Monday, June 18, 2007

Kansas Sam and the Temple of Doom

  • God is an exalted, perfected man.
  • Jesus of Nazareth is the biological child of God the Father who had sexual relations with the Virgin Mary.
  • After his resurrection, Jesus came to a lost tribe of Israelites called the Nephites, who lived in what is now the U.S. He appointed twelve apostles from the Nephites and they were sent out to spread the Gospel among the people who lived there.
  • God has a human body and is not "eternal." There was a time when God did not exist.

Those are among the chief doctrines of the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. They are in direct contradiction of the chief doctrines of the "orthodox" Christian churches, Catholic, Protestant and Eastern. Can someone be a Christian and not believe what "orthodox" Christianity teaches? Of course. Even "orthodox" believers (me, for instance) have been known to have their share of doubts, heresies and unbeliefs.

But you cannot logically say that those who accept the beliefs of Mormonism believe in Jesus the same way those who believe in the traditional doctrines of orthodox Christianity do.

Then why is Sam Brownback apologizing for a campaign staffer's e-mail asking for help in fact-checking the doctrines of the LDS church, and asserting that "the LDS Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Christian faith?"

This is something that every orthodox Christian and every Latter Day Saint knows: the two faiths are similar and have much in common, but differ on who God is, who Jesus is, and whether or not the Bible has a missing "Third Testament." They are as similar as Shia and Sunni Islam are. And as different.

The only reason I can think that Kansas Sam has to apologize is that in America, it's not supposed to matter whether or not a President believes that Jesus used to live in Missouri or that the Flying Spaghetti Monster will return to rapture the Chosen Ones. Its' supposed to matter that he or she is competent, has a vision and convinces the American public to support that vision.

Sam got caught slyly trying to slip into the mantle of the evangelical Elijah. It might work among the more moderate religious conservatives. But will the Bob Jones Office of the Inquisition be any more likely to vote for an apostate Methodist who converted to Papism than they would for Mormon Mitt Romney? I rather doubt it. Kansas Sam is headed for the Temple of Doom.

He should apologize for making religion and religious beliefs a central point of his campaign. But he shouldn't have to apologize for saying that religions believe different things. Maybe now, he'll shut up.

1 comment:

notverybright said...

(Sorry - Please delete my previous comment.)

Interesting post. Got me thinking, as usual.

This question of what role a candidate's religious beliefs should play in the analysis of political candidates is one I haven't quite sorted out yet.

On the one hand, I very much believe folks should be given wide latitude as they search for ultimate meaning. Who am I to second-guess that? Humility requires me to recognize that in this mysterious universe, there is so much that I cannot understand.

On the other hand, my humility has its limits. If a presidential candidate sees events in the Middle East as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy (as our current president has indciated he does), well that scares me. Those beliefs obviously influence decisions. Or if a politician holds religious beliefs that cause him to ignore science (global warming, evolution, etc.), well, there's a problem there too. Or if the beliefs are just downright bizarre, as some of the Mormon teachings strike me, I don't know how to just look the other way on that.

I need to sort this out better in my own mind. This overlap of religion and politics is one that I have particular interest in, but I sure don't have it all sorted out.