Franklin Graham and the latter-day politicization of the BGEA

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president, visited the Rev. Billy Graham earlier this month.

Presidential candidates have been doing this since before I was born. They meet with the respected evangelist, he prays for them and with them, they get their picture taken and announce what an honor it was to have met with the old preacher. The end.

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney (left) meets with Franklin Graham (right) as the Rev. Billy Graham is posed between them.

Candidates have always known better than to seek or expect an endorsement from Graham. That has long been a matter of principle for him and for his ministry. Billy Graham was an evangelist, not a politician. He was called by God, he said, to preach the gospel to everyone — Democrats, Republicans, independents, everyone. And he refused to jeopardize that by taking sides in elections or partisan politics.

Until now.

Romney left North Carolina with Graham’s endorsement.

Graham did not speak publicly in support of Romney, but a statement attributed to the 93-year-old evangelist was released by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, led by Graham’s son, Franklin. And the following week, the BGEA began running newspaper ads in support of Romney. Those ads feature Billy Graham’s picture and words attributed to him by Franklin and the BGEA.

The BGEA took one more step unprecedented in its history — scrubbing its website of every critical reference to Mormonism and backing away from its longtime belief that the LDS Church is not Christian. Along with Romney’s political agenda, the BGEA endorsed his theology. Billy Graham and the BGEA had long characterized Mormonism as a “cult.” They no longer do so. Apparently, since Mitt Romney is a Mormon bishop, the elder Graham’s theological differences with Mormonism could not be allowed to cloud the endorsement of the Republican candidate now being attributed to him.

Here’s a whole bunch of links summarizing the BGEA’s newfound desire to reinvent Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.

David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement was the first to call attention to the BGEA’s attempt to scrub its website of any criticism of Mitt Romney’s religion: “Billy Graham Endorses Romney Then Scrubs Site Calling Mormonism a ‘Cult.’” And Badash sees Franklin Graham’s grubby fingerprints all over this clumsy political maneuvering:

Billy Graham is 93 years old and in frail health. He’s been in and out of hospitals as recently as August.

It is unlikely that Billy Graham actually wrote the statement his organization released in his name.

Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, earlier this year was widely condemned for comments he made on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” when he strongly questioned President Barack Obama’s faith as a Christian. “I can’t say categorically,” if Obama is a Christian, the younger Graham stated.

Adelle Banks of Religion News Service asks “Why is Billy Graham so involved in the 2012 elections?” Banks interviews Graham biographer William Martin, who says, “I’m reasonably certain that he’s not done this before.”

The new BGEA campaign is “more in line” with the son’s historical behavior than the father’s, Martin said.

“I think that Franklin has an influence in there,” Martin said. “But I can’t say … that he is leading his father to do something that he’s not willing to do.”

… Michael Hamilton, who chairs the history department at evangelical Seattle Pacific University, also sees the son’s hand behind Billy Graham’s political involvement.

“The ‘vote biblical values’ campaign repeats the slogans of the religious right in ways that Billy Graham never did until he was very old and frail,” Hamilton said. “I think it would be more responsible for the media and for Americans to interpret these statements as the statements of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its current president, Franklin Graham, as opposed to the statements of Billy Graham himself.”

Jason Dye says the same thing, but with more candor and less tact:

[Franklin Graham] is a political hack who only needs to please a certain (and generally white, privileged, male-dominated) evangelical base. But he is shrewd enough to recognize that his father’s legacy is stronger and wider than his will ever be. As long as he can ride those coattails, he will. As long as he can convince his locked-away father — who is losing breath and consciousness — that he is taking care of him and convince his followers that the words that are supposed to be representative of Billy Graham are actually Billy Graham’s … then, glory be! Franklin Graham the scam artist/political hack can get away with destroying a legacy and helping to steal an election at the same time.

Ron Goetz is a bit more harsh — comparing Franklin to Grima Wormtongue, the poisonous, treasonous adviser who exploited the enfeebled King Theoden in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

In two sentences, Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist offers a clearer understanding of Billy Graham’s pre-2012 avoidance of politics — and the reasons for it — than Franklin or anyone else on the current BGEA board seems to possess:

I always thought that Graham’s appeal to most Christians was that he was never about politics; he was always about Jesus.

Now we know better: He’s as much a conservative shill as James Dobson, Bryan Fischer, Mike Huckabee, and all those other Christian leaders who see the government as little more than a tool to advance their faith.

The Burner Blog of Fuller Seminary responds to the BGEA ad in Graham’s name with withering sarcasm.

