Watching the ongoing media tour of Pastor Robert Jeffress, in support of his chosen one, Rick Perry, I can only conclude one thing: Jeffress has a lot of nerve.
Not only because he calls Mormonism a cult, or says that Mitt Romney isn’t a real Christian. Not only because he insists that only evangelical Christians approved by him are qualified to be president of the United States. But because he seems to have forgotten, or ignored, the raging theological debate among conservative Christians about some of Perry’s BPFFs (best prayer friends forever).
America needs a genu-INE Christian in the White House, we’re told by Jeffress, and Perry is the anointed one for the job. And Jeffress is the real deal, we’re told by Mike Huckabee, who endorses Jeffress’ forthcoming book.
That would be the Mike Huckabee who calls himself a Bapti-costal, a curious blend of Baptist and Pentecostal, an unorthodox hybrid, but heaven knows, not a cultist.
That would be Mike Huckabee, who in 2008 gave lengthy interviews to televangelist Kenneth Copeland, who in turn helped raise money for his floundering campaign. That would be the same Kenneth Copeland who is one of the world’s most successful purveyors of the Word of Faith doctrine, which many evangelicals consider heretical.
Remember when John McCain ran away from John Hagee, because he thought, among other things, that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation, and the Holocaust part of God’s plan for the Jews? That would be the same John Hagee who endorsed and spoke at Perry’s gathering of BPFFs in August, and brought busloads of congregants from his church. One of Jeffress’ fellow Southern Baptists, one Channing Kilgore, associate pastor of South Whitwell Baptist Church in Tennesse, has asked the Southern Baptist Convention bookseller Lifeway to remove books written by Hagee and others from the shelves of its bookstores because they were “contrary to the gospel.”
Marsha West, a conservative Christian writer, has complained that many of the speakers and endorsers of Perry’s prayer event The Response are unbiblical and not real Christians. These would be the self-styled “apostles” and “prophets” like Mike Bickle and Cindy Jacobs, who West says teach something that is “NOT historic, orthodox Christianity, therefore they are not true Christians.”
As Warren Throckmorton has reported, the Perry-boosting American Family Association has strong-armed radio hosts who were allied with Brannon Howse, head of the arch-conservative Worldview Weekend ministry, who, like West, was critical of Perry’s apostolic prayer allies. (To be clear, these conservative critics of the many strains of neo-Pentecostalism, believe, as does Jeffress, that Mormonism is outside orthodox Christianity too.) West told me, “many of those who are trying to destroy Brannon Howse are not true followers of Jesus Christ—they’re counterfeit Christians. Many of them are outright cultists.” She named C. Peter Wagner, founder of the New Apostolic Reformation, whom she called “a pathetic little man.”
One of the heretic hunters’ complaints about Word of Faith and other spirit-led charismatic movements like the New Apostolic Reformation is how they rely on extra-biblical revelations—the same complaint made about Mormonism.
Judging from the reaction of the American Family Association—which itself has been criticized by co-religionists for its own deviations from WWJD—these Perry supporters are willing to put up with a bit of heresy in their ranks for the goal of uniting around Perry. So far, at least, it doesn’t appear to have done him a lot of good.