Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pastor Flocked Over Mormon Cult Remarks

Pastor Flocked Over Mormon Cult Remarks
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
October 9, 2011

Is Christianity a cult? One could certainly make the case it is if using the same insidious, bigoted remarks made about Mormonism by a pastor who introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry at the October 8 Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC.

Mormonism is “not historical Christianity,” said Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. It is a “theological cult… Mormonism… was invented 1,800 years after Jesus Christ and the founding of Christianity,” continued Jeffress.

Using Jeffress’s own words, could not the same thing be said of Christianity itself? Christianity was founded more than 3,000 years after Abraham and the founding of Judaism, which just celebrated the advent of 5772 with the observances of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It could, but I would never suggest Christianity is a cult.

Jeffress continued his anti-Mormon harangue. “It [Mormonism] has a human leader as opposed to a divine leader, Joseph Smith. They have their own set of doctrines apart from Christianity and they have their own religious book apart from the Bible – the Book of Mormon.”

Is Jeffress so wise that he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joseph Smith was not the divine inspiration of a Deity? If, according to Genesis, in the Old Testament, G-d created Man on the sixth day, that man being Adam, shouldn’t he be the recipient of people’s worship and adoration as a divine leader?

Once again, to work with Jeffress’s words doesn’t Christianity have its own set of doctrines apart from Judaism? Christianity, which grew from Judaism, does not adhere to the same Sabbath, or Sabbath rules, as Judaism – Sunday as opposed to Friday night/Saturday (save for the Seventh Day Adventists who observe a Saturday Sabbath). Christianity does not observe Kashrut, the dietary laws observed by Jews. These are but two examples of doctrines separating Judaism and Christianity, but I would never call Christianity a cult.

As for Jeffress noting that Mormons have a religious book apart from the Bible, using his words again, could not the same thing be said of Christianity? G-d gave the Israelites the Torah – the Five Books of Moses – the Old Testament. At the time, it was the only testament. Christianity could be called a cult for adopting scripture apart from the Torah – the Apocrypha and the New Testament.

Jeffress then concluded his cacophonous rant by quoting John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: “’We have the duty and privilege as Christians, to select and prefer Christians as our leaders.’ If I’m a bigot, then the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay is a bigot.”

Jeffress neither rescinded his remarks, apologized for them nor disavowed them when given the opportunity by several members of the media.

While there were no Mormons during Chief Justice Jay’s time, that doesn’t make his statement, or Jeffress’s remarks any less prejudicial – against Catholics, Jews and G-d forbid, atheists.

The below are excerpts of “Faith and Freedom for All Americans,” a column I wrote December 6, 2007 following the speech given by former governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) explaining his Mormonism, a la John F. Kennedy in 1960, as a Roman Catholic candidate for president. Full disclosure, I am not now, nor was I in 2007, a supporter of Romney. I say now, as I said then, if he garners the GOP nomination, I will vote for him.

Not since 1960 when then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, also from Massachusetts, felt compelled to discuss his Catholic faith before the entire nation has an address like this been deemed necessary. But by whom was it deemed necessary? People lacking knowledge of the Mormon faith? After all in a recent poll only 36 percent of those asked said they would feel comfortable voting for a person of the Mormon faith. FYI, in that same survey a whopping 50 percent of those asked said they would feel comfortable voting for a Jewish presidential candidate.

In his address, Romney declared, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of G-d and the Savior of mankind.” That should more than placate nervous Christians.

…if Sen. [Joseph] Lieberman were a stronger candidate for president that when he made a brief bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004, he would be enduring the same questions from non-believers and those lacking knowledge of Judaism. Questions are natural concerning the unknown and answers should be expected, but the issue of a candidate’s religion should not necessarily define the candidate.

Romney’s Mormon faith will no more dictate how he leads the nation should he win the 2008 presidential election any more than Kennedy’s did upon his victory in 1960. Pope John XXIII no more ran the White House during the Kennedy Administration than Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Mormon Church, would upon a Romney election.

It’s not the faith of a candidate but the character of the candidate, to paraphrase the late Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s enjoy our religious freedom – freedom that comes to us as a gift from G-d.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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