Blogs by MidAmerica Nazarene University staff and faculty.
Mitt Romney: A Sign of Mormon Acceptance?
Whether or not you like Mitt Romney's politics, there is another question that his campaign raises for the American culture. Does the fact that he is a Mormon candidate for president mean the the Mormon Church has reached a cultural acceptance on the level of a Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic?
Sociologists use the labels of Church, Sect, and New Religious Movement (often called a cult) to describe a religious organization in relationship to its surounding culture. A Church is in low tension with its culture-- citizens may even feel comfortable voting in an election at a "church." A Sect is a group that has rejected cultural values, and thus the culture has in turn looked at them with suspicion. We might think of the Amish as an example of a Sect-- their rejection of technology and choice of clothing are strange to the surrounding cultural environment. A Cult exists in the highest level of tension with the culture at large. The tension is so high, that cults are often viewed as dangerous, and the government may even get involved actively in restraining their activities.
The Mormons have slowly over the years adapted to their surrounding cultural environment, to achieve more acceptance by the culture. Thus they have moved from being viewed as a cultural threat (with socially suspicious practices such as polygamous marriages, rumors of secret rituals behind closed doors), to a religious movement that many in the culture view with acceptance and even honor.
If Romney does get the Republican nomination, and possibly the presidency, will that be the final indicator that Mormonism has completed its journey from being viewed as a cult, to a sect, and finally the sociological designation of a full fledged, culturally accepted church with little or no tension with its surrounding environment? What do you think?
(cartoon credit: Drew Moody,