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Do the right thing

By Moniqua Lane
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 24, 2000
Talk about this story

First they try to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality, then they boycott Disney and now the fanatical Southern Baptist Convention is out to keep people from falling victim to such horrific cults as the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses. The only victimizers here, however, are the Southern Baptists, and their actions aren't in anyone's best interests.

Despite what the Southern Baptist Convention says, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are not cults. A cult is a religion that has such high tension with mainstream society that its adherents are unable to participate in that society. All religions, in fact, start as cults. Some ease the tension with their surrounding societies and then grow into religions; some don't and die out. Christianity, Judaism and Islam all began as cults and grew into religions. Branch Davidians and Heaven's Gate are cults that did not grow into religions.

Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, though they both adhere to what larger denominations call unorthodox beliefs, are not cultists. They are Christians just like Southern Baptists and Catholics and Lutherans. Further, neither group is segregated from mainstream society. Granted, Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate mainstream American holidays, neither do Muslims or Hindus. Do we consider these people cultists, as well?

What these religions are is small and different, and therefore easy targets. Notice that Southern Baptists rarely go on highly publicized campaigns to convert Catholics or Methodists. These are powerful, mainstream religions. They are large enough and similar enough to Southern Baptists to keep themselves safe from attack. Though Disney was an ambitious target, and Judaism is a powerful, mainstream religion, the Southern Baptists generally restrict themselves to preying on smaller, somewhat out of the mainstream groups: Muslims, Hindus, homosexuals, and now Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Southern Baptists cannot continue to insult and alienate every group of people that happens to be different from them. People in this country have a right to associate with whomever they choose, and worship however they choose. They should be able to do these things without fear of being hunted down and accosted by missionary Southern Baptists.

The Southern Baptist Convention is like a real life Borg with the single-minded intention of co-opting the mind of whomever it encounters (please forgive the StarTrek reference, but it is ever so appropriate). Protestantism, which encompasses Southern Baptists and made possible religious groups like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, is at its essence, about a personal, individual relationship with God. What Southern Baptists are doing is antithetical to everything that Protestantism is.

While it thinks it is actually leading the crusade, the Southern Baptist Convention is, in reality, only misleading itself. By making converts of people, it aims to bring about their salvation, but also to increase its membership. Arbitrarily attacking other religious groups, however, is contrary to its interests. The Southern Baptist Convention is, though it fails to realize, in danger of marginalizing itself and becoming a cult. It'll be a large cult, admittedly, but a cult nonetheless.

As the Southern Baptist Convention alienates more and more groups, fewer and fewer people will pay attention to it. It may even find itself on the other end of the conversion game. It means well, supposedly, and missionary work is not an uncommon feature of religion, but that does not make what the Southern Baptist Convention is doing right. It is insulting not only those it tries to convert, but also itself. It does damage to its credibility and image in the mainstream. The Southern Baptist Convention may not care about its mainstream credibility or image since it's doing "the work of God," but these are the hallmarks of a cult.

Missionary work, such as keeps Southern Baptists busy, promotes faith. That is, it is claimed, its advantage to religion and humans in general. What it really does, however, is strip people of faith and replace it with brainwashing. It supplants faith with "the faith," and the difference is dangerous. Faith is a comfort, a security blanket; "the faith" is a weapon used to bludgeon people into intellectual and emotional submission. The Southern Baptist Convention is using religion to bully weaker groups which it deems "cults," harming them, but ultimately itself.

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