Yesterday a Baptist pastor, Robert Jeffress, referred to Mormonism as a cult. He was a guest on Chris Matthews today, and all in all, I was impressed by him. I agree with him on little but he really seems to be a straight shooter. He stuck with his characterization of LDSers as cultist, but stood some unfair attacks by Mr. Matthews fairly well. He handled Chris's clarification that he did not mean a Jim Jones, or Charles Manson type of cult by saying "no, that's not the type of cult I mean..." Really isn't a cult any group of people with a particular set of beliefs that aren't yours? Isn't religion and cult interchangable, especially if your are an atheist? OK, hold on ... I am on the internet! I'll be right back.
10 seconds later...
Good old Wikipedia:
10 more seconds...From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices.
- This article gives a general cultural account of "cult". For its usage in the original sense of "veneration" or "religious practice", see Cult (religious practice). For its use in a scientific, sociological context see New Religious Movement. For other uses, see Cult (disambiguation).
So I hold on... let's check out the second part since pastor Jeffress seems to have indicated he did not mean the current cultural reference.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThis article discusses cult in the original and
typically ancient sense of "religious practice" (from the Latin cultus).
In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings ("scriptures"), its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult in this primary sense is literally the "care" (Latin cultus) owed to the god and the shrine. In the specific context of Greek hero cult, Carla Antonaccio has written, "The term cult identifies a pattern of ritual behavior in connection with specific objects, within a framework of spatial and temporal coordinates. Ritual behavior would include (but not necessarily be limited to) prayer, sacrifice, votive offerings, competitions, processions and construction of monuments. Some degree of recurrence in place and repetition over time of ritual action is necessary for cult to be enacted, to be practiced"
Cult is embodied in ritual and ceremony. Its present or former presence is made concrete in temples, shrines and churches, and cult images (denigrated by Christians as "idols") and votive deposits at votive sites.
By extension, "cult" has come to connote the total cultural aspects of a religion, as they are distinguished from others through change and individualization.
The comparative study of cult practice is part of the disciplines of the anthropology of religion and the sociology of religion, two aspects of comparative religion. In the context of many religious organisations themselves, the study of cultic or liturgical practises is called liturgiology.
Oops, looks like I am part of a cult too. Truth to be told Mormons are less "culty" than the Episcopal Church. But the CJCLDS is a cult by the traditional definition. However, to be fair, Pastor Jeffress should point out that they are less "culty" than many mainstream churches and way less that the RCs. Baptists, as I understand them are really low on the cultiness, but there must be a little. I suspect he knows that.
Where I think Chris Matthews missed the mark and Pastor Jeffress scored big was on the Constitution. In discussion of how religious beliefs might be used as a litmus test for voter, Matthews quoted Article 6, paragraph 3 which concludes:
... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Mathews was clearly implying that this would make it wrong for Jeffress to consider the beliefs of a candidate when we enter the voting booth. Jeffress called him on that, and Matthews would have been well advised to concede.
It is logically incorrect for anyone to vote for or against anyone based on their religion. It is especially incorrect for someone to vote for someone who professes their Christianity, as many do, and then lives out a life and hold beliefs that would most like give Jesus the shivers. But the Constitution does not dictate for whom anyone can vote. The Electoral College was originally intended to insulate the election of a President from an ill informed electorate. That however is no longer its raison d'être. Now it just keeps politicos in business and confuses many.
Bottom line. Cult members can run for President. If you're an American you can vote for anyone for whatever reason you like and be as ill informed as you like. Makes me proud.