Perry: Mormonism Not a Cult

Rick Perry's unforced error streak continues.

Rick Perry’s unforced error streak continues. Now, he’s having to distance himself from the remarks of a pastor who introduced him at the Value Voters Summit.

Politico (“Rick Perry backer Robert Jeffress: Mitt Romney not a Christian“):

Texas evangelical leader Robert Jeffress, the Baptist megachurch pastor who introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit, said Friday afternoon he does not believe Mitt Romney is a Christian.

Jeffress described Romney’s Mormon faith as a “cult,” and said evangelicals had only one real option in the 2012 primaries. “That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult,” Jeffress told reporters here. “Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”

Asked by POLITICO if he believed Romney is a Christian, Jeffress answered: “No.”

Jeffress’s comments represent the first major attack of the 2012 cycle on Romney over his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an issue that some Romney supporters believe cost the former Massachusetts governor in his last presidential run.

I’m not sure whether I’d go so far as “mainstream,” but huge numbers of evangelical Christians–including some highly intelligent, educated ones–share Jeffress’ view that Mormonism is a cult and that the added mythology of Joseph Smith is enough to render it a faith outside of Christianity.  See , Steven Taylor’s 2006 essay “On Romney and the Politics of Mormonism” and E.D. Kain’s 2009 “by no definition of the word,” both referenced in my February 2009 post “Why Mormons Aren’t Christians.” (That seems an odd headline in retrospect, since I say “I’ve always considered Mormons to be Christians since they’re believers in the divinity of Jesus Christ. ” Clearly, I was using the title to convey the meme, not my own view.)

This isn’t a view that one wants to take out on the stump for a presidential run, however, so Perry had little choice but to disassociate himself from it.

CNN (“Perry on pastor’s Mormonism remark: ‘I don’t think it is’ a cult“):

On Friday evening, Rick Perry stepped into the controversy surrounding comments made by a prominent pastor who said Republicans should vote against Mitt Romney because of his Mormonism and who called the Mormon faith a “cult.”

Making his first public comments since the controversy erupted earlier Friday, the Republican presidential candidate disagreed with Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

“No. I don’t think it is,” Perry said when asked by a reporter if he believes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult. Perry was also asked if he associated himself with Jeffress’ comments.

Though the Texas governor disagreed with Jeffress’ words, he did not outright denounce them. Reporters attempted to ask Perry more questions, but were unsuccessful. Instead, Perry was ushered out with his wife, Anita Perry, and his campaign staff.

Perry is in the uncomfortable position of having to both distance himself from the pastor to reassure mainstream voters while not going too far and alienating the evangelicals that are the core of his support.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, Religion, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    From Merriam-Webster:

    1: formal religious veneration : worship
    2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
    3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
    4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
    5a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

    That pretty much covers all religions. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Roman writers referred to Christians as “the cult of Christ”. This bigot Jeffres would do well to remember that.

  3. legion says:

    It’s a doubly-damning error in that it will likely bring more attention to the fact that the wack-ass Dominionist sect Perry (and Bachmann too IIRC) belongs to is at least as much a cult itself…

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Why “cult?” Why not just crazy?

    Christianity is nuts. Mormonism is nuttier. Scientology is nuttiest.

    But it’s all nuts.

  5. What if you think Mormonism is not a cult, but not Christianity either? Mormon theology differs significantly with Christianity on the nature of God, the nature of existence, eschatology, etc.

    As I said in a previous comment thread, the problem isn’t that they think Mormons aren’t Christian, it’s that they will not consider voting for any non-Christian.

  6. James in LA says:

    Once the GOP chum entered the debate waters, the arrival of sharks was inevitable. Why anyone would cow-tow to this tiny little bigoted creature is beyond reason. MSNBC spent a full five minutes interviewing him this morning, playing out the rope, letting him go on and on and on. He is full of hate, this one.

    Puts Perry in a odd position, for sure. Because a LOT of GOPers feel the exact same way about them thar mermons.

  7. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    On the issue of whether evangelicalism constitutes “mainstream” Christianity, I wouldn’t even bother debating, but among evangelicals, the idea that Mormonism is a “cult” is the certainly the “mainstream” position. Hope that helps clarify your thinking on the matter.

  8. Fiona says:

    Jeffress said aloud what a lot of the Republicans’ evangelical base believes when it comes to Mormons. They don’t consider Mormons Christian and they surely won’t vote for one, which is why Romney can’t get his numbers over 20 percent or so, and why oddball candidates like Bachman and Cain rise in the polls.

    I still think Romney will have a very difficult time winning the Republican nomination.

  9. mattb says:

    Theologically speaking, I am sympathetic to the argument that Mormonism is not Christianity (I hold a similiar view about Jehovah’s Witnesses). Along those lines, I also think that the cult labeling was quite true (from a Christian perspective) for a significant period in the Mormon churches history (with many cult practices continuing into the near past).

