Mormon Discipline and Radical American Nuns

A civil and fair-minded site for Mormons who want to discuss their religion,, is at the center of a political controversy. From The Daily Beast…

David Twede, 47, a scientist, novelist, and fifth-generation Mormon, is managing editor of, an online magazine produced largely by members of the Mormon Church that welcomes scholarly debate about the religion’s history from both critics and true believers.

A Mormon in good standing, Twede has never been disciplined by Latter Day Saints leadership. But it now appears his days as a Mormon may be numbered because of a series of articles he wrote this past week that were critical of Mitt Romney.

On Sunday, Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, “Cease and desist, Brother Twede.”

Mormon leaders have scheduled an excommunication “for apostasy” on Sept. 30. A spokesman for the church told The Daily Beast that the church would not be commenting for this story.

If David Twede wants some support, he should email the nuns…

A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns group said it was “stunned” that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social justice concerns and not enough on abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda. It accused the group of promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by American bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” — is unacceptable, the report said.

It’s tough for believers when their church organizations become so politically entangled that they find themselves on the defensive for not voting or campaigning for the approved candidates.

Collusion between Church and State has gotten a lot of people killed, quite a few in our own New England, founded by exiles who were the wrong type of Christian. The Puritans did not take a lesson in the evils of intolerance, and went on to do stuff like hang Mary Dyer in Boston Common for the crime of Quakerism.

Mary Dyer was a tough case– continually defying the authorities and returning to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to support her faith. Religion is like that– uncompromising. Politics, on the other hand, is the art of the possible. Democracy depends on majority rule, tempered by laws that protect the individual. Rarely an uncompromising politician can do great good in the world. More often they just put up a front and make deals in the back room. Let them be what they are– they’re not spiritual leaders– they’re attention junkies who love power.

Separation of church and state is freedom’s best friend. Church and State are two great powers and the individual needs some space between them. Ask Roger Williams about that.

The Mormon Question

Sarah Posner at Salon explores the question of when and how to ask tough questions about a presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s religion. Romney was a Mormon bishop for several years in Massachusetts and had religious authority over Mormon women and men who came to him for counseling. He saw his church through profound political changes. Posner says it’s fair to ask how he felt then and feels now about those times. I like her concluding words…

In my perfect world, presidential candidates wouldn’t talk about their religion. They would practice it freely, but they would neither use it to prop up their candidacy nor use their opponents’ (real or fabricated) religion to bring them down. Lawmakers wouldn’t use religion to justify policy positions.

I remember a world where there was much less of this, when presidential candidates did not stand before the people and claim that Jesus endorsed them. And now it’s much worse– they are attacking their rivals for not being religiously correct– those heretics.

Debasing politics is kind of like throwing mud on a dirtpile, but this also debases religion. Cynical use of religion to grab votes is a disservice to all the Americans who have religious beliefs- most of whom are not sheep. ‘God, please let my team win!’ is not an inspiring prayer.

Please Don’t Use the ‘C’ Word, Reverend!

Sometimes I wonder why a lightning bolt doesn’t just vaporize all of them, but God’s mercy is infinite. Talk about taking His name in vain…

Dr. Robert Jeffress, the influential pastor of a Dallas-based megachurch, offered his formal endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry Friday at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. Friday, shortly before he explained why Perry’s opponent atop the GOP field, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is a cultist.

Jeffress introduced Perry before he addressed the annual gathering for social conservatives, making a special point to emphasize Perry’s Christian faith–as opposed to Romney’s, who a Mormon, which Jeffress said was a “cult.”

“We understand Mormonism is not Christianity and thus the difference between somebody who’s moral and good like Mitt Romney and a true born-again follower of Christ,” Jeffress said after Perry’s speech, adding that Perry had welcomed his endorsement. “I really think the decision for conservative evangelical Christians right now is going to be, do we prefer somebody who is truly a believer in Jesus Christ, or somebody who is a good moral person but he’s a part of a cult.”

We all know that cults are bad scary things. They make people believe in the supernatural, do rituals and hand over their money. Not like religions. Here’s a definition of ‘cult’ from Merriam Webster Dictionary…

Definition of CULT
: formal religious veneration : worship
: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

Maybe it’s in the pronunciation. You have to say ‘cult’ in a hissing manner from between clenched teeth while sneering.

This is something that our great Democracy protects–the freedom to practice your own religion and the freedom to call other religions ‘cults’. I don’t think it is seemly or dignified for a minister to do this, but I can ignore them. It’s harder to ignore this kind of talk in a presidential race. Religion should not be used to attract voters or scare them away from opponents. I think most Americans are too sensible to be swayed by these tactics, but if they don’t vote their future will be decided by church vans full of the faithful.

Mitt Romney has the disadvantage of belonging to a minority religion. Smaller religions are more vulnerable to the label ‘cult’. It might be a weapon in the political fray, but it’s bad for the country. I’m glad that Obama adviser David Axelrod banned the word, ‘weird’ from being used to describe Romney, because it’s too easily seen as a covert attack on his religion.
The words ‘weird’ and ‘cult’ kind of go together, ‘weird’ being less open but plausibly a ‘dog whistle’– covert reference to how Mormonism is seen by the majority.

I think I am more likely to run into Elvis at the Mall than to see a Mormon presidential candidate whose politics I like, but if I did I would vote for him or her. A Mormon progressive who made it to the presidential race would be a real maverick. Religion or lack of should not be a factor. The only thing that should matter is the candidate’s platform and record. What they have done, and what they say they’ll do. Knowing their religion does not give us a window into the deep recesses of their character. It’s even happened that dishonest people have pretended to be religious to advance their personal interests. Really. It’s in the New Testament.

I wish Robert Jeffress and everyone else would stop using the ‘c’ word to attack candidate’s religion. The collateral damage is our democracy, where we cherish the ideal that every citizen is equal under law and respected for the merits of our actions and our contribution to society.

Glenn Beck Has a Problem With Christians?

I probably should leave this alone, but being a former End-Times Pentecostal it just fascinates me. Glenn Beck now has problems with President Obama’s theology.

It makes me wish we could just judge our politicians on their politicking, but we’re in the era of blurred boundaries and public piety for fun and profit.

Anyway, Glenn Beck has just dissed the United Church of Christ, of which Barack Obama is a member. The UCC is a liberal Christian church, practicing social justice on a foundation of Protestant Christian beliefs.

Glenn Beck is a convert to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Whether the Mormons are Christians depends on who you ask. Mormons say they fill in the missing scriptures, many Christians disagree— including the NYT conservative editorial writer Ross Douthat.

Theologically speaking, I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I’m inclined to give the whole issue a Taoist ‘it’s all good’.

Religion should not even be an issue– to sink further into prejudice and demonizing the opposition using actual demons takes us back to the Middle Ages, or maybe to the Seventeenth Century when Puritans hanged Mary Dyer on Boston Common for unrepentant Quakerism.

But I have to point out a double standard here. Anyone who fails to follow the True Political Party is judged un-christian despite all evidence to the contrary, while the differences between LDS and Christianity are swept under the rug when there’s profit to be made. Who or what is the object of worship?

RAY O’ HOPE: Senator Orrin Hatch, himself a Mormon, comes out in defense of the proposed Islamic Community Center in New York City on the grounds of freedom of religion and private property rights. Well said.

WORSHIPPING MAMMON: That’s the fighting words used by some conservative Evangelical clergymen on seeing the flock singing along to Glenn Beck’s hymnbook. They suspect Mormon influences. Washington Monthly has the quotes.