Thursday, October 27, 2011

Does it matter if a presidential candidate is a Mormon?

Ok, I don't like to discuss political issues as a rule, but the media's rhetoric and Joel Osteen's obvious confusion on Mormonism are driving me insane.  So here's my unasked-for opinion on the subject.  It will be at least worth what you paid for it.

Let me start by stating the patently obvious:
  • I'd vote for a crumpled-up Coke can before I'd vote for Obama.  He has done more during his shot tenure to destroy this nation than all his predecessors put together.  He has a blatant and stated disregard for the Constitution, couldn't even take his presidential oath correctly on the first try, and has refused to enforce laws passed by Congress while enforcing illegal regulations created by his bureaucracy. 
  • I don't think the Republicans need another fiscal and social liberal and every indication in Romney's past shows he is exactly that.  In fact, he came up with Obamacare before Obama did.  Once upon a time I used to send a small donation to the Republican party each election.  I quit doing that when the best the Republican party could come up with was John McCain.  Had they come up with a more conservative candidate (like Bob McKewen -- even if he was on a ticket with Mike Huckabee), then they might still be getting a check from me.  So Republican National Committee -- if you're listening and are willing to admit you have more influence in who becomes our candidate than you are presently willing to admit -- then give us a true fiscal and social conservative.  (Most people say Ron Paul is whacked out on foreign policy.  I'm not smart enough to make that determination, but it is clear he understands fiscal policy and the monetary supply better than the other candidates.)
  • I haven't made up my mind who I will vote for in the primaries.  Herman Cain at least has a plan.  Ron Paul probably doesn't have a chance but he makes sense.  I've met Governor Perry and I believe him to be changing and growing as a sincere Christian.  But I do have trouble getting over the fact that before he was a Republican, he supported Al Gore.  And I also don't like the fact he looks so much better in a suit than I do....  {Attention:  Mike Hucakbee and Bob McKewen -- where are you?  Bob, you are the clearest communicator in the Republican party since Reagan.  Why can't we have someone like you?}
Having said that, let's turn our issue to the question of Romney's Mormonism.  Does it matter?

Are Mormons Christians?

First of all, there seems to be confusion as to whether Mormons are Christians.  So let's settle that.

The four anchors of the Christian faith are these:
  • Jesus is God-incarnate, born of a virgin.
  • Jesus lived a sinless life.
  • Jesus died a substitutionary death whereby His death pays the penalty for the sins of those who receive Him as Savior.  Salvation cannot be earned -- only accepted and received.
  • Jesus did not remain in the grave but rose again the third day.
Mormonism fails at least two of the anchor tests.  Mormons believe that Jesus is an incarnate angel, not incarnate God.  Mormons believe that you must work (keeping the "word of wisdom" -- not drinking alcohol, tea, or coffee is one part of this), serve the Mormon church, and undergo certain ceremonies (complete with secret handshakes) in order to eventually progress to become your own god.  Brigham Young articulated this with, "As man is, God once was.  As God is, man will become."  Christianity does not believe that men are or will become gods.  Christianity does not believe that men are or will become angels.  God alone is God.  God alone will be God.  Angels are beings created by God.  But they cannot experience salvation.  They are sent to minister to men.

Is Mormonism a cult?

People aren't sure what a cult is.  The occult is that which is associated with witchcraft, Satanism, necromancy, ghosts, ghouls, demons (kind of what people celebrate Halloween about).  A cult, however, is something that associates itself with Christianity in name but departs from the major Christian tenets.  There are four tests for a cult
  1. Mormons ADD to the Word of God.  Mormons add 5 books of their own to Scripture and say that these 5 books are all superior to the Bible.
  2. Mormons SUBTRACT from the deity of Christ.  In spite of Romney's assertion that he believes Jesus is the Son of God, Mormons do not believe this.  Mormon doctrine teaches that Jesus is an incarnate angel -- not God.
  3. Mormons MULTIPLY salvation requirements.  Salvation comes by confessing our sins, admitting our need of a Savior, asking Christ to forgive us of our sins and be our Lord and Savior.  That simple.  Mormons want to add rituals and rule-keeping so that one day they can become gods just like God and go out in the vast cosmos somewhere and run their own planet.  (They also believe that babies are born whenever God has sex with some member of his celestial harem.)
  4. Mormons DIVIDE the body of Christ.  Several years ago the Mormon church sent a large number of their "evangelists" to the Dallas / Fort Worth area.  These are the guys riding bikes with "Elder" so-and-so on their name tag wearing dark pants and a white shirt.  They are highly trained to control the conversation.  Their target?  Baptists.  They targeted Baptists to convert and bragged later that they converted enough Baptists in DFW each day to fill one average Baptist church.  They made a deliberate effort to divide the body of Christ rather than seeking out lost souls who have never heard of Jesus.
So Mormons deny the tenets of biblical Christianity but meet the tests for a cult.  (You can find more of what they believe by clicking here.)  Given those facts, Mormons may associate with Christians, but they are not Christians.  They have their own unique religion and need to be honest about this.

