October 10, 2011

Pro-Perry SBC Pastor Attacks Romney, Mormons

Ethics Daily ran my latest article today, which is entitled "Pro-Perry SBC Pastor Attacks Romney, Mormons." It covers the comments made by Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, at the "Values Voter Summit" over the weekend (an event led by the Family Research Council). After endorsing Texas Governor Rick Perry for president and introducing Perry at the event, Jeffress talked with reporters and called Mormonism "a cult." He added that he did not believe former Massachussets Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a Christian. Thus, Jeffress believes Christians should vote for a Christian like Perry over a Mormon like Romney. Oddly, however, Jeffress said he would vote for Romney over President Barack Obama, apparently because he thinks Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian. Jeffress was part of evangelist James Robison's group that met in June to plot spiritual revival. I broke the news of that meeting, as well as the fact that Perry spoke to the group. The comments by Jeffress are classic confessional politics as people are disenfranchised due to their religious faith (thus it is quite appropriate that Romney is on the cover of my new book on confessional politics).

As I note in today's article, Romney spoke out against religious bigotry in his speech later at the "Values Voter Summit." Similarly, former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman, also a Mormon and the only major Republican presidential candidate who skipped the "Values Voter Summit," called the Jeffress incident "the most ridiculous sideshow in recent politics." He added that talking about Mormonism would not solve the nation's economic or other problems. Huntsman later added that Jeffress is "a moron." Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich dismissed the comments by Jeffress as "very unwise and very inappropriate." Other presidential candidates, however, have not stood up like they should against the religious bigotry of Jeffress. Perry's campaign distanced itself from Jeffress--even though they approved him as the introducer--but Perry did not denounce the comments when asked to do so by a reporter. Similarly, U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann refused to denounce the comments (even though she will repeat any random theory any random person tells her). Herman Cain also refused to denounce the anti-Mormon comments. He correctly noted that he is "not running for theologian-in-chief," but he should stand up for the constitutional rights of religious minorities. Ironically, he invoked his own religious beliefs as he answered the question and said he was "not getting into that controversy" because his motto is "Do the right thing." Huh? The right thing is to denounce religious bigotry. Of course, Cain is probably the presidential candidate this cycle with the worst record of spouting religious bigotry (see posts here, here, and here). Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum defended Romney but then attacked Harry Reid. He said:
I'm not an expert on Mormonism. All I know is that every Mormon I know is a good and decent person, has great moral values and, by and large, with the exception of Harry Reid, by and large, pretty consistent in the values that I share and that things I want to see happen to this country. And that's what he should be judged on.
Santorum started well but then resorted to confessional politics by attacking Reid's decency due to partisan affiliation. It would be nice if more presidential hopefuls would be willing to speak out against efforts to marginalize Americans of various religious traditions.

4 comments:

  1. I'm a little sensitive to the "bigot" charge because it's often thrown around like "racist." A bigot is defined as "someone who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion." I would say everyone running is a "utterly intolerant" toward's some of the opposing party's official planks.

    I've done a good bit of study of Mormonism over the last 15 years and by definition it is a cult. So, I have no problem with Jeffers' statements about Mormonism. Its way of salvation is radically and unapologetically unbiblical.

    But he still says he would vote for Romney, which tells me he isn't utterly intolerant to having a Mormon in the White House. So, how is he a bigot?

    I do have a problem with Jeffers holding Perry up in contrast-- as he has no idea what is really in Perry's heart, or Romney's. But he takes Romney at his word that he's a Mormon, and I don't have a problem with that.

    I also don't see a way that Perry or others can denounce Jeffers' statements without saying they disagree about it being a cult. I wouldn't want them to do that and lie if they didn't believe it.

    Gingrich's comments, to me, just say "this shouldn't be an issue," but he also showed no desire to maintain biblical values during his time in office, so I think he has an incentive to deflect any talk of faith.
    (Dick Armey once told me that they used to joke with Gringich that when the rapture happened he'd be the only Republican left on the Hill.)

    In short, I get it if you think it shouldn't be an issue politically, shouldn't be a litmus test, is irrelevant to the primary-- which I can agree with. But I don't get it if you think he's bigoted just because he called it a cult. I'd be happier if Jeffers and others said "Mormonism is a cult, but our tent isn't religious and it's big enough that Mormons are more than welcome in it."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Although you are right that the term "bigot" is thrown around too often, it fits in this case. Jeffress is saying Christians shouldn't vote for Romney because of his religious faith--that's clearly a type of religious bigotry. He doesn't get an out for supporting Romney over Obama since that's still a religion-based decision for him (putting a Mormon over someone he thinks is a Muslim). Religious faith shouldn't be the determinant electoral decisions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Romney, and any Mormon offended by being referred to as cultists, need to be asked why they adhere to a religion whose prophet, Joseph Smith, referred to Christianity, in general, as being cultic.
    He actually, claimed that God Himself referred to Christianity as “all wrong,” an “abomination,” “all corrupt” and “far from me”—this is the very foundation of the Mormon religion.
    Pardon the spam-like URL but, see: http://www.examiner.com/messianic-jewish-in-national/rick-perry-on-robert-jeffress-mormonism-as-cult

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous1:44 PM

    [Hi Brian, Saw this on the web!]

    LDS a "cult"? What about the "rapture"?

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is "not a Christian" and Mormonism is a "cult," according to Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Dallas (TX) First Baptist Church.
    His "cult" remark is based on his belief that the Latter Day Saints church (which didn't exist before 1830) is outside "the mainstream of Christianity."
    But Jeffress hypocritically promotes the popular evangelical "rapture" (theologically the "any-moment pretribulation rapture") which is outside mainstream Christianity (Google "Pretrib Rapture Politics") and which also didn't exist before 1830 (Google "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty")!
    And there are 50 million American rapture cultists (some of whom turn Wikipedia into "Wicked-pedia" by constantly distorting the real facts about the rapture's bizarre, 181-year-old history) compared with only 14 million LDS members.
    The most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history that I have found is in a nonfiction book titled "The Rapture Plot" which is carried by leading online bookstores. I know also that the same 300-page work can also be borrowed through inter-library loan at any library.

    ReplyDelete