Friday, March 23, 2012

A Vote for Mitt Romney is a Vote for Satan?

K

2008 Republican Primary Election Outcomes
            Religion is an essential component in the United States presidential elections. Indeed, while there have been some rather unorthodox theist presidents (such as Thomas Jefferson) there has never been a president that has not also been nominally Christian. As such, religion has become a rather decisive aspect in debates and rhetoric.  Religion is used to both gain adherents as while as used as a deterrent from their opponants. This has been seen in the case of John F. Kennedy (the first Catholic president), Barrack Obama (accused of being a Muslim), as well as Mitt Romney. In the case of Mitt Romney it came to the point where it was stated that a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan.
            In the 2008 Republican primary election the three main runners were John McCain, Mike Hukabee, and Mitt Romney. Both John McCain and Mike Hukabee are mainline Christians. In fact, Mike Hukabee is an ordain Southern Baptism minister. However, Mitt Romney is a devout Mormon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Mitt Romney's religion quickly became a political platform in which he was examined and ridiculed. This because many Christians view Mormonism as a non-Christian cult.
Mormon Salt Lake City Temple
Completed 1893
             Mitt Romney's devotion to his faith is almost indisputable. Mitt Romney pays a minimum of 10% of his income to the Mormon church as a tithe.  In additional to tithing, he delegates funds to various other causes within the church including welfare. When Romney was in his early 20's he served as a full-time missionary France for two year.  He later served as a Bishop of a Mormon congregation (an unpaid local congregation leader), and as a Stake President (a leader over several wards or congregations) all of which are unpaid ecclesiastical positions.  Romney regularly attends church as well as temples (dedicated buildings where Mormons perform liturgical convents and oblations to God). Romney has spent thousands and thousands of hours in service of his church and donated millions. He is by all accounts a devout member.

             To most, these traits would seem ]desirable, it demonstrates that he has deep rooted convictions, finds passion in his commitments, works hard, performs selfless service, and sacrifices time and money for what he believes to be true.  Further, just the fact that Romney is a Mormon in the face of frequent ridicule shows that he sticks to what he believes even if it is unpopular or a minority view. While devotion may be admirable trait, for many Romney has placed his faith in the wrong religion. For many evangelical and traditional Christian religions the Mormon church is not a Christian religion, that they deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, that they do not follow the bible as the ultimate source, that it is a religion inspired by the devil, and it is a satanic cult. Despite Mormons claiming otherwise, 50% of American do not believe that Mormons are Christian. Further, when asked one word to describe the Mormon religion the most common answer was "cult" (Pew Forum, 2012)).
Pastor Bill Keller
             One prominent critic is Pastor Bill Keller. Bill Keller is a evangelical pastor, a televangelist, creator of Bill Keller ministries, and the creator and host of Live Prayer (www.liveprayer.com), an online ministry which sends over 2,400,000 people regular emails in relation to Christ, their website and other Live Prayer information.  
             Bill Keller caused a national scene when he sent an email to his followers that "If you vote for Mitt Romney you are voting for Satan" and that "[Mitt] Romney getting elected president will ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell!!!" (2007).  This caused uproar not just in religious and political realms but also in legal circles.  The reason for this is because Live Prayer is a non-profit organization and thus it is illegal for it to “attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates”(Internal Revenue Services, 2012).  Keller’s email was seen by many as a political statement which is directed to influence his audience against voting for Mitt Romney. The American United for the Separation of Church and State petitioned the IRS to examine the tax exempt state Pastor Keller's organization.
            This story was taken up by most major news sources and provided me, as a politically minded Canadian Mormon, significant entertainment. In this blog post I would like to show you two interviews of Pastor Bill Keller which are informative, entertaining and interesting.

