Eric Metaxas

Rick Santorum Presents Latest 'Religious Persecution' Movie

Two current Religious Right fixations — the “persecution” of American Christians and the need for conservatives to do more to influence the pop culture — have come together in movies like “Persecuted” and “We the People—Under Attack.” The latest entry, “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty,” was screened by Rick Santorum at the Heritage Foundation on Monday night.

Santorum said the movie will be released in September. His EchoLight Cinemas is trying to create an alternative to Hollywood distribution channels by building a network of thousands of tech-equipped churches who will sell tickets for "One Generation Away" and other movies. He says the long-term strategy is to bring more people into churches and put the church back at the center of the culture.

"One Generation Away" is described as a documentary, but it’s really a preaching-to-the-choir call to arms for conservative Christians and pastors to get more involved in culture war battles while they still have the freedom to do so. Among the film’s producers are Donald and Tim Wildmon from the American Family Association, which Santorum said is packaging a shorter version of the movie into more of an activist tool.

The title comes from Ronald Reagan – specifically from a speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1961, a time in which Reagan was working with conservatives to rally opposition to Medicare – “socialized medicine”:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

The thrust of "One Generation Away" is that religious freedom in the United States is disappearing fast, and if the church doesn’t fight for it now, it will soon be gone forever. Before running the film on Monday, Santorum quoted Cardinal Francis George, who said during the debate about insurance coverage of contraception, “I expect to die in my bed. I expect my successor to die in prison. I expect his successor to be a martyr.” That’s just the kind of hyperbolic “religious persecution” rhetoric we have come to expect from Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy.

At one point toward the end of the movie, it seems as if the filmmakers might be striking a more reasonable tone, with a couple of speakers saying that Christians should stand up for the rights of people of different faiths — even though the AFA’s chief spokesman opposes First Amendment protections for non-Christians— and others actually acknowledging that it is problematic for American Christians to be complaining of “religious persecution” over policy disputes when Christians and others are facing horrific, deadly persecution in many other parts of the world.

But that caution is quickly abandoned as the movie makes a direct comparison of the status of the Christian church in America with the church in Germany as the Nazis came to power. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who tried to mobilize German Christians to resist Nazi tyranny and was executed by the regime, is held up as the model that American Christians need to be willing to follow.

Eric Metaxas, a Bonhoeffer biographer who became a Religious Right folk hero when he questioned President Obama’s faith at a National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, warned that if the church doesn’t link arms to fight, all will be lost. “The good news,” he said, “is that the American church is slightly more attuned to the rumbling heard in the distance than the German church was in the 30s. The bad news is, only slightly, right?”

The movie cuts to Mike Huckabee saying that Bonhoeffer could have saved his life if he had been willing to soften his faith, but that instead he resisted and rebuked the Nazi regime. And then we’re back to Metaxas to complete the Nazi analogy:

 “The parallel today is simply that. You have a government, a state, which is getting larger and larger and more and more powerful, and is beginning to push against the church. There’s a window of opportunity where we can fight. If we don’t wake up and fight before then, we won’t be able to fight. That’s just what happened in Germany. And that’s the urgency we have in America now. And people that’s incendiary, or I’m being hyperbolic. I’m sorry, I wish, I wish, I wish I were. I’m not.”

Filmmakers said at the screening that they had conducted 75 interviews for the movie, and it sure feels like it.  It includes names that will be well-known to RWW readers, like Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Alveda King, Robert George, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration, and Ryan Anderson and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation.

Also appearing are Rep. Doug Collins; Rick Perry backer Robert Jeffress; Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, which sponsored the infamous and discredited Regnerus “family structures” study; Stephen McDowell of the dominionist Providence Foundation; Gregory Thornbury of Kings College; lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, the Beckett Fund, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund; and a number of pastors.

The film also includes interviews with some opponents of the Religious Right, including Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Princeton’s Peter Singer, and Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Santorum told the audience at Heritage that he wishes he had even more of his opponents included in the film because “they scare the hell out of me” and would help motivate the right-wing base.

In order to keep the movie from being one brutally long succession of talking heads, the filmmakers resort to a tactic of constantly shifting scenes, a couple of seconds at a time, in a way that feels like they got a volume discount on stock images of Americana: boats on the water, kids playing softball, families walking together. There are also odd random fillers, like close-ups of the pattern on a couch in the room in which a speaker is sitting. The endless, repetitive succession of images actually makes the film feel even longer than it actually is. (Zack Ford at ThinkProgress had a similar reaction to this technique.)

