Robert Jeffress On the Dilemma Mitt Romney Poses for Evangelicals

If you recall, it wasn’t long ago that Robert Jeffress, from First Baptist Dallas, was all over cable news saying that Mitt Romney is not a Christian and that Mormonism is a cult.That was back when Jeffress was endorsing Rick Perry and it still looked like there might be an outside shot someone other than Romney could get the Republican nomination. It was around the time I wrote a cover story about Jeffress. As the Iowa caucuses kicked off, Jeffress reminded Evangelicals not to “settle.” “There are a lot of conservatives who aren’t feeling goosebumps for Romney,” he said.

Well, things have changed. Sort of. I touched base with Jeffress recently to ask him how he felt about the race now that the Republican candidate is someone he has repeatedly said is going to Hell, according to the Bible. He calls this the “Romney Dilemma.” It’s something he’s been thinking about (and debating) for going on five years now. But as the election draws closer, the issue comes up more and more. In just the last few weeks, he’s been interviewed by BBC, MSNBC, and Fox among others. But he broke it down for me in simple terms.

He says Romney’s Mormonism will continue to be an issue, “but it’s not the most prominent issue, even for Evangelicals.”  He says, “The economy and the social issues trump theology.” He hopes Romney doesn’t try to deny the differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity. “It would be a mistake for him to say that Mormons and Evangelicals believe the same thing,” he says. Rather, he hopes Romney stresses the shared values.

He says President Obama’s recent turn to the left (referring to the President’s recent announcements regarding gay rights and immigration), makes the decision easier for conservatives. But it’s still hard to get excited about Romney. “I’m not on the campaign trail for Romney,” he says. “I’ll vote for him with the full knowledge that I’m not voting for a Christian.”

A lot of conservative pundits — Karl Rove among them — would prefer Jeffress not talk about this. “I’m not trying to bash him because he’s a Mormon,” Jeffress says. “But this is part of my duty as a pastor.”

To be clear, Jeffress isn’t worried that Romney will be taking his orders from Salt Lake City. (The primary concern Baptists had with John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election was that he would “take his orders straight from the Vatican.”) No, Jeffress says, “The Evangelical quandary is not wanting to give credibility in any way to a false religion.” That is: Jeffress believes Mormons are definitely going to Hell, and he’s worried that a Mormon president might mean more Mormons, and consequently more people in Hell. These are heavy stakes.

So why is he still voting for Romney, and not Obama? Jeffress says he takes the President at his word, that he is a Christian. MSNBC’s Martin Bashir recently asked if it’s because he’s a racist. But Jeffress says it has nothing to do with race. “There is a Biblical case for voting for a non-Christian who embraces Christian positions,” he says. “It’s not because of his tax policy or because of his healthcare policy. It’s about issues of life and religious liberty.” Jeffress adds: “Now, how much he [Romney] really believes in these things, I don’t know. But we have to go on what he says.”

He doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s criticizing Romney. “When you say someone is not a Christian, you’re not saying it as a pejorative,” he says. “It just means that he doesn’t adhere to the tenets of Christianity. He doesn’t believe in the Trinity. He doesn’t believe in salvation by faith in Christ alone.  I believe Mormons are, by and large, good, moral people. If being good and moral is what gets you into heaven, then they’ll all go to heaven. But we believe what the Bible says.”

Ultimately, Jeffress says, he’s not worried. He believes that whichever candidate wins, “it’s all in God’s hands.”

In the meantime, Jeffress is just finishing his newest book, called How I Can Know: Answering All of Life’s Most Important Questions. It will be the basis of a sermon series he plans to start in the Fall, and the book will be released in January.

36 comments on “Robert Jeffress On the Dilemma Mitt Romney Poses for Evangelicals

  1. Yet another buffoon from Texas gets on the national media’s collective rolodex. How long, O Lord, how long?

  2. How about we separate church from state and prevent one’s personal religious beliefs from determining whether they’d make a better president. And stop letting pastors tell us how to vote.

