Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

A Smear Revisited

December 13, 2007

The Huckabee question about whether Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are bothers is still stirring up controversy. As I mentioned in my last post, Mormon doctrine does teach this. Don’t take my word for it: Any decent search engine can turn up the evidence, including from the LDS organization themselves. I posted a couple paragraphs from the LDS publication Gospel Principles (http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-6,00.html ) That one link is enough to settle the question, but there are others.

So when Huckabee asked the question, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?”, any answer that equates to “No” is a lie. Of course, any answer that equates to “Yes” is a little … embarrassing.

The only good answer then equates to “Yes, but let me explain.”

The response of the LDS spokeswoman was a political answer, through and through. She avoided admitting that the answer was yes, but strongly implied that the question was a smear. She didn’t say it was wrong: she let the “smear” word imply it was false. In short, she did a careful non-denial denial of official Mormon doctrine, while claiming the question was a smear.

On the one hand, saying that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers is somewhat less significant than it sounds to Mormons, since Mormons believe that everyone alive is a spirit brother of everyone else.

On the other hand, to Christians, the doctrine is far MORE significant than it may sound at first, because it makes Jesus and Satan equal in nature and power. This flatly contradicts the well-established Bible doctrine that a) Jesus is both God and creator of everything, and b) Satan is a lesser being who was created BY God.

It’s interesting that we now have Mormon spokespeople denying a belief they hold, and calling it a smear. That raises some very good questions:

1) If Mormons actually do believe this, is it really a smear to ask if they believe this? Doesn’t smear at least imply falsehood or distortion?
2) If Mormons want to reject some of the implications of the statement, shouldn’t they at least acknowledge that the statement itself is not inherently false, and just address why it is misleading?
3) Why does an LDS spokeswoman dance around the issue without ever admitting that the question is true?
4) Why does that LDS spokeswoman say that Jesus is the son of God and Satan is the opposite, when according to Mormon doctrine, that in no way disqualifies them as “spirit brothers?”
5) Or is this comment aimed at Christians who read the statement in terms of their own Christian doctrine, never realizing that these phrases they think they understand have been completely redefined in Mormon doctrine to mean something different.
6) And if the statement was made knowing that Christians would misunderstand it, isn’t that deception?
7) And if deception, doesn’t that make Huckabee the subject of a deliberate smear?

I have to say, I was originally leaning strongly towards Romney, especially before Fred Thompson entered the race, but the demonstrated deception and misdirection on this topic alone raises the question of whether Romney’s conversion to conservatism is genuine, or just convenient.

And no, I’m not planning to vote for Huckabee. But this is a smear directed at Huckabee much more than a smear by Huckabee.

Far more significant than the question being asked is the deliberate misdirection from the LDS spokeswoman. That is, that you can ask a question which can only be answered truthfully with, “Yes,” and an LDS spokesperson ducks answering the question, makes misleading statements that imply the opposite of the truth, and accuses the questioner of a “smear.”

Oh, and if you’ve read this far, you’re a bigot. Apparently, bigotry is the only reason anyone would ever criticize or argue against Mormon beliefs.

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Smear or Inconvenient Truth: Do Mormons Teach Jesus and Satan are Spirit Brothers?

December 12, 2007

So Huckabee questioned whether Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers, and some are accusing him of smearing Mormons … again.

I’ll grant that I’m not a Huckabee fan, but is this really a “smear?”

Allahpundit on hotair.com quotes an “LDS spokeswoman.”

The authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, does not refer to Jesus and Satan as brothers. It speaks of Jesus as the son of God and of Satan as a fallen angel, which is a Biblical account.

A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Huckabee’s question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.

”We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all,” said the spokeswoman, Kim Farah. ”That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.”

I realize it’s not easy being a spokesman for any organization, but the quote above is extremely misleading. The LDS publication called “Gospel Principles” (http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-6,00.html) states, at the beginning of Chapter 3, in the 4th paragraph:

We needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Our Father said, “Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27).

The next paragraph describes the first brother, Jesus Christ. The paragraph after that describes the 2nd brother, Satan.

Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). Satan wanted to force us all to do his will. Under his plan, we would not be allowed to choose. He would take away the freedom of choice that our Father had given us. Satan wanted to have all the honor for our salvation.

So yes, official LDS doctrine is that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers. Yet the LDS spokeswoman says the “authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism” describes Jesus as the son of God, and Satan as a fallen angel, giving the distinct — and very false — impression that they believe the same thing as Christians. The spokeswoman herself describes this as “a Biblical account.”

But here’s the misleading part. When they describe Jesus as the son of God and Satan as a fallen angel, Christians understand this to put Jesus and Satan into two totally different categories: Creator and creature (created thing).

