Some interesting pre-debate readings, left and right

[ by Charles Cameron — first, the humor, then the serious stuff — including insider and outsider claims as to who belongs with what religious grouping ]


Two items from my inbox on this day of the Presidential Foreign Policy debate play humorously with the, for want of a better term, issue of Muslims and Mormons:

On the top, Tim Furnish, author of the book Holiest Wars and an expert on Mahdism, heads up a brief post on his MadhiWatch blog with an image out of South Park and the caption: The quintessential Mormon v. the original Mahdi! It’s ON! That’s from the right.

From the left, Frank Schaeffer, who “left” the movement his influential “right” father, the evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer, helped found, and is now an Orthodox Christian of a more sacramental and liberal stripe, plays a rather different game in his Huffington Post piece, posted under their Comedy header, and purportedly describing an “alternative USA somewhere on a planet far away and not so long ago…”

Okay, that’s the fun. The serious part, for me, boils down to these two things:


Schaeffer has a point, I think, in mocking the Billy Graham organization’s sudden and opportunistic dropping of Mormonism from the list of cults on their My Answer page.

I support the right of Latter-day Saints to call themselves Christians, since they follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as they understand them.

I support the right of other Christians to view them as non-Christian, should they feel obliged in good conscience to do so, since Mormons consider the revelations of Joseph Smith on a par with the canonical gospels, much as Moslems consider the revelation to Muhammad as a completion of the Towrat and Injil (Jewish and Christian revelations).

And I don’t much like the term “cult” as applied to people whose beliefs differ from one’s own in any case, since it tends to dehumanize those to whom it is applied, as witness the tragedy of the Branch Davidians in Waco not too many years ago.

I am not entirely opposed to the idea of adjusting religion to suit a changing world, but I have to say this move on the part of the Graham organization appears to be a totally inauthentic PR move, made for political and not theological reasons, and wide open to the appearance of hypocrisy. If, on the other hand, it leaves all concerned more willing to respect each other as individuals across theological borders, that’s something I can readily applaud.

As usual, there are nuances within nuances to be considered.


And Tim Furnish’s use of an image from South Park (I imagine it’s from their Super Best Friends episode) is pure eye-candy. It’s an attention grabber, all right, and it’s function is to point you to Furnish’s recent piece on History News Network, titled What Would a Mitt Romney Foreign Policy Look Like? We’ll learn more about that tonight, I imagine, but Furnish’s column makes interesting preparatory reading:

Ironically, rather like Obama, Romney sees the events of the “Arab Spring” and the abortive “Green Revolution” in Iran through neo-Wilsonian lenses, as evidence of Middle Eastern masses yearning to breathe free — a “struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair.”

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