  3. It may be his prerogative as an individual to question Romney’s religion or even to say he is going to vote for him. It is NOT his duty as pastor of a church that is a 501 C3 that is prohibited from engaging in political activity.

  4. Robert Jeffress is an embarrassment to Dallas and to the Baptist church.

    But I want to hear more about these TENANTS of Christianity. Are they like, people who rent space and live in churches? And why is it bad if Romney doesn’t adhere to them?

  5. @ Lee- completely incorrect. Mr. Jeffress is 100% entitled to speak his views and discuss for whom he will vote. It would be inappropriate for him to do so on behalf of the 501(c)(3) entity that employs him. This is the same for most of us who work for larger entities. We are afforded a right to free political speech (although often regulated in time and place); however, we are not permitted to speak for a political candidate on behalf of our respective companies.

    I do not know Mr. Jeffress, but every time I have seen or read something about him, his actual message (not the rhetoric surrounding the message) has been for the most part unobjectionable. The same is true here. He does not support religions outside Christianity. This makes sense for a Christian pastor. He believes there is a biblical basis for supporting non-Christian leaders (agreed- although the opposite is also supported biblically). He seems to do so without harmful intent (obviously subjective), but seems genuinely committed to a reasonable dialogue on these issues.

    Again, I get that you may not agree with him, but what exactly in what he said was inappropriate? In a world of constant attack and negative ads, someone wishing to dialogue on serious issues is refreshing to me.

  6. Oh, that’s very different. Never mind. (God bless the great Gilda Radner’s soul.)

  7. @cbs.
    He said as a “pastor.” You are right that he can say anything he wants, but not as a representative of a church.

  8. How do you justify putting someone you’re sure is going to Hell next to the Red Button? Yeah, THAT Red Button.

    As Alice said: “Things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser”.

  9. Then once he’s in hell, he’ll be next to Red Buttons, which doesn’t sound so bad.

  10. Mooney….why do you just fuck that queen and be done with it. Stop spewing his shit all over our city. You look like a bigger joke than he is for being his head cheerleader. Jeebus freaking christ.

  11. jack jett,

    Probably Michael J. Mooney just doesn’t want to lose his access to Jeffress because Jeffress fascinates him in the same way that it’s fascinating and disgusting to watch insects achieve congress. I mean, if you can call that an “achievement.” Doin’ the ol’ clickety-clack, is more like it. Still, you’re too horrified to look away or to kill them, so you blog about them, like.

  12. Yes, similar to Pastor Huckabee, Pastor Jeffress is excellent in communicating his desire to ruin the lives of “sinners” with a smile and a seemingly harmless chuckle.

    Unfortunately, they is no different than the “GOD HATES FAGS” protesters and others who a bit more histrionic in their hatred. Just like them he is working tirelessly to take away the rights of others, and to try to force his particular brand of Christianity on the public at large.

    Hate is hate, no matter how you much you sugarcoat. As I like to say, I grew up Southern Baptist until I got tired of hating everybody else.

  13. …”Unfortunately, they ARE no different than the “GOD HATES FAGS” protesters and others who ARE bit more histrionic in their hatred.”….

    Need to proofread first…

  14. Pastor Jeffers has every right as an American citizen to voice his opinion, and as a pastor he does have the responsibility to speak about spiritual issues. As a Christian and an independent voter, I am really troubled by the choices available to us for our nation’s highest office. The difficulty has little to do with race or religion. Both candidates have some positive qualities as well as aspects that I view as negatives; no perfect candidates, but there never is. President Obama has not been an effective leader and has divided rather than united the nation. I also don’t agree with his positions on marriage and life. Unfortunately, Governor Romney appears insincere about his (flip flop) positions and is only committed to getting elected. I think Pastor Jeffers was actually speaking for many like me who are troubled by our choices but don’t want to waste our vote.

