It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Huckabee, Mormonism and the Media Agenda

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Mike Huckabee is in the lead, and his rapid surge has frightened not only his Republican rivals, but even the mainstream media, which seeks to divide and conquer the Republican Party in the 2008 election.

Mike Huckabee is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister, and served as one prior to becoming governor of Arkansas. This has made Huckabee an easy target for the mainstream media, which has also treated Romney unfairly in regards to his Mormon religion. Now the media seeks to pit Evangelicals against Mormons by pitting Huckabee against Romney on the issue of religion.

Ever since Huckabee entered the race for the presidency, he's been hammered by stupid questions from the media, seeking to exploit religious beliefs held by Evangelicals which the mainstream media believes to be superstitious and backward. Case in point, Huckabee regularly gets questions about evolution vs. creationism in political debates -- a question hardly worth asking of a presidential candidate.

Now it would appear Mike has stepped in it again. This time it was in an interview he granted to the New York Times. Apparently responding to yet another ridiculous question, this time about Romney's religion, the former governor said he thought it was a "religion" and not a "cult," as is commonly believed by many Evangelicals. (I would have to agree with the governor on this point. Mormonism is not a cult. It does not display any of the characteristics of a cult. It is in fact becoming a major worldwide religion.) But then, thinking out loud, the governor admitted he didn't know much about it and asked: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

Now this is a common misunderstanding among Evangelicals. It should be no surprise that the governor asked this, but keep in mind that he did ASK it as a question. He didn't declare it as a statement. There is a difference. Furthermore, he ASKED it after admitting that he didn't know much about the religion.

The media salivated at the opportunity. Here they had another chance to kill two birds with one stone. With this simple question, based on a common Evangelical misunderstanding, the media had an opportunity to spoil Huckabee's surge in the polls, and simultaneously make all Evangelicals look bigoted and intolerant.

Being a Catholic in the Bible Belt, I am no stranger to Evangelical misunderstandings. But I have learned that misunderstandings are often based on a skin of truth, even if it's cloaked with error. Evangelicals may be ignorant about some things, but they're not stupid. There is usually a good reason why they have misunderstandings about other religious organizations, and these errors are often propagated by the very same media that likes to use them as slander against those who believe them.

Case in point, as a Catholic, I can't begin to tell you how many times Evangelicals have asked me why I seek forgiveness from a priest (through confession) instead of asking God directly. I inform them that this is not the case at all, and when we Catholics go to confession, we do ask God (directly) for forgiveness, and the priest merely acts as a representative of Christ to bless us and proclaim our forgiveness. But you see, this stereotype is actually fostered by the media, because we constantly see erroneous portrayals of Catholic confessionals (and what goes on there) in movies and television. In these portrayals, we often see a skin of the truth, shrouded in a cloak of errors.  Suffice it to say that though I go regularly, I have NEVER been in an actual confession that looks or sounds anything like what you see in the movies.  Priests don't call us their "children," and the confession rite always starts with "Bless me father for I have sinned," not what you see in the movies - "Forgive me father for I have sinned."  Do you see how the stereotype is perpetuated now?  The media, both in movies and television, regularly change the first word of the confession rite from "bless" to "forgive," thus making it sound like the penitent is asking the priest (instead of God) for forgiveness.  When in reality, what Catholics actually ask of the priest is a blessing.  Granted, part of that blessing is absolution, but in the process of receiving this blessing, we make our confession to God, and ask God for his forgiveness.  But you would never know that by watching a movie or television show.  

So that being said, let's look and see what the 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' (Mormonism) teaches about Jesus and the Devil. The authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, does not refer to Jesus and Satan as brothers. It speaks of Jesus as the son of God and of Satan as a fallen angel.

An angel, according to Mormonism is "a son of God," but that is not the same as "the only-beggoton Son of God." Mormon theology differs from classical Christian theology in many respects, and one major area is that Mormonism does not accept the historical Christian dogma of the Trinity. (Incidentally, this is the major issue qualifying Mormonism as a distinct religion in and of itself.) Now because Mormons reject the Trinitarian dogma, the status of Jesus as the "only-begotton Son" is somewhat downgraded from the classical Christian understanding. Mormons specify that when they say "only-begotton Son of God" they mean that Jesus was unique in the sense that he the only "Son of God" begotten in the flesh, and the angels do not share this distinction. Granted, this is a significant departure from classical Christian theology, but that being said, there is a clear distinction between Jesus and the angels -- especially a fallen angel, or the devil. The devil, according to Mormonism, was merely "a son of God" (an angelic spirit) who was cast out of heaven and never made flesh and blood.

