Billy Graham Prays With Romney But Mormonism Still a "Cult", Indicates Graham's Website
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 07:36:47 PM EST
After Billy Graham prayed with, and effectively endorsed, Mitt Romney it was pointed out that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website had an article which openly called Mormonism a "cult'. So, the BGEA scrubbed the offending article - but it missed another that identified Mormons as non-Christians, and that wasn't the end of the anti-Mormon animosity - which appears to be built right into the coding of the BGEA website (I'll get to that in a moment.)
As I wrote in my first installment,

On October 11, 2012 superstar evangelist Billy Graham emerged from semi-retirement to pray with, and in effect endorse, presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Then, on October 12, the LGBT rights group The New Civil Rights Movement broke the news that even as Graham was meeting with Romney, a page on the website of Graham's nonprofit the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association identified Mormonism as a "cult".

While the offending page pointed out by the New Civil Rights Movement story was almost immediately scrubbed from the BGEA website (a cached version of the page can still be viewed at the Internet Archive)

Picking up where the New Civil Rights Movement had left off, I discovered more anti-Mormon material on the BGEA website - A May 1, 2008 story published in Decision magazine, by author Thom S. Ranier, with the title "The Unexpected Journey" featured a subheading which clearly identified Mormonism as non-Christian:

"A few years ago, my wife, Nellie Jo, and I traveled across America listening to Christians who formerly held other beliefs. We heard from Christians who were once Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, agnostics, witches, Buddhists, Unitarians, New Agers, Muslims, Satanists and non-Messianic Jews."

Adding to the punch of this, Thom S. Ranier is CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, which claims 16 million members. As I go into in my article, LifeWay prints a number of books that attack Mormonism.

But wait! - There's more.

While the BGEA scrubbed the article that the New Civil Rights Movement pointed out, the idea that Mormonism is a cult appears to be coded right into the BGEA website!

I'm not joking. A search on the term "Mormon" on the BGEA website returns six hits. One is the article mentioned above, by Thom S. Ranier. Then, there are another three articles that discuss cults, but these three pages don't contain the word "Mormon", nor are the words "Mormon", "Mormons", or "Mormonism" in the page metadata.

What does this mean? Well, in order for the website search engine to return these three pages, that discuss cults, in response to a search for the term "Mormon", the people who coded the website would have to had programmed the result into the search engine: in other words, told the search algorithm to associate the word "Mormon" with "cult".

This is more insidious even than it sounds - the first search result for the search on "Mormon" is a page with the heading,

"This couple keeps coming to our house and inviting us to come to their assembly hall to study the Bible. I'd like to know something about the Bible, but a friend of mine says this group is a cult. What exactly is a cult? They seem like nice people."

In the first two paragraphs, Billy Graham himself (the page is from Graham's My Answer column) explains,

"A cult is a group that claims that it, and it alone, has the truth about God and offers the only way to salvation. Members reject what Christians have believed for almost 2,000 years, and substitute instead their own beliefs for the clear teachings of the Bible.

Often, they add to the Bible by claiming that the books their founder wrote or "discovered" are from God, and have equal authority to the Bible. In reality, however, those books deny what the Bible says about God or Jesus, or about the way of salvation."

Nowhere does Graham suggest that said "cult" might be any particular belief, such as Mormonism, but that's unnecessary. It is well known that the Church of Mormon recognizes the new books of the Bible discovered in the early 19th Century by founder Joseph Smith - it's even been the subject of a recent Broadway play smash hit.

Billy Graham's own website is automated so that Christians who search for the term "Mormon" will get this page result and be informed, straight from Billy Graham himself, that the Mormon Church is in reality a cult. It's that simple.

