Robert Jeffress, the Mormonism-disparaging, Rick Perry-boosting Texas megachurch pastor, says he doesn’t care much about politics, or even about who will be president in 2013.
“I don’t lose any sleep over this election,” Jeffress told The Daily Caller.
“I mean, I do hope a conservative candidate wins. I would like it to be a committed Christian … But you know what? If Barack Obama wins again, I mean, I don’t believe Barack Obama is the anti-Christ.”
Jeffress created a stir earlier this month when he implicitly attacked Mitt Romney for being a Mormon while introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit. The Texas pastor made his attacks on Mormonism more explicit in interviews after the speech, calling the religion “a cult” and not really Christian.
Asked whether he gave any thought to whether his comments would hurt Perry politically, Jeffress said it wasn’t a major consideration for him.
“I don’t think, given the governor’s response to my introduction, he felt like what I said from the platform hurt him,” Jeffress said, distinguishing his implicit attack on Romney and Mormonism during his introduction from the more explicit assault he made in interviews afterward. (RELATED: Perry attempts to re-energize with jobs plan)
“Now, if what I said afterwards hurt Perry or not, I can’t tell you. But, you know, that is not my major consideration. Once I stepped off of that platform I was acting as a pastor, and as a pastor I have a responsibility to tell the truth no matter how politically inconvenient or politically incorrect that truth is.”
Jeffress, who says Perry and he are only “acquaintances” and that he doesn’t “go out shooting Coyotes or anything” with the governor, says he has not been contacted by the Perry campaign since the conference and doesn’t plan to do any more campaigning for him.
“I’ve done what I intended to do,” he explained. “I was asked to introduce him at a convention of conservative Christians. I’ve done that, and that’s all I plan to do, and that’s all I ever planned to do.”
Mormonism, however, isn’t the only religious tradition that Jeffress has verbally accosted. He has previously called Catholicism, for instance, a “counterfeit religion” corrupted at its inception a “Babylonian mystery religion.” Asked whether he thinks 2012 presidential contender Rick Santorum, who is Catholic, is a Christian, Jeffress waltzed with his words.
“I have every reason to believe he is, from what he has said,” Jeffress answered. “I don’t believe people go to heaven or hell in groups. I believe we go one at a time based on what we’ve individually done with Jesus Christ as our Savior.”
But are Catholics Christians?
“I don’t consider all Baptists Christians,” he said. “Not all Catholics believe what the Catholic Church teaches. Not all Mormons believe what the Mormon Church teaches. It is individually what we decide what we are going to do with Christ.”
But what if we assume a Catholic believes in the tenets of Catholicism?
“Again, I would ask anybody: how do you believe a person goes to heaven when they die? Are you trusting in Christ alone? Or are you trusting in Christ and any good works?” he said. “The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8 that if any man preaches another gospel, other than the gospel that faith alone saves, let that person be accursed.”
Yet despite his preference for supporting candidates he defines as Christian, Jeffress says he won’t completely rule out supporting Romney if he were President Obama’s chief rival.
“Given that contest I probably would select Romney over Obama, because I believe that even having a non-Christian like Romney who at least embraces some biblical positions might be preferable to having a professing Christian like Barack Obama who supports un-biblical position like abortion,” Jeffress explained.
He joked, however, that he is “less inclined” to support Romney “every day just based on some of the things he is saying about me, and realizing if he becomes president I am probably going to have my taxes audited for the next four years.”
Jeffress said he has found it interesting that he has taken more heat for his comments from conservatives than from liberals. “Conservatives,” he explained, “are afraid that I am going to so damage Mitt Romney that it is going to cost Republicans a chance to regain the White House.”
“The fact is that I think faith is an important consideration,” Jeffress argued. “I think conservatives are being very hypocritical in this argument. I mean, they were willing to make faith a major issue with Barack Obama and his membership with Jeremiah Wright. But suddenly when it comes to Mitt Romney, well, a person’s faith is off limits?
“Listen, our faith determines who we are as individuals … Religion does matter, especially to religious people.”
But what doesn’t matter all that much, according to Jeffress, is the 2012 election.
“As my friend Cal Thomas says, you know the Kingdom of God isn’t going to come riding in on Air Force One,” he quipped. “So I don’t have a lot of concerns about this election. I think eventually we’ll solve our fiscal crisis. I think we’ll get the terrorist situation under control. And as a pastor and a Christian, my primary focus is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.”