The question that matters is whether such theological concerns should drive voting decisions. That’s what Jeffress told Goldberg—“It is imperative to vote for a Christian rather than a non-Christian”—and repeated on CNN after his speech. “Born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian … to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney,” Jeffress asserted. “As Christians, we have the duty to prefer and select Christians as our leaders.”
Why? Because Christians will honor Biblical values? That can’t be the answer: Jeffress said in his speech that being a “good, moral person” wasn’t enough. No, the answer is that we must vote this way to seek God’s favor. In comments videorecorded by the Houston Chronicle, Jeffress told reporters: “I believe God will bless any nation that follows God and will reject any nation that disobeys God. So to have a commander-in-chief who’s a true follower of Christ is very important for me as a Christian.”
Sounds pretty cultish to me.
Perry wasn’t standing there when Jeffress delivered those words. Nor was he there when Jeffress called Mormonism a See You Last Tuesday. But Perry was standing offstage, basking in Jeffress’ praise, when the pastor, at the conference podium, urged the crowd to choose a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ” over a “good, moral person.” Even if Perry knew nothing about Jeffress’ past criticisms of Romney and Mormonism, he should have understood those words for what they were: a religious, not moral, test for public office. And he should have disowned them.
To this day, he hasn’t. He has said he doesn’t judge what’s in another person’s heart. He has said Mormonism isn’t a cult. But Perry—who said less than a month ago that “as a Christian” he has “a clear directive to support Israel”—hasn’t addressed the underlying question posed by Jeffress and restated by Romney: Should Christian voters prefer a Christian candidate to a moral non-Christian? Let’s hear his answer.