Texas megachurch pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee, prayed today at the US Jerusalem embassy opening. Mitt Romney is mad about that.

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A Catholic (and therefore hellbound, according to Robert Jeffress) reader e-mails me to comment:

Although I loathe Jeffress as much as Romney does, think of how religiously un-self aware someone has to be to not think to himself, “You know, I belong to a faith that sends out missionaries. In fact, I served as one in France in the late 1960s. What I did, as all LDS missionaries do, was go door to door telling people of other faiths, and in my case, mostly Catholics, that they do not have the Restored Gospel, and that if they don’t become Mormons they are unlikely to progress to the highest heaven. Also, the founder of my faith, Joseph Smith, Jr., whose Restored Gospel I preached door to door, said that in a vision God the Father told him the following about other faiths:

No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1)

“For that reason, perhaps it would be unwise to call Jeffress a bigot for saying negative things about other faiths. After all, if believing one’s faith is right and others `an abomination,’ as the founder of my faith asserted, makes one a bigot, wouldn’t that make me a bigot, since I was a missionary and I preached the Restored Gospel of my founder’s faith?”

This is the problem of a theologically illiterate media. It never even crosses their minds to bring something like this up, since they are grossly incurious about what religious believers actually believe. Can you imagine someone at any of the major networks ever raising this question to Romney, or tweeting back to him?

This is why, even though I believe that Jeffress is a clown, I find myself coming to his defense on this matter.

That’s a very good point. I look forward to Mitt Romney advising the LDS Church to stop sending out missionaries, given that Joseph Smith was wrong to quote God as saying that all non-LDS creeds are “an abomination.”

I strongly reject much of what John Hagee and Robert Jeffress stand for, but if you’re Donald Trump, and you’re going to have Christian clergy pray at this event, those two vivid Protestants are the ones to go for. You would not have been able to get Catholic or Orthodox clergy to do so, out of solidarity with Arab Catholics and Arab Orthodox.

Anyway, had Trump invited an LDS official to offer a prayer at the Jerusalem embassy, and had Protestants, Catholics, and others objected on the grounds that he represents a religion that considers other religions to be “abominations,” what would Romney have said? How can he call Jeffress a religious bigot without also condemning himself and his fellow Mormons by the same logic?

Jeffress may be an ignoramus, but I don’t think he’s a religious bigot. Nor do I think Romney is. If the standard for “religious bigotry” is believing that other religions are seriously wrong, then most believers are religious bigots — in which case the designation “religious bigotry” is meaningless. Most religions are not universalist, in the sense that they preach that all faiths are equally valid ways to God. This is not news! Do we really want to hold that clergy who pray at public events (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) must first denounce the exclusivist teachings of their faith before being allowed to pray? In that case, only heretics and Unitarian Universalists need apply.

I actually do not care that religious leaders delivering anodyne prayers at public events may believe that my own particular religious convictions may lead me to hell — as long as they don’t lift a finger against me and my co-religionists to send us there prematurely.