By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
The Mormon Times reports that Focus on the Family has pulled an interview with conservative radio and TV personality Glenn Beck from one of its websites because supporters of the evangelical group complained that it appeared to endorse Mormonism, Beck's religious tradition.
Reading the interview—occasioned by Beck's new book, The Christmas Sweater—I'm surprised that Focus didn't see this controversy coming. In its introduction to the interview, Focus notes that "Beck spent several years addicted to drugs and alcohol, coming to the verge of suicide, before turning his life over to God at the age of 35."
Using such language, Focus appears to be legitimizing Mormonism, which many evangelicals consider to be a cult, by validating Beck's born-again experience.
In the interview, Beck tells how he was saved by God. Without any kind of editor's note, the piece creates the impression that being saved within the context of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fine by Focus.
What makes this oversight all the more stunning is that Focus has a very specific definition in mind for who qualifies as a Christian, as I discovered last year when I interviewed Focus founder James Dobson about Fred Thompson, who was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. "I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson said of Thompson.
And yet I can't help but be disappointed by the blow that Focus dealt to religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue by scrubbing the interview from its site.
Dobson deserves credit for helping the evangelical movement build political alliances with other faith traditions, including the Mormons, or Church of Latter-day Saints. In the 2007 election cycle, Dobson repeatedly praised Republican presidential candidate and LDS member Mitt Romney, even as many evangelical activists coalesced behind White House hopeful Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister.
Focus could have used the Beck episode as another opportunity for interfaith bridge-building, perhaps by leaving the interview up, even if it meant adding a clarification that the organization doesn't endorse Mormonism. Another setback for interfaith dialogue, which seems to be all too rare these days.
Glenn Beck has posted a statement on his website.