Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Dallas is in the news. Again. (Texas Pastor Stands Ground On "Cult" Comment Against Mormons)
I've met Dr. Jeffress on a couple of occasions. He seems to be a genuinely nice guy. I have some good friends who either are or have been members at churches he has pastored in the past and they love him. I have no reason to suspect that Dr. Jeffress is anything other than a wonderful man, but I'm disappointed to see him making headlines this way again.
First of all, pastors need to get out of the business of "personally endorsing" political candidates. The whole idea that this is a personal endorsement is hogwash in the first place. Unless your name is Joe the Plumber, the only reason anyone cares about your "personal endorsement" is that you have a position to be leveraged.
Second of all, to drop a bomb like saying "Mormonism is a cult" while introducing a candidate reeks of a disingenuous, selfish publicity stunt. Even if you agree with what Jeffress said (which I absolutely do, though the word "cult" carries some baggage and innuendo that doesn't paint the LDS church clearly or in a way that is helpful), to surprise a political candidate by handing his campaign this little "October Surprise" was either a foolish mistake or an intentional play to stir-up some controversy with Dr. Jeffress in the middle of it. I choose to believe the former, though it isn't much better than the latter.
Thirdly, if you're going to do something like this as a pastor, you might as well take the opportunity to tell people about Jesus. Jeffress mentioned that Mormonism started 1800 years after Christianity. Fine, but that doesn't make it a cult. People in Paul's day made the same claim about Christianity starting thousands of years after Judaism. How about some talk about the fact that Mormons believe in is a different Jesus; different salvation; different Gospel? Take the time to explain salvation by grace through faith through what Christ did on the cross. If you're going to use up the spotlight, at least go the distance. Let people know what you're for; not just what you're against.
When it comes down to it, I'm less worried about Dr. Jeffress being the "Jeremiah Wright of the right," and more worried about him being the "Pat Robertson of the right." When a pastor's message is that our hope for "push[ing] back against the evil that is engulfing our country" is found in a political candidate, we're in big trouble.