Two weeks ago, at the GOP’s Values Voters Summit—also known as Lalaland-a-Palooza—Mitt Romney’s faith was taken to task.
For whatever reason, Romney was scheduled to speak in the slot immediately before Bryan Fisher, a right-wing talk-radio host and spokesperson for the American Family Association.
Fischer’s a raging mormophobe. He’s the guy who famously declared that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Mormons, along with a spate of even more ludicrous and bigoted remarks that helped earn him a slot as a featured speaker at Lalaland-a-Palooza.
But the comments that made the headlines came during the introduction to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s speech.
“Only faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone, qualifies you as a Christian,” said Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Texas.
I always get a big yuck out of these mainstream-religion types who scoff at fringe religions as being preposterous, which is like junkies scoffing at tweakers for being addicted to a more damaging drug.
As much as Jeffress, Fischer and those who share their views would like to separate Christianity from Mormonism, the fact is, Mormons are Christians. This is not debatable.
My best girl Merriam Webster defines “Christian” as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus,” which is an atrocious definition when you think about it, because, according to my honey, you don’t even have to believe in Jesus to be a Christian, only profess to believe. But, hey, who am I to criticize a hottie lexicographer? The point is, Christians are people who follow Jesus Christ. It don’t get no simpler than that.
So, do Mormons follow the teachings of Christ? Well, their official name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Visit their website and the first thing you notice on the home page is a giant image of Jesus servicing the destitute. Then, you start digging around a bit and, well, trust me when I tell you, they do more than “profess” belief in Jesus—they worship the guy! Mormon.org is awash with statements about their relationship with the sandled one, most of which don’t read any differently than any other Christian website’s statements about their relationship with him.
“We believe first and foremost that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God.”
“Jesus Christ is the only way by which we can return to live with our Heavenly Father.”
“Jesus suffered and was crucified for the sins of the world, giving each of God’s children the gift of repentance and forgiveness.”
“Jesus Christ was a carpenter and installed the shelves in the living room of my soul.”
OK, the last one is a farce, but, seriously, if Mormons aren’t members of the Christian faith, then Hank Williams Jr. ain’t a member of the Redneck Church of Latter-Day Buffoons.
“Mormonism is a cult,” Jeffress said when asked for a follow-up. “It would give credence to a cult to have a Mormon candidate.”
Well, isn’t that the gorilla calling the hyena humorless!? Christians are every bit as cultish as Mormons—if not more.
It should be mentioned here that, technically, literally, all religions are cults, because my gal Merriam defines a cult as “a system of religious beliefs and ritual.” But for the purpose of this rant, we’ll just go with the Wikipedia definition, which is clearly how Jeffress meant it: “A group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.”
I know Christianity seems more normal and rational to Americans than Mormonism, but that’s because it had an 1,800-year head start. Christianity is the religion upon which this country was founded. It is inextricably woven into the fabric of our being. We walk, talk, live and breathe Christianity, having been taught these bizarre fables since childhood—a time when we would have believed that you go to Disneyland when you die and Mickey Mouse is the messiah, had our parents decided to go with that worldview.
But what if everything was reversed? What if Mormonism was 2,000 years old, became the religion upon which this country was founded and was branded onto our brains at birth? Then one day, you’re just sitting in the bar nursing a non-alcoholic beer and perusing the magic-underwear section of the Victoria’s Secret catalog when a guy plops down next to you and proceeds to evangelize about this happening new religion he just joined—an offshoot of LDS called Catholicism—and excitedly explains all the kooky features of Catholicism that Mormons don’t have, like original sin, papal infallibility, infant baptism, heavenly limbo, clerical celibacy, normalized pedophilia and transubstantiation.
I guarantee your reaction would be something like, “Whoa, what’s this about Jesus’ flesh and blood!?”
“The priest feeds it to you in the form of bread and wine during the Eucharist ceremony.”
“So, the bread and wine are symbols of Jesus’ flesh and blood?”
“Well, no, see, it actually is his flesh and blood?”
“And people eat this?”
“In millions of churches, all over the world?”
“And there’s enough of Jesus’ flesh and blood to go around?” “Of course, silly—Jesus is magic. Even Mormons know that.”