"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1
“I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.”- Martin Luther
(Note: Normally, TWW shies away from politics, firmly believing that Christians have legitimate differing opinions on the role of government. However, a rather arrogant pastor, with an edifice complex in the extreme, decided to take potshots at a decent man and this Christian is hopping mad. So, for one post, and one post only, TWW dives into the political cesspool.)
How should Christians conduct themselves in the public square? I am not talking about Christians within the church or in Sunday school. If we were to ask the average, un-churched man on the street to state his opinion of Christians in the news, what do you think he would say? Do you think that the average Joe would describe the Christians as exhibiting supernatural love? I sincerely and sadly doubt it.
As I peruse the New Testament, I do not see the disciples calling out the Roman government for their adherence to the cult of Diana. I do not see them fielding candidates for local elections. I see them going to the arenas and dying martyrs deaths, singing praises to God as the lions tore them to shreds while the Romans screamed for their blood. They did not curse the Romans for their arrogance and pride. Yet, they would have been well within their rights to do so.
Instead, it was their quiet dignity and strength in the face of enormous persecution that slowly won the hearts of the Romans. Are Christians winning the hearts of today’s American culture? Statistics seem to indicate that people are leaving America’s churches. This is especially true of the Southern Baptists who appear to be hemorrhaging members.
By now, most sentient beings have been inundated by the latest pronouncements of Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptists Dallas and chief fund raiser for his $130 million dollar addition onto his mega-church building in down town Dallas. You can read about that here.
Jeffress is known for his pronouncements on the state of our society. Here is a post TWW did of his annual dog and pony show of retail stores which he adds to his “Grinch List.
Robert Jeffress has determined that Rick Perry is an evangelical Christian and is therefore worthy of Jeffress’ endorsement for the Presidency. He has equally determined that Mitt Romney is a member of a cult and therefore should not be the President.
According to ABC4.com, here
“Robert Jeffress called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a "cult" and that conservatives should vote for a "Christian" candidate instead of Mitt Romney.
Jeffress made the statements during a speech at the Values Voter Summit, a gathering of religious conservatives in Washington, D.C. on Friday.”
As if this wasn’t enough, Jeffress pranced out of the meeting and “reiterated his views on Mormonism to reporters outside the meeting afterward.
Jeffress said, "Do we prefer somebody who is a believer in Jesus Christ, or somebody who is a good moral person, but is part of a cult?"Jeffress added, "I know it's not politically correct to say, but it's true, Mormonism is a cult."
Now how did his boy, Rick Perry, feel about this statement?
Remember, Perry is an evangelical Christian and should support Jefress view, shouldn’t he?
In the same article, we read: “Rick Perry's campaign later issued a statement, saying Perry himself didn’t choose Jeffress to introduce the candidate and that Perry does not share his view of Mormonism.” Fascinating. Why isn’t Perry toeing the Jeffress line? Isn't Jeffress going to chastise him for his soft faith?
As if this isn’t enough, Politico reports here that Jeffress goes on to point out flaws in Romney’s political history while overlooking the same flaws in his chosen “Christian.”
"The attack on Romney wasn’t just faith-based. Jeffress called the Republican presidential candidate a “conservative out of convenience” who “does not have a consistent track record on the subject of marriage, on the sanctity of life.”
“I just do not believe that we as conservative Christians can expect him to stand strong for the issues that are important to us,” he said.Looking ahead to the general election, Jeffress warned that in a race between Romney and Obama, he believes many evangelicals will stay home and leave the GOP nominee without their votes.“I do not think evangelical voters are going to be motivated to go out and vote for Mitt Romney,” he said.
But is Rick Perry really more than a “conservative out of convenience?
It appears that Jeffress would rather ignore some facts about his chosen candidate. According to Wikipedia: “Perry supported Al Gore in the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries and chaired the Gore campaign in Texas. In 1989, Perry announced that he was switching parties, becoming a Republican.”
Does Jeffress stand firm on not electing a cult follower?
It appears he does so only when it is convenient. Continuing on in the Politico report, Jeffress reportedly said that” he himself would vote for Romney and does not doubt that he is a good man.
“I think he’s a fine family person,” Jeffress explained. “It is only faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone that qualifies you as a Christian.”Jeffress said he does not believe that Mormonism is a disqualifier for the presidency, pointing out that constitutionally, the “government can impose no religious test.”
