Pro-Perry Evangelical Leader says Romney not a Christian, Mormonism a Cult

The evangelical pastor Robert Jeffres,
introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voters conference on Friday,

He strongly implied in his introduction that evangelicals would have a choice between a non-Christian ‘good man’ and a ‘born-again Christian.’ In later comments he explicitly called Mitt Romney a “non-Christian” and termed Mormonism “a cult.”

Perry tried to dissociate himself from Jeffres’ comments.

Nearly half of Americans views Mormonism negatively. In opinion polls, about 25 percent of Americans say that they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon. But fully 34 percent of white evangelicals report these sentiments.

About a quarter of evangelicals voted for Barack Obama in 2008

Of course, it is not clear what percentage of Americans is evangelical. By a narrow definition, they would be only 7 percent. By a more expansive one they would be over 40 percent. I personally think that the expansive definition is silly, and favor the 20 percent range for their proportion of the general population.

But some 44 percent of Republican primary voters in 2008 were evangelicals, so they are an outsized proportion of the party base. If they aren’t lying to pollsters about refusing to vote for a Mormon, the anti-Romney evangelicals constitute nearly 15% of the core Republican Party membership. They are unlikely to swing behind Obama if Romney is the candidate, but they do have the option of staying home. The other question is how many of the independent swing voters are evangelicals. And apparently few Democrats are going to cross the aisle and vote for Romney (in contrast, Obama attracted about 10 percent of conservatives in 2008).

I take the point that religious prejudice may be outweighed by economic considerations. But since we haven’t had a Mormon candidate for president before, we cannot be sure how this one will play out.

The Republican Party, is made up of a number of distinct constituencies. The party comprises Wall Street, much of the small town midwest and West, much of the rural population, and white evangelicals. Romney appeals to big business but not so much to evangelicals and the rural and small town people. Perry appeals to evangelicals but Wall Street thinks he is a wild man (not to mention being dense as as a block of wood). Whoever the standard bearer is will automatically lose a significant portion of his party, and it is not clear how they will do with the swing independent voters.

So the Republican field faces a severe problem in that none of them is acceptable to all wings of the party

Their second big problem is that no one can win the presidency without at least 40 percent of the Latino vote, and Jan Brewer and Arizona have likely killed that for Republicans in the general election.

29 Responses

  1. Neither my Baptist nor Roman Catholic friends consider adherents of Mormonism to be Christians. As an atheist I am not qualified to offer a firm opinion, but my understanding of my childhood religious upbringing (RC) leads me to agree with their assessment. None of us are evangelical. While writing this, I noticed that we also naturally use the term “adherent” rather than believer when talking about Mormons.

    While the Republicans may field a candidate that is unacceptable to large segments of their party, most are united in their opposition to Mr. Obama. Poor voter turnout amongst unenthusiastic Democrats can easily doom Obama’s candidacy.

      • I think that young Democrats who voted for Obama rather than for Obama policies (or what they thought were his policies) may well win the electoral laziness battle. Also, changes in several states to voter identification requirements and the availability of early voting may reduce turnout for specific groups (college students, people without state-issued id) who voted for the Democratic ticket in 2008. And then there are independents like myself who voted in 2008 for every office except the President and Vice President.

    • Even as an atheist I have to give thanks for the comedy provided by these Texans and their brand of Christianity.

      You have GWBush,a so-called born again Christian from Texas, who went on to engage this country in two unnecessary wars, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of lives ruined, putting him in a runner up position to Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler.

      Then you can tune into GWBush supporter, the very pious Texan televangelist Kenneth Copeland. Mr. C actualy told his “flock”…”The lord spoke to me and told me I needed a Gulfstream 5 so I could spread the gospel more effectively.” To make it extra convenient, Copeland lives on a multi-million dollar estate, with it’s own airport and hanger.

      Blessed are those meek and mild Texans and damn those cultish Mormons.

  2. I guess Mr. Jeffress would have to call Jesus Christ and the Christians of the first three centuries a “cult”. Mitt Romney believes in New Testament Christianity, not Mr. Jeffress’ Fourth Century Creeds, which have no basis in the New Testament. Who is calling whom a “cult”?

    http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com

    Here are the characteristics of a cult:
    · Small? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) has 14 million members in 132 countries. In America, there are more Mormons than there are Presbyterians or Jews.
    · Excessive devotion? Mormons are devoted to the Savior, but in appropriate measure He would approve of.
    . Unethical techniques? Ask the pie-throwers to name one.
    . Control by isolation? Even if Mormons wanted to, this would be impossible with 14 million members in 28,000 congregations throughout the world.
    . Control by threats? Again, evidence? Mormon missionaries may be exuberant, but do not threaten.
    . Dependency on the group? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is just the opposite. Mormons want members to be self-reliant and independent so they in turn can help others.
    . Powerful group pressure? Only if that’s the way the critics prefer to define love.
    . Strange? Guilty as charged. Mormons plead guilty to all the strange things that were done by Christians in New Testament times that were lost during the great falling away in the aptly named Dark Ages, among them temple worship, vicarious baptism for the dead, definition of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as separate but united in purpose, salvation requiring both grace and obedience to commandments, prophets and apostles, unpaid clergy, and continual revelation to guide His Church.

