- (Photo: Courtesy of First Baptist Dallas)
Robert Jeffress, the Dallas megachurch pastor who caused a media firestorm last fall when he said Christians should not support Mitt Romney because Mormonism is a cult, has endorsed Romney.
"I haven't changed my tune. In fact, I never said Christians should not vote for Mitt Romney. When I talked about his theology, I was answering a question about theology. And I still maintain there are vast differences in theology between Mormons and Christians, but we do share many of the same values, like the sanctity of life and religious freedom," Jeffress said Sunday on Fox News' "Fox and Friends."
The controversy began at Family Research Council's "Values Voter Summit" in October. Jeffress, who attended the event as a guest, was backing Texas Governor Rick Perry at the time. In interviews with The Christian Post and other media outlets, Jeffress said that evangelical Christians should not vote for Romney because he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which evangelicals do not consider Christian. He went on to describe the LDS Church as a "cult."
"Historically, evangelical Christianity has never embraced Mormonism as a branch of Christianity. Mormonism has always been treated as a cult. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, officially labels Mormonism as a cult. It does not embrace the historic tenets of evangelical Christianity," Jeffress told CP at the time.
Jeffress was widely criticized for calling the LDS Church a cult. All of the other presidential candidates said they disagreed with the characterization. In an editorial for CP, Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and is an executive editor for CP, said that Jeffress should not have made the remark because most people's understanding of cult is different from the theological definition that Jeffress was using.
"The problem is that while Mormonism may technically be a cult theologically, in that it has moved well beyond the parameters of orthodox, apostle's creed Trinitarian Christianity, it does not behave as a cult culturally or socially. Most people would tell you that Mormons are solid citizens and among the nicest and most moral people they know," Land wrote.
Jeffress' current position should come as no surprise to those who followed the controversy. He also said at the time that if the general election came down to Romney and President Obama, who is a Christian, that he would back Romney. After Rick Santorum dropped out of the race earlier this month, Romney has become the presumptive Republican nominee.
Jeffress clarified that position again Sunday, arguing that Romney's political positions are more biblically correct than Obama's positions.
Even though many evangelicals do not view Latter-day Saints as fellow believers, Jeffress said, evangelicals will be mobilized to vote for Romney, because Obama is "opposed to biblical principles."
"I think many Christians are very concerned about this president being the most pro-abortion president in history, his unprecedented assault against religious liberty, and I think those things are going to energize evangelical Christians to vote in the fall election," Jeffress said.