The Jews have not recognised the Lord,
therefore we cannot recognise the Jewish people.
Pope Pius X
Persecution is the pursuit and harrying of an enemy with the intention of destroying that enemy. The logical consequence of persecution is the cessation of the enemy's activities even at the cost of the life of the enemy. The author of "Truth Under Attack," Eryl Davies, may not have chosen the book's cover photograph of a World War II Spitfire in an attacking dive. That may have been imposed by his publishing editor, but its implications are unmistakable. It represents the heroic fight of the British against their enemies during the Battle of Britain in which the "British way of life" was secured against the incursions of a dangerous foreign interloper: a life or death struggle versus a nasty foreign ideology. For his information, many Mormon servicement fought in the Battle of Britain and have served in other of Britain's wars. Although I was a child ruing World Ear II I shated in its rigours and served in to wars under the colours of the British Army as a regular soldier and I take great exception to his slur.
Nazi dogma was not entirely irreligious. Its aim was the substitution of western Christian religious and cultural values by its own system loosely based on Teutonic myths in the guise of a quasi-scientific sociological and philosophical system. The ultimate Nazi aim was political and cultural domination. The driving force was the myth that German Aryans were Herrenvolk - the 'master-race.' This gave ethnically ‘pure’ Germans an assumed biological superiority to other races, adjudges not only inferior, but untermenschen (less than human).
It would be difficult to conceive a more effective illustration for the work of an author who attacks not only New Religious Movements but established denominations including Roman Catholicism. Openly suspicious of new ideas, and many old ones, Davies accepts as orthodox that form of Christianity he believes to be ancient and primitive. By this he intends the beliefs and practices of Jesus and his disciples in the first century of the Common Era, seemingly unaware that this image of primitive Christianity never was a reality. Not that there was no primitive Church, but that it was not comparable to the image of it that Davies and some other writers have.
The tendency to construct inaccurate visions of reality is extended to other institutions of which we have no first-hand experience. We are disposed to convert our personal images and presuppositions into concretions. Through ignorance and misplaced trust we are deceived by the judgement of others who may be less innocent than ourselves. These concretions become our reality which we project backwards onto things that are very different from our creations.
Realities are the business of religious systems, which must have an overarching world-view within which to construct metaphysical and historical theologies. Unless a religion is able to construct a world-view, and one capable of development, it is unable to meet the needs of its members.
There is a kind of evangelism whose world-view brooks no rivalry. Tolerance has not found place in either its theology or practice, because it is convinced that it is engaged in a "holy war." In such a war, Battle of Britain imagery has no shortage of enthusiasts ready to embrace it as an essential part of a siege mentality. Davies is not alone in seeing himself and his fellow believers at the heart of a Titanic contest between the "defenders" of Christian truth and the insidious messengers from "Satan's dark realms."
On the surface such motives are creditable even though they involve the dangerous practice of drawing a demarcation line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. This distinction is the genesis of the process of persecution which, if unrestrained, leads to unacceptable excesses.
The mechanism of persecution has certain requirements. World maps in British schools have the British Isles at the centre. The Chinese call their own country, "The Middle Kingdom," meaning that China is the centre of the world. American maps have the American continent centrally placed. Whether we place ourselves at the centre in the case of our nations, our social accomplishments or in respect of our political orientation we take our position as middle earth marginalizing others. This may lead to an excess of national pride. When we employ the same device in religious matters and play "king of the castle", we do it to establish ourselves at the centre of orthodoxy, thereby displacing all others and their claims to the margins of religious life.
Those to whom we deny share of the middle ground we declare heretical and anathematise them. We may go as far as calling them Satanic, from this point persecution can begin in earnest. Some results of this kind of this kind of thinking are while the Church cannot be charged with the full responsibility for the phenomenal growth of the cults, she is not free from blame, and for that reason, if for no other, we should endeavour to help and instruct those who through lack of teaching or the neglect of Christians have fallen into "the snare of the devil."
Through this study the amazing love of Jesus Christ, my savior, has become more real and more precious to me than ever before. May the Lord use this book for the advancement of His kingdom and for the glory of His grace. May He particularly use it to lead many from the errors of the cult into the truth as it is in Christ.
