The Dallas Morning News (DMN) ran a story last week about the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas (where I am a member). The DMN was covering a recent sermon in which our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, used Mitt Romney’s candidacy as an occasion to make that point that Mormonism is not a Christian religion but that it is a cult. I heard Dr. Jeffress preach the sermon live, and I can confirm that there are at least two items in the DMN story that are inaccurate. The first is just factually wrong; the second is misleading.
(1) Factual Error: The lead line in the DMN article reads as follows: “A prominent Dallas minister told his congregation that if they wanted to elect a Christian to the White House, Republican Mitt Romney wasn’t qualified.” This is not true. Dr. Jeffress said nothing about electing a Christian to the White House in his sermon. Nor did he say anything about who we should vote for in the 2008 presidential election. You can listen to the relevant excerpt here. If you want the full context, you can listen to the entire sermon here: “The Power of a Positive Purpose.” The remarks about Romney begin about 19 minutes in. Jeffress made the theological point that Mormonism is not in line with orthodox Christianity, but he didn’t make the political point about who we should or should not vote for.
(2) Misleading Quote: Near the end of the DMN story, the following lines appear:
Dr. Jeffress also said Christian conservatives were compromising the values used to back presidential candidates over the past decade.
“It’s a little hypocritical for the last eight years to be talking about how important it is for us to elect a Christian president and then turn around and endorse a non-Christian,” he said. “Christian conservatives are going to have to decide whether having a Christian president is really important or not.”
Dr. Jeffress did not utter these lines in his sermon. I don’t know where the reporter got these quotes, but Dr. Jeffress did not say any such thing in the sermon. The DMN story is not clear on this point. The average reader is likely to conclude that Pastor Jeffress implied in his sermon that we should only vote for evangelical Christians for President. But that’s not at all what he said. He only said that Mormonism is not within the orthodox stream of Christianity. In fact, he prefaced his remarks with, “I’m neither for nor against Mitt Romney. He may be a good leader. . . He may make a worthy president.” My concern is that the DMN article was misleading on this point. This is not a small item to get wrong now that other media outlets are repeating the error (see below), which apparently has led the Interfaith Alliance to call into question the church’s tax exempt status!
The bottom line is this: Dr. Jeffress never expressed support for or against a Presidential candidate, but the DMN makes it sound as if he did. I’m hoping that the DMN will run a correction in the very near future.