Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mormonism & "Judeo-Christianity"

Here's one other important note I mentioned in the Kenneth Anderson thread about Mormons and religious tests. It relates to the concept of "Judeo-Christianity." Many in the "Mormons are not 'Christians'" crowd interchangeably use the terms "Christianity" and "Judeo-Christianity." And they also tend NOT to approach Jews, with whom they likewise disagree theologically with the same invective against those doctrines of the Jewish people with which they disagree.

Anderson explains this dynamic in the comments section:

[T]he opinion surveys in which large percentages of Evangelicals rejected Romney on account of his religion had no problem with a Jewish practitioner - meaning here, not simply a Jew ethnically or culturally, but as a matter of religious practice and affiliation. That was fine. Mormonism was regarded as specifically offensive because it was either pagan, polytheistic, or heretical in the specific sense of spreading false doctrine in the name of the faith. It was not the case that they required a person of their religious beliefs. Mormonism was specifically out of bounds as a faith that actively led people astray because it claimed to be Christian but was actually something deceptive. Not just false, but deceptive.

And I noted in a subsequent comment how an analogous dynamic existed during the American Founding:

Ken:

Your comment about "deception" is important. I often hear evangelicals interchange "Christian" with "Judeo-Christian" in terms of "foundations" in which they support. Many of these are the same folks whose support for Israel and the "Jewish people" has something to do with end times prophecy. Note, I'm not an "anti-zionist" (I tend to support Israel as well); I'm just making an observation. When I press them for "definitions," "Judeo-Christianity" usually means orthodox Christianity where Jews get to tag along for fun or for some *other* special reason.

I think this again relates to the Founding. From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, they more likely defended their understanding of the "true religion" in which they supported under the auspices of "Christianity" and not some anti-Christian Deism (ala Thomas Paine). But their understanding of "Christianity" was unitarian, and tended to be naturalistic, rationalistic, and generic in its moralization of the Christian faith (i.e., if you were a good person and acted like Jesus -- the world's greatest moral teacher -- you were a "Christian" regardless of your views on original sin, Trinity, Atonement, etc.).

It wasn't exactly Mormonism; but the same "deception" issue was involved. By the time unitarians Richard Price and Joseph Priestley (whose influence on the "key Founders" cannot be emphasized enough) began to speak out, the "orthodox" critics responded with the same "this isn't Christianity, it's a false system that calls itself 'Christianity'" to them as they today do with the Mormons.

For that and a number of other reasons I think Mormons (and other "outsider" religious groups) should feel an affinity for the American Founding.

25 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Religions differ in how they understand what is "true". Is theological belief important? Is behavior important? Is ethnicity important? Or how does one understand identification factors? These are questions that divide many religions and denominations, as they attempt to explain faith.

I believe that a secular faith is possible and is similiar to some of the FF. The Consitution was what formed our nation, under the "rule of law". And the debate is not dependent on anyone's understanding of theology, but ethical behavior, which allows freedom of conscience. Some of the fundametalists would believe that this is why we are in the state we are in, as people have "seared consciences". They have not had family training, etc.

The concern for our society should not reside in some transcentdental belief system, or their being taught but in what is best for human flourishing. Human flourishing is dependent on psychological and sociological sciences for understanding the human. But, society is also dependent on understanding how the law (Constitution) is interpreted.

In regards to family, our society suffers under much dysfunction when it comes to families. And some of the problem is due to our mis-directed values. We, as a culture, do not value our families. And this has brough division and dysfunction in children's lives, which affects their development,which affects our society.

Family law under Shairia is repulsive, abusive and should not be tolerated in our undestanding of human rights and child and women protections.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Mormons, Christians, Jews and Muslims have certain standards of behavior that define their "in group".

J said...

From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, they more likely defended their understanding of the "true religion" in which they supported under the auspices of "Christianity" and not some anti-Christian Deism (ala Thomas Paine).

Jefferson and Paine were pals for some time were they not, and the Federalists (like Adams) used that association against Jefferson. There's not as much separation as you suggest, and many of the founders upheld a sort of Deism (let's not forget Jefferson kept a bust of the deistic Voltaire in his study). Paine played a part in the founding, though conservatives and biblethumpers routinely overlook that fact, or belittle it.

(Dear Miss Angie-- I agree with your points contra-sharia)

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think this again relates to the Founding. From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson

Ugh. Running the gamut from A to B.

There were 100 Founders at least.

By the time unitarians Richard Price and Joseph Priestley (whose influence on the "key Founders" cannot be emphasized enough)

"Key" Founders seems a disingenuous term, since it always seems to boil down John Adams and Jefferson, with the occasional slice of Ben Franklin.

Otherwise, the other 97 Founders didn't give a damn.

Richard Price's influence was strong about religious freedom---pluralism---but otherwise, Founder Benjamin Rush advised Price to hush his anti-Trinitarianism, as it would injure Price's influence on the American public.

As for Priestly, who was driven out of Britain for his free-thinking on theology, with very few exceptions, only John Adams and Thomas Jefferson even gave his theology the time of day.

