Friday, October 21, 2011

Less Is Mormon

My wife mentioned something she read, and I don’t know who to credit, but I thought it rang pretty true.

Pretend we’re on jeopardy…

This Massachusetts politician fails to garner support from his political party’s base, despite sharp opposition against the sitting president.

If it’s a new episode, I would go with, “Who is Mitt Romney?” Of course, if this was 7 years ago, I would have to go with “Who is John Kerry?” The similarities are uncanny, not so much between the men themselves as the situation they find themselves in.

Like Kerry, I don’t think Romney will win against the incumbent. It could happen, stranger things certainly have occurred, but honestly… this loss for the Republicans has been a long time coming.

It’s quite ironic, really. The Republican Party has unofficially instated a religious test for the office of presidency within their party, and Romney is likely to fail it. I sense that Republicans know this, which is why they’re grasping for straws as the deadline for entry into the race fast approaches at the end of this month.

I think it’s silly, and quite amusing, to see these different Jesus fan clubs fighting over who really follows Jesus. I stand by my view, which is that Mormonism is no less Christian than Catholicism, Protestantism, any Orthodox church, Gnostics, or even crazy people on street corners who claim they’re John the Baptist. It’s all Christian to me if they say they follow the example of Jesus, regardless of which fictional literary accounts they draw from (or how old they are).

I sort of liken it to the debates I heard among the even geekier kids I knew growing up, when Star Trek: The Next Generation was new. I never much cared for the show, but I was somewhat of a nerd (since I played Magic: The Gathering), so I was present for some intense debates over what I perceived to be ridiculous things.

I don’t remember it happening, but I can imagine the furor that would arise at the table if a fan of Classic Star Trek called Next Generation “not real Star Trek” because it came later. And from my perspective, it would be a non-argument not even worth pursuing, a statement made only to enrage the opponent, and not based on any real criteria. The Star Trek universe is fictional, and to say an older version was more authoritative on the grounds that it came first would make some sense, but to say anything to come after it is “not really Star Trek” is a stance based purely on a malicious desire to baselessly delegitimize the opponent.

That’s basically what we have here. Now, there will be atheists who disagree, perhaps on the grounds that they see a clear demarcation between Mormonism and other sects of Christianity, though I don’t see them calling other Christians “not real Christians,” even if they include different holy texts in their canon. Others may just like to see any religion get bashed, and saying Mormons aren’t Christians will piss them off, so why not say it? Hell, I can relate to that.

Well, I personally won’t say it because this is one of those rare instances where my integrity won’t let me. It’s just simply not true. The matter is plain and simple, really: Joseph Smith has no less authority from a Christian perspective than Paul, whose work dominates the New Testament and Christian theology. Neither of these men ever met Jesus, and neither of them practiced Christianity in a form that most “mainstream” Christians today would agree with. The thing is, religion isn’t democratic or defined by a particular time and place. The majority in a religion don’t get to vote on whether other sects are “real Christians” or not.

Just as one example of a discrepancy between doctrines, Mormons don’t believe God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one being, which puts them at odds with the generally accepted idea of trinitarianism. Believing this doesn’t make you “not a real Christian,” it makes you one of numerous Christian sects in history which knew how to read.

Matthew 24:36 clearly says that, regarding judgment day, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Then you have story after story of Jesus praying… to God… who is supposedly himself. If they were one in the same, this hardly makes any sense.

But hey, who am I but a lowly, literate heathen?

If your reason for seeing Latter Day Saints as non-Christian is because there are “real Christians” saying so, consider that Christians have been calling each other names since the day Jesus hung on a cross, if not before. The ideological in-fighting is still evidenced in the canonical gospels’ depiction of Judas and Thomas, disciples whose followers and gospels were rejected and opposed by those who went on to dominate Christianity, decided which writings would go into the Bible, and then standardized the faith going out century after century and slaughtering those who, while being fellow Christians, weren’t Christian in just the right way.

If Mormonism isn’t Christianity because it adds to the teachings of Jesus, then you should exclude Protestants, and certainly Catholics are not even close. You may even find a Greek Orthodox priest willing to make such a claim, if you can pull him away from the untranslated Greek text of the New Testament on which he bases his views (you know, as opposed to the biased translations most of us non-Grecophones read). By Greek Orthodox standards, the churches which base their views on translated texts have an adulterated understanding of the Bible.

If you decide to use esoteric criteria based on traditions formed centuries after Jesus’ death, then yes, you can “prove” to yourself beyond any shadow of a doubt that one group of Christians are not “real Christians,” just know that you’re only fooling yourself.

I don’t like Mitt Romney, but it has nothing to do with his magic underwear or his avoidance of caffeine. A person’s religion is not important unless they make it important. Romney governed Massachusetts fairly moderately, and from my understanding, did not let his religion get in the way of his duties.

My own dislike for him has nothing to do with his religion, or even that he changes his views. It’s important to be able to change, and I actually respect a politician who governs according to the will of the people over his own personal opinions. I just don’t think Romney will represent me or my views were he to be elected president. I think this is reason enough to not support him, and I don’t need to manufacture any other ideologically charged arguments based on religious bias.

Still… I look forward to the Mormon bashing. It will be a hoot watching the Republicans fall all over themselves trying to support this guy come 2012.

Of course, maybe Romney won’t be the nominee (yeah right…). I kind of hope it’s Herman Cain, because when Obama beats him, then Republicans can finally, once and for all, shut up about how Obama only got elected because he was black.


  1. I think it's the whole becoming the god of your own planet thing some Christians object to. Besides the crazy liquor laws I love Salt Lake though.

  2. Perhaps the anthropological definition of "Christian" is "anyone who calls themselves a Christian". It seems both you and I hold that view -- especially since neither of us have a dog in the race.

    But it is the "Soteriological" definition that is being debated. In other words, when someone says "Mormons aren't Christian", that is simply code for "Mormons are going to hell".

    Which is further code for, "I don't want the damned ruling my country."

    I think that bringing the conversation there would be most fruitful.

    BTW, I made my kids sit through at least 10 shows of the real Star Trek before I allowed them to watch The Next Generation. I wanted them to understand corruptions when they see it.

  3. @alana: I think it's the whole becoming the god of your own planet thing some Christians object to.

    I dunno... makes more sense than heaven. We have evidence for planets, not heaven.

    @Sabio: "I don't want the damned ruling my country."

    Of course, same deal with JFK or any atheist who wants to run. Although, I have seen the argument made by the same person who says, "Mormons are not real Christians," that they believe some Mormons are saved or will go to heaven. I believe Dr. Jeffress said as much after his comments about his introduction of Rick Perry, I think while on Real Time with Bill Maher last week (but I may be wrong on this specific instance, I'll have to check).

  4. *One and the same?

    I've noticed a couple of Americans doing this. Is it a different expression over there?

  5. Naw, it's just my mangled use of the English language. It should be "One and the same."

  6. Just wanted to say your writing gets especially good around this time of year.


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