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Kirby: Mormons not Christian? Here's a vocabulary lesson for you

Published December 16, 2011 4:35 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

'If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be — a Christian."

I've always liked that quote from Mark Twain. It pretty much sums up my definition of Christians who think they have Jesus so figured out that they can use him to put other people in their places.

Case in point is Pastor Bryan Hurlbutt. Last week, he penned a Salt Lake Tribune editorial about how Mormons are "co-opting" the word Christian, a word he would dearly love to trademark. Toward that end he proposed to give us a vocabulary lesson.

Bryan summoned the "rich, blood-stained heritage" of his "ideological ancestors" to tell us to "stop ignoring historical labels like they don't matter because the sacrifices of many say they do."

Let's talk about Bryan's ideological ancestors and all that blood-staining, specifically whose blood and whose sacrifice.

It's true Bryan's ideological ancestors were persecuted and even killed for their beliefs. But they paid the world back with interest, slaughtering their way around the globe for the next however many centuries.

Note: That's what happens when a cult gets out of hand. And let's not kid ourselves about that, either. "A group of crazies, one bad day away from calling for the end of the world" sounds exactly like the early Christian church.

Fortunately for Bryan, all that sword slinging for Jesus paid off. Who knows where or what he'd be today if his ideological ancestors hadn't excelled at killing everyone who got in their way.

Today, Bryan insists that "Christian" means something specific; specifically his version. But if you're going to lay sole claim to a word, you don't get to own just the part of it you like. The world is full of people who have less flattering but equally valid definitions of their own.

Let's ask Muslims what "Christian" means. They're proud of their blood-stained martyrs, too. In 1098, more than 20,000 of their ideological ancestors were massacred at the town of Ma'arra — following which some were eaten — by Christian crusaders. Look it up.

Next, let's get a definition from Native Americans, millions of whom were given a vocabulary lesson in the meaning of "Christian" that stuck with them for the rest of their lives — all one or two days of it.

What's that you say? That's how Christians used to behave when they were Catholic? "Real" Christians got much nicer after the Reformation? I'm not so sure. One of the great reformers was Martin Luther, a virulent anti-Semite.

So let's ask Jews what the word "Christian" means to them and see if it doesn't include pogroms and death camps. It's fair. Those weren't Buddhist Nazis rounding them up.

Maybe the American version of Christian is the one we should use. In that case, let's ask the people who have been murdered at women's clinics by Christians who believe lethal force is a justifiable response to abortion.

Mormons co-opting Bryan's special word isn't his only peeve about us. He's also concerned that Mitt Romney, if elected, would get his marching orders from a false prophet and lead America in all sorts of bizarre and ungodly directions.

Really? Hell, you don't need modern-day prophesy to do that. If Christian history has taught us anything, all you really need is a Bible and yourself. And some hubris. I looked that one up, too.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/notpatbagley.