I blogged last week about Pastor Robert Jeffress’ endorsement of Rick Perry for the Republican presidential nomination at the Values Voter Summit. As you no doubt have seen by now, the endorsement and his remarks about Mormonism caused an explosion of media attention. In the Sunday morning service at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, he addressed the congregation about what he had done. You can see his remarks above.
So you’ve been good to keep us informed about this interesting piece of news, and your piece today on whether or not Mormonism is a cult was great. But what you’ve ignored commenting on is whether or not Jeffress was correct or wise to say that “every true, born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” At least in our circles that is much more provocative than the idea that Mormonism is a cult. Any thoughts?
Good question. I think there may be some misunderstanding about what Jeffress said. Jeffress never said “every true, born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian (period).” Jeffress said,
“I believe every true born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian [candidate] over a non-Christian if things like competency and other issues are the same.”
In short, he is arguing that Christians ought to vote for candidates that share their beliefs and worldview most comprehensively. Despite the way that this has been spun, Jeffress never said that religion trumps competency as a qualification for president.
As far as I can tell, no person that is a party to this debate is arguing that religious views trump competence. In fact, Jeffress has said that he himself would vote for a non-Christian if that person were qualified and shared his views.
We have a choice: we can believe what a politician says that he or she believes in carefully scripted speeches and talking points. Or, we can look at the friends they keep, the people who donate to them, the churches they attend (or don’t), the leaders they emulate, etc.
I believe that using the latter method is the only way that works… if we ACTUALLY want to understand what makes a politician ticks and how they will lead.
So, yes – a candidate’s religion matters and does indicate a great deal of what their real motivations and worldview is. Even more important is how they practice their faith or religion. If there is a disconnect between what they say the believe and how they live their life, voter take heed and be warned. If their worldview is at odds with the worldview of Scripture, voter take heed and be warned. A tree is known by its fruit.
Denny, thanks for your answer. It is helpful in clarification. But I wonder if the question lingers unanswered.
Jeffress’ main point, that it is advisable to vote for the Christian candidate if all things are equal, seems, at least on the surface of it, far too simplistic. In reality, it is incredibly complicated to draw with certainty one’s beliefs and how they align with yours, or how their beliefs will bear on who they are, or on how their beliefs will affect their governance. Derek’s point above is a good one, but it runs both ways. Just because Bush or Perry (or Barack!) claim faith in Jesus, doesn’t mean that they are truly confessional in belief and practice, nor does it say much about how they will actually govern. In other words, there is no such practical case where “all things are equal.”
I agree that practically speaking “all thing being equal” is a rarity, and many voters are coming to the conclusion that all things are not equal between Perry and Romney.
A case in point was last night’s debate. It is very clear that Perry is not equal to Romney when it comes to debating. I think conservatives will take that into account in selecting their next presidential candidate. They don’t want another candidate (like the last president) who cannot articulate and defend his policies. It looks like many primary voters are coming to the conclusion that Romney would fare much better against Obama in a debate than any of the other candidates.
I’m no fan of GWB, but he actually did quite well in most of his debates. In fact, many pundits agree that his debate performances against the smooth tongued Kerry ultimately secured his re-election.
Not surprisingly, the media made big hay about some of Bush’s verbal gaffes, but if he had made some of the verbal gaffes Obama has made, there would have been no end to the mockery and derision from the media (e.g. Obama’s 57 states comment, joke about retarded kids, repeated claims that the U.S. has built an “Intercontinental railroad”).
I don’t have in mind the gaffes so much as I do his inability to defend the rationale for the Iraq War. There was a case to be made, and he failed to do it. Karl Rove said in his memoir that it was the biggest strategic blunder of his presidency.
Good point, Denny. Although I would argue that many were “sold” on Iraq until they saw how difficult the mission was. I was sold on it, but now believe that GWB fatally and simply “misunderestimated” the cost and difficulty of it.
George W. Bush is United Methodist, but he spent years crafting a manner of speaking that would resonate with Southern Baptists and evangelicals. Doug Wead has spoken and written much about this (Wead was Bush’s “friend”, until he realized that Bush had used him in a way that betrays genuine friendship).
Bush is a perfect example of what I’m describing. Big time disconnect between his church membership/affiliation and how he communicated. His strategy worked, because he fooled most evangelicals.