The Mormon baptism thing

So Mormons have this thing where they get baptized on behalf of a dead non-Mormon, and that’s supposed to give that person a chance to enter heaven. A lot of people are saying this is offensive, especially Jews, but I’ve been mostly ignoring the issue because I’m inclined to think it’s just terribly silly, and nothing more (though I think the jokes about baptizing dead Mormons into gayness or whatever are brilliant). However, I have found one interesting argument on this score (HT: Andrew Sullivan):

My problem with posthumous baptism is that it’s disrespectful. Assuming that the dead people don’t know that they’re being disrespected, we can nonetheless assert that it’s disrespectful to the group deemed to be in need of posthumous baptism. Indeed, I’d say it is about as clear a statement as we can get of one group’s belief in the inferiority of the beliefs of another group. It amounts to an invalidation of the choices that people make in their lives and a direct paternalistic challenge to their agency: “We know better than they do and, thankfully, we’ll be able to help them out.”

My reaction to this is to think, “okay, yes and no.” On the one hand, it strikes me as a little bit immoral to think that dead non-Mormons will be denied access to heaven, simply on the basis of not having been Mormons, unless they get the benefit of a certain ceremony performed by the Mormon church. On the other hand this strikes me as much less bad than thinking (as many Christians think, and have thought throughout history) that all non-Christians will burn in Hell forever, no matter what happens after their death. Mormonism at least allows non-Mormons an “out.”

If only Christian beliefs about Hell were publicly denounced as often as the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead. Since a lot of the outcry about the Mormon baptism thing is coming from Jews, it’s worth noting that (from what I gather) plenty of Jews are quite sensitive to the fact that many Christians expect them to burn in Hell. The reason we’re hearing so much about Mormon baptisms right now probably has a lot to do with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

But why don’t people check to see if Christian presidential candidates belong to churches that preach nasty things about non-Christians? I suppose that, even for people who feel the way I do about the issue, there’s a sense of resignation, that that’s not a fight that can be won. And as for the Jews who are speaking out against Mormon baptism, maybe a lot of them really are taken in by the professions of bigoted preachers that they support Jews (not realizing that translates, “we support Israel to help usher in the Second Coming, at which point Jews will have the choice to convert or burn.”)

As Dan likes to say, your thoughts?

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