Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Talk What You Know

One of the things that drive me crazy is when someone with only a passive amount of knowledge in my areas, tries to tell me with some kind of authority about my own areas. For instance, many people try to tell me about politics or civil rights law when I know they have no credentials for either. Oh, I don't mind opinion, but I am talking about lecturing with some kind of authority. The reason it bothers me is that I have a degree in political science with emphasis on constitutional law.
This background is why I am an independent. I have an understanding that the parties have two or three legitimate issue stances and the rest of their issues are agenda driven. If you are reading this and think that the Republicans have all the correct views on the issues, or the Democrats know what is right in all matters of policy, you are caught up in the agenda game. They get you with one or two issues and sweep you in to all of the other ones because they gained credibility with you on the couple of items that you feel really strong about. But I digress . . .

What brings me to this topic today is a column I read by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. I am not linking it, because I think you have to register to see content there (as I did), and I refuse to bait you into that.

Cohen attacks Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee because he wouldn't answer whether or not fellow candidate Mitt Romney is a Christian. Romney is a Mormon. Cohen contends that Huckabee, a Baptist minister, had a chance to show religious tolerance but bailed out instead. Huckabee just said that the interviewer should ask Romney, not him.

Since when is not commenting on someone else's religion intolerant? The term "Christian" is defined by different people in various ways. What definition applies here? Huckabee doesn't know. The term means something completely different to a baptist minister than it does to a Jew (like Cohen), or even an agnostic.

As Mark Mattison, from True Life Ministries, of Auburn University puts it, "What is a Christian, anyway? Someone of European descent? A persecutor of Jews? Someone who votes for only the most conservative Republicans? At times all of these answers have seemed plausible. Some use these definitions to this day.

In Christian circles the answers are no clearer. A Christian is sometimes said to be someone who has made a decision; sometimes, someone who belongs to a church; far too often, someone who confesses the right creeds. Which brings us right back to our question: What, really, is a Christian?"

I can only guess, but I would say that Huckabee's definition is along the lines of someone who has been "born again". How would he know if Romney made that decision and step? There is no way. Shoot, I don't even know if my wife is truly a Christian according to this definition - and she claims to believe primarily as I do.

I believe that Huckabee was being baited by the question. There was nothing he could say that would have been accepted by EVERYONE. If he would have answered, "Yes, Romney is a Christian," then many conservative evangelical Christians would wonder about Huckabee's own faith. You may think, "Big deal", but that is the man's political base. If he says, "No, Mormons cannot be true Christians," he would be labeled as an intolerant bigot - much like Cohen is labeling him now for just being noncommittal and probably even honest.
What is interesting about that is that Cohen in his column writes, "the Republican presidential field has some feeble minds and some dangerous ones as well, but none has done as much damage as Huckabee has. Religion does not belong in the political arena." Then why is Cohen and the interviewer (I think George Stephanopoulis) shoving that question in Huckabee's face? Cohen is being hypocritical here.

To conservative Christians, Mormons are heretics because of many conflicting (with fundemental Christianity) beliefs. These fundementalist claim that the Mormons deny the deity of Christ, exhalt the deity of man, and that God lives on the planet Kolob and mormons will someday be god of their own planet. Now I say that some FUNDEMENTALISTS believe these things because I don't truly know enough about mormon theology to say what they really believe. I choose to just talk what I know.

NOTE: I am not a Huckabee supporter. I can't foresee a scenario where he will be able to garner my vote.








18 comments:

Pistol Pete said...

From what I've heard, Huckabee has fielded religious questions well. Evangelical Christians do often get painted as intolerant no matter how much respect they show persons of other faiths. Huckabee commented on "Hardball" how much he respects Joseph Liebermann, a devout Jew. While Huckabee's faith drives his politics, he doesn't use it to drive others away.

kristarella said...

I don't know much about the US Presidential candidates, but I share your frustration when people speak with(out) authority. It frustrates me when people talk about science (my field) and god in silly ways (e.g. science disproves god - as if it does!).

Pete is right "evangelical Christians do often get painted as intolerant" - they always will! The wisdom of the bible is contrary to the "wisdom" of the world so humanitarians and secular people will always find us wrong or intolerant on something, often because of our "beliefs" rather than our actions. They think that we're intolerant and so it doesn't really matter what we say in anser to questions like that.

Eh-hem, that got a bit off topic. Oh well, gotta go - have a good day!

kristen said...

As a devout Mormon, I come across so many misconceptions and false ideas about my religion....it's almost nauseating.

