It’s amazing how resistant many conservative Christians are to the idea that, perhaps — just perhaps! — too many blacks (mostly men) are dying at the hands of police (often white) in confrontations that didn’t necessarily have to end that way. As a rule, conservatives tend to be very distrustful of government as a whole, so theoretically at least, one would think they’d be predisposed to question police officers’ motives and actions. But in the face of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, they’ve become sanctimoniously outraged that anyone might ever question the judgement of any police officer anywhere in the country. In their minds, all killings by police must automatically be viewed as “righteous kills,” so that means anyone who disagrees must be “anti-cop” and want all police killed. Or something.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, lashed out at what he called “bogus ministers” who did not preach about having “respect for the police.”
“The New Testament says in Romans 13:4 that law enforcement officers are ministers of God sent by God to punish evil doers,” he opined. “When you think about it, police officers are just as called by God to do what they do as pastors and priests are called by God. And I think we need to remind our members of that.”
Now, Jeffress cited Romans 13:4, but I’ll quote the whole passage in question (including that specific verse):
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)
If Jeffress — following Paul — is correct, then questioning any police officer’s actions is un-Christian, since as representatives of the state, they’ve been appointed by the Almighty as his/her/its direct agents and therefore are sacred, inviolate, and ever-perfect. This passage from the epistle to the Romans is often cited in Christian circles to back up authoritarianism and the presumption that government is always right and that total obedience to the state is a Christian virtue. Back in my fundie days, this passage and a few others were bandied about this way.
But let’s face it, these folk are selective in how they apply their principle of Biblical authoritarianism … and Jeffress himself shows exactly why, in this very same segment on Fox:
The megachurch pastor also claimed that President Barack Obama had “exacerbated the racial divide instead of healing it.”
“I’m afraid the president, just like he did with conservative Christians after the beheading by ISIS of Christians, it seemed like he wanted to blame conservative Christians in the past,” he said, “instead of putting the blame when it belongs.”
Note that Jeffress — who had just moments before pontificated on how Christians are required by Jesus to submit wholly to the government and to their rulers — just questioned his own president, accusing him of having rhetorically gone after police and “conservative Christians.” So while he advocates unquestioning acceptance of all police officers’ words and actions, he refuses to do the same for the president’s. Hmm. I see more than a little hypocrisy here, not to mention cherry-picking. I’m guessing Jeffress is unaware his own Jesus clearly and unambiguously forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.
What’s more, I’ve searched and searched, but have yet ever to find that President Obama has ever blamed ISIS’s beheadings, police killings of blacks, or the public reaction to such killings (e.g. the BLM movement) on “conservative Christians.” He never used words to that effect, that I know of. I challenge Jeffress to show that Obama explicitly stated “conservative Christians” (using those words) were behind either. Go ahead, Pastor. Prove your contention — if you dare! Citations, please, or it didn’t happen. And if it didn’t happen, that would make you a lying liar for Jesus.
Although some Religious Right figuresare willing to make statements of this sort openly, a lot have been more circumspect about it. They prefer to wink in the direction of such ideas rather than espouse them explicitly. It’s a kind of triangulation that maintains their appeal among angry, militant Rightists who genuinely believe in one of those insane Obama hypotheses, without appearing nutty, themselves, to the rest of us.
Already no stranger to controversy, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, is coming out with a book that claims President Barack Obama is clearing the way for the Antichrist.
Jeffress, head of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church of Dallas, writes in his book “Perfect Ending” that he does not believe Obama is the Antichrist, yet he links Obama’s support of gay marriage to the coming of the Antichrist. Many Christians believe Jesus’ Second Coming will feature a confrontation with an enemy called the Antichrist, based on interpretation of passages 1 John and 2 John.…
“While I am not suggesting that President Obama is the Antichrist, the fact that he was able to propose such a sweeping change in God’s law and still win reelection by a comfortable margin illustrates how a future world leader will be able to oppose God’s laws without any repercussions.”…
Jeffress wasn’t claiming that Obama is the Antichrist, and said he was not questioning the president’s faith. “But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.”
Jeffress’s crybaby gripes center around the two current bogeymen of the R.R.: gay marriage and the contraception mandate. While it’s true he explicitly said he doesn’t think Obama is the Antichrist, that he connected Obama with this terrifying figure out of Christian legend can only be a potential appeal to other hateful Christianists who view the president as being in league with Satan.
The RNS article mentions the word “antichrist” was coined by the author of the Johannine epistles (specifically, it’s found in 1 Jn 2:18, 22; 1 Jn 4:3; and 2 Jn 1:7). But it’s not clear it refers to a single person or spirit. 1 Jn 2:18 reads:
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.
