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Religion and Politics

Allan Dobras

[COMMENT:  Allan Dobras is a good researcher and writes from a Christian perspective.  You might learn a bit about current unhappy state of religion and its ambiguous relation to politics from the following. 

The ambiguity will not clear until we Christians discover the Biblical form of politics, the only one that can sustain a free people under a free government.  The 1800 presidential election is reportedly the first time in history that we humans passed on power from one party to another with free elections and no military strife.  The founding of America was a first in many respects, due to our Biblical underpinnings.  Apart from Israel, America was the most consciously Biblically founded nation in history.  

For an excellent history on our  Biblical founding, get the CD, America: the First 350 Years by Steven Wilkins, available at http://www.pointsouth.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=WILKINSJ-AMERICA&Category_Code=&Store_Code=ABS   This work changed my whole perspective on American history, indeed, on all of history.     E. Fox]

Mitt Romney’s Candidacy Re-kindles an Old Debate…with some surprising twists.

By Allan Dobras

The Mormon faith of Mitt Romney, who is an announced candidate for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, has introduced an unknown factor into the nomination debate. Certainly his Mormonism is on the minds of potential voters and to what extent this might affect his quest for the White House is largely uncertain and reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism in the 1960 campaign. Nonetheless, religious faith seems to have found a significant place in the 2008 campaign.

Even though early national polling showed Romney trailing behind Rudy Guillani and John McCain, his decisive win in the August 11 Iowa straw poll indicated that voters might be willing to look past Romney’s faith in consideration of his perceived commitment to family values. Accusations of “flip-flopping” on several key issues seems to have cost him some support nationally and his religious faith remains an unknown factor in how his message will be received by the general electorate.

Since religious faith in Christian-centered America can be, to some, an important factor in casting a vote for president of the United States, a close look at what Mormonism is all about and how the faith may differ from mainstream Christianity may be helpful. Mormons, by the way, prefer their church be called “Latter-day Saints” or the LDS church.

First, it is important to understand that the LDS church does not claim to be another Protestant denomination, but rather considers itself to be directly connected to the first century New Testament church. The LDS believe the true Christian Church disappeared after the first century until “restored” in 1830 by the founder of their faith, Joseph Smith. Thus, the LDS church believes it alone is heir to the true Christian faith and all other denominations that claim to be Christian—whether Protestant or Catholic, traditional or progressive—are considered to be apostate. A brief history from the church’s official website can be helpful.

“In the spring of 1820, a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees near his home in Palmyra, New York, and prayed to learn which church he should join. In answer to his prayer, God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to him, just as heavenly beings had appeared to prophets like Moses and Paul in biblical times. Joseph learned that the Church originally organized by Jesus Christ was no longer on the earth.

“Joseph Smith was chosen by God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. During the next 10 years, Joseph was visited by other heavenly messengers, translated the Book of Mormon, and received authority to organize the Church. The Church was organized in Fayette, New York, on 6 April 1830, under the leadership of Joseph Smith. It has grown to an organization with members and congregations throughout the world.

“The Apostle Peter prophesied of the “restitution of all things” before Christ’s Second Coming (Acts 3:19–21). Having been lost because of the Apostasy, Christ’s Church and His authority were to be restored to the earth. This Restoration would make available the opportunity for all to receive once again all of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Joseph Smith’s First Vision marked the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. In subsequent years, Christ restored His priesthood and reorganized His Church. He has continued to reveal truths to His prophets and to restore the blessings that were taken from the earth for a time.”

What the LDS Church believes.

As can be expected, there are substantial differences between the doctrines of the LDS Church and the Biblio-centric doctrines of traditional Christian faiths. These include:

The body of scripture: The LDS Church has elevated four books to the level of scripture: The Book of Mormon; The King James Bible as amended by Joseph Smith; The Pearl of Great Price, which consists of a diverse collection of sacred works; and the Doctrine and Covenants of the LDS Church.

The Trinity: Mormons believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each God and these three Gods form the Godhead. In contrast, Christian doctrine of the trinity says there is one God who exists eternally in the form of three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Heaven: In LDS theology, there are three heavens: The Celestial Kingdom is the highest heaven and is reserved for faithful LDS who have kept all of the church’s ordinances. They will rule over the other two heavens and become gods themselves. The Terrestrial Kingdom is reserved for those who fell short in their faithfulness, but were otherwise honorable persons who allowed themselves to be “blinded by the craftiness of men.” They will not receive God’s full glory and will be ministered to by celestial beings. The Telestial Kingdom is reserved for those who have rejected the faith, lived a worldly life, and are doomed to eternal separation from God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Baptism of the Dead: The LDS believe that families will continue in the Celestial Kingdom and will be able to procreate. They believe that many family members who have passed away over the ages would have chosen to be Mormon if they had had the opportunity. Those that fit this category can be baptized, even though dead, to join other family members in the Kingdom. For this reason, the LDS Church maintains perhaps the largest genealogical database in the world.

Original Sin: The LDS Church denies the concept of original sin—that the sin of Adam placed the stain of sin on all mankind.

Salvation by Grace Alone: The church does not believe that salvation comes by the grace of God through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, but rather by adherence to LDS doctrine.

