Who listens to heretics?

When I grew up in the South among conservative evangelical Christians, Mormonism was considered at best a heresy, but most people actually seemed to consider it a cult. We would notice who the Mormon kids were after baseball games because they were the ones who got the Sprites instead of the Cokes or Dr. Peppers. The few Mormon families at our school were known for being Mormons, much more so than Catholics were known for being Catholic or Pentecostals were know for being Pentecostals and I’m sure there were Jews at my school but I couldn’t name any off the top of my head because they were not as known for being Jewish as the Mormons were for being Mormons. The Mormons had their own book that seemed silly to us. They believed that Jesus came to North America and racism against blacks had actually at one time been institutionalized through the doctrine of their church. In short, no one stuck out more for being different than Mormons. And since I was very serious about my sheep and goat theology, Mormons were heretics in my mind and even in my conversations with friends.

This is why I find the feud between Glenn Beck and Jim Wallis and Glenn Beck and Union Seminary so strange. Beck is a Mormon. He has his own theological convictions. Wallis and Union are Protestant Christians and have their own theological convictions. The theological differences are fundamental, not quibbles about how to implement the Gospel in one’s everyday life. The Scriptures upon which Union and Wallis hold their faith are totally different than that of Beck.

I know that James Dobson and Pat Robertson disagree with Wallis and Cone, but they can at least have a conversation about how to interpret the texts, can’t they? The conversation Union and Wallis want to have with Beck seems almost futile to me. Not that they couldn’t debate the contents of the text of the Bible as if they were debating the contents of the text of the Bible with Phillip Pullman or Keith Ellison. The real question is why any conservative Christian, who less than a generation ago would have considered Beck a heretic, would listen to a Mormon dish out theological advice on what kind of a church they should attend.

Are people actually listening to Beck? Are they going to a Baptist or Presbyterian church on Sunday, hearing the Word of God preached from the pulpit from an ordained Christian minister and then filtering the sermons and lessons they learn on Sunday through the words of the Mormon Glenn Beck on Fox News?

I recognize that Mormonism is becoming more mainstream as it makes its way through the western U.S. Harry Reid, Bob Bennett, Orin Hatch, Mitt Romney, Tom Udall and other Mormons are very powerful people in the U.S. This does not bother me at all. But I wouldn’t expect evangelical Christians to listen to these people as theological authorities. They are not spiritual leaders, they are political leaders. Just like Glenn Beck. So why would people take Glenn Beck seriously as a theologian?

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