In The Guardian, Jonathan Wynne-Jones says, “Billy Graham’s lurch towards Mitt Romney risks his legacy“:

[The Grahams] are sending out a message that says God is on the side of the white, conservative Mormon rather than the black, liberal Christian.

By becoming so political they risk damaging the incredible work Billy Graham has done in spreading a gospel that preached forgiveness for all, because it turns out repenting might not be enough.

Instead, you have to ask for your liberal views to be washed away as well because your faith will always be suspect unless you subscribe to a certain brand of Christianity.

All across the board, this deviation from Billy Graham’s previous a-political stance has been seen as a disaster for his legacy and for the BGEA and it’s once-central evangelistic mission.

But it hasn’t been a disaster for everyone. As Graham’s hometown paper, the (Asheville, N.C.) Citizen-Times, notes, the BGEA’s spastic lurch toward partisan activism may have given Romney a boost with white evangelical voters:

The meeting was aimed at improving Romney’s image with conservative Christians, especially in the South where he will need strong turnout to win the White House.

Romney has faced some difficulty with evangelical voters, in part because some believe his Mormon faith means he is not a Christian.

And as the local TV news, CBS Charlotte, reports:

Romney’s embrace of Franklin Graham draws in an evangelical leader who has been criticized for his harsh views of Islam. The younger Graham has described Islam as evil and offensive and has said Muslims should know that Christ died for their sins.

This, I think, is the core of the story. Romney needed white evangelicals to embrace him as part of their sectarian tribe. And Franklin needed a prominent Republican to help restore his standing after a string of talk-radio-style incontinent gaffes. So they worked out a deal.

Two sons desperate for the power once wielded by their more-famous fathers — both unable to display the integrity their fathers displayed by pursuing something other than power. But they were able to help each other.

The oddest aspect of this story is that Billy Graham hasn’t just abandoned his long-standing principled opposition to taking partisan sides in an election. He has also purportedly abandoned his long-standing theological disagreement with Mormonism.

Whatever the merits or demerits of Graham’s view of Mormonism prior to late this year, the salient point here is that he believed it to be a “cult” — something other than Christianity. Now he and his BGEA are just treating it like one more denomination. (And — as Mark Silk points out — Romney, a former stake president in the LDS Church, took an unusual step from his side by agreeing to pray with non-Mormon Graham.)

As Chaplain Mike wrote at Internet Monk, “I think they just sparked a theological debate.”

And they did so, ironically, by pretending that there is no theological debate — or at least no theological differences equal to their political affinities.

Scot McKnight quotes from BGEA’s chief of staff, Ken Barun, who said the description of Romney’s religion was removed because “we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.” McKnight notes:

This is precisely what has not been done; BGEA has politicized theology by removing it.

Elsewhere, McKnight noted: “Over the years Billy Graham has made mistakes in connections with the White House; this one appears to be another mistake in the political realm.”

The clumsy Franklin-ness of this whole business is that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him or to anyone at BGEA that America has a secular government in a religiously pluralistic society. They seem to think that they couldn’t endorse Romney without endorsing Romney’s religion, and so — because they decided politics was more important than theology — they chose to give Mormonism a big sloppy kiss of BGEA-approval. Weird.

As Tony Jones writes:

Evangelicals say that the Bible and theological orthodoxy are the most important things for a Christian to abide by. And yet, time and time again, evangelicals will forsake these tenets for political expediency.

… It seems that Graham, like many other evangelical leaders, is supporting Romney. That’s totally fine. But to sweep under the rug their long-standing teaching that the LDS Church is a cult is not only disingenuous, it’s downright deceptive.

And finally, Alan Bean provides a terrific bit of historical perspective in a post titled “Why Billy Graham is down with a Mormon president.”

“Billy Graham reflects the best and the worst of the culture that produced him,” Bean writes, speaking of mid-20th century Southern white evangelicalism. You should read the whole thing, but this part is particularly good:

If you can get past theology, white evangelicals and Mormons are cut from the same bolt of cloth. Both groups are highly patriotic, endorse hard work and personal responsibility, believe in a small government and insist on a dominant military. Truth be told, both groups have backed away from their  traditional embrace of white supremacy gradually and with a marked lack of consistency or sincerity.

This racial ambivalence is easily explained. Jim Crow enthusiasts took a terrible psychological thumping during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Men and women who had traditionally seen themselves as the conscience and moral heartbeat of America, suddenly found themselves denounced as bigots and haters, a loathsome cancer that should be excised from the body politic.

Southern evangelicals never recovered from the shock.

… Over three decades later, the specter of “liberalism” has grown to monstrous proportions in the evangelical imagination. If you hate liberals, the religious Right is willing to be your friend.

