Blessed are they…
By John D. Turner
15 Oct 2011

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:10, Holy Bible, New Testament, King James Version

In His Sermon on the Mount, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave us a set of teachings known today as the Beatitudes. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the word “beatitude” means “a state of utmost bliss.” Synonyms for this word include happiness, blessedness, bliss, blissfulness, felicity, gladness, joy, and “warm fuzzies.” The Beatitudes are a list of things for which, if they apply to us, Jesus tells us we will be supremely blessed.

Anita Perry, wife of presidential hopeful Rick Perry, claims that her husband is being “brutalized” by both the media, and his Party, because of his faith.

"It's been a rough month. We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today. We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party. So much of that is, I think, they look at him because of his faith. He is the only true conservative - well, there are some true conservatives. And they're there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose."- Anita Perry at a South Carolina campaign stop.

So Ms. Perry is of the opinion that her husband is being persecuted “because of his faith.” What does she mean by that? I suppose that she could be referring to his “faith in conservatism”, because in the next statement she says that he is the only “true conservative”, only to backtrack a moment later. As well she might. I am sure that Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Hermann Cain, and others consider themselves “true conservatives” and would take umbrage at that remark. But it is more likely that she is referring to his faith in Jesus Christ, when she mentions faith. That is the context in which such a statement is usually meant, particularly when one wears his faith on his sleeve as does Governor Perry.

Indeed, Ms. Perry seems to view this campaign as a religious quest; the Holy Grail at the end being a four or eight year stint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “And they may feel like God called them too” (emphasis added). Does Ms. Perry think that God has indeed called her husband to be President? Or should I put that a bit differently; does Ms. Perry think that God called her to call her husband to be President?

All along, Rick Perry has said that it was his wife that prodded him to jump in the race. Back in July, before he formally announced, he told reporters that his wife was urging him to “get out of his comfort zone.” “Yeah, being governor of Texas is a great job,” she said, according to Perry, “but sometimes you’re called to step into the fray” (emphasis added).

Then on August 14th, on his second day as an announced candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Rick Perry came out with this statement.

“I want to tell you this wasn't something that I felt compelled to do six months ago or even three months ago and my prayer was always that one of the people in the group would just explode out there and take it out and everybody in America can get behind them but that hadn't happened. And, you know, my wife basically said listen our country is in trouble and you need to do your duty, and that was a pretty clarion call for me.”

So even though Rick Perry claims he prayed about his decision, and I wouldn’t have it any other way mind you; I certainly would pray about and seek divine guidance before making such a momentous choice, nowhere does he claim that he was “called” to seek the presidency. A “clarion call” from your wife is not the same thing as a calling sent down from the Almighty. Certainly, from watching his campaign, I get no sense that I am watching a man who has been “called by God” to run for President; his debates thus far seem to be lacking in divine inspiration. Perhaps he looks at this “call” to be President of the United States less as an opportunity and more like the way Jonah looked at his divine calling to go and prophesy in Nineveh.

But let’s get back to Anita Perry’s comment that her husband is being “brutalized” because of his faith. If Rick Perry has been brutalized, and one certainly can make the argument that he has at least been excoriated, what about Mitt Romney?

This is the second time on the nomination merry-go-round for Mitt, and as with the first time around, his faith is once again an issue. The issue isn’t whether he has faith, or whether or not his faith “violates the separation of church and state”, as Mr. Perry has been accused of, but rather instead the specific church he claims membership in; namely The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; aka, the Mormons.

Mitt Romney is being persecuted by Christians over whether or not his membership in the LDS Church excludes him from “the Christian Club.”

In a discussion on “Fox and Friends” back in July, co-host Ainsley Earhardt, in a discussion about where Rick Perry would get funding for his campaign, stated:

“Well the Christian coalition — I think (Perry) can get a lot of money from that base because (of) Romney obviously not being a Christian. “Rick Perry, he’s always on talk shows — on Christian talk shows — he has days of prayer in Texas.”
“Romney obviously not being a Christian,” she authoritatively states. Well, maybe she is just ignorant. A well-known aphorism states “never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” Many people are unfamiliar with the LDS Church and what Mormons believe, or have mistaken ideas concerning such. I know I did before I joined the church. Mormons only make up about 2% of the population of the United States; 37% of the population has never even met a Mormon. Many Americans think they still practice polygamy (they don’t), or that blacks are not welcome in their ranks (they are.) Then again, perhaps she is an evangelical.

Of course, Ainsley Earhardt is not alone in her belief; it is one that is shared by a large segment of American society. In 2008, driven by Mitt Romney’s first presidential campaign, pollster Gary Lawrence conducted an extensive national survey about Mormonism. Lawrence, himself a Mormon, published his findings in a book entitled “How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image.” Lawrence’s findings? Only 37% of Americans view Mormon’s favorably while 49% have an unfavorable impression. For each person who strongly likes Mormons, more than four strongly dislike Mormons. Not good numbers. Between 38% and 45% variously describe Mormons as blind followers, insular, narrow-minded, self-righteous, fanatical and brainwashed.

