First Baptist Church of Dallas 1891 by Albert UllrichIt was inevitable, I suppose, that a religious-political movement such as the Religious Right is, would eventually show some sectarian cracks in its edifice. The R.R. was originally established by Southern Baptists — that wing of the American Baptists who, in the years leading up to the Civil War, accommodated and embraced slavery, whereas Baptists (and in fact, most Protestants generally) elsewhere in the country condemned it. Since its beginnings in the 1980s, other types of Christians have latched onto and made themselves part of the R.R. movement, but it basically remains in the control of evangelical Protestants of the Southern Baptist variety.

Among the consequences of this is the fact that Mormons, who were among the denominations that glommed onto the R.R., are finding themselves at odds with the rest of the movement. Initially one might be surprised at this. After all, Mormons are very, very conservative, and faithfully hew to the line of other “social conservatives.” That they would find themselves marginalized as part of the R.R., is because the S.B.C has never really cared for Mormons or the LDS church, and has a history of campaigning against them (WebCite cached version).

With former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, a leader among the large rabble of Republican candidates for president in 2012, this rivalry has roared to the fore. A megachurch pastor and supporter of Romney’s rival, Texas governor Rick Perry, recently commented that “Mormonism is a cult” and said that Mormons are not Christians. He caught some flack over this, but as Reuters reports, he’s digging his heels in and has not given up on the matter (cached):

An unapologetic Pastor Robert Jeffress, who created a stir for calling Mormonism a “cult” at a political gathering, told hundreds of congregants at his Texas megachurch on Sunday that he welcomed the opportunity he’s had to warn people about a “false religion.”

“I have not changed my position,” Jeffress told the crowd of about 2,000 attending the early service at First Baptist Church of Dallas.

The TV evangelist and prominent religious leader spent the last two days defending statements he made to reporters at a conservative gathering on Friday in Washington DC, in which he called Mormonism a “cult” just minutes after introducing and endorsing Texas Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.

This should provide a warning to other elements of the R.R. who aren’t evangelical Protestants; you, too, could find yourselves excluded by sectarian sentiment. It’s not just Mormons who could be frozen out, Catholics — especially because the American bishops have hitched their political car to the R.R. train — might very well end up being denounced as idolators or “Mary-worshippers” in the same way that Mormons are condemned as being part of a “cult.”

The lesson is clear: Religious movements of any kind almost always break down along sectarian lines. It’s foolish to assume it cannot happen.

Lastly, there’s something that desperately needs to be cleared up, which many people aren’t aware of. Mormonism is most certainly a form of Christianity. As a religion, it reveres the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. In this regard the LDS Church is every bit as “Christian” as any other Christian denomination on earth. That the Mormons don’t view Jesus or God precisely as other types of Christians do, cannot and will never change this fact. It just means their form of Christianity is different from that of others. Nothing more than that.

Photo credit: Bryan Amann via Picasaweb.

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