The meat of the film, or the “red meat,” mixes the personal stories of people being  victimized by intolerant secularists and/or gay activists with miniature David Bartonesque lectures on the Christian roots of America’s founding; the fact that the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the U.S. Constitution; the notion that the American government is trying to replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” and require any expression of faith to take place behind church walls; and the disgracefulness of making any analogies between the civil rights movement and the LGBT equality movement. The 1947 Supreme Court decision in which Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” phrase was invoked by the Court and “changed everything” is portrayed as nothing more than a reflection of Justice Hugo Black’s hatred of Catholics.

Featured “persecution” stories include:

  • a long advertisement for Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, which recently won its legal battle against the contraception mandate;
  • a baker and florist who ran afoul of their state’s anti-discrimination laws when they refused to provide services for a same-sex couple getting married;
  • cheerleaders at a public high school in Texas who were challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for creating football game banners featuring Christian scriptural quotes;  
  • Catholic Charities being “forced” to give up adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples;
  • an ACLU challenge to a large cross at the Mt. Soledad war memorial; and
  • the supposed frontal attack on the religious freedom of military chaplains as a result of allowing LGBT members of the armed forces to serve openly. On this issue, Tony Perkins declares, “The military is being used as a vanguard of radical social policy. And in order for that policy to permeate and to take root, you’ve got to take out the religious opposition.”

In spite of the parade of horrors, the movie tries to end on an upbeat note, saying that the early Christian church expanded while it was being suppressed, and that it will only take “one spark of revival” to change the nation.  A familiar theme at Religious Right conferences is that blame for America’s decline rests with churches that don’t speak up and pastors who don’t preach or lead aggressively enough. One Generation Away ends on this point, telling Christian pastors it is their responsibility to wake up and challenge their congregants to live their faith “uncompromisingly.”

During the Q&A after the screening, Santorum said the fact that Hobby Lobby was a 5-4 decision demonstrated the importance of the 2016 election. “Part of me almost wishes we’d lost,” says Santorum, because that would have made the threat clearer to conservative activists. “We are one judge away,” he said, adding that “if we get a Democratic president, our five, or four-and-a-half, justices are not going to hold out forever.”

“I just worry,” he said to the young people in the audience, “that the longer we delay, and America sleeps, and your generation is indoctrinated the way it is, the harder it will be to come back.”

Religious Right Reacts To Hobby Lobby Decision: A Victory Over King George III And 'Subsidized Consequence Free Sex'

The Religious Right’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case — in which the Court’s conservative majority ruled that some for-profit businesses must be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate — has started rolling in.

Erick Erickson sees the decision as a victory over the promiscuous:

Eric Metaxas thinks King George III would have been on the side of contraceptive insurance:

The Franciscan University of Steubenville compared businesses that don’t want to provide their employees with contraception coverage to religious martyrs in ancient Rome:

Steve Deace called the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby chain, "the Rosa Parks of the religious liberty fight" and urged the movement not to "settle" with just the Hobby Lobby victory:

If we play our cards right, and God grants us a favor, we can use this as a momentum changer. That’s mainly thanks to the Green family, who just became the Rosa Parks of the religious liberty fight. Just as her refusal to comply with an unjust edict on a bus one day blew the lid off the civil rights movement, perhaps the Greens’ refusal to comply with Obamacare’s unjust edict can accomplish the same for a similarly worthy cause.

But that won’t happen if we “settle” for this win like we have all too many others.

AFA’s Bryan Fischer thinks he knows Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivation to vote with the Court's majority:

And finally, the American Family Association is taking a poll:

Eric Metaxas Points To Gay-Inclusive Churches As Proof America Is Turning Into To Nazi Germany

Yesterday, Kevin Swanson of Generations Radio posted an interview with conservative author and speaker Eric Metaxas, showing once again that it is almost impossible for a Religious Right figure to be so extreme that others will refuse to associate with them.

While promoting his book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Metaxas said that the emergence of Protestant churches that accept gays and lesbians is proof that the US is turning into Nazi Germany.

“I’m talking about the theological liberals in the mainstream church that is just getting off in a whole other direction where they are just failing to teach biblical orthodoxy, failing to teach the Bible as the word of God and yet they still think of themselves as the church,” he said. “We see that obviously happening in issues of sexuality, but how can you say that most mainline denominations in America today are profoundly Christian when they have given up the ghost on all of these fundamentals of the faith? You had the exact same thing happening in Germany. It’s just setting things up so that when evil comes, where do people turn?”

