Las Vegas Sun

August 29, 2014

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Where I Stand:

Angle’s pastor poses a problem

She risks alienating Mormon voters unless she renounces ties

Sharron Angle, you have a Rev. Wright problem.

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

When candidate Barack Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, sermonized that God should “damn America” and proceeded to spout a litany of awful, ugly, hurtfully ignorant slanders about almost anyone and everyone, Obama could see his presidential campaign going down in flames. As much as he wanted people to not associate him with his longtime pastor’s beliefs, America just wouldn’t buy it.

If you could sit in the man’s church and hear his utterances year after year without voicing the slightest opposition to the un-American hate speech, how can we trust you to stand up to the world’s bullies when they do the same? That’s the question America needed answered and that’s the question the candidate needed to address to make sure it was no longer asked.

And, so, Obama gave one of his best speeches on tolerance, bigotry and hateful speech. And, then, he tossed the Rev. Wright aside without so much as a “how do you do.” Had Obama not done that, we would have been 18 months into the presidency of Hillary Clinton. (It is OK to say darn.)

Angle has her own Rev. Wright. His name is Pastor John Reed of Sonrise Church in Reno. His words, while not damning America, are just as hurtful and ignorant because he “damned” an entire religious group, not to mention an important political constituency of Angle’s.

Here is some of what he said as reported in the Reno News & Review on Thursday. Speaking about Sen. Harry Reid, the other Reed said, “His religion’s a cult. The Christian community — all the Christians, theologians and scholars, all recognize that, that Mormonism is a cult. I have books in my library on cults, and it lists Mormonism right there with all these bizarre cults.”

And if that isn’t bad enough, he continued, “Well, there must be a reason. I mean, here a member of a cult is one of the most powerful people in the United States. Doesn’t that alarm you? And his allegiance is to Salt Lake City. Something is up with that. Something’s weird. But nobody touches that — Harry Reid’s allegiance is to Salt Lake City ... Nobody asks one question to Harry Reid. Ask him about the holy garments that he wears that protect him from evil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about getting his body parts anointed by oil. Isn’t that kooky? Ask him about when he goes to the temple and he gets baptized for dead people. Isn’t that kooky?”

He talks about Mormon hit squads that kill other Mormons and finishes with, “The Mormon church is a cult, and Harry Reid is a powerful person in a cult, and nobody even questions it.”

Well, Pastor Reed, people are questioning now. But the questions have more to do with what Sharron Angle is thinking when she has this man as her religious leader. The questions also go to her veracity because she claimed that she hasn’t been to his church in years and the pastor, of course, tells us that she was in church just a couple of months ago. Angle knew immediately how toxic her pastor had become to her campaign and she needed to distance herself from him immediately. She needs, as Obama did to Rev. Wright, to “throw him under the bus.”

And here is why.

Although Pastor Reed was shooting off his mouth, vilifying an entire religion and its faithful adherents, many of those same “cultist” Mormons were working as volunteers for the election of Sharron Angle because they believed she believed as they did, thought like they did, and cared about the things about which they cared.

I don’t believe for a moment that the pastor wasn’t telling it the way he preaches it. The question is does his church member, Sharron Angle, believe the same things her pastor does? She said “no” after the story broke. But what could she say?

I am more interested, though, in what her Mormon supporters might have said, or thought, when they heard what Angle’s spiritual leader said about them. For example, if I were a Mormon thinking about voting for Angle, I might say to myself, “What do we need to do to convince our neighbors, and Sharron Angle, that we are Christians?”

I would be concerned that “I work my tail off trying to make my community a better place to live, and this is what my neighbors think!

“When my Mormon church leaders make statements of belief, those statements generally represent my beliefs. Is the same thing true of Sharron Angle and her pastor? Does she think I belong to a cult?

“Sharron Angle has been wearing her faith on her sleeve this entire time. Has she fooled me into thinking she believes as I do? Has she been using me?

“If she and her pastor believe I am a cultist, does she marginalize me if she gets elected? Is my freedom to worship as I please jeopardized by someone who thinks my religion is a cult and, therefore, not worthy of respect?

“We are constantly encouraged to live a Christian life. Here is another Christian calling us kooks, killers, cultists and members of hit squads. That is not Christian at all. Who are these people?”

If I were a Mormon, I would be asking myself those questions because this is serious stuff. That is why Sharron Angle needs to disavow her pastor, disavow his beliefs and anyone who believes as he does. If she doesn’t do that immediately, she runs the risk of losing the Mormon voters who, until last week, couldn’t conceive of the idea that she thought they were cultists and killers.

So, here is where I can help. I don’t know how Sharron Angle will deal with her Rev. Wright problem. But I know a fellow who can help.

Pick up the phone, Sharron. Dial 202-456-1414. When the operator answers, ask for President Barack Obama. Tell him your problem. I am sure he will be delighted to help.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.