MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell was recently cross examined by syndicated radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt regarding statements O’Donnell made about Mormonism as a panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Here’s part of what O’Donnell said on McLaughlin:
On “Big Love” the HBO series, that has been a real headache for Romney. Here’s the problem. He dare not discuss his religion. And he fools people like Pat Buchanan who should know better. This was the worst speech, the worst political speech of my lifetime, because this man stood there and said to you, “this is the faith of my fathers.” And you, and none of these commentators who liked this speech, realize that the faith of his father is a racist faith. As of 1978, it was an officially racist faith. And for political convenience, in 1978, it switched, and it said okay, black people can be in this Church. He believes, if he believes the faith of his fathers, that black people are black, because in Heaven, they turned away from God in this demented, scientology-like notion of what was going on in Heaven before the Creation of the Earth.
Hugh Hewitt accuses O’Donnell of anti-Mormon bigotry for those words. Hewitt defended Romney’s allegiance to the “faith of [his] fathers” on the grounds that just because Romney is a Mormon doesn’t necessarily imply an endorsement on his part of everything his church teaches, in the same way Ted Kennedy or Rudy Giuliani are Catholics yet don’t abide by everything their church teaches.
There is however, a major difference, between the way in which Kennedy or Giuliani are Catholic and the way in which Mitt Romney is Mormon. The Catholic Church is on record as opposing politicians who profess to be Catholic while disregarding the Church’s teaching on abortion and homosexuality. Show me one instance where the Mormon Church has ever declared Mitt Romney or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid outside the bounds of its teachings on any issue.
The teachings of the Mormon Church are aberrant on fronts too numerous to mention. Mitt Romney has declared publicly his allegiance to his Mormon faith without citing one point where he disagrees with his church. Because Hewitt knows that many of the teachings of Mormonism are contrary to orthodoxy, he suggests that, like Kennedy and Giuliani, Romney doesn’t agree with his church on every point, without evidence to support the assertion.
Kennedy and Giuliani are on record on the points they diverge from their Church. Where is Romney on record on the points he disagrees with Mormonism? No such record exists. Until Romney himself denies it, we must assume the man believes the teachings of Joseph Smith in full; for Hugh to suggest otherwise flies in the face observable facts.
It is now becoming apparent that Governor Romney’s strategy for defending against legitimate questions about his Mormon faith is to cry “bigotry.” Governor Huckabee recently asked a writer for the New York Times magazine if Mormons didn’t believe that Jesus and Satan were brothers (a comment, by the way, that Huckabee has since apologized for). When the Associated Press picked up on the initial story, accusations of bigotry germinated in the blogosphere and spread like a virus through media, both old and new. Hugh Hewitt implied that by asking such a question Governor Huckabee might be a closet anti-Semite or an anti-Catholic bigot. But a simple visit to www.lds.org—an official LDS website—will readily show that the answer implied in Governor Huckabee’s question is the answer given by the LDS church! Is the LDS church bigoted against itself?
Every God-fearing American ought to be familiar with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A man who holds to those teachings certainly is not disqualified from holding the office of president on that basis alone. But conservative evangelical Christians, who hold to the faith once for all delivered to the saints and who desire to defend that faith, are reasonable to ask themselves what a Mormon in the White House would do to elevate the profile of a false religion that presents itself as a form of Christianity. Dr. Albert Mohler recently wrote:
As an evangelical Christian theologian, I must clarify that Mormonism is in no way consistent with orthodox Christianity. It borrows Christian themes and texts, but its most basic beliefs directly contradict the central teachings of Christianity.
Mormonism holds that God is an exalted man, with a physical body. Christianity teaches that God is Spirit. Mormonism denies the historic Christian understandings of the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, and the doctrine of salvation. Christianity promises salvation through Christ’s atonement and the sinner’s justification by faith. Mormonism promises deification. Christianity calls for personal faith in Jesus Christ. Mormonism calls for obedience to its own teachings as the path to exaltation. Mormonism replaces belief in the sole authority of the Bible with other writings, including the Book of Mormon. This list is only a brief summary of the vast chasm that separates Christianity from Mormonism. Put simply, Mormonism is not just another form of Christianity. It is a rejection of historic Christianity.
I presume that Hugh Hewitt does not believe Albert Mohler is a bigot. The question for Hugh Hewitt and other Romney defenders is whether it’s helpful for the body politic (or for Romney) to be so quick and so absolute in leveling the charge of bigotry at those who feel obligated to at least clarify their religious convictions before stating their convictions as they relate to the presidential politics of 2008.