Pastor Robert Jeffress with advice for Mitt Romney how to win Evangelical vote
HH: Talking about Evangelical politics all day, and an obvious person to talk to is the pastor of the 10,000 member strong First Baptist Church of Dallas. That is Robert Jeffress. He’s also the author of a brand new book, Twilight’s Last Gleaming. Pastor, welcome, it’s great to have you on the program.
RJ: Hugh, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
HH: I’ve got to say, I always start books by looking through the footnotes, and I see you have quoted my old friend, and my old pastor, Ben Patterson. And so you’ve obviously got an eclectic source as a Presbyterian sitting up there.
RJ: Oh, absolutely. We’re a respecter of all faiths, even Mormonism.
HH: Hey, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a cri de coeur. It’s a real heartfelt cry about where you think the country is. I’m going to come back to practical politics in a second, but will you in a succinct fashion, Pastor, telegraph to this secular audience what you as a man of the pulpit for many years believes the perilous position of the country to be?
RJ: Right, the subtitle of Twilight’s Last Gleaming is How To Make America’s Last Days Your Best Days. And Hugh, I’m convinced from a Biblical perspective, America is going to ultimately collapse, because this world is going to collapse. But I don’t believe, even though we can’t prevent America’s ultimate demise, we can delay it. And this book is a call to arms for Christians, for Americans, to stand up and push back against the tide of evil that is sweeping our country. You know, I don’t know if America’s demise is coming in ten years or a thousand years. But I think as Christians and Americans, we ought to delay it as long as we can, and that means getting involved, and for Christians, it means getting involved in politics. And that’s what I’m talking about in this book.
HH: That makes sense to me, because I didn’t think you were an end times guy.
RJ: Well you know, I was on with Alan Colmes the other night, and he said are you Harold Camping? And I said I’m Harold Camping without the dates.
HH: There you go.
RJ: I don’t know when this is going to happen, but it will happen at some point. But you know, that doesn’t mean we go hide in the bunker and wait until the end comes. There are some positive things we can do. And this book, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Hugh, is not a gloom and doom book. It’s a book filled with hope.
HH: Now I’ve got to ask you for a reaction. Last week, the story came out that there are ten billion suns in the Milky Way Goldilocks zone. And I thought to myself, my gosh, the Creator’s work is so extraordinarily detailed, how do we ever figure out how we’re supposed to have a part in that? How do you respond to that?
RJ: Well, I don’t think we can. I mean, His ways are above our ways. We serve a magnificent God, and I think our deal is to figure out what His role for us is here on Earth. And I realize we talk to a secular audience here, but I say to Christians who are listening, you know, God left you here for a reason rather than taking you to Heaven. He has a plan for your life, and that plan is to be His representative here. And Twilight’s Last Gleaming is about how we can fulfill that whether we’re a Christian or not a Christian.
HH: Pastor, would you be wigged out at all if life was discovered on one of those other planets?
RJ: No, I wouldn’t at all.
RJ: I do not want to put God in a box and what what He can and can’t do.
RJ: There may be life on other planets. But I know that He created man, and that He has a plan for man, and I think our center of attention is right here.
HH: Well said. Twilight’s Last Gleaming. Now let’s get to practical politics. There was a big meeting in Texas this weekend. I talked to Tony Perkins about it.
HH: You took a pass.
RJ: I did. We had a representative from our church there, and I respect what they’re doing. And I’ve said consistently that Christians ought to have a higher standard than William Buckley. You know, he had his doctrine we ought to elect the most conservative candidate who’s electable. I’ve been saying, Hugh, we ought to look for the most consistently conservative Christian with character. And you know, I think Mitt Romney’s nomination is inevitable. I said on MSNBC Saturday the fat lady hasn’t sung, but she’s in the green room warming up. You know, so, but I think, but still, we have an opportunity, maybe, to select somebody else. If it’s Mitt Romney? Look, in November, we may have to hold our noses and vote for the lesser of two evils.
HH: Now do you think Mitt Romney’s the lesser of two evils?
RJ: I do. And if it comes down to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I do. And you know, Hugh, and I’ve read your book on Mitt Romney, A Mormon In The White House, I don’t believe that Mormonism is historic Christianity. And you actually point out in your book some of the disctinctions.
HH: Sure, they’re not Trinitarian.
RJ: Absolutely not, and so forth. But I do think there’s some value to having a non-Christian like Mitt Romney, who embraces Biblical principles, at least right now, rather than a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces unbiblical principles. And in my book, Twilight’s last Gleaming, I don’t try to tell people for whom to vote, but I suggest four criteria to use in selecting a candidate.