It appears to this writer that Jeffress wants it both ways. He would first elect an evangelical Christian, then would choose the Mormon if nothing better was available.
But, is an evangelical necessarily “better” than anyone else?
At a site run by Christians who support Mitt Romney called Evangelicals for Mitt, here, we find a rather fascinating observation.:
“If Mitt Romney had run for governor of South Carolina against outspoken conservative evangelical Mark Sanford, Dallas First Baptist Church pastor (and famous Rick Perry fan) Robert Jeffress would have loudly campaigned for Sanford over the “cultist” Mitt Romney.
If Mitt Romney had run for senate from Nevada against outspoken evangelical John Ensign, Robert Jeffress would have been by Ensign’s side, telling Christians that if they were truly “born again,” they’d vote for Ensign.
If Mitt Romney had run for senate from Louisiana, against Catholic David Vitter, Robert Jeffress might have had a tougher choice, but the odds are that he’d hold his nose and campaign for a Catholic over a Mormon.
And in each case he would have been shockingly, embarrassingly wrong."
In fact, this writer goes on to be quoted by the Washing ton Post. Here.
“Mark Sanford disappeared and pursued his alleged true love in Argentina, John Ensign had an affair with the wife of one of his top aides, and David Vitter was a client of the famous “D.C. Madam.” Religious affiliation is no guarantor of virtue.”
Jeffress also plays the “God will judge America” card.
In the same Washington Post article we read:
“Pastor Jeffress also has said that God will judge America if it elects a Mormon president because Mormons allegedly worship a “false god.” By his reasoning then, overwhelmingly Mormon Utah (the most religiously homogenous state in the nation) must be some sort of hellhole, a blasted wasteland in the heart of America.
Not so fast. Utah has a lower divorce rate, higher median household income, and substantially lower unemployment than my beloved home state of Tennessee, which also happens to be the home of Pastor Jeffress’s Southern Baptist Convention as well as the evangelical music and publishing industries.
Religious affiliation appears to be no guarantor of earthly success.”
Have there been other Christian responses?
I found the following statement, reported by a number of news providers, quite illuminating.
“The National Clergy Council, representing church leaders from all Christian traditions including fundamentalist and evangelical, issues the following statement by its executive council member, the Reverend Myke Crowder, pastor of Christian Life Center, one of the largest evangelical congregations in Utah, a predominantly Mormon state:
"As an evangelical, born again, Bible believing Christian, and a pastor with more than 25 years' experience living with and ministering among a majority Mormon population, I find the comments by Pastor Jeffress unhelpful, impolite, and out of place. I've been around long enough to remember when independent Baptists wouldn't pray with Southern Baptists, when fundamentalists called Southern Baptists compromisers and liberals, when Southern Baptists wouldn't keep company with Pentecostals, and when Pentecostals wouldn't keep company with Catholics. That wasn't helpful to anyone.
Insulting Mitt Romney adds nothing to the conversation about who should be president. We're picking the country's chief executive, not its senior pastor. "Back in 1976, I voted for Jimmy Carter because he was the born again candidate. He was also a Southern Baptist. I got burned and the country got burned by that and it made me a life-long Republican. If Southern Baptists want to score points they better watch out — they can lay claim to both Carter and Bill Clinton. I don't think that says much about the religious labels candidate may or may not carry.
"My experience in Utah among Mormons has been overwhelmingly positive. Evangelicals and Mormons have big differences when it comes to theology, but if you believe in and support the Constitution, there's no religious test for office, nor should there be. We're looking for the best president and commander in chief. Let's let the political process make that selection, and the churches make the selection on the best theologians. "In my opinion, Pastor Jeffress owes an apology to Mitt Romney and all other Americans he's offended through his unkind and irresponsible remarks."
How did Mitt Romney respond?
In my opinion, Romeny showed both class and dignity, unlike the arrogant Jeffress. Link
“Mr Romney has since responded to Mr Jeffress' comments, saying that they are not the type of debate that the conservative party needs.
'Poisonous language doesn’t advance our cause,' Mr Romney said at the Values Voters Summit on Saturday.
'It’s never softened a single heart or changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate,' Mr Romney continued.
'We should remember that decency and civility are values too,' Mr Romney said, bringing in a reference to the theme of the conservative conference.
How did the LDS hierarchy respond?
