Christians, Muslims, Mormons, and the Press

Man, that title sounds like the start of a bad joke. If only.

Eliza Wood recently authored an article on the Huffington Post, a news outlet that tends to stray farther left that right (but that matters little for Latter-day Saints, who have trouble finding allies on either end of the political spectrum). Her question was this:

“Are Mormons any closer to Christians than Muslims?”

And her thesis?

“Short answer: No.”

A Few Problems Up Front

There are a number of things in this article that make me wonder, including why we are asking the question in the first place. Why are we looking to tie Mormons to Muslims?

I would wager that it’s based on the fact that Islam creates a knee-jerk reaction of fear and distrust in the American public. Tying Mormonism to that same knee-jerk reaction, however illegitimately, is something that will prove problematic for Mitt Romney and his candidacy for President (not to mention it’s impact on Latter-day Saints in general). I wonder why anyone would want to achieve that, especially given the fact that there is little to no unique connection between the two theologies.

Another problem is that Wood never really defines what Christianity is. It seems difficult to answer the question she poses without examining such a fundamental question as what makes Christianity Christianity. I’ve done a far better job at examining this question, and I don’t even get paid for it (see my posts “Calling us Cultists”“Mormonism and Robert Jeffress”, and “Mormon Observations on Mere Christianity” for starters).

The Motive

Wood gives explanation for this important investigation as such:

“As the media shapes our understanding of the Mormon faith, now that we Americans consider electing our first Mormon presidential candidate (Mitt Romney), it might be wise for us to better understand the similarities and the differences among Christianity and these two faiths.”

I’m not sure why any Presidential race merits examination of the candidates’ religion. I know there are some who believe that Obama is a closet Muslim, but were that the case I’m not sure I would have a problem with it. As a Latter-day Saint, I’ve never had my faith represented in this political office, but that’s not really an issue for me. I’m concerned that it’s an issue for Wood and those of similar disposition.

What’s more, why is Christianity our yardstick? Or rather, why is Wood’s version of Christianity our yardstick?

Awful Journalism

There are a number (read: not a few) of blatant errors about Mormonism in the remainder of the article. In pointing them out, I will defer to Daniel Peterson’s post. While I am pretty savvy on catching the Mormonism wrongs, Peterson is a professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, and is quite qualified to speak on the subject. I agree with his assessment that Wood is

“attempting, in a not very subtle and not very ethical way, to demonize Mormonism and to damage Mitt Romney by linking them with Muslims and terrorism.  Which, if true, is both disingenuous and irresponsible.”

Backing up this asserting are a number of comments Wood makes on her own article, including one that says:

“Readers may enjoy other research and perspectives on this subject”

And then she links to a number of other sites, including the Christian Research Institute (which constantly, constantly bashes on the LDS Church) and Wikipedia (do journalists not use primary sources anymore? I couldn’t cite Wikipedia in high school…). It’s tacky at best, and more likely (as Peterson suggests), incredibly unethical.

But Peterson’s analysis is more than sufficient, and since my post would be more or less a copy-and-paste from here on out, I commend his post to you.

Find it here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2012/07/are-mormons-closer-to-muslims-or-christians-by-ms-eliza-wood.html

I will be the first to admit that Latter-day Saints sometimes have a persecution complex, but can you always blame them, especially when you encounter drivel like this?

Eliza Wood, you should be ashamed of yourself.

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