HH: Now Mike Gerson in the Washington Post last week said about Mitt Romney, he had an ambiguous ideology, but deeply held values like Eisenhower. Do you agree that Governor Romney, and I wasn’t even going to go to the inevitability, because I think Rick Santorum still has a chance here to rally up the troops, and maybe even Governor Perry, near miraculous comeback situation. But just going…
RJ: That would be a Lazarus deal.
HH: It would be a Lazarus deal, but you know, someone’s going to be the last not-Romney standing, and they’re going to get a shot in Florida, and we’ll figure that out next week. But assume for a moment that it is, that you’re right, and it is Mitt Romney. Will you rally people to elect him so that this country gets off the path it’s on?
RJ: Well, honestly, you know, I offered personal support to Governor Perry. I don’t think it is my job as a pastor to rally people toward a particular candidate, but instead to present the principles that Christians ought to use in voting. But I do believe that, you know, I don’t believe the Bible speaks on every political issue, Hugh. I don’t think there’s a Biblical position on cap and trade, or venture capitalism. But the principles of treatment of the poor, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, those are Biblical principles, and the fact is Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion, pro-homosexual president in history, and I think there’s a reason to vote against him as a Christian.
HH: Now my friend and yours, I’m sure, Wayne Grudem, has written the book, Politics.
HH: He actually does give you a position on everything. And I, there’s a priority there. And do you believe for a moment that Mitt Romney’s judges would be less bad for the cause of life than President Obama’s?
RJ: Well, I’m writing about Mitt right now on that very topic.
HH: I put that the wrong way.
RJ: And I’m telling you, if Mitt Romney wants to gather Evangelical support, he needs to go ahead and say he would make life a litmus test for federal judges. And I think the fact that he hasn’t done that, and given his body record of the issue in the past, make him suspect in some conservatives’ eyes. And if he’s really had this road to Damascus transformation like Ronald Reagan did, and he’s really truly pro-life, he needs to go ahead and make that commitment now.
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HH: Okay, Pastor, spell it out. I know you’re working on an op-ed. You’re going to write how Mitt Romney can earn your vote. Now I’m not a theologian. I’m just a practical guy, and I know from my interviews with him he’ll appoint Roberts and Alitos. And so if you take that to be, if you take my word for it, if I persuade you of that, but he doesn’t want to use a litmus test language because it’s bad politics and he won’t get elected, because litmus tests get run over by the media…
HH: If you were persuaded I was right, would you enthusiastically vote for him, even if you didn’t endorse him?
RJ: Well, I would vote for him. I’m going to have to work on that enthusiasm a little bit, Hugh, for a little bit, because you know, a good point you raise in your book, and I appreciate your fairness in your book about this. You know, there are two illegitimate reasons to not support Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, the idea that Salt Lake City would call the shots, and it’s too weird. Look, all religion is too weird if you look at it from a secular viewpoint. But I think you make the point that we who are Evangelicals do have to give pause and concern about electing somebody who leads what we believe is a false religion, and the question, would that give credibility to a religion we think leads people away from the true God. And so there is a reason for Evangelicals to really pause about electing Mitt Romney. But I suggest, and I’m going to suggest in my op-ed piece, I think there are some things he could do to gain our support. You know the choice of a running mate, I think, is very important. I think he needs somebody who has a record of consistent conservatism on the issues we care about. I think secondly, that commitment to pro-life judges. Look, it is an issue that galvanizes Evangelical support. And then, the one thing I would say, and I talk about this my book, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Hugh, if he is the nominee, I would encourage him not to talk about religion. I mean, I accept that his faith is legitimate to him, that it’s important to him, but I hope he will resist his advisers, who will try to get him to blur the distinction between Christianity and Mormonism. It’ll only raise our angst in voting for him. Go ahead and admit there are differences between our faiths, say your faith is important to you, but move on past that.
HH: And Pastor, at which point ought Evangelicals to say, and Catholics, and we’ve only got 50 seconds, we’ll have to revisit this, hey, we’re putting the issue away, because we know the left is going to try and exploit the differences between these different faiths, and as a result, the theological distinctions between us is going to try and drive the country to an Obama re-elect? When do the Evangelicals stand up and say that?
RJ: Well, I think they’re going to say it when he is nominated. And I think they will put it aside, Hugh, as long as Romney will put it aside. But if he begins to try to blur the distinctions, I’m sorry, but those of us who are Evangelical leaders are going to have to speak out against that. And that’s why I just advise him, just to leave religion off the table at that point.
HH: Robert Jeffress, I look forward to continuing the conversation. The book is Twilight’s Last Gleaming.
End of interview.