Tuesday, January 05, 2010

But Andrew, Don't You Know Mormons Aren't Christian:

Andrew Sullivan linked to this under his "Christianist Watch" with the following quote:

"To think that we can save the Constitution without God's help when the government of the United States is corrupt is absurdity. We are in America's second Revolutionary War to save our freedom, which we paid for with blood. We need God's help and I'm not ashamed to ask for it," - Rex Rammel, Idaho gubernatorial candidate.

This could have come from the mouths of David Barton, Peter Marshall, etc. But when I clicked on the link I saw Mr. Rammel, a Mormon, appealing to the prophesies of Joseph Smith for authority that God Founded America.

I hope those sympathetic to the "Christian Nation" movement listen to his speech and react to the invocation of Joseph Smiths' prophesies to "take back America" for the God who founded her. See how they feel.

Now yes, Mormonism didn't exist during America's Founding; so unless you believe in the tenet of Mormonism that teaches the Mormon God founded America and inspired the Founding Fathers, reclaiming America on the basis of Joseph Smith's prophesies probably won't motivate you.

Likewise, those who share neither the theology nor the political agenda of the Christian Nationalists aren't motivated by their appeals to history, which are just as "imaginative." (At least it's an authentic tenet of Mormonism to believe God founded America; it is not of Christianity.)

The Founders did not appeal to a Triune God who inspired an inerrant, infallible biblical canon. The "Providence" to whom they appealed was more ecumenical, and inclusive. Their God was one who perhaps Mormons of today (or the Swedenborgs of yesteryear, the closest Founding era counterpart to Mormons), Jews, orthodox Christians, Unitarians, Universalists, Providential Deists (if that's not a contradiction in terms) even uncoverted Native Americans who worshipped "the Great Spirit" could equally embrace.

However, ecumenicism in political-theology comes with a price: It means stressing common ground, like belief in Providence and avoiding altogether divisive doctrinal issues -- such as the Trinity, whether the biblical canon is infallible, whether God will continue to reveal more Holy Books in the future, whether Swedenborgianism (or Mormonism for that matter) qualifies as "Christianity."

That's not what Rex Rammel does when he appeals to the specific authority of Joseph Smith's prophecies as a political motivator. And that's not what Christian Nationalists do when they engage in their divine command theory prooftexting.

In that sense, neither the Christian Nationalists nor Mormon Nationalists like Mr. Rammel emulate the Founding Fathers. It's actually recent American Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama who sound more like the Founders in their God talk. Indeed, they walk in the shoes of a Presidency that the key Founders, who were the first four Presidents, established.

That is, Bush & Obama maintain formal attachments to Christian sects (Bush was, to be fair, a moderate evangelical). But then they intimate that all good men of all religions worship the same God. That, for instance, Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God (as GWBush claimed). That's American Founding political theology 101.

As John Adams put it:

“It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world.”

– John Adams to M.M. Noah, July 31, 1818.

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