_____________

Religions differ in how they understand what is "true". Is theological belief important? Is behavior important? Is ethnicity important? Or how does one understand identification factors? These are questions that divide many religions and denominations, as they attempt to explain faith.

Ms. VDM, "natural law," which the Founders believed existed, and they built their scheme of government and its relation to "society" on---a natural law that binds all men at all times via conscience and the "moral sense"---rejected such multiculturalism and relativism as any way to run a country.

Jonathan Rowe said...

From Franklin to Stiles:

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: [Bold mine]

Franklin was influenced by his friend Joseph Priestley. "Corrupting changes" is Priestley speak.

J. Adams and Jefferson were the 2nd & 3rd Presidents of the United States. Even with those two (and I have Franklin as well; there were others) that makes Priestley's influence immense.

Jonathan Rowe said...

This is Priestley's son recounting his influence:

“It was a source of great satisfaction to him, and what he had little previous reason to expect, that his lectures were attended by very crowded audiences, including most of the members of the Congress of the United States at that time assembled at Philadelphia, and of the executive offices of the government of the United States.”

– Joseph Priestley, Jr., A Continuation of the Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley (Written by his Son Joseph Priestley), in John T. Boyer, ed., The Memoirs of Joseph Priestley, at 144 (Washington, D.C.: Barcroft Press, 1964).

Apparently more than a few people gave a damn.

Pinky said...

.
... "this isn't Christianity, it's a false system that calls itself 'Christianity'" to them as they today do with the Mormons.
.
The quote is a good example of so-called conservative think. You have to be careful when you align yourself with any conservative position on anything. You might find yourself in bed with a dominatrix.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...


J. Adams and Jefferson were the 2nd & 3rd Presidents of the United States. Even with those two (and I have Franklin as well; there were others) that makes Priestley's influence immense.


Again, it boils down to Jefferson, Adams and Franklin. There were many other "key" Founders.

As for "most of the members of congress," Priestley didn't come to the US until 1794, after the Founding. How much they came to hear a world-famous scientist or to hear his views on God [and how many agreed with them] is worth exploring. But this unitarian thing is easily overblown.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am presently watching the History Channel. The discussion is about Freeasonry and its influence on the founding. Is it true that our Constitution is based on Freemasonry?

I did enjoy and agree with Ken Anderson's article. very interesting.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'd say no the Constitution is not based on Freemasonry any more than it is based on "Christianity." Rather I would say that both Freemasonry, Christianity, and a number of other notable ideological sources (classical Greco-Romanism, Enlightenment, Whig, etc.) influenced the Founding and the US Constitution.

Pinky said...

.
I think Angie makes some good comments and raises good issues.
.
I'm closing in on the final pages of Barry Shain's, The Myth of American Individualism.
.
In his final chapter, he makes the case about how slavery played such an important role in America's Revolutionary and Founding eras.
.
I never realized how important the ideas were. Everyone owes it to their self to read his book. Next, I jump into his book http://www.amazon.com/Nature-American-Founding-Constitutionalism-Democracy/dp/0813926661
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

JR: Rather I would say that both Freemasonry, Christianity, and a number of other notable ideological sources (classical Greco-Romanism, Enlightenment, Whig, etc.) influenced the Founding and the US Constitution.

And despite my position that [Judeo-]Christianity is the single irreplaceable dynamic for understanding America, I'd subtract "Christianity" from this list as to what informed the Constitution.

Except for taking Sundays off and James Madison's general suspicion that men---man---is not inherently "good" and trustworthy, and hence the "separation of powers," I can't point to anything in the Constitution itself that could not have been derived by non-Christian thought.

[Of course, I also argue that America, this nation, is far more than the sum of its laws, in this case, the Constitution. But that's the meta-argument, not this particular one...]
_______________

And re our above, Jon, I'd add that since Jefferson was 90+% in agreement with Priestley on theology, we need only look at Jefferson's own theology's effect on the Founding.

Especially in that he kept it largely secret...

J said...

I can't point to anything in the Constitution itself that could not have been derived by non-Christian thought.

So, parsing this out, TvD can't point to anything in the Constitution itself that could have been derived by Christian thought, and thus anything he points to is...non-christian! Hail Eris (logic error--the double negative in the "that...clause" in effect contradicts what you seem to be suggesting [incorrectly]--that the entire Constitution derives, somehow from christian sources).

Jefferson's association with Priestly came about during Jefferson's presidency, did it not; like Jeff. Priestly supported the French Revolution (and was nearly killed for it in England). Some might call Priestly's unitarianism christian, but he denied the Trinity, and held to naturalism (ie no soul). It's hardly orthodoxy.

Pinky said...

.
Speaking of the Founding as though it were influenced by contemporary thinking doesn't make sense.
.
Any thing contemporaneous--it seems to me--must necessarily have had to have come out of some common influence.
.
So, Unitarianism, like our Constitution would have had common influences.
.
.

Pinky said...

.
In other words, Unitarianism and our constitution are separate expressions of common influences.
.
.

Pinky said...

