Bigotry watch: The Irishman and the pastor!


Is Robert Jeffress a bigot: Should voters be concerned with a candidate’s religious beliefs?

Last night, Chris Matthews spoke with pastor Robert Jeffress, who doesn’t think Mitt Romney’s a Christian. Early on, Jeffress explained how he would vote next year:
JEFFRESS (10/10/11): What I’m saying is that to those of us who are evangelical Christians—and remember, Chris, that is to whom I’m speaking—there are a lot of reasons, I said, to prefer Rick Perry to Mitt Romney. I believe that Mitt Romney is conservative out of convenience, while Rick Perry is one, a conservative out of conviction.

But to those of us who are evangelicals, when all other things are equal, we prefer competent Christians to competent non-Christians who may be good, moral people like Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: But are you concerned at having what you consider a member of a cult in the White House? Would you want a cultist in the White House? I’m serious. It’s your word, not mine.

JEFFRESS: Yes. Oh, I understand. I understand that. And that’s why I’ve been very clear to say that if it comes down to a choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I’ll probably hold my nose in the general election and vote for Mitt Romney because I believe there are other criteria besides the person’s faith.
In short, Jeffress will vote for Perry over Romney—and he'd vote for Romney over Obama. He said he considers Obama a Christian, but he’d vote for Romney anyhoo.

We thought this was an interesting segment, for several reasons. To watch the full segment, click here.

There are some genuine religious haters out there. Jeffress doesn’t seem like one. He said that, all things being equal, he would prefer a Christian candidate. We’ll guess that, all things being equal, some liberals would prefer a candidate who isn’t a religious believer.

We’re not religious ourselves. Jeffress is religious; beyond that, he’s doctrinal. But Jeffress seemed like an OK person to us. Beyond that, he was massively smarter than Matthews, who fumbled and blustered his way through the segment, as he so typically does.

It really got embarrassing when Matthews quoted the Constitution's “no religious test” clause. Jeffress batted that point away as one might deal with a promising child. Let’s face it—Chris just isn’t real sharp. Later, he brought on fellow Irisher Ed Rollins to discuss how “we” see these matters.

Later that evening, Rachel Maddow referred to Jeffress’ “bigotry,” exhibiting her typical world-class self-assurance. For our money, that remark wasn’t real sharp either. But we would suggest you watch the Hardball segment.

Jeffress is much smarter than Matthews. But in your eyes, is he a bigot? We wouldn’t say that ourselves. For people who want to do politics in this country, we think this segment is very much worth watching. Does our team always get to announce who the “bigots” are?


  1. Jeffress has called Mormons members of a "cult," a pretty nasty term to describe members of a large religious denomination in America. I think that makes him a bigot.

  2. More background on Jeffress:

  3. Although there doesn't seem to be any numerical test to determine what a cult is, Jeffers intent to use the term cult when referring to Mormonism seems pretty clearly to be an attempt to marginalize the faith. Since Mormonism is relatively widespread and is objectively mainstream, I would say that Jeffers is obstinately and intolerantly devoted to this notion of this factually incorrect outre view of Mormonism. Because he is obstinately clinging to this denigrating view of Mormonism, Jeffers would legitimately qualify as a bigot.

    However Jeffers does not strike me as bigoted when he insists that Mormons aren't Christians. The common thread to all variants of Christian belief is the Nicene Creed; it is essentially the document that defines Christianity. If a faith system denies belief in relevant portions of the creed (as Muslims do when they accept the Virgin Birth but deny the divinity of Christ) it can easily be said that the faith is not Christian. The Nicene Creed is a limiting document; just as you can't drop things from it (such as the divinity of Christ) and still be considered a Christian, you can't add things to it (filioque notwithstanding). The amount of additional dogma that the Mormon Church asserts, and that Mormons believe simply can't be reconciled with the limits of the Nicene Creed. Consequently it isn't bigoted to say that Mormons aren't Christian.

  4. IMHO Romney's religion would not in the least hamper him from doing his job as President, just as Obama's race and Lieberman's religion don't hamper them. So, Romney's religion should be a non-consideration. Therefore, I think that Jeffress is a bigot.