They responded with more class than the Baptist Jeffress. In the same Politico article we read, “LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter later released the following statement regarding Jeffress' comments, saying:
"We really don’t want to comment on a statement made at a political event but those who want to understand the centrality of Christ to our faith can learn more about us and what we believe by going to mormon.org."
How did the other candidates respond?
According to the LA Times, here, we read:
“GOP contender Michele Bachmann similarly chose not to directly address the issue when asked about it on “State of the Union.”
“I think what the real focus is here, is on religious tolerance. That’s really what this is about,” the Minnesota congresswoman said. “To make this a big issue is ridiculous right now, because every day I’m on the street talking to people. This is not what people are talking about.
Herman Cain, on the same program, replied by saying “I’m not running for theologian in chief.”
Crowley pressed him: “Is Mitt Romney not a Christian?”
“He’s a Mormon,” Cain replied. “I am not going to do an analysis of Mormonism versus Christianity for the sake of answering that. I'm not getting into that. I am a Christian.”
Here is a well-written post on a Patheos.com. They post a “Letter to Evangelicals Who Do Not Support Mitt Because of His Mormonism.” Here (This is excerpted-it is a MUST read in it's entirety.)
“I think it’s fair to say that Barack Obama hasn’t done much for Jeremiah Wright’s now-famous “black liberation theology,” and George Bush’s well-known evangelical beliefs likely repelled as many people as they attracted. In fact, I can’t think of a single president that had a discernible impact on the theological beliefs of our citizens. And that makes sense. Presidents aren’t pastors. We don’t look to presidents for pastoral guidance but instead for national leadership. We don’t think, “I like those Bush tax cuts. I think I’ll check out the Methodist church.”
Applying these same lessons to Mormons, does watching Harry Reid make you want to talk to a Mormon missionary? How about when you fly JetBlue? During a smooth, comfortable flight do you use the in-flight Wi-Fi to surf LDS.org? Does a particularly elegant turndown service at a high-end Marriott put you in the mood to download the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s greatest hits? If you’re a sports fan, did watching Steve Young connect with Jerry Rice make you complete an application to BYU?” (editor's note:All these businesses are owned by Mormons.)
1. In spite of our theological differences, evangelicals and Mormons are already political allies.
In fact, if Mormons weren’t consistently more conservative than their evangelical neighbors, Al Gore would be America’s president now and California Proposition 8, which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling that permitted gay marriage, would’ve failed. In fact, we owe them a great deal for their steadfast consistency on moral issues. The sometimes squishy evangelical church, tossed by every trend, is responsible for electing Barack Obama.
2. Romney’s faith doesn’t indicate that he’s gullible.
In my experience, evangelicals loathe religious litmus tests. That’s what Democrats do, when they try to disqualify Christian and Catholic judges because of their beliefs. The same people who would disqualify a Mormon would disqualify me (an evangelical Christian is writing), citing the same list of “this person can’t be a serious thinker if she believes this miraculous stuff.” And as far as gullible goes, don’t forget that Mitt Romney has two Harvard degrees.
3. Baptists don’t have the best track record, either.
John Mark Reynolds once wrote that “my faith in the holiness standards of Baptists survived Clinton and my belief in their sanity survived Carter, though that was a closer call.”
4. Evangelicals do not historically vote for the “most Christian” person on the ballot.
When Jimmy Carter (a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher) ran against Ronald Reagan, evangelicals correctly voted for the divorced Hollywood actor. After all, he was the one who would best represent their values.
Here is a quote from Tom Rich over at the FBC Jax Watchdog site. He said:
“Evangelicals will choose their candidate based on values, economic policy, leadership skills, and other factors that determine whether a candidate would make a good president. Some bigots might stay home and never, ever vote for someone because they are a Mormon or a Catholic or an agnostic – but they are a small, small minority.
And yes, Robert, I'll take a good, moral person, over a professing Southern Baptist in the White House.
After all, the last "born again" Southern Baptist we had in the White House ended up getting sexual favors from a 22-year old in the Oval Office.”
As for me, this is one evangelical who will be happy to vote for Mitt Romney. Once again, I refer to the quote by the great Martin Luther- I'd rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian."
Memo to Robert Jeffress:
Instead of sounding like a clanging gong, next time, try a little bit of respect, civility and love. As the history of the faith has proven, it goes a long, long way. It might even change the world.
Lydia's Corner: 1 Chronicles 26:12-27:34 Romans 4:13-5:5 Psalm 14:1-7 Proverbs 19:17