  15. I guess I shouldn’t be, but I’m always amazed how overwrought folks get when they encounter somebody who says or believes something they disagree with.
    What’s more puzzling, though, is that their tolerance is even lower for any reportage on those with contrary beliefs that do not align with their own views.
    Lest there be any misunderstanding here, I mean Jack Jett and the person who styles himself “Daniel.” Poor Jett. Poor Daniel. Their beliefs must be very, very fragile if they can’t steer their lives through the shoals of contrary opinion.
    One wonders how they got this far. Who sheltered them from the buffets of the real world? Did mommy and daddy cover their ears when somebody spoke a contrary word?
    It was once predicted that blogs would bring on a new golden age of public discussion, a forum in which civilized people could talk, even argue, and agree to disagree. Apparently not.

    .

  16. Jeffress would find a “biblical case” to vote for a devil worshipping cannibal as long as he was lily white.

  17. @ Bill Marvel
    While sometimes Mr. Jett goes a bit overboard, I think the point you are missing is that unlike a simple discussion where we can agree to disagree and go on with our lives, the stances the Pastor Jeffries advocates (not only advocates, but aggressively pushes and encourages his flock to promote — all done on our taxpayer dime) are things that detrimentally affect other people’s lives, sometimes very dramatically.

    Someone else’s believing differently doesn’t affect Pastor Jeffries’ life in any material way: the income taxes he pays, the benefits he receives, his ability to visit a loved one in the hospital, etc. But Pastor Jeffries’ belief that there is a group of US citizens that does not deserve the same benefits that he has — and his active, aggressive promotion of that belief and attempts to put those beliefs into law — affect those people’s lives in a harmful way. Whether it’s harassment of gay students by “Christian” students, or preventing a gay person from visiting a loved one in a hospital, or providing a tax benefit to one type of couple that another couple can’t access.

    So it’s all well and good to say we want civil discourse, and everyone has a right to their own beliefs. But when one person’s religious beliefs end up harming someone else, I think that’s a whole different story.

  18. Jeffress main concern is about money and keeping himself in a job. He hates Mormonism because if Mormonism continues to flourish, he could be out of a job. Evangelicals and Baptists are threatened because priestcraft (taking money for “preaching”and receiving the glory of the world) is considered a sin by Mormons. Jesus never was paid for teaching the gospel. His is the ultimate example and I don’t see Jeffress or any other preacher following that example. What hypocrites. They are preying upon the people for their own power and glory, not God’s.

  19. Bill….I can only assume that you believe that the shit RJ spews is considered civilized. Apply the measures he wants to apply to the gay community and apply them to yourself. I never thought of you as being so transparent. Why don’t you follow the trail that leads to RJ and his land of bigotry and get back with me?

  20. I don’t have a problem with contrary opinions. I have family members and friends who are conservatives. We agree to disagree, and if things do get heated (most of my friends and family actually have a pulse), why, we simply drop the subject and cool off a spell.

    I reserve the right to make fun of public figures whom I consider to be shucks-heels. Just as Bill Marvel ostensibly reserves the right to lecture strangers on the web. Not sure if Bill is capable of perceiving the irony there, but I’m going to say no. Self-awareness doesn’t seem to be his strong suit.

  21. Edward,
    I would say that “overboard” is more than an understatement.
    And I quote Jett: ‘….why do you just **** that queen and be done with it. Stop spewing his ***” And this was directed NOT at the offending Jeffress, but at Mike Mooney, who had the effrontery to write about Jeffress. I would imagine the lesson here for all writers is write only about those whose beliefs and expression don’t “affect other people’s lives.”
    I carry no brief for Jeffress. Neither does Mike. (I know this because I carefully read his D magazine piece and his blog comment, above, and found nothing in either to disturb my very negative views of First Baptist’s pastor. I know this also because I’ve followed Mike’s writing for a long time. He specializes in nuanced pieces about people who for one reason or another have become objects of hatred and scorn. Mike does not cloak his subjects in warm, pink clouds of approval; neither does he write propaganda for their enemies. For that, people like Jett just can’t forgive him.)
    But you raise an even more important issue. If pastors, preachers, priests are not allowed to promote their beliefs among their congregations or in society at large, even beliefs most of us find distasteful, then what is left of religious freedom? In fact, what is left of religion, except a toothless, meaningless bouquet of platitudes that harm, help, and challenge no one? Of course religion divides, calls certain behaviors into question, raises moral hackles, rubs people the wrong way. How could it be otherwise? We can solve this by eliminating all but the most harmless tea-and-cake faiths. Or we can grit our teeth and remind ourselves that this is the price we pay for freedom of, or from, religion.

