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October 30, 2007

Christian Congressman To Romney: Don't Claim You're A Christian, Because You're Not

Allow me the blasphemy of saying Jesus Christ All Mighty.

I've had two problems with Romney from the get-go.

1, I thought he wasn't that smart. I based this on his speaking style, which didn't really impress me. I knew he was an excellent manager, but didn't realize he was, in fact, very smart indeed. So I was wrong on that one. He is very smart -- perhaps I just resorted to the old bias of "conventionally handsome = dumb as a sack of retards."

2, I thought he came across excessively focus-grouped and a bit too robotically programmed to say whatever necessary to win the nomination. I think this is still a viable knock on him.

One problem I didn't think would be a major problem: That Christian conservatives would spurn him due to his Mormonism. Sure, I knew that many Christians regard Mormonism as a cult, and a gross departure from true Christian texts and theology, but come on. The guy believes in Christ. He just belongs to a church which has a kinda zany backstory on Christ's post-resurrection travels, the Garden of Eden, and the Lost Tribe of the Israelites.

But it turns out this is a genuine problem, and I have to say I'm frankly disappointed in the petty close-mindedness of some Christians on this point.

I thought they were beyond mere concerns of I-vote-for-whoever-is-closest-to-my-religion. Apparently, for many: Not quite so.

Heck, even Catholics and many Evangelicals believe in stories about Christ's post-resurrection activities which are not firmly established by literal Biblical texts.

I dunno. I thought the sine qua non of Christianity was "Whosever should believeth in Me shall not perish, but have everlasting life" and "For God so loveth the world he gave His only Son" to redeem it.

Mormons seem to believe that. Are we really now limiting the field by not only ideological purity but doctrinally purity as well?

In Defense of Mormonism: I just want to point out a couple of things.

Joseph Smith had an ecstatic vision. He was most likely a lunatic. But allow me to point out that many who have ecstatic visions may not indeed be seeing a glimpse of God, so much as they're a little touched.

The Passion of the Christ was based partly on the ecstatic visions of a couple of medieval women. Obviously their visions did not depart as significantly from the Biblical text as Joseph Smith's did. And yet their visions are not quite canon (though many Catholics believe them to be divinely inspired).

There wasn't too much squawking about this non-canonical material appearing in the film, except by those who despised the idea of the movie and sought to undermine it by suddenly discovering a zealous belief that only purely canonical material appear in a film about Christ's crucifixion.

The basic thrust of Joseph Smith's visions -- zany as the are -- is that America is the promised land of the Bible. All the wacky stuff -- Indians as a lost tribe of Israel, the Garden of Eden being located in Missouri (!), Christ visiting the Americas (not sure of this one -- I think that's in the Book of Mormon, though) are basically sub-premises to "prove" Smith's main premise: that America is the true home of Christianity, its greatest redoubt.

That is doctrinally erroneous according to most Christians, and yet we hear echoes of this basic idea from "normal" Christians all the time. I trust no one will demand I conduct a Google search to prove that Christians often use language suggesting that America is a land of special providence and not at all inconsequential in God's plan.

Lastly, from a purely "Was he basically right?" perspective, there can be little doubt that America is, in fact, the most unapologetically Christian of all Western nations, and that the Americas in their entirety hold within them the largest number of believing Christians in the world.

There is little doubt that Joseph Smith's visions were a bit nutty. They can be seen as the Scientology of the nineteenth century, with their outlandish science-fiction flavored ideas, though, unlike Scientology, his visions were indeed basically (and zealously) Christian.

The Church of Mormon believes in some odd things, no doubt. Mitt Romney, as a (as far as we know) faithful Mormon believes in these odd things.

But are many Christians in this country so focused on religious purity they'd reject him for such oddball beliefs? I need hardly remind faithful Christians that their ideas, too -- including such notions as an Ark which carried two of every animal on the face of the earth -- seem pretty weird to many people as well.

Romney is not my top choice. But the idea that he would be rejected as a potential Republican nominee, despite his great intelligence, despite his laudable experience as a good conservative governor of an extremely liberal state, simply because he believes a couple of hard-to-swallow points of doctrine in addition to the hard-to-swallow points of doctrine embraced by all Christians does strike me as evidence of narrow-mindedness.

And this is of course from someone who, while not Christian himself, is a fairly consistent defender of self-identified fundamentalist Christians.

Reject Romney for his flaws, for his flip-flops, for his synthetic personality... but for (excuse the blasphemy again) the love of God do not reject him because he's not quite Christian enough.

Emo Philips' Old Joke: It's not often I quote Emo Philips, because I hate him, but this joke sort of sums it up:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: "Stop. Don't do it."

"Why shouldn't I?" he asked.

"Well, there's so much to live for!"

"Like what?"

"Are you religious?"

He said, "Yes."

I said, "Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?"

"Christian."

"Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

"Protestant."

"Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"

"Baptist."

"Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

"Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

"Reformed Baptist Church of God."

"Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said: "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915."

I said: "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off.

I'm pretty sure that's not the original joke -- I'm 99% certain Emo Philips is a Lutheran and told the joke about Lutheran sub-denominations -- but it's close enough for Internet work.

Oh... I guess if we're talking about the kooky notion that Jesus walked upon various nations which considered themselves especially blessed for that visit, we should mention the British hymn Jerusalem -- and the belief held my many, for many years, that sure, Jesus did in fact walk upon England's fair and pleasant land.

And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England's mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

-- William Blake

Sure Blake was a crazy mystic. But a lot of kookiness has been believed by a lot of people throughout history.


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posted by Ace at 03:06 PM

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