By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
His little light: It's curious how differently individuals respond to a piece of "news." Take last week's video of Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of downtown's First Baptist Church, in which he unleashed a harangue against Islam. Unfair Park blog editor Robert Wilonsky, who is Jewish, watched the video and was appalled. Buzz, whose formative years were spent running like hell (figuratively speaking, we hope) from Baptists looking to give us a dunk, shrugged.
And we got a little hungry for chili-mac. Pavlov, ring that bell.
"It is an evil religion," Jeffress said of Islam. "It is an oppressive religion. It is a violent religion." And it's leading its followers straight to hell.
Oh, and Islam promotes pedophilia.
Shocking? Well...we suppose. That's really the sort of stuff one would expect to hear from a conservative Southern Baptist talking about his moderate brethren, and it did seem disjointed coming from a church the size and sophistication of First Baptist, which Mayor Tom Leppert sometimes attends. (How are them plans for a Senate run coming along, Mr. Mayor?)
Jeffress was responding to a parishioner's question about Christian violence during the Crusades versus Islamic jihads. Claims of Christian violence were overstated, Jeffress suggested, and besides, violent Christians aren't proper Christians. On the other hand, "Muslims, when they commit violence, they are acting in accordance with what the Koran teaches," he claimed. There's no call to violence in the New Testament, he said, neglecting to mention the Old Testament, which contains enough Jehovah-endorsed gore to make Quentin Tarantino vomit.
We wondered if Jeffress was being undiplomatic. If a pastor's duty is to gather in the lost sheep to Jesus' fold, taking a whizz on Muslims' holy prophet may not be the most persuasive way to go about it. Vinegar vs. honey, you know?
We put that question to Jeffress via e-mail, and received his response via First Baptist's minister of communication, John Grable:
"The New Testament does not teach hate and violence but instructs: 'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.' First Baptist Dallas welcomes all people to follow Christ. We believe as the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the only path to a relationship with God."
Not exactly responsive, but that's fine, and we certainly didn't want to play a game of comparing body counts. One of the nice things about agnosticism is that it allows one to skip debates over which sauce is best for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.