Monday, October 11, 2010

Between a Cult and a Hard Place

Here's a fun little question:  Which major American political party is friendlier to Mormons?  Just like the question I asked before about which party is more likely to nominate a presidential candidate, this one isn't as simple as it seems.

Now, we at the Mormon Left have spent a couple years showing that Mormonism and liberalism are just as compatible (more compatible, in my opinion, but that's just an opinion) as Mormonism and conservatism.  This post is not about which major ideology is most compatible with Mormonism.  It is about which party is more friendly to Mormons.  The simple answer is that the bases of parties both think we are a cult, but with their own twists.

Take the recent story about Sharon Angle.  Ms. Angle is the delightfully bizarre Republican running against Harry Reid.  She regularly immerses herself in overtly Christian memes as a way to appeal to her base (and also, presumably, because she has deep religious beliefs).  The pastor of her church recently went into some detail explaining that the LDS Church is a cult.  That link is to the liberal online magazine,  If you take a moment to peruse the comment section you will find that the most prevalent response from the liberal commenters is, "Yeah, so what?  All religions are cults."

The big difference, though, is how institutionalized the Mormons-are-a-cult meme is in each party.  I don't think I've ever heard someone considered a liberal leader single out Mormonism as being a cult (If I'm wrong, I'd be happy to admit it).  Such comments are made by many rank-and-file liberals, to be sure, but institutionally I don't think liberals have gone there.  On the other hand, influential conservative leaders say or imply it often.  For example, all of your run-of-the-mill extremely influential Christian Right leaders have made the case.  Mike Huckabee, former and future serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination, famously made it a part of his campaign against Mitt Romney.

So here you have the basic conundrum of being a Mormon trying to be actively engaged in partisan politics.  Would you rather be courted for your vote while snickered about behind your back and singled out among Christian religions as a cult, or openly sneered at as a cult and lumped in with all the other religions?  An appetizing decision to make, no?  Either way, you have a political party that doesn't respect your religion and discounts your role in public discourse automatically based on your religion.

In the end, Mormons in both political camps need to push back against those that consider us a cult.  We should absolute embrace and celebrate those doctrinal and practical differences that separate us from evangelicals and other religions, but the overt negativity from the political bases of both parties is harmful to our church.  We should be magnifying the call from Elder Cook in the latest General Conference: "In our increasingly unrighteous world, it is essential that values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse. Moral positions informed by a religious conscience must be accorded equal access to the public square. Under the constitutions of most countries, a religious conscience may not be given preference, but neither should it be disregarded."


Bot said...

Harry Reid's theology is based on First Century Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ comport more closely with Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormons’ teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:

Those who would denigrate Harry Reid's religion, usually have an ulterior motive, as did Pastor Reed, attempting to smear Harry Reid.

Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a recent Pew Forum poll:

11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were non-Trinitarian Christians. Those, such as Pastor Reed, who insist on a narrow definition of Christianity are doing our Republic an injustice.

Jacob S. said...

Thanks, Bot. I definitely prefer our take on the basic Christian principles and tenets to other religions as well.