Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress prayed for the peace of Jerusalem at the May 14 relocation of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv, while violence raged 40 miles away.
In his prayer, Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, called it a “momentous occasion in the life of your people and in the history of our world” in the ceremony’s opening prayer.
“Four thousand years ago, you said to your servant Abraham that you would make him the father of a great nation, a nation through whom the whole world would be blessed,” he said.
“Most of all Israel has blessed this world by pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, the scriptures and the Messiah,” the pastor said.
Jeffress, a leading evangelical supporter of Donald Trump, said without the president’s “determination, resolve, courage, we would not be here today.”
“I believe … I speak for every one of us when we say we thank you every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history but more importantly stands on the right side of you, oh God, when it comes to Israel,” Jeffress prayed.
Monday marked the bloodiest day in seven weeks of demonstrations protesting Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza, when soldiers responded with gunfire to a mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence erected by Israel in 1994. At least 43 people died in today’s protests, the most since the showdown began in March.
Jeffress’ participation in the program, announced last week, renewed attention to past comments he has made about non-Christian faiths.
“Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell,’” Senate candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter Sunday night. “He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Jeffress criticized Romney’s Mormon faith and labeled the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a “theological cult.”
He has warned that non-Christians are going to hell. “All the people who are on this ‘highway to hell’ — including Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, and atheists — share one characteristic,” Jeffress wrote in his 2016 book Not All Roads Lead to Heaven. “Although they may have embraced different lies, they have rejected the same truth.”
He called Islam “a false” and “evil” religion and said it promotes pedophilia. In 2010, he labeled Catholicism a “counterfeit religion” that comes not from Scripture but from a Babylonian mystery religion that entered and corrupted the early church.
Jeffress responded to Romney’s criticism with a tweet of his own.
“Historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone,” Jeffress tweeted May 14. “The fact that I, along with tens of millions of evangelical Christians around the world, continue to espouse that belief, is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”
In his ceremonial prayer, Jeffress thanked God “for your providential and powerful protection of this nation from all who would seek to destroy her.”
“Father, we are also grateful as we think about what happened 70 years today, at this very moment, when you fulfilled the prophecies of the prophets from thousands of years ago and regathered your people in this Promised Land,” he said.
He ended the invocation “in the name and the spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our Lord.”
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham tweeted support for Jeffress and his prayer, saying the fellow member of Trump’s evangelical advisory team “boldly stands for truth” and “is representing Jesus.”