    All that said, I don’t think this precludes Romney from serving.

    What I find most interesting is that this occurs approximately a week after Palin wrote the following about her decision to not run for the presidency:

    When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family, and country. My decision maintains this order.

    Again the ordering and the emphasis on the importance of that order seems to suggest that God comes before country. While this is an opinion that I can understand, I find it ironic that the problem these people have with non-Christians boils down to an accusation that for those people country/patriotism will always come second to their Religious beliefs. Yet it seems clear that this same accusation is true for many Christians as well.

    No wonder its so important for them to repeat that we’re a Christian nation — as that somehow represents an out that allows them to safely place country at the same level as God.

  10. Bleev K says:

    Cult = religion = bullcrap for simple minded.

  11. Ernieyeball says:

    High Road
    “Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone. I inquire after no man’s, and trouble none with mine.” –Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, 1814.

    Low Road
    “That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult. Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.”–Robert Jeffress appealing to the arrogance in us all, 2011.

  12. G.A.Phillips says:

    Christianity is nuts. Mormonism is nuttier. Scientology is nuttiest.

    lol there ain’t nothing nuttier then secular humanism and it’s evolution creation story… Not to mention murderous and horrific..

    But Harry is on the right track, everyone thinksknows that every other religion is a cult, so stop with all the bigot thought police bull$hit and save that crap for those who truly persecute others because of their beliefs.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family, and country. My decision maintains this order.

    As said Abraham, as he sacrificed his son to a god he had never met….

    Could you do the same? Really? I f you say “yes.” I will say, “Liar. liar, pants on fire”. (I have children…. I can not imagine a merciful God asking me to give them up… if a God asked me to give them up…. F*CK HIM!)(I would rather serve an eternity in hell than give up one of my children to such a God.)

  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    As said Abraham, as he sacrificed his son to a god he had never met….

    What does a lesson that Abraham learned for all of us as an example for all of us concerning faith and the price that His Son Christ would pay have to do with you or your kids?

    It has to do with your and their understanding of these things. Nothing more.

    A sad straw man attack point you have there Tom:(

    And why hate God? You don’t believe in Him. If anything you should hate us, the ones who made him up and the ones who still believe……

  15. Mitt Romney is New Testament Christian says:

    I guess Mr. Jeffress would have to call Jesus Christ and the Christians of the first three centuries a “cult”. Mitt Romney believes in New Testament Christianity, not Mr. Jeffress’ Fourth Century Creeds, which have no basis in the New Testament. Who is calling whom a “cult”?

    http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com

    Here are the characteristics of a cult:
    · Small? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) has 14 million members in 132 countries. In America, there are more Mormons than there are Presbyterians or Jews.
    · Excessive devotion? Mormons are devoted to the Savior, but in appropriate measure He would approve of.
    . Unethical techniques? Ask the pie-throwers to name one.
    . Control by isolation? Even if Mormons wanted to, this would be impossible with 14 million members in 28,000 congregations throughout the world.
    . Control by threats? Again, evidence? Mormon missionaries may be exuberant, but do not threaten.
    . Dependency on the group? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is just the opposite. Mormons want members to be self-reliant and independent so they in turn can help others.
    . Powerful group pressure? Only if that’s the way the critics prefer to define love.
    . Strange? Guilty as charged. Mormons plead guilty to all the strange things that were done by Christians in New Testament times that were lost during the great falling away in the aptly named Dark Ages, among them temple worship, vicarious baptism for the dead, definition of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as separate but united in purpose, salvation requiring both grace and obedience to commandments, prophets and apostles, unpaid clergy, and continual revelation to guide His Church.

  16. sam says:

    Full-on religious bigotry … and why Mitt might (will) have a big problem in certain environs: Jeffress: Romney Is A Cult Member

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    And why hate God? You don’t believe in Him. If anything you should hate us, the ones who made him up and the ones who still believe……

    I don’t hate that which does not exist and only pity those who make him up.

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on a cross. Three days later he rose from the dead.”

    Yeah, that’s cool. I have no problem with it.

    “And a few weeks after that he spent some time in America.”

    WHAT?! THAT’S CRAZY TALK!!! WHAT ARE YOU IN SOME KIND OF CULT?!

  19. Whatever says:

    The most ignorant part of humanity, is quoting incorrect information and then standing firm on its crumbling foundation. Google your thoughts before you spout off anymore ignorant statements.

  20. Whatever says:

    Oh, I am sorry hillbilly, I hope and pray you are no where near Eureka Springs, because I will freaking move. Where do some of you people come from? What educational system spit you out? How many educated people out thers are tired of drop outs inserting outrageous comments and or incomplete/unfounded theoreticals?