I’m fascinated by the fact that my post on “Would I Vote for a Mormon” is my most popular blog yet — received almost ten times as many hits as any of my prior blogs. I’ve also received via email a lot of questions on the post, too many to answer in individual comments, so this follow-up blog will answer some of those questions I’ve received.
1. AB: Who defines what Christianity is?
A. No one person, at least no one on this Earth. The Bible clearly defines what a Christian is, and what beliefs are necessary to call yourself a Christian. This was largely the topic of my prior blog on “What Must We Believe“. So, as stated in that post, if you reject any of those key beliefs, or affirm beliefs that are clearly contradictory to them, then you cannot call yourself a Christian. Am I saying that Mormonism rejects some of the core beliefs or Biblical Christianity, or holds beliefs that are contradictory to those beliefs? Yes, and I think LDS adherents who are students of their faith and history would readily agree.
2. DM and AB: Have you seen the “I’m a Mormon” billboards with Mitt Romney on them? I am worried that the Mormon church will capitalize on this any way they can…”branding” Mormons as just a family-loving, God-fearing, Christ-loving people. That actually sounds like a pretty good “brand” to be associated with. What’s not legitimate about a faith that promotes those values?
A. I think you’re entirely correct about the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. Not only that, I wouldn’t for a minute dispute that the LDS are a family-oriented, God-fearing, Christ-loving people. I think all three are accurate characterizations of LDS, but we have to dig a little deeper. It’s a good “brand” to be associated with, and there’s nothing wrong with promoting those values. In fact, my entire post was intended to affirm the fact that I think Christians and Mormons affirm almost exactly the same values — I think it was clear in the blog that the very reason I’d vote for an LDS candidate is because we share the same values. The only aside that I mentioned, which really could be a whole series of blogs in itself, is that while Mormons and Christians affirm the same basic ethical, moral, and family values, they affirm a remarkably different set of religious/theological beliefs.
3. DM: Do you think a Mormon getting elected President will lend legitimacy to a cult system or belief that is contradictory to Christianity?
A. Possibly, but I don’t think so. I just don’t see enough overlap between a candidate’s political views and their theology. I don’t really see how getting elected President would “lend legitimacy to” his theological views. If we were in a country where the elected or appointed political leader was also the de facto religious leader (Saudi Arabia, Iran, arguably Israel), then certainly so. But in the United States, where we have a clear distinction between our religious and political leaders, the election of a candidate to political office in my view lends no special credence to their religious beliefs. At the end of the day, even if we concede that a Mormon President lends credence to their theology, that still is not in and of itself a reason not to cast that vote — at that point, a close examination of the alternative candidate becomes necessary.
Just my thoughts, others may disagree.
“The Bible clearly defines what a Christian is”
Obviously I’m an outsider, but to say that the Bible says ANYTHING clearly is to be naive.
The Bible also ‘clearly’ says we should stone people to death who work on the Sabbath. It also ‘clearly’ tells us how to keep slaves, and how to make them permanent.
My definition of a Christian is quite simple: if you call yourself one. Obviously we’d need to talk about issues to better categorize where you are on the Christian spectrum. But if you call yourself one, I’m in no position to dispute it as a label.
First, you’re not at all an “outsider” – this blog is intended for both Christians and non-Christians, and is intended to foster the very questions and kind of discussion that you’ve brought to the table. Thanks for your post, and please feel free to keep commenting and posting. You’re not an outsider here!
Second, I agree that there are many areas of the Bible that are not clear. I’ve studied it (both as a non-Christian and as a believer) for almost 25 years, and there are many areas that are not clear to me. However, when it comes to what constitutes the essentials of Christianity, it is quite clear in many (most) aspects. Your assertion that “to say the Bible says anything clearly is to be naïve” is simply false. The Bible says many things clearly, but I do agree it doesn’t say ALL things clearly.
Your definition of a Christian is interesting – basically, anybody who wants to call themselves a Christian, regardless of what they believe, can do so. Of course they can – but that doesn’t mean it’s accurate. “Christian” is a particular term with a specific definition, and defines a certain group of people who share a set of common beliefs. We can debate what those core beliefs are – which was the purpose of my prior blog – but we cannot reduce Christianity to pure personal preference. This actually isn’t an issue of theology, it’s more semantics and linguistics. “Christian” is like any other “label” – to call yourself a doctor, for example, means you’ve met certain criteria, studied certain topics, and have been certified by some independently accredited body and granted that title. To call yourself a Senator, on the other hand, means you’ve met other criteria – that you’ve been selected by a body of constituents to perform certain representative roles, and probably that you affirm certain positions on various political or social issues. To call yourself a bachelor, on the other hand, means you’re not married…but you get the idea, we could both cite hundreds of similar examples. The point is, I could call myself a doctor, a Senator, or a bachelor, I certainly have the freedom to do so – but they would not be accurate. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a Senator, and I’m not a bachelor. To say that simply anyone may call themselves one of these titles is to rob the term of its meaning, and therefore leave it meaningless.
Similarly, the label “Christian” means that you affirm certain doctrines or beliefs. It is not a meaningless term that anyone can assume, regardless of what they believe. You can deny the deity of Christ – in fact, you can even deny that he ever existed – and call yourself a Christian…it just won’t be accurate. Not everyone can assume the title/label, regardless of what they believe. To do so would be to rob any meaning from the term and leave it meaningless. I could call myself a bachelor, but I have a suspicion my wife would disagree.
I’d like to address your allegations about stoning and slavery at another time, but before I do, I’d like to know – have you read or studied the Bible? What’s your reference for those two allegations? Just interested to add some context to your statements. Best regards, and keep commenting! Thanks,
CTC, I have not seen those billboards. I expect that if Romney gets any where near as popular as Obama than many people will take a hard look at Mormonism. Some will be curious others will be seeking the truth for their lives. I suspect that the legalism alone will be too much too bare for most people that aren’t born into it.
As for voting purposes. I am an American. Article 6 of the constitution says there will be no religious test for presidency. I will support that. I personally follow the Bible and the Constitution in that order. My personal voting record would reflect that of my Christian and Contitutional beliefs. I’m not voting for my Pastor who is going to be my spiritual advisor. I am voting for the guy that I think can best run this country. I live in America, but my Kingdom is elsewhere.
Also, I personally would only support a President that would support the nation of Israel. But that is probably another discussion.