E Pluribus Universalum

Posted on October 24, 2011 by


Author’s note: it is not my object to ignite a sectarian brawl with this post, as I’m fully aware that the distinctions that fundie Evangelicals can make to contrast themselves with say, Roman Catholics or Mormons, are easily made by those same faiths toward Evangelicals.  Rather, my goal is to highlight how suppressing the public expression of these differences because it may be rude to some may serve a larger, more nefarious purpose than simply enforcing decorous behavior.

In a world where avoiding giving offense and inclusiveness are sacraments, it seems that drawing clear-cut distinctions between religious beliefs is a blatant act of bigotry and prejudice:

Several months ago, the media was in a tizzy over its sudden discovery of a doctrinal statement held by the church formerly attended by Minnesota Representative and GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann. On July 13, Joshua Green of The Atlantic breathlessly reported his exciting discovery: Did you know that the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s doctrinal statement states, in part, “… It is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist?” Well-coiffed TV newspeople were aghast. Blogs were abuzz. Talking heads were incensed. And they all asked the same question: In light of this shocking theological discovery we’ve all just made, is Michele Bachmann an anti-Catholic bigot?

Meanwhile, confessional evangelical Christians were yawning. Martin Luther’s views on the papacy are in the Smalcald Articles, which he wrote in 1537…[h]ey, media: Way to blow the lid off a 500-year-old story!

On Friday, Jeffress introduced and endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. He went on to describe the faith of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney –the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – as a “cult.” The reaction was immediate, and nowhere stronger than from Dr. Bill Bennett, [who]…rebuked Jeffress for his reference to Mormonism as a cult. “Do not give voice to bigotry,” Bennett said in his speech at the same summit Saturday morning.

The question is this: Why is it bigotry to call Mormonism a cult? As even Jeffress himself put it to reporters: “That is a mainstream (Christian) view, that Mormonism is a cult.” He’s right. And again, Christians everywhere are saying: “This isn’t even news.” Mormons claim a belief in God, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost, but they do not believe in the Trinity, which the Bible teaches and Christians claim as a core doctrine. Mormons are not even monotheistic, as Christians are. They are polytheistic, believing in many gods. Perhaps most disturbing to Christians is the Mormon belief in the doctrine of “eternal progression,” the idea that man may one day become a god himself. As fifth LDS president Lorenzo Snow put it: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” These doctrines are not taught anywhere in the Bible.

Mainstream society, populated by quite a few of those who call themselves Christians, appears to have adopted a tepid, therapeutic Universalist faith that claims that all religions are basically the same and that salvation is evinced by overtly kind acts, inoffensive behavior, and inclusive thoughts and speech. The media, for its part, reflecting the theological ignorance of the society it serves, attempts to normalize this Universalism by name-calling and ad hominem attacks upon those so obtuse as to dinstinguish between sects or, gasp, claim that there is one Way, Truth, and Light. Put simply, under can’t-we-all-just-get-along Universalism, it nigh upon scandalous, even sinful, for religious folk to declare their beliefs if such a declaration implies their belief system makes a claim of salvation that excludes other faiths and/or denominations.

Which leads to some interesting considerations. First is that, when all religions are equal, there becomes little reason for major religions to exist at all, let alone individual denominations, with the result that the people themselves become completely irreligious (in the traditional sense) and thoroughly corruptible. Like a leaf in the wind, they are easily blown one direction and another. Second, such a squishy and pliant mass of value-free people strikes me as being ridiculously fertile soil to evangelize…into, say, acolytes for sec-humanism and their worship of that State-as-Lord. Third, that such a malleable population would lack the moral foundation upon which to discriminate between good and evil, Truth and lies. And how can they? For if all religions are equal, if none may lay claim to the Truth, then there is no absolute morality, no way to point to Evil without offending someone and sinning.

This I think is where diversity, pluralism, inclusivity takes us. To the lowest common denominator. To no belief whatosever, except that which does not offend.  And certainly no labelling of others’ beliefs “cultish”, or worse, “Anti-Christ”.  Welcome to the Universalist Church of Sec Humanism.

Posted in: Religion