I know, I’m supposed to be writing about other things, but I wanted to slip this one in first…
I have been fascinated by the feedback from our latest newsletter. There have been far fewer respondents than usual, but of those who have answered, the common thread has been to tell us to “Be Careful of the Mormons”. One might therefore infer that some of those who didn’t comment are also uncomfortable with the idea that we might be cavorting with the enemy. Or maybe everyone’s just busy at this time of year.
So, I wanted to try and provoke some thoughts. For those who aren’t up to speed, the details are this; we’re Evangelical Christians, allegedly missionaries, in Argentina, and we’ve been inviting the Mormon missionaries in to get to know each other and do a bit of “Comparative religions” over lunch.
My key question today is; where is the real danger? If, for example the newsletter hadn’t mentioned Mormons but had simply said that we were hosting lunch for our neighbours, I’m certain that the response would have been wholly positive, and almost definitely wouldn’t have included a single Shakespearean warning. So why is it that the Mormons are more dangerous than the nice normal secular consumerists on either side of us whose gods are their automatic garage doors or their kids’ academic grades? Put it in other terms; of the good solid Christians who were at the University CU with me, and even at Bible College, of the percentage of those who are no longer going anywhere with their Evangelical faith, what is the ratio of people who have converted to any other religion including Mormonism, compared to those who simply settled down as comfortable middle class materialists?
And not only is comfortable materialism far more successful than any other religion at keeping people out of church, it has also made itself more than at home inside the church. It is perfectly possible to take on pretty much every self-centred materialistic value of my average secular neighbour and still be considered a solid and useful Bible-believing – even Bible-teaching – member of my congregation, whereas of course if I gave the slightest hint of revering the Book of Mormon as the word of God, I’d be out of the door with a church-warden’s boot up my bottom faster than I could say “And also with you”.
So I wonder why it is that we perceive the Mormons to be more dangerous. I suspect it is because we see them as “other”, with their uniforms and insistence on referring to each other as Elder so and so. Whereas of course our neighbours are nice normal people like us who just happen to be a bit wrong on the details when worship their new car instead of the one true God of salvation. If this sounds flippant, it isn’t meant to be, exactly the opposite in fact. I know there is a spiritual battle and there are forces of darkness in places we know not where. But it seems to me that the insidious and unchecked values embodied in easy materialism pose far more of a danger to the building of God’s Kingdom, possibly because they are insidious and unchecked, than any number of black-suited corn-fed missionaries trying to convince us with tales of gold-plates and bilingual spectacles. I was going to say maybe it’s a question of strong or weak faith; is your faith strong enough to withstand the Mormons? But apart from sounding ridiculously arrogant, it isn’t even true, because actually if my faith isn’t strong enough to stand an orange squash with the Mormons (and that’s the real issue; by the time you’ve eliminated all the other stuff that they aren’t allowed to drink you’re reduced to sugar and tartrazine), but anyway, if my faith isn’t strong enough to have a conversation with with Mormons without putting myself in danger, then I should probably think quite hard before inviting any of my other neighbours in for mulled wine and mince pies. Macbeth Macbeth beware Macduff. Beware the Thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.