Here’s the Nonsense: We are wrong to reject Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion as non-Christian.
Here’s the Horse Sense: Recently Rick Perry has had severe scrutiny brought on him because of comments made by a pastor who introduced him at an event. The pastor claimed that the Mormon religion is not Christian. This raises serious questions both for Perry and for all the rest of us, too.
At the debate in Las Vegas this week Anderson Cooper tried to put Perry on the spot by placing him in lockstep with the pastor who made the comments. Rick Perry ended the discussion by saying that he doesn’t agree with the pastor.
If Mr. Perry really doesn’t believe that the Mormon religion is Christian, then he has a problem. Rick Perry claims to be an evangelical Christian. Evangelical Christianity is part of mainstream, orthodox Christianity. And whether anyone likes it or not, Mormonism’s doctrine keeps it from being considered Christian because it does not line up with the doctrines of orthodox Christianity, regardless of what Mormons themselves may claim.
Based on that fact, it would not be surprising or out of line for an evangelical Christian to reject the claim that Mormonism is a Christian religion. In fact, a person who is truly an evangelical Christian would be denying their own faith if they accepted Mormonism as Christian. After all, the individual does not determine whether something can be accepted into the “family” of faith that their religion proclaims. Individuals do not determine what their religion believes, the religion sets its doctrine. If something does not measure up to it then it cannot be accepted as part of that family of faith no matter what some individual believes. An individual can choose to believe something their religion does not teach, but if they do, then they are rejecting their religion. It is not their choice. This is a matter of doctrine.
An analogy outside of religion might help because people don’t like to hear this kind of thing. If a U.S. citizen decided to call a citizen from another country a U.S. citizen it would be the same kind of thing. They can say that person is a citizen of the U.S. That person can claim to be a U.S. citizen. But the fact is that unless that person meets the legal definition of U.S. citizenship they are not really a citizen. The United States government sets the laws for citizenship and no individual can change that. Just because some citizen says they believe something different does not change it. Just because some group says they are citizens does not make them citizens. They must meet the criteria set forth by the U. S. government to truly be U. S. citizens.
It is the same thing for orthodox Christianity or any religion. It is doctrinally correct for an evangelical Christian to say that they do not believe that Mormonism is Christian. In fact, if they said anything else they would be stating something that denies, rejects, and circumvents Christian doctrine.
So when Rick Perry is put on the spot at the last debate and asked by Anderson Cooper about that pastor’s statement, Rick Perry says he doesn’t agree with it. Here’s Mr. Perry’s problem. If Rick Perry is truly an evangelical Christian, then he has to accept the doctrines taught by evangelical Christianity. He has no choice if he truly is an evangelical Christian. If he rejects those doctrines then he is walking away from the faith he claims to have. Does he believe what his church teaches and is he just lying to end the controversy? Or does he reject what his church teaches and is a liar in claiming to be an evangelical Christian? Either way he is a hypocrite unless he stands up and clarifies his position. If he doesn’t, then voters need to ask if this is the kind of integrity they want in a candidate.
For the rest of us here’s our problem: If we truly believe in the freedoms that were granted to us as American citizens, then we have to allow people to believe as they choose. If our faith in our religion is so weak that we cannot stand the idea that someone may disagree with us and think we are wrong, then we need to rethink our personal beliefs. America is supposed to give us religious freedom. You and I should be able to believe differently and still be neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. And as a free nation who believes in free speech above all else, that means that we each need to allow disagreements.
Over the years some of my closest friends have been people who have different religious beliefs than I do. We agree to disagree. We often have had discussions, even heated ones, about how our beliefs differ. But there’s always been a respect for the right of the other person to believe differently. That kind of open-mindedness is what America is about. But in recent years it has become politically incorrect to question or disagree with anyone’s beliefs. That political correctness is not only oppressive, it takes away our freedoms.
At the last debate Rick Santorum answered Anderson Cooper’s question about whether voters should consider a candidate’s faith when voting. We should all think seriously about the wisdom he imparted. His response was: “I think they should pay attention to the candidate's values, what the candidate stands for,” he said. “That's what is at play. And the person's faith--and you look at that faith and what the faith teaches with respect to morals and values that are reflected in that person's belief structure.
“I'm a Catholic," Santorum continued. "The Catholic church has social teachings. The Catholic church has teachings as to what's right and what's wrong. And those are legitimate things for voters to look at, to say if you're a faithful Catholic, which I try to be--fall short all the time, but I try to be--and it's a legitimate thing to look at as to what the tenets and teachings of that faith are with respect to how you live your life and how you would govern this country.
“With respect to what is the road to salvation, that's a whole different story,” said Santorum. “That's not applicable to what--what the role is of being the president or a senator or any other job.”