Thursday, October 13, 2011

Religion in Republican Politics

On Tuesday night was yet another debate among the eight Republican candidates for president. This one took place at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. I can't keep track of how many debates they've had now, but each one brings more irony and satire into this race. I didn't watch the debates, because I did not know about it until after the fact. I haven't tried to see if clips are available on YouTube. It just seems like more of the same crazy shit we've seen in the previous debates.

Herman Cain seems like the center of focus for this debate, based on post-debate analysis that I've read. He's still toting his 9-9-9 plan, which caused Mitt Romney to quip, "I thought it was a pizza deal at first." Michele Bachmann did one better: "If you turn 9-9-9 upside down, the devil is in the details." For once, I agree with her! I wondered how long it would take before an evangelical Christian would point out the upside down 666 (supposedly the number of Satan or "the mark of the beast"). This brings up an interesting point regarding Mormon theology. When I was a young man, I was stunned when I heard a Mormon lady's answer to her young daughter's question about why some people had black skin. She asked her daughter, "Do you want the scientific view or God's view?" When she explained God's view, I was shocked because I had never heard that "theory" before. According to Mormon theology, people who are black bear "the mark of Cain", because after Cain had killed Abel, God turned his skin black. Okay, so if they believe this literally happen, then how do you explain the Mormon view that God had committed mass genocide with the Great Flood, saving only Noah and his family, who were white? Wouldn't this event have killed off every black person on the planet?

Not that I believe in the Bible stories, but when a religion promotes a ridiculous (and racist) viewpoint, you have to ask these kinds of questions. So, here we have a political party that has a long history of suppressing the black vote in the United States with a large faction made up of conservative evangelical Christians who consider the Mormon Church to be a "cult." The top two candidates according to current polling is Mitt Romney, the Mormon and Herman Cain, the African American. Mormons believe in "the mark of Cain" and Cain believes in his 9-9-9 tax plan (9% income tax, 9% corporate tax, 9% national sales tax). Is this a subconscious reveal about who really leads the Republican Party? Hint, hint, it sure as HELL ain't Jesus! You think Jesus would side with the corporate capitalist and the military industrialists and the bigoted and hateful sanctimonious religious nuts?

This is sit back with a bowl of popcorn and watch the Republican Party self-destruct as the various factions pick apart the other. The "Operation Chaos" that Rush Limbaugh had hoped to cause in the Democratic Party in 2008 between the Hillary and Barack factions failed to come to fruition. Be careful what you wish for, because you just may get it! The Republicans are having their own chaos as no new candidate has jumped into the race and Tim Pawlenty is now regretting that he bowed out too soon (I did not understand why he dropped out after the Iowa straw poll. The results were inconsequential, as Bachmann's polling numbers have consistently dropped ever since her win).

In an article I read online about Romney's Mormonism becoming an issue in the Republican Party (in the aftermath of an evangelical preacher who introduced Governor Rick Perry at a Value Voters Summit, in which he called the man who has executed 235 people as the most "pro-life" candidate in the primary, with no sense of irony). Even more interesting than the article are the comments that readers leave. I was stunned to see an argument emerge among an Orthodox, a Catholic, and a Mormon. The argument goes something like this: each one makes a point why their religion is the most authentic one. The Orthodox believe that Catholicism split off from them in the first big break in Christendom. The Catholics believe that they have a direct line to Jesus (uninterrupted). The Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. restored the one true church after it fell into apostasy sometime in the 300s A.D. All three of them, despite their disagreements with one another about which one is the most authentic / "One True Church of God", seem to agree that the protestant churches that broke away from the Catholic Church have no legitimate claim to being authentic or true.

Well, I have news for all three of y'all: the Orthodox, the Catholic, and the Mormon. None of y'all are "the one true church" because there is no one true church! The argument they want to make is ludicrous. I know very little about the Orthodox Church, but it seems to be every bit as ritualistic and materialistic as the Catholic Church. Plus, they are into iconography, which is beautiful as artwork goes, but was Jesus about that kind of thing?

The Catholic Church has the problem about wealth and materialism, but even more than that, there's the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, colonialism, collaboration with the Nazi regime, and perhaps the most damaging: the Catholic Church demanded that Galileo recant his belief that the earth revolves around the sun. Nearly 400 years later, Pope John Paul II apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church for what it did to Galileo (torture and imprisonment). The Catholic Church lost its moral authority in the medieval era. There's a reason why there was a protestant reformation...because the Catholic Church abused its power. Where does one see the actions of Christ in this church? More recently, the Catholic Church ran into trouble with their ignoring of the sexual abuse by its priests. So, if the Catholic Church is God's one and only true church, our world is seriously in trouble!!

Then there is the Mormon Church. In the Book of Mormon, there are passages that speak out against "secret combinations" and polygamy. Yet, the Mormon Church incorporated Masonic rituals in their Temple ceremonies and introduced the practice of polygamy during the Nauvoo period. There are other bizarre ideas and eventually, because Utah wanted to become a state in the growing United States of America, the Republican Party demanded the Mormons had to give up polygamy first before Utah would be granted statehood. The Mormon prophet at the time received a convenient revelation that polygamy would no longer be practiced. This went against the proclamation made by a previous prophet (either Joseph Smith or Brigham Young), which was: "Polygamy is the new and everlasting covenant. If the church ever does away with this doctrine, it is a sure sign that the church is in apostasy."

How can a Church be considered God's "One True Church" if they violate everything Jesus was about? Or if they have convoluted doctrines? Or if they seem more interested in wealth attainment and acquiring properties? Notice how all three of those churches claiming to be the only legitimate church all have lavish cathedrals, temples, or basilicas?

I always found it interesting that people who are obsessed with their church being "the one true church" generally focus on legitimacy, which they trace back to Jesus. If they did not have that tie to Jesus and the belief that he established "the one true church", then they supposedly can't claim legitimacy. But that seems to be childish mental games to me. I look at all history and every religion has its ugly moments that they'd rather bury under the rug and not acknowledge.

Instead of worrying about if one's church is the "one true church" or not, why not focus on an entirely different criteria? Who consistently embodies the values preached by Jesus? Who promotes the philosophy that Jesus practiced and taught his followers? Why claim legitimacy by some unbroken (or restored) timeline? That means very little in the grand scheme of things. Legitimacy only comes when you live the principles Jesus taught. This means someone like the Hindu Gandhi or the Buddhist Dalai Lama embodies Jesus' ministry more accurately than the Christians Pat Robertson or Rick Perry.

Some day, in the spiritual realm, we humans are going to feel pretty stupid that we every argued about which church is true. Joseph Smith, Jr. had the right answer: "None of them!" He created his own (which the church I belong to, the Community of Christ, traces its heritage back to) and then betrayed it. Perhaps we should all create our own unique religion that is personal to us and strive to live the best lives we are capable of living, and having faith that an all-knowing God will love and accept us at the end of our human lives. Too much energy and blood has been wasted on such irrelevant arguments regarding legitimacy. It's sad to see people still arguing those points today online.

While I can admire aspects of Orthodox, Catholic, and Mormon churches, taken as a whole, though, none of them resonate with me as being the absolute truth of God or the universe. I must go on my own way. The legitimacy is in living a spiritually-minded life. We have nothing to worry about if we live the principles taught by Jesus (or Buddha or the best ideals of each religion).

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