Swanson agreed that the “abortion holocaust” and the “significant rise of homosexuality, something that Nazi Germany was seeing in the 1920s and 1930s,” show that America is on its way to Nazism.

Right Wing Leftovers - 6/20/13

  • The "ex-gay" organization Exodus International has announced that it is shutting down.
  • Bryan Fischer mocks the attendance at President Obama's speech in Berlin because apparently speaking to 5,000 invited guests is worse than being met by tens of thousands of protestors.
  • Michael Farris says that Obama hates private religious education and his speech in Ireland is a "prelude to very dark days at the instigation of tyrants."
  • Eric Metaxas has quit the Evangelical Immigration Table over fears that it is a George Soros front group.  Seriously.
  • FRC prays that God will abolish the IRS.
  • Finally, Glenn Beck thinks President Obama ought to be in jail.

Right Wing Round-Up - 11/8/12

Does the Contraception Mandate Spell the End of America?

Just this morning we had a post noting how Eric Metaxas' book "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" had become a favorite of the Religious Right, largely due to parallels they see between Dietrich Bonhoeffer resistance to the Nazi regime and their own opposition to President Obama and his administration.

Now we see that Metaxas and Jennifer Roback Morse of the NOM affiliated Ruth Institute, are featured in a new video from the Acton Institute in which Metaxas declares that, just as Bonhoeffer warned under the Nazis, the time has come for the Church to rise up together against the Obama administration's contraception mandate because it literally represents "a threat to the United States of America" and failure to stop it means "the end of America" because, as Morse ominously notes, if the government can get away with this, then "they're going to squash you like a bug": 

The Right's Rules for Politicizing Prayer

Remember how right-wing leaders were outraged – OUTRAGED! - when President Obama supposedly politicized the National Prayer breakfast by talking about how his Christian faith influenced his approach to issues like progressive taxation? Such complaints from the likes of Ralph Reed – whose career has been devoted to politicizing faith – were clearly pushing the hypocrisy meter to its limits. As Kyle noted yesterday, Religious Right folks have been celebrating the prayer breakfast speech by Eric Metaxas, a biographer of the Hitler-resisting pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer, because Mataxas made a comparison between the Holocaust and legal abortion, suggesting that supporters of reproductive choice were modern-day Nazis – and certainly not Christians.
 
This morning a “special bulletin” from the dominionist Oak Initiative republished a National Review column from a few weeks ago that we hadn’t noticed at the time. The column by conservative author and producer Mark Joseph is one long extended gloat about just how political – and how anti-Obama – Metaxas’s keynote was. Joseph delights in Metaxas using the prayer breakfast to send “a series of heat-seeking missiles” in the president’s direction:
If the organizers of the national prayer breakfast ever want a sitting president to attend their event again, they need to expect that any leader in his right mind is going to ask — no, demand — that he be allowed to see a copy of the keynote address that is traditionally given immediately before the president’s.
 
That’s how devastating was the speech given by a little known historical biographer named Eric Metaxas, whose clever wit and punchy humor barely disguised a series of heat-seeking missiles that were sent, intentionally or not, in the commander-in-chief’s direction….
Joseph belittles Obama’s speaking of his faith, and giddily cites Metaxas, suggesting that Obama’s references to scripture were actually demonic.
Standing no more than five feet from Obama whose binder had a speech chock full of quotes from the Good Book, Metaxas said of Jesus:
 
“When he was tempted in the desert, who was the one throwing Bible verses at him? Satan. That is a perfect picture of dead religion. Using the words of God to do the opposite of what God does. It’s grotesque when you think about it. It’s demonic.”
 
“Keep in mind that when someone says ‘I am a Christian’ it may mean absolutely nothing,” Metaxas added for good measure, in case anybody missed his point. 
Joseph also mocks Obama for discussing how other religions share with Christians the values contained in the Golden Rule: "Translation: Christianity is great and so are the other major religions, which essentially teach the same stuff."  In contrast, Joseph celebrates Metaxas for insisting on the uniqueness and centrality of Jesus and suggesting that those who support women’s access to abortion live apart from God and Jesus.
 
So, to recap the ground rules for the National Prayer Breakfast: President Obama talking about the values he as a Christian shares with those of other faiths, and how he understands Christian teaching about the responsibilities of those who have had good fortune = bad. Religious Right speaker insisting on the superiority of Christianity, and calling those who disagree with him demonic Nazis = good. 
 
Something to keep in mind next year.

 

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