Robert James Jeffress, Jr. is a megachurch pastor (First Baptist Church in Dallas) and host of Pathway to Victory, a widely broadcast radio program aimed at insane wingnut fundamentalists. To get a rough idea about where he stands: Jeffress is a staunch opponent of the First Amendment’s religious protections, which – since the Amendment makes it legal for people to disagree with him on theological and metaphysical issues – he claims will “kindle the anger of God against us”. “What we call diversity, God calls idolatry,” says Jeffress (yeah, blame your hate and bigotry on God, will you), but precisely why we should worry is a bit unclear, since Jeffress thinks the death and destruction of the endtimes are imminent anyways.
Of course, Jeffress is all in favor of religious freedom (and claims that God supports such freedoms) when he perceives that his freedoms are under threat – which they aren’t: what he means is consistently feels is threatened is really his freedom to prevent others from exercising their religious freedoms.
Infidels, Muslims and Catholics
Jeffress has claimed that Islam “promoted pedophilia” and has called it an “evil, evil religion” “from the pit of Hell”. It’s not the only one. “Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and virtually everyone else” are cult members, according to Jeffress, and in 2010 he referred to Roman Catholicism as “the Babylonian mystery religion” found in the Book of Revelation and claimed that the Catholic Church represents “the genius of Satan.” (Mormons may be the worst, though.) He has also pointed out that “you can’t be saved being a Jew” – Jews are all going to hell together with Muslims and gays and Catholics and Mormons. At least he assured us that he has a Jewish friend in New York, so he can’t possibly be anti-Semitic.
Jeffress is also heavily engaged in the imaginary war on Christmas; in December 2010 he established a “Naughty and Nice List” where businesses were identified based on whether or not they openly celebrated Christmas: “I wanted to do something positive to encourage businesses to acknowledge Christmas and not bow to the strident voices of a minority who object to the holiday.” He didn’t identify any representatives of that minority.
Here he blames Satan for the non-existent persecution of Christians in the US. According to Jeffress, Christians in America today are being treated just like the Jews in Nazi Germany before they were rounded up and slaughtered. It’s unclear whether the description is pure demagoguery or whether Jeffress really is that delusional. Apparently the alleged evidence is that fundamentalist Christians are being “marginalized”; I don’t think the primary problem for Jews in Nazi Germany was being marginalized.
But of course. Jeffress has claimed that homosexuality is like plugging a TV into the wrong outlet and “blow that TV to smithereens.” In his 2008 sermon “Gay Is Not OK” Jeffress stated that “what they [homosexuals] do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description [the TV analogy apart, apparently]. And it is their filthy behavior that explains why they are so much more prone to disease.” He has called same-sex marriages “counterfeit”, and lamented (lied) that legalizing gay marriage is going to make the government shut down Christian radio stations. It’s not a lie if you cross your fingers behind your back and whisper “Jerusalem” under your breath afterwards.
Moreover, “pro-LGBT businesses” are a greater threat to religious freedom in America than ISIS, according to Jeffress. Now, as earlier pointed out Jeffress is in fact opposed to religious freedom; another interesting thing about the claim, however, is the abysmal level of delusion you have to adopt to seriously entertain the idea that ISIS is a threat to religious freedom in America.
In 2013 Jeffress defended Phil Robertson’s claim that gays are a sexual threat to children and claimed that, while he and Robertson have a right to defend their interpretations of the Bible, “people don’t have the right to label Phil or me or tens of millions of evangelical Christians as hateful because we hold to a historical understanding of the Bible.” People do have that right. Jeffress also refused to pinpoint where in the Bible (or science) it is claimed that gay people are a threat to children. Here is more obliviousness from Jeffress. Also, “... [i]t’s been my experience as one whose been on the forefront of these culture wars that it doesn’t matter how much you smile, how much you show compassion, that if you label homosexuality as a sin you’re going to be labeled as ‘intolerant’ and a ‘hate monger.’” Indeed.
While still a pastor in Wichita Falls (1998) Jeffress got some attention for his attempts to have two children’s books about children with gay or lesbian parents removed from the public library by checking out the books and paying for them rather than returning them to be recirculated. The attempt backfired somewhat after the story was mainstreamed, whereupon the library received multiple copies of the books as donations and demand for the books increased significantly.
