Despite how often I seem to do it, I don’t enjoy disagreeing with my colleagues here. But David’s piece this morning about Mitt Romney had one error, and while it’s not enough to detract from his point, it’s good enough for me to use as a jumping-off point for my own rant.
To wit, Reverend Jeffress didn’t “disparage” Mormonism in his introduction to Perry. He made his introduction, left the stage, and then stated an opinion that Mormonism isn’t a denomination of Christianity, but a “cult.”
And by certain strict theological definitions, it is. “Cult” has acquired some pejorative connotations, especially in the past few decades (thank you, Moonies and Jim Jones, among others), but that’s not strictly part of the definition. And Mormonism is, by the book, a “cult.”
And guess what? Christianity itself started as a Jewish cult, and was considered such for much of its formative years. And rightly so.
In libel and slander cases, there’s a wonderful expression: “truth is an absolute defense.” And just because certain truths make certain people uncomfortable doesn’t mean that they’re inappropriate. It might be insensitive, but it’s honest.
For example, on those rare occasions that I think about President Obama’s race, I don’t think of him as “black.” He’s a mulatto — his father was African, his mother white. In some ways, I think that is better — I’ve always been suspicious of “pure-breeds” and purity and all that crap. Hybrids tend to be far hardier than either parent stock. Further, I’m pretty much pure white European stock, and I got a hefty list of genetic defects and ailments that come with my racial purity. I’d like to take those “White Power” idiots and beat them with their signs — but they’d most likely kick my unhealthy ass.
But back on topic — Obama is only “black” by the old racist legal definitions, where if a single ancestor was black, all descendants were black. Scientifically, unless someone knows something about his mother’s family that I don’t know (and don’t care about), he’s of mixed race, not fully one or the other. (I’ve heard a few cynical folks ask “am I still a racist if I only dislike Obama’s white half?”) And Mormonism — based on its youth and its belief in scriptures written about 1800 years after Christ’s death — is, technically, a Christian-based cult. That reflects nothing on the character of its adherents or the validity of their faith. Hell, with the exception of a few (such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), every Mormon I’ve ever met or heard of has been a fine, decent, upstanding, respectable and respectful human being. (But I still want to giggle at fresh-faced teenagers less than half my age in suits wearing name tags calling them “elders.”)
But yeah, their faith is — by the strictest theological definition Reverend Jeffress invoked — is a cult. He was speaking as a scholar, and his answer was correct. He offered no moral judgment on it or its adherents, and has gone on to say that he holds Mormons in high regard — like I do.
Further, in the context here, all it is is another attempt to find some way to pull down Mitt Romney. I don’t think it’s as aggressive as the moves on Perry and Cain are, or the ones on Bachmann and Palin were, but I have my own theories there that I’m saving for when I flesh them out more. But I don’t recall Romney ever running as “the Mormon candidate” (which Mr. Huntsman might object to), or even having his faith play a determining role in how he governs or leads. He’s a technocrat, a businessman, not a theocrat. Trying to make him into one is just plain stupid.
Not that that has ever stopped the left before…