For obvious and justifiable reasons, a number of Evangelical leaders often cast a suspicious gaze at Mormon figures in American public life. After all, though the two systems of belief share a similar vocabulary at certain points and often both hold to traditionalist assumptions regarding social morality, these perspectives differ considerably regarding the nature of God as well as the origins and destiny of man.
However, the least that the orthodox Christian commenting on public affairs ought to do is to try and maintain some kind of consistent policy towards those advocating what could be considered a doctrinally questionable religious viewpoint. It seems that instead of basing such characterizations solely upon the beliefs such voices claim must take precedence above all other considerations, such analysis is often skewered in favor of those most likely to ensure that the particular pundit in question can retain a position as the water carrier of the entrenched political establishment.
For example, in his 9/16/11 commentary transcript, Cal Thomas mentions Rick Perry presenting his testimony before an audience at Liberty University. Thomas closes his brief analysis by concluding Perry’s testimony isn’t all that important beyond its existential value as it is more important how one’s faith works itself out in a President’s policies. Thomas astutely observers that believers have had the wool pulled over our eyes numerous times in terms of politicians saying one thing and doing another.
Thomas concludes, “But if Mitt Romney, a Mormon turns out to be better to defeat the President and advance policies with which most Evangelicals agree, then he should be the one the President’s opponents get behind.”
From the standpoint of an objective political calculation, Thomas is correct. However, since the publication of “Blinded By Might: Why The Religious Right Can’t Save America” in which he and co-author Ed Dobson heaped criticism upon the Religious Right by exposing the shortcomings of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority (an organization both men saw from the inside), Thomas has gone out of his way to downplay the role conservative Christians ought to play in politics.
Since Thomas’s coauthor went from a standpoint of being apolitical to losing his marbles by taking on the less than kept grooming habits of an Old Testament prophet insisting that the Scriptures insist that the only properly cast ballot had to be for Barack Obama, you’d think Thomas might have realized he might have been duped into castigating conservative Christians into a state of hyperpious quietism. However, it seems Thomas continues advocating this perspective selectively whenever he thinks doing so might win him a few scraps of dwindling recognition from media and Republican elites.
For whereas we are suppose to gleefully march behind Romney (Thomas no doubt in part so he can ask the former Massachusetts governor who does the candidate’s cranial dye job), his tone regarding Glenn Beck, another prominent Mormon, is markedly different.
In the transcript of the 4/11/11 Cal Thomas commentary, the columnist warns, “Beck is not only a Mormon, he frequently drifts into universalism.” Writing in particular to the news of Beck’s ouster from Fox News, Thomas muses, “They come and they go in this business…and eventually flame out..Put not your trust in princes and kings. That goes for show hosts, too.”
This from the very same media figure that just a few paragraphs back was getting all aboard the Romney express.
Evangelicals do need to be cautious regarding Mormon theology. For example, in his book “The Real America: Early Writings From The Heart & Heartland”, Beck said a number of things that would make a true believer’s hair stand on with goosebumps had it come from the lips of anyone else.
In one passage, Beck said that he thought the Trinity, the idea that the Godhead is composed of the three distinct personages of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, was laughable and that there was no such thing as Hell.
Which brings us to another point. It is interesting how Beck can ridicule the most profound belied and mystery of the greatest number of Christians in the world (that being those that grant assent to the ecumenical creeds such as the Nicene) but the entire Republican Party stands ready to burn at the stake a single pastor that dared enunciate as to why he would not be endorsing Mitt Romney for the nomination.
What the pastor said was technically correct. If Americans inclined themselves a bit more towards religious reflection, they would know that the word “cult” does not necessarily denote a sect that ultimately meets with a violent end as a result of authoritarian leadership as in the cases of Johnstown, Heaven’s Gate, and the Branch Davidians.
A cult can be any group that splits off from one of the larger world religions and is distinct from the parental creed it has separated itself from by either renouncing the more orthodox formulations of a doctrine or by promulgating a new dogma or revelation that the more orthodox adherents of the larger faith cannot embrace in good conscience.
For example, Mormonism holds that God was once a man not all that different than the rest of us who worked his way up to that status and that we too can also one day become deities over our own little planets as well. Traditional Christianity holds to the idea, that Beck snidely derided, that God exists externally from everlasting to everlasting in the form of three distinct unified persons. God is complete in Himself and does not grow or learn over time as claimed by the Later Day Saints.
The prominence played by Mormonism in the 2012 election cycle has presented American Christians in general and Evangelicals in particular with a unique set of challenges. On the one hand, believers are obligated by Scripture to speak in a firm but loving manner in defense of their own beliefs while pointing out distinctively where that faith is incompatible with Mormonism. And on the other, in a constitutional republic recognizing the freedom of religion we each posses as individuals created in the image of God, Mormon citizens have every right to engage in the same forms of civic participation that all Americans enjoy and sense a profound duty towards.