Several months ago, the media was in a tizzy over its sudden discovery of a doctrinal statement held by the church formerly attended by Minnesota Representative and GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann.
On July 13, Joshua Green of The Atlantic breathlessly reported his exciting discovery: Did you know that the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s doctrinal statement states, in part, “… It is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist?”
Well-coiffed TV newspeople were aghast. Blogs were abuzz. Talking heads were incensed. And they all asked the same question: In light of this shocking theological discovery we’ve all just made, is Michele Bachmann an anti-Catholic bigot?
Meanwhile, confessional evangelical Christians were yawning. Martin Luther’s views on the papacy are in the Smalcald Articles, which he wrote in 1537, and which were incorporated into the Book of Concord, a compilation of Lutheran confessions, in 1580. Hey, media: Way to blow the lid off a 500-year-old story, Lutherans joked with one another. To them, the media didn’t look groundbreaking. They looked embarrassingly ignorant of Christian history, in general, and well-known Lutheran doctrine, in particular. And to brand Bachmann a "bigot" – when she didn’t even attend the church anymore – was ridiculous.
But Michele Bachmann was the Christian “bigot” of July, and now it’s October. So evidently, we now need the media to be outraged about another Christian position that isn’t news and was perpetrated by the newest “bigot” – Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.
On Friday, Jeffress introduced and endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit. He went on to describe the faith of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney --the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – as a “cult.”
The reaction was immediate, and nowhere stronger than from Dr. Bill Bennett, former education secretary, my colleague at the Salem Radio Network and a man whom I greatly esteem and admire.
Bennett rebuked Jeffress for his reference to Mormonism as a cult. “Do not give voice to bigotry,” Bennett said in his speech at the same summit Saturday morning.
The critical floodgates opened once more. Again, the talking heads were outraged. The blogs exploded. What a bigot, that pastor! Here we go again.
The question is this: Why is it bigotry to call Mormonism a cult? As even Jeffress himself put it to reporters: “That is a mainstream (Christian) view, that Mormonism is a cult.”
He’s right. And again, Christians everywhere are saying: “This isn’t even news.”