Oh, and of course gay marriage is a sign of the end times, like everything else Jeffress doesn’t like. (Fifty shades of gray, for instance; one wonders if he’s read it.)
Politics and Jeffress’s dream of a Taliban-style theocracy
Jeffress’s claim that Romney is non-Christian (“[Mormonism] is not Christianity, it is not a branch of Christianity. It is a cult”) probably didn’t ultimately help the candidate he supported in the 2012 nomination, Rick Perry (only Perry can defeat “the most pro-homosexual, most pro-abortion president in history”). Nonetheless, Jeffress ended up supporting Romney, although he complained that Romney was too focused on economy and not on “the moral and spiritual deterioration of our country.” Being a cult-member and subscribing to an ideology straight from the pits of hell is apparently not a deal-breaker for Jeffress.
In general, Jeffress’s approach to politics is pretty much what you’d expect from a lunatic fundie (though he is perhaps even more blatantly incoherent than most): God sent 9/11 just to warn us that he was displeased with our godlessness, and so on. Though he acknowledged in 2012 that “President Obama is not the Antichrist,” he emphasized that “the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.” Political discourse with these kinds of people is like trying to play chess with a rabid bat.
In a 2012 sermon, Jeffress complained about Supreme Court decisions on the separation of church and state that have “so weakened our nation’s spiritual and social structure that collapse is inevitable.” These would be Engel v Vitale, which forbids schools from forcing students to recite government-composed daily prayers; Roe v Wade; and Lawrence v Texas, which struck down state laws against sodomy; Jeffress lamented that “these explosive, wrong choices our country has made and the inevitable implosion of our country” (yeah, both explosion and implosion at the same time). Moreover, Stone v. Graham, which in 1980 struck down Kentucky’s law requiring that the Ten Commandments be posted in all public school classrooms, led directly to a tragic 1997 shooting spree in a Kentucky high school by a 14-year-old student.
He has also complained that many people in the clergy “falsely perceive Christ as this little, wimpy guy who walked around plucking daisies and eating birdseed and saying nice things;” according to Jeffress, Jesus was – coincidentally rather like himself – a hateful, flaming bigot. Nonetheless, when declaring his support for Trump in the 2016 election he stated that if Jesus Christ was a candidate himself, he “would run from that candidate as far as possible” and still vote for Trump – apparenty the Bible calls for “a strongman”. Moreover, according to Jeffress, Trump is like Saul/Paul, and will be led by people close to him to a “road to Damascus” experience – Jeffress himself is on Trump’s evangelical advisory board and is currently preaching the gospel of Trump (Trump is like Nehemiah, who also built a wall and was attacked by “the mainstream media”). Of the election itself, in which God miraculously intervened and got Trump elected (which is not voter fraud), Jeffress has said that “[t]his isn’t about partisan politics. This is about good and evil.” It seems to be about partisan politics. Then he accused Hillary Clinton of hate speech.
In general, Jeffress warns us that churches that don’t embrace right-wing politics are going to “surrender the control and the direction of this country to the godless, immoral infidels who hate God,” and has compared failure to endorse wingnuttery to failure to stand up to Hitler (of course).
As for police violence, Jeffress maintains that no one has anything to fear from police officers because they are ministers sent by God to “punish evildoers,” which is such a ridiculous thing to say that one is tempted to laugh were it not so tragic. Apparently if only black people “would teach [their] children to respect law enforcement officers, they wouldn’t have anything to worry about.”
Jeffress has written a couple of books, including Countdown to the Apocalypse: Why ISIS and Ebola Are Only the Beginning, which probably doesn’t need further comment, and Twilight’s Last Gleaming (foreword by Mike Huckabee), which claims that “America’s days are numbered, because this world’s days are numbered,” but that the inevitable end of the world is an opportunity to evangelize. Yes, it’s a relatively common belief, but I suggest taking a moment to think about how rabidly delusionally insane it actually is: it really does outcrazy tinfoil-hats-and-pyramids-protect-me-from-alien-mind-control by quite some distance.