.
I don't know how original this statement is; but here is a quote from John Calvin according to Barry Shain.
"it rarely happens that kings regulate themselves so that their will is never at variance with justice and rectitude .... The vice or imperfection of men therefor renders it safer and more tolerable for the government to be in the hands of many, that they may afford each other mutual assistance and admonition, and that if any one arrogate to himself more than is right, the many act as censors and masters to restrain his ambition."
.
I see this thinking as being at the root of and foundational to America's creation.
.
America was created out of its community oriented society. it is absolutely important that we understand community as a tightly structured society. Talcott Parsons has described the American community in great detail.
.
Understanding what the American community WAS gives us the where-with-all to grasp what it means to live in a postmodern, i.e., post structuralist society.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

This may be so. But, in today's mobile society, there is little connection. And when we do move into new communities, unless there are social orgainzations in place, such as the Church, that is welcoming, then, we are left without any "communal" connection. This happens many times whether in larger cities, where people are busy in their commutes or smaller towns, where there is an ingrown goupe mentality that leaves little room for integration.

When we moved to a small town, our neighbor, who was a businessman, told us that he had been trying to get the community to make some changes, but he was dismissed because the community didn't want the change.He and his wife have sence moved, but they had lived in the community for over 25 years and got married in their backyard, so they were no "strangers".

My husband offered his assistance at the local hospital when we fist moved here, but was not "integrated". We don't know why. Small towns like to maintain the power structures and keep themselves "free" from what a larger community would demand.

Pinky said...

.
well, Angie, if you are responding to my post about American community, you are pointing at the problem.

The Revolutionary-Era American ideas about liberty were torn between the two extremes of what was seen as the two types of tyranny. At the one extreme, it was the rule of law handed down by a single person--the monarch. And, at the other extreme, it was anarchy in which every man was a law unto himself--actually the same thing. It all came about as a result of their idea that is encapsulated in the john Calvin quotation above.
.
Without a societal structure, it ends up being every man a law unto himself.
.
I guess the reformed Protestants had a good idea if we agree or not.
.
I think I can identify the culprit and think I can point to their strategy.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

...everyone was a law unto himself...

Well, I suspect that could be viewed in a positive, as well as a negative light...you have quoted Calvin as suggesting it in a negative light...

Laws in our society define right and wrong. Those that are law-abiding, then are "law unto themselves"? Yes, because they have the character to abide by the law and to fulfill thier obligations to society...

But, if you mean "a law unto themselves" because they will choose what they want to do and this is considered 'BAD', then I suppose, you believe in a prescriptive view of this statement.

I don't believe that the law is prescriptive, in determining speicificities. This is why the law has to be interpreted. (Murder, manslaughter are two different "convictions" of breaking the law...as the law must take into account the intent...1st and 2nd degree murder, etc.)

Some would like for the law to be prescriptive and this is what we see happening to our nation right now over social issues. Is it right for the government to intervene in private affairs, if so, when? When is it a right of a citizen to have privacy, ETC.

Pinky said...

-
o.k.
.
But, i wasn't thinking of law in the legal sense when I used, every man a law unto himself. I meant what our ancestors would have meant that each person would decide their own choices without the intrusive oversight of their neighbors. Their beliefs were that as a result of the Fall, no person was capable of making decisions that would lead to their happiness--only to their downfall if they were left to their own devices.
.
That was why they subscribed to the intrusive nature of their communalism.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And they also did other horrendous atrocities in the name of "taking care of the Fall" in man! Don't think I want to go there!

I would tell them to "mind their own business", just like scripture says that they are "busybodies".

You will NEVER convince me that anyone has a "divine right" to snoop. And certainly one should not submit to those that have shown no "Human" concern over life struggles all along...In other words, there must be a relationship already established for there to be appropriate boundary maintenance. Otherwise, the "concern" is zeal for God but without knowledge of the neighbor. Love considers the other and knows the other and will be merciful because love knows weakness and will not take advantage of it...

Pinky said...

.
Maybe I'm 100% in agreement with you, Angie; but, our Founding-Era ancestors are the ones who were acting out their beliefs--not us.
.
And, they are the ones who gave us the foundation on which America has developed and continues to do even today.

I think this bespeaks the living quality of our U. S. Constitution.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
Yes, I suspect a "devil's agreement" has transpired between the sacred and secular segments of our society.

Religion is useful for social conteol and co-operation, or so think the evolutionists. Since religion can be useful, why not create a little human experiment for the greater good of world peace?

Then, both the secularists get their hypothesis tested and the religious get to "bring in the Kingdom". That is "nice and cozy, except for the actual humans that are the targets of such hypothesis.

Pinky said...

.
I suspect the changes in our society from the Founding-era have more to do with the evolving understanding of the meanings of our rights than any thing else.
.

Pinky said...

.
in this book, http://www.amazon.com/Communications-Culture-Society-popular-culture/dp/0044450648/ref=tag_rsn_rs_edpp_url , Professor James Carey explains how the telegraph had an effect on communications in the U.S.A. changing lines of communication from local vertical to national horizontal. This meant that centralized authority gained great strength over local institutions.
.
It is part of the reason individualism has come to be an American fact of life.
.
The past is the past and we will not return to our Colonial days unless there is a nuclear holocaust that wipes out civilization as we know it.
.