Ah, so! Another writes:
In the past, many Christian opponents of Mormonism have felt it sufficient to ridicule the claims of Latter-day Saints and to vilify Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders. Few have made honest attempts to produce critical theological assessments of it. My aim is to take a very close look at the claims of the Mormons, especially their claims about the origins, translation and authority of the Book of Mormon. I have then proceeded to compare and contrast the main doctrines and practices of the movement with those found in traditional Christianity.
Whatever motive is claimed, the methodology is similar. Burrell condemns non-scholarly methodology but foolishly falls victim to it. He demolishes the ancient and time-worn Spaulding Theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon managing to cling to it thus proving that prejudice does not easily die even in the if it hides behind scholarship.
But I cannot help feeling that the evidence for Smith's dependence upon a Spaulding manuscript cannot lightly be set aside.
By this means, in spite of his convincing argument against the Spaulding theory, Burrell maintains the "conflict of difference". Difference is seen as a threat to a particular society or to a group within society where the group itself is seen as an extension of the self. Like-minded individuals may form groups with powerful identities. In religious circles a group will claim the middle ground. Its own standards and ideas are the norm. Anything which appears to question the reliability or legitimacy of that norm is perceived as threatening. Thankfully in most cases action against the "difference" and its presenters is restricted to disputation.
At times disputation becomes acrimonious and the language of warfare is employed. This makes the persecuted uncomfortable, especially when they do not consider their own position to be a threatening one. However, the logical consequence of hostility in whatever language the argument is framed is the destruction of the outsider ideology and, if considered necessary, its adherents. Persecutors in the religious field may not think in terms of destruction and would probably shrink from a conscious decision to pursue such an despite their polemic patently demanding for it. Such expressions of hostility may do no more than make bullets for the less sensitive.
Under certain conditions persecution takes the form of physical confrontation. Extreme cases are violent and may include the murder of individuals or the extermination of whole religious groups. A student group in a Pentecostal Church was addressed by an allegedly evangelical Christian minister who introduced them to the controversies raised by the former Bishop of Durham, Professor David Jenkins. Learning from the minister that Jenkins had questioned the literal Resurrection of Jesus they determined to confront him in his cathedral office and force him to recant. If he failed to submit to their intimidation they resolved to "smash his desk!"
The average Christian would consider such behaviour unthinkable. It is neither religiously or socially acceptable and would be resisted by the majority of church members. For these reasons anti-Mormon publications have to be cautious when preparing materials for internal consumption. They are more at home within anti-Mormon cultures which exist within groups who tolerate, encourage, and sponsor them. Anyone with a normally developed sense of respect and tolerance is unlikely to be affected by their thinly-veiled hostility.
A striking example of institutional persecution prosecuted with physical confrontation was the Christianization of anti-Judaism. This became an orthodox activity fostered and developed by many of the Church Fathers who were impelled by what they considered sound theological reasons. The extremes to which they went can be judged by acquaintance with some of the following works.
- Dialogue With Trypho written by Justin Martyr is not a dialogue. It was written some years after the death of the Jew Trypho. Its form is a reported conversation between Justin and Trypho, who never met. Its purpose is to show the inferiority of the Judaic system by demonstrating the superiority of Christianity.
- The great Tertullian who, according to some, enjoyed a dangerous liaison with a heretical group in his later years, wrote a compelling tract, Adversos Judaeos (Against Judaism).
- Origen, a theologian of powerful intellect, composed an imaginary three-cornered debate which promotes hostility to Jews as a routine practice for Christians (Contra Celsus).
- The promotion of persecution of Jews by Christians was further encouraged by Hyppolytus in his Expository Treatise Against The Jews.
- Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews by Cyprian was a collection of proof texts culled from the Hebrew Scriptures supporting his proposition that Jews hated Christ and God, had killed the ancient seers and prophets thereby rejecting God and were, therefore, to be considered the enemies of God who had lost any faculty they may once have had to gain any meaning or insight from the scriptures. Consequently they had been replaced as the people of God by Christians.
- John Chrysostom, author of Demonstration to the Jews and Greeks That Christ is God, labelled Jews "carnal devil-worshippers embodying all the forces of evil on earth." Language which is mirrored in many an anti-Mormon work.
- Augustine of Hippo considered Jews nothing less than instruments of Satan continually struggling against God to defeat his purposes. The definitions of these Church Fathers entered so deeply into both theology and the psyche of Christians they became dogmatic standards.
