Christianism and the Gay Marriage Debate

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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22 Responses

  1. sidereal says:

    Mormons are not, by any definition of the word, Christian

    Eh? Here are the first five Articles of Faith of the LDS church:

    1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
    2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
    3. We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
    4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

    No sane disinterested observer could look at the list and not come to the conclusion that the religion in question is Christian. I’m aware that most mainline Christians don’t regard Mormons as Christians, but that’s an internal division that’s of less interest to non-Christians and is in fact irrelevant to Sullivan’s outsider concerns about Christianism.Report

  2. You said:

    “Mormons are not, by any definition of the word, Christian, so can they truly be labeled Christianists?”

    Not that I’m necessarily endorsing this, but Mormon scholar Bruce Porter says:

    “Are Mormons Christian? By self-definition and self-identity, unquestionably so. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that it is a Christian-faith denomination, a body of believers who worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and who witness that salvation is possible only by his atoning blood and grace. By the simple dictionary definition of a Christian as one who believes in or worships Jesus Christ, the case is compelling. To the title Christian a critic of Mormonism may add any modifiers he deems appropriate—unorthodox, heretical, non-Nicene, different—but blanket assertions that we are not Christian are a poor substitute for informed argument and dialogue.”

    I’d agree with you that “Christianist” could be an effective rhetorical weapon, but it seems like a spiked bludgeon to me, purely pejorative and not particularly rich in content. If they’re Christian Dominionists like Rushdoony, call them dominionists. If they’re far-right natural-law theorists, call them that. If they’re bigots, then they’re bigots. But, as far as I can tell, the word Christianist in order to lump religious social conservatives opposed to gay marriage into one big, easy-to-hate category. What could the “valid” use of such a word possibly be, outside of blustery induced outrage?Report

  3. Mike says:

    Mormons are not, by any definition of the word, Christian

    How about “They believe in the divinity of Christ”? At least, that’s the definition I use to tell Jews for Jesus that they should stop lying about not being Christians.Report

  4. Bob says:

    E.D. your assertion, “Mormons are not, by any definition of the word, Christian” is ignorant. But that has been handled well above.

    Sullivan, a good Catholic man, has his idea of what it is to be a Christian (I bet you two could have a really long debate over the finer points of defining Christian), those that do not meet his definition are “Christianist.” Likewise, those that do not meet your definition “are not, by any definition of the word, Christian.”

    Remove the mote from your own eye. Isn’t that a Biblical injunction?Report

  5. E.D. Kain says:

    Okay, here’s my response to the notion that Mormons are Christians (which is utterly false, by the way).

    William, I agree that Christianist is too broad a term and too much a bludgeon when the situation really demands more specificity. That’s really what I was driving at here, but perhaps I didn’t go far enough or clarify. I think there are certain groups of people that might very well be labeled as such, and generally they fall into the very politically active bracket, but really it is less effective than more specific terms…thanks.

    Bob, Mike, sidereal– I’m not too strict on the definition of Christian, but Mormons simply aren’t. There’s no two ways about it, but read my follow-up for further elucidation on the matter.

    You may think it’s “ignorant” Bob, but I can assure you nothing is further from the truth.Report

  6. “Why meet them on their own terms? Why engage them on that level at all? Faith is too adamant an obstacle, and politicized faith is more of an unstoppable force than an inertia. ”

    The only effective way to engage people of faith (those who make up the overwhelming majority of those opposed to GLBT equality measures) is to speak their language and develop messaging that has a positive impact on THEIR mindset.
    The perception that you can’t effectively challenge someone’s religious belief is why the anti-gay religious establishment has justified and promoted prejudice, discrimination and violence against GLBT people with impunity for far too long.
    However, messaging that can be perceived as anti-Christian or even anti-religious is not the proper platform and we’ll allow anti-gay religious leaders to energize those in their congregations who are of like mind and possibly those who otherwise would be indifferent.
    We no longer can be held captive to the myth that the anti-gay religious establishment is synonomous with people of faith.
    That myth is why many think it is futile to directly challenge an argument that is based on religious belief.
    But you can.
    Consider the following:
    A congregation of 300 W.Va. Baptists (I use the most anti-gay denomination in terms of its leadership) will have 100 people steadfastly opposed to accepting gay and lesbian people as equal, with 100 not caring or undecided and 100 believing they should be considered equal. When the pastor urges the congregation in 2009 to vote to write discrimination into the constitution, the 100 of like-mind will go vote. Those 100 supportive of equality will go vote against it at the urging of the messaging coming from pro-LGBT groups. So we’re left with is the undecided or indiffrerent 100 in the middle. What are they hearing to motivate them? From the anti-gay religious establishment they hear messaging that appeals on an emotional/spiritual level that at the end of the day really amounts to this: Treating gay and lesbian people equal means accepting evil as good and therefore means turning their backs on God. What does our side offer in response that counters with an emotional/spiritual appeal? Pretty much nothing.
    There are many different effective ways to counter anti-gay religious messaging and on their terms…which it must be to be effective.
    One of the ways which we have found most effective is when we make people aware of and help them understand the human pain and suffering that is being brought to bear on GLBT people in the name of religion.
    Our founder, Mitchell Gold, last fall published the book “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America” Crisis” as a tool to bring this awareness and understanding to one of our nation’s greatest moral failures.
    There is an emotional/spiritual response within people of faith that tells them that causing others to hurt is opposed to very core of their spirituality.
    We have received numerous personal testimonies from people who gave the book to someone who needed to read it and observed a positive impact.
    Try it yourself. Purchase a copy and share it with someone you know needs to read it.
    And please note all proceeds of the book go to organizations working directly with GLBT youth. They are Ali Forney Center, GLSEN, L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center Homeless Shelter, MCCNY Homeless Youth Services & Sylvia’s Place Homeless Youth Shelter, PFLAG, Point Foundation and The Trevor Project.
    And please let us know the results.Report