So does it matter that Romney is a Mormon?

Frankly, I wish every man or woman that will ever occupy the oval office would love God and choose to obey Him and to seek His wisdom.  That has not always been the case nor will it be.  Obama claims to be a Christian but has also admitted to being a Muslim on one occasion.  He courts Christians but seems to follow many of the tenets of Islam.  Only history can decide what Obama really was. 

And people can always change while in office.  They can have a conversion experience while President. 

We have been taught that we live in a secular society and that politics and faith should not mix.  However our founding fathers started 54 Bible societies.  And Thomas Jefferson -- pointed to as a deist who helped to establish the separation of church and state (a misinterpretation of his answer to a specific question) -- used to teach Sunday school in the U.S. Capitol building.  One of the first appropriations of Congress was to print Bibles.  The Capitol Rotunda has paintings -- one of which includes a Christian baptism.  Faith and politics were intended from the start to work together.  However, the State (Federal government) was not to establish a particular denomination as the official church.

Romney certainly has the right to run for President.  We should defend his right to do so.

However, I have the right to not vote for him.  And my choice could be based on religious reasons.  Here's a few things about Mormonism that concern me:
  • Mormons teach that if they live a good enough life, they can one day become gods and rule planets of their own.  I've had a number of Mormon friends through the years, but they all suffered from arrogance.  I guess believing you'll rule your own planet some day makes you a bit hard to live with here on Earth.  A good President needs humility -- not arrogance. (We are seeing the latter now.)
  • Mormons don't subject their faith to any kind of logical scrutiny.  They just take it all on faith.  Some examples:
    • The Book of Mormon contains the book of Ether. This book describes the exodus of a group from the valley of Nimrod. These people left because they did not agree with the construction of the Tower of Babel. They made ships out of large trees and put holes in the top and bottom of the vessel (the hole in the bottom of the vessel was to let air into the boat in the event it turned upside-down -- a design which any shipmaker can tell you is doomed to instant failure).   This book also says God told them not to put glass in the side of the boats or it would break.  But glass wasn't invented until the 14th century B.C. by the Phoenicians.
    • Until 1958, the Mormon church taught there were a race of 9-foot-tall people who lived on the moon and dressed like Quakers.
    • The Mormon church denies polygamy but it is still taught in their Doctrine and Covenants. 
    • Mormons believe Joseph Smith translated Reformed Egyptian tablets (a language for which there is no evidence) by using the Urim and Thummim from the priestly ephod of Aaron which he had found.  But his wife later testified that Joseph Smith spoke the words of the Book of Mormon while looking through a single "peep stone" he often carried.
Since I did much of my graduate work looking at Mormons and their doctrine, I could give you many more examples.  But let me just sum it up this way.  If a man is a member of a cult that believed until 1958 that 9-foot-tall beings lived on the moon and dressed like Quakers, do you think that he possibly lacks judgment or discernment?  If Romney hasn't used good discernment in this area of his life, what will HE do when he hears rumors of weapons of mass destruction?  What will he do when the U.S. is threatened militarily. 

Just about anyone is going to be a better President than Obama (whose constitutional qualifications are still in doubt).  But I want a President who shows evidence of wisdom and discernment.  I would also like it if this man were a man of faith who knows what it means to be redeemed by Jesus Christ.  I want a man who will be both a fiscal and social conservative.  In my opinion, Romney fails one or more of these tests.  I support his right to run for President.  But I'm not enthused about him being my alternative choice to Obama.

As I said, I do not yet know for whom I will vote in the primaries.  But I am praying that God will raise up at least one person of real integrity for the election for whom I can vote.  I hope you are doing the same.



Monday, October 3, 2011

Should you take your kids to see a movie?

As a rule, I do not frequent the theaters.  However, once in a great while there is an exceptional movie worth seeing and worth paying theater prices in order to support the movie producer so that they will make more great films.

Recently, two such movies have made their debut in the theater.  The first is entitled "Seven Days in Utopia."  The writer/producer is Dr. David Cook – who has a long history of publishing Christian education materials.  This rather unique movie begins with a recently-turned-pro golfer who is doing well at his first official tournament when he blows it on the last hole in a totally humiliating fashion.  In anger, he drives off and has a car accident which leaves him stranded in a small community called Utopia while awaiting his car to be repaired.  Here he meets an older golfer who also had once played the pro circuits and from whom he learns important golf lessons and even more important lessons for life.  The movie is very engaging and will easily captivate you – even if you are not a golfer.  Unfortunately, there is at least one profanity clearly heard in the movie and there might be others said under the breath but they are not truly noticeable.  Still, it all works together to give a breath of realism to the environment of the movie.  The most remarkable thing about this movie is the ingenuity of its ending.  At the end of the movie, you are left with one nagging question which requires you to visit a particular website in order to find out what happened just after the screen went black.  When I returned home from the movie, I visited the website which instantly answered my curiosity but also delivered another important life lesson.  There was an opportunity to click a link to allow me to interact with that life lesson by taking action on what I have learned.  Clicking that link took you to a page with a very clear and succinct presentation of the Gospel.  This was ingenious.  I would highly recommend taking your friends who may not know Christ to see this movie and then encourage them to do the follow-up to see how the movie ended.  This is a highly creative way to share the gospel in a relevant fashion.  Not many theaters will carry this movie, but find one that does not go see it.