To answer Cohen's question, yes, we are Christian. But seriously, why is he asking someone else if he thinks so-and-so is a Christian? (What is this--high school?) The name of our church, The Church of Jesus CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints, should imply to even the simplest of life forms that we do in fact believe in Christ....and that He is central to our religion. (BTW--'Mormons' is more of a nickname).

Anyone who wants to know more about our church should visit www.lds.org. There's actually several links talking about what we believe. You can even send me an email: kriswalk1@juno.com; I'd be happy to answer any questions.

But honestly, if you want to know more about something, go to the source.

Great entry Jeff ;-)

kristen said...

Afterthought: Romney is scheduled to give a speech similar to Kennedy's, tomorrow morning (I believe 10:30 EST?).

Why his religion is even an issue is beyond me. He's a candidate who happens to be LDS.

(btw--I'm not necessarily voting for him just because he's LDS).

Jod{i} said...

Hey Jeff...I must say, dear friend...I love the fact you commented! I truly do...I willadmit that I dont comment as often as I should here. My bad, one I plan to rectify. Many times the reason is that you make me think...you sens me off on this ponder tangent.
I always appreciate everything you hav eever written and I have read...and your comments. I look forward tothem. Why? You are honest with me. No platitudes, no comments just to comment...even to the extreme of not wanting to comment on fear of my reaction. We settled that I took it in and still mulling it...but I appreciate it.
This topic here? I have been of the belief within my whole life(Whether that is being brought up Catholic, or where I sit now with my own beliefs)is that a Christian, is a concept...or part of a concept. A value system. Isnt it? I mean I do not affiliate with organized religion, yet I hold many beliefs as Christians. so whats that mean?

kris said...
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kristarella said...

Kristen - thanks for the offer to answer questions, I am checking out that website :)

I find people would call a "Christian" anyone who follows Jesus, but I also find a lot of people saying they follow Jesus and adding strange things to his teaching, and claiming things about him that aren't necessarily true. I'm not saying you do that Kristen, I guess I'm just saying it might not be obvious when people really are Christians - even if their church name contains "Jesus Christ". Anyone could call their church "The holy church of Jesus Christ" or something like that, then you walk in and find them teaching that Jesus is an alien who's going to return in his space ship and save us from our own nuclear weapons, global warming and all the rest (as an outrageous example).

That being said, a man's opinion on what makes a Christian has little to do with how well he can run a country.

jod{i} - I guess it depends which beliefs you have in common with Christians. I had a teacher in high school who liked Christians because they upheld "moral" values, but he didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God who died the death that was ours so that we might be reconciled with God. He didn't claim to be a Christian either.

I don't want to get into a classification debate, I just mean that what you believe is up to you. If you think that makes you a Christian then so be it.

The Real Mother Hen said...

My answer will get me killed.
So I shall not say a word.

Jeff said...

Pete: I think he has handled it well, too. Sometimes all you have to be is an evangelical Christian to drive people away, though. It is a pity that religion has to enter into it, no? ;)

Kristarella: I agree with you. However, some EC's are their own worst enemy. Not this case with Huckabee, but still. Thanks for commenting on politics even on this side or the world!

Kristen: Religious beliefs are the most commonly misinterpreted by those that do not share them. I try to be careful when trying to tell people what THEY believe.

Jod(I): Don't feel compelled to comment here. You are always welcomed, of course, but I will not tolerate guilt being dispersed from this site! lol Thanks for the kind words, Jodi. It means a bunch to me.

You hit the whole point on the head with your contribution to the topic. No one can give a universal answer to the question. I really think it is dangerous. Personally, I would rather define Christianity in its narrowist of terms. This isn't to be exclusionary, it is just would offer the clearest of definitions. People might actually know what others are talking about. :)

Jeff said...

Kristarella: Your response is both interesting and brave. People are so scared to disagree about religion. I guess it is the eternal consequences of right and wrong in some folks' eyes. I don't mind if someone is bold with me. It is all just a learning experience. What anyone here says about my beliefs (and no one has that I know of), has no bearing on what my true spiritual state is, so why would I care? I don't other than the educational and conversation value of it. However, it isn't like that for everyone so I still try to be careful. I do find it a bit refreshing when others aren't so careful, though? That is where true discussion can ensue.

Mother Hen: Yeah, that's what I am talking about with Kristarella. lol I didn't think ANYONE was ever going to comment on this post because it had too much religion content.

kristarella said...

It's not that I don't care about being tactful. I do think there isn't enough reasonable and respectful discussion though.

It's not up to me to say who is a Christian, but I guess I wanted to point out that believing in Jesus isn't enough to make you a Christian. In the new testament even the demons believe in Christ and they tremble.

