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Pastor of First Baptist Dallas’ View on Refugees and Carpet Bombings

jeffress-FNC
Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas was on Fox News (via the DMN‘s Trail Blazers blog) disucssing the question of a Christian response to the Syrian refugees:

“Most people assume the Christian response is to allow immigrants and refugees’ unconditional entrance into this country, and I think they think that because they confuse Jesus with the Statue of Liberty — give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. But in fact the real historical Jesus did urge compassion for those in need, but he also said, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’ In other words, support government with your taxes because they have a legitimate function like protecting citizens. Those of us who believe in the sanctity of life believe that sanctity serves to not only to protect the unborn but to protect the born from terrorist attacks. That’s a Christian value as well.”

A number of thoughts come to mind:

  1.  No one of any seriousness is suggesting that the refugees be allowed unconditional entrance into the United States.  Rather, the refugees from Syria have to undergo a rigorous process before being allowed to enter.  Even on the broader immigration issue, the argument is not about fettered v. unfettered border crossing, but about updating a manifestly broken set of rules.  Sure, there are a handful of true open border types, but to present this debate as about allowing unconditional entrance is a straw man (and an anemic, if not anorexic, one at that).
  2. So, the Statue of Liberty is more compassionate than Jesus? An odd claim for a pastor.
  3. However, the Statue of Liberty is just a super-compassionate statue with a cool poem whose sentiments Americans should ignore?
  4. The “Render unto Caesar” argument is profoundly weird here because if the argument is that Christians have an obligation to let the government govern, then that should mean letting the government pursue the refugee policy that has been designed and deployed.  Pastor Jeffress seems to be claiming that Christians must submit to government to only pursue policies that they like.
  5. Really, we need to make this into an abortion discussion? There is more of this in the video after the quote above, in fact and a direct link to the current Planned Parenthood funding issue (and it quickly becomes Jeffress handicapping the GOP primary contest).

Video here:

It is interesting that Jeffress is a “Fox News Contributor” which honestly strikes me as an odd choice for a pastor as it creates a clear affiliation that is non-religious (especially since his commentary is basically about secular politics with only a thin veneer of theology).

The most remarkable part of the discussion, however, is towards the very end (starting at about the 4:40 mark) where the host quotes Trump and Cruz about “bomb[ing] the ass out of ISIS” (Trump) and “carpet bomb[ing]” ISIS (Cruz) and Jeffress responds with “Well, that’s right and that’s a biblical value” and then cites Romans 13 as proof that governments are supposed to punish wrong doers.  The cavalier endorsement of carpet bombing as a “biblical value” is pretty stunning (and in an interview that aired two days before Christmas–peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, indeed).  I fully understand that one can reach the conclusion that war is sometimes necessary via theological means, but to quickly endorse the simplistic belligerence of Trump and Cruz is stunning to behold from a pastor.

At a minimum, I suppose this helps illustrate how conservative Christians may find it possible to rationalize support for a candidate like Trump.   In Jeffress’ case in particular, a five minute segment on the O’Reilly Factor clearly underscores how intertwined he is in secular politics.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. DrDaveT says:

    The “Render unto Caesar” argument is profoundly weird here because if the argument is that Christians have an obligation to let the government govern, then that should mean letting the government pursue the refugee policy that has been designed and deployed. Pastor Jeffress seems to be claiming that Christians must submit to government to only pursue policies that they like.

    Remember what I said about theocrats the other day? This is what their spokesmen look like.

    It takes some real Moebius logic to reconcile what Jesus said (about letting the secular authorities do their thing while you focus on spiritual priorities) with a desire to have the Church take secular control. Romans 13, some of the silliest nonsense Paul ever spouted, is the preferred bridge. That Jeffress would choose the passage that for centuries was used to justify the Divine Right of Kings and the Crusades emphasizes that he and his ilk do not actually believe in either democracy or tolerance.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Pastor Jeffress seems to be claiming that Christians must submit to government to only pursue policies that they like.

    That is exactly what he and so many others of his “Christian” ilk have been claiming for some time Steven. Surely you are not surprised?

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  3. @OzarkHillbilly: No, I am not surprised.

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  4. Mu says:

    He’s a baptist pastor, as such he’s only responsible to his own local church. There’s probably plenty of needy local baptists who have to suffer through Christmas with just a frozen turkey to fulfill all your mandatory charity with. And he’s paying the government its due to make sure that stays that way. None of the people that can only afford a chicken, that would really dampen the spirit.

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  5. Mr. Prosser says:

    It is my opinion that these leaders (secular or religious) believe little or any of what they say in public. As the man said, “Follow the money.”

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  6. edmondo says:

    The cavalier endorsement of carpet bombing as a “biblical value” …

    If you’ve read the Bible, you’d have to agree:.

    But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded,

    I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast;

    Now go and strike Amalek and edevote to destruction1 all that they have. Do not spare them, fbut kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’

    And we are afraid of the Muslims?

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  7. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Regarding your points 1 and 3, an old saying that I’ve heard many times comes to mind. It relates to the limits of compassion and inclusion related to some among the baptists and other more conservative/separatist sects:

    I, my brother, my wife, my mother/we four, no more.

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  8. Tyrell says:

    There was a time when the church stayed out of politics, especially the SBC. Many still do. Each SB church is independent. I know of many Baptist churches that are very involved in relief programs here and abroad.

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  9. @edmondo: Yes, well, that raises a whole different conversation…

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  10. @Tyrell: This is very fair. Indeed, many of the pro-refugee voices have been pastors.

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  11. Argon says:

    Does anyone think that Fox would put any pastor on their network who isn’t a dick or in the tank for the neoconservatives?

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  12. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Wow, you must be waaaaaaaayyyyyy older than I am because I’ve never experienced a Baptist church that wasn’t involved in politics–and I left the Baptists because I couldn’t get past the political tilt over 40 years ago!

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  13. Matthew 25:31-46:

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

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  14. James in SIlverdale says:

    There remains nothing at all christian about “pastor” Jeffress. He is the precise false prophet described in scripture, were one to hold with such things. Everything about his carriage and demeanor says “mental illness check needed.”

    Jeffress gleefully signs the religious permission slip to be a monster.

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  15. Tony W says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    I’ve never experienced a Baptist church that wasn’t involved in politics

    And yet, in some sort of twisted sense of morality, they seem perfectly comfortable remaining tax-exempt.

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