Robert Jeffress, the Baptist minister who sparked a national debate about religion and politics when he called Mitt Romney's Mormon faith a cult and said the former Massachusetts governor was not a true Christian, has admitted that "Christians have not always made good presidents."
In an opinion article for the Washington Post (WaPo) published Tuesday, Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, insists that Americans have every right to quiz a candidate about his or her faith because a candidate's religious beliefs are important because "our religious beliefs define the very essence of who we are."
While noting that Christians do not always necessarily make good presidents, the Baptist evangelical adds, "Any candidate who claims his religion has no influence on his decisions is either a dishonest politician or a shallow follower of his faith."
What's more, Jeffress argues, candidates' faiths have always been a matter of public scrutiny. Why are "those on the left and the right" suddenly claiming a candidate’s faith is off limits, the Dallas preacher asks, citing scrutiny of Michele Bachmann's faith and President Barack Obama's connections to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the 2008 campaign.
The issue, Jeffress says, "is not whether personal spiritual beliefs shape a politician's values and policies, but what spiritual beliefs mold those values and policies."
Ironically, while having pushed for a "true Christian" to be elected as the GOP presidential candidate, Jeffress confesses that "I realize I might very well end up voting for Romney if he is the Republican nominee" since a competent non-Christian is better than Obama any day.
Jeffress told The Christian Post on Oct. 7 that he thought it was highly likely that Romney or Texas Gov. Rick Perry will secure the Republican nomination.
"I think that it is a spiritual imperative that we unseat Barack Obama," Jeffress said at the time. "He is the most pro-abortion, most pro-homosexual in history. So if I look at the landscape of Republican candidates, I believe that eventually it will come down to a choice between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, and I think a confident Christian like Rick Perry has a consistent record of conservative values. He's a preferable candidate to Mitt Romney."
Jeffress often cites Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay when defending his view on politics and faith.
He told CP Oct. 7, "John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, said 'It is our duty to prefer and select Christians as our leaders.' In the Old Testament days, the spiritual direction of the country was directed by the king. If it [was] a righteous king, the nation was blessed by God; if it [was] an unrighteous king, then the nation was cursed by God."
He added, "In our democracy, we get to choose our leaders" and there are criteria every "Christian ought to use to select a candidate for office, including the president's."