    In fact, I think giving respectable consideration to Romney's religion is just as wrong as giving respectable consideration to Obama's race or Lieberman's religion. That is, I think the media ought to treat Jeffress the same way they'd treat a racist or an antisemite.

  5. Right Wing Watch gives us this quote from Jeffress. I watched the video myself:

    "I think part of the prob­lem is we’re in this con­sumer men­tal­ity as a church where we have the idea that our job is to build as big of a church as we pos­si­ble can. And if we get into that idea and fall into that trap, then we say then we can’t say any­thing that’s going to offend peo­ple, why, if we preach that homo­sex­u­al­ity is an abom­i­na­tion to God we bet­ter not preach that because that’s going to offend the gays or peo­ple who know gay peo­ple, if we tell peo­ple what the Bible says that every other reli­gion in the world is wrong: Islam is wrong, it is a heresy from the pit of Hell; Mor­monism is wrong, it is a heresy from the pit of Hell; Judaism, you can’t be saved being a Jew, you know who said that by the way, the three great­est Jews in the New Tes­ta­ment, Peter, Paul, and Jesus Christ, they all said Judaism won’t do, it’s faith in Jesus Christ."

    Somerby, After reading this, do you still think that Jeffress is an O.K. person? He is a typical Southern Baptist- mean spirited, hateful and extremely bigoted.

    P.S. If you google Jeffress and Islam, it will give you a link to the YouTube video in which Jeffress makes these disgusting comments. -HMH-

  6. Of course our team gets to announce who the bigots are. Who else is qualified to do it?

    Jeffress may not be a bigot; "bigot" is a loaded term that is in the process of being over-demonized into irrelevance. But he is intolerant and dogmatic. Last I heard, Mormons did not deny the divinity of Jesus and therefore considered themselves Christians. Yet here is Jeffress putting himself forward as the arbiter of what constitutes Christianity. I guess God told him that Mormonism is not Christianity, because I don't remember reading anything in the Bible saying anything about Mormonism.

    Should voters be concerned with a candidate's religious beliefs? Certainly, if those beliefs are going to influence the policies that candidate proposes to enact.

  7. I don't want to get into a conversation about whether or not to label Jeffress a "bigot." His views on many issues, from my point of view (including from my particular Christian perspective) range from misguided to reprehensible. I am upset when people promote narrow, ungenerous thinking and discourse, as I believe Jeffress often does. But I agree with Somerby that on Chris Matthews last night, Jeffress came across as a serious and even thoughtful person, certainly much smarter and much better informed than Chris Matthews (which maybe isn't too hard, of course, but it amazes me how seldom Matthews' guests -- the one's likely to disagree with him -- know how to handle him).
    Nor do I want to enter into discussion of Mormonism via this route (any more than the whole Jeremiah Wright business provided a good environment for entering into learning about African-American church traditions). I did find it interesting the way Jeffress made a distinction that was lost on Matthews, between Mormon doctrine and what many Mormons may actually believe and practice. I suspect Jeffress is right there.

  8. ou're certainly right that Matthews isn't that sharp, but here's Robert Jeffres on Muslims, Jews, Gays and Mormons:

    He said they are from the pit of hell. As a Jew and as a person, I find everything he said in this clip is bigoted. Bob, did you not see this?

    Can we talk? Bob, did you not know what Jeffress said last year?

  9. Something tells me Bull Connor would've run circles around Chris on Hardball. Not saying much.

    Regarding Jeffres: I wonder of Mitt and his family think he's a bigot. Seems to me if we walked a half a mile in their shoes, we might come to a different conclusion than Bob does. That is, if we practice the empathy Bob preaches and imagine how someone else receives a message...and don't just simply filter everything through our own preconveived notions (like, you know, that Chris isn't real sharp --- which, of course, he isn't).

  10. By the way, speaking as a lifelong liberal: I really don't go out of my way looking for bigots, or finding people to judge. I really don't. If it were up to me, I'd never encounter bigotry at all, and never be guilty of it myself. But all too often, I find that even though I am not looking for them, bigots have a way of announcing themselves. Rather loudly and persistently.