The best movie of 2011 – and perhaps of the century – is the movie Courageous.  Sherwood Pictures has superseded its previous three films – Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and FireproofFlywheel revolved around the lines of used car salesmen and what happened when the owner of the business decided to run his business by God's principles.  Facing the Giants focused on the life of a coach and his football team and what happened when they committed their ways to Christ.  Fireproof showed the restoration of a seemingly impossible marriage in the life of a fire captain.  With Courageous, we see God working in the lines of five men – four of whom are Sheriff deputies.  It is rated PG-13 for its scenes of action and violence.  However, there is not a single word of profanity in this movie.  For those concerned about the style of music, there is no dominant rock beat in any of the music until after the closing credits begin to roll.  This movie should be mandatory for every man to see.  It highlights the duties we have as dads to disciple our own children.  But it also highlights the duties we have the mentor those who were not our children but who have need of a father to speak truth into their lives.

Many are not aware of the significant of definite articles in Malachi 4:6 – "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."  God says that his profit will come to turn the heart of fathers to THE children and to turn the hearts of the children to THEIR fathers.  When a young person comes to you for counsel,you should always seek to honor their father and to turn their heart toward their father whenever possible.  The heart of children should be turned toward their own dads.  However, God expects me as a man to not only love my own children, but to love all children.  Therefore, he says that his profit will turn the hearts of fathers to THE CHILDREN.  God does not want us to only love her own children but also the children but do not really have a dad.  Do you take time to mentor children whose father is absent – whether through divorce or death?  You should.   God expects it of you.

I would also encourage anyone who has sons who were not saved to take their sons to see Courageous.  It will give them an opportunity to see the reality of men living Christian lives fleshed out in front of their faces.  I believe this will ultimately result in them being more willing to receive Christ.  Unfortunately, in our day and time, many young people regard Christianity as a woman's religion – often because the only real Christian they know well is their mother.  Give your sons an opportunity to see men trying to live out their faith in a real and practical way.

Now Christian parents have a real challenge when taking their children to see a really great faith-based movie.  The movie can be perfect, but you have to endure the previews.  When I took my family to see the movie Courageous in the Premier 14 theater in Burleson, Texas, the vast majority of previews were family friendly.  Still, my wife had the children look at the floor and keep their ears closed until the previews had concluded.  She did this, because she knows that you never know what to expect from the movie previews that precede the feature film.  Still, we are thankful for that theater in Burleson Texas for being sensitive to run family friendly previews prior to the movie.
The following evening, however, I saw the Courageous movie again at the Cinemark theater in Mansfield Texas.  This theater totally lacks sensitivity to the nature of their audience.  They showed previews with mature themes, one movie with an open mockery of Christianity starring Dolly Parton, and several movies with an occult or Satanic theme.  This theater will likely be losing my business in the future.

So what can you do as a parent? Let me make a suggestion based on our own experience with eight children.  You have several alternatives:
  • Wait for the movie to become available on DVD – and then you do not have to suffer through the previews.  Pros: you save money over the cost of going to the theater and you get to miss the conflict in previews.  Cons: you miss the opportunity to support a Christian filmmaker at the theater (where your attendance is essentially a vote for the theater to show similar future films).  You also typically have to wait longer to see the film this way.
  • Get one or two of the most mature family members to reserve the seats in the movie auditorium. When the undesirable previews are over, Cindy text message (or call) to the other parent or older child who are waiting with the younger children in the hall to let them know it is now time for them to come in.  They will still have an opportunity to get into the auditorium before the movie actually begins, but avoid seeing or hearing the previews.
  • Train your children to keep their eyes closed in the years close during the playing of the  previews.  This is probably the least effective alternative since some sounds will no doubt reach your child's ears.
The middle option is the one my wife and I have chosen to employ on several occasions. My wife and I can sit in the auditorium until the previews are complete and then we can notify my oldest at-home daughter to bring in the rest of the children to take their seats.then we can immediately turn off all of our cell phones so as not to disturb others during the movie.  This allows us to support a Christian filmmaker at the box office, see the movie on the big screen, and still derive the important spiritual lessons from a truly great movie like Courageous.

Courageous will have you laughing until you cry, and then crying until you can laugh again.  It touches upon a plethora of human emotions and grabs every man's heart from the opening scene.  This is a must-see movie that every man and every boy over the age of 10 should see. And this movie has what may be the most succinct and clear presentation of the Gospel that has ever been filmed.  If you know a boy or a man without Christ, take them to see this movie today.  If you know a boy or man who claims to be a Christian but is not living that life to the fullest, by then movie tickets for this film today.  I cannot stress strongly enough how important this film could be to your life and the life of those you love.