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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Missionary Mitt

Here is the question. Would a Mitt Romney presidency encourage people to leave their current congregations, and fill up Mormon chapels?


Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine Bill Clinton (or George W. Bush) changed religions during his term in office and became a Jehovah's Witness. Would you become a Jehovah's Witness? Would you regard that religion as more legitimate somehow?

In my mind, the Jehovah's Witness religion would not be any more or less legitimate because of the President converted to it. And I have to believe that you're basically the same as me. If the next president is a Methodist, the Methodist church will have the exact same legitimacy in my mind that it currently has. Same with the legitimacy level in your mind.

Does the religion of the US president even influence how many people join that religion? If it does, I'd like to see some data. Have people left their pentecostal congregations in droves to become Methodists since George W. Bush's election?Did the Quaker congregations swell in number during the Nixon years?

Okay okay. A lot of people don't like George W. Bush. And Nixon went down in flames. But Reagan won big at the polls. Did people bail out of their Baptist congregations to become Presbyterian during the Reagan administration?

How about during the Clinton administration, or the Carter years? Did people leave their Presbyterian congregations and join Baptist congregations?

I don't even recall that it was an issue during the 2004 campaign. If John Kerry would have been elected would people have flocked to the Catholic church? Is that what happened when John F. Kennedy was elected? Were Evangelicals worried back then that Catholicism would somehow gain a fresh new appeal and Protestants would switch and become Catholic? I wasn't around back then but I thought the concern was that the Pope would decide on policy issues. Was that just the concern that was articulated, when the real concern was that people would go Catholic? I suspect that it was a concern during the JFK campaign.

But it was no longer a concern with John Kerry. I certainly don't remember any hand wringing about this subject in 2004.

Was it a concern?
All of the above denominations are mainstream, fairly well accepted American religious traditions. Catholics accept baptisms of most of the above denominations (Catholics don't recognize Mormon baptisms). But what about religions that fall firmly outside mainstream Christianity? If Al Gore had won the election in 2000 with Joe Lieberman as a running mate would Americans have left their religious traditions to become Jewish?

What about the idea that is circulating out there that a Mormon in the White House would add additional credibility to the Mormon religion. If that is true, then let's see some data. Does the Mormon church swell in numbers in states where there is a successful Mormon Governor? When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, did people leave their churches faster than before to join up with the Mormons? If so... let's see some data.

For that matter, did people leave their Episcopalian, or Lutheran congregations in droves when Mike Huckabee was Governor to become Southern Baptist? If so, I'd like to see some data supporting that. I think religion is way too personal to be influenced in any meaningful way by politicians. The influence goes in the opposite direction.


Anonymous said...

You are going by the premise that Mormonism is a mainstream Christian religion. Mormonism is neither mainstream nor is it a Christian religion.
Has any mainstream religion authorized polygamy? Was any other mainstream religion founded by a pathological liar? Does any mainstream religion think heaven is located on a planet named Kolob? Does any other mainstream religion use blood rituals? Has any other mainstream religion performed Baptism for the Dead rites on behalf of Adolf Hitler? Has any other mainstream religion sealed the marriage of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun? Has any other mainstream religion sealed Adolf Hitler to his parents? Does any other mainstream religion ban under penalty of death fellow Christians from their worship services? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "NO." Therefore Mormanism is not a Christian religion. Mormonism is Mormonism. Christianity is Christianity. One can never be confused with the other. Mormonism is based on the teachings of Joseph Smith plain and simple. Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Different anonymous individual here:

"You are going by the premise that Mormonism is a mainstream Christian religion."

His inclusion of Joe Lieberman (a Jew) in the argument would seem to discount your assumption.

"Has any mainstream religion authorized polygamy?"

For the record, the LDS church has not allowed such a practice for nearly one and a quarter centuries. To answer you, though, yes. Martin Luther approved of Yardgrave Phillip of Hesse entering into a polygamous relationship, citing lack of Biblical evidence to condemn it.

"Was any other mainstream religion founded by a pathological liar?"

If Joseph Smith was telling the truth, if you are indeed talking about him, he wasn't a pathological liar. Since the LDS Church was actually founded by Jesus himself through Joseph Smith, you might be inferring that the Savior is a pathological liar, in which case, you should be ashamed of yourself.

"Does any other mainstream religion use blood rituals?"

No, and neither does the LDS church. I don't even know to what you are referring. You seem to be listening to a bunch of pathological liars to get your information.

"Has any other mainstream religion performed Baptism for the Dead rites on behalf of Adolf Hitler?"

The LDS church performs baptisms for the dead for anyone. It is up to the deceased whether or not they accept it, and all are judged based on their faith and actions in this world. Performing baptisms for the dead is a great act of compassion that allows for the salvation of those who did not hear or accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this life. The same goes for the other ordinances you mentioned.

"Does any other mainstream religion ban under penalty of death fellow Christians from their worship services?"

No, and neither does the LDS church. In fact, missionaries bring people of other religions to church all the time. You can come yourself if you would like.

"Mormonism is Mormonism. Christianity is Christianity. One can never be confused with the other."

Mormons are very insulted by that statement, since they believe that Jesus is divine and the Savior of all mankind. Presbyterianism is Presbyterianism. Methodism is Methodism. Mormonism is Mormonism. Yet, all of these are Christian. Your exclusionary definitions of the word "Christian" is wholly unsatisfying and very misleading.

Big Jay said...

Anonymous 1

All of your points were nice and all... but what I was trying to say is that the influence of religion goes from the bottom up, not the top down. When has any president's religion ever had an influence?

Big Jay said...

By the way. I'm not making the argument here that Mormonism fits within mainstream Christianity. I recognize that there are a huge variety of opinions on this particular point and I'm not trying to persuade anyone one way or another.

Anonymous said...

I dont think we can take any chances. Joseph Smith wanted to make Mormonism the national religion of the United States of America. Joseph Smith wanted polygamy to be the law of the land in each and every state. Joseph Smith said Black people were the "Curse of Cain." Brigham Young threatened death to any woman who had sexual relations with a Black. Mormonism has a rich history concerning incest. We just cannot gamble the future of this nation on a religion that has so many flaws. Thankfully most Americans agree with me. Huck will carry the Christian flag for those with the courage to follow him.

Big Jay said...

See. That's what I'm talking about. People are actually pretty worried about what it would mean if a mormon were president. The reality is that the Mormon church has shown excellent citizenship in this country over the last 110 years. There are mormons who are republican, democrat, libertarian etc...

There have been, and are mormon politicians in both parties. If you're so worried about what they would do, show me an example to back up the hysteria.

Just as an example - Martin Luther King Jr. said that George Romney (a mormon, and 'everyone' knows that mormons hate black people) would be a great president.