A Texan pastor and his remarks have received a lot of hubbub in the national and international community since Friday evening.
Robert Jeffress, a senior pastor at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, introduced GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit, a conservative gathering of sorts that attracted all Republican presidential hopefuls (except for Huntsman; his invitation must have gotten lost in the mail).
During his introduction of Perry, Jeffress encouraged attendees to vote for “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ,” and later called Mitt Romney a “member of a cult” and said “the idea that Mormonism is a cult is not some fringe conservative idea.”
According to Slate.com, Jeffress “hung out for a few hours, taking cell phone calls, doing live TV hits, repeating the word ‘cult’ a few times every minute.”
The non-relevant of religion was a player in the presidential elections and has seemingly been highlighted these past few days. However, this time around, Mitt Romney might benefit from all this negativity regarding his religious beliefs.
Jeffress, with his relentless and bigoted views, has created a need and even a desire to sympathize for Romney. There couldn’t have been anybody better than Jeffress to coordinate such attacks — in the words of Jon Huntsman, “a moron.”
Jeffress has rubbed the crowds the wrong way. Well-known and diverse individuals have responded to Jeffress’ Mormon-cult assertion as “bigoted,” from former Reagan official Bill Bennett to James Fallows, a former speechwriter for Carter. Jeffress’ comment also moved former FOX News star and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Glenn Beck to tears. Well, no surprise there.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Jeffress did not drop his attacks. He remained firm in the belief that Mormons are not Christians and that members of the Mormon Church are part of a cult. Jeffress defined a cult as a group of people “that look to other religious texts outside the Bible for their guidance.” Jeffress then clarified that those who subscribe to Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism as their source of theological enlightenment are part of cults as well.
However, while this newfound sympathy might help Romney right now, other hurdles remain that need to be cleared. Poll after poll suggests that Americans are simply not ready or feel uncomfortable with the thought of having a Mormon president.
Some don’t know enough about the Mormons and fear what they don’t generally understand. Others know the Mormons very well and fear that a Mormon president would instigate Mormon standards on American life. In the past, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and William Taft were accused of being atheists during elections campaigns. During the campaign of JFK, many believed his Catholic beliefs might be an instigator of a Papist-controlled government.
It didn’t happen then and it won’t happen now. No president thus far has been a non-Christian; their beliefs did not shape their policies or their presidency, and it won’t shape the policies or the possible presidency of Mitt Romney. It’s time we learn from the past and the mistakes thereof and become an educated people before we go around making comments that are off-color and false.