E.W. Jackson, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia, is no stranger to making controversial remarks. A sermon that he delivered on Sunday is his latest commentary to raise some eyebrows. The political hopeful, who is also a pastor, said that individuals who do not follow Jesus "are engaged in some sort of false religion."
As the Washington Post notes, this comment wasn't randomly uttered, nor was it said in an off-the-cuff manner. Jackson intentionally shared it with his audience at the Restoration Fellowship Church in Strasburg, Va., as part of a list of controversial beliefs he holds. The pastor shared the many standards that he contends Christians like himself must stand up for; this comment about false faiths was simply one of those elements.
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Candidate E.W. Jackson gestures as he speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority 2013 conference, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Washington. Credit: AP
The comment is, of course, sparking debate, but from a theological sense, is it truly groundbreaking or a departure from the mainstream? Answering this definitively requires examining the full context of his remarks. So, let's take a look at exactly what Jackson said.
"Any time you say, ‘There is no other means of salvation but through Jesus Christ, and if you don’t know him and you don’t follow him and you don’t go through him, you are engaged in some sort of false religion,’ that’s controversial," Jackson reportedly told his audience. "But it’s the truth."
From there, the pastor and candidate also reportedly invoked the message inherent in John 14:6, which reads, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." This is a commonly cited verse in church circles.
These comments will certainly rile some non-Christians, however the belief that accepting Jesus Christ is a necessity is very common among believers (it is, in fact, the centerpiece of the Christian world-view). Jay Ahlemann, pastor at Restoration Fellowship Church, echoed this in an interview with the Post, telling the outlet that he agrees with Jackson's interpretation of the Bible and the faith.
"I would expect [non-Christians] would be offended. It’s not our purpose," said Ahlemann. "And [Jackson] said he did not set out to offend people. It’s his purpose to proclaim what the Bible said as a preacher. That was not a political speech. That was a Bible sermon."
E.W. Jackson speaks at a news conference in Manassas, Va., Wednesday, June 12, 2013. Credit: ap
Ahlemann also noted that believers in attendance were proud of what Jackson had to say. A recording of the sermon is available online, but the portion that mentions "false religion" does not seem to be available in the audio file that is currently published on the church's website.
Despite gaining attention, again, these comments are par for the course when it comes to many Christian denominations. It may be the intensity of Jackson's past comments, though, that have some looking for shocking new statements from the pastor-turned politico. After all, he has uttered harsh words in the past about gays and Democrats, alike. Again, let's explore.
"Their minds are perverted, they’re frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally and they see everything through the lens of homosexuality," he once said of homosexuals.
Last year, Jackson also lashed out at liberals -- and his fellow African Americans. He implored blacks to end their alleged "slavish devotion to the Democrat Party" and claimed that the political party has manipulated segments of the population.
E.W. Jackson, Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, rolls up his sleeves as he walks though the crowd gathered in front of the Albemarle, Va., GOP Headquarters in Albemarle Square Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Credit: AP
Jackson's past comments are certainly contentions and he even admitted in his latest sermon that decrying so-called "false religions" would be seen as off-limits by some. But when taken in context, his views on the faith constitute doctrinal elements that are generally accepted by the vast majority of Christian believers, making his utterance something that is touted (or at least embraced) in most churches on a regular basis.
The pastor and politician won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor back in November and he will face Democratic opponent Ralph S. Northam in the state's general election on Nov. 5.
(H/T: Washington Post)