June 06, 2006

Will the Mormons Please Excommunicate Harry Reid Already

harry_reid.jpgOne thing I've always admired about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) is that they, unlike other denominations, haven't forgotten the time honored Christian tradition of excommunication. With Sen Harry Reid's (D-Nev) new found stance opposing the Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as betwen a man and a woman at odds with that of the Mormon church, isn't it time the Mormons disassociate themselves from him?

An organization, by definition, must have boundaries. That is, there must be a way to recognize who is "in" the organization and who is "out" of the organization. Excommunication has traditionally been the way a church proclaims a person is "out"--that that person is no longer part of the organization.

So, when was it that Christian churches stopped excommunicating their members who publicly oppose the official stances of the church?

My Catholic friends say to me that "you can be pro-choice, but you can't be a pro-choice Catholic." Okay, that sounds about right. The Catholic Church's official stance is that abortion is homicide. So, why doesn't the Catholic church go ahead and excommunicate Ted Kennedy?

Not to pick on the Catholics. That's just an example of a public personality at public odds with a church he says he "belongs" to. Protestants, it seems to me, are much worse than Catholics. At least the Catholic church does still excommunicate, albeit more rarely than I'd like to see.

I've never heard of a Protestant church excommunicating some one. Never. Perhaps it happens, but it must be a rare event.

So, back to the Mormons. These guys seem to have no problem with excommunicating any one for pretty much any reason. Good on them.

I know a couple of people who were excommunicating from the LDS church for adultery. Not only does excommunication tell the world, "we do not tolerate this sort of behavior," it also serves as a social sanction so that members of the organization are warned not to do certain things considered "out of bounds". People who wish to remain "in" the organization are warned that if you do something considered morally aggregious, you are "out".

Had the Baptists had the same policy, perhaps my Grandfather--a practicing Baptist minister--would not have been a serial adulterer. As far as I can tell, my grandfather loved the Baptist church, and had their been consequences for his actions perhaps he would have thought twice before the actions.

I've also often wondered what would Bill Clinton's Presidency have been like had the Baptists preached less forgiveness for sin and more don't do the sin in the first place lest you find yourself "out" of the group.

Which brings us back to Harry Reid. He is allegedly a good Mormon. I'm sure he's faithful to his wife, is honest, and does all the things good Mormons are supposed to do, but it seems to me that his political philisophy is now at odds with the Mormon church.


An apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stood with several other religious leaders at a news conference in Washington supporting a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles participated in a press conference with the Alliance for Marriage, and met with President Bush at the White House before giving a statement in support of amending the U.S. Constitution.

"Together we share a duty to preserve marriage and family as established by God," Nelson said. "The time has now come when a constitutional amendment is needed in this country to protect our divine inheritance. Such action does not reduce our regard for individuals who choose to live by other standards. But it confirms our conviction that marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue and the foundation for eternal exaltation."

An apostle? Sounds like the Mormons are pretty serious about their support for this constitutional amendment.

But maybe that's just one leader's own opinion on the amendment. Or is supporting the amendment the official position of the LDS Church? KUTV:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has spent millions of dollars campaigning against gay marriage, urged members Sunday to lobby U.S. senators on the proposed constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to being between a man and a woman.

The church sent a letter to leaders throughout the United States that was to be read to the congregations Sunday.

The letter from the First Presidency – church President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors – noted the church leaders "have repeatedly set forth our position that the marriage of a man and a woman is the only acceptable marriage relationship.''

The letter noted that the Senate was scheduled to vote on the proposed marriage amendment on June 6, and said, "We urge our members to express themselves on this urgent matter to their elected representatives in the Senate.''

So, the offical position of the LDS church is that it's members should support the amendment.

So, what is Sen. Harry Reid's take on the amendment banning gay marriage? The Hill:

“The reason for this debate is to divide our society, to pit one against another. This is another one of the president’s efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract and to confuse America.”
Er, since Harry Reid's own church supports the amendment, why does he choose to be part of an organizationa that, presumabley, is engaged in an effort to "frighten, to distort, to distract and to confuse America"?

But the real question I have is for the Mormon Church. Why would you guys want to claim a guy like Harry Reid, who thinks your official support of a Constitutional Amendment is not only ill advised but ill motivated?

The highest elected Democrat in the country thinks you, the Mormon church hierarchy, are full of crap. Are you guys just going to stand there and take it?

If Harry Reid no longer feels the Mormon church leaders are speaking for God, then the logical step would be to either to stop calling himself a Mormon or for the Mormons to kick him out.

Just to make myself clear, my objection to Reid's stance is niether political nor theological. As a Christian Universalist I believe all people--even Democrats and gay people--eventually go to heaven. As a libertarian, I have no problem with two hot chicks going down to the local Unitarian church and getting hitched. Heck, I don't even really have a problem with three hot chicks getting hitched. Or even one guy, and three hot chicks getting hitched! (although I do object to states being forced to recognize such kinky unions as legally binding "marriage" contracts)

But I do have a problem with people who wish to claim they are part of an organization, but then are consistently at odds with it. This is not Europe. One is not "born" into a religion. Your religion and your ethnic identity are not the same here. One chooses which religious organizations one belongs to.

So, Harry Reid, if you are no longer a Mormon, please do us all a favor and be honest about it. And you Mormons, aren't you ashamed that this guy uses your religion as poliltical cover? And for the rest of the religious leaders out there: do us all a favor and start excommunicating people.

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear from readers about their thoughts on excommunication. Does your church or denomination ever do it? If so, under what circumstances?

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 01:22 PM | Comments |