  22. But Daniel,
    Your comment was directed at Mike Mooney, whom you accuse of pandering to Jeffress for the purpose of gaining access.
    If a criticsm of somebody else’s blog is a “lecture,” Daniel, than we’re almost all lecturers here, yourself no less that anybody else.
    Even moreso, Jett, who seems as disturbed by the fact that Mooney would write about Jeffress as he is by anything Jeffress says in his sermons.
    I would ever defend anything Jeffress says but I will and do defend Mike’s article and comment, which were balanced, nuanced and could be taken as a defense of First Baptist’s pastor only by the most willful of misreadngs.

  23. Bill…You are a bit all over the map on this one. My parents are not to blame for my lack of journalistic skills. I am 56 and take full responsibility of my words. I deserve the same rights in the world as anyone else. RJ does not believe that. I am astounded that anyone would feel that some folks are unequal and deserve less than others.
    You are right about this though. Yes it chaps my azz that you buddy MM gives so much glorified free press to RJ. To a man who thinks I should NOT be able to visit my partner of 20 years in the hospital. That I should not be able to marry, adopt children, serve in the military or even attend church services, etc.. Because I assume that MM is a rational journalist and even if he might be a homophobe, he can try and show two sides of a story. There are 100′s of RJ in this neck of the woods. The combo of RJ and MM as a press force can easily skew the views people have on our GLBTQ community. If you think there is no connection between teen suicides and homophobic pastors, then do some research and you will be astounded. The connection is there. It is solid. And every time the PR team of RJ/MM spew more holier than thou crap, I will be there to remind you there is another side. In time, this will cease to be an issue because even in Texas human rights will trump christian extremist. RJ will be relegated to the likes of Strom Thurmond in history.
    Sorry for so much verbiage. Just to note that there has been a ton of stuff that MM has put out there that I like. And I have noticed over the years that this blog has become more gay friendly and it is appreciated. MM….You have some good pals looking out for you two. You should appreciate that…..oh and shout out out to Daniel’s parents too.

  24. In the meantime, Jeffress is just finishing his newest book, called How I Can Know: Answering All of Life’s Most Important Questions. It will be the basis of a sermon series he plans to start in the Fall, and the book will be released in January.

    MM….Do you know if this will be available on Amazon or Kindle?
    Give us a reminder the closer to the book signing. It would be a great way for us all to meet.

  25. Reverand Jeffress said. “And I still maintain there are vast differences in theology between Mormons and Christians.”

    This seems to be a common view among many Christians and actually they are right to say that there are some major differences, although there are more similarities than differences. However, there are also vast differences between current Christianity and Early Christianity.

    If Christianity means “historic orthodox mainstream Christianity” of today then I would agree that Mormonism is not historic Christianity; at least not in every doctrine. Although Mormons have much in common with other Christians Mormons also believe differently than historic Christians in some key areas. But the real questions to ask are 1) What is original Christianity? 2) Is mainstream Christianity of today the same as original Christianity? It turns out that Joseph Smith was right. Mormonism is a restoration of Original Christianity. It is not my intent to criticize Christians of today. However, with all the criticism of Mormonism it is important to notice that in many areas of belief Mormons are closer to original Christianity than are most Christians of today.