  7. Anonymous says:

    While your point that Christians are not the only religious group in the US guilty of politicizing religion is correct, it’s clear that evangelical Christians are far and away the group at the forefront of this. There is no other group of comparable size or strength who engages in this kind of behavior. The closest group I can think of is in fact, Mormons.Report

  8. E.D. Kain says:

    It’s funny, Sullivan linked to this post and he and every commenter on here (basically) has focused on the one line regarding Mormons not being Christians, which I honestly wrote quite off-handedly as it is something I’ve believed for a long time. My real point was that the term “Christianist” is too much the “bludgeon” as William puts it above, and not enough the “scalpel.” Ah well. Such is the nature of the blog…Report

  9. Aaron says:

    I am a former Mormon, and I am gay. I think that there is no way you can consider Mormons not Christian. Any group that believes in Christ as the central figurehead and died for sins is a Christian group.

    I have no love for the Mormon church, but Mormons are as Christian as protestants or Catholics. People argue on small issues of faith, but by any basic definition, they are Christians. Please do not play with words for the sake of argument (many protestants do not think Catholics are Christian, but they are also–same principal here).

    I actually find this playing around with language the same as with gay marriage–by controling the word, the speaker feels some sort of power, but words are ephemeral and changing.Report

  10. KevDog says:

    It would be fair to say that Mormons do not fit your definition of Christian, but to say that there is no definition of Christian which does not encompass Mormons is logical trash.

    There is a word for this kind of thinking and it is bigotry.Report

  11. Bob says:

    Aaron, E.D. has a lot invested in his argument, even though he claims it was a throwaway line. He has long believed it, he says. I suppose if I were a Christian I would find a way to avoid some association with bigots, Mormons in this case. So E.D. conveniently denies that Mormons are Christian. He will obviously engage any cant that he see fit.Report

  12. E.D. Kain says:

    Okay, my final word on the matter for now.Report

  13. manaen says:

    I offer some excerpts from “The Book of Mormon” in answer:
    Alma 7:
    9 But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth.
    10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem [citing the nearest major city, Bethlehem is 6 miles away] which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
    11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
    12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
    13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
    Ether 3: 14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
    3 Nephi 9:15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
    Moroni 7: 38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name
    Alma 38:9 […] there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ.
    2 Nephi 25:26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
    Helaman 5: 9 […] remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ,
    Omni 1: 26 […] come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.
    Mosiah 3:17 […] there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
    Alma 34: 8 […] I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
    Mosiah 5: 8 […] There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ,
    Jacob 4: 11 […] be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ, and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God,
    Alma 5: 48 […] I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.
    Jacob 1: 7 Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest,
    Alma 39: 15 […] concerning the coming of Christ. Behold, I say unto you, that it is he that surely shall come to take away the sins of the world;
    Mosiah 15: 23 They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death.
    Helaman 3: 28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.
    Mosiah 4: 2 […] O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
    Alma 4: 14 […] thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death.
    Alma 22:13 […] the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.
    14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins,
    Title Page
    […] Written by way of commandment, and also by way of prophecy and of revelation […]Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever – And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.
    [capitalization in original]Report

  14. Robert F. Bell says:

    Thank you god for reading my heart and deciding whether or not I am Christian. I find it amazing that since Latter-day Saints’ beliefs concerning diety are closer to Biblical Christianity rather than Nicene-Christianity that a very large number of Christians feel comfortable saying Latter-day Saints are not Christian. They must feel a lot more comfortable with their own self-righteousness than I. I do not think I am ready to try to stand in the place of God and judge mens souls.Report

  15. Jeremy says:

    Wow, this matter has been debated for decades, and you think you have definitively proved one side over the other in three blog posts? You’re one arrogant son of a gun, aren’t you?Report

  16. Jeremy says:

    I didn’t see your last blog post. Sorry about that. I apologize for my last comment.Report

  17. mlu says: