“Lay aside” may be too moderate: perhaps I would even consider “trample.”
In a CNN interview, Wolf Blitzer asked Osteen a “what if”: what if a member of his congregation wanted to vote form Mitt Romney but had concerns that because he’s a Mormon, they’re not sure he’s a Christian.
Osteen replied, “When I hear Mitt Romney say that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God—that he’s the Christ, raised from the dead, that he’s his Savior—that’s good enough for me.”
While Osteen described the Mormon faith as “not traditional Christianity,” he said he believes Mormons fall under the Christian tent.
“Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ,” the pastor argued.
We might have expected something like this to be said by Osteen. He has a history of softening, even compromising, Christian positions for a general public ear—in some cases only to be pressured into retracting later. But this instance is particularly troubling.
Mormonism is no more a Christian than is occultism, Jehovah’s Witness, Unification Church (Moonies), Scientology, Christian Science, or even Islam. For example:
- Mormons teach that God has a physical body and that Jesus was physically conceived.
- Mormons teach that Christ was not a god, but only became a god at later point.
- Mormons teach that we can all become such gods, as Jesus did.
- Mormons teach that the Trinity is actually three such separate gods.
- Mormons believe the highest potential of man is to become such a god and subsequently to populate and rule their own planet (or even universe).
- Mormons teach that a man needs a wife in order to achieve this status.
- Mormons place the Book of Mormon and others above the Bible as the ultimate authority.
- Mormons believe the Bible must be properly “translated”—as per Mormons, of course—before it can be appealed to as an authority.
- Mormons believe Jesus and Lucifer are “spirit” brothers.
- Mormons believe in salvation by works in addition to God’s grace.
- Mormons believe in a literal re-gathering of the lost ten tribes of Israel, yet in the future.
- Mormons believe that Zion (New Jerusalem) will be built on the American continent.
- Mormonism teaches that their “temple garment” underwear, “When properly worn,” protects them “from temptation and evil.” The rules for this underwear are unbelievably ridiculous (see footnote).1
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There is a vast gulf between the Christian Church and Mormonism. The cult at least at one time acknowledged this: it disavowed all Christian churches and saw them as part of the adversary’s kingdom. The Mormon founder Joseph Smith wrote that the beings which appeared to him told him so:
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were allwrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines thecommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?2
There is, of course, much more. But hush: the official Mormon articles of faith do not mention the most objectionable of these beliefs and history.
Do you think these beliefs in godhood and superstition don’t affect 1) personal psychology, 2) political philosophy, or 3) views of public policy?
If you don’t, I’ve got a bridge in Independence, Missouri, to sell you.
But many Christians are largely unaware of these beliefs and history. Many are becoming more open to Mormonism as just another “Christian” group. This couldn’t make Mormons happier: they have been downplaying their distinctive beliefs and agenda for a long time, and spending what has to be millions on propaganda campaigns aimed at making Christians believe that Mormons are Christians.
Osteen’s smiling, welcoming, compromising comments do not help this situation one bit. Indeed, he is aiding and abetting an enemy of the Christian Church.
Rationalizing Political Compromise
Osteen’s answer more importantly gives us a window into the rationality of Christians who may be tempted to make compromises of their faith in the name of apparent political advances or victories.
For some Christians, this compromise will be simple uncritical voting. For others, it may be a nominal faith they’ve never thought through and exercised in the public square to begin with.
But for others yet, it will be a conscious rationalization for doing what they know is wrong. Upholding belief in a something like a “Christian nation” on the one hand, and calling for a non-Christian Mormon to lead it on the other. Touting beliefs such as “Our faith should inform our politics” on the one hand, while voting as if faith doesn’t matter on the other.
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To rationalize this, they will regard their compromise as a fight again evil: theirs is always the lesser of two evils. And only these two evils are ever considered in the equation.
And this may even be done against their conscience, which of course is a sin.
Let’s be clear: no political evil justifies a sin of any kind, let alone a sin of political convenience.
When pressed on the issue, these people may rationalize their already poor decision by saying something like, “Well, he’s a man of good values and character and good ability, and that’s all that really matters in the presidency.”
Christians are particularly susceptible to both the “lesser of two evils” and the “character is the main thing” arguments when it comes to politics and public offices.
In other words, too many Christians are willing to set aside the tenets of the Christian Faith and say “Yes” to a decidedly non-Christian civil ruler purely out of fear that the other guy is worse, or believing that the denial of Christ and belief in human divinity somehow fit the description “good values and character.”
Further, consider the logical outworking of this compromise. Any Christian who trusts a non-Christian Mormon with civil rule has no argument against having other non-Christians in such offices either—for example, a Muslim or an atheist (as long as they have “good” character and ability).
Think I’m wrong? It has already been argued by Evangelicals.
Consider the responses from both Osteen and the recently late Chuck Colson.
Blitzer followed with Osteen: “Let’s say someone is a Muslim, someone is a Hindu, someone’s Jewish: do you have a problem with someone who is not a Christian being president of the United States?”
