What Goes Around Comes Around…
Some people cannot leave well enough alone. Robert Jeffress, a Baptist preacher out of Dallas, and one of the most vocal and bigoted of all the anti-Mormon, anti-Romney religious far-rightists, has stuck his head up again. He featured prominently in the Article VI Movie, in perhaps its ugliest moment, as being unwilling to even declare himself a friend of a Mormon. Well, Peggy Fletcher Stack caught up with him speaking at the Religion Newswriters Association last week:
“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.
Sekulow, who also disagrees with Mormon theology but supported Romney’s candidacy, argued he would rather have a president who promoted a conservative political agenda than one who shared his doctrinal positions.
Thank goodness for people like Sekulow and Mark DeMoss who are willing to challenge silly people like this. But what I found most interesting was what is occurring in the wake of this posturing that we witnessed during the primary campaign.
While many leading Evangelicals are quick to embrace the whole “Sarah [Palin] is religious just like me” thing, it is being used as a cudgel against them. We are seeing the same kind of stuff around Palin with this religious identity mantra that emerged around Bush is 2000 and it is a large part of why we are in this mess. One of the great problems with the Bush administration is that he is not “just like us.” In fact I would argue that no one seeking the office of the Presidency of the United States is going to be just like any normal Joe on the street. The desire alone separates that individual pretty significantly from the rest of us.
That fact does not cast aspersions on their faith, none-whatsoever, it is just to point out the illusory nature of this kind of identity politics. But note what is happening. At Contentions, Abe Greenwald takes on a piece by Sam Harris that discusses Palin in precisely the same incredulous tones that were used to discuss Romney’s Mormonism. Most amazing is it devolves into a discussion of what we mainstream/creedal Christians call the charismata, the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Which is precisely the club that was used to beat Romney. What else are the “founding whoppers of Mormonism” than claims of direct and miraculous action by God?
But leaving aside commentary pieces, MSNBC’s breathless and ridiculing story of a viral video showing Palin being prayed over, and specifically for protection from “witchcraft” is just contemptible. Imagine what would happen if some one dug up videos of Obama in a dashiki, attending an African ritual of some sort and reported on it in this fashion? The charges of racism would be so extreme as to run into actual censorship.
And in large part we have brought this on ourselves. When fools like Jeffress say such foolish things, it will come back to haunt.
Some interesting and well done work on Biden, Catholics and media bias. It’s somewhat comforting to know that the press cannot seem to get religion correct, no matter what the religion.
This Sunday just past was designated for pastors to protest the limitations placed by the IRS on their political speech from the pulpit. There was a little counter view op-ed in the NYTimes Saturday. This one is a tough call. Pastors should be free under the constitution to say whatever they want from the pulpit, and it is reasonable to argue that the tax laws are coercive enough to constitute a de facto form of censorship (most churches would go belly up in a matter of weeks if they lost their tax advanatges), but pastors doing politics from the pulpit is usually a recipe for disaster to the church. Were I a pastor, I would chose to quietly support lawyers arguing the law rather than engage in this kind of protest.
And finally, a column from Lutheran Magazine looks at the now old Pew Religious Landscape Survey and writes:
According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life ’s “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” a modest 14 percent of adults say their beliefs are the main influence on their political views. Many more, 34 percent, claim their personal experience is the deciding factor in shaping political views.
However, the report found a strong tie between political issues and Americans’ religious affiliation, beliefs and practices. “In fact, religion may be playing a more powerful, albeit indirect, role in shaping people’s thinking than most Americans recognize,” the report said.
Members of U.S. evangelical churches and Mormons are more likely to self-describe their political ideology as conservative, with two-thirds of Mormons and one-half of evangelicals saying they are Republicans or lean that way. On the other side, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and the unaffiliated self-describe as being politically liberal. A large majority of that group plus members of historically African-American churches endorse the Democratic Party.
Where the divide really hits is in what the survey calls “culture war controversies.” A large majority of Mormons and evangelicals agree that abortion should be illegal in most or all circumstances, while similar numbers among members of mainline Protestant churches and the unaffiliated contend abortion should be legal in most or all cases. “A similar divide exists on the question of whether homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged or accepted by society,” according to the report.
I think that is very informative and one of the very few places I have seen that has properly analyzed the findings in that study. Anybody that has studied statistics should know that correlation and causation are two very different things. Just because there is a very significant correlation between Evangelicals and Mormons and conservatism does not mean one causes the others. As this points out, while many claim both labels, religious and political, far less claim that one results from the other.
This should put to the lie finally the idea that religious identity is necessary for political goals, but of course it will not. It is sad sometimes how shallowly this nation thinks.