At D Magazine, Michael Mooney writes a long profile of Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Dallas. Jeffress has said that Muhammed was a terrorist, that Mitt Romney is not a Christian, and that Oprah is a tool of Satan. In spite, of that Mooney finds reason to like him:
Before I met Robert Jeffress, I wanted to hate him. Jeffress is the conservative preacher who made national headlines in October, when he called Mormonism a cult. He’s the senior pastor at First Baptist Dallas, the oldest megachurch in America, and I am certainly not a Baptist. He endorsed Rick Perry for president, and I’m definitely no fan of Perry’s. As a matter of fact, Robert Jeffress and I probably disagree on every major political and religious issue. And yet, I really, really like him.
It would be easy to dislike him if he were a hypocrite or a bigot, if he were an insufferable megalomaniac or the kind of man who preaches out of hate and anger. But he’s none of those things. He’s actually delightful to be around. He’s not just polite; he earnestly cares about people. He may not believe in evolution, but he really does want to know how your day has been. He may oppose certain rights for gay people, but he genuinely desires for you to be merry on Christmas. If he talks with you, he’s attentive and giving. He’s curious about you and about the world.
However, in Mooney’s over-the-top puffery, he misses something pretty big. Jeffress believes we’re in the Last Days. America is crumbling, and Jesus is about to come back. And yet…
It’s the reason Jeffress has his own radio show, his own television show, and why he’s about to publish his 18th book, Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days. It’s the reason First Baptist Dallas recently decided to undertake one of the most expensive church construction projects in modern American history. At a cost of $128 million, the new campus will feature a glass skywalk, a giant cross-shaped fountain, and a sleek 3,000-seat sanctuary that will rival Madison Square Garden. Jeffress wants it to serve as a “spiritual oasis” in the middle of downtown.
I know what Jeffress and his ilk would say: It’s all going to burn anyway, so why not make it beautiful for God? Mooney might have missed the obvious question, since he’s not a theologian. That question can basically boiled down to this: WTF?!? There are all sorts of ways that Jeffress’s beliefs beg the questions. But it seems that Mooney neglected to ask any of these. And I don’t think anyone at FOX is going to ask Jeffress a tough question anytime soon. (According to Mooney’s reporting, even Bill Maher was seduced by Jeffress’s niceness.)
You really should read the article all the way to the end. It does paint an interesting portrait of one of America’s most powerful pastors, who also happens to be a simpleton. You’ll also see and example of a journalist who was duped.
HT: Kenton Self