Thursday, October 18, 2012

Holy Politics Batman

By Gary Berg-Cross

I read in the papers that the Billy Graham group no longer calls Mormonism a cult. Mormonism has long been considered beyond the pale of American Protestantism. But in early October the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association quietly de-listed Mormonism from its role of religious cults. Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists and Scientologists, are among the remaining list of cults. Wait, Unitarians are there along with Scientologists? What is the criteria for a cult in their ideas? A cult (derived from the Lain for worship) usually means the ideas are consider bizarre and outside the mainstream - "deriving inspiration from outside of the predominant religious culture" You can see a discussion of the sociology of the concept in Wikipedia.

OK so it is some type of  consensus thing and not based on principles, although bizarre behavior is what some expect is involved in the characterization.  What bizarre behavior is attributed to Unitarians?  Well perhaps it is that they might not be followers of Jesus.  But then again neither are Mormans in the strict sense.  Jesus is one of many prophets.  Maybe not God.  But here I start to wonder if Muslims might qualify along with Mormons. Jesus is a prophet, but not the last one.  It's just who will call the last in the chain that seems an issue.

Great, so with the right PR Muslims might get in and keep Unitarians out.

According to reports Mark DeMoss, who is  head of an Atlanta public relations firm and a close adviser to the Franklin Graham, has acted as a liaison between traditional evangelicals and the last two Romney campaigns for president. Muslims, Spiritists etc. can take note of who to call if they want to be de-listed.

The upgrade to accepting Mormons is just because some large, influential groups says that you are in.  This change of cult status follows Romney’s earlier visit to Graham’s mountain home which included Graham’s son Franklin, who now runs the BGE association for his aged (93) father.

Well this is strange progress, but perhaps illustrates what drives change in fundamentalist circles. Or maybe 1% ruling class circles in general.  I sure hope that some of the help recording the negotiations.  It might give a chilling picture of a Romney administration if fundamentalists are the path to his victory. According to the article the closeness of the Graham and Romney families started with” Franklin’s call before the S.C. presidential primary for conservative Christians to not hold Romney’s religion against him.” In a word it is driven by politics and such things as getting out the vote to beat a political enemy.

There are also other concrete steps that Spiritists might note. One is that  Mark DeMoss that PR man who has been Franklin Graham’s longtime spokesman, is now a Romney adviser. That’s the way things get done in the holy alliance of religion, politics and the PR/lobby business. You can see some of how it works in my blog on the 2nd political life of Ralph Reed.  Has he met with Romney and does anyone have the tape?
There may be other favored ones are meeting to exert pressure, just the way the ultra-Orthodox exert leverage in Israel and get involved in decisions of war and peace.

It’s a long way from Humanist principles.

Meeting Billy:


Danny Haszard said...

Destructive cult or benign religion?

The *Cult* word gets overused,but in some cases it is appropriate.
The definition of a destructive religious cult is like alcoholism-if booze controls you instead of the other way around you are an alcoholic.
I was in the Watchtower society Jehovah's Witnesses,they are not benevolent and won't let you leave their organization in peace.The Jehovahs are not without scandals-child abuse,deceptive mind control tactics, sex scandals, money scams, general bad behavior.
Is it a cult?
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck....
Danny Haszard *tell the truth don't be afraid*

FMI dannyhaszard(dot)com

Edd.Doerr said...

Great column, Gary. By the way, Billy Graham was the model that Burt Lancaster studied for his film performance in "Elmer Gantry". Also, Graham opposed Jack Kennedy in 1960 because he was Catholic. Years ago the IHEU held its conference in Buffalo. I was there as VP of the AHA. Billy Graham was also holding a "crusade" there on the other side of town. The great religion columnist for the St Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) showed up at the IHEU affair. I asked her why she was there instead of at the Graham thing. She said she knew what he was going to say, but she wanted to cover what we were doing.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Thanks Danny for the list of what I think goes along with what I expect out of a cult - scandals (such as child/sexual abuse,deceptive mind control tactics, political scandals, money scams, general bad behavior.)
I'd add that there might be a lack of tolerance, and too much obedience to authority rather than open inquiry.

Don Wharton said...

I think the best marker for a cult is extreme consequences for leaving it. If people are told that no other group will provide the positives that are required and if anyone that leaves is ostracized and/or punished then we have a cult. Non-cult communities will let their members go without requiring remaining members to cease communicating with those that have left.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Good point Don which gets at the idea of tolerance. Unitarians are pretty tolerant about a member leaving on principle. Mormons and Scientologists perhaps not so much so.