Mitt Romney has made two presidential runs, garnering the Republican nomination once, and is likely to make his way to Capitol Hill next year as Utah’s junior senator. Yet, for all that, he’s kind of like a small, lukewarm glass of tap water on a hot day to conservatives.
Perhaps it’s that his adherence to the tenets of the right is about as tepid as can be without one describing himself as a centrist Democrat.
Perhaps it’s that the only real stand he’s ever taken in his career seemed to be against the Trump campaign after it became clear Donald Trump was going to become the Republican nominee. (That didn’t stop Romney from supplicating himself before The Donald after he was elected in a bid to come the new administration’s secretary of state, mind you; much like Mitt’s rare simulated moments of passion during his 2012 presidential dumpster fire, behind that animated facade lies a dispassionate pragmatist who knows which way the wind doth blow.)
Or perhaps it’s because of stuff like this: Romney was calling out a pro-Trump pastor as a “bigot” for what he’s said about Islam, Mormonism and Judaism just before that pastor was scheduled to say the prayer at the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday.
The thing is, the pastor was actually kind of right — if not in language he used, then at least in what the tenets of Christianity are.
The whole thing began with a tweet by Romney, who is Mormon, implying that Robert Jeffress, the pro-Trump pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church, was too anti-Semitic to speak at the embassy opening.
Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,“ and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) May 14, 2018
“Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem,” Romney said.
Jeffress hit back at the allegations of bigotry from Romney.
Historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone. The fact that I, along with tens of millions of evangelical Christians around the world, continue to espouse that belief, is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) May 14, 2018
“Historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone,” Jeffress tweeted. “The fact that I, along with tens of millions of evangelical Christians around the world, continue to espouse that belief, is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”
I needn’t tell you that the Bible is open to innumerable interpretations. However, the interpretations for believing that Islam, Judaism and Mormonism aren’t compatible with biblical salvation are certainly in there, and they haven’t changed for roughly 2,000 years, give or take.
Islam is pretty much a given, considering the first commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”) or John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”).
However, if you want to go deeper, both Islam and Mormonism can be seen as unbiblical if you take a look at Galatians 1:8: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”
Joseph Smith, who created the Book of Mormon, says he was visited by the angel Moroni, who told him the location of the gold plates on which his new “scriptures” were written. Even now, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints says that “(t)here are two kinds of beings in heaven who are called angels: those who are spirits and those who have bodies of flesh and bone. Angels who are spirits have not yet obtained a body of flesh and bone, or they are spirits who have once had a mortal body and are awaiting resurrection. Angels who have bodies of flesh and bone have either been resurrected from the dead or translated.”
These words don’t necessarily gibe with the Bible’s teachings on angels. Neither do Islam’s, in which the archangel Gabriel came down to Muhammad and revealed the Quran to him. The Quran is obviously “a gospel other than the one we preached to you,” hence the fact that evangelical Christians (as well as many other Christians) believe that no, believing in Islam will not get you into heaven.
Judaism is often a thornier issue, especially given the specter of anti-Semitism. However, consider this passage from Galatians 2:21, where the Apostle Paul is speaking to his fellow apostle, Peter, a believer in following Mosaic law: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Again, the message here is that one needs to accept Christ in order to earn salvation. Believers in Judaism, by definition, have not accepted Christ. Therefore, at least to Christians who believe in a high degree of biblical inerrancy, you can’t be saved solely by being Jewish.
As for Jeffress’, um, colorful language regarding these things, it might be well to remind Jeffress of Ephesians 4:15 (“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ”). However, the fact that other faiths aren’t compatible with the concept of Christian salvation have been orthodox Christian beliefs since 2,000 years ago.
While some level of ecumenicism has become popular of late, and we certainly don’t intend to tell you how to interpret the Bible, let’s not pretend that these positions cannot be interpreted from the Bible or that preachers haven’t said so in the past. As Jeffress points out, this isn’t a sudden development, nor should Mitt Romney pretend that it is.
While one can express concern over Jeffress’ language regarding Mormonism and Islam, that’s not exactly what Romney did, at least from this writer’s vantage point. He made it relatively clear he’s attacking both the language and the principles behind them — essentially calling Jeffress and anyone who believes the way he does a bigot. That alleged bigotry, at least when it comes to Jeffress, includes an accusation of anti-Semitism — something that’s difficult to make stick when you consider he’s giving the dedication of the U.S. embassy in Israel on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Jewish state’s founding.
I don’t agree with Jeffress on some things (a lot of things, if truth be told, but that’s not for today). However, this seems to be mostly virtue signaling on Romney’s part.
If he truly has a problem with the language that Jeffress uses, I’m sure it won’t be hard to find the preacher’s phone number and set him straight. (Trust me, he’s Mitt Romney — he’ll get through.) However, this is little more than the kind of public shaming that Romney absolutely refused to do when it came to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton but seems more than willing to engage in with anyone associated with Trump. If Romney wants to be consistent, perhaps he ought to treat Jeffress with the same lukewarm deference he treats those with liberal beliefs.
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