Wow, We Can Get Ugly

I mentioned in a previous post, that there is a disagreement in Evangelicalism on how to approach Mormonism. If you would like to hear how heated it can become you should listen to these two episodes of the Frank Pastore show. There is definitely a wing that almost says if you don’t hate Mormonism as much as I do, then you must be Mormon.

I should give a couple of early indications of what you are going to hear. Frank Pastore in the last couple of years has been trying to do the Sean-Hannity-thing. He’s almost as good at it as Hannity which makes him sound like a really unpleasant person and not some one you would want to emulate as a Christian. In real life, he’s a nice guy (with a desire for ratings). Also, the advertising on the show is extremely over-sold. There are a LOT of commercials. You get about 2.5 hours of new content in 6 hours which is why I don’t listen to the show live. Be prepared to fast forward. I would edit it down, but I don’t own the copyright, so I’m not going to mess with it.

Regardless of who you are I guarantee that it will elicit a strong reaction from you. (and thus the success of the Hannity impersonation)

From August 15
Highlights:
1) Listen to the interview with Craig Hazen in the second hour. Notice how confrontational Pastore is with Hazen. Hazen throws in some key words in this controversy: jealousy and limited ministry resources.
2) Listen to how un-confrontational Pastore is with Jill Martin Rische.
3) The disparity between what Millett says in front of Evangelicals and what he says in front of LDS is big. I’m wondering why more LDS aren’t upset with Millett for distorting Mormonism.
4) It’s sounds like to me the issue isn’t that Greg Johnson isn’t distorting Christianity, it’s that he’s not going after Mormonisms unique claims hard enough.

From August 16
Highlights:
1) Listen to Jill Martin explain her own backstory to this controversy. She got left out of the clique.
2) Interesting that she rips Craig Hazen for praying inside the Mormon Tabernacle, Pastore says nothing. This despite Pastore telling Hazen the day before that he had no problem with the prayer.
3) Kurt Van Gordon hypocrisy as he accuses Greg Johnson of attacking his ministry while at the same time attacking Greg Johnson’s ministry. I have not heard every word out of Johnson’s lips but it’s my impression that he says nothing about what other ministries are doing. He personally told me, “they should keep doing what they are doing, I’m going to try something different.” I’m interested to know how many more conversations Van Gordon has been able to have with high ranking Mormons since 1991.
4) Van Gordon wants to know who and where Evangelicals are being confrontational with Mormons. How about going to Temple Square on October First.
5) Van Gordon alleges that Evangelicals are being won over to Mormonism as a result of Standing Together Ministries, but Mormons are not being won over to Evangelicalism. This is patently false and Greg Johnson can give names and phone numbers.

My own impression is that fewer and fewer Evangelicals are willing to participate in traditional Anti-Mormonism (or street Evangelism in general). This is putting a strain on some long standing ministries and they are lashing out at what they perceive to be their threat for ministry dollars. No money, no ministry. I think it’s gross how we can treat one another at times.

Hat tip to Summa Theologica

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14 thoughts on “Wow, We Can Get Ugly

  1. Some friends of mine in the countercult community felt uneasy and mixed about the Pastore interview. Overall it was really disappointing. There were some good points, but, for example, the way Pastore went after Hazen was over the top and relentless.

    One small note though about the interview with Hazen: As much as I like really him, the drop-and-go comment about “jealousy and limited ministry resources” was silly. Even worth a laugh. Those behind traditional ministry to Mormons are, in my experience, not in it for the money. Their passion is for the purity of the Christian church and for the salvation of Mormons. What concerns us isn’t money-issues, but issues of clarity/obscurity and passiveness/urgency in evangelism. If it was about money we wouldn’t be doing countercult ministry. In fact, most who are actively involved in initiative stranger-evangelism to Mormons aren’t even financially supported at all. We have day jobs. As a “crusty countercult neanderthal”, I would nevertheless also tip my brotherly hat to those of the passive-low-key-quasi-ecumenical-dialog crowd and affirm that their primary motivations certainly don’t have anything to do with money.

    The disparity between what Millett says in front of Evangelicals and what he says in front of LDS is big. I’m wondering why more LDS aren’t upset with Millett for distorting Mormonism.

