Friday, September 26, 2008
Texas Hate Preacher Robert Jeffress Repeatedly Denounces Mormonism As A "Cult" In Debate With The ACLJ's Jay Sekulow
Reverend Dr. Robert Jeffress (pictured at left), the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, repeatedly denounced Mormonism as a "cult" at a meeting of journalists at the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) annual meeting. This is not the first time he has done so; in October 2007, he told parishioners in his church not to vote for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. Full story published September 26th, 2008 by the Salt Lake Tribune.
In addition, Jeffress said that evangelicals who believe the country needs a Christian in the White House but promoted Mitt Romney's candidacy during the Republican primaries were hypocrites. Romney, a Mormon, is not a Christian, but a member of a "cult", according to Jeffress.
"I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian," Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told the audience. "The value of electing a Christian goes beyond public policies. . . . Christians are uniquely favored by God, [while] Mormons, Hindus and Muslims worship a false god. The eternal consequences outweigh political ones. It is worse to legitimize a faith that would lead people to a separation from God".
Jeffress made his remarks during a luncheon debate with Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a law firm and educational organization that focuses on religious-liberty issues. The DeMoss Group, a Christian public-relations firm in Duluth, Ga., sponsored the event.
Sekulow, a Jew who also disagrees with Mormon theology but supported Romney's candidacy, argued he would rather have a president who promoted a conservative political agenda than one who shared his doctrinal positions. "Jimmy Carter ran as a born-again Christian," Sekulow reasoned, "but his presidency did nothing for the issues I care about".
Mark DeMoss, president of the DeMoss Group, opened the session by describing his decision to lead Romney's outreach to conservative Christians. DeMoss said he had come to admire Romney, despite their theological differences, but was amazed at the vehement opposition to the Mormon's candidacy among Evangelicals. "When making the choice of candidate for president, I don't care how different the person's theology is from mine, just like I don't care about my doctor's theology or the guy's who built my house or the architect's," DeMoss said in an interview this week. "I'm challenging people who would oppose a Mormon because he's a Mormon, but I'm also challenging people who would instantly embrace a Southern Baptist because he's a Southern Baptist. Both conclusions are bad".
Many reporters said they had never heard the word "cult," which Jeffress repeatedly called the LDS Church, used so "freely and recklessly," said Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service in Washington, D.C. But Jeffress used the same word to describe "Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and virtually everyone else".
It is difficult to dismiss Reverend Jeffress' viewpoint as marginal. First Baptist of Dallas is a major church in Texas and one of the linchpin churches in the Southern Baptist denomination. The congregation numbers at least 10,000 people. Nevertheless, most of the Southern Baptists I've encountered have been respectful of Mormonism.
Officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decline to comment on Jeffress' statements until they see a transcript of the remarks. However, most Christians consider Mormonism to be Christian, based upon the two universal criteria of acceptance of the divinity of Jesus Christ and recoginition of the authority of the Bible, although it is not considered part of mainstream Christianity by many. But most Christians do NOT consider Mormonism to be a cult.
The LDS Church does declare itself to be the only true church upon the earth, a declaration that does irritate many. However, the LDS Church also declares that all denominations and even other faiths possess varying degrees of the truth, which is an equally true statement. At this point in time, the LDS Church is gearing up for their 178th Semiannual General Conference, which will be held at Temple Square in Salt Lake City from October 4-5.
Rev. Jeffress is involved in another controversy. The president of Criswell College resigned in early September over a dispute with Jeffress. Allegedly, Jeffress wants to close the school and sell the assets to construct another large church. However, Jeffress denies this, saying there are no active plans to do it at this time. However, Jeffress is concerned about the college's declining enrollment and availability of similar curricula at other universities.
Commentary: What makes Reverend Jeffress' anti-Mormon bigotry even more frustrating is that he also has a reputation for being a staunch, vocal, and articulate defender of those traditional American values which catapulted America to unprecedented power and prosperity. Jeffress has boldly confronted the homosexual lobby and challenged the promotion and protection of the homosexual lifestyle; in 1998, when he was still pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, TX, Jeffress attracted widespread attention when he checked all copies of the two children’s books about gay families out of the Wichita Falls library and refused to return them because of their “homosexual message.” The pastor said he wanted to keep the books out of the hands of his congregation and other residents of the city. Jeffress destroyed the books and reimbursed the library $54 for their cost. The library’s administrator replaced the books but moved them from the young children’s book section, for ages 3 through sixth grade, to the youth section for ages 9 through 13.
However, Jeffress found that compromise insufficient, and he and his followers petitioned the Wichita Falls City Council to ban the books from the library. Under continued pressure from Jeffress and his followers, the council passed an ordinance in February of 1999 that allowed a group of library patrons numbering at least 300 to petition for books they found objectionable to be removed from the children’s area and placed in the adult section. More than 500 residents signed such a petition immediately after the ordinance’s passage, and the books were transferred to the adult section in July of 1999. Although the ACLU ultimately sued and got the library ordinance overturned, Rev. Jeffress showed what Christians can do when they unite for a common goal in the name of Jesus Christ.
And that's what makes Rev. Jeffress' denominationalism even more frustrating - he's shown what he can do when he focuses on social issues rather than denominational differences. It's time for Rev. Jeffress to return to the Great Commission, which is to build up Christ rather than tear down Christians.