Graham's Romney Endorsement Accidentally Spreads "Mormonism is a cult" Meme to Millions
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Oct 18, 2012 at 10:29:26 AM EST
[note: for related background, see Talk To Action Cofounder Frederick Clarkson's Mormonism & Schism on the Christian Right and also my essay, Romney's in a Cult and Ryan's a Satanist? The GOP's 2012 Religion Woes ]

"A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader." -- from The Free Dictionary definition of the term "cult"

" "cult" is how many evangelical Christians define Mormonism. Not surprisingly, "cult" is a four-letter word (in both senses) in Mormon circles." -- from The Rise of Mormonism, Rodney Stark and Reid L. Neilson, Columbia University Press, 2005

As Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics told the Boston Globe, for an October 13, 2012 story, "Romney is counting on evangelicals. The irony is that this is a shotgun marriage between two very different religions but they are completely dependent upon one another for victory."

But even before that Boston Globe story hit the press, an emerging public relations debacle of the first order was undermining consummation of the "shotgun marriage" and now, with only three weeks before the 2012 presidential election, millions of Americans are confronted by news stories with headlines that feature the terms "Mormon" and "cult".

Here's how it happened:

On October 11, 2012, aging evangelical icon Billy Graham met, prayed with, and in effect endorsed presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

But Graham's endorsement backfired when an LGBT rights group discovered an article on the website of Graham's flagship organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, apparently authored by Billy Graham himself, that labeled Mormonism a "cult".

In a textbook case of ineffective damage control, Graham's BGEA proceeded to wipe the offending article from the BGEA website but left in place other BGEA website articles that conveyed the same message.

Visitors to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website who use the site's search engine to search for the term "Mormon" will get six search results; the first will be a page featuring Billy Graham's own definition of what a "cult" is, an explanation that clearly encompasses Mormonism.

On that page, featuring an entry from Graham's My Answer column, Billy Graham explains,  

"[Cult] 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."

Founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith discovered new books of scripture that comprise the Book of Mormon which, according to the Mormon faith, augments and completes biblical scripture.

The BGEA website My Answer column was preceded by a question posed to Graham, "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."

Mormonism UnmaskedThe question mirrored narratives that launch numerous evangelical books attacking Mormonism which designate it as a "cult", including the 1998 book Mormonism Unmasked, by R. Philip Roberts, which opens with a chapter titled "Mormons on Your Doorstep".

Mormonism Unmasked is published by the B&H Publishing Group, a division of LifeWay Resources, the main publishing wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, which officially designates Mormonism as a cult and claims 16 million members - slighter more than the estimated number of Mormons worldwide, about 14 million.

LifeWay publishes several books attacking Mormonism. CEO of LifeWay is Thom S. Ranier, who also happens to have an article published on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, in which Ranier describes his travels with his wife across the United States, announcing in the article's title that,

"We heard from Christians who were once Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, agnostics, witches, Buddhists, Unitarians, New Agers, Muslims, Satanists and non-Messianic Jews."

While it is not immediately apparent to many secular observers, designations of Mormonism as non-Christian or a "cult" are extremely offensive to Mormons.  According to the Mormon Voices website,

"Use of such a term [cult] to describe Mormonism is highly offensive to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Cult" carries the connotation of dangerous, even violent groups whose beliefs are irrational and whose practices are immoral and lawless (Koresh and the Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, Aum Shinrikyo, and The People's Temple are all prominent examples) . The term cannot be applied to Mormons unless it is so broadly defined that its use could be applied to virtually any religious body.

Like racist language, the use of the word "cult" to describe a religion usually tells us very little about the religion, but a great deal about the person using the word."

Amidst a fast-growing swarm of articles covering the scandal, a few have attempted an upbeat spin - such as the Charlotte Observer story Graham family ties tighten with Romney as presidential election nears (subtitled "Evangelistic Association's website cuts Mormonism from listing of `cults' "), also syndicated in the Kansas City Star, which claimed,

"The Grahams' actions could further cement conservative Christian support for Romney in the Nov. 6 election, even though most evangelicals don't consider him a Christian.

That religious divide cost Romney heavily in the South Carolina primary, when he finished a distant second to New Gingrich, a Catholic but twice divorced."

But another Charlotte Observer story published the previous day, syndicated from the Religion News Service, Billy Graham website scrubs Mormon 'cult' reference, by RNS reporter Daniel Burke (also published by the Washington Post) noted continued anti-Mormon bias at Billy Graham's BGEA website:

"According to the liberal website Daily Kos, the belief that Mormons are members of a cult is built into the BGEA's website. The site is programmed to call up articles about cults, including one authored by Billy Graham, when readers search for "Mormon."

"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," said Daily Kos writer Bruce Wilson."

The spreading story is hardly limited to liberal audiences - the conservative evangelical Christian Post was one of the early venues to pick it up, as Article Calling Mormonism a 'Cult' Removed From Billy Graham Website; Mormon convert Glenn Beck's The Blaze ran a version titled Article Calling Mormon Faith a `Cult' Was Scrubbed From Billy Graham's Web Site Following His Meeting With Romney.

Even on Beck's The Blaze story, rancorous arguments broke out in the comments section, and the comment thread attached to the Christian Post story was strongly anti-Mormon and antagonistic to Billy Graham's Romney endorsement, with one commenter remarking,

"Disgusting, whether you believe Mormonism is a cult or not. This is unfortunately a familiar theme. Evangelical "leaders" being co-opted by a poliltian and toning down the truth in order to curry political favor. They are either naive or responding to the siren call of political power.....or maybe both."

At The Blaze, a commenter named THERAPTURECOMES proclaimed,

"To all mormons, and all those that claim that mormonism is a part of Christianity. I warn you in all love that you have been deceived and I ask you to abandon your cults.

I have shown clearly that mormonism is not Christianity and is not of the bible and my warning is clear also.

Time is running out..."


[for related background, see Talk To Action Cofounder Frederick Clarkson's Mormonism & Schism on the Christian Right and also my essay, Romney's in a Cult and Ryan's a Satanist? The GOP's 2012 Religion Woes ]




Display:
You mentioned several places that Glen Beck's Website was railing against Mormons? I had thought that Beck was himself part of a somewhat cultish offshoot of Mormonism?

by FreeDem on Thu Oct 18, 2012 at 12:38:07 PM EST
Apparently, there are some people who frequent his website who are hostile to Mormonism as well. I'm not too surprised.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Oct 18, 2012 at 01:46:50 PM EST
Parent

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by lindaperryly on Wed May 27, 2020 at 03:00:58 AM EST
Parent


As if we needed more evidence of Mormon cult-like tendencies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4MEla2xhv0

by Review22 on Thu Oct 18, 2012 at 11:41:56 PM EST
It's just footage of Romney accepting the 2012 GOP nomination that was posted by what appears to be a Mormon Facebook group which appears to consider Romney God's pick.

I would hardly be surprised if some leaders in the Mormon Church thought so too, but the Church has been wise enough to publicly stay out of that.  

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Oct 19, 2012 at 02:06:57 PM EST
Parent



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By Chris Rodda (68 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (99 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (83 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (62 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (180 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (47 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (63 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (134 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (24 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (40 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (138 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (153 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (56 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (81 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (91 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (94 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (100 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (100 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (54 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (74 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (73 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (51 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (92 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (57 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (74 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (61 comments)

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