Evangelical Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress has said a lot of crazy, offensive things. He once gave a sermon saying that both Islam and Mormonism are “heresy from the pit of hell,” and that you “can’t be saved being a Jew.” He also claimed that Judaism leads people “to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and delivered a sermon titled, “Gay Is Not O.K.”
For this reason, eyebrows were, shall we say, raised when it turned out that Jeffress had been chosen to deliver an opening prayer at the dedication ceremony for the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. It was not the worst thing about the day—Israel’s massacre in Gaza was much, much worse—but it underscored the poisonous politics shaping the event.
On Monday night, Jeffress went on Fox News, where he insisted that, despite his documented history of intense religious bigotry, he is totally NOT a bigot. And after putting a question about his past statements to him, Fox News host Shannon Bream basically let him defend himself unchallenged.
“First of all, I’ve never said anything deogatory about the Jewish people,” Jeffress told host Shannon Bream (he super has!), before launching into a full throated defense of his past statements:
I’m not a bigot, I’m not an extremist, but I do without apology embrace the most foundational belief of historic Christianity. And that is that faith alone in Jesus Christ is the exclusive way to Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” Now people can disagree with Jesus’ words. Millions of them do, but the fact that I and hundreds of millions of evangelical Christians around the world believe what Jesus said about the way to heaven does not make us a bigot. This is not a surprising statement. The fact is this has been the teaching of the church for 2,000 years.
Bream vaguely asked if Jeffress understood why people “might be offended.” Jeffress went on to insist that his litany of offensive statements had been “taken out of context,” and claimed that Romney was simply trying to “steal the spotlight.” Bream then moved right along.
Sure thing, dude.