This explains why Billy Graham and other evangelicals are making peace with Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Their theological opposition to the Latter Day Saints hasn’t dimmed in the least, but anti-liberal ideology, not Christian theology, calls the tune in this brave new world of ours. The Religious Right inhabits a Manichaean world. They can only be bathed in light if their opponents are shrouded in darkness. If evangelicals represent the salvation of the world, liberals must spell the damnation of all things good and lovely. They simply must.

See also:

• Religion News Service: “After Romney meeting, Billy Graham website scrubs Mormon ‘cult’ reference”

• Raw Story: “Billy Graham website admits scrubbing ‘Mormons’ from ‘cult’ list after endorsing Romney”

• CNN: “Billy Graham buys election ads after Romney meeting”

• David Badash: “Billy Graham, Even After Endorsing Romney, Still Believes Mormonism Is a Cult”

• Bruce Wilson: “Graham’s Romney Endorsement Accidentally Spreads ‘Mormonism Is a Cult’ Meme to Millions”

• Pastor Chris: “Billy Graham Sells Out Before Checking Out – Mormonism No ‘Cult’”

• A Life in Juxtaposition: “Dear Franklin Graham: DBAA With Your Family Legacy”

• Alise Wright: “Billy Graham, politics and promoting the gospel”

• Frank Schaeffer: “Franklin and Billy Graham Sell Their Souls for a Mess of Republican Pottage”

• Frank Schaeffer: “Billy Graham Endorses Romney’s Secret Conversion to Islam — Says ‘At Least He’s Not a Homosexual!'”

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  • LL

    Amusing. At least I think so. I’ll have to remember this the next time a self-described Christian starts going on about how immutable their beliefs are, yapping about liberal situational ethics and similar nonsense. 

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    I mean, at least they are a little more religiously tolerant, now!  A LITTLE.  Hooray, one less hurdle for rich white men to face!  

  • Ursula L

    Two sons desperate for the power once wielded by their more-famous fathers — both unable to display the integrity their fathers displayed by pursuing something other than power.

    This, I think, is untrue.

    You do not wind up as rich or as powerful as either the elder Romney or the elder Graham unless you are actually pursuing wealth and power.  

    The difference, I think, is that the elder Romney and Graham recognized that you will get more wealth and power if the people around you believe that they will benefit from you gaining wealth and power, and you get the most wealth and power by defining “the people around you” as broadly as possible.  So you pursue power politically by offering political leadership towards goals that will benefit the general public, or you pursue power in a religious context by giving religious people a venue where they can feel spiritually fulfilled, that the time and money they are giving you is doing something they consider religiously good.  

    The younger Romney and Graham inherited the elders’ desire for power, and the legacy of the work the elder had done.  But they didn’t inherit the understanding of how power is only power in relation to others, and that you waste power if you try to use it to force others to give you power rather than persuading them that your power is for their good.

    When I was younger (either elementary school or jr. high age) the church my family attended participated in one of Graham’s Crusades.  I didn’t go to the event itself.  Which is good, because I would have hated it – far too crowded and noisy.  But even mostly watching from the outside, the whole event seemed quite manipulative, getting a lot of people doing a lot of work without pay to pull it off, and it seemed a foolish thing to spend so much energy on.  

    Being able to get that many people working for you for nothing is a huge amount of power.  And that was just one city.  Graham pulled this scheme off over and over again, in city after city, for decades.  And this was not to do good in the world, organizing people to build Habitat houses or run food banks, or to promote governmental and social policies to help the poor, the sick, the elderly, etc.  

    Interestingly, I later had a chance to see Al Gore do his “An Inconvenient Truth” powerpoint live.  

    And he used many of the same techniques that I remembered from the Graham crusade.  The difference was, Gore had an issue that was actually about the well-being of the people he was addressing, and all the volunteers – people running booths about housing insulation, or safety in bicycle commuting, etc. were addressing practical things related to the problem of global warming. 

    Even if someone wasn’t persuaded by Gore, they’d leave with a free compact-fluorescent light-bulb, and their carbon footprint would be reduced by the efficiency that this light-bulb added to their household.  I can’t think of anything that Graham offered that would get even those who weren’t persuaded helping a bit.  

  • Joshua

    Interestingly, I later had a chance to see Al Gore do his “An Inconvenient Truth” powerpoint live. And he used many of the same techniques that I remembered from the Graham crusade.  The difference was, Gore had an issue that was actually about the well-being of the people he was addressing

    This is a difference in the eye of the beholder. Billy Graham’s issue is certainly about the well-being of the people he was addressing, in his own eyes and in the eyes of many Christians.

