Craig Eisele on …..

January 21, 2012

Why Evangelicals Oppose Mormons: Word Games and Fear

COMMENTARY | It is clear that there is bad blood between evangelicals and Mormons, at least from the evangelical side of the street. Mormons say they are Christians; evangelicals say that Mormons are not Christians, as demonstrated by a recent Pew Forum study, and there has been a prominent movement among evangelical leaders to find an alternative to Mitt Romney as theRepublican presidential candidate. Indeed, this past fall, a prominent evangelical pastor who backed then-candidate Rick Perry famously proclaimed that the Mormon faith is a cult.

What is up here? Why is there so much opposition from the evangelicals against the Mormons –and not against some other non-evangelical faiths? (Disclosure: I am a practicing Mormon, although I will not be voting for fellow Mormon Mitt Romney’s party’s candidate in the fall.)

First of all, it is important to understand that Mormons and evangelicals mean very different things when each group labels someone as a “Christian.” For Latter-day Saints, popularly called Mormons, a Christian is someone who believes that Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah and Savior of the world-which is precisely what Mormons believe about Jesus Christ. That’s basically it.

Mormons understand that different people will understand the Bible-and what it teaches about Christ-in different ways. Although Mormons are famous for their missionary work-this writer’s son is currently serving as an LDS missionary in the Baltic States at this very moment-they recognize that different people will believe different things and still be Christian.

On the other hand, evangelical Christians apply a much more narrow definition to the term “Christian.” If someone teaches something that evangelicals widely consider to be “unbiblical,” then that person is not a Christian for the evangelicals. Of course, this approach begs the questions, “What exactly is ‘biblical’? What exactly does the Bible teach?” These are questions about which learned and well-meaning individuals have argued for many centuries. Beyond the well-intentioned, these are also questions about which outright wars have been fought, again, for centuries. There simply is not broad agreement on these issues-yet, if one does not believe as the evangelical Christians do, then to them, that person is not a Christian.

It is this kind of reasoning that allows some evangelicals to claim that Catholics-along with a full one-quarter of the American population-are involved in an unchristian cult.

Secondly, there is an unspoken numbers issue here. The National Council of Churches Yearbook for 2011 reports that, during 2009, the Latter-day Saints in the United States grew in number by 1.42 percent, while the Southern Baptist Convention (which counts many evangelicals among its members) dropped 0.42 percent in membership over the same period. In this context, it would be reasonable to think that evangelicals actually fear losing ground to Mormonism.

So why don’t the evangelicals pick on Roman Catholic seekers after the presidential nomination? It should be noted that, according to the same NCC Yearbook, that there are over 68.5 million Roman Catholics in the United States, far larger than any other Christian church, and certainly far larger than the Southern Baptist Convention, at 16.2 million members. Thus, publicly picking fights with Catholic candidates is now a losing strategy in the U.S.

All of this is monumentally un-American. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution forbids the government to impose a religious test as a qualification for office. This is a good policy for ordinary citizens, as well.

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1 Comment »

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    Comment by top99news — January 21, 2012 @ 8:47 am


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