- Many of Gregory of Nyssa's writings exhibit powerful anti-Semitic themes.
- Other works by influential Fathers and churchmen include Questions to Antiochus Dux,
- Contra Judaeos by Isidore of Seville;
- On Jewish Meats, by Novation and Contra Judaeos by Bishop Maximus.
These were written in what Reuther describes as the "adversos Judaeos tradition" which primarily directed attention to a Christian re-interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures to alienate Jews and their sympathisers while proving the Christian claim to theological correctness at the expense of Judaism. She adds:
[anti-Jewish writings] are so dominated by the Christian presuppositions, and even by magical details, that it becomes difficult to separate elements of fact from fiction.
The effect of these types of publications was to crystallise, institutionalise and extend theological and ecclesiastical approval to the point of demonstrating that hatred of Jews and Judaism was a normative and required Christian practice thus giving full approval for those Christians who used every kind of wickedness including murder in the persecution of innocent Jews. One form of justification was the identification of all Jews as "Christ-killers." The mediaeval world witnessed the continual fanning of the fires of hatred against the "licensed enemies of God," as the Jews were described.
Christianity was represented in ecclesiastical art as triumphant over a bankrupt, blind, and broken Judaism. Examples of statuary dedicated to this view survives. The idea was reinforced in writings such as Altercation Between the Church and the Synagogue. Mediaeval Christians were targeted by imagery which portrayed Jews as "creatures of inexhaustible appetite," especially sexual appetite. They were reminded that Jews were creatures of the Devil, who was often represented with exaggerated genitalia. Jews were depicted as characteristically avaricious - a distortion of their role as money-suppliers in the Middle Ages. They were insulted, abused, maimed and killed by Christians, simply because they were Jews.
Many Jews were murdered; victims of the ungodly blood-libel. This was the lie that Jews crucified Christian children and drank their blood in debauched ceremonies. The libel ignored the Jewish mitzvoth against murder and the ingestion of blood. In spite of the libel being patently false and one brave pope making a cogent pronouncement of that fact, the lie was told, the libel believed. It entered deep into the psyche of Christians and resulted in thousands of Jewish lives taken at the hands of Christian mobs, urged on by their theologians and pastors. The last recorded victim of the blood-libel was slaughtered in 1911.
It is to the credit of Christianity's skilful construction of a powerful anti-Judaic image that its reverberations made their presence felt in the twentieth century. Hitler's anti-Semitism found ready acceptance among many Europeans, particularly Roman Catholics who continue to hold negative feelings for today's Jews because of their alleged involvement in an incident almost two thousand years ago. Hitler's portrayal of Jews as sub-human (untermenschen) found resonance in the minds of many European Christians.
Hitler was as cunning as the Christians had been. His attack was 'scientific.' The science was informed by Nazism. The ideas of eugenics were cynically bent to serve political ends. One publication responsible for much hatred and tolerance of the institutional and popular abuse of Jews is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This allegedly discloses the intrigues of an international Jewish conspiracy to achieve world domination. It was a forgery that had been written by the Russian Czarist Secret Police at the end of the 1800s.
In truth it was an anti-Napoleon III tract written by Maurice Joly, a Frenchman. With the invented "leadership of world Jewry" substituted for the name of Napoleon it served the Nazi purpose well. Though the original purpose of the book is now widely known it is still pressed into service by revisionist historians who deny the Nazi Holocaust whilst maintaining their own persecution of Jews. Persecution has nothing to do with science or truth. It has everything to do with lies and hatred. Paul Johnson writing of the Christian contribution to Jewish persecution writes of a
. . . specifically Christian branch of anti-Semitism which was superimposed on, and blended with, the ancient and ramifying pagan anti-Semitic tradition to form in time a mighty engine of hatred.
Christians have a well documented history of persecution. But their activities have not been solely directed against Jews. Christians have also been their victims, when those who dared disagree with them have been pursued and terrorised. Attempts to justify persecution are based on an entrenched sociopathy which is the hallmark of religious intolerance and bigotry. Battle lines are drawn with the orthodox on one side and heretics on the other.
