Friday, October 14, 2011

Should I vote for a Mormon?

With the political silly season quickly approaching I have seen a number of posts from an Evangelical Christian perspective regarding Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs. There is a great debate about whether or not a Christian should vote for a Mormon. What complicates the matter is that there is also a debate about whether or not Mormons are Christians. And it is in this second debate that we hear the big "C" word:

"Mormonism is a Cult."

Unfortunately this statement is both true and false at the same time. It is important that we define our terms which include defining what we mean by "Christianity" and what we mean by "cult." Amy Hall of Stand To Reason does a great job of showing how the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Orthodox Christians are using the same term "Christian" in two very different ways:

The word "Christian" actually means something. It doesn't simply refer to a person who follows the ethical teachings in the New Testament, nor does it refer to everyone who uses the name "Jesus." Christianity entails an entire worldview—a particular view of God, man, salvation, purpose, heaven and hell, etc.

She goes on to detail just how different Mormonism and Christianity are on key beliefs. The views of the nature of God, Christ and man are different enough that they are obviously not the same religion.

The other term that needs to be defined is "cult." The most basic definition is "a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies." So every religious belief system is technically a cult. Mormonism also fits the definition of a cult in relationship to Christianity in that it differs significantly from the orthodox view. The problem is that, as Denny Burk points out, we do not usually use the term in this manner:

In popular usage, the word cult is associated with bizarre and sometimes threatening behavior (think David Koresh and Jim Jones). The term is seen as pejorative and an unfair attack when applied to groups who don’t live in exclusive communes and commit mass suicide. Most people would acknowledge, for instance, that the average Mormon cuts a different profile than a Branch Davidian.

So it seems to me that we need to be careful about the words that we use and how we are using them. I would strongly argue that Mormonism, as much as they may protest otherwise, is not a Christian denomination or sect. However I would hesitate to use the term cult simply because of the connotations that are contained in the word.

And that brings me to my original question. Can I, as an Orthodox Evangelical Conservative Christian, vote for a Mormon?

The simple answer is yes.

First, Christianity is a religious belief system. While it does inform my political, social, economic and other views of the world, it does not require a particular person to be my national leader. It doesn't even require a particular form of government. When asked about paying taxes to the Roman government, Jesus said: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God that which belongs to God." In other words there are things that fall into the realm of civil government and there are things that fall into the realm of God's kingdom. Without getting into a great debate here about what belongs in which realm, suffice it to say that they are separate from one another.

Second, our nation is not a Christian nation. We may have been founded on Judeo-Christian principles but we are not a theocracy or a religious based nation.

Given a choice, I would much rather vote for someone that was a Mormon that would uphold more of the principles that I see fitting into the overall Christian worldview on governance than for a Christian that would not.

For further reading on this debate:
The Theological and Political Errors of Pastor Jeffress
A Vote for Romney Is a Vote for the LDS Church
Mormonism 101

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