    And I think that addresses your point about his relationship with power. That much volunteer labour is certainly powerful, but harnessed in a selfless cause, even if it is one you disagree with. He didn’t lust for his own self-aggrandisement as his son is apparently doing, even though becoming a household name throughout the English-speaking world was a side-effect.

    Which is not to say I agree with the guy on all points, or would enjoy myself at one of his revival meetings any more than you.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    But even mostly watching from the outside, the whole event seemed quite manipulative

    Yes, exactly. I remember thinking the same thing when I saw him on television when I was a kid. Every time Fred posts praising Billy Graham, I cringe. Billy Graham was always one of those people who screamed “snake oil salesman” to me, one of those people whom I could never comprehend how anyone else could believe or follow him. Not because of the words he said, I can’t remember anything he said, but he always felt *off*. Much more so than Pat Robertson, who is a disgusting man, but a disgusting man who clearly believes passionately in everything he says.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Ha!  You think you cringe?  It wasn’t until my grandma’s funeral that I found out that about 50 years ago (well, 45 at the time, but give or take anyway), my grandpa worked for Billy Graham for a living.  (And then, during the service, the preacher gets up there to tell us that those without God, i.e. most of us direct descandants, are without hope….)

    OK, oneupmanship over, now.

  • LL

    Also, how bad are all the other major Republican candidates that, despite every one of them besides Huntsman being nominally Christian, none were deemed acceptable by a majority of Republican primary voters? I mean, we all know how bad they are (except for, perhaps, Huntsman, I’m honestly not familiar with his opinions), but how much they must hate Romney, remembering hearing all these years about those weird Mormons and their magic underwear, and now one is running for president as the Republican nominee. How fucked up and unelectable do you have to be as a Christian Republican to get beaten by a Mormon? Now we know. Santorum. Bachman. Cain (assuming he was serious). Pawlenty. Paul. Gingrich (holy crap, how was ever taken even semi-seriously?). Perry. It’s not a list of viable candidates, it’s a list of obvious punchlines. 

    And that’s just including the nationally known ones. That doesn’t include the miscellaneous Republican nutjobs who’ve managed to get on the ballot in various states with obviously rather relaxed rules for inclusion. 

  • Victor

    I can’t even trust my right hand NOW! Let me try to explain if I can? Both my hands were co-operating and they seem to be complementing each other until three quarter of the way “IT” my Left  said something that my Right did not like and voila, our Right Hand hit a key and my Left hand still doesn’t know what happened cause “IT” has all disappeared and that’s kind of fustrating if ya know what me, myself and i mean?  

    Long story short! I can re-write “IT”, well let’s just say that I can paraphrase “IT” but “I AM WHO I AM” not sure if “IT” is wise cause I just got back from MASS and have received “The Body and Blood of Christ. so what do you think friends? Does the majority want to hear about “IT” here NOW? http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/2012/10/almost-every-knee-will-bend/#comments

    Peace be with ya!

    Don’t be making fun of U>S gods Victor if ya know what’s good for ya cause not even vs will be able to help ya this time.

    SORRY@!?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    This last Republican primary only bolstered the statures of George W. Bush and John McCain, and all who came before them. Whatever you think about any of those guys, they at least managed to get on the ballot in each state (whereas Santorum and Gingrich couldn’t even manage that, and Gingrich spectacularly failed to even get on the ballot in Virginia, his home state!!) 

    They managed to lower the bar for basic competence so much that Mitt Romney was able to clear it by several miles; Romney probably isn’t the greatest candidate in the history of democracy, but he at least managed to fill out the paperwork he needed to be a candidate on time. He might never get his face on Mt. Rushmore, but at least he is capable of going for days at a time without having entire campaign offices resign en masse on him. Romney won not because he was literally the best Republican in the country but because he was the only candidate who wasn’t a colossal fuckup. 

  • Carstonio

    Billy Graham’s former labeling of a competing denomination as a cult is highly suspect, sort of like the heads of the Catholic and Orthodox churches excommunicating each other centuries ago. The term cult should be used sparingly and be based in some objective criteria, not on the assumption that some teachings are true and some are false. Does anyone have a quick list of the important theological differences between evangelicalism and Mormonism? I’ve never been able to understand why the theological differences between Catholicism and the Protestant denominations generated so much animosity for centuries.

  • Kirala

     I’d want an actual Mormon to speak to the matter, but my impression was that Latter-Day Saints believe that their church is the only true Christian church, so at least the excommunication would be mutual. And given the differences in the respective holy texts, I suspect LDS is approximately as Christian as Christianity is Jewish – a newer offshoot of an older faith claiming it knows what the older faith was really about all along. Again, I’d like someone more familiar with LDS to correct me if I’m wrong.

