Today my wife and I decided to get into the Christmas spirit by attending the baptism of Tsaschikher, a 19-year-old Mongolian college student. About 25% of the Christians in Mongolia are Mormons, and our congregation was only too happy to welcome yet another Mongolian into the LDS Church. Upon returning home, I decided to answer in this forum the emails from readers who are curious to know what my reaction is to the recent passing of Christian radio talk show host Frank Pastore, who was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle on a major highway. In a few words, my thoughts are these: RIP – and good riddance.
By all accounts, the baseball-player-turned-theologian-and-radio-host had a heart of gold, was actively involved in charitable works, and used his radio pulpit to promote his version of Christianity and morality. Radio hosts whom I respect – Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt – gave moving eulogies to Frank on the air following his untimely demise. I’m sure that he was also a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Can all of this compensate for his hatred of the LDS Church and LDS theology? Not quite. For an understanding of how informed Mormons viewed Frank Pastore’s anti-Mormon rants, we can look to another religious man who is well-known to Jews: Jimmy Carter.
Any honest Jew has to admit that Mr. Carter has done more good in this world (e.g., Habitat for Humanity, the Carter Center, Camp David) than Mr. Pastore ever dreamed of doing. In addition, I’m sure that the former president loves his wife, daughter, and grandson. Given all of his virtues and good works, will Jews overlook his deep hostility to Israel when composing his future obituary? I think not. Not only does Carter hold certain beliefs about the Middle East (e.g., Israel is an apartheid state)that are anathema to most Jews, but he has used his public pulpit to vilify and delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world. The fact that he does this while invoking virtue and morality is almost unforgivable to supporters of Israel. For me, Frank Pastore was our community’s Jimmy Carter.
Frank Pastore was a classic anti-Mormon. Non-Mormons witness to me about what they believe; Anti-Mormons witness to me about what I [allegedly] believe. Not content with labeling Mormonism a “cult” of Christianity because its teachings deny a “central doctrine” of the Christian faith, Pastore regularly preached a whole slew of lies about our beliefs. In a Townhall blog post that raised lots of Mormon eyebrows, the sanctimonious pastor alleged that Mormons teach that the Holy Spirit has a physical body [he later retracted this], that Jesus was conceived through sexual intercourse between God and Mary, that Jesus was a polygamist, and that EVERY Mormon male will one day become a God ruling over his own planet, accompanied by multiple wives. Not one of these beliefs is an official LDS teaching, which Pastore must have known. There’s a word for someone who deliberately distorts others’ beliefs and slanders their church, and “Christian” isn’t it.
Since I am speaking ill of the dead, I feel the need to clarify that I, like most Mormons and Jews, don’t care a great deal what individuals may think of my religious beliefs. If Pastore thought that I was as crazy as a loon for believing in a contemporary church with apostles and bishops, that’s fine with me. However, when he followed the example of his idol Walter Martin and publicly attacked the religious beliefs of the LDS Church and other churches, he crossed a line that should almost never be crossed. No one appointed him to be the arbiter of Christianity, and he had no business misrepresenting our religious beliefs and practices to his radio audience. Pastore was very much opposed to Evangelical outreach to Mormons conducted by Richard Mouw, Hugh Hewitt, and other tolerant Evangelicals, and once grilled a pastor on his show for having the temerity to actually invite a Mormon to discuss Mormonism at his church without ensuring that all Evangelicals present had received proper apologetics [= anti-Mormon] training in advance.
In nearly three years of blogging, the only time that I have criticized the theology of another faith in this space was when I discussed the replacement theology of mainline Protestantism. The reason I did this was because I opposed the actions (e.g., anti-Israel divestment and boycotts) that resulted from their beliefs, not because the beliefs themselves caused me to have sleepless nights. My wife and I are planning to attend an Episcopal service on Christmas Eve, where we will likely be surrounded by people who believe in supersessionism. We’re not bothered by this a bit, though we would probably walk out if the priest used the occasion to bash Israel in his sermon. It is the bad actions inspired by religious beliefs, not the beliefs themselves, that merit condemnation.
I experienced mixed emotions when I heard of Frank’s death: sadness at the passing of a force for good, along with relief that a prominent anti-Mormon voice has been silenced. I sincerely hope that he is praised to the skies at his upcoming memorial service. However, for Mormons who followed his career he will always be a second-rate theologian and a first-rate bigot. Speaking of his reluctant support for Mitt Romney if he were to become the Republican presidential nominee, Pastore wrote, “At the end of my life, the question I will be asked is not, 'Whom did you help elect?' But, 'Whom did you serve?'” For his sake, let us hope that “Whom did you slander?” does not also appear on the celestial questionnaire.