Some Evangelicals correctly recognize in Mormonism a significant downgrade of Jesus' status, (compared to classical Christian theology under the Trinitarian dogma). However, they often make the mistake of assuming this downgrading automatically puts Jesus on the same level as the angels in heaven, which would include Lucifer (who eventually became the devil). That being the case, they call Jesus and Lucifer "brother spirits" as if there were no distinction between them at all.  So what we have here is a skin of truth, cloaked in error. Mormonism does make a significant distinction between Jesus and the devil, but because this distinction is not as profound as the historical Christian distinction under the Trinitarian dogma, some Evangelicals jump to conclusions and assert that Mormonism teaches no difference between Jesus and the angels at all -- thus making Jesus and Lucifer "brothers."  This is an error of course, but it is a common one.

Governor Mike Huckabee DID NOT assert this error to be true. He simply asked if it was true. Though I suspect this was merely in answer to another stupid media question, I suspect Huckabee would have done better if he had kept this question to himself, and asked Governor Romney in private some time after the GOP convention. I'm sure Governor Huckabee is probably thinking the same thing right now. Clearly this is a political gaff, but in the overall scheme of things, because it is a common misbelief among Evangelicals, its a relatively small one.

Let's not forget who is fueling this issue. It's not Governor Huckabee nor his campaign. Romney's campaign naturally recoiled at the news of Huckabee's question, and at the same time saw it as an opportunity to take some swipes at the new Republican frontrunner. Make no mistake about it, however, it's the mainstream media that is driving this whole thing. Let us never forget that over 80% of the mainstream news media is Liberal and regularly votes Democrat. We know who their favorite is in this race, and it's not Huckabee or Romney. The media is trying to set the stage for Hillary to win in November, and in order to do this, it would be helpful if Republicans were bitterly divided and resentful toward each other. This is why the media seeks to pit Mormons against Evangelicals and Evangelicals against Mormons.

So Huckabee is specifically asked about Romney's Mormon faith, and any gaffs he makes in his admitted ignorance of the religion, is played to Mormons in the hope of getting them upset. The idea being that if Huckabee gets the GOP nomination, most Mormons will be so angry at him, they won't vote for him. The same applies vice versa, by constantly asking Romney about his Mormon beliefs, so Evangelicals will be constantly reminded that he is a Mormon, and fail to look at his qualifications as a candidate. That way if he gets the GOP nomination, the only thing Evangelicals will know about him is that he's a Mormon -- and not much else. That won't excite them too much, and the media hopes they'll stay home on election day.

We have to understand that everything the media does from now on will be viewed in the template of Election 2008 and insuring a Democratic victory. Mormons are not the enemy here, and neither are Evangelicals. We need to give Huckabee a pass on gaffs like the one he made to the New York Times, and we need to stand behind what Romney said about religion in his recent "Faith in America" speech. Both of these men have been unfairly assaulted by a hostile news media, seeking to use them as pawns in pitting one conservative group (Mormons) against another (Evangelicals), all for the sake of helping Hillary win in November of 2008. As social conservatives, we need to keep focused on what matters to us, not on what the media would try to sidetrack us into.

ADDENDUM:
Governor Mike Huckabee has personally apologized to Governor Mit Romney over the comment/question he made to The New York Times. You can read the full story here. In the story, more has come out about the interview. Yes, it looks like it was a trap. New York Times reporter Zev Chafets talked with Governor Huckabee for hours, repeatedly trying to get him to comment on Romney's religion, asking him if he thought it was a "cult." Huckabee told CNN that his quote was taken out of context, and that the question was directed at the reporter, because the reporter continued to talk about Mormonism in such a way that the Governor thought Chafets was an expert on Mormonism. So he asked the reporter about something he had heard, not knowing if it was true, and expecting to get an educated answer from a knowledgeable man. Instead, it looks like Governor Huckabee got bushwacked! The reporter used this question, which he solicited, as a headline in the preview for the story. It looks like what we got here is a classic case of "yellow journalism."