But Mormonism has redefined the doctrine of God and of angels, so the above statement does NOT contradict the Mormon doctrine that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers. Now, you would think someone who would “wish to … clarify doctrine” might clarify that. But instead, the spokeswoman leaves that false implication hanging.

Ironically, it’s the Mormon spokeswoman who needs to apologize for smearing Huckabee!

Judging from the comments at hotair.com, many of the readers believed the statement of the Mormon spokeswoman, and believe that a) Huckabee is ignorant, b) Huckabee is smearing Mormons, c) this is typical behavior of Christians, and d) Christians who criticize Mormon doctrine are bigoted.

Okay, so option a may not be so wrong. But a smear is typically a false or at least misleading statement, and that came from the Mormon spokeswoman, not the politician.

Will the spokeswoman apologize? Don’t hold your breath…..

 

Correction: Following the “LDS spokeswoman” quote back to its source, it appears the paragraph about the Encyclopedia of Mormonism came from the Associated Press itself rather than from the spokeswoman herself. This makes the LDS spokeswoman much less misleading, except that she still backs away from admitting that yes, that is official Mormon doctrine. So she’s still guilty of smearing, rather than clarifying doctrine: the exact thing she accuses others of doing by asking the question.

Fundamentalism: Not a Bad Thing

January 5, 2007

Why, why, why, say a thing like that? Everyone knows that fundamentalism in its various forms is the biggest threat we face. Rosie O’Donnell on The View said that Christian fundamentalists are every bit as big a threat as Islamic fundamentalists, and the audience cheered.

Why did the audience cheer? Because they were ignorant and/or thoughtless.

I’ve long been suspicious of the labeling of Islamic radicalism as “fundamentalism”. It appears the label was applied to suggest these radicals were the Muslim equivalents of Christian Fundamentalists. Apparently, the label was applied based on the fact that the Muslim radicals rejected the modern world in favor of 7th century Islam, which was considered similar to the way Christian Fundamentalists rejected modern science and culture.

The problem with this “analysis” is that it misunderstands both Christian Fundamentalism and Islamic Radicalism. Besides, it distorts the real meaning of the word “fundamentalist” into “anti-modern” and “strict” .

This is a bigger topic than could possibly be addressed in a short post by someone who Actually Has A Life, but I’ll hit on the three problems listed in the above paragraph anyway. Of course, I may have to continue the topic across several posts, since it’s already past my bedtime …

Topic One: What does fundamentalism mean?

At its heart, fundamentalism means a focus on the fundamentals. Basically, until you answer the question, “Fundamentals of what?”, you have no specifics on what a fundamentalist is or believes or practices. That’s why it’s unfortunate that so many use the term as if it has a distinct and universal meaning, as if a Christian fundamentalist and a Muslim fundamentalist are basically the same thing. By extension, we should also be able to speak of “Hindu fundamentalists” and “Buddist fundamentalists” and “Shinto fundamentalists.”

But fundamentalism really refers to a focus on the fundamentals of anything. I’ve known basketball coaches who were big fundamentalists, primarily at the junior high and high school levels. Essentially, a basketball fundamentalist is one who says you win basketball games by doing the fundamentals of the game better than the other guys. And at the foundational level of sports, the fundamentalist coach is hard to argue with. At the college or professional level, of course, the fundamentals of the game are a given, and the focus usually moves beyond that.

And this bit of language is one of the biggest problems in the foolish equivalence of Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism: The fundamentals of each are very different. To take one obvious difference — and possibly the core difference — one of the fundamentals of Islam is jihad, while one of the fundamentals of Christianity is evangelism. Though there have been offences in the past of those who named themselves Christians but sought to expand the “kingdom of God” through conquest, history is pretty clear that this is not a core value, if you will, of Christianity. That is, jihad is not one of the Christian fundamentals. Neither is evangelism a core value of Islam. It is somewhat practiced, particularly in non-Muslim countries with a history of religious freedom. I have in fact encountered at least one Muslim who tried to “proselytize” me, and made about as good a case for his beliefs as your typical “Jehovah’s Witness”. Still, no Muslim countries make any practice of proselytization, and it seems more an accommodation to the reality that jihad is not always practical.

Having outlined what “fundamentalism” means and given at least one example where the fundamentals are very different between Christianity and Islam, we’ll pick up the discussion of Christian fundamentalism and where it came from. With that background, we can then proceed to Muslim radicalism and really ask the question, can it be fairly described as “fundamentalism”?

Next post: What is Christian fundamentalism?

But not tonight: I’m going to bed. As aforementioned, “I Have A Life”, and it’s going to be knocking on my door in the morning….