    • Strange? Believing that Jesus sailed to America and evangelized the Indians.

      Also, first century Christians were horribly divided. Some viewed themselves as a sort of Jew, others hated the Jews. Many in Alexandria believed in Gnosticism, which completely rejected Paul’s pursuit of control and expansion, and even the reality of the human body. There were Christians who believed in female clergy, the right to be a homosexual, and suicide.

      Why did the Catholics crush all the others? They attacked homosexuality, abortion and suicide – all of them things likely to reduce their group’s rate of population growth. They won the battle of the wombs, and the lesson was not lost on later religious hustlers. Polygamy, of course, is a fantastic way to accelerate birth rates.

    • Prof Cole,

      Perhaps Perry isn’t as wooden-headed as he appears! The charge of “cult” is very likely to spark a negative emotional response from many mainstream Christians toward Mormonism in general, and Romney in particular. If so, it can only help Perry. Whether Perry can capitalize on such a development is another discussion.

      The characteristics of a cult don’t seem to be strictly articulated, but loosely defined as a closed, exclusive, relatively small group holding extremist positions (as perceived from outside the cult).

      I find it amusing that many religious groups advertise themselves as mainstream, but have to demonstrate their “mainstream-ness” by distancing themselves from extremists (i.e., like labeling other groups as “cults”).

      In some sense, arguing over whether Mormonism is a cult is a moot point. What I find offensive about Mormonism (and many other religions) is their claim to absolute truth (while being unable to demonstrate any validity to their claims), their exclusivity, their claim that their leader has a direct telephone line to “God,” and that they excommunicate “adherents” who don’t follow church dictates (e.g., people who challenge church leaders, are polygamists, etc.).

      Further, if you read the Book of Mormon starting at the beginning, you only have to get into Chapter 4 of 1 Nephi verse 18, before the author is murdering another human being because “the voice of the spirit” told him to do so — “I smote off his head with his own sword” and then stole his clothes!

      While I suspect many Mormons would say I’m an undiscerning infidel for taking such a passage literally, and that if I sought spiritual guidance I would be able to put such a passage into proper context, I call bullshit on the whole proceeding.

      In terms of bloodthirstiness, the Mormon’s G/god doesn’t seem to be any better or worse than the g/God of the Bible. Neither are worthy of worship. Their deeds and actions wouldn’t withstand scrutiny of any self-respecting Homeowners’ Association in the USA, and nobody would want them as a neighbor!

      Conclusion: it’s going to be an amusing, if not depressing, year leading up to the next election. I predict that I’ll go into the voting booth, hold my nose, and vote for the least offensive candidate. Right now it’s a horse-race.

    • Re cults, Mormons, & Christians. I see them both as cults, despite your dictionarying attempts to impose your viewpoint, just as I see Scientologists as cultists. Not that there’s anything wrong with being in a cult. All of the above practice adherence to un-truly-believable fantasies, and the more rigid in your beliefs the more that makes you a cultist. Me? I believed in a Yankees-Philadelphia World Series. My cult is dead, but I’ll have a new one next year.

  3. “But some 44 percent of Republican primary voters in 2008 were evangelicals,”

    Which points out just how broken our electoral system is, and why I am so consistently presented with such unacceptable candidates in the general election. I vote in primaries, but I am drowned out because I am one of the few non-crazy people who bothers to do so.

  4. Hooray! One of the theocrats finally let his guard down and showed his true face!

    Now will the media get around to exploring Perry’s Catholic-hating allies in the New Apostolic Reformation, who regard the Virgin Mary as a demon called the Queen of Heaven? They were all up on the podium with him during his giant prayer rally.

    link to talk2action.org

  5. The GOP is having an unconstitutional discussion.

    Article 6 pertains:

    The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

  6. Dear Professor Cole

    To be quite honest I dont really care if the guy is a Christian or a Wiccan, so long as long as he doesnt do much human sacrifice. The polygamy and animal mistreatment can be coped with.

    What I do object to is the jerk dusting off George Ws foreign policies and foreign policy people.

    Can you get him targeteted by the National Security Council?

