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Focus on the Family, the evangelical organization founded by James Dobson, has removed from its website an interview with former CNN host Glenn Beck following complaints over the politically conservative TV personality’s Mormon faith.
The original article about Beck’s best-selling new book, “The Christmas Sweater,” appeared on the ministry’s CitizenLink website Dec. 19, but three days later an article published on ChristianNewsWire criticized Focus for promoting a Mormon “as a Christian.”
“While Glenn’s social views are compatible with many Christian views, his beliefs in Mormonism are not,” writes Steve McConkey of Underground Apologetics on ChristianNewsWire. “The CitizenLink story does not mention Beck’s Mormon faith, however the story makes it look as if Beck is a Christian who believes in the essential doctrines of the faith.”
The article has since been pulled from the CitizenLink website.
Joel Campbell of Mormon Times reports he called Focus for an explanation and was read the following prepared statement by a receptionist:
“You are correct to note that Mr. Beck is a member of the Mormon church, and that we did not make mention of this fact in our interview with him,” the receptionist said. “We do recognize the deep theological difference between evangelical theology and Mormon theology, and it would have been prudent for us at least to have pointed out these differences. Because of the confusion, we have removed the interview from CitizenLink.”
Beck’s “The Christmas Sweater” is the story of 12-year-old Eddie, who desperately wished for a bicycle for Christmas but received only “a stupid, handmade, ugly sweater.” Eddie carries his bitterness with him as he grows into an adult, until the day he learns to see the real significance of his mother’s gift.
“The Christmas sweater is the metaphor for me of the atonement for Christ,” Beck says in the now-nixed interview about the book that he confesses is partially autobiographical. “I realized that the real gift – the one we really need to appreciate – is the one that took so much to give. In my mother’s case, it’s the sweater. But in all our cases, it’s redemption and atonement.”
Karla Dial, the freelance reporter who did the interview for Focus, says in the prologue, “These days, Beck is hoping to spread a more eternal sort of gospel through his new book, The Christmas Sweater.”
The comments, among others, drew the criticism of several Christian apologists, who argue that Beck’s gospel and the evangelical gospel are not the same.
The Christian Post reports Pastor Dustin S. Seger of Shepherd’s Fellowship of Greensboro, N.C., writes in his blog Grace in the Triad, “They use Mr. Beck’s story as a way to show that hope can be found in God, which is true enough; the problem is that Mr. Beck’s god is not the Triune God of the Bible nor is his Jesus the Jesus of the Bible.”
“Through the years, Focus on the Family has done great things to help the family,” writes McConkey of Underground Apologetics. “However, to promote a Mormon as a Christian is not helpful to the cause of Jesus Christ. For Christians to influence society, Christians should be promoting the central issues of the faith properly without opening the door to false religions.”
Mormon theology differs from evangelical Christian theology on several major issues, including the understanding of the Trinity, the nature of Jesus Christ and Satan, the process of salvation and which holy books are considered authoritative.
The Mormon Times reports that outside of its prepared statement, Focus on the Family directed all other questions about the controversy to a ministry media spokesman who would not be available until Jan. 2, and calls to Beck’s offices yesterday went unanswered.