2011: The Year of Living Religiously
Vol: 123 Issue: 31 Saturday, December 31, 2011
The first major event of 2011 was an act of religious devotion. On January 1, religious Muslims bombed a Coptic Christian Church in the ancient city of Alexandria, killing 21 Christians and wounding 100 others.
“No one in Egypt or outside the country should be surprised by this attack,” said Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.
On January 4, a Muslim street vendor in Tunisia who had been humiliated by a female police officer died of self-immolation. The death of Mohamed Bouazizi sparked a revolution in Tunisia that spread like wildfire across the Islamic world.
Spurred on by both al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood shouting Islamic slogans, Western-friendly Arab dictatorships began to collapse like lawn chairs.
First was Tunisia’s Ben Ali, who abandoned his 23 year rule and fled into exile in Saudi Arabia. By year’s end, Tunisia had a new government dominated by the formerly-banned Nahba Party, originally founded as the ”Movement of the Islamic Tendency” in 1981.
“In 1989, it changed it name to Hizb al-Nahda.The party has been described as one of many parties/movements in Muslim states “that grew up alongside the Iranian revolution“, and it was originally inspired by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.“
The religiously-inspired Arab Spring revolt jumped to Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood fomented a ‘spontaneous’ revolution calling for the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s four-decades of secular rule.
It began with a call by Mohammed Baradei, former head of the IAEA, for a “Tunisia-style revolution” — a call that so stirred the revolutionary heart of Barack Obama that he actually sided with the Muslim Brotherhood against one of America’s staunchest allies in the Arab world.
When Mubarak’s government fell in January, so did Mubarak’s ability to enforce the peace treaty with Israel.
Within days, terrorists began using Egypt as a staging area for attacks on Israel, blowing up oil and gas pipelines, permitting infiltrations, and threatening to pull the plug on the thirty-three year old peace agreement.
For reasons still not clear to most Americans, the Obama administration created, and then abandoned, a coalition of NATO countries to “intervene” in Libya’s revolution, siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda in the fight to bring down Ghadaffi.
In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s twenty-one year dictatorship was overthrown by Islamic elements loyal to either al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood.
Protests against Bashar al Assad’s Ba’athist government in Syria marked the whole of 2011 and remain ongoing, despite Assad’s brutal crackdown on the mainly Sunni Muslim majority that has already cost the lives of thousands of Syrian, including women and children.
Syria’s ruling elite come from the minority Alwawite sect of Shiite Islam that only comprises about 12% of Syria’s three-quarters Sunni population. A Wikileaks cable revealed that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is secretly working with the US and Israel to bring down Assad’s co-religionist regime in Iran.
In a column discussing the importance of religion to the politics of the past year, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered this insight:
“My experience as prime minister taught me that none of the problems of the Middle East and beyond – including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia – can be understood unless we comprehend the importance of religion. I don’t mean the politics of religion, but religion as religion. We cannot treat the influence of religious faith in purely secular terms. We must address it also as a genuine issue of faith.”
While religion was reshaping the face of the Arab world in the Middle East, in 2011, Americans were beginning to learn a little more about the “American religion”, for such is Mormonism.
Mormonism was invented and presented to pre-Civil War America by American Joseph Smith of Palmyra, New York.
Mormonism spread to the American mid-West, and ultimately to Utah, where it dominates and controls the state at all levels of government and religion. Mormonism is also prevalent in the American states surrounding Utah.
Until 2011, I had given Mormonism only scant attention. I knew it was a cult, but so are many others. I haven’t paid much attention to the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Scientology, either.
But thanks largely to the efforts of Glenn Beck to convince mainstream Christianity that Christian doctrinal purity was the semantic equivalent of religious bigotry, Mormonism has bullied its way to the center stage of American religiousity in 2011.
With three Mormons vying for the Republican nomination for President and with a Mormon leading the United States Senate, referring to Mormonism as “a cult” has become the cultural equivalent of an ethnic slur and arguing that Mormonism is not Christian has morphed into an egregious example of “Christian intolerance”.
Glenn Beck has also alluded on a number of occasions to the Mormon “White Horse Prophecy” allegedly uttered by Joseph Smith in 1843.
Briefly, LDS founder Joseph Smith prophesied that the LDS would go to the Rocky Mountains and become “a great and mighty people,” whom Smith identified figuratively with the rider on the white horse of Revelation 6:2.
Mormon theology envisions America becoming a Mormon theocracy, similar to what it attempted to create in Utah (in the Rockies) under Brigham Young and the early Mormon leadership.
“Writers such as Richard Abanes and Elaine Wolff have speculated, on the basis of the prophecy, that Mormons expect the US to eventually become a “Mormon-ruled theocracy divinely ordained to ‘not only direct the political affairs of the Mormon community, but eventually those of the United States and ultimately the world'”, and that “a Mormon, if he were elected president, would take his orders from Salt Lake City.” In addition to many LDS members of the Republican Party, some LDS Democrats have also been inspired to run for office by the White Horse Prophecy.
