A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Never No Never

Just to be clear: I have never called anyone a "Gentile" in my life.  Having spent almost three decades in the church, I also don't recall anyone else using this term in reference to people of other faiths.  It's semi-hilarious (and/or silly) when serious articles about Mormonism attempt to tell me that Mormons call people who aren't Mormon "gentiles."  Nope.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Let He Who is Without Sweeping Generalizations Cast the First Label

Have you heard the biggest religion and politics story of the past few days?  Here's Anderson Cooper's interview with Robert Jeffress, the pastor who said Mormonism is not Christianity, but instead is a cult.

I have a few reactions to Robert Jeffress:

Anger: How dare he claim to know and understand MY religion!

Disbelief:  How can you call a church "not-Christian" when its name is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and the Christ that you claim you believe in taught love and acceptance of others?

Skepticism:  Is Jeffress serious?  Or is he just using inflammatory language to get attention?

Cynicism: It's yet another example of using your beliefs to browbeat your political opponent.

Yet, Jeffress' assertion that Mormonism is a cult (not a "sociological cult" but a "theological" one, as if the media is able to make such fine distinctions) is not unusual.  It's part of what I call the "Mormon Weirdness Factor" - we have "secret" temple ceremonies, believe that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ, and call our church leader a "Prophet."  Any way you slice it, Mormons are weird to a lot of Americans.  We like to think of ourselves as peculiar in a good way, but we are simply very different than mainstream Americans and many other Christian churches.

What Jeffress said was just plain wrong.  When I hear this story, however, my prevailing sentiment is pity.  How tragic that Pastor Jeffress can't see past his own labeling.  Does someone who's "Christian" by Jeffress' definition automatically get his vote?  What a sad way to live.  How often do we label others because of their background?  Haven't we all, at one time or another, made sweeping generalizations (and yes, that is a broad generalized statement!)?

Fill in the blanks:

Liberals are ____________.
Families with a lot of kids are ________.
Conservatives are __________.
University of Utah students are ____________.
Young people are ___________.
Fat people are ____________.
Gay people are ____________.
People from the east coast are __________.

It's a lazy way of categorizing - assume that one group has certain characteristics, and it allows you to write off an entire group of people without knowing them.  The more I read about Jeffress' statements on Mormons, the more I want to avoid judging.  I want to have charity towards all, and malice towards none.  I want to have enough humility to admit that I do not fully understand others' religious beliefs, but I respect them as sincere people of faith.  I want to see others as my brothers and sisters, who are earnestly striving to live by the light they have found.  I want to avoid labeling other people.  Anyone who wants to call themselves Christian?  Let 'em!