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Crosswinds Foundation Newsletter

Vol. 5:4

October 30, 2012

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In This Issue

Elephant in the Room

BGEA and Mormonism

Culture Tracks:Election

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bob sittingAs Americans gear up for the presidential election, it seems for many voters this has become more about who they are voting against than who they are voting for. I imagine, like me, you have heard numerous discussions about the presidential race where something is said along the lines of: "I'm just voting for the lesser of two evils"; or, "I don't care for either one of them so I'm voting against the one I dislike most". Of course, not all voters feel this way. Some are basing their vote on the belief we need to change and others are voting on the belief that now is not the time to change.

 

In our lead article, "Mitt, Mormons, and Evangelicals: The Elephant in the Room" we address a reason some choose to not vote for a candidate - their religious faith. Is this a legitimate reason? If not, does it still carry any inherent problems Christians should be alert to when supporting a candidate of a different religion?

 

Related to this is a recent news story concerning the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) removing information on its website that identified Mormonism as a cult. Does this mean they no longer consider the Mormon Church a cult (based on their definition)? We looked into this and report our findings in "Does the BGEA Label Mormonism a Cult?"

 

Also, check out this issue's "Culture Tracks" with two interesting polls about the election. The first contains the top fifteen strengths voters perceive in each of the presidential candidates (I think you'll find it pretty revealing as to why some may be voting for each candidate). The second is how voters feel about the religion of each candidate and whether it matters when it comes to their vote.

 

No matter what your reason for voting, the important thing is that we do exercise this wonderful right and freedom we have to vote for the candidate of our choice, or that we dislike the least, as the case might be. May God grant the wisdom needed to move our nation forward, regardless of which candidate wins the election.

 

I'll see you at the polls,  

 

Bob Signature 

Bob Waldrep

 

 

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BeamMitt, Mormons, and Evangelicals: the Elephant in the Room

By Bob Waldrep

 

elephant  The presidential election is upon us and both parties are making a final push to win the hearts and, more importantly, the votes of the "undecided". Before the votes are cast, conservatives need to have an honest discussion about Mormonism. This topic should be front and center in the discussion but is being intentionally ignored - the "elephant in the room" you might say - perhaps, in hopes that it will just go away.

 

First, let's be clear, the elephant in the room is not simply the fact that Mr. Romney is a prominent member of the Mormon Church, which many Christians identify as a religious cult. Granted, for many Republicans and independent conservatives, such as myself, who typically lean Republican this has become a touchy subject - certainly, some still struggle with voting for a Mormon. Typically, those of us in this group also find it just as difficult voting for the incumbent.

 

Should a Christian Vote for a Mormon?

 

I see this struggle regularly when, just as with the Romney candidacy in 2008, I am asked: "Do you think a Christian should vote for a Mormon for president"? You may also have been asked this question; or, maybe you have asked it of others.

 

Personally, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this question when it comes to the collective Christian community. The bottom line is this is an issue of conscience that each of us must answer for ourselves. However, when discussing this we must also remember that no one is precluded from political office - even the presidency - based upon their religious persuasion.

 

Having said this, as Christians, I do not believe our vote should be cast at the expense of the gospel. As I expressed last year in the article, Faith and Politics:

 

"...being a Christian candidate does not guarantee one is the best candidate any more than the Christian surgeon is automatically the most gifted surgeon to operate on one's child, or the Christian dry cleaner is the best one to get the spot out of your new suit...The underlying concern then, as it is now, is not so much that Mr. Romney is a Mormon. It is the simple fact that, in promoting his candidacy, the essential beliefs of the Christian faith are being altered so a candidate can be presented as Christian; regardless, of what he truly believes."

 

The Elephant in the Room

 

When I wrote those words, Romney had not yet won the Republican nomination and most evangelicals were solidly in the camp of one of the other Republican candidates. My concerns centered on misconceptions regarding Mormonism that were being caused by the Romney campaign whenever evangelicals and the press raised concerns about his Mormon faith. It was obvious his campaign strategy was to ignore the questions and attempt to posture the Mormon Church as Christian - a strategy long used by the Mormon Church in responding to its critics and one that was somewhat effective in his 2008 run.