Moreover, 44% indicate Mormons have “weird beliefs.” Apparently President Obama’s aides and advisors have read the book; the term “weird” has already surfaced in conjunction with the upcoming presidential campaign. “There is a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” said one “unnamed senior Obama advisor”, according to Politico and other sources. “Weirdness factor”, huh? I wonder what that could be. Somehow I doubt they are referring to the vacation he took one year where they stuck the family dog carrier, with dog inside, on top of their car rather than inside. (Note: the dog was unharmed and reportedly enjoyed the trip.) That was covered in the last election cycle and gained no traction.

Polls in 2008 showed that American’s were more likely to vote for a black president (which they ultimately did) than for a Mormon or an atheist. Well, at least we beat out the atheists.

Back in 2008, there were a lot of articles on Romney being a Mormon. It was a big deal. In fact, according to a Gallup poll taken in December 2007, one in six Americans (17%) said that they would not vote for a Mormon for president. The proportions were similar for both Republicans and Democrats.

In fact, the numbers were right in line with polls taken in 1967, when Romney’s father was running for president (17%), and another poll taken in 1999 (also 17%). In August of 2007, 22% of those polled indicated that being a Mormon was an “undesirable” characteristic for the next president to have.

Well, that was then. This is now. What does the polling data say now concerning this? A Gallup poll taken in June showed that 22% of Americans, 18% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats, would not vote for a Mormon for president even if that candidate represented their own political party. The good news for Mitt is that at least he isn’t running on the Democratic ticket (Harry Reid, take note, just in case you have presidential aspirations in the future). A CNN article asked the question “Can a Mormon be elected President of the United States?” This is the same question asked in 2007. So one has to ask; have times changed?

The numbers of those rejecting a Mormon candidate in 2011 are actually higher than they were in 1967, 1999, and December 2007. It is interesting to note that the CNN article I linked to that published the above polling data also published incorrect information concerning Mitt Romney’s church activity. There is no such thing in the Church as a “lay bishop;” there are simply bishops. Nor are there bishops of temples. Those would be temple presidents. Nor is the temple where Mormons meet every Sunday for worship service; that would be a church building where the members would meet in wards or branches. Nor are worship services conducted in temples; that is where one would go for specific, sacred ordinances. If you are interested in why we have temples and what we do there, I suggest you visit this site, or any of the links in this sentence.

This is not surprising, but once again points out the ignorance many have concerning the LDS Church, its doctrines, beliefs, and structure. It also begs the question; can one trust anything they read in news publications these days? Even in supposed “mainstream” publications?

Then of course, we have Pastor Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, who introduced Gov. Rick Perry at a conservative gathering just last week. Pastor Jeffress introduced Gov. Perry as “a proven leader, a true conservative, and a committed follower of Christ.” So far, so good; nothing wrong with that statement.

Then there was the press conference afterward, where pastor Jeffress came out with this statement:

“Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Mitt Romney‘s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

Of course, this just begged the question of Perry as to whether he agreed with Pastor Jeffress as to whether Mormonism is a cult. When asked, Perry replied “No”, he did not agree. His official position, stated earlier by his campaign spokesman was that “the governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult.” But then again, he did not disavow Pastor Jeffress, or his offered endorsement. Jeffress is adamant about his position; he stated the same thing when Romney ran the last time, and preached a sermon in 2007 entitled “Mormonism is not Christianity.”

Jeffress has said that being Mormon does not disqualify one from being president, noting that the constitution does not allow a religious test for the position. However he also notes that “private citizens can impose all kinds of religious tests,” warning that if Romney gets the nomination he believes that many evangelicals will stay home.

Is Mitt Romney being persecuted for his religious beliefs? I would say so.

But then again, if one considers him non-Christian, I guess the beatitudes wouldn’t apply, would they? So sorry, Mitt; according to Pastor Jeffress (and others), despite being persecuted for your beliefs, the Kingdom of Heaven is not for you.

But back to Ms. Perry; the Lord says “blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Shouldn’t she be happy then? Does this not mean her husband is blessed?

True, the scripture does not say that one will receive Earthly rewards for this persecution. Indeed, history is replete with martyrs to Christ who were brutally slaughtered by those persecuting them for their faith. The Lord speaks of theirs being the kingdom of heaven; certainly something that all Christians aspire to.

Maybe, as the office of President of the United States is a secular office, just maybe we should leave religion out of it, at least as far as candidacy is concerned. This includes the exclusion of some candidates from “the club”, and the mention of the possibility that one’s candidacy might possibly be divinely ordained. Perhaps if we do that, the “savaging” by the press and members of the party, at least when it comes to religion, might stop and we can instead have a discussion on the issues facing our nation and why one candidate or the other might be better at addressing them.

As Mitt has said many times, the job is Commander-in-Chief, not Pastor-in-Chief.

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