    Mormons believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. Our first Article of Faith states: We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. However “Trinity’ is a word that is not found in the Bible. Nor are the definitions and wording formulations in the extra-Biblical creeds found in the Bible. In 325 AD a council of about 300 (out of 1800 serving) bishops gathered in Nicea at the request of the pagan Emperor Constantine and formulated a creed that tried to reconcile the Biblical statements that there three persons called “God” and yet there was “one” God. They then forced all Christians to accept their solution as “gospel”, with varying results. Theological debates and other councils continued to tweak the concept for centuries which produced additional creeds.

    Mormons are not supposed to be Christian because we have some doctrinal differences with other Christian groups of today. The foundation for the beliefs of these other groups is the creeds of the 4th. 5th, and 6th centuries and so on.

    For example; in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is a non-Biblical creed, we read that “there is but one God, a most holy spirit, without body, parts or passions,” thus denying the resurrected Christ, for if Christ is not risen and we do not believe him when he tells us that he has an immortal body, we can then have no hope of a resurrection (Phil 3:21.)

    Contrary to the creeds, the resurrected Jesus taught: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and ones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39)

    From this passage we know that Jesus had his physical body after the resurrection. We also know that when Christ comes again, he will still have his physical body. (Zech. 14:4; 12:10; 13:6; John 20:24-28, Acts 1:9-11; Rev 1:7; 1 Cor. 15:3-8, 12-20, 35-42; D&C 93:33).

    It is claimed that Mormons are wrong because they believe in extra-Biblical revelation and scripture. Yet much of Christianity believes in extra-Biblical creeds and councils formulated centuries after the time of Christ and the Apostles. Most of the wording formulations in these creeds cannot be found in the Bible. This is often the excuse used to exclude members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) from being Christian. It is well known to historians that Christian doctrine changed over time and across different Christian groups.

    The Bible is then viewed through the lens of these creeds causing certain interpretations to be favored and other biblical teachings to be minimized or ignored. Interestingly, if you look at the doctrines of the early church fathers before the creeds, they are very Mormon-like. In a number of doctrinal areas the early Christians were good Mormons and would be rejected as non-Christian by many Christians of today.

    In many areas of belief (probably the majority of areas) Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe the same as most other Christians. It is true that in some limited areas — some very critical ones — the beliefs of Mormons differ from other Christians. Likewise there are some major areas of difference between Catholics and Protestants and likewise between one Protestant group and the next. Every denomination could make the claim that the other groups are not Christian because those other beliefs differ from their own.

    Joseph Smith taught “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it”. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121).

    The central belief of Mormons is that Christ came into the world as the Son of God. He healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and restored life to the dead. He commissioned twelve Apostles to whom he gave authority. He suffered in Gethsemane, died on the cross, and was resurrected and will come again. He, and only He, provides the means for us to be washed clean in his blood from our sins, which sins we can never correct on our own or through our own works. If that is not Christian I don’t know what is. Christ never taught the need to believe in anything like the creeds. Those came later.

    Mormon belief is very much like the teachings of the earlier Christians — before the creeds — and also matches the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. The further back in time you go the more Mormon-like Christian doctrine becomes. Mormons are often portrayed as non-Christian when we don’t believe in the later extra-Biblical creedal formulations.

    The early Christians did not have the extra-Biblical creeds of later centuries. Were they then not Christian? The ontological debates and the wording formations of later centuries are not found in the words of Jesus or the words of the Apostles or in the words of the pre-creedal Christians . There is not a word about a one substance god in the Bible or in the early beliefs. If believing in the creeds is necessary to be Christian then that makes the earlier Christians not Christian — it even makes Christ not Christian.

    Mormons believe in original Christianity and that it was restored to the earth through revelation to new prophets. Nowhere does the Bible say that God has finished his work, that the cannon of scripture is closed.

  26. Jett,

    I understand your grievances against the good pastor. Have at him,
    But Mike’s coverage of Jeffress has hardly been “more holier than thou crap” except, perhaps, for those who were expecting screeching propaganda. The worst villains, of course, are those who appear “civilized.” In fact, Mike has done those who oppose Jeffress and his message a great favor by framing that message in such a way as to make it unmistakable, even to those who may have been undecided.
    By the way, if Mike has a homophobic cell in his cranium it comes as an enormous surprise to anyone who has known him.