The chief excuse for excommunication was "heresy." One cannot quite lay the invention of this sin to the sole charge of Christianity: it existed among the Jews, and the Persians had something like it; but it is safe to say that Christianity carried the idea to a height utterly unknown before, and that the principle, on which Christianity acted for hundreds of years, that an intellectual error is a crime to be punished by spiritual penalties in this world, and by eternal torture in the next. . . Too soon, alas, physical penalties were added: as soon as the Church gained the power, she called in the secular arm, and with a refinement of hypocrisy, while disclaiming their use herself, saw to it that the State applied them.
It remains hard to escape religious persecution. Those who have been its victims do not always succeed in jettisoning its horrors from their own armouries. Christians fleeing the old world for the new to enjoy religious freedom denied at home carried their own intolerance with them. This included judicial murder for religious difference as demonstrated in the tragic case of Mary Dyer hanged by New England Puritans in 1660 for being a Quaker.
Puritans committed enough crimes against humanity in the name of God to keep alive the old slander that they were people who loved God with all their souls and hated their neighbours with all their hearts.
Puritans, that must not be confused with pacific Quakers, were not alone in their suspicion, dislike and hatred of disagreeable theologies. Theologies identified with foreign places or people aroused strong reactions. They may be seen as the threat of domination by foreign ideologies. In such cases these reactions may be more than usually energetic. The early European American saw himself as a Protestant who had become liberated from the domination of Rome and its popes. Because of this view Irish immigrants to North America had a very hard time. They were met with open suspicion and hostility.
While the heavy immigration of Catholics presented enormous problems of administration and education to the [Roman Catholic] Church, it raised once again widespread fears on the part of many who were not members of that Church. Nativism erupted once again in the 1880s and 1890s as it had prior to the Civil War. Congregationalist Josiah Strong (1849-1916), though progressive in matters of social reform, saw Roman Catholicism as the enemy of America's liberties and the perverter of her grand destiny. In 1885 he wrote a book entitled Our Country (the Our being understood as Anglo-Saxon).
Christian persecution has been applied to other faiths besides Judaism and Christianity. Islam has also been its target. Mohammed stood accused of being a vicious sexual degenerate. Mediaeval Christianity had a lively anti-Islamic spirit as well as a strong anti-Semitic one so it was not extraordinary for the dishonest ale-wife in the miracle play The Harrowing of Hell to refer to her "master [in dishonesty] mighty Mahoun [Mahomet]."
Some of the ill-tempered attacks on Mohammed allege that he suffered from epilepsy; a charge also made against St Paul and Joseph Smith. The altered state of consciousness resulting from some epileptic states used to explain away their visions. This claim operates by substituting "madman" for "visionary." One writer springs to Joseph Smith's defence over this point but only because the same argument could be made against Biblical visionaries:
Some of Joseph Smith's bitterest opponents alleged that he was inspired to write by evil spirits. Others said that his visions were due to epilepsy. Yet others have affirmed that the Book of Mormon was the product of an adolescent mind suffering from schizophrenia. West finds all these explanations unconvincing because, he says, they could be used equally well of the Hebrew prophets and of the Apostle Paul.
They assume that any strong religious interest reflects a pathological state.
Edward Said has shown how false imagery assumes the characteristics of reality in the perceptions of those exposed to it. He examines how Western scholars created images of the orient and its peoples, a process he calls 'orientalism.' These images become the received reality of things oriental for westerners. This remains true in spite of the fact that the images do not accord with either the objective values, culture, subjective experience, belief or the self-understanding of oriental peoples.
It can be no surprise that errors of judgement amounting to distortion are made when images are constructed from the unmodified presuppositions of one who views an alien culture through a mind that is neither rooted nor versed in that culture. But when one deliberately determines to misrepresent another's culture or religion armed with a sense of divine commission, the multiplication of distortion and the potential for serious damage are correspondingly increased. Authority figures in faith groups such as ministers and popular leaders, writers and those accredited with specialist knowledge or expertise have a potentiating effect in the acceptance of imagery which transmits religious bias. The truthfulness or otherwise of ideas so transmitted does not enter into the equation.
Whether anti-Mormon publications can be described as intrinsically persecutory is unimportant. What is material is the manner in which materials are written; the use of emotionally tinged, rather than neutral, language which steers the reader towards the writer's conclusion without weighing either the underlying evidence or the accuracy of the submissions. Odium theologicum is not a thing of the past but a present reality. The hatred for religious "others" survives in the hearts and minds of a small but energetic Christian minority. It is usually found in the evangelical movements but is not confined to them.