    Mormons tend to avoid explicit, internal controversy over doctrine altogether [1]. But you’d be surprised if you keep your ears open. While at a grassroots dialog with Mormons in Provo, I met a BYU student and at one point asked him what he thought of Mormon neo-orthodoxy and Robert Millet. He called Millet a “snake”… I was taken back! I asked him why he’d call him that. He told me that he would say one thing in the classroom to LDS students and yet another to outsiders. This isn’t new, Mormonism as a whole has fostered this with many significant aspects of doctrine and degrees of forthrightness. I would recommend that folks attend the annual SMTP and Sunstone conferences and you’ll hear a fair share of negative comments about the Milletian/Robinsonian doctrinal neo-orthodoxy and rhetoric.

    I wish Jill Martin Rische hadn’t been brought into the radio program. She misrepresented what happened at EMNR, and seemed like she wanted to push a personal agenda instead of focusing on the larger issues.

    The larger issues are the tenets behind different philosophies of ministry, appropriate Mormon/Evangelical interaction, and the role and significance (or lack thereof) of Mormon neo-orthodoxy. There was such a great opportunity for Pastore to dive into this but he barely scratched the surface. Instead of diving into the substance, Pastore got caught up with a lot of peripheral issues.

    Van Gordon wants to know who and where Evangelicals are being confrontational with Mormons. How about going to Temple Square on October First.

    Good grief, if you’re referring to the KJV-only garment-waving folks, they’re such a fringe crowd. As pastor Jason Epps said in the first segment, it’s so unfair to caricature or generalize confrontational ministry with these guys. What an easy straw man. Pretty lame.

    Tim, I’d definitely get your hands on the article by Bill McKeever in the CRI journal. It deals with some specifics and substance that I don’t think this Pastore program came close to.

    [1] “Within the church setting itself, the avoidance of controversy is even more evident. Open disagreement with one another in religious discussions is explicitly discouraged, and formal lessons in meetings where group discussion is appropriate are usually structured around rhetorical questions which channel members into acceptable responses that are not likely to stimulate disagreement. Teachers in such settings typically compliment any response but are less likely to follow up on comments which deviate from the desired response. Potentially controversial topics are carefully avoided in established church meetings. Religious topics of this kind are typically referred to as “the mysteries.” They are issues considered dangerous to speculate about because they may lead to heresy. Non-religious topics of a potentially controversial nature are labeled “political issues.” They, like “the mysteries,” are considered taboo in a church sanctioned setting. Criticism of any church leader, which is likewise taboo, is sometimes described as behavior such “leads to apostasy.” These patterns of conflict avoidance encourage the repression of any conflict within the church. Members readily acknowledge the existence of “Mormons” who have not been in harmony with the church hierarchy, such as the various polygamous, fundamentalists past and present, other schismatic groups which have arisen throughout the history of the church, and political activists and feminists such as Sonia Johnson, who have received public attention in the news media. However, these are not discussed as examples of debate over contrasting views within the church. Neither is the pathos of the personal conflicts such persons may have experienced concerning church doctrine or practice a normal part of conversations in which they are mentioned. Rather, such people or groups are described as having “fallen away” from the church and its teachings. Dissension, in other words, never happens “within the ranks,” since dissent is merely the act by which individual members separate themselves from the church and its teachings.” – Richley H. Crapo, “Grass-Roots Deviance from Official Doctrine: A Study of Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) Folk-Beliefs” (>>)

  2. In effect, Mouw could be accused of the very thing he was doing: bearing false witness.

    Woops, I meant: “In effect, Mouw could be accused of the very thing he was somehow apologizing for: bearing false witness.”

  3. I think Hazen’s comments about jealousy and limited resources were indirectly targeted at Jill Martin and Kurt Van Gordon. I agree that nobody is doing it for the money (money is easier to come by). BUT without money, there is no ministry.

    It was quite apparent that Jill Martin is upset that she doesn’t have the influence that her father once had in the EMNR. She’s still inappropriately living out that disappointment with whatever spiritual reasoning she can give to it. It also sounds like to me that more and more Evangelicals are saying “no thank you” to Kurt Van Gordon when he ask them to join in with him.

