Our politics have taken yet another turn for the worse this week when Evangelical Pastor Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, reaffirmed to all Evangelicals present at the Values Voters Summit, that when it comes to their religion and definition of Christianity, Mormons are not welcome. I do not agree that such inflammatory rhetoric should be used in the political arena as we are nation that respects ones freedom of worship and we do not go to the polls to elect a religious leader. This mix of religion and politics can only lead us further down the path of divisive politics and ensure that as a nation we will continue to see one another as the “other” politically and religiously.
In all the discussion over Pastor Jeffress comments, what has not been asked in my opinion is whether or not the Pastor theologically speaking was right? Are we angry because of what was said or when it was said? It’s one thing to admonish the toxic brew of Evangelical Christendom being heavily entrenched and mixed in with Republican politics, but it’s an entirely different discussion if we look at the role of a religious leader when one articulates the parameters and doctrines of one’s faith. In this regard Pastor Jeffress was right in his assessment of where Mormonism fits within the dogmatic expression of Evangelical Christianity. He has every right to state that Mormons are not a part of his religion. Mormon’s also have the right to say that they are.
I personally take issue at the usage of the word “cult”. Pastor Jeffress in his statement about Mormonism single-handedly reminded all within earshot what happens when terminology is misused and misdirected with the express intention to vilify others. If Mormonism is a cult, then by definition, EVERY religion is a cult.
“A particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies. An instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult. The object of such devotion. A group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.”