    Theological differences I can list only through thirdhand accounts and allegorical science fiction, so I’m hesitant to speak. (Well, that and Wikipedia. But anyone can check Wikipedia.) I would be interested in hearing from someone who knows the doctrine of LDS firsthand describe some of the key differences with Lutheranism or some other major Protestant denomination.

  • Carstonio

    Yes, any one of us can look up the theological distinctions. My question is about why they matter. Regarding competing claims to being the One True Faith&trade, I’ve heard arguments between my kids that sounded more mature than that.

  • Trixie_Belden

    If  you didn’t want references to “theological distinctions” but only an explanation about “why they matter” you could have been more clear.  As it is, I just re-read your post and the question you posed was 

    Does anyone have a quick list of the important theological differences between evangelicalism and Mormonism?

    which was the question to which Kirala was replying.  I don’t see how you can discuss one without the other.

  • Carstonio

     Sorry for the confusion. I saw “important” as the operative word in my original post. 

  • de_Pizan

    Kirala, you’re essentially right in your opening paragraph. the LDS believe that somewhere along the way after Jesus died, doctrines were misinterpreted or lost, so Mormonism is “restoring” them back to how it should have been. But Mormons also say every religion has truth in it…so it’s more of a “well your religion might be true, but mine’s truest.” No excommunicating, as in Mormonism that’s only reserved for those within the Mormon faith, but still petty.
    Main differences in the LDS faith from other Christian sects: the Book of Mormon, other continued scriptures and the belief in modern prophets; baptism not until an age of understanding, which is 8 or older; the afterlife has 3 degrees of “glory” with the lowest degree corresponding to the idea of hell; there is also a God the Mother, wife of God the Father; and temple rites for marriage, baptisms for the dead (which function as a kind of retroactive missionary service, it means that person has the opportunity to accept or reject in the afterlife), and “endowments” which are promises made to God, the garments Mormons wear are really just a physical reminder of those promises, somewhat similar to how Jews wear a yarmulke or prayer shawl, Hindus wear a upanayana, or other Christian sects might wear a cross.
    Other core tenets are fairly similar: the Godhead (LDS belief is in three separate beings), Jesus Christ as savior, the resurrection, the atonement, belief in the Bible, and a sacrament (or Eucharist).  

    I have to agree with the commenters on the Mark Silk post, Romney praying with those of other faiths is definitely not unusual among Mormons, who participate frequently in inter-faith councils or events where prayers are given, even Mormon prophets and apostles do so. I think his friend misunderstood what Mark was asking.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Mormons have two extra holy books, which by itself makes it far more theologically divergent from most other forms of Christianity than any Protestant denomination. Opinions vary about the Apocrypha. 

    Finer points of their theology, such as Kolob, Jesus and Satan being brothers, use of the term “Heavenly Father” and people getting to be gods themselves might sound silly, but y’know, Christians killed each other over transubstantiation, which is sillier than any of those above concepts. 

  • Scarlet

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/04/24/the-faqs-are-mormons-christian/

    I was a dating a young mormon man for several years when I started doing my homework. While I believe that mormons are not bad people, I think it’s very improper to call them “Christians”. I would no more than I would call a muslim a Christian. They share some similar points in history but the fundamental theology is quite different. Where as the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is wrapped up in a supreme power of the pope, the theology is constant between both groups. 

  • Daughter

    Cult experts (the people who actually help victims of cults) define cult differently than folks like the BGEA. The former define it based on behavior : i.e., does the group exhibit certain traits such as control of its members, keeping people isolated from the outside world, worship of the group’s leader; etc. By this definition, any group can become a cult, if they treat their members in controlling, abusive ways.

     In contrast, the BGEA and other evangelical groups have tended to define cult based on belief:  i.e.,  does the group believe things they think are contrary to their definition of orthodox (small ‘o’) Christianity. And by that definition, Mormonism is indeed a cult.

    I’m not well-versed in Mormonism but from things I’ve read, there are some significant differences between their beliefs and most Christian denominations – you can probably Google it or Wikipedia might even have a handy list.

    (From my understanding, and I say this as a Christian who has been a part of both conservative and liberal churches, most Christian denominations are similar in doctrine, differing more in practice than in the big picture beliefs. )

  • Daughter

    Just a clarification of what I mean by similar in doctrine and big picture beliefs: a liberal Episcopalian and a conservative Pentecostal are likely to both belief  that you need to be forgiven of your sins and that that forgiveness is made possible by Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection. That’s big picture doctrinal beliefs.

