of a “strange church” that “doesn’t believe in normal things” and “is probably a cult” according to Missouri Democrats. (Damned straight, I feel threatened.)

  • Will

    … Even the heresy-hunters are chronically unable to agree on whether Seventh-Day Adventists are a “denomination” or a “cult”.
    (http://www.amazon.com/Four-Major-Cults-Christian-Seventh-day/dp/0802804454/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318252684&sr=8-1)

    Check out your local “Christian” bookstores on this. Or has Hoekema revised his book to be “The Three Major Cults”?

  • chris

    You know, I took an anthropology class that classified races… Negroid, Mongoloid, Caucasoid. If I were go call someone who is of African decent a Negroid, I would assume they’d get pretty offended, even if it’s technically accurate and there is no offense intended.

    It’s a cop out excuse, and I would expect outrage for someone to appeal to technicalities and scientific definitions in explaining why they feel its appropriate to call Pres. Obama our first negroid president.

    The term cult is offensive, and it’s used by people as a smear, while claiming to be “technically” accurate. Of course, Christians were and are cult followers techically… I think every religion must be technically:
    Cult:
    1. A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
    2. A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

  • chris

    Accidentally posted…. just about every religion matches up to #1.
    But the way everyone interprets it is through the #2 definition — ie. small group of sinister religious people.

  • Jared

    There seems to be a fair amount of confusion in the comments as to what Jeffress actually said and when he said it.

    This is the introductory speech where he implied Romney is not a Christian, but said nothing about him belonging to a cult:
    10/7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvEo4inOnGY

    This is the first interview after that most sites reported on, with the original “cult” comment:
    10/7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aF2Cnhr5jQ

    Here is the follow-up interview on the radio talk show, where he repeatedly called it a “cult” with no qualifications whatsoever:
    10/7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdbVku7zDhQ

    And here’s the interview with CNN where he first acknowledged that it’s all about how you define the terms and briefly touched on the theological/sociological distinction.
    10/7 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-NLIUVuOc0

    Here is the Fox Interview two days later:
    10/9 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYtXOgEnPBs

  • Julia

    The Catholic Church still uses “cult” similarly to what is expressed in Chris’ #1 definition. It’s not considered a negative epithet in world-wide Catholicism.

    As in the very old Latin term Disparitas Cultus; i.e.
    Disparity of Worship, terminology used when discussing a Catholic planning to marry someone not in communion with the Catholic Church.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05037b.htm

  • kirsten

    ahem.. while i happen to deal in academia where the word “cult” is still used in its technical meaning..
    i *assure* you that if Robert Jeffries says it he means it in a specific and derogatory fashion.

    he also calls the Catholic Church “spawned of Satan” and a “Babylonian Mystery Religion”.. so i tend to discount anything he says.
    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/category/individuals/robert-jeffress

    in fact if he backs a candidate i view said candidate with extreme suspicion.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    kristen:

    So he is both in and out of the SBC mainstream. He agrees with the Catholic Church that Muslims are not Christians, but also believes that Catholics are not Christians — or Christian enough.

    Jeffress is using the term in a specific, derogatory and theological fashion. He does is not saying that Muslims are part of a sociological or literal cult. He is saying that they are part of a theological cult, in that their doctrine on the nature of God is radically different from Christian tradition. That’s offensive.

    He is also saying that Romney is a fine, moral political leader that he intends to endorse and for whom he plans to vote, when other options are gone. These would be strange remarks to make about a literal “cult” member.

    All of that being said, it is perfectly nature to see if Gov. Perry accepts or rejects the “theological cult” language for Romney and millions of other GOP voters.

  • Passing By

    Muslims should be Mormons, perhaps?

    As a Catholic, I should, I suppose, be incensed. I can’t work up too much outrage, though, given the real suffering – even ,rape and murder, real people suffer in the world. Moreover, whether it’s ”cult” or ”whore-of-Babylon”, it’s old hat to this Texan. I worship Jesus Christ as Lord at Sunday Mass. What Robert Jeffress or any commenter here think of that is what they think.

    My point relevant to journalism is the confusion expressed between the personal and the abstract (for want of a better word) in these comments and too often unchallenged in journalistic accounts. Dr. Jeffress didn’t ”attack” Romney, or his religion (see links above for examples of attacks). He expressed a theological opinion. The readiness to take it personally strikes me as insecurity and immaturity.

  • Chris Atwood

    Lost in all the cult talk was that Jeffress pretty much explicitly called on Christians to apply a religious test of office: to vote for evangelical Christians over non-Christians wherever possible (according to policy issues). That was very clear and explicit in what he says. Yes he will vote for Romney over Obama, but then, I’m sure he doesn’t consider Obama a Christian either. This is pretty much a blatant call on voters to see it as their moral duty to apply a religious test of office. It’s an example of speech that is legal, but is “unconstitutional” in the sense of advocating practices fundamentally contrary to the existing US constitution. Fortunately, groups like the ADL are beginning to focus on this rather than the “cult” biz. But even there, if Jeffress gets his way and religious tests are applied, then I’d really understand why Mormons would want to be considered Christians — it could be the key to having the full range of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Just like the Ahmadis in Pakistan or Indonesia.) This is just another illustration of why in a confessionally defined public sphere, accurate theological definition is always the handmaiden of invidious politico-economic distinctions, which is why those interested in making accurate theological definitions ought to be against having a confessionally defined public sphere.

  • Chris Atwood

    P.S. Where’s Darryl Hart when you need him, like in this debate?

  • Passing By

    As has been noted before, the Constitution precludes the government from establishing a religious test ; individuals may vote and politic on any basis they wish. One can argue, in fact, that arguments like that advanced in #14 are attempts to unconstitutionally limit the speech of private citizens like Dr. Jeffress and establish a public square in which the secularist confession rules.

    I raise again a question from another thread : who are more numerous, Christians who will not vote for a non-Christian, or non-Chrstians/secularists who would not vote for a Christian?

    And Mr. Atwood, Dr. Jeffress has referred to Pres. Obama as a Christian, albeit one who embraces non-biblical positions.

  • John Lambert

    Here is an article by one Evangelical who disagrees with calling Mormonism a cult. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/09/my-take-this-evangelical-says-mormonism-isnt-a-cult/comment-page-27/


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