  27. MJM’s article was, indeed, well-written and a great read. I suspect MJM is hardly a shill for Jeffress, but regards him with at least some measure of loathing. Was my point. But hey, here’s to willful misreadings.

  28. P.S. Jack, it is possible to write a not-unflattering profile of a person without endorsing their views. Of course, if you look like the the fourth member of Cream, you might have to pander a little to gain access.

  29. Robert Jeffress knows that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS not only believe in the Christ of the Bible, but they take up the cross and follow Jesus keeping his commandments as he himself as required of all believers. Interesting though, if a follower of the Jeffress’s religious group were to murder a “Mormon” who is a follower of Christ, the murderer will for sure go to heaven and sit with Christ because he “believed in Christ and Christ forgave him of the murder because of his confession of Christ. However, the “Mormon that he murdered, must go to hell because he follows the scriptures, believes in the physical resurrection of Jesus’ body, and that Jesus is the eternal Son of our heavenly Father. I wonder, “and the reader should also,” what does Jeffress and the murderer think the Son of God will be like when they see them, standing in their presence? What will these men have to say when God the Father introduces his Beloved Son and the Son says to them: ” Not every one who says unto me Lord, Lord will inter into the kingdom of heaven . . .” interesting!

  30. Daniel …thanks for you expert advice. I appreciate it. Your cooler head always prevails.

    Bill….Sorry if I said anything to offend you or if my choice of words offended you.

    MM…..I hope you understand that this is the only part of your work that I am not fond of. I doubt that my opinion really means anything to you but I do respect your work.

    Wishing you guys the best and hope that you will vote to continue to let me drive and operate heavy machinery.

  31. Dewight,

    I agree with you; Mormonism is not traditional Biblical Christianity. However, the LDS claim that early first century Christianity resembled the teachings of mormonism is bogus, other than a few LDS apologists no serious secular or Christian scholar supports this view.

    Both the LDS (Mormon) and Church of Christ claimed God ordained their organization as the true restoration of fallen Christianity based on the revelations of Joseph Smith. Both churches consider the Book of Mormon scripture but unlike LDS, the Church of Christ is trinitarian, never denied priesthood to blacks, has never condoned polygamy and does not practice baptism for the dead. So whose living prophet is right? The LDS Church continues to insist that it alone represents “the only true church” and more closely emulates primitive Christianity. The Church of Christ has come to abandon this notion. Here’s a quote from their leadership:

     ”A majority of committee members held that this vision of the nature of the church was inadequate for the church of the present day. It does not conform to our best present understanding of the nature of God as revealed in the gospel of Christ, nor does it allow us to account for the fact that we continually experience the reality of authentic Christian discipleship in people from other traditions. Moreover, our past understanding of earliest Christianity has proved to be historically deficient: there is simply no evidence that a church existed in the first century that looked like ours. Therefore, the belief that we are the restoration of the primitive form of Christianity can no longer be sustained.”

    Although LDS are critical of denominationalism among traditional Christians, during its relatively brief history more than 50 denominations have been formed over differences in doctrine and leadership.

    The difference:

    Christian Gospel. All people have a sin problem that separates us from a holy and just God that we can’t remedy. God provided us a remedy (a rescue) that satisfied His standards for holiness. He came to us as His Son, fully human yet without sin and God, paid the just penalty for our sins (sacrificial shedding of innocent blood and death) being resurrected and restoring our relationship with Him. We have free will. We can accept this gift or reject it; but can not merit or earn it. Our obedience and service are an expression of our trust (faith) in what God has already accomplished.

    Mormon Gospel: LDS teach that we are part of an eternal progression where humans are tested and if shown worthy can be exalted to godhood. Jesus basically agreed to set the cosmic game board, his sacrifice allowed all players the right to choose sin or obedience and ensured resurrection; then it’s up to you after all you can do. This is why traditional Biblical Christians view Mormonism as a works based religion.