Interview #1 - Bill O'Reilly and Pastor Bill Keller Talk on The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News

          This first interview is between conservative Fox News political commentator and Roman Catholic Bill O’Reilly and televangelist Pastor Bill Keller, founder of www.liveprayer.com           

Now as fun as it is to see to see Bill O'Reilly treat Pastor Bill Keller as if he were five, I feel he dealt with the interview in a less-than-ideal way.  Bill Keller did make some very prejudiced, close minded, and ignorant statements. However, it is wrong, ignorant, and ironic to respond to intolerance with intolerance for the intolerant.
 In this interview Bill O'Reilly made a very good point about the validity of his claims.  In discussion he said to Keller(3:06)
"He is not bringing anybody into anything. I mean that is ridiculous. How can you back up an assertion that the former governor of Massachusetts is bringing people into his religion? How could you back that up?"  

Keller had claimed that  "[Mitt] Romney getting elected president will ultimately lead millions of souls to the eternal flames of hell". How can Mr. Keller show evidence that this is true? In 2007 there were only 302 million people in the US (Population Reference Bureau, 2007). For "millions" to be millions it must be at least two. That would be at least 0.7% of the entire population converting, which would be an increase of about 33% for the current US Mormon Population. This is a very unlikely claim with no base.
Interview #2 - Alan Colmes, Pastor Bill Keller, and Scott Gordon on The Alan Colmes Show on Fox News Radio


            
                   This second interview is a three way interview between liberal Jewish radio host Alan Colmes of Fox News Radio, Mormon and president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR (www.fairlds.org) Scott Gordon, and Pastor Bill Keller (www.liveprayer.com). This rather lengthy interview focuses on the question of the Mormon belief in Christ: Are Mormon Christian? Do Mormon believe in a "different" God and Christ than mainstream Christianity? What is he nature of god? Bill Keller claims that "a Mormon is no more a Christian than a Muslim", that they believe in a different and false God and Jesus and that the Mormon church is a "satanic cult" and that "millions of people will die and go to Hell if Mitt Romney is elected to become president".
                   This interview also examines some very sensitive issues such as polygamy, angels, racial bans to priesthood, their holy scriptures "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, their so called "secret" temple practices, grace vs works, the atonement of Jesus Christ, temple undergarments, difficult historical issues, apotheosis, the afterlife, their ultimate authority and several other like issues.


Here are some of my favorite, or most interesting, quotes from the interview: 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(4:27)
Gordon: Don't believe in the deity of Christ?  That is clearly untrue.
Keller: You deny the deity of Christ. Don't sit there and lie to the people!
Colmes: Wait, Wait! Isn't the full name of the church "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Gordon: That is correct.
(12:12)
Keller: They try to make people believe, even your guest is trying to make people believe, that they are just another Christian denomination! But a Mormon is no more a Christian than a Muslim!
Colmes: Wait, why can't you accept what Mr. Gordon is saying if that is his faith, if that is his belief? Why can't you accept that that is what he believes?
Keller: He can believe anything he wants, just be honest!
Colmes: Are you claiming, sir, that he is misrepresenting what his religion actually stands for? 
Keller: They are deceiving people to try to make them believe they are Christians and they not!
...
Gordon: You know, I don't really even know what I can say about that. What can one say other than "he's wrong"? 
(16:05)
Keller: I would love to see you get saved because you would be a powerful man of God Alan.
Colmes: Well, and maybe I am a powerful man of God without your religion. 
(17:30)
Colmes: Whatever happened to "judge not lest ye be judged"?  Did you read that part of the bible?
(26:12)
Keller: Hey Alan, you really want to ask your other guest about the fact that they believe when you die you'll be God of your own planet, that Jesus is the brother of Lucifer, and some of these beliefs about the magical underwear.
Gordon: Well, as to the "magical underwear", I think Mr. Keller has an undue attraction to underwear items.
(29:26)  
Colmes: Are you calling [Scott Gordon] a liar?
Keller: Of course he is a liar!
Gordon: You know, That's the thing - as soon as I say something all that Mr. Keller says is to say that I am wrong. Now how is it that he know my beliefs better than I do?
(33:06)
* Gladys Knight Song Playing*
Colmes: Hey, Bill Keller, you like Gladys Knight?
Keller: Love Gladys Knight. Love Donny and Marie [Osmond] and I pray that they will turn from the lies of the Mormon cult before they die and go to Hell.
(34:06)
Gordon: I find it interesting that [Bill Keller] berates us, calls us a satanic cult, he calls us evil, and then he says "and by the way, come over and join my group". Why would we want to do that? You know, you treat people that rudely, it's certainly not a very good missionary effort. 
...
Keller: ...let me tell you something: there is only one truth, and I know it is tough to hear, but it's the bottom line and it is out of love that I share that truth tonight with you. 
Colmes: I haven't heard much love on these phone lines.
Gordon: I haven't either.
Keller: Hey Alan, truth is the greatest love their is my friend.
Colmes: I'm not feeling the love.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Colmes and Gordons attempt to have a respectful interfaith discussion with the hysterical, interrupting, snickering Keller. However, all Keller seems to be interested in doing is rehashing his original article and to close off the minds of the public by demonizing Mitt Romney and the Mormon religion.  Keller also seems unwilling to talk to Gordon directly, rather, he seems to refer to him only as "your other guest" and address any comment he wishes to make to Gordon through Colmes.  Nearing the end of the interview it seems that Keller breaks down and desperately starts throwing out every trick in the book to discredit Mormons (most of which were misleading, unsubstantiated, or false) while alluding that he hasn't even scratched the surface of the wild and outrageous beliefs of the Mormon church (27:23).  As Gordon and Colmes pointed out you can make almost any unfamiliar practice seems crazy by the way you word it.
Are Mormons Unchristian and Non-Biblical?
Pastor Keller based his claim that "a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan" on the grounds that Mormons are not Christian. During his interview with Colmes, Keller answered why it was unacceptable for Mitt Romney, or any Mormon, to become president. He initially states that he would not support anyone who "denied the deity of Christ". Later he clarified this statement by sayin that Mormons do not believe in the same Jesus Christ as was presented in the Bible and in historic Christianity; Bill Keller implies heavily that Mormons are ignorant in the Bible and of true Christianity. Lastly, he made the statement that he would fight against any candidate that "masquerades as something they are not".  Are these accurate claims and criticisms?
Do Mormons Deny the Deity of Christ and purposefully Misrepresent themselves as Christian? 