 

Now that Mr. Romney has secured the Republican nomination, many who supported other candidates have thrown support to his campaign. From personal experience, these supporters clearly understand his being a Mormon can be a negative. As such, some seek to minimize his Mormonism - a few going so far as to try and paint Mormons as being part of the Christian community of faith.

 

It is one thing for Mormons to claim theirs is a Christian Church - I expect this of them; it is quite another when evangelicals, who know better, also try to portray it as Christian or try to qualify it with phrases such as: "somewhat", "similar to", "in the same camp with", etc., Christianity. Therein is the problem - the elephant in the room, one might say.

 

graham romney

Mitt Romney meets with Billy Graham

 In over twenty years of researching, writing, and speaking on new religious movements and pseudo-Christian groups, such as the Mormon Church, I cannot ever recall a time when Christians - Evangelicals, in particular - were trying so hard to not call one of these groups a cult, or as being outside the Christian faith. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the recent actions taken by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in removing any reference from their website to the Mormon Church being a cult after Billy and Franklin Graham met with and endorsed Mr. Romney.

 

Is the Mormon Church a Cult?

 

Where it had once labeled the Mormon Church as a cult, the BGEA now poses the question on their website, "Can an Evangelical Vote for a Mormon?" The conclusion reached by the author, Franklin Graham, is yes. As I have previously pointed out, I do not disagree with his answer. However, I do think this is the wrong question to be asking. The more important question is, "In order to make a candidate more appealing, should an evangelical voting for a Mormon try to make the Mormon Church appear Christian, or more "Christian-like"; rather than identifying it as a cult, or as non-Christian?" [Editor's note: The BGEA has not said the Mormon Church is not a cult, they have simply removed references to it being a cult from their website. See our article: "Does the BGEA Still Label Mormon Church a Cult?"]

 

Without question, some evangelical leaders have become less outspoken in their concerns about Mormonism from fear they may negatively impact Mr. Romney's chances of being elected. BGEA chief of staff, Ken Barun pretty much admitted this stating, "We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."

 

Interestingly, during the last presidential election, I don't recall any such concerns being expressed about "politicizing" Mr. Romney's faith when Evangelicals had other options in the Republican primary. During that campaign, Romney was regularly asked to comment on those beliefs held by his Church that many Christians believed put it outside the bounds of the Christian faith. When responding to such questions, the candidate and his campaign generally deflected them by asserting he is running for commander-in-chief, not chief theologian. Fair enough. I understand that, as a politician, he would not want to answer those questions.

 

Commander-in-Chief or Theologian-in- Chief?

 

However, now that he is the nominee, I hear many of my fellow conservatives and evangelicals saying the same thing when questioned as to how they can vote for a Mormon, or in defending their support of Romney before a question is even raised. It typically goes something like this, "I know he's a Mormon but I am not voting for a theologian-in-chief, I'm voting for a commander-in-chief". Sounds logical, right? Of course not. 

theologian in chief

St. Louis Dispatch: Popularity of this term evidenced in cartoon reference to Santorum as "Chief Theologian"

 

How does a politician knowing and discussing what they believe about their own faith translate to their running for theologian-in-chief? The fact of the matter is many of our Presidents could clearly articulate the beliefs held by their Church. Not one of them is recognized in the recordings of history as holding the "mythical" office of Theologian-in-Chief. Obviously, the Romney campaign (as does many Christians) recognizes the negatives his Mormonism holds for Christians and wants to avoid any discussion about its teachings. Let's just be honest about it.

 

The facts are: Mr. Romney is a life-long member of the Mormon Church who has served as a Mormon missionary, has fulfilled all the requirements to enter into the Mormon Temple (something the vast majority of Mormon Church members are not allowed to do) and has held several key leadership positions in the Church. Do we honestly think voters are expected to believe he did all this without learning anything about what the Mormon Church teaches?