Beckford has explored the phenomena of controversies between established and "new" religious groups. He cites some aspects of behaviour which are associated with them in the minds of the public:
The alleged greed and unscrupulousness of the founders and leaders cults were highlighted by those who wanted to expose their alleged manipulativeness. Then there were scares and scandals about allegations that some cults were buying influence in political circles. Soon they were being accused of creating economic empires and tax havens. Further allegations concerned the supposedly authoritarian character of their organization structures, sexual promiscuity among the leaders and/or rank and file members, and hazards to the health of participants. ...The conflict has been punctuated by numerous episodes in the nature of scandals, panics, atrocity-accusations, and outrages.
All Beckford's categories have been used against Latter-day Saints. He correctly writes that the form of attacks made on one group will be systematically used against another. All that is necessary to initiate such an attack is the conviction that the target cult deserves to be persecuted. However, the way in which a 'cult' is defined has no consensus. Beckford again:
The very word 'cult' conjures up images of kidnappers and brainwashers who are out to get us. The word 'cult' has unfortunately become a pejorative term that sometime reflects more on the speaker's attitude than on the subject being spoken about, and it is a word that is of questionable value in studying religious groups. ...
What is a cult? A cult is someone else's religious group that does not agree with mine. That may be a light-hearted definition, but it does have a ring of truth to it. Because religion is so personalized it is often difficult to objectively sort out what is true and what is false.
Anti-Mormon minister Lori MacGregor has her own method of arriving at a working definition of 'cult' and what comprises one. She starts with the Webster’s Dictionary definitions.
• A system of religious worship.
• Devoted attachment to a person, principle, etc.
• A sect.
She explains that Webster’s' definition of a sect is "a religious denomination." She does not agree with Webster’s dictionary and labels their definitions as "hazy." She means that these definition while correct in English usage do not serve her pejorative purposes. So she abandons the primary demands of scholarship and language to force her own definition at the same time as she claims to abandon the dictionary in favour of another book:
We need to turn from the pages of the dictionary to the pages of the Bible.
Having promised to turn to the pages of the Holy Bible, we naturally expect her to refer to it. We are disappointed, she does not. Instead she delivers her own definition of a cult.
'Counterfeit Christianity' is probably the best definition we can give a cult.
The Bible to which she says she will appeal is not quoted. Instead of its authoritative definition of cult she gives her own version. Since the word does not appear in the Bible she has either made a mistake or is deliberately wrong-footing her readers. Her reason for not going into too much detail?
All this "detecting" of a cult takes time, so we need some methods where we can readily detect a cult without time-consuming research.
This attitude towards "time-consuming research" is strange and worrying. It is the quick-fix solution to problems that leads us away from truth and into error. MacGregor writes and talks as if she is a serious, scientific researcher, but admits that her research is off the top of her head. She is not alone in demonstrating this sort of slipshod methodology. Many anti-Mormon writers follow her example in never having undertaken primary or independent research, but merely rely on what has already been published without regard to its truth. Though these kinds of attack are what sociological studies lead us to expect, the bitterness with which they are prosecuted leaves us bewildered by their ferocity. Some persecuting ministries deny that they are engaged in persecution. It is for this reason that the term 'persecution' as used in this book is justified. Three standard English dictionaries have been consulted on the question and they offer:
- PERSECUTE, v.t. To pursue in a hostile, envious or malicious way; to afflict with suffering, loss of life or property, especially for adherence to a particular opinion or creed; to harass, to worry, to importune.
- PERSECUTE, v.t. Pursue with enmity and injury (especially holder of opinion held to be heretical); harass; worry; importune (person with questions, etc.).
- PERSECUTE, v.t. treat cruelly. oppress, especially on account of religion or politics; annoy, harass; persistently attack.
Readers may choose from these definitions since all of them are relevant to the experience of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It will be demonstrated that the activities of the anti-Mormon ministries fit the standard definitions without recourse to the Procrustean methods employed by those ministries.
Some persecutors blame Latter-day Saints for bringing persecution upon themselves. This is direct abrogation of responsibility for their actions. In the pursuit of persecution ignorance masquerades as scholarship, rumour as truth, and bigotry as proven fact. Former UK Area Public Affairs Director Bryan J Grant sums it up thus:
...raw prejudice and literal ignorance masquerade as informed opinion.