It’s the season for political fodder, unfortunately. And it looks like despite previous lessons to the contrary, ministers are getting involved in presidential politics. More specificly, senior pastor Robert Jeffress at FBC Dallas has cast his support for Rick Perry, which would be enough to bring out some degree of controversy on its own without his criticism of Mitt Romney’s religious affiliation with the Mormon church. He has frequently repeated the fact that Mormonism is a cult, which drew the ire of another presidential candidate who called him a ‘moron.”
Here is a good commentary on the entire spectacle written by Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee.
Just when I think that a Baptist pastor won’t get caught up in the presidential limelight, Jeffress and his remarks make the headlines. I think what bothers me even more is the fact that on a theological level I could agree with him: Mormonism is a cult. There are many morals to be admired in this belief, but the Mormon church was founded by Joseph Smith and there is an additional ‘revelation’ which is called the Book of Mormon. There is a lot more that could be discussed about their theological views regarding the nature of God, Jesus, and what happens after death. However, these opinions are best talked about in a theological framework rather than a political one. In short, one’s religious views do not necessarily disqualify someone from political office, and in this case the presidency of the United States.
I think Jeffress was asked for his opinion about Romney’s views and from what I could hear from the entire interview, he attempted to qualify a theological context for his views on the former Massachusetts’ governor. However, he seemed to back Perry primarily on his assertion of faith as a Christian. Jeffress could have supported Perry without putting down Romney. This is his prerogative, but I don’t appreciate the implication that we should be afraid of a Romney presidency because of his religious background. Honestly, I have observed more than one politician who claims to be a Christian act and vote in such a way that would be inconsistent with the gospel of Christ and biblical teachings.
Anytime a pastor casts his or her lot with a political candidate, there is the possibility of being embarrassed and greatly disappointed. When there is an effort to merge the church and and state, the church will lose every time. Politicians have a tendency to use the church simply to get votes, this may not be the case in everytime but it happens enough to be cautious. The other concern I have is that endorsing political candidates compromises the prophetic voice of the church. And this should never happen.