    • If Romney is only as bad as W, that would make him by far the least bad contender for the nomination. People keep saying there’s no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, but the difference is that the Republicans have major factions who want to strip existing Hispanic citizens of their citizenship, repeal the 14th Amendment entirely, demand open favoritism towards Christians as an American birthright (see David Barton), eliminate the minimum wage, persecute witches and exorcise demons in every city in the land, prepare for all-out war with Russian and China, and inexorably expand the use of prison slave labor (which in the Jim Crow South always meant the framing of innocent blacks to provide the slaves).

      If we are angry at Obama for striving to protect an intolerable status quo, we must not think that means that the Right is not planning something far worse than the status quo. Would any of us volunteer to go back to the 19th century?

  7. The point of calling Romney a non-Christian is exactly the same as of calling Obama a Maoist. This way the Tea Party pushes them to the right, and it works.

  8. I a nominally secular country a person’s religion is irrelevant, right?

    If the Democratic nominee, presumably Obama, makes an issue of Romney’s religion, he’s a hypocrite.

    I generally support Juan but I detect an agenda here.

    • You’d be wrong. The article is about difficulties of satisfying all the Republican constituencies. I think those evangelicals who say bigotted things about Mormons are wrong. The idea that a Democrat would make much of all this is daft. But as a historian of religions I can hardly attempt to cover the whole thing up.

    • The issue here is what competing right-wing Protestant factions have in common: an increasingly open belief that the adherents of the “wrong” religion will bring down a divine punishment on the entire country unless it appeases God via persecution, exclusion, and possibly elimination. This is, after all, exactly what the Old Testament advises, and these groups are defined by rabid competition to escalate their Biblical literalism.

      You can accuse Democrats of many things, but you can’t accuse them of imposing the Old Testament as the only source of law.

  9. I also wonder how this could effect the Mormon vote in the general. Here in Nevada, LDS make up a large part of the GOP electorate. If Perry wins the nomination in part by alienating LDS voters, does he help Obama in Western swing states?

  10. Honestly, I do not understand how Momonism is a cult and Christianity is not.

  11. Their second big problem is that no one can win the presidency without at least 40 percent of the Latino vote, and Jan Brewer and Arizona have likely killed that for Republicans in the general election.

    Their third problem is that the intelligent, articulate, good-looking, appealing center-right Republican is running on the Dem ticket in 2012. That means to field someone to the right of Obama they have to field a total loon. Difficult to over come.

    • It is the normal behavior of political parties in a functioning democracy to move to their center to grab as big a share of the vote as possible, just as economic theory predicts of competing companies. That is the difference between a party and a movement, whose impulse to every problem is always to move towards its extreme.

      However, sometimes movements move towards their extreme and win anyway. And sometimes two movements polarize a country between them and cause a civil war. If any of these appear to be happening, you know you no longer have a functioning democracy. In the case of the United States, I would argue that we no longer have a functioning democracy because we no longer have a genuine public.

    • You’ve got a good point that Obama’s administration i centrist and maybe a bit right of center.

      You’re quite wrong to think that there’s even the slightest problem with fielding a candidate to the right of that position. A heck of a lot of voters are center-right.
      The R’s run a guy that sounds sane like Romney and the economy stays lousy, they’ve got a good chance.
      The problem, as Cole says, is that they can’t all get enthused about someone who sounds reasonable or whose campaign rhetoric doesn’t include chunks of Jesus and the invisible hand

  12. Sorbet nailed it. It’s why Obama, a traitor to his race, to the poor and to the mildly “progressive” agenda in America, will still be its President in 2013. Nobody who wants change in that country has a voice.

  13. I not politically knowledgeable and a little confused, so bear with me.

    Questions
    1: Is there a presidential candidate that will represent
    the 99’ers and prevent economic collapse and anarchy?

    2: Would Ron Paul truly represent the 99’ers?
    Or would he just become another puppet or puppeteer?

    I think the 1% dictators don’t clearly understand that they’re destroying their source of wealth, the working 99’ers which could result in anarchy, a police state.

    America and the world are quickly becoming conscious of the lies and dictatorship of the 1%’ers(the puppeteers), the rich, corporations, politicians. Their puppets include the news media and others that vote for or blindly support the Republican and Democratic parties. Many politicians begin as puppets and later become puppeteers.

    Can America and the world recover if another Democratic or Republican puppet president is voted in? Or will America be elected into anarchy?

    Help!

    • Questions:
      1: Is there a presidential candidate that will represent
      the 99′ers and prevent economic collapse and anarchy?
      [The only one on the scene with any chance of doing that is Obama. He may succeed or fail, but anyone else has the goal of failing.

      2: Would Ron Paul truly represent the 99′ers?
      Or would he just become another puppet or puppeteer?
      [What are you talking about? He already supports the 1%, that is his religion, the 99% are moochers who deserve to die so sayeth Ayn Rand. If you think Ron or Rand Paul give a shit about the middle class you are a fool.]

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