As much as we might like to think otherwise, politics and religion frequently overlap, as they do again this political season. The recent uproar caused by Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas wherein he called Mitt Romney's Mormon faith a "cult" is just the latest example of that overlap.
Jesus Christ said that we would be known by our actions rather than anything else. The act of judging another's faith within political contests or as part of political strategy runs counter to the principles set forth in Article 6 of the United States Constitution, which state that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." It serves us to remember that this nation was established by individuals seeking religious freedom. Though the Founding Fathers set forth restraints on government in the U.S. Constitution, that document certainly cannot proscribe what individuals might do, think or say. From a spiritual standpoint, the ultimate arbiter in that context, at least for Christians, should be the Savior Himself as he admonished us to "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1).
This is a good time to let it be known that I am not a supporter of Governor Mitt Romney for the presidency of the United States of America. Yes, I am a member of the same faith as he. I, too, am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am a Black Mormon.
Some would regard the descriptor "Black Mormon" as an oxymoron. In fact, there have been Black Mormons since the earliest days of this faith. We, Latter-day Saints, consider our particular branch of Christianity to be a restoration of the past structure as ordained by Jesus Himself rather than as a part of the Protestant reformation. Under the leadership of our first modern-day prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., the Church was established on April 6, 1830. Only two short years later, 1832, we had Black members (plural) of record.
As in most Christian denominations there have been certain racial barriers in our faith which required correction. Nonetheless, as Christians rooted in a hope of Christ and a faith in Christ, we have become better at living our religion.
The Savior provided this simple charge: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment. And the second [is] like, [namely] this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31).
Yet, even with this clear admonition from the Savior of the world, we demean, belittle and judge our brothers when their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or religious beliefs differ from our own. Why then do we call Him Lord, Lord and do not the things which He says? For truly "This people draweth nigh unto [Him] with their mouth, and honoureth [Him] with [their] lips; but their heart[s] [are] far from [Him]" (Matthew 15:8).
The rancor, the vitriolic rhetoric of current discussions are all anathema to the love and respect in which we've been instructed. Certainly political and religious views are often strongly held, but we should be able to dialog with one another about the merits of issues without abusing truth, our faith, or forgetting the sweet message of The Master. We are indeed brothers and sisters, children of the selfsame God -- commanded to love one another.
May we all be blessed,
Bro. Darius A. Gray
(A Christian in the Mormon)