    But the Pentecostal will probably believe that homosexuality is one of the sins you need forgiveness for, while the Episcopalian won’t. And as much as the Religious Right has tried to make it seem as if being anti-QUILTBAG is a doctrinal issue, it’s not.

  • Eamon Knight

    Time used to be that the big divides were along sectarian lines — like the song says: “O the Protestants hate the Catholics/And the Catholics hate the Protestants/And the Hindus hate the Moslems/And everybody hates the Jews”. But there has been a gradual re-alignment such that conservative Protestants and Catholics (and Jews) have been holding hands with each other across the denominational boundary for a while. Apparently, Mormons are now welcome into the fold.

  • Loki100

    It’s because they are shedding voters. The Catholic-Protestant conservative reconciliation came about when the Evangelicals realized they were no longer a large enough population to dominate politics with their right-wing bullshit. Suddenly Catholics were okay. Now that conservative Catholics and Evangelicals are no longer large enough to dominate politics, they have to add Mormons into the mix. Prior to 9/11 they were even starting to court Muslims.

  • Fusina

     Good ole Tom Lehrer. National Brotherhood Week is the song title.

    National brotherhood week, New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans cause it’s really chic…
    Step up and take the hand of someone you can’t stand, you can tolerate them if you try…

    Thanks for reminding me of the song–been feeling a bit discouraged this week for a variety of reasons. Helps to be able to laugh at something, anyway.

  • bruceewilson

    This is an indispensable write-up because it is so relatively comprehensive of coverage on the evolving BGEA scandal. But it isn’t accurate to say that the BGEA has backed off of its position that the Church of LDS is non-Christian.

    As I’ve shown, the BGEA still has an article to that effect on its website. And, when visitors type “Mormon” into the BGEA website search engine, their first result is a page on which Billy Graham defines what a “cult” is. His definition includes Mormonism.

  • http://reasondecrystallized.blogspot.com/ Andrew

    I was wondering when you would get around to writing about this.  And frankly I’m surprised that you made it through the entry without mentioning that the ‘nones’ just cleared 30% in the 18-29 demographic (iirc).  

    We can take a little moment of silence if you’d like to mourn the passing of (pick one: Graham’s integrity, Graham’s mental faculties), but in a way it was fated.  Conservative religion has now fully merged with conservative politics, and the last vestiges of the old republic have been swept away.  Evangelical=GOP, end of story.  The only question is how much damage they’ll do before demographics consign them to an ignominious oblivion.

  • Fusina

    I rather suspect that they figured no one could actually beat Obama in this election, so they fielded a bunch of yahoos so whoever they choose in 2016 will look awesome by comparison. Or not. What do I know? 

  • Lori

     

    I rather suspect that they figured no one could actually beat Obama in
    this election, so they fielded a bunch of yahoos so whoever they choose
    in 2016 will look awesome by comparison.  

    I think it was quite the opposite. They expected this election to be a cake walk because”everybody knows” that when the economy is in the dumper voters take it out on the guy who currently has the job and vote in the new guy. The Republican bench has a big old gap in it for this year. Most Republicans who would actually want the job badly enough to put up with running a campaign to get it and whop are at least vaguely credible as candidates are either too old or too young or have zero profile with the national electorate. The GOP figured that wouldn’t matter too much since this year would basically be a gimme, so they didn’t put a huge effort into coming up with a decent slate of possibles during the primaries. The result was the mind-boggling freak show we all lived through a few months back, which eventually narrowed down to the guy the big money folks would get behind. And here we are, with R(money) having a slim*, but non-zero possibility of being our next POTUS. [shudder]

    *All Team Romney’s talk about momentum and getting 305 electoral votes is smoke and mirrors designed to convince the press to write about Mittens being on a roll in hopes of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Romney is highly unlikely to get 305 electoral votes. He is more likely to get 270, but the odds are still against it.

  • Trixie_Belden

    GOTV GOTV GOTV is my constant mental refrain right now.

  • Lori

    Yes. GOTV is really critical. So much so that phone-hating introvert that I am I’d still probably suck it up and do some phone banking if my current 7 day a week work schedule hadn’t left me so tired and cranky. Me on the phone with strangers right now would end up doing more harm than good.

