Graphic from fundamentalist Christian website The Relevant Pen. (you've been warned)
Those of us who have been repeatedly subjected to relentless Baptist proselytizing, already know the official fundamentalist/evangelical line on Mormons: No.
In fact, it has long been understood that even if Catholics are evil pagans at base, at least they believe in the Trinity. This is standard.
I have heard lots and lots of bad-mouthing of Latter Day Saints beliefs from by-the-book Protestants, much of it incorrect. I have my own Book of Mormon (you knew I did), which I hijacked long ago from a Utah motel room, and it has snazzy color pictures of Joseph Smith's tablets in it and everything. Thus, when they start all the "Mormons think this" and "Mormons believe that" business--I have gotten into the pesky habit of looking it up myself. WHERE is it, I ask them, and have even been known to plant the Book of Mormon right in front of their noses and order them to find it, please, so I can verify this information for the blog. (In the past five years, I have learned that blogging provides all kinds of handy-dandy excuses... and the offhand statement, "I'm blogging this!" can strike fear into the hearts of idiots who are blowing smoke up your ass, especially if you ask if you can quote them directly by name.)
Most fundamentalists seem afraid to touch the Book of Mormon, much less actually read it.
I have no great love for the Church of Latter Day Saints, you understand, I simply recognize bigots when I see them. And I see them all over upstate SC, Bob Jones University-land. In fact, that was the whole reason for the fuss during the 2008 election, when Bob Jones III unexpectedly endorsed Mitt Romney, angering both students and alumni. The Mormons, I have been informed many times, are not Christians.
Now of course the fundies say this about LOTS of other Christians, so it is somewhat amusing how their tone changes when it comes to Mormons: "No, REALLY, they aren't Christians!" Like that infamous boy who cried wolf, when you go around announcing nobody but you is a Christian, well... people do stop listening after awhile. If the Mormons are supposedly WORSE, it doesn't matter, does it? If you have trashed other Christian denominations endlessly, and continually give the impression that your strict sect is (they love to say this) THE REMNANT (this is usually a specific reference to Revelation 12:17) then people tune you out and assume your newest babble is simply more of the same. Since in one respect, it is.
And now, we have the fascinating spectacle of Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell as Lynchburg Baptist College) welcoming Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (a Mormon in good standing, in case you didn't know) with open arms as the commencement speaker.
Wait, what? A heretic is now all cozy with the school founded by Falwell? It's as surprising as the Jones endorsement was, and just as hypocritical and obvious.
Predictably, this has upset everybody; deja vu all over again. The anger has spilled over onto (where else?) Facebook, as well as spreading like wildfire among the school's online students, who have wasted no time speaking up.
After last week’s announcement, thousands of comments were registered under the announcement on Liberty’s Facebook page. While some were supportive of the decision to invite Romney, a number of respondents were angered and posted their frustration to Facebook.If they don't like what you say, they just erase it.
As of Monday morning, the announcement was deleted from the page, along with all the comments.
“Complaints died down because they took the ability to complain down from the website,” said Janet Loeffler, a 53-year old freshman at Liberty who takes classes online. Loeffler was a frequent poster to the Facebook page.
Ah yes, the fundamentalist way.
Loeffler is royally pissed about the censorship and duplicity:
Loeffler provided CNN with a copy of the page in the freshman textbook “The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics” which includes a number of passages on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons. “Mormon doctrine stands in stark contrast to Jewish and Christian monotheism,” reads the passage, “which teaches that there is only one true God and that every other ‘God’ is a false god.”And yet, Liberty has invited the most popular Mormon in the country to speak at Liberty's graduation. I guess we see that conservative POLITICS and not religion, are the important thing.
Liberty's handling of the situation "has very much altered my thinking of Liberty,” Loeffler said. “I haven’t registered for my fall classes yet because of it. I am offended that they would talk to us like that, telling us that we just don’t understand.”
Many of the anti-Liberty comments, including Loeffler’s, charged that Mormonism goes against the teachings of the school and claimed that the religion is a cult. The charge of Mormonism as a cult is not a new one for the church, however. In a 2011 column, Michael Otterson, head of public affairs for the LDS Church described the word as “a neat, shorthand and rather lazy way of putting a whole group into a box.”
The nation’s largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Conference, lists the LDS Church as a cult. They specifically cite differences in theology surrounding salvation, baptism, belief in the Trinity, and marriage. A major sticking point between other Christian traditions and Mormons is the Book of Mormon, which Mormons believe is divinely inspired scripture and on par with the Bible. Other Christians do not recognize the Book of Mormon as scripture.
Some of us have always known this, but now, the students are getting it too.
And be advised, there are a parcel of them; they claim to be "the largest evangelical university in the world," with 82,500 students enrolled either on campus or online. Therefore a political lynch-pin of the Religious Right, a crucial whistle-stop for Romney, that he can't ignore.
This debate over Romney’s selection further tests the relationship between Mormons and evangelicals. With Romney as the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, many political commentators are asking whether the evangelical base, an important voting bloc to the GOP, will come out for Romney.(Aside: I like how they stick that qualifier WHITE in there... they certainly understand that black Christians vote differently, but they aren't ready to go THERE just yet.)
Tony Perkins, a Liberty graduate and the president of the Family Research Council, said he sees the Romney speech as an opportunity.
"As Christians we can disagree strongly but we show respect and I think they will show respect for Mitt Romney," Perkins said on CNN's Starting Point Monday morning.
"They may not warmly applaud him and may continue to express differences and clearly there are differences theologically between Mormons and Christians, but here's an opportunity for Mitt Romney to talk about what he has in common with evangelicals and that is on the value issues," Perkins said.
But if the evangelical vote hinges on how evangelicals see Mormonism, Romney may need further outreach to the evangelical community. A recent Pew Research Center survey finds 47% of white evangelicals say that Mormonism is not a Christian religion, while 66% say Mormonism and their religion are “very or somewhat different.”
66% ain't nothing to sneeze at. Romney has trouble. But with all the "Obama is a Muslim" nonsense, is it possible the two candidate's religious troubles will balance/cancel each other out?
Loeffler isn't having any:
“This is nothing more than a political rally, at a time when graduates are having their lives dedicated to the work they were trained to do at Liberty,” Loeffler said.I assume it will all reach a fever-pitch right before the election. Then again, maybe they just don't care too awful much about Romney and intend to use him as a sort of GOP sacrifice.
Stay tuned. This election season might yet have a few unforeseen twists and turns.