    I think when we think of Mouw’s apology we need to keep “The Godmakers” and the street preachers in mind. I do not believe he was accusing all counter-cult ministries of wrong doing. But both of those things, as cartoonish as they are, have come out of OUR camp. They aren’t Catholic or Orthodox. You shouldn’t take offense when you’re not be criticized.

    Your statements about avoiding controversy in the LDS church were interesting.

  4. I think when we think of Mouw’s apology we need to keep “The Godmakers” and the street preachers in mind. I do not believe he was accusing all counter-cult ministries of wrong doing.

    The problem is that Mouw used a sweeping generalization, and didn’t qualify it to a few groups. Also, he didn’t provide any specifics then, and when he later provided a specific, it was blown out of the water (cf. Ron Huggins’ JETS article on the status of Lorenzo Snow couplet theology in Mormonism today; I’ll e-mail it to you). In effect, Mouw could be accused of the very thing he was doing: bearing false witness.

    “‘As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be’; ‘No Functioning Place in Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?’ A Response to Richard Mouw”, by Ron Huggins. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 49.3–Sept. 2006, pp. 549-568

  5. “Potentially controversial topics are carefully avoided in established church meetings. Religious topics of this kind are typically referred to as “the mysteries.” They are issues considered dangerous to speculate about because they may lead to heresy. Non-religious topics of a potentially controversial nature are labeled “political issues.” They, like “the mysteries,” are considered taboo in a church sanctioned setting. Criticism of any church leader, which is likewise taboo, is sometimes described as behavior such “leads to apostasy.””

    Aaron, I’d be interested in seeing how Mormonism stacks up against other religions in this regard.

  6. Walk onto any Sunday School class and take what you think is the opposing view on Pre-destination or “once-saved-always-saved” and you will quickly learn that Evangelicals, at least, don’t avoid controversy.

    Heck, just listen to some of the audio I provided and you will see that we don’t avoid controversy (to our detriment at times).

  7. I think a big factor is that evangelical Christians aren’t that ashamed of a reasonable degree of theological diversity within the church. Sometimes in a Bible study when a controversial passage comes up opposing evangelical viewpoints will be presented to the class. In Mormonism, there seems to be an emphasis on an image of uniformity, where nothing further could be from the truth. Many Mormons are deeply divided over huge issues (like the past of God the Father or the idea of celestial polygamy), but there aren’t healthy outlets for debate and discussion over the controversies. Another big factor is that Mormonism is certainly more atheological.

  8. Indeed. In my experience, the rest of the mainstream Christian world welcomes healthy debate and disagreement, whereas Mormonism does not have much tolerance for it at all, so everyone pats themselves on the back and talks about how wonderful it is that “we all believe the same things.”

  9. In the Mormon blogging community, we tend to blame this on the big “correlation” movement that happened back in the 1960s where the LDS Church was largely standardized both in curriculum, and the degree of centralized control.

    It’s not something most bloggers (myself included) are all that thrilled about, but…

    Oh well, guess being in the “true church” had to come with some drawbacks eh? =)

  10. Less focus on institutional hierarchy and more focus on congregationalism and drawing doctrine directly from the Bible… That’s the way to go! It makes for some messy church situations, but it’s the best way to encourage heart-authenticity among members, in my opinion.

    Plus, in baptist churches you get to practice the third ordinance… the sacred Sunday potluck! Mmmmm….

  11. We (mormons) have that particular “ordinance” as well 😉 . I think food is the universal “doctrine”.

  12. C. S. Lewis said:
    “The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him–for we can prevent Him, if we choose –He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said. 20

    “Regarding the debate about faith and works: It’s like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most important.”
    — C.S. Lewis

  13. Interesting commentary, but unfortunately, Aaron and Tim, you are simply incorrect. The clique of Mouw, Hazen, and Johnson is one I am very happy not to be included in.

    As to EMNR, it’s amusing to read people commenting on events they only see from the outside. I certainly represented my experiences with EMNR correctly…after all, I am in a position to know exactly what happened. 🙂 And I thought Frank did an excellent job of revealing the characters of Hazen and Johnson.

    jmho

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