MOSCOW, Idaho -- Freeze Church Pastor Lloyd Knerr says he considers Gresham Bouma to be one of his "dearest friends," and "one of the most Godly men" he knows.
Thus it was heartbreaking to Knerr when his words were used by people he calls "Moscow progressives" in an attempt to derail Bouma's bid for a seat in the Idaho state Senate.
"Basically they tried to make me the Rev. (Jeremiah) Wright of Gresham," Knerr said. "It was upsetting to me because anything that I may have ever said would be used against Gresham."
Knerr said progressives mined the Potlatch-area church's website and sermons searching for anything harmful to Bouma -- anything to make him look "bigoted" or "Islamophobic."
Looking back, Knerr admits he could have worded some of his sermons differently, however, he stands by his message.
"The attacks on me, on the church and on Gresham were things that I said about other religions who deny the deity of Christ. I am certainly not going to backtrack on that. What I spoke was absolutely the truth.
"There was quite a bit of ink spilled over me condemning other religions and I will go on record in saying that my position is that a person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone apart from any works. If that sets me apart from another religion, so be it. To me that is the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Knerr said it is what people believe about that gospel, which began at Jesus' birth and ended at resurrection, which saves or condemns them.
"What sets our church apart from another religion is our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There's all kinds of things that you can debate about the timing of Christ's return, whether he returns at all, whether there is a literal heaven, whether there's a literal hell, all sorts of things," Knerr said. "But it's the gospel of Jesus Christ, what you believe about his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection and what that means is the central part of what we teach at Freeze Church.
"Would I disagree with other religions? Absolutely. Any religion that denies the deity of Christ we would be set apart from. Scripture tells us that Paul said that even if an angel from heaven should come and preach a different gospel to you than the one we have preached, let him be cursed. I didn't say that, Paul did. We have to make very sure the gospel we accept is the gospel of the Bible."
Knerr said he loves all people, regardless of faith, but he disagrees with America's "all-inclusive" nature when it comes to religions.
"The Muslims believe in the person of Jesus Christ, they believe he was a prophet, a very wise man. The Mormons believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, the Jehovah's Witnesses believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, but none of those are the Jesus Christ of the Bible," he said.
"I am not going to change my stance on that, and I won't soften it.
"That stance is always going to get me in trouble. There is always going to be people that rubs the wrong way but it is not me. Jesus Christ said 'I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the father but through me.' I just try to teach and preach and live the truth of the Bible."
While both Knerr and Wright, the longtime pastor of President Barack Obama, were used to the political detriment of one of their parishioners, Knerr said his sermons are quite different from Wright's.
Knerr said Wright "condemned America" in his speeches, and while Obama eventually distanced himself from the pastor, he sat at his pew for many years, giving credence to attacks on the then presidential hopeful.
"If I taught in here the overthrow of the American government, if I taught in here white superiority, those are absolutely legitimate things to know about a candidate because if he believes that, that brings his character into question," Knerr said.
"I think the difference is Rev. Wright was preaching anti-American, or hatred of America, hatred of the white man, racial division. I never taught anything like that."
Knerr said he wasn't upset that his church came up in the campaign, but he was disappointed it was "viciously" used to cause harm to Bouma and church members.
Knerr said that viciousness, which is all too common in politics, along with the country turning away from God will be its demise, and the United States will become a footnote in history if it continues down such a path.
"I don't have a lot of hope for America. Thomas Jefferson said that the Constitution is only effective for a religious and moral people.
"It is wholly ineffective for any other. We can send all the good politicians we want to Washington, or Boise, or wherever we send them, but America has become immoral, America is no longer a religious nation. We are no longer a nation founded under God. If Thomas Jefferson was right, our Constitution won't work with the kind of people that populate America today because they are not religious and they are not moral.
"... Unless America returns to its moral and religious roots, we're doomed. That grieves me greatly to say that I don't have hope for America, because I love America. Until or unless we return to a fear of God and a worship of God this nation has no hope. Unless we get people like that -- God- fearing men and women -- into our government we have no hope."