Robert Jeffress used his Dec. 5 sermon to claim that President Joe Biden has the most “ungodly” administration in American history.
“The Biden administration is ungodly! I don’t care how many rosary beads they rub, they’re ungodly,” he intoned. “This is the ungodliest presidential administration we’ve had in the history of our country.”
Jeffress gave three reasons for his harsh judgment against Biden: opposition to a Mississippi anti-abortion law argued last week in the Supreme Court, efforts toward “spreading this immoral transgender philosophy,” and rescinding “religious liberty” executive orders implemented by Trump.
While mentioning his complaint about Biden’s support for transgender persons, Jeffress attacked the administration for having as “one of their own top officials a man prancing around in a skirt playing like he’s a woman. We’ve never seen something like that before.” He added in his attack on Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health: “It’s sick! Absolutely sick and immoral.”
Who’s ungodly now?
Jeffress claims the Biden administration is ungodly, yet he defended a Trump administration that insisted on “America First.” This contradicts the servant motif of godliness and holiness found in the gospel.
Instead of being ungodly, I argue that the Biden administration may be the most gospel-filled administration since FDR. Biden’s “family leave” provisions have received nothing but disdain and opposition from Republicans and evangelicals like Jeffress. Federal programs that assist the poor — opposed by the Trump/Jeffress gang. Scientific research and aid to the nations of the world — opposed by Trump/Jeffress.
With Trump, Jeffress endorsed in near erotic excitement moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem because he thinks that brings his beloved fiction of the rapture closer to reality. Jeffress has said that all Jews will go to hell and that Islam promotes pedophilia. That’s not godliness; that’s self-righteousness. Jeffress has described gay people as taking part in “the most detestable acts you can imagine” and also slammed Mormonism as “a cult.”
“Jeffress claims the Biden administration is ungodly, yet he defended a Trump administration that insisted on ‘America First.’”
As Jeffress gave his heart and soul to the defense of the ungodly Trump administration, Trump gutted the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and State. In the face of global warming and poverty, Jeffress went with Trump. Jeffress said nothing as Trump insisted on reducing funding by nearly $6 billion for the National Institutes of Health and attempted to reduce or eliminate funding for affordable housing, home heating, homelessness assistance, job training, clean energy, foreign aid and U.N. peacekeeping.
There’s nothing here that’s “good news for the poor,” release for the prisoners, food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, houses for the homeless. Trump’s ungodly budget proposals made deep cuts to domestic programs serving the working-class. As Eugene Robinson has noted, Trump attempted to “reshape the federal government in his own image — crass, bellicose, short-sighted, unserious and ultimately hollow.”
Jeffress as court evangelical
Trump, with the complete religious support of Jeffress and his fellow “court evangelicals,” attempted to bust up and demolish the federal government and especially the social safety net. Jeffress, seeing government’s function as punishing the wicked (meaning anyone associated with abortion and gays), has been gleeful of the idea of eliminating services, removing regulations, and cutting taxes for the very, very, very rich. The entire Trump agenda was just status quo materialism designed to protect the interests of the wealthy. It is hard to imagine a more ungodly agenda.
From his Dallas pulpit and his Fox studio, Jeffress has provided a diversion from the vexing problems facing our nation. According to author Robert L. Ivie, Jeffress joined Trump in “playing to the nostalgic nationalist fantasy of bootstrapping individualism and unfettered capitalism. Denying global warming, banning immigrants, fighting an open-ended war on terrorism, and developing a new generation of nuclear weapons (and a Space Force) would not produce more jobs or provide greater national security.”
While Trump was dismantling democracy, Jeffress was aiding and abetting this vast criminal enterprise.
Together they were demolishing the gospel of Jesus to care for the widows, orphans, immigrants, children, families, strangers and the poor. They were reversing the gospel of forgiveness for one of revenge. They were going against Jesus’ severe condemnation of the wealthy in order to “go whole hog for the big hogs” at the economic trough.
There’s not enough gospel here to save the proverbial church mouse.
Listen to the prophets
The Hebrew prophets would dismantle this charade with biting condemnation. Amos would have Jeffress’ sermon for lunch: I hate, I despise your Fourth of July festivals, and I take no delight in your patriotic assemblies. Even though you offer me your flag-wavings and fireworks in the sanctuary, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your affluent congregation I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise “America is God’s land.” I will not listen to the melody of your praise band and orchestra. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
The editors of Leviticus would diss Jeffress with straightforward exhortation: You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another.
John the Baptist, loosed on Jeffress and his gang of evangelical cutthroats, would leave them in disrepair: Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We are Americans, God’s children”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children of America.
When you have a leading evangelical pastor equating Christianity with freedom, patriotism and opposition to abortion, you should know you have a problem. That Jeffress, in a church service, would condemn the president of the United States for attempting to provide for the common good is a sign that he no longer knows how to recognize the gospel. The “Christianity” represented by the First Baptist Church of Dallas and its senior minister is not, in fact, Christian. It is American nationalism. To paraphrase Stanley Hauerwas, this version of “Christianity” is neither supported by nor shaped by the gospel.
It’s always called persecution
Reaching deep into the emotional playbook, Jeffress imagined that he and his congregation were being persecuted, and he wasn’t going to stand for it. “I don’t care where that persecution comes from. I don’t care where that attempt to muzzle our witness comes from, whether it’s from some atheist organization like the Freedom from Religion Foundation or whether it comes from this ungodly administration we’re living under right now in Washington, D.C. That’s right, I said it! I said it,” he declared to applause.
