Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thoughts on Glenn Beck, Mormons, & the Mosque:

First check out Ed Brayton commenting on Stephen Prothero's article. The bottom line is Mormons, of all folks, should especially support the religious liberty rights of all. Their experiences in America should make them know better.

Which leads me to Glenn Beck's rally. He noted, it was about "God." And that he happily tithes 10 percent. Knowing how much Beck makes that's many millions of dollars going to the Mormon Church. And at that rally behind Beck was, among others, David Barton. I kept thinking whether Barton and the other evangelicals there really believe Mormons worship the same God they do; the Mormons claim they do; it's the evangelicals who often have a problem with it. See for instance, Barton buddy Brannon Howse's turning away from Beck for that very reason.

Beck extensively quoted from the American Founding. Did he misuse the Founders? Lincoln? Dr. King? It's beyond the scope of my post to answer that question.

However I will address one sense in which I think Beck's rally did authentically capture the spirit of the America's Founding political theology: The idea that Mormons, evangelicals, and others all worship the same God.

Had the Mormons existed during America's Founding, I'm convinced the Founders would have embraced them. At least the first four or so Presidents would have. They embraced the Swedenborgs, who I see as the closest analogy to Mormons. Swedenborgianism is as distant from orthodox Christianity as is Mormonism.

I get flack for stating that the "key Founders" (the first four Presidents, Franklin, G. Morris, Hamilton before his end of life conversion) were all agreed on the political theological basics. Not the finer details. Jefferson's Bible was his own. Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin all three agreed the biblical canon was errant and fallible. But anything beyond that (which biblical passages reflected error, which valid revelation) would be finer details where they disagreed.

So let's clarify: What was the main area that connects all of the "key Founders" in their personal and political theology: The idea that there is a Providence and future state of rewards and punishments. The other doctrinal issues (especially whether Jesus was 2nd Person in the Trinity) where religions differ are superfluous and insignificant.

That's the lowest common denominator of "religion" that all good men believe in. That's why Calvinists, Swedenborgs, Jews and, today, Mormons (perhaps even Muslims; at least the good Muslims who peacefully demean themselves under America's civil law, which I would argue is the overwhelming majority of them) can feel communion with the God who "founded" America.

If you don't believe they all worship the same God -- America's God -- you are being un-American.

1 comment:

craig said...

Brannon Howse’s article (thanks for the link) makes me more amenable to Beck. Howse uses that creepy phrase “the founding fathers’ intent.” Beck’s pluralism seen in the event on the National Mall which Howse complains about, as you say Jon, is quite similar to the plurality of the deists, theists and devout Christians in attendance at the Constitutional Convention. I don’t go so far as to say that “we all worship the same God” or a syncretist God because I believe in the God of what the Koran refers to as The Book aka Yahweh and His Son, Jesus Christ. The FFs did mention numerous times the importance of religion and morality which did not necessarily, apparently conflict with Amendment I of the Constitution.
The Swedenborgians link was helpful, too. Swedenborg has some great commentaries that I have found helpful and I find Christian Mystics fascinating and helpful. The link points out that he was not an Arian. The Athenasian creed was also helpful. Various attempts at explaining the Trinity are helpful since there is no way my finite mind can totally comprehend an eternal being/person. The controversy about damnation for evil doers and reward for doers of good is warranted since that does sound works oriented rather than grace or faith based. But, I think stating that Swedenborg is close to Mormonism is overreaching a bit even if Swedenborg is works oriented which mightn’t entirely be the case. I’ve always loved the connection of Jung to Swedenborg because of Jung’s connection to Alcoholics Anonymous via Bill W. and the other connection of Bill W. to Reinhold Neibuhr who wrote the Serenity Prayer used extensively by AA. Jung treated Bill W. who returned a year later still enslaved by alcohol. Jung told Bill W. that his only hope with his physical problem would be in a spiritual solution. Bill W. pursued an agnostic spiritual 12-steps that has helped millions. Rick Warren has now put Christ back into the 12-steps and that community is called Celebrate Recovery. What goes around comes around.

Beck extensively quoted from the American Founding. Did he misuse the Founders? Lincoln? Dr. King? It's beyond the scope of my post to answer that question.

I’d like to know the answer to this one, too.

An interesting counterpoint to the Muslim view of non-Sharia law, Paul taught the early Christians to settle their issues outside the court which bears some resemblance to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “If a man strikes you on the cheek, turn the other for him to strike, too. I he takes your coat, give him your cloak as well.” But, Paul does at times refer to his rights as a Roman citizen. And, I imagine there are plenty of Christians in court esp. divorce court. Most Christians don't view a belief that the Constitution as the Supreme Law as demeaning since God is sovereign and his law is found in the Bible, but some do.

If you don't believe they all worship the same God -- America's God -- you are being un-American
That’s an interesting claim with the sound of agenda to it. Didn’t they mean that all should have the freedom to worship the God of their choice? Deists like Rousseau’s whose stance of indifferentism was the belief that all religions are valid seems different to me from what Article VI and Amendment I are about. I don’t think Witherspoon or Madison, his pupil or the New England more Puritan than Adams representatives at the Convention favored “all roads lead to heaven,” but I could be wrong about Madison.
I do agree with your bottom line that opposing the Manhattan Mosque also opposes Madison’s and Mason’s position: With George Mason, Madison changed the religious clause in Virginia's Declaration of Rights of 1776 from a mere statement of the principle of tolerance to the first official legislative pronouncement that freedom of conscience and religion are inherent rights of the individual (