             Do Mormons deny the deity of Christ? What does that even mean? The word deity is defined as "god, or divine nature, especially that of the supreme being: divinity". Thus, the idea that Mormons deny the deity of Christ is easily tested by examining the scriptural canon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their prophets.

The Book of Mormon is a Holy book for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which portrays various historical events between 2000 BCE and 600 AD.  In it, it states that the people "...serve the God of this land,who is Jesus Christ..." (Ether 2:12, The Book of Mormon).

In 2000, the leading head of the Church came out with an official declaration of belief concerning Jesus Christ.  It states that:


"[Jesus] was the great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New... He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind... We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles -- that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of his Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine son." (The Living Christ)

             It is quite obvious from the texts and words of the official works of the Church for Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that Mormons do believe in the deity of Jesus Christ.  So, are they misrepresenting themselves? By what other measure would you gauge them by other than their words, their official doctrine and ministerial teachings?  These sources are the most basic source of theology for the Mormons faith and I see no reason to accept the claims of Keller according to this information. I sympathize with Gordon's statements statements to kellers claims: "I don't really even know what I can say about that. What can one say other than "he's wrong"?" (Int-2, 21:26).

A "Different", Unbiblical, Jesus?

             Jesus stated that "this is life eternal, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent"(John 17:3 KJV).  But who is Jesus? Who is God? This is a subject that has been debated through centuries. From the creeds of Nicea, to the definition of Chalcedon, to the reformation, theologians have argued the nature of God and Jesus Christ. Why are there separate churches? Because they can't all agree on the same nature and laws of God or Christ! So a claim that Mormons believe in a "different" Christ is meaningless.

             A more interesting question is if the Mormon view Jesus is unbiblical.  Biblical interpretations vary from person to person and from church to church.  While several churches proudly proclaim that they follow "the Bible only" they disagree about even basic concepts of God and theology. As such, I believe that it is impossible to fully answer the question "is the Mormon idea of God, Jesus, theology exactly concordant with the Bible." Rather, I will present some sources demonstrating that Mormons do know and read the bible. It it to be assumed that both reading reading and understanding the bible is positively correlated with an accuracy of the teaching from the Bible (if more you read and understand the bible the more likely you will have an accurate understanding of the laws and the deity found in the Bible).