  11. Maybe it's largely a matter of strategy and tactics, but it's also about something more, the attitude we take toward those with whom we disagree. Personally, I despise Jeffress (and consider him all the more dangerous precisely because he's not only smart but shrewd: he knew his audience when he went on Chris Matthews). But I share with Bob Somberby a concern that the liberal/progressive/left in this country too often sustains itself on self-righteous name-calling, which gets us nowhere fast. As for Bull Connor: I try to heed MLK and keep hoping to win over, if not Jeffress, some of the millions of people who think like him and are influenced by him. We won't do that with dismissive name-calling. (The appeal of "We are the 99%"? Its inclusiveness.)

  12. "He is a typical Southern Baptist- mean spirited, hateful and extremely bigoted."

    I find this statement very bigoted.

    I'm sure I'm the only person here who thinks that, as I'm guessing not a lot of Christians, or Southern Baptists, will come into this comments section.

    How willing would you be, commenter, to say what "a typical Jew" would be like? I would never hazard a guess what "a typical Jew" or "a typical Christian" or "a typical Muslim" or "a typical Mormon" or a typical anything would be like, because I don't think there is any such thing as one of those.

  13. My father-in-law was a Southern Baptist minister in the 50's, 60's, and 70's (and beyond, retired). In the 60's, in Oklahoma and Texas (he came from west Texas, dirt poor -- saw his first electric light when he was a teenager), he supported the civil rights movement (including local Native American issues), not by marching and such, but in the pulpit, in conversations with congregants, in meetings. All in dusty small towns -- he never got very far in the highly competitive world of Southern Baptist ministry, it is true. But he never entirely lacked support, either, and among his congregants he always had earnest listeners willing at least to give his views a hearing. Just for the record.

  14. I'm Anonymous at 1:46PM

    In reply to Rob:
    At a certain point there has to be a recognition that definitions mean something. Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Trinitarian Protestantism have considerable differences but they have similarities that all allow themselves to be defined as Christian. Those similarities are outlined in the Nicene Creed. In fact, that's what the Nicene Creed was for, to define just what it meant to be a Christian!

    Mormonism simply does not fall within that same set. Aside from the additional dogma asserted by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price, Mormonism specifically rejects the ecumenical creeds and the doctrine of the Trinity. No one is saying that Mormons can't define themselves, but likewise Christians have defined themselves as well. At a certain point one has to say what the objective differences are if one is seriously listening to what another is asserting.

    In reply to Ufotofu9:
    I'm not trying to be glib, but if you are Jewish and presumably therefore by definition do not buy into Jeffers theology, what would it matter where he thinks people end up in an afterlife of his conception?

    To repeat: we already know that Jeffers is bigoted because his tendency to label Mormonism a cult represent a refusal to abandon this position indicate intent to disparage Mormonism and imply it is small, obscure and wicked, despite the reality that Mormonism is a well-established and mainstream religion.

  15. No, Bob, Jeffress is a vile, ugly-spirited bigot of the worst kind. His hatred extends to Roman Catholics, too. Here you go:

    This vicious person is filled with hatred for anyone who sees the world differently than he does. An OK person? On what planet?

  16. "An OK person? On what planet?"

    On Bob's new home ... Planet Usefultool.

  17. "[Y]ou're certainly right that Matthews isn't that sharp, but here's Robert Jeffres on Muslims, Jews, Gays and Mormons:

    He said they are from the pit of hell. As a Jew and as a person, I find everything he said in this clip is bigoted. Bob, did you not see this?

    Can we talk? Bob, did you not know what Jeffress said last year?"

    I don't see the problem. That's what the man believes. It's not based on him personally hating others, but a pretty straight-forward interpretation of his preferred holy text. If the Bible's right, those religions pretty much are from the pit of hell, aren't they? I mean, if one believes choosing Mormonism or Islam would lead one to be cast into hell for eternity, it pretty much follows that he should criticize those religions in extreme terms, doesn't it?

    People talk about "tolerance," but in the context of a religion such as the one this man practices, "tolerance" would simply be cruelty.

  18. Confident it was a great weekend!, Now i'm happy for you!, your clothing will be georgeous!