Monday, April 9, 2012

Pushing Mormonism For Political Gain

Kevin Williamson, writing for the normally fairly respectable National Review, has published a heavily commented on article about Mitt Romney, An American Gospel. The article is a thinly veiled puff piece that could have been written by the media relations office of the mormon church and simultanesouly a risible attack on the very people he is trying to convince to support Romney, namely American evangelicals.

Mr. Williamson uses the whole bag of rhetorical tricks. He tries to paint mormon doctrine as no stranger than Christian doctrine by doing what he decries elsewhere in his essay, namely completely misrepresenting Christianity. For example:

There is a weird contrast at the heart of American attitudes toward Mormons: Their doctrines may sound exotic to mainstream Christians — whose idea of sensible and respectable orthodoxy is engaging in weekly sessions of symbolic or mystically literal cannibalism in honor of a Jewish god-man who ran afoul of the Roman criminal-justice system after a dinner party went south 20 centuries ago — but, personal planets or no, Mormons themselves are practically the yardstick of normalcy. Every religion gets a stereotype, and the Mormon stereotype is: nice, clean-cut, well-mannered, earnest, sober.

Ha ha ha! What a card! I have to say that if your intent to is write a piece that is sympathetic to mormonism in the hopes of convincing Christians that they aren’t that weird after all, mocking Christianity is probably not the way to go. He also clearly shows that not only does he not understand mormonism at all, at least based on what he wrote, but he also doesn’t understand Christianity at all. Being polite and clean-cut is not one of the marks of a disciple (John the Baptist anyone?). No one is questioning that mormons are generally speaking nice, civic minded people who make good neighbors. The question is really this: does mormonism faithfully and accurately present the Gospel? If it doesn't but it pretends to it must be opposed and exposed for the damning fraud that it is.

He also pulls out an obscure writer and describes her as somehow a representative spokesperson for “anti-mormonism” (a term used by mormons to avoid substantive discussion). Again for example:

“A Mormon One-World-Theocracy Brought to You by Mitt Romney?” Apparently, Romney has a 59-point plan for that, too, if you believe the more hysterical anti-Mormons, the doyenne of whom, quoted above, is Tricia Erickson, a Mormon apostate and professional opponent of all things Latter-day Saintly. She is the author of, among other works, Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America. (She also is fond, as you can see, of rhetorical questions.) She believes that the fact of belief in the Mormon faith is in and of itself disqualifying for an aspiring president.

“Doyenne” is a word that means “a woman who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular profession, subject, etc.” I had to look it up to be honest. Is that really true? I have never heard of Tricia Erickson and I can point you to a whole host of other “anti-mormons” who are far better known and respected that have written on this topic extensively, from Sandra Tanner to Bill McKeever to Albert Mohler. By picking an obscure writer and then mockingly discounting her Mr. Williamson demonstrates either intellectual laziness or intellectual dishonesty. It is easier to go that route than have to engage substantively on the real issues. The planet Kolob is a weird and obscure belief in mormonism (although hymns are sung about it all the time) but mormon teachings on the nature of God, the person and work of Christ, the nature of man, the purpose and function of the church, salvation, etc. are not merely weird but perversion of the Gospel.

He also does the “mormonism is growing, it must be true” canard, a oft stated and just as often refuted by those who can convincingly demonstrate that mormonism is bleeding members as fast as it is adding them.

Again, here is the big issue. It is not with Christians voting for a mormon. Rather it is with some people trying to gloss over the enormous issues in mormonism to convince evangelical voters to support someone who belongs to a “church” that sends tens of thousands of young men out every year with the message that the church evangelicals attend on Sunday is an abomination in the eyes of God.

I don’t care if you vote for Mitt Romney even though he is a poor representative of political conservatism. Given the trajectory of the primary season I am quite certain that he will be the Republican nominee and I will vote for him over Barack Obama any day of the week. Where I am very concerned is that many “Christians”, including many presumably “Christian leaders”, are so concerned with getting President Obama out of office that they are willing to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever to do it, no matter the cost.

I have to say that I am encouraged by the flood of comments from those who are calling out Mr. Williamson for his ridiculous essay and pointing out the myriad issues found in seemingly every sentence he wrote. I would encourage you to check it out yourself.