The Newsroom Blog

“On Faith” Blog: What’s in a Word?

Church Public Affairs managing director Mike Otterson challenges those who use the word “cult” to categorize (and marginalize) members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

"Few journalists use the term themselves, of course, as an adjective of choice. The usual method is to apportion the blame for the use of this highly pejorative label to ‘many evangelicals’ or ‘some Christians’ as a means of explaining how these groups might choose to vote, and to point out what a liability this is for any Latter-day Saint candidate."

Otterson cites an article that appeared in the British Independent where a journalist googled “Mormon” and “cult” and pointed to the 2.7 million hits to somehow prove that in the minds of many people, there is a connection between the two:

"Google results vary from computer to computer, but try also googling ‘evangelicals and cult.’ Result on my particular browser: 4 million hits. Methodists and cult: 4.3 million. Or this, which should appeal to a British journalist: Manchester United and cult - more than 2 million. Since “poodles and cult” returns millions of results too, here’s my less-than-profound conclusion: Google indexes a lot of pages. Or that something sinister is going on with poodles."

The “On Faith” blog post asks, if the word “cult” has no currency in academia, why some journalists keep repeating it. "Because it’s a neat, shorthand and rather lazy way of putting a whole group into a box. Once labeled as a cult, there is not much need to explain all of the baggage that comes with it. … Rather than continuing to parrot it, it’s time they pushed back against those who choose to use it.”

Read the full post on the “On Faith” website.


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