God: The LDS god “was once as we are now, and is an exalted man.” He is “married” to his goddess wife with whom he has spirit children.

Human Destiny: Those that follow LDS teaching and achieve Celestial Heaven can become gods themselves and procreate with the “mother god.”

There is much, much more to Mormon doctrine but the above is certainly sufficient to show that Mormonism bears little resemblance to Biblical Christian theology even though a partially rewritten New Testament is accepted as one of Mormonism’s four scriptural books. Since the LDS church believes that traditional Christianity is an apostate religion and since traditional Christianity certainly considers the same about Mormonism, there appears little room for the two faiths to reach a rapprochement about theology.

Governor Romney typically introduces himself as a “Christian,” but as a former elder in the LDS Church, he is certainly aware of the chasm separating Mormonism from traditional Christianity and that the term “Christian” assuredly cannot be applied to both. Whether or not these mutually irreconcilable views of Christianity will become a factor in presidential politics is an open question that Governor Romney may have to face as the state primaries draw near.

But does faith really matter?

If a potential candidate’s faith, which is widely perceived to be broadly divergent from Biblical Christianity, can be a significant factor in whether or not he/she can gain the support of faithful Christians, some interesting considerations about other candidates are certainly raised.

Senator Barack Obama, for example, belongs to the United Church of Christ (UCC), which has drifted so far from traditional Christianity that it strains credulity to call the denomination Christian.

The UCC is perhaps the most liberal of the Protestant denominations. Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy has said about the denomination:

“The most liberal of America’s mainline denominations, the UCC marries gays, ordains witches, and prefers sit-ins (just name the cause) to evangelistic rallies. It’s also been one of the fastest imploding churches, having lost almost 40 percent of its members in 35 years...”

“The UCC embodies the dysfunction of declining, old-line Protestantism in America. Its elites, unaware of uninterested in the beliefs of average local church members, devote themselves to radical political causes instead of the traditional Gospel. The inevitable result has been a massive hemorrhage in membership, finances and overall cultural influence.”

The church claims to be “one of the most diverse Christian churches in the United States and the facts bear this out. In 1980, the general synod of the UCC became the first church to officially approve the ordination of sexually active gay men and lesbians. The church offers scholarships to homosexual seminarians through the William R. Johnson fund, which honors the first “gay” man ordained by the UCC.

The Biblical Witness Fellowship (BWF)—a reformist group within the UCC—notes that open homosexuals hold a number of national church offices, and the denomination requires that homosexuals are included on all church agency boards.

The denomination’s seminary, Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), declares its institution to be “a distinctly different seminary,” as well it should. CTS is a modernist seminary more committed to perceived social justice issues than to the Great Commission, which is reflected in its mission statement:

“…We are committed, in a society driven by racism, to equipping leaders who honor cultural and racial diversity while resolutely combating the forces of division and domination. We are committed, in a world in which sexism remains a powerful force, to fostering leadership for gender justice, including developing a more mature masculine spirituality and engaging feminist and womanist spiritualities. We are committed, while church and society are threatened by new forces of division under the banner of homophobia, to developing leadership for a more inclusive church and society.”

The seminary grants special consideration to gay, lesbian, and transgendered students under the Gilberto Castañeda Scholarship Fund, which is designated for self-identified gay, lesbian, bisexual or trangendered students who show exceptional promise for ministry. A CTS professor, Dr. Theodore W. Jennings, has written a book titled The Man Jesus Loved, in which he suggests that Jesus may have been gay.

The Pilgrim Press, which is published by the UCC and traces its origin to seventeenth century England, came to America on the Mayflower in 1620 but subsequently seems to have lost its compass. The publishing company now focuses on liberal causes including feminist and modernist theology, homosexual affirmation, and diverse religious philosophies such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and mysticism.

Senator Obama, who often comments on the necessity of inclusivism, belongs to the Trinity UCC of Chicago, which is not part of the reformist movement, but rather can best be described as exclusivist. The vision statement of Trinity United Church of Christ is based upon the systematized liberation theology that started in 1969 with the publication of Dr. James Cone’s book, Black Power and Black Theology.

“We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.”

Aside from being an exclusivist congregation, the pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., is not hesitant to proselytize from the pulpit for leftist causes, speaking out against the “illegal” Iraq war, money gouging oil and drug companies, and racist America.

Senator John McCain is a life-long member of the Episcopal Church (USA), as is President Bush. The denomination includes in its heritage some of the great luminaries of the early Republic including Washington, Madison, and Monroe. Today, the EC (USA) is disintegrating into a painful schism over the issues of Biblical authority, ordination of open homosexuals, and the role of women in church leadership. The Episcopal Church has been steadily moving away from orthodoxy for the last 30 years to a point where the authenticity of the Biblical message is openly challenged with teachings that can only be described as heretical. During that period the church has lost well over 1.25 million members, or nearly 40% of its membership.

In an act of ecclesiastical arrogance by the church hierarchy, an openly gay, divorced clergyman, Rev. V. Gene Robinson was consecrated as bishop of the New Hampshire diocese. The act has served as a catalyst for reformers to separate themselves from the denomination and when Bishop Robinson assumed his post, the unity of the church began to crack.