  • nerdycellist

    As a former Mormon, I can explain a bit of doctrine that might explain why other Christians don’t want to claim Mormonism as part of Christianity – and part of that is because Mormonism insists that after Christ died, was resurrected and went back to heaven the church on earth no longer existed. They believe all was apostasy and the full gospel wasn’t restored until J. Smith came along. Pretending that they aren’t in any way related with any other form of Christianity, and in fact insisting that they invented Christianity goes far to alienate mainline churches. They also don’t believe in the Trinity – they believe Jesus and God are two distinct personages. Also, they don’t technically believe in the virgin birth – they believe God, who was once a human, impregnated her Himself.

    I would imagine these are some strong reasons for the religion to be considered a “cult” and not “Christian”. For myself, I take any person who says they believe that Jesus died for our sins at their word.

  • Carstonio

    While I can see why other Christians would bristle at seeing their theological stances defined as apostasy, what you describe doesn’t seem all that much different from other interdenominational battles. A couple of changes in nouns and much your explanation could have easily applied to Catholic feelings about the early Protestant movement. And theological differences alone aren’t sufficient for a religion to be labeled a cult, because ultimately that marginalizes any minority position on theology. 

  • Jessica_R

    Romney is nothing if not an overly pancaked makeup’d windsock, http://americablog.com/2012/10/romney-enda-gay-jobs-log-cabin.html

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Log Cabin Republicans. Good god, why do they even try?

    Ever since Reagan’s time the party has tilted more and more in the direction of active hostility against gay and lesbian people to the point of trying to re-legitimize dismissivve talk about them in public.

    And I’m not surprised Romney continues to try and be all things to all people. I’m watching the last debate right now and Obama is drilling down to specifics and really showing Romney up as basically indecisive.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think it’s for the same reason that liberal evangelical Christians insist on identifying as evangelicals and that social-justice-aware atheists insist on identifying as atheists: this is our label, this is us, this is me, you do not get to take this bit of me away even though I am not the sort of person you want to share this label with you.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There’s identifying with something, and then there’s beating your head against a wall of granite.

    EDIT to add: I wouldn’t join the Conservative Party up here if you paid me a million bucks. There’s a reason I’m an NDP person and one of them has to do with the party’s far more forward thinking stance on QUILTBAG people.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Entirely fair point.

    (Every time I check the Atheism Plus entry on Urban Dictionary, the gap between upvotes and downvotes on both definitions is wider, favoring upvotes on the shitty definition and downvotes on the good definition. Frustrate.)

  • WalterC

    It would be nice though if the LCR could manage to establish a bipartisan consensus on equality issues. I don’t think that it’s a good thing that the anti-gay types essentially have a stranglehold on half of the US government, and anything that chips away at that will probably make life easier for a lot of people. Demographics and political trends suggest that more and more Americans (including, inevitably, GLBT Americans) will be living in Southern states with heavy Republican constituencies. Decoupling anti-GLBT hatred from Republicanism is a good intermediate step to promoting full equality.

    And even if that turns out to be a pipe dream… well, fewer enemies never hurt, right? Though their recent endorsement of Romney is a little bewildering, considering that his position on same-sex marriage and most other issues is identical to Bush’s.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Though their recent endorsement of Romney is a little bewildering, considering that his position on same-sex marriage and most other issues is identical to Bush’s.

    But Romney shares their position on women. Namely: put ’em in binders.

  • Lori

    I think the issue is more that Romney shares their position on money: them that’s got shall get, them that don’t shall lose.

  • Lori

     

    And I’m not surprised Romney continues to try and be all things to all
    people. I’m watching the last debate right now and Obama is drilling
    down to specifics and really showing Romney up as basically indecisive.   

    This is not true. Mitt Romney is not indecisive, he’s dishonest. Not the same thing. He decided he wanted to be president and he’s sticking with that by telling whatever lie he thinks has the best chance of getting him the job.

  • Lori

    Log Cabin Republicans. Good god, why do they even try?   

    Is this a rhetorical question? I ask because there’s a pretty straightforward explanation, but I’m trying not to be That Person who gives you a long-winded spiel about stuff you already know.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Rhetorical. :)

  • Lori

    And aren’t we both glad that I asked? :)

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Wasn’t it the Log Cabin Republicans who took the court case which got DADT repealed?

    TRiG.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     Yes.  I also believe their assistance was significant in getting marriage equality passed here in New York, too.

    However, I don’t expect to see them pushing to get healthcare for everyone despite the fact that healthcare is a major issue for many QUILTBAG people.  In my experience, they tend to be all about helping “the right kind” of QUILTBAG people.  There are plenty of other QUILTBAG people they seem to be perfectly happy to leave behind.

  • Lori

    Yeah, the Log Cabin Republicans show their privilege, and lack of interest in those without it, pretty clearly on a regular basis. The one good thing you can say about them is that, unlike GOProud, they don’t actively hate the “not out kind, dear” gays.