             The Pew Forum constructed several religious surveys in the US.  They found that on average, Mormons answered correctly more questions about historical Christian than any other surveyed religious affiliation.  
             They also found that Mormons outperformed all Christian denominations in the overall religious knowledge quiz and percent of people with more than 53%.  Mormons also performed better than any other religious affiliation in the quiz of biblical knowledge (see chart 1) (Statistics of Interest are Mormons and Evangelical Christians (pastor Keller religious standing)). 
Chart 2 (click to enlarge)

Mormons also answered correctly more questions about historical Christianity and Judaism than any other quizzed religious affiliation.  Mormons also performed better on the world religion quiz than any other Christian denomination (see chart 2).
Chart 2 (click to enlarge)
Mormons also were seen to read the scriptures, attend church, and praying more frequently than other Christian religions and the US general public. (see chart 3). 

Chart 3 (click to enlarge)
What is more interesting is that Mormons with a higher education (and presumably better informed in science, history, religion, culture, and world affairs) find Mormon believes easier to believe than those with less education. In fact Mormon college graduates are less than half as likely to report having a hard time some things than are people with a high school diploma or less. So while I don't think it is appropriate or plausible to claim that anyone's perspective of Jesus is biblical or not as both measures are very subjective I do believe that Mormons do have a good belief and practice of reading the Bible (and presumably have a fairly reasonable interpretation of the Bible and Christ).

   
Conclusion
Overall I was entertained by the interview but was very disappointed with the arguments Keller made.  While there are legitimate concerns and criticisms of  the Mormon faith Keller choose to demonize the teaching of the Mormon church.  Keller was using fear tactics, not trying to understand others' belief systems, turning to misrepresentation and straw man arguments; It appears his motive was not the truth but rather to convince his audience of the monstrosity which is Mormonism. Further, Keller makes several blanket statements which are obviously untrue (e.g. (Int.2-1:34)The false teaching of the Mormon Cult are in 100% contradiction to biblical Christianity) and several times employ very obvious and overt logical fallacies which not only do not help his arguments but hurts his legitimacy and authority of everything he says (e.g. (Int.2-32:00) "We must only accept what is in the bible" (Why do we accept that law? Because it says that in the bible?(circular logic)), (Int.2-32:34) "the basic tenants of the Christian faith is agreed upon by all those who follow Christ" (So the basic teachings and laws of Christianity is all agreed upon by all those who follow those same teaching and laws?).).
             It seems to me, as it did to Gordon, that Keller has a deep fear that Mitt Romney being president could give the Mormon church some sort of legitimacy, respect, and greater understanding.  It seems Keller is afraid that  This is a rather informative and enlightening interview to see some of the contention and friction between evangelical Christianity and Mormonism.
Presidential Republican Candidates
From Right to Left: Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum 
             Currently Bill Keller continues his anti-Mormon and anti-Romney campaign and has on his webpage a "Judas Gallery: Christians who have sold out Christ to back Mormon Cult Member, Mitt Romney" with a list of Christians who support the Mitt Romney campaign.
             Whatever is to happen in these 2012 elections I hope that people will see the good in every political candidate.  I hope that one's religious beliefs will not be a stumbling block or a shew-in for any voter but rather the convictions, issues, integrity, and morality of the candidates.
A banner found on www.liveprayer.com


References
Population Reference Bureau. (2007). 2007 World Population Data Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.prb.org/pdf07/07WPDS_Eng.PDF
Pew Forum. (2012). Romney's Mormon Faith Likely a Factor in Primaries, Not in a General Election. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Romneys-Mormon-Faith--views-of-the-mormon-religion.aspx
Internal Revenue Services. (2012). Exemption Requirements - Section 501(c)(3) Organizations
Keller, W. (2007). If you vote for mitt romney you are voting for satan. Retrieved from http://liveprayer.com/ddarchive3.cfm?id=2931



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