Osteen responded, “I wouldn’t have a problem with it because I love all people.” After all, “The Hindus are some of the nicest people you would ever meet.”
He added, “When we’re electing the president, we’re looking at their values, their leadership ability, and their faith is a big part as well”
“Faith is a big part”—but apparently not a big enough part for Osteen to have any problem with those who deny it.
Colson likewise said he would have no hesitation about appointing a Muslim or even an atheist as a federal judge. In one of his recent videos, he said, “We don’t look at a person’s faith. We look at their abilities, judgment, character, and the convictions they hold in terms of public policy.”
Apparently for these Christian leaders, one’s faith has nothing to say about the convictions they hold in terms of public policy.
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Nonsense. These are not expressions of Christian faith in the public square. They are by default the suppression of Christian faith in the public square.
Too many Christians stand idly by, smiling widely, while rationalists, humanists, and cults take over in the name of good moral character.
Smiling while being robbed
In 1996, legal scholar and former federal judge Robert Bork published Slouching towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. He decried the social effects of the liberal abandonment of rationality since the 1960s, including the degradation of moral integrity leading to the shrugging social acceptance of what would once have supplied a source of outrage.
But that was (and is) a liberal problem. Conservatives don’t suffer such declines.
Except that they do. Conservative standards for men holding public office have declined along with the general social mores, because we are constantly settling for someone who is just a little better than the bad guy on the other side. In other words, as the other side gets worse, “our guy” consistently gets worse as well, staying only good enough to be better than the opponent.
And Christians too often look only at the relative difference in the immediate comparison, not the whole difference in the big picture, and based on the short-sighted view think they’re being faithful to God and Christian morality. We thus no longer demand our politicians and leaders uphold dearest Christianity. We sell out the Christian foundations of social order for the pottage of immediate “success”: which false success requires for its advancement only facades of good character, ability, and popularity.
And with this program comes increasing demands for more conservative voters to be silent and to rest themselves content with the gradually declining establishment labeling them as “radical” and “fringe”.
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This has always been the effect of secular conservatism in the employ of Empire. Thus could the early Church writer Origen blast the Religious Right of his day—the Second and Third Centuries—for vaunting “the good” and moral integrity while engaging in the grossest of superstitions which ultimately undermined the very good at which they aimed:
Notwithstanding, those who have written in this manner regarding the “chief good” will go down to the Piraeus and offer prayer to Artemis, as if she were God, and will look (with approval) upon the solemn assembly held by ignorant men; and after giving utterance to philosophical remarks of such profundity regarding the soul . . . adopt mean and trifling thoughts, and offer a cock to Aesculapius!
The result of such confusion is ultimately one more form of humanism—the highest of idolatries:
And although they had been enabled to form representations both of the “invisible things” of God and . . . had no mean glimpses of His “eternal power and Godhead,” they nevertheless became “foolish in their imaginations,” and their “foolish heart” was involved in darkness and ignorance as to the (true) worship of God. Moreover, we may see those who greatly pride themselves upon their wisdom and theology worshipping the image of a corruptible man, in honor, they say, of Him, and sometimes even descending, with the Egyptians, to the worship of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things!3
And this is ultimately what Mormonism is as well: a humanism which says man can become a god, and which worships a god which they define in the form of a man.
To embrace this in the highest political office in a land in the name of good character is an abomination. It is to break the second and first commandments. And I am certain it invites God’s judgment every bit as much as the irrational leftist hippies and elitists from the 60s.
And to smile while warmly welcoming this abomination is worse than slouching towards Gomorrah: it is smiling along the same path. It is welcoming degeneracy in the name of god character and values.
- Endowed members should wear the temple garment both day and night. They should not remove it, either entirely or partially, to work in the yard or for other activities that can reasonably be done with the garment worn properly beneath the clothing. Nor should they remove it to lounge around the home in swimwear or immodest clothing. When they must remove the garment, such as for swimming, they should put it back on as soon as possible. Members should not adjust the garment or wear it contrary to instructions in order to accommodate different styles of clothing. Nor should they alter the garment from its authorized design. When two-piece garments are used, both pieces should always be worn. The garment is sacred and should be treated with respect at all times. . . . Members who have made covenants in the temple should be guided by the Holy Spirit to answer for themselves personal questions about wearing the garment.(↩)
- Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:1:18–20.(↩)
- Origen, Against Celsus, 6.4, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1135-6, italics in original. Plutarch made a very similar critique of the Stoic philosophers to whom Paul argued that God does not dwell in temples made with hands. Plutarch comments, “The Stoics, while applauding this as correct, attend the mysteries in temples, go up to the Acropolis, do reverence to statues, a place wreaths upon the shrines, though these are the works of builders and mechanics.” Quoted in Richard J. Gibson, “Paul and the Evangelization of the Stoics” in The Gospel to the Nations: Perspectives on Paul’s Mission. eds. Mark Thompson and Peter Bolt (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 320.(↩)