 

I agree we are not electing him to be our country's theologian-in-chief, but I do expect him to be honest in answering questions about his faith, even if the answer truthfully is, "I don't know". More importantly, I think the general public expects Evangelicals, (whether we support him, or not) to be just as open about what the Mormon Church teaches as we were prior to his winning the nomination.

 

Must the Mormon Church Be Legitimized to Elect a Mormon?

 

It should come as no surprise that a few weeks ago the Mormon Prophet announced the age for serving as a Mormon missionary was being lowered to 18 for men (formerly 19) and 19 for women (formerly 21). Regarding this, Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland told a news conference, "The Lord is hastening this work and he needs more willing missionaries." (Salt Lake Tribune, 10-6-12)

 

According to the Tribune, the Church is counting on a dramatic increase in missionaries (currently over 58,000 worldwide). It appears the Mormon Church is anticipating much greater openness to and growth in their Church. I think we might safely conclude that, whether Mr. Romney wins this election or not, the Mormon Church has benefited positively from the campaign. One can't help but wonder if perhaps that is, at least, part of the reason for the perceived need for more Mormon missionaries. 

 

It does point out why we must be mindful that, in trying to diminish any negatives of Mr. Romney being a Mormon, we may also be legitimizing the Mormon Church. Once we have rung that bell it will be hard, if not impossible, to un-ring it. Giving one's support to, or casting one's vote for a Mormon, should not mean we should no longer tell the truth about what the Mormon Church believes and teaches. It is never wrong to point out error, especially when it comes to a group that proclaims a false gospel. 

 

A Shadow of Things to Come? 

 

Here is the bottom line, this election may be indicative of what we can expect in future races. It may be that the days of having a "Christian" option will be much rarer. As such, we may not have the Christian candidate as a default option. Our vote will have to center on common ground other than faith. This will be new territory for those who grew up with the Christian political movements. It is certainly new for us in this election.

 

 

In such a new paradigm, we must learn that we don't need to "Christianize" our candidate. Rather, we must promote him, or her, on the basis of the issues we hold in common, despite our religious differences. If we support Mr. Romney, then promote his candidacy on the basis of why he is the best man for the job. And, when questioned about his faith, let's be open and honest about it; for, it is what it is.

 

As Christians, we know the governance of our nation is important; however, advancing the Kingdom of Christ should have much greater significance. As we vote, let's do as conscience dictates, for the good of the nation. And, as we campaign, let's make sure we do no harm to the future advancement of the Kingdom.

 

 

 

BGEADoes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Label Mormonism a Cult 

 

Like most Christians, we have the utmost respect for Billy Graham and appreciate all he has done to advance the gospel in his many years of service. Obviously, Reverend Graham did not make the decision to remove references to Mormonism from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, but this was a decision made by those who have day to day control over the ministry operations.

 

And, though the BGEA website has removed all references to the Mormon Church being a cult, the Association has not stated that it no longer considers the Mormon Church a cult. In fact, it still identifies those things which mark a group as a cult on its website. For example, in answering the question, "How can I recognize a cult?", the BGEA website states:

 

"Although cults differ, they share several characteristics. For example, cults often do not accept the Bible alone as God's Word, and may even say that other books (usually written by the group's founder) are also God's Word and of more value. Cults also commonly claim that they alone correctly interpret the truth and that Christian denominations and churches are wrong in their teaching...Cults deny what the Bible says about Jesus: He was fully God as well as man, and He died on the cross so we could be saved from our sins by faith.

 

One could break this down into three identifying markers:

  1. Do not accept the Bible alone as God's word and may have other books they say are of greater value than the Bible
  2. Claim they alone correctly interpret the truth and Christian denominations are wrong.
  3. Deny what the Bible says about Jesus being fully God and fully man, and that he died on the cross so we could be saved from our sins.

