Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, first made a name for himself last year by openly and unapologetically attacking Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith, blasting Christians who supported his candidacy and declaring “that Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult.”
Now, Romney is not even running any more, but Jeffress isn’t done calling him a cult member or criticizing those who supported him:
Evangelicals who believe the country needs a Christian in the White House but promoted Mitt Romney’s candidacy during the Republican primaries were hypocrites, according to a Texas pastor.
Romney, a Mormon, is not a Christian, the Rev. Robert Jeffress said, but a member of a “cult.”
“I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian,” Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told a packed audience of journalists at last weekend’s Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) annual meeting. “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.
RNA president Kevin Eckstrom was quick to point out that they did not organize the event and that he thought it was important for people to be aware of Jeffress because of the influence he wields:
“A lot of people were uncomfortable with what Dr. Jeffress said about Mormons, but what we were hoping for was something provocative that would get people talking, and certainly this did it.”
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 was useful for reporters to be aware of such strident views, Eckstrom said, because they are “completely mainstream in a lot of evangelical quarters.”
First Baptist of Dallas “is not a backwater pulpit somewhere. It is a major church in Texas and in Southern Baptist circles,” Eckstrom said. “It’s a huge institution and a lot of followers. He’s not just spouting these opinions for himself but proud of the fact that he was going back to his congregation and declare every other religion was wrong, and at least 10,000 people hear this position every week.”