I don’t care much for the latest attempts to discredit Mitt Romney on the basis of his religious preferences.
From what I know, it wouldn’t have appealed to the founding fathers, either.
In a breaking story appearing at the end of last week on CNN’s Political Ticker, we once again hear that a few evangelical leaders seek to create a litmus test for the Presidency—and that according to one’s faith.
There are several problems with this…
First, do you mind if I just point out that Christianity itself was originally considered a “cult?”
Here are a couple of definitions of the word cult from different sources.
- One from Collins English dictionary that seems to fit the intent of the pastor:
“a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents”
- Or how about this one from Merriam-Webster:
“a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : a minority religious group holding beliefs regarded as unorthodox or spurious”
Even without these definitions, common sense tells us that nascent Christianity would have been regarded as a cult. It was clearly unorthodox, minority, and—if you had asked high-ranking Jews of the day—would have easily fit into the concept of having used “techniques to gain and control adherents.”
I suppose that Islam and many other of the world’s religions would equally fit into a box so labeled.
And it behooves me to point out that, even protestantism—of the kind that found fertile ground in the fledgling colonies of America—was so looked upon in its infancy. Haven’t we all heard of the inquisition?
But if we really want to be honest with ourselves, we need to remember that many of our own founding fathers adhered to the deist movement. These included such men as Thomas Paine, and most notably Benjamin Franklin, among many others.
Deism, you might know, is a product of the Enlightenment and in a nutshell, teaches that though there is a great creator, such a being isn’t intimately involved in the day-to-day goings on of the world; and he wouldn’t necessarily support a particular organized religion either.
How appropriate, then, that it was Benjamin Franklin who famously insisted on “prayers imploring the assistance of heaven” during the constitutional convention.
In any event, it must stand to reason that deist views provided the impetus at some level for our founding fathers to take matters into their own hands. Ultimately they sought to hammer out a means of providing for their own welfare/liberty, with inspiration from “divine Providence.” And they believed that this being would support and uphold their efforts, as long as society practiced what they knew as “Public [or Civic] Virtue.”
But I ask you: Does knowledge of this religious foundation do anything to minimize the magnificence of their achievements?
I say no. To me it enhances them.
As a matter of fact, when we come to realize these things about our history, I think we begin to better understand just what religious tolerance meant in those times. And as their searching speaks volumes about their quest for truth and knowledge, we begin to see that it’s just a natural extension of the same searching that precipitated the protestant movement before them.
And how intriguing it then becomes that, within a scant 30 years of the ratification of the Constitution, a young boy searching to know “which church is true” claimed to see in vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ—the singular event that led to the founding of Mormonism in America.
My point here has nothing to do with showing one or the other religion or view to be marginal, false, or even true.
Faith is a personal matter best left to the individual.
But in similar fashion, no pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam—or any other spiritual guide—has the right to decide for another what they should or should not believe.
And in terms of politics, it has absolutely no business being a basis for decision.
Can I get an “Amen”?!
(For further information on the allegation of Mormonism as a cult, see one evangelical leader’s op-ed piece here.)