“Cult. What cult? Did we say it was a cult? You must be mistaken.” In what the powers-that-be obviously thought would be a move that would go unnoticed, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association quietly removed “Mormonism” from the list of cults on their website. Well, perhaps not as quietly as they thought. After the “Charlotte Observer” first reported the story on Thursday (here), several other mainstream media outlets began reporting on the controversial move by the BGEA (here and here). By the end of the day, several Baptist bloggers (here and here) began to weigh in.
What possible excuse could the BGEA have for dropping Mormonism from its list of cults, which included stalwarts like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Scientologists, and Moonies (Unification Church)? According to Association Chief of Staff Ken Barun:
“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”
To borrow a phrase from Joe Biden, that is malarkey! If I believed in coincidences (which I don’t), then I might be able to accept that the politics of power was not involved in the decision to remove Mormonism from the list of cults, where it rightfully belongs. However, I can’t help but wonder whether or not a visit to Rev. Graham last Thursday by a certain Mormon candidate for President could have had any influence on this ill-advised decision. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that one of Mr. Romney’s current advisers, Mark DeMoss, was the longtime spokesman for Franklin Graham, the son of the legendary evangelist, who now runs the BGEA.
Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. What affect the decision to remove Mormonism from the cults’ list will have on the electorate in NC and other states remains to be seen, but it seems clear that the Romney campaign has scored a major political victory at the expense of the truth of the Gospel. That the Gospel’s loss was achieved with an assist from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is both sad and disturbing.
While many Evangelical Christians — including many Southern Baptists — will either minimize or ignore altogether the influence of politics on the church, I believe that this move by Billy Graham’s Association — even if the elder Graham is unaware of the removal of Mormonism from the cults’ list — will have disastrous unintended consequences. The most immediate consequence will be the acceptance and approval of Mormonism as a legitimate Christian “denomination” or faith group. Even before the BGEA’s move, we have already had many Evangelical Christians blur the distinctions between orthodox, Biblical Christianity and the unorthodox, false cult of Mormonism. The blurring will only increase if Mitt Romney is elected President.
While I am fully aware that Americans are not electing a “Pastor-in-Chief” on November 6, I believe that it is both foolish and shortsighted for conservative, Bible-believing Christians to excuse Mr. Romney’s false religion because they either
hate strongly dislike President Obama and/or strongly agree with Mr. Romney’s public policy positions. Franklin Graham, responding to his own question, “Can an Evangelical Christian Vote for a Mormon?,” seems to give a pass to Romney’s clearly unBiblical religious views because the former Governor somehow upholds God’s principles on social issues:
“We are at a profound crossroads. Our secularized society has shaken its fist in God’s face and rejected his very name,” Franklin Graham writes. “… We must not silence our voices when government clashes with the worship of God. I pray that all Christians and God-fearing Americans will put aside labels and vote for principles – God’s principles.” (here)
Last I checked, God’s principles, while including the sanctity of life and a Biblical definition of marriage (one man and one woman at one time), also included a belief in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and not a false gospel. In fact, in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul has the strongest words of condemnation — not for pagans or worshipers of other gods — but for those who had perverted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and were preaching a false gospel while claiming to be followers of Christ. That is exactly what Mormonism (and other cults) do — they preach and teach a false gospel, having abandoned the Truth of the “Evangel,” the Good News that Christians — including those at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — are called to proclaim. In the end, the decision of churches and evangelists — implicitly or explicitly — to approve and accept the false cult of Mormonism will lead to unintended consequences that are eternal.
There is no question that America stands at a profound crossroads. Some American Christians will vote for Mr. Romney without thinking twice. Some, like Franklin Graham, believe that our society has “shaken its fist in God’s face and rejected His very name,” thus warranting a vote for Mr. Romney, a member, pastor, and bishop (his words in the debate on Tuesday night) of the Mormon Church. That maybe true and I will probably end up voting for Mr. Romney. However, I will not feel good about it. As other Evangelical Christians follow the lead of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and allow the politics of power to influence the church — instead of the church influencing politics and the culture as the salt and light we are called to be — I can’t help but think that God will give America the leader that she deserves. In the end, that may not turn out the way we had hoped or imagined.