It seems to me that church members are becoming enamored of the political groups which are often identified “Christian Right” — politically powerful, vocally conservative groups like the Family Research Council, American Family Association, and Focus on the Family. I receive many e-mail messages from family members, forwarding petitions or other communiques from such groups. Matt Evans, of our blog and other blogs’ fame, has written about positive experiences he has had in communicating with one such group.
I can certainly see why Mormons are drawn to these groups. Such organizations are well-organized and able to wield political power. They appear to be “on our side” in the perceived culture wars. And if such groups disagree on doctrinal matters — things like the nature of the Book of Mormon or of Joseph Smith — well, those are little things which can be ignored for now. Right?
Despite these similarities, I am deeply doubtful that much good can come from these groups. It appears to me that, if such groups are prepared to send gays out of town on the first train — a goal many church members would probably support — that the groups are nevertheless also ready to send Mormons out on the second train.
For example, Professor Eric Rasmussen at Indiana caught a lot of flack for his suggestion that homosexuals not be permitted to teach. Christian groups weighed in supporting Rasmussen, and many Mormons may have felt that he was unfairly treated. However, in that very same discussion, Professor Rasmussen also suggested that Christians can rightly be opposed to “Hindus . . . atheists, Mormons, and so forth as teachers.”
Similarly, I get frequent e-mails from church members (family and friends) urging me to support “school prayer.” Yet a leading recent “school prayer” case was brought by a church member — represented by the ACLU — because LDS kids at school were being told their religion was wrong. (More on this in a future post).
I realize that these are anecdotal evidence. However, when combined with the inflammatory rhetoric of these groups, and the history of church persecution at the hands of other religious groups, I cannot help but feel suspicious. “Christian Right” groups may welcome our support now, but they are not our friends.
Perhaps church members are aware of these problems, but feel that, by supporting “Christian Right” groups, they can demonstrate to such groups that Mormons and fundamentalist Christians are not so different after all, and that our support now will lead to future support from these groups. I do not think that this is a realistic expectation. Most “Christian Right” groups appear from their rhetoric to be my-way-or-the-highway in outlook. We may be given a chance to join their inner circles — provided we jettison the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, temples, and most of our other unique beliefs. If we do not do so — and I suspect that most church members would not wish this type of transformation — then the day will come that the “Christian Right” groups will turn on us. Our earlier support for these groups will mean nothing, and we will be attacked as vociferously as their other targets are today.
I do not know if there is a way to avoid this future. However, my intuition is that, if such a future can be avoided, one key will be Mormons forging political alliances elsewhere, and refusing to lend political support to such “Christian Right” groups.