“Persecution” is a favorite trope of evangelicals. With such thin skins, they often mistake criticism for persecution.
Jeffress churns out the emotion of fear: “We know if they ever succeed in taking the First Baptist Church of Dallas down, they’re going to go after every church everywhere that preaches the gospel. We’re going to preach the gospel here no matter what it does. And if the Biden administration doesn’t like it, they can hang it on their beak.” (Whatever that means).
“We know if they ever succeed in taking the First Baptist Church of Dallas down, they’re going to go after every church everywhere that preaches the gospel.”
Jeffress seems to believe that nefarious forces, powerful enemies that are almost invulnerable are trying to take down First Baptist Church of Dallas. After the sermon, the “godly” dispersed to high-end restaurants across Dallas to revel in how the preacher “really let them have it.”
My letter to Jeffress
Jeffress rankled me deeply. I composed a letter, a preacher-to-preacher letter to my colleague in ministry. I thought I would at least feel better if I could just explain how I felt after reading the sermon about Biden’s ungodliness. Here’s what I wrote:
Dr. Jeffress, this criticism is not from an atheist organization but a fellow Baptist preacher. You have already served as the temple priest of the ungodliest administration in history — the Trump presidency. Does my directness anger you? Good. I can work with that.
The majority of the nation sees President Biden as America’s grief counselor, but you deem him ungodly. And why did you have to attack the Catholics? Your snide anti-Catholic slap at rosary beads puts you on a par with Trump’s relentless attacks against almost everyone. You sounded like a preacher who was opposing prayer at a prayer meeting, and if not opposing prayer, opposing prayer aids.
You were the defender-in-chief of the ungodliest administration in American history. President Trump has been rightly labeled a demagogue, a serial liar, a rhetorical pervert, a rhetorical demolition expert, a deranged populist, and a racist. None of these descriptors go far enough. Donald Trump is the incarnation of evil. He is the anti-Christ, not the fictional one you rant about in your dispensational illusions, but an actual person who is the opposite of Jesus.
Since you have brought up the subject of being ungodly, let me remind you that with every misstep, every misleading attack, every lie, every misdeed, every disgusting piece of demeaning weaponized rhetoric, there you were smiling and defending the personification of evil.
Robert, do you remember when Trump called some African nations “shithole countries?” Here’s what you said: “Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.”
When President Trump called NFL players who kneel for the National Anthem “sons of bitches,” do you remember your defense: “These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking the knee like they would be in North Korea.”
“I know this is old news, but I laughed out loud at your defense of Trump when he paid hush money.”
Robert, you blast Catholics, Mormons and Muslims with incendiary rhetoric. When you go off on America being founded as a Christian nation (a whopper of a lie), you specifically put Christianity on a higher plane of possessing a righteousness that other religions lack. Did you pay attention to the letter you received from fellow Dallas minister Rev. Eric Folkerth? Eric wrote you after you made such damning comments about Muslim leader Omar Suleiman: “Can you not see, dear Brother Jeffress, that YOU have become a Pharisee of our time? Can you not see, dear Brother Jeffress, that leaders like YOU are the reason that so many young people leave our faith, never to return? When will you see the harm that you are not only causing, not to people of a man of peace like Omar Suleiman, but also to the very witness of our Christian faith in today’s world?!”
I know this is old news, but I laughed out loud at your defense of Trump when he paid hush money. You engaged in a bit of biblical chicanery to add an 11th commandment. “Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.” Your presumption that you can add an 11th commandment is a small-change perversion compared to how you have rewritten the gospel to fit Trump.
And why do you insist that Christians who are Democrats worship “Moloch”? “Apparently the god they worship is the pagan god of the Old Testament, Moloch, who allowed for child sacrifice. The God of the Bible doesn’t sanction the killing of millions and millions of children in the womb. I think the god they are worshiping is the god of their own imagination.”
When the Democrats hired Derrick Harkins, a senior vice president at New York’s Union Seminary, as their new religious outreach director, you claimed Harkins was a “Trump-hating pastor” and that Union Seminary was a “liberal seminary that is filled with liberal professors who couldn’t find God if their life depended on it.” When you run down a fellow Baptist and a historically prominent seminary, you are (in the words of Raney) “putting yourself lower than the belly of a hog.”
Do you remember the interview on the Lou Dobbs show when you went too far even for Dobbs? Let me refresh your memory: “And if the left ever gains control of this country again, I predict it’s going to be like the French Revolution. It’s going to be ‘bring out the guillotines’ and execute every thought they object to and every person who holds every thought that they object to. That is why what happens in November is so crucial. The future of our nation is at stake here.”
Robert, I understand that you are a hyperbole addict. I have read all your sermons and interviews, and the hyperboles have piled up at your door to haunt you. Last Sunday you went too far. It’s not President Biden who is ungodly; it’s former President Trump who is ungodly and evil.
I am convinced there is nothing you will refrain from doing on behalf of Donald Trump. You are his unofficial Secretary of Defense, the prophet of denial, demolition and distraction.
Rodney W. Kennedy currently serves as interim pastor of Emmanuel Freiden Federated Church in Schenectady, N.Y., and as preaching instructor Palmer Theological Seminary. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released The Immaculate Mistake, about how evangelical Christians gave birth to Donald Trump.
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