The LDS is split over the authenticity of the White Horse Prophecy but what is at issue is whether it was uttered by Joseph Smith, not the prophecy itself.
Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, was born in a Mormon colony in Mexico. He was a high priest in the Mormon Melchizedek priesthood. When he was considering a run for the White House in 1967, he said of the White Horse Prophecy,
“I have always felt that they meant that sometime the question of whether we are going to proceed on the basis of the Constitution would arise and at this point government leaders who were Mormons would be involved in answering that question.”
Mitt Romney is himself a high-ranking member of the Mormon Church who, when questioned, offered this carefully-parsed response:
“I haven’t heard my name associated with [the White Horse Prophecy] or anything of that nature. That’s not official church doctrine…. I don’t put that at the heart of my religious belief.”
Note carefully how he worded it, because he sure did. It wasn’t “I don’t believe it. ” Just, “I haven’t heard my name associated . . . and “that’s not official church doctrine, and it is not “at the heart of my religious belief.”
Romney has done his best to disassociate himself from Mormonism, apart from admitting he is an member of the LDS. He was a Bishop for Belmont, Massachusetts, and later presided over the Boston “Stake” a level of hierarchy similar to a Catholic diocese.
Mormons have set their sights on the White House ever since Joseph Smith announced his own candidacy in 1844. Apart from the two Romneys, there was Morris Udall in 1976 and Orrin Hatch in 2000.
But with three Mormons running for the GOP nomination this year, (Romney, Huntsman and Johnson) and the wildly popular conservative hero Glenn Beck cheerleading for the installation of Mormon values as the benchmark standard for American conservatism, 2011 may well mark the year that the LDS went mainstream.
And the year that Bible-believing Christianity became a cult.
CNN ran a Year in Review feature called “My Faith 2011: Year in Review.” While Islam is rapidly retaking the Middle East and the LDS is making plans to install a Mormon in the White House, this CNN piece is a showcase for the state of mainstream American Christianity.
(You know, that part of American Christianity that would agree with Beck that calling the LDS ‘a cult’ is religious bigotry.) CNN’s tease spoke volumes on the subject:
“Our top five stories for 2011, in no particular order, focused on a U.S. senator, a Muslim congressman, a recovering alcoholic who’s an atheist, a labyrinth walker, and an unlikely patriot.”
On closer examination . . .
- The US Senator is Joe Liebermann, whose devotion to keeping the Sabbath CNN found “surreal.”
- The Muslim Congressman is Keith Ellison, of whom CNN gushed: “The congressman allowed CNN all-platform journalist Chris Welch to follow him for a day in Minneapolis for this surprising and intimate look at his faith.”
- The alcoholic is an atheist who found a way to overcome her disgust at references to Jesus in order to find sobriety at AA.
- The labyrinth walker is Sally Quinn, the Washington Post’s “religion reporter.” Quinn is admired by CNN for her faith in a circle she sat in, which she credited for her son Quinn’s remarkable cognitive recovery. I dunno, you have to read it to make sense of it. If you can.
- The unlikely patriot is a Mennonite pastor who refuses to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.”
What? In all of America, not a single admirable Christian?
Well, CNN did make mention of Rob Bell, who teaches that Jesus isn’t entirely necessary to salvation . . . and a priest who spent Christmas at the South Pole.
Then there is the phenomenon of Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback. To listen to some of Tebow’s critics, one would think Tebow is the football equivalent to Kim Kardashian.
I don’t know a lot about football, but evidently, Tebow frustrates his critics by not being the loser they keep saying that he is.
Tebow became the target of liberal hatred when his mother told the story of how she refused a doctor’s recommendation to have an abortion because she is pro-life.
That rankled the “pro-choice” lobby, who decided to hate Tim Tebow, evidently for one of two possible reasons.
- He makes a big show of his Christianity and gives glory to God for every victory, and,
- because his mother didn’t choose to kill him before birth.
The top “hit” from a search of “Christianity 2011” at Google yielded a Youtube video from Christopher Hitchens!
Is that revealing?
According to the Bible, the religion of the last days will be overseen by a character the Bible calls the False Prophet. The Bible reveals several major characteristics of the end-times religious leader that kept coming to mind as I was looking over our files on the year 2011.
First, he will oversee what amounts to a theocratic religious system married to the government of the antichrist. (Revelation 13:12) (Theocratic religious systems have done very well in 2011).
Secondly, this theocratic system will resemble Christianity, and may even claim Christianity, but it will not BE Christian. Revelation 13:11 describes it as having two horns like a lamb, but speaks as a dragon.
And thirdly, he will demand worship for the political leader. (Revelation 13:17)
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
There is an old Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” The past year certainly qualifies. And next year is shaping up to be even more interesting.
I pray that each of you and all of us are blessed with a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Until He comes.
Maranatha! See you next year.