I know from reading the link that kristen gave that there is a lot more to it than "belief" for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. However, with them and with all churches I wouldn't automatically think someone is a Christian because they identify with that church. I go to an Anglican church and I'm aware that there are Anglican churches in this country whose Senior Ministers think we shouldn't pray to God, but to one of the gods - or not at all!

Ari said...

Hey Jeff,

I was just passing through, catching up on my blogroll when I happened upon this entry. Wow, really good.

I just wanna say one thing. I don't know Kristen and I can't speak for her, but I think what she meant when she mentioned Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was this: how can a church deny the deity of Christ and yet be named after him? Mormons do believe in Christ. I think that's all she was trying to say. I've said it to others as well when I've tried to explain the church.

That being said, I find the question presented to Huckabee was unfair and bigoted. How many other churches or sects of Christianity are questioned? Do you hear people questioning Baptists or Lutherans or Catholics on whether or not they are christian? The word "Mormon" tends to illicit a lot of negative stereotypes unnecessarily. I hate that a professional writer cannot without his own bias when giving an interview. Thankfully, we have people like Jeff and all of the commenters here that can read between the lines. I wish more people were like you guys. When I saw eleven comments, my stomach churned, because I thought for sure there would be horrible things said. In this one instance, I am glad to be proven wrong. It really sucks when people are so hung up on stereotypes or prejudices before they really even know the facts. Again, I'm so glad there are real thinkers out there that choose to think for themselves rather than jump on the bandwagon.

Thanks for this entry.

Ari

kristen said...

ari--thanks for the comment. That is essentially what I was saying. And amen to what you said. ;-)

Jeff said...

Kristarella: I love the conversation and think you have plenty of tact. :)

Ari: ARI!! Welcome, it has been a long time, hasn't it? I agree that people have been pretty good and interesting on this topic. Many people do not understand the Mormon belief system - despite the ton of missionaries from the LDS church that are about. I think some of that is the methodology of the missionaries. This is just my non-expert opinion. From my experience, they follow a certain order and method to convey the message. Many people do not have the patience so they jump to conclusions (with the help of anti-mormon people who they don't need patience to get). All I am really comfortable in conveying is that the Mormons believe Jesus came to North America to reach the Native Americans. Personally, I don't have a problem with that belief. I am sure the Son of God could go whereever He willed. I don't see how anyone could believe that is heretical belief, but to each his own.

kristarella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kristarella said...

"Many people do not understand the Mormon belief system - despite the ton of missionaries from the LDS church that are about. I think some of that is the methodology of the missionaries."

I think that you're right Jeff. I realised last night - as we drove past the amazing nativity display outside the LDS' church - I haven't thought of LDS as being Christian because their behaviour seems to assume that I'm not a Christian. They send missionaries to my area, but I've never met a mormon - not at uni, any Christian events, through any of my Christian friends.

To me, being a Christian is about community. Even though it can be difficult at times there is a level of inter-church and inter-denominational contact in my area. I don't know if it's theology or mere oversight that means that has never happened between LDS churches and anything I've been a part of.

This isn't based on anything other than my experience and impressions... trying to find a reason for my thoughts on the topic.

kristen said...

kristarella--I saw your comment and thought I'd take a stab at responding to that.

As a member of the LDS faith, we are involved in a lot of things w/in our own church. Services, meetings, activities, responsibilities. It has more to do with lack of time, if anything else. My Sundays alone can be busy: 3 hours of church, a meeting with my group that is in charge of the children, and visiting members in need. And that's just Sunday.

We are encouraged in our church to get involved in our communities and take an active role in things like voting and decision making. We are also encouraged to associate with others outside our faith. I grew up in California. All my friends and most my neighbors were not of my faith.

And, we are urged to share our beliefs with others outside our faith. And just like any other person with strengths and weaknesses, some are just better at making friends and sharing, than other people.

I noticed that you live in Australia. I don't know what our membership is there, but I'm sure there's not a lot of LDS. That could be why you don't know any.

Sorry, this was longer than anticipated, and I could go on....but I won't. The LDS churches are always open (in the sense that anyone is always welcome to come to the Sunday services). I invite you to go sometime, and introduce yourself to one of the three men you'll see sitting up front. ;-)

kristarella said...

Thanks kristen!

The life of a church goer does get very busy with all the things on Sunday and then mid-week things too.

You could be right that there just aren't that many LDS folk around here to meet. There's a large building sort of near by, but I'm not sure if that's a church or offices or both. Perhaps I'll find out.

Thanks, it's been good to think about these things!