Clearly the Johannine author is saying there are many “antichrists”; but all the other mentions of “antichrist” are in the singular, and appear to refer only to a singular being. So which is it? Your guess is as good as mine. Although most fundamentalist Christians view “the Antichrist” as some future person, and connect him/her with “the Beast” of Revelation, the Bible itself makes no such connection, and 1 Jn 2:18 certainly contradicts that (since it mentions more than one Antichrist, contemporaneous with its author to boot).
The RNS story also mentions another stupid thing Jeffress said:
In his book, Jeffress makes his case that Christians should study prophecy more closely. “Evangelist Billy Graham once observed that ‘the most neglected teaching in the church today is the second coming of Jesus Christ,’” he said.
It was inevitable, I suppose, that a religious-political movement such as the Religious Right is, would eventually show some sectarian cracks in its edifice. The R.R. was originally established by Southern Baptists — that wing of the American Baptists who, in the years leading up to the Civil War, accommodated and embraced slavery, whereas Baptists (and in fact, most Protestants generally) elsewhere in the country condemned it. Since its beginnings in the 1980s, other types of Christians have latched onto and made themselves part of the R.R. movement, but it basically remains in the control of evangelical Protestants of the Southern Baptist variety.
Among the consequences of this is the fact that Mormons, who were among the denominations that glommed onto the R.R., are finding themselves at odds with the rest of the movement. Initially one might be surprised at this. After all, Mormons are very, very conservative, and faithfully hew to the line of other “social conservatives.” That they would find themselves marginalized as part of the R.R., is because the S.B.C has never really cared for Mormons or the LDS church, and has a history of campaigning against them (WebCite cached version).
With former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, a leader among the large rabble of Republican candidates for president in 2012, this rivalry has roared to the fore. A megachurch pastor and supporter of Romney’s rival, Texas governor Rick Perry, recently commented that “Mormonism is a cult” and said that Mormons are not Christians. He caught some flack over this, but as Reuters reports, he’s digging his heels in and has not given up on the matter (cached):
An unapologetic Pastor Robert Jeffress, who created a stir for calling Mormonism a “cult” at a political gathering, told hundreds of congregants at his Texas megachurch on Sunday that he welcomed the opportunity he’s had to warn people about a “false religion.”
“I have not changed my position,” Jeffress told the crowd of about 2,000 attending the early service at First Baptist Church of Dallas.
The TV evangelist and prominent religious leader spent the last two days defending statements he made to reporters at a conservative gathering on Friday in Washington DC, in which he called Mormonism a “cult” just minutes after introducing and endorsing Texas Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.
This should provide a warning to other elements of the R.R. who aren’t evangelical Protestants; you, too, could find yourselves excluded by sectarian sentiment. It’s not just Mormons who could be frozen out, Catholics — especially because the American bishops have hitched their political car to the R.R. train — might very well end up being denounced as idolators or “Mary-worshippers” in the same way that Mormons are condemned as being part of a “cult.”
The lesson is clear: Religious movements of any kind almost always break down along sectarian lines. It’s foolish to assume it cannot happen.
Lastly, there’s something that desperately needs to be cleared up, which many people aren’t aware of. Mormonism is most certainly a form of Christianity. As a religion, it reveres the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. In this regard the LDS Church is every bit as “Christian” as any other Christian denomination on earth. That the Mormons don’t view Jesus or God precisely as other types of Christians do, cannot and will never change this fact. It just means their form of Christianity is different from that of others. Nothing more than that.
I’ve blogged a number of times about Bible scholar religionist crank Harold Camping of Family Radio and his wingnut prophecy that Jesus is going to return on May 21, 2011 (this Saturday! hallelujah!) and that the world will end five months later, in October. It’s obvious the guy’s theories are whacked. But what I find amusing are all the other Christians out there who are trying to angle away from Camping and his sheep. Just one example of this is Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who penned a whine for the CNN Belief blog about how Camping makes Christianity look bad (WebCite cached article):
What harm is there in an 89-year-old preacher making prognostications about the end of the world?
First, such predictions give non-Christians one more reason to discount the Bible.
There are plenty more examples I could cite, but this one is enough to make the point that a lot of evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christians are tripping over themselves trying to get away from the lunatic Camping and his “prediction.” The problem is that their religion is inherently predisposed to such predictions! Christians through the millennia have repeatedly predicted death, doom and destruction, based on any number of suppositions and extrapolations, only to be proven wrong eventually (cached). In fact, the founder of Christianity — none other than Jesus Christ himself! — made some very clear and explicit “End of the World” predictions, which likewise failed to come true:
“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt 16:28)
“But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:27)
Those are not the only such predictions Jesus made, but they’re enough to make the point: No Christian can really be a Christian without believing in a Doomsday, and without believing in Doomsday predictions. To condemn Camping for making such a prediction, and triangulate away from him because he did so, is laughable. Selectively veering away from the more ridiculous aspects of their religion only makes Christians look like “fair weather” believers … eager to trumpet their metaphysics when they think it makes them look good to do so, but equally eager to get out of the way of the follies which are part and parcel of Christianity.