By Steve Matthews
A few weeks back, Baptist minister Robert Jeffress caused a quite a stir when he introduced presidential candidate Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit. Rather than offering the usual vanilla platitudes in support of his favorite candidate, he made a dreadful gaffe and said something that was actually interesting. In today’s PC world, this, of course, is strictly verboten.
“Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ,” Jeffress said. “Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been
considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.
In 2007, Jeffress made a similar remark about Romney in a sermon, saying
Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Even though he talks about Jesus as his lord and savior, he is not a Christian.
Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult. And just because somebody talks about Jesus does not make them a believer.
Now I have to say, none of this terrible upsets me. Dr Jeffress’ comments about Mormonism and Romney were right on target, admirable even. Mormonism is not Christianity and Mormons, including Mitt Romney, are not Christians. Further, given the bizarre history and antitrinitarian doctrine of the Mormon faith, calling it a cult – as the word is popularly understood – is quite accurate.
At the moment, even mainstream conservative Evangelicals feel free to call Mormonism a false faith. For instance, Al Mohler, a popular Baptist theologian and public figure, has gone on record saying that Mormonism is not Christianity, thus signaling that it’s still safe to hold this opinion in the SBC.
But it’s fair to wonder just how long this will remain the case.
The history of how Protestants have viewed Roman Catholicism is instructive here. Evangelicals once were far more open about denouncing Romanism than they are now about criticizing Mormonism, yet the Protestant pulpit long ago fell silent on the sins of Rome. Mohler is a good example of this long running trend. For while he’ll offer pointed criticism of Mormonism, he has steadfastly refused to speak out decisively against Roman Catholicism. In fact, he has even gone so far as to yoke with Rome by signing the ecumenical Manhattan declaration. All in a good cause, of course.
To be fair, Mohler has criticized, if rather tepidly, some of Rome’s practices. But I’ve never heard him throw the knockout punch against Rome that he’s called to throw in his role as pastor. He won’t call Rome the Babylonian harlot. You will never hear him say Rome is the seat of Antichrist. He can’t even bring himself to deny that Romanism – with its soul-destroying false gospel of faith and works – is Christianity. To do so, it seems, is not safe. After all, denouncing Rome in unambiguous terms could make one enemies. It could get one fired. Horror of horrors, it could even get one disinvited from the Evangelical rubber chicken circuit.
Today there are two Mormons in the Republican field of presidential hopefuls, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. This, as far as I am aware, is a unique development in presidential politics and one that portends a growing Mormon influence in the Republican party and American politics generally. If the Lord chooses to punish this nation by giving us a Latter-Day Saint for president, it’s going to put the influence-seeking, culture-warrior Evangelical crowd in a bit of a quandary. After all, Mormons are pro-life and seem generally supportive of the of the sort of political conservatism that’s popular among Evangelicals. Pastors may one day soon be faced with the choice of speaking the truth about the false faith of a popular Mormon president or falling in line and accepting him as a brother in Christ.
If the long running Evangelical love affair with the seven-hilled Roman harlot is any indication, my guess is that when “Evangelical leaders” are faced with the choice of defending the truth or defending their political and religious spheres of influence, not a few will suddenly see the light and fall all over themselves to be first in line to lick the boots of their new Mormon masters.
Perhaps we’ll then find ourselves treated to the curious sight of Evangelical big shots forging a coalition with leading Mormons under the banner Evangelicals and Mormons Together: Toward a Common Polygamy. Maybe they could name ecumenical godfather Chuck Colson as their honorary chairman. But whatever ecumenical schemes they carry out, no doubt our latter day Luthers will be most sincere in everything they do and say. All in a good cause, of course.