It’s an odd coincidence, don’t you think, that just in time for the latest debate, Billy Graham decides Mormonism isn’t a cult after all? Right when Romney’s Religious Right-friendly agenda needs the Evangelical vote the most?
You know it wasn’t the cookies and drinks Mitt Romney, Billy Graham and Graham’s son, Franklin, shared on Thursday that warmed the cockles of Billy Graham’s heart.
It was a simple matter of political expediency. On Thursday, when they met, Mormonism was a cult on Graham’s website. On Tuesday, the offending passage was gone. Like Moses on Sinai, Billy Graham on his mountain-top in Montreat, N.C., changed the religious landscape with a snap of his fingers.
Moses on Sinai gave us the idea of true and false religion. Billy Graham on Montreat undermined all that by telling the world that expediency was more important than Moses’ unshakeable religious truth.
You see, the Graham admits it was all politics. Ken Barun, chief of staff for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), told CNN:
Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.
Political expediency. In other words, Romney needs the Evangelical vote and Billy Graham was willing to set dogma aside for the sake of political expediency. It’s not, as Barun’s statement might make it sound, as though liberals were the ones politicizing Romney’s religion. No, that was Graham’s fellow Evangelicals, who have problems with the idea of a Mormon heretic suddenly being treated like a spiritual brother.
Some of them have decided that sharing a hateful and bigoted agenda can overcome doctrinal squabbles. Others have more of a problem with it. As Franklin Graham (who gave an unhealthy display of moral relativism himself) said on Morning Joe back in February, “Most Christians would not recognize Mormonism as part of the Christian faith.”
Romney can’t win with the Evangelical house divided. As the Washington Post reports,
Surveys show that most evangelicals do not consider Mormons to be Christian, but most still support Romney’s candidacy. The GOP nominee will need a strong turnout from evangelicals, who tally a quarter of the electorate, to defeat President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.
Here is what the association’s site said previous to its unholy scrubbing: it said that Mormons, as well as “Jehovah’s Witnesess, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spritualists, Scientologists, and others,” were members of a “cult”. It defined a cult as ” any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith.”
In a fascinating display of moral relativism, Evangelicals, who disdain and often say they cannot vote for Obama because he is not a real Christian, are willing to vote for Mitt Romney, who is not, according to their own religious tenets, a Christian at all.
But hey, God’s will goes out the window when you can get what you want. Why let a piddling thing like sacred doctrine blow a chance for profit and power? The Vatican didn’t just end up with a private army and a swath of territory that once crossed Italy from top to bottom, by accident.
But what stands out is the embrace of the moral relativism the Church has always claimed to oppose. Look at the weak rationale offered by a Graham spokesman after the fact:
Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross said in a statement that
Through an inclusive evangelistic ministry spanning more than 60 years, Mr. Graham was called to preach the transformative message of the Gospel to the whole world, regardless of one’s religious background, affiliation or none. As such, he never proselytized, targeted or labeled specific people, groups, faiths or denominations.
Neither did Mr. Graham attempt to divide his audience before he had opportunity to preach to them. He has a genuine love for all people, and faithfully proclaimed the love of God to everyone, providing opportunity for them to respond by making a faith commitment.
Mr. Graham’s calling is not to pass judgment, but to proclaim the biblical truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven, allowing every individual and group to fall along that plumb line,” the statement went on.
He further stressed that salvation is the work of Almighty God, and that only He knows what is in each human heart.
But if this were true, that Graham “never…targeted or labeled specific groups, faiths or denominations” then the statement about heretical beliefs, about cults, would never have been on the site in the first place. Most would consider “cult” a label and the Mormons certainly felt targeted by that particular label, as I know well from my experiences with the LDS. The missionaries who visited me took umbrage at being called a cult. But they were perfect willing themselves to call all those other groups cults.
CNN noted of the unholy sellout: “The removal of the post from the Graham group’s website was first noted by the New Civil Rights Movement website and then later by the Asheville Citizen-Times, which reported that the information on cults was accessed as recently as Thursday afternoon.”
It further observed that “The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, lists the LDS Church as a theological cult. The Catholic Church also does not recognize Mormon baptisms as being theologically compatible with its own.”
As I have said here before, it has been fun watching Evangelicals twist themselves into knots over Romney’s religious beliefs. He implies they will give them what they want, so in a way, it is like watching Satan tempt Jesus. Jesus gave an unequivocal “no”; but his followers have demonstrated they have far less moral fiber than their Lord and Savior.
Photo from BillyGraham.org