Regarding marker number one, the Mormon Church does not accept the Bible alone (in fact, they say it has been mistranslated and changed). They claim other books as more important - (the Book of Mormon and Doctrines and Covenants which contain most of their central teachings).

 

Regarding marker number two, the Mormon Church claims it alone is the true church (concerning Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, Joseph Smith said their creeds were an abomination and all their professors corrupt).

 

Regarding marker number three, the Mormon Church denies Jesus is fully God and fully man (according to Mormonism, before his birth on Earth, Jesus was born a spirit-being through a union between the Mormon god and one of his goddess wives, in a place called the pre-existence; interestingly, according to the Mormon Church, everyone who has ever lived on Earth or will live on Earth, shared a similar birth and are the spirit brothers of Jesus - even as is Satan; which is why Mike Huckabee in the 2008 election referred to Mormons believing Jesus and Satan are brothers). Concerning his death on the cross to atone for man's sins, the Mormon Church teaches the atonement occurred not on the cross, but in the Garden of Gethsemane. (In their booklet, "What the Mormons Think of Christ", published by the Mormon Church, they state, Christians often speak of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power. Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one's salvation. For instance, many believe or pretend to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept him as our personal savior, we are thereby saved. They say his blood without any other act than mere belief, makes us clean.")

 

Clearly, the Mormon Church meets all the criteria for what the BEGA defines as making a group a cult: it does not accept the Bible alone, it claims to be the one true church, and it denies the deity of Christ and that the atonement/salvation came through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.

 

[If you would like supporting documentation from Mormon Church publications that the Church does, in fact, hold to the teachings described in this article, email us at: info@crosswindsfoundation.com and ask for LDS Document Packet. 

 

 

 

 CultureCulture Tracks 

 footprints 

 

"Cultural Trends in America"

 

StrengthsGreatest Strengths of the Presidential Candidates

Gallup Polling Oct. 22-23 (Respondents were to put aside voting preferences and name "greatest strength" of each candidate)

 

Romney's Greatest Strengths

 

32% Did not name or could not think of a strength

16% Good businessman

11% Economic Policies

5% Brings fresh approach/change/new ideas

3% Honest/Has integrity

3% Good personality/down to earth/charming

3% Good liar/Can lie with a straight face

3% Leadership/Strong/Determined

2% A Republican

2% Experienced

2% Working on jobs/employment

2% Family man

2% Religious

2% Excellent speaker

1% For the people/helps the less fortunate

 

Obama's Greatest Strengths

 

25% Did not name or could not think of a strength

11% Excellent speaker/communicator

10% For the people/helps the less fortunate

7% Good personality/down to earth/charming

6% Levelheaded/Determined

5% Leadership/Strong/Determined

5% Doing a fine job

5% Honest/Has integrity

4% Foreign affairs/Foreign policy

4% Experienced

3% Intelligent/Smart

3% Economic Policies

3% Good liar/Can lie with a straight face

2% Healthcare policies

2% Stopping the war/Bringing troops home

1% Domestic/Social issues policies

 

READ THE GALLUP REPORT

 

ComfortVoters' Comfort Level with Candidates' Religions

(From Pew Research Polling, June 28-July 9, 2012)

 

When it comes to Obama's Religion

 

Comfortable with it:        

45% all voters

27% Republicans/lean Republican

61% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

Uncomfortable with it:

19% all voters

36% Republicans/lean Republican

7% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

Doesn't Matter/No opinion:

5% all voters

5% Republicans/lean Republican

4% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

Don't know his religion:

31% all voters

33% Republicans/lean Republican

28% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

When it comes to Romney's Religion

 

Comfortable with it:        

41% all voters

51% Republicans/lean Republican

35% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

Uncomfortable with it:

13% all voters

10% Republicans/lean Republican

16% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

Doesn't Matter/No opinion:

14% all voters

13% Republicans/lean Republican

4% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

Don't know his religion:

32% all voters

26% Republicans/lean Republican

34% Democrats/lean Democrat

 

READ THE PEW REPORT 

 

 

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