Is the American Church ‘Breaking Bad’?
If religion was opium for the masses: perhaps politics has become “Meth” for America. The reaction from Christians to a tweet that I sent out today suggests that many believers are as addicted to the GOP as my students are to the hit-show, Breaking Bad. The tweet:
How many believers will rationalize Mormonism as ‘basically Christianity’ because they want to vote for a Republican—or against Obama?
I promise I meant neither to mar Mitt nor to back Obama with 140 characters or less. Rather, my concern was more theological—that some might conflate Christianity with Mormonism for the sake of Nationalism.
In Breaking Bad, there is a climatic conversation between the teacher-cum-methmaker and his wife. She trembles out the question: “Are you in danger?” To which he growls back: “I AM THE DANGER.” As I listen to various opinions on politics, I fear that the American Church is not in danger, but that We Are The Danger. That is to say, our greatest threat is not in (passively) being conformed to the pattern of this world but in us (actively) conforming ourselves to it. Below are three dangerous questions that have resulted from my recent conversations.
A few qualifications. Firstly, I am neither anti-Romney nor pro-Obama. Frankly, I do not plan to vote for either of them. Nevertheless, I am committed to praying for both candidates and not bashing either—although Mormonism is fair game. Secondly, I am not a political scientist; I do not understand all of the complexities of the process. My expertise is in New Testament Backgrounds, so I admit to knowing more about Herod’s administration than Barack’s and to having spent more time in Plato’s Republic than in the U.S. Constitution. Finally, I am spewing forth ideas here that I have not fully digested. Don’t let the sarcasm fool you: this is my way of “reasoning together.”
Christianity and Nationalism: “Who is Lord?”
Christians may not go so far as to ignore orthodoxy and excuse the cult, but many of them have already confused the Kingdom of God with the American Empire. They have exalted the national agenda above the Great Commission. Mike Huckabee demonstrated such a priority when he confessed: “I care far less where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do where he is going to take this country!” My translation: “I am more concerned with the immediate destination of America than I am the eternal destination of my friend and his wife as well as his children and grandchildren.” (Caesar is Lord.) But even if Christians don’t scoff at Mike Huckabee’s pronouncement, they should shudder at Paul Ryan’s:
“United States is still the greatest force for peace and liberty this world has ever known!” (Caesar is Lord.)
Christianity and Mormonism: Does Religion Matter?
One of the most common responses I’ve heard is that it doesn’t really matter what religion the candidate is. But doesn’t such a statement collide with the claim by many believers that this is a Christian nation? I heard one “theologically conservative” Christian say he would vote for a Muslim or a Hindu if that candidate could fix our country. Although I demur at calling our nation a Christian country, I find it odd that patriotic Christians would put their trust in the hands of someone who believes the sort of things that other religions and cults believe. Comedian Daniel Tosh had a skit where he played a Scientology-recruiter who had a wall poster that read: “Scientology: Making Mormons look sane since 1952.” The religion of Mitt really matters to Mormons. If Scientology can make them look sane, perhaps a Mormon president can make them look legit.
Mormons see having a Mormon president as a further help in legitimizing them. It’ll be hard for ordinary Americans to think of Mormonism as a cult or a crazy religion when (if) their president is Mormon.
Again, I am not attempting to dissuade anyone from voting for Mitt, but I am trying to dissuade every Christian from ever saying—with respect to anything—that religion doesn’t really matter.
Christianity and ‘Mammonism’: “Whom do we really serve?”
“A person cannot have two masters…you cannot serve both God and Money.” Color me cynical, but when it comes down to it, I suspect most politicians follow Mammon more than they do Jesus, Joseph Smith or even Reverend Wright. And it’s likely that most Christians do too. In truth, American Christians are far less worried where our President takes his family to church than with the amount of money he puts into our “offering plates.” As Dr. Kevin Motl puts it: “The preponderance of American voters privilege religious identity only once questions of economic self-interest are satisfied.” In other words: we got our mind on our money and money on our mind. Because the American Church doesn’t want to be broke, I fear we are breaking bad.
 Doubtless, most of them would emphatically deny this accusation.
 This week CT presented “three views” on whether it’s wrong to vote for a Mormon. Wanting a rhetorical cage-match, I was disappointed to discover that they all agreed that it’s okay to vote for a Mormon. Even Fuller President Mouw said he’d vote for a Mormon just not a Jehovah’s Witness or a Scientologist; I find this argument inconsistent at best. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/september/is-it-wrong-to-vote-for-mormon-president.html
 Dr. Tully Borland. See also http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/mormon-says-romneys-are-leading-church-into-mainstream/