The Story: Earlier this week, after evangelist Billy Graham endorsed Mitt Romney for president, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) removed a page from their website that listed Mormonism as a cult.
The Background: According to CNN, a section of BGEA's website called Billy Graham's My Answer included the question “What is a cult?”
Answer: “A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith.”
“Some of these groups are Jehovah's Witnesess, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spritualists, Scientologists, and others,” the site added.
In a statement to CNN, Ken Barun, chief of staff for the association, said:
Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.
Why It Matters: Since 2007, when Mitt Romney first ran for president, many evangelicals have worried that Christians would be expected to temper their criticism of Mormonism since it could be construed as a condemnation of a Mormon politician. Sadly, that concern is proving to be valid. When an organization dedicated to evangelism chooses to self-censor for fear of appearing “political,” then we've reached the stage when we need to reevaluate our priorities.
Increasingly, evangelicals are willing to tell people they are sinners—-as long as we don't have to be specific about what sins are separating them from God. Once we begin to name particular sins, we begin to offend particular individuals. For instance, telling Mormons they don't really know Jesus and that they are worshiping a false conception of God is guaranteed to offend their religious sensibilities. But the same claim is increasingly considered offensive to the political sensitivities of some Christians since it might lead people to think they should not vote for a Mormon. (For the record, I believe Christians can, in good conscience, vote for a Mormon. But I respect the reasons why some evangelicals disagree.)
We should not enjoy offending either non-believers or our fellow Christians. But for anyone committed to telling the truth about God's wrath and mercy, giving offense is inevitable. Refusing to engage in theological controversies that have become “politicized” is not an option for those who care more about the Kingdom of God than the City of Man.