Monday, October 10, 2011

GOP Presidential Candidate Jon Huntsman Fires Back At Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress, Characterizes Him As A "Moron", Says There Are Higher Priorities

Even though Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, directed his remarks against Mormonism at fellow GOP candidate Mitt Romney during the Value Voters Summit in Washington D.C. on October 7th, 2011, the "other" Mormon in the race, Jon Huntsman Jr., decided to fire back at Jeffress, taking advantage of his appearance on CNN's Situation Room on October 10th to deliver his message.

CNN host Wolf Blitzer wasted little time in cutting to the chase, leading off by asking Huntsman's opinion about the pastor's remarks. Huntsman deplored the fact that one person seems to be driving the narrative during a time when there are 15 million unemployed, two wars abroad, America's standing in the world increasingly uncertain, failing schools, and what Huntsman called "the most important election of my lifetime" looming ahead. Then Huntsman delivered the money shot, saying "The fact that some moron can stand up and make a comment like's outrageous. Second of all, the fact that we are spending so much time discussing it makes it even worse." He called upon people to stick to the big issues that really matter and leave religion off the table. CNN video embedded below; segment begins almost immediately after the ad (after the jump):

Pastor Jeffress stood by his comments in an interview on October 9th with Fox News, saying again that he believes Romney is a non-Christian, although he softened the impact slightly by characterizing Mormonism as a theological cult rather than a sociological cult. But Jeffress also said if Romney won the GOP nomination, he would still choose him over Barack Obama. Apparently a majority of American Protestant pastors share Jeffress' view; according to a survey of 1,000 pastors by LifeWay Research, 75 percent of them do not personally consider Mormons to be Christians, although Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay, cautions that their opinions should not necessarily be viewed as personal scorn for Mormons. Dr. Royce Short, the dean of the School of Religion at Bob Jones University, also characterizes Mormonism as a cult, explaining that by a theological definition of a cult, one would include any group that basically is deviant or that departs from what is called historic Orthodox Christianity.

However, a prominent evangelical Christian leader has taken a strong public position in defense of the LDS Church. Richard J. Mouw, president of the Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, CA, co-chaired a private dialogue of about 25 evangelicals and Mormons at BYU-Provo along with Professor Robert Millet, exploring a variety of key theological issues between the two groups. Mouw found that, unlike cultists, Mormons are willing to engage in serious, respectful give-and-take dialogue with people with whom they disagree, and by virtue of the existence of BYU, do promote scholarship. Yet even he is not quite prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology. But at least he doesn't consider us a cult.

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