When I heard about Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress’s comment that Mormonism is a cult, I guessed that he wasn’t a fan of Catholicism either. Turns out I was right. Last year, Jeffress said Catholicism was a product of a “Babylonian mystery religion.” Gee, in my seven years of Catholic school, the nuns never brought this up, ever.
Clearly, Jeffress is an opportunist, using his presence at the Value Voters Summit this past weekend to puff up his own media persona, instead of supporting Rick Perry, as he was supposed to do.
It’s also clear that Jeffress lives in a religious bubble, surrounded by like-minded folks. While that’s understandable for someone who makes his living as a pastor, it’s dangerous territory for a politician who has to appeal to people of all faiths — and no faith. At the ballot box, a Buddhist’s vote counts the same as a Christian’s vote.
It’s a delicate dance for a center-right politician — reaching out to certain religious conservatives in a way that doesn’t alienate other voters. To put it another way, it’s about capturing the Sunday Morning Vote and the Office Park Vote.
Let’s think about the Office Park Vote for a moment. Toiling in office park cubicles are people who have to work alongside all sorts of folks. Is everyone 100 percent comfortable with everyone else’s beliefs and lifestyle? No. That’s human nature. But the bottom line is: the bottom line.
In the office park, it doesn’t matter if Ana is a Hindu or a Quaker, what matters is whether Ana is helping to keep her company competitive in the global marketplace — and saving her own job as well as her colleagues’.
I think a lot of those office park voters are viewing the presidency in the same way. For them, the ability of the president to get the country back on track trumps where he or she worships. Quick: Who remembers where President Reagan went to church?
Rick Perry should do himself a favor and put as much daylight as possible between himself and Jeffress. An outright repudiation of Jeffress would be a good start. But Perry needs to hustle up, as we Babylonian mystery religion people are an impatient bunch.