This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Both are coercive and deceitful.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 11:31:33 AM EST

refused to answer any questions from CNN's Piers Morgan about Mormonism and whether it is a Christian religion. FG kept repeating that he wasn't going there.

by Bill Berkowitz on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 05:12:08 PM EST
I suspect FG was trying to avoid talking about it at all because he was afraid he'd go over the edge into excoriating Mormonism as a "cult". I suspect it's also a sensitive issue because the NAR's version of Christianity has borrowed so much from Mormonism that it is open to many of the same critiques - indeed, Billy Graham's definition of "cult" fits the New Apostolic Reformation  just about as well or better than it fits Mormonism.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 06:46:56 AM EST

by eeyore on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 05:25:21 PM EST

"A cult is a group that claims that it, and it alone, has the truth about God and offers the only way to salvation." By this definition--Billy Graham's own--Christianity itself is a cult. Defining cults gets people onto very thin ice. Personally, I've always liked the definition in Wiley's Dictionary in the comic strip B.C.: A cult is the church down the street from yours.

by eeyore on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 05:29:20 PM EST
In classic sociological and anthropological definitions, cults tend to revolve around one or several charismatic figures, and are organized in concentric rings, with an inner circle of acolytes closest to that figure/those figures wielding the most power/having the most authority. In that view, most religions (Christianity included) begin as cults, and the ones that successfully evolve into religions (such as Christianity and Mormonism) eventually develop fixed doctrine, established ecclesiastical hierarchy, and so on.

I do agree that it's a problematic area to get into. As you observe, my definition above can fit many churches - especially to the extent they break with their denominational doctrine and theology (if they're in a denomination at all!)

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 06:56:49 AM EST

the definition used by Rick Ross and others... which is based on the coercive and abusive nature of the groups that we fight against (and there are others - and by their definition a cult doesn't have to be connected to a religion).

Another term I've heard for cult is "Coercive Religious movement" but as I mentioned, there can be business-oriented cults and others.

There is the anthropological definition, which is on a spectrum of religious organizations  (let's see if I get this right) - sect, cult, denomination, religion.  I know the definition but it doesn't even come close to my experiences with the Assemblies of God, the NAR, and the Southern Baptists.  The Moonies and the Scientologists are classic cults in the definition that I use, and I understand a lot of exit counselors consider the groups we fight as being at least as coercive and destructive as those groups, if not a lot worse.

The concentric rings is a good point and a characteristic that I'd include in my personal definition... I'd forgotten about that (it has been more than 7 years since I've read anything about the anthropology of religion - not my interest).

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 10:43:17 AM EST

as a determinant in the definition of a cult. The filters you describe reminded me of a tongue-in-cheek method linguists use to define the difference between a language and a dialect: A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.

by eeyore on Thu Oct 18, 2012 at 10:57:36 AM EST

Yes, I left out the coercive aspects.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 06:08:04 PM EST

of an evaluation frame that was developed by the late Isaac Bonewitz back in the late 70s.  This has been one of the best metrics I've seen thus far for identifying cult-like practices.

by LupusGreywalker on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 09:48:02 PM EST

I'll take a look.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 06:06:31 PM EST

Picking up where the New Civil Rights Movement had left off, I discovered more anti-Mormon material on the BGEA website - A May 1, 2008 story published in Decision magazine, by author Thom S. Ranier, Cheap youtube Views

by maldes on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 05:45:33 AM EST

Adding to the punch of this, Thom S. Ranier is CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, which claims 16 million members. vente isolant phonique mural

by maldes on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 11:58:28 AM EST

While the offending page pointed out by the New Civil Rights Movement story was almost immediately scrubbed from the BGEA website (a cached version of the page can still be viewed at the Internet Archive) Raspberry Ketone

by maldes on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 08:19:22 AM EST

Picking up where the New Civil Rights Movement had left off, I discovered more anti-Mormon material on the BGEA website - A May 1, 2008 story published in Decision magazine, by author Thom S. Ranier, with the title "The Unexpected Journey" featured Green Coffee Bean Extract

by maldes on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 05:47:29 AM EST

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