Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CNN Debate: Rick Perry Still Won't Repudiate Pastor Robert Jeffress "Mormons Are A Cult" Comment

At the CNN Debate tonight, Rick Perry was given the opportunity to repudiate Pastor Robert Jeffress and he passed on it
It was only tonight that the subject came up when the two stood side by side at the CNN debate.

Perry immediately said that he "didn't agree with that individual's statement."

"Our founding fathers truly understood and had an understanding of freedom of religion," Perry said. "We also are a country that is free to express our opinions. That individual expressed an opinion. I didn't agree with it, Mitt, and I said so. But the fact is, Americans understand faith. And what they've lost faith in is the current resident of the White House."
Here is the fully reply from Mitt Romney:
“With regards to the disparaging comments about my faiths, I’ve heard worse.  So I’m not going to lose sleep over that.  Actually, what I found most troubling about the Reverend’s introduction was when he said, “In choosing our nominee, we should inspect his religion.  And someone who is a good, moral person is not whom we should select.  Rather, we should elect someone based on their religious beliefs.” 
“That idea – that we should choose them base on their religion for public office — is what I find most troubling. The founders of this country went to great length to make sure – even put it in the Constitution – that we shouldn’t choose people to lead this country based on their religion, that this would be a country that would respect other faiths, where there’s plurality of faith, where there’s tolerance for people of other faiths.  That’s a bedrock principal and it was that principal Governor, that I wanted you to say its wrong.  Rather than say, “Reverend Jeffress, you knocked that out of the park,” I wanted you to say, “Reverend Jeffress, you got that wrong. 
“We should select people not based on their faith.”  And I don’t expect you to distance yourself from your faith any more than I would. But the concept that we select people based on the church or the synagogue they go to, I think, is a very dangerous and enormous departure from the principles of our Constitution.”
Rick Perry's claim that he didn't agree with Pastor Jeffress' statement is weak. I don't buy it that it was a sincere or honest disavowal of what the pastor said. Even if you believe this is a legitimate repudiation of Robert Jeffress' religiously bigoted statements, its taken him a week to reject those statements. He should have repudiated it immediately. But he didn't.
The reason why Rick Perry avoided repudiating what Pastor Robert Jeffress has said about Mormons being a cult is because he's trying still trying to get as much mileage as he can playing passive agressive with Mitt Romney's faith.
As I wrote in an earlier blog,  Rick Perry will not attack Romney's faith personally but will use surrogates do do his dirty work because its a strategy he's learned from Karl Rove
Scott McLean, a political scientist at Quinnipiac University and presidential election analyst, told that he believes the Perry campaign orchestrated Jeffress’ attack on Romney’s faith “to test the waters.”

“Rick Perry cut his teeth with Karl Rove,” he said, referring to the former senior adviser to President Bush who is now a Fox News analyst. “Rove knows when you go on the attack, make sure a surrogate does it for you. Rick Perry followed that script to the letter.”

McLean said he expects Perry surrogates to launch more under-the-radar attacks on Romney’s faith to make Romney look less attractive.

“Romney’s campaign is premised on ‘I’m the most electable,’” he said. “What they have to do is show that isn’t so.”
Perry supporters have not been shy or secretive about their plans to attack Mitt Romney's faith using surrogates:
Evangelical Perry supporters said one thing that could be done to unseat Mr. Romney from his front-runner spot is to have surrogates plant doubt among Republican primary voters about the former Massachusetts governor’s Mormonism, something that is widely thought to have contributed to his poor showing in the 2008 Republican primaries and caucuses.

“This is not a difficult task, but one that must be done,” Mr. Brinson said. “You can’t have people raising the Mormon issue front and center, but you can raise the question as surrogates about the language of faith that we used successfully against Romney in 2008 when we worked for Mike Huckabee. It is all about semantics.”
The plan to use "semantics" can be clearly seen on how Pastors like Jeffress and Discoll use the word "cult" to attack Romney's faith. To understand how they're playing this semantical game, you'd have to understand the original meaning of the word cult:  
One of the most confusing and dangerous religious term is "Cult". The word is derived from the French word "culte" which came from Latin noun "cultus." The latter is related to the Latin verb "colere" which means "to worship or give reverence to a deity." Thus, in its original meaning, the term "cult" can be applied to any group of religious believers: Southern Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Hindus or Muslims. However, the term has since been assigned at least eight new and very different meanings. The original meaning of "cult" remains positive; more recent definitions are neutral, negative, or extremely negative.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that Evangelical Perry supporters will not use the term in its original meaning nor will they be using it in a positive or neutral manner. While these pastors admit Mormons are not a cult in the cultural or sociological term, they're still a cult nonetheless because that religion is a "theological cult." 
However, its important to note that these different categories of cults is nothing more than a pejorative term that is arbitrary, subjective, capricious and designed to scary people away from that religion. They are intentionally using the term "cult" for manipulative purposes. David French, a Evangelical who runs the website, Evangelical For Mitt, in an article for National Review, points out how manipulative this semantical game they're playing really is:
While it’s hard to know which of these three claims is most explosive, the “cult” claim is certainly the most pejorative. Conjuring up images of robed, chanting, mind-controlled followers of the likes of Charles Manson and David Koresh, the word is far more inflammatory than illuminating. Anyone who is remotely familiar with Mormonism knows that it bears zero resemblance to a “cult” as commonly understood. And Jeffress himself now seems to recognize that, saying this morning on Fox News that Mormonism is a “theological cult,” not a “sociological cult.” But what is a “theological cult?” How does that differ from, say, a “faith”? It appears that Pastor Jeffress is trying to maintain the use of a slur while shifting its definition beyond all recognition.
Once you are aware how some Evangelical Christians and most Counter-Cult Movements(CCM) use this term, you'll see its nothing more than a subjective and arbitrary term because it really depends on the perspective of who is using that term. One person's religion is can be considered by another person to be a "cult".
In fact, given that many different people use the word cult so differently and so often, the term has been rendered meaningless. The website, Religious Tolerance explains why:
We have seen "cult" used to refer to Evangelical denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, Unification Church, Church of Scientology, United Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wiccans, other Neopagans and many other faith groups. The term is essentially meaningless.
Yet, to Evangelical supporters of Rick Perry, the original meaning of the word or how meaningless the term has become today will not deter them from going on the offensive against Mitt Romney's religion. Perry supporters will be using more Pastors as surrogates and use semantics to attack Romney's faith. In fact, this plan is already underway as another Pastor has come forward echoing Robert Jeffress' statement that Mormons are a cult: 
Mark Driscoll, pastor of the high-profile Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, has added his voice to the fray -- agreeing that Christians should consider Mormons as members of a "cult" and not "brothers and sisters in a common faith."
Writing on his website Tuesday, Driscoll goes on at length about the various definitions of a cult. He is careful to say that Mormonism has "outgrown" the popular culture and sociological definitions of a cult because of its enormous growth and general acceptance in the nation.
But, Driscoll writes, Mormonism "is most certainly a cult theologically speaking because it deviates substantially from historic Orthodox Christian belief about essential issues related to God, humanity, and salvation." And it's not just that it differs, he says, but also that "it claims Christianity while subtly subverting it in both practice and theology."
The only way to respond to these attacks is to call "the game" by pointing out what they're attempting to do rather than trying to refute the false accusation that Mormons are a cult. 
Once you open people's eyes to what they're doing, the effectiveness of using surrogates to attack Mitt Romney's religion via semantical word games decreases dramatically because people will see the true intent of their attacks, how they are carrying out the attacks and the intended result they hope to have with these assaults on Romney's faith.  

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