  • Lori

    This racial ambivalence is easily explained. Jim Crow enthusiasts
    took a terrible psychological thumping during the civil rights movement
    of the 1960s. Men and women who had traditionally seen themselves as the
    conscience and moral heartbeat of America, suddenly found themselves
    denounced as bigots and haters, a loathsome cancer that should be
    excised from the body politic.

    Southern evangelicals never recovered from the shock.

    Apparently they not only never recovered from it, they also never learned anything from it because they’ve put themselves in exactly the same position again. Five decades later and they’re once again on the wrong side of history, claiming to be the only good people in America while revealing themselves to actually be bigots and haters. FSM only knows what miseries the next generation of  them will inflict on the rest of us as a result of losing yet again.

  • Mary Kaye

    That word “cult”, it’s really a mess, it means at least three different things which overlap slightly but are not the same:

    –a religious group:  “the cult of Hecate”.  Not generally used of modern religions, though.
    –a non-mainstream religious group.  This is the sense in which LDS is commonly called a cult:  it’s seen as “too far” outside the mainstream theologically.  By this definition (and the previous one) Christianity started out as a cult.  It’s a pretty useless definition in my opinion:  all it means is “I don’t agree with their theology.”
    –a group, religious or otherwise, which attempts to exert excessive control over its members’ thoughts, lives, and associations.  This is a useful label in my view–groups like that have common traits (Isaac Bonewits made a good list of them) and it’s helpful to recognize when you’re dealing with one.  But mixing this definition with either of the previous generates heat and no light whatsoever.

    Is mainstream LDS a cult in the third sense?  I doubt it, or at least no more so than many other flavors of Christianity.  It seems quite possible to leave the church.  Association with non-Mormons is not banned.  I’d be more worried about Mars Hill, myself.

    Arguments which rely on equivocation between the second and third definitions really suck, like most equivocation-based arguments.

  • Ouri Maler

    As vile as this whole thing is…if Mormons become one more category that the evangelical right isn’t bigoted against, I’ll consider it a silver lining.

  • bearzee

    The “religious right” leaders have all called Billy Graham the Anti-Christ at one point or the other, for reasons ranging from his civil rights support, to associating with Catholics and other non-Baptists, to ministering to Democratic presidents.  When Billy dies, Franklin wants to invite these same name-callers to his funeral.  Franklin, like Mitt Romney, has forgotten the face of his father.

  • Guest

    End of days?  Watering down of the gospel of truth.  You betcha!

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Is mainstream LDS a cult in the third sense?  I doubt it, or at least no more so than many other flavors of Christianity.  It seems quite possible to leave the church.  Association with non-Mormons is not banned.  I’d be more worried about Mars Hill, myself.

    Quite true.  LDS exhibits characteristics of a conservative religion, but not the characteristics of a cult.  They are not identical.

    I would imagine these are some strong reasons for the religion to be considered a “cult” and not “Christian”. For myself, I take any person who says they believe that Jesus died for our sins at their word.

    I interpreted that to mean that he agrees that Mormons *are* Christian, since, you know, they do.  Albeit in somewhat more complicated way.

    I was a dating a young mormon man for several years when I started doing my homework. While I believe that mormons are not bad people, I think it’s very improper to call them “Christians”. I would no more than I would call a muslim a Christian. They share some similar points in history but the fundamental theology is quite different. Where as the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is wrapped up in a supreme power of the pope, the theology is constant between both groups.

    They’re very divergent, yes, but… Jesus is still the central figure of their religion.  They believe in salvation through Christ.  The difference is more comparable to that between, say, Catholicism and Gnosticism than that between Catholicism and Calvinism, but I think they can still be classified as (very unorthodox) Christians.

  • Original Lee

     The LDS is technically a post-Christian religion.  One of the biggest theological differences between Christians and Mormons is that Christians believe Jesus’ Second Coming hasn’t happened yet, while Mormons believe that Jesus has returned already and taught the Native Americans the uncorrupted version of His message.  Another difference is that Mormons believe in salvation by works.  Yet another difference is the nature of God.  Mormons believe that God has a body, with bones and flesh and all, and that He was born on another planet as human, earned his godhood, and created Earth and everything in it.  Good Mormons earn godhood when they die, and they will get to create their own planets to be the gods of.  Those are a few items I can think of off the top of my head.  My church had a Comparative Religion class one year for the adults, featuring speakers from different religions every week; Mormons got three weeks because we had a current member one week and a former member the next week, and then a week to discuss what they had told us.  So I’m not an expert, but I do remember those points.


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