Is the Pope Catholic? Is the LDS Church Christian?
The Pope is clearly Catholic, and what is more he is acting very Christian lately. By Christian I mean someone who tries to follow the religion of Jesus. You know, all that love thy neighbor and don’t cast the first stone stuff. Pope Francis thinks we should worry more about how to feed the hungry and create more peace in the world. He has said that the Church (and it is HIS Church by the way, he is the POPE for God’s sake!) should stop focusing on narrow divisive issues like gay marriage, abortion, and contraception, and be more compassionate. He has even had a few good words to say about Atheists. Jesus said good things about a Samaritan, remember? Who knew that a Pope could be so cool? The Bishops are listening of course, and the conservative ones are freaking out.
Contrast that with the LDS church. I have to do that because I live in Utah and it is an institution that affects almost every aspect of life here. There a lot of very cool Mormons, don’t get me wrong. Some of them are flaming liberals and some of them are just flaming. (The double entendre is intentional.) I don’t have issues with their theology. It isn’t any stranger than a lot of other things many people believe. I also think Mormons are just as Christian as a lot of other groups that use that label. But just because someone calls themselves a Christian, doesn’t mean they are doing what Jesus would do.
Like in the Catholic church, at least until now, with this rocking new Pope, most of the problems, the entrenched attitudes and the frankly unchristian actions, come directly from hierarchy. You have probably heard the phrase “Cafeteria Catholic” to describe folks that decide to ignore teachings they don’t agree with. They practice birth control, for instance. Maybe they believe gay marriage is just fine and don’t dispute the right of a woman to control her own body. Maybe they think comprehensive sexuality education works better to prevent disease and teenaged pregnancy than “just say no.” In Unitarian Universalist circles, we say instead, “Just say know.” Maybe they take love thy neighbor seriously and want a pathway to citizenship for immigrants.
There are Mormons like that too. I call them “potluck” Mormons. By the way, I LOVE potlucks and I like green jello! (Sorry non-Utahns, but green jello is sort of a regional joke. I ate it rather a lot of green jello growing up in California, not realizing it was a Utah joke. )
The cafeteria Catholics are cheering today, shouting Hallelujah. Not so the potluck Mormons. On the same day that Pope Francis’s interview was published, the news hit about the LDS church’s response to the likelihood of marriage equality becoming a reality in Hawaii in the very near future. (see news article here) They aren’t as heavy handed as they were during Prop 8, or as they were in earlier struggles in Hawaii. No, this time they are trying to be subtle. They only sent a letter to church members in the “Aloha” state. (“Aloha” in Hawaiian actually means affection, peace, compassion, and mercy, not just hello and goodbye.)
The letter says, in part:
“We have received a number of questions in the last few months regarding proposed legislation that would redefine the relationship and nature of marriage in Hawaii.
(Um right, somehow I don’t think this was written just in response to questions from their Hawaiian membership)
“As members of the Church we should be actively engaged in worthy causes that will affect our communities and our families. This legislation will directly affect both. Members are encouraged to study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation. As you do so, you may want to review “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and other Church publications available on the Church website at lds.org. You may also wish to consider donating your time or resources to one of the community organizations addressing this issue.
(The letter itself doesn’t tell members which position to take, but the referenced publication is clear that marriage is only between one man and one woman.)
“Whether or not you favor the proposed change, we hope that you will urge your elected representatives to include in any such legislation a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith. Such an exemption should:
“ — Protect religious organizations and officials from being required to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities; and
(This is ALREADY protected under the 1st amendment and is just a scare tactic. They know this. Not even all Mormons are allowed to get married in the temple.)
“ — Protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages.
That last one is the kicker, and it is talking about giving for profit businesses the legal right to discriminate when they are selling their goods and services to the general public. That just isn’t right. I am in the midst of planning a big wedding. When we contact wedding vendors we are very careful to let them know that it is a same gender wedding. We do this because we want good service. If someone seemed less than enthusiastic about our marriage, we would definitely not choose to give them our hard earned money to take pictures or bake a cake for us. But even though I wouldn’t choose to use them, I don’t think private businesses should be able to refuse to do business with people they don’t approve of. Interracial marriages of course come to mind. I suspect most of those couples don’t want to give their money to bigots, but they also don’t want to be refused service by them. Should a bigoted grocer be able to refuse to sell food to a Muslim? Of course not, but if they are looking for halal food, they probably won’t want to shop there anyway. It would be too creepy. They might slip some pork into the ground beef. And who wants ground glass in their wedding cake?
Businesses don’t have to promote or celebrate anything, but they should not get to decide what customers they will turn away just because they don’t like or approve of them. Individuals can do what they like in their private lives. Don’t invite me to your house, that is fine. But if you work in a flower shop, your boss just might ask you to prepare two identical wedding bouquets for two brides. So what? It has nothing to do with religious liberty, it is just how we do business in this country.
All that said, you will never see me shopping at City Creek, the giant SLC shopping mall owned by the LDS church. I wouldn’t want them promoting my lifestyle by selling me anything. Why does a Christian church own a shopping mall anyway? Did Jesus sell the loaves and fishes to the multitude? Did he ask if they were gay or straight before feeding them?
In answer to the title questions:
Yes, the Pope is Catholic
Yes, the LDS church is Christian. The leadership of that church? Not so much.