The Dallas Morning News featured an opinion piece today about our favorite Dallas pastor and Fox News commentator, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church. The article, “SMU religion professor: ‘Hate speech’ coming from First Baptist’s Jeffress will hurt Dallas,” centers on comments by Robert Hunt, director of global theological education at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology and the director of its Center for Evangelism and Missional Church Studies.
Coming from a background of evangelism, I understand the professor’s concern with Jeffress, but I find his concern overstated. While plenty of hate still spews from Jeffress’ disgusting mouth, mainstream media isn’t taking the bigot as seriously as it once did.
Jeffress opinion hasn’t been sought by the Morning News since marriage equality went nationwide six months ago.
Oh, make no mistake, he’s been mentioned derisively in the paper since then. There was the mention of Jeffress accompanying Donald Trump in his American Airlines Center rally, and the paper ridiculed his claim that Islam is “inspired by Satan.”
But here’s the first sentence of a story about Jeffress traveling to New York to endorse Trump:
“Robert Jeffress, pastor at the fountainous First Baptist Dallas downtown and the man who said the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling ‘granted liberals a hunting license to go after those who resist same-sex marriage,’ has already made it perfectly clear he’s chosen Donald Trump as his presidential candidate of choice — even though, you know, he’s not the most religious man.”
Not exactly the reverence that institution once held or the awe with which Dallas’ daily used to hold its fearless leader. And the coverage Jeffress got on marriage equality day wasn’t as exalted as the good pastor has grown accustomed to receiving.
After Jeffress compared same-sex marriage to the Holocaust, Dallas Holocaust Museum CEO Mary Pat Higgins called his remarks inappropriate and invited the pastor to walk a few blocks across downtown to visit the Holocaust Museum and meet an actual Holocaust survivor. She got at least as much coverage as he did.
But it’s not just the Morning News that’s stopped pandering to Jeffress and his bigotry.
After Jack and George got married — the church wedding last year, not the legal ceremony this year — Channel 11 went to Jeffress to get his opinion.
That infuriated Jack and George’s pastor, the Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church. Folkerth made it clear to the CBS-affiliate that if they thought it was necessary to get an opinion from the Baptist minister about something two members of his Methodist church were doing, they damn well better get his opinion the next time they do a story about anyone at First Baptist Church.
Message received. Hasn’t happened since.
And when was the last time you heard a Dallas mayor speak out against the pastor of First Baptist Church? Even Laura Miller — who is Jewish — maintained a polite relationship with Jeffress.
In direct response to Jeffress’ anti-Islamic tirade, I mean “sermon,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said, “ISIS is no more Islamic than Nazi senior staff was Christian.” Sad that First Baptist is still prominent enough that comments by its pastor deserve a response, but Rawlings stepped up to voice real Dallas values.
So while I’d agree with SMU’s Hunt that Jeffress is an embarrassment to the city and we’re all sick of hearing the man’s homophobic, anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Methodist, pro-Republican/anti-Democratic — shouldn’t that church be losing its 501(c)(3) status for that? — anti-science, pro-hate, divisive opinions, I think many more people in this city think of him as little more than a little bigoted jerk who unfortunately controls a large chunk of downtown Dallas real estate.
And why the sudden spate of First Baptist Church TV commercials? Business must be down.