Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit this past Friday. But he said a couple of things that got commentators, both on the right and on the left, in a tizzy.
“Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christian. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.” “Rick Perry is a proven leader. He is a true conservative, and he is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
In an interview afterward, Jeffress told reporters, “In my estimation, Mormonism is a cult. And it would give credence to a cult to have a Mormon candidate. I believe that Mitt Romney is a good moral person, has a wonderful family, but that’s not what makes you a Christian.”
We hear a lot of tsk-tsking on the left, a lot of amening on the right and a lot of confusion on both sides, as well as in the middle. So here are my thoughts.
I have to say, that I do not find the Rev. Jeffress’ statements about Mr. Romney nearly as offensive as his statements about Mr. Perry.
Many evangelicals hold to a definition of a cult as follows (See: WHAT IS A CULT?):
· It has as its authority, the Bible plus some other authority which is often claimed to be divinely inspired (such as The Book of Mormon, Science and Health and Key to the Scriptures, etc.).
· Its doctrine holds to a low view of who Jesus Christ is (A god rather than God, a glorified man, etc.).
· It is exclusive and holds that there is no salvation outside the group.
While Mormonism has attempted to become “inclusive” it certainly qualifies in the first two points above. But it has also grown so large as to be more of a religion on its own right than a cult. After all, in the first century, Christianity itself was considered a cult. This is not to say that a Mormon cannot be “saved.” The requirement for eternal salvation is given in the Scripture as faith in Jesus Christ. How much erroneous doctrine does that allow us?
But is this really relevant to Mr. Romney’s qualification for President? Apparently our Founding Fathers felt that this was a non-issue, if I understand Article VI of our Constitution as quoted above. We do not need to make Mr. Romney a Christian in order to qualify him for President.
And as to Mr. Perry’s alleged Christian faith, I have a number of questions:
· How can I know for sure he really is a Christian? Talk is cheap and profession is easy.
· How does this faith qualify him to be the leader of the free world any more than a Mormon, a Muslim, any non-Christian or even an atheist?
Every one of our Presidents has either personally claimed to be a Christian or was painted as such by enthusiastic followers. Some were good Presidents and some were real losers. There seems to be little correlation between their performance and their faith. Of course, their opponents have always been quick to question or deny the reality of their faith.
I believe it’s about time we quit trying to amalgamate Christianity and politics. It’s time we started endorsing and supporting those who are people of integrity and who are qualified for the office. And it would seem to me that a candidate who claimed to be “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ” would not need the endorsement of religious leaders. He or she would show the reality of their faith by their integrity and their actions.
Note: The above remarks do not constitute an endorsement of either of the candidates mentioned.