Twenty-one Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion have declared either impaired or broken communion with EC (USA), and 14 Primates have recognized the Anglican Communion Network as the legitimate Anglican presence in North America. Dozens of individual congregations have left the church and affiliated with conservative Anglican bishops outside the United States. A bitter battle over church assets has begun and the denomination’s leadership has initiated legal proceedings to assert their ecclesiastical authority over the breakaway dioceses.

Perhaps nothing better illustrates how far the EC (USA) has drifted from its own doctrine as when an Episcopal priest in Washington State, Rev. Ann Holmes, announced that she is both a Christian and a Muslim, having made a profession of faith in Islam in March 2006. The Rt. Reverend Vincent Warner, bishop of the Seattle Diocese finds nothing wrong with Redding’s duel faith and she continues in her post as director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral. This fall she will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University.

Senator McCain no longer attends the Episcopal Church and for years has attended North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona, a Bible centered church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. McCain began attending North Phoenix Baptist because he found “the message and fundamental nature more fulfilling than I did in the Episcopal Church. ... They're great believers in redemption, and so am I.”

The president, however, routinely attends St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, which remains affiliated with the denomination’s revisionist majority. The church maintains at least informal ties with Integrity, the denomination’s outreach to gays and lesbians. It has included among its speakers the notorious Episcopal heretic, Bishop J, Shelby Spong, who has rejected every fundamental of the Christian faith including the concept of God as Creator and Sovereign of the universe, as well as the virgin birth of Jesus, His sacrificial death and resurrection, calling the Biblical view “myth” and “nonsense.”

The president has remained silent about the disastrous schism that has engulfed the denomination.

Senator Hillary Clinton is a member of the United Methodist Church (UMC), whose doctrines, as Carl Bernstein suggests in his new book, A Woman in Charge, directed her interests and courses of action in her political life. Unfortunately, essentially all of the agencies, Boards, and seminaries of the UMC have embraced theological revisionism and leftist social activism. As a result, the denomination has been in an extended internal battle with reformist groups over issues of Biblical authority, ordination of homosexuals, and abortion rights. Like many other mainstream Protestant denominations, the UMC has been losing members precipitously. In the last 35 years, Methodist roles have shrunk by 3 million members.

The most powerful Methodist agencies are the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Missions (GBGM) and the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), each of which promotes religious and political  radicalism. The GBCS, interestingly enough, was born out of the  Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), which has a strong  connection to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The MFSA played a key role in establishing social radicalism within the Methodist Church.

In 1908, Dr. Harry F. Ward, an ordained Methodist minister and professor at Union Theological Seminary, founded an organization called the Methodist Federation of Social Action (MFSA), which promoted leftist ideologies. Under the leadership of Dr. Ward, the MFSA also openly expressed admiration for Stalinist communism. In 1953, the House Committee on Un-American Activities named Dr. Ward a Communist Party member. Manning Johnson, a member of the Communist Party, referred to Ward as "the chief architect for Communist infiltration and subversion in the religious field." Similarly, the MFSA was officially cited as a communist front organization.

In 1920, Dr. Ward helped found the ACLU and became its first chairman—a position he held for 30 years.

During the Great Depression, the MFSA was an advocate for "the necessity of replacing the struggle for profit with the mutual cooperation of social economic planning." Soon, it became embroiled in leftist ideologies.

For years, the ACLU remained a relatively small organization. Then, in 1928, it received national recognition during the famous John T. Scopes trial. Although ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow lost the case, he brought the ACLU (and Darwin's evolution theory) national recognition.

Throughout the 1930s, communists infiltrated the ACLU. Finally, in 1940, political pressure forced the ACLU board to pass a resolution removing anyone "who is a member of any political organization which supports totalitarian dictatorship in any country." As a result, Ward and several other communists were purged from the organization. But in 1967, the board essentially rescinded the 1940 Resolution, and the Union welcomed communists back into the organization.

Delegates at the 1952 General Conference of the Methodist Church debated the radicalism of the MFSA and decided the organization didn't serve the interests of the church. Although they subsequently severed official ties with the MFSA, they still wished to continue championing its social issues. So, the General Conference created the Board of Social and Economic Relations (which would later become the General Board of Church and Society with headquarters in the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.)

Today, the MFSA is no longer an "official" organization of the Methodist Church, but it still influences church politics. The General Board of Church and Society, the daughter organization of the MFSA, promotes religious and political radicalism in the church. 

So the LDS Church may be at least partially correct in their view that that modern Christian denominations are “apostate,” but not in the sense that Mormons believe—that is, Mormonism is heir to the true Gospel of the first century as amplified by their own body of scripture. Biblical Christianity is in possession of the only faithful record of God’s Word as recorded by the patriarchs of the faith and guided by the Holy Spirit. To the extent that progressive elements within certain denominations have corrupted that record, apostasy certainly exists—something prophesied by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3,4:

 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Thankfully, the full gospel message is still presented with clarity and power in broad elements of the Christian Church both in America and around the world—even within “apostate” denominations where a loyal remnant still proclaims the Word. 

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