As his poll numbers plummet, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is doing everything he can to boost enthusiasm for his candidacy among Religious Right leaders and the conservative white evangelical voters who make up an important part of the GOP’s political base.
Lane says America’s descent into secularism and other evils is not only the fault of judges and politicians, but also pastors who don’t preach aggressively enough. He has complained, for example, that there was “not a peep from the Christian church” in response to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, when he says the church “should have initiated riots, revolution, and repentance.”
As a political operative devoted to getting conservative pastors more engaged in politics, Lane must be thrilled by Trump’s pledge to help churches become more powerful by allowing them to use their tax-exempt contributions as political weapons. Perhaps Lane sees Donald Trump as the answer to this question he once posed: “Who will wage war for the Soul of America and trust the living God to deliver the pagan gods into our hands and restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture?”
Like other Response rallies, the one in Cleveland was sponsored by Christian-nation advocateDavid Lane and emceed by “apostle” Doug Stringer. And like the others, the day featured music and individual and communal prayers divided into alliterative thematic sections: Revelation; Repentance (personal and corporate); Reconciliation; Revival; Reformation; and Refreshing. If you have six hours or so, you can watch the whole thing online.
Stringer said at the beginning of the rally, as he did in conference calls with clergy in the weeks before the event, that its purpose was nonpolitical and that it was intended to unite Christians across lines of race and denomination to pray for the church and the country. But given the time and place of the gathering, the ideological worldview of its organizers and the content of many of the prayers, it is impossible to take the “nonpolitical” claim seriously.
David Lane believes that the U.S. has a mission to advance the Christian faith and he is organizing to elect leaders who support his Christian-nation vision. Stringer is associated with Seven Mountains theology, which holds that all the “mountains” of culture, or spheres of influence in society — education, family, government, media, arts & entertainment, business, and religion — are meant to be run by the right kind of Christians.
It is true that much of the rally was not overtly political. I don’t believe anyone mentioned Donald Trump’s name from the stage, though I doubt I was the only one who thought of him when Stringer said that God is “repelled” by pride and arrogance. Some people prayed for racial reconciliation and for the church to be more welcoming of the stranger and for people to take orphans into their homes. But there was an undeniable political context to Stringer’s declaration that “there is a battle for the soul of our nation.”
“Our private actions have public consequences,” he said, declaring more than once that “every kingdom, every principality, every dominion, every authority must bow its knee to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
A number of speakers echoed Seven Mountains rhetoric, and some were tasked with praying for specific mountains. For example, one person prayed for the media, asking that God “remove those who stir strife and divide.” Others prayed for revival to sweep through the military and college campuses, leading to the rising of a generation “that will not accept compromise.” One prayer leader said “the devil is destroying our families” and called for “male and female marriage” to be established in the land; more than one speaker prayed for husbands to love their wives and for wives to be submissive to their husbands.
The event itself had the feel of an extra-long service at an evangelical megachurch: big stage; rocking worship teams with great singers and musicians; song lyrics projected on a video screen; some people dancing, some kneeling, some prostrate on the floor. The event’s structure, with music and themed sections, worked to create an emotional roller coaster, taking people down into introspection and grief at their and the nation’s sin and brokenness and then up to a triumphant and celebratory victory over sin; the music ranging from quiet and tender to driving dance beats and then back again.
Introducing the section on corporate repentance — not in the sense of corporations but in the collective sense of the sins of the church and the country — Stringer cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Bible verse that is now ubiquitous at Religious Right events: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (New International Version). According to Stringer, the "my people" part of the passage suggests that Christians need to repent and clean up their own act if they are to have any hope of transforming the culture. Among examples speakers gave of “the church” prostituting itself was the acceptance of “moral licentiousness and moral looseness” as well as the existence of legal abortion and human trafficking.
Part of the design of The Response was that no speakers were introduced by name; Religious Right leaders and elected officials were mingled with local pastors and youth. Among the recognizable national figures were anti-gay activist Jim Garlow and anti-abortion activist Janet Porter. Porter could not stick with the “nonpolitical” program; she mentioned anti-abortion language in the Republican platform and made a push for her as-yet-unsuccessful effort to get a so-called “heartbeat bill” through the legislature in Ohio:
In the state where the motto is ‘With God all things are possible,’ we decree that today. In the city that joined together, that said that life begins at the moment of conception in a platform, in Cleveland, Ohio, that saw the end to hope deferred with a victory, I speak victory to life, victory to those fighting for life, victory to the heartbeat bill, which has passed the Ohio House of Representatives, has been blocked in the Senate. We say, ‘Remove the obstacles, God!’ No more hope deferred! No more delay! We thank you for victory. And we say God, ‘do it again, do it again in Jesus’ name.’
Another speaker prayed for public officials who are "men and women of the church" and asked that God "grip" the hearts of those who are not so that they might live and legislate "according to a biblical worldview":
And the other government leaders that God has put there, we must pray constantly that the Lord would grip their hearts and compel them and they would come to know him as his personal savior that they too might live according and legislate and be leaders and speak according to a biblical worldview, that they would know the savior and know the truth and live it out.
It is essential that our laws and policies continue to reflect the truth of the Judeo-Christian principles and values that God himself has established in this nation. So let’s pray for our leaders right now. Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on the leaders of this nation for those that know you Lord Jesus, let them not lean on their own understanding but let them turn to you that you would direct their paths, Holy Spirit.
Father, those that do not know you, God we ask that you would pour out Lord, that their hearts would be open, the scales would fall off, and they would see the truth. Father, we ask that thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, in America as it is in heaven, in Cleveland as it is in heaven. God, we ask that you, Holy Spirit, that we our government leaders we would love what you love, we would hate what you hate, and that our hearts would be for you alone...
Stringer said that even unbelievers would benefit from a world in which evangelical Christians had greater influence over government and culture. Religious leaders often cite the biblical injunction for Christians to be “salt and light” in the world; toward the end of The Response, Stringer proposed a new metaphor:
Those of us who’ve overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony have an opportunity in the midst of a world that stinks to be a fragrance of the kingdom of heaven…We live in a stinky world, but we’re called to be that Febreze, that sprayer of the fragrance of heaven. Wherever there’s stink we want to spray the presence of God.
Right-wing moviemaking has been a growthindustryinrecentyears, as conservative activists set out to challenge what they see as the damaging cultural impact of liberalism’s dominance in Hollywood. The latest example is “Torchbearer,” which director Steve Bannon called “a Christian war film” in remarks before a screening in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention last week.
“Torchbearer” stars Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty patriarch who became a folk hero in the right-wing war on “political correctness” when the show was temporarily suspended by A&E amid controversy over Robertson's inflammatory remarks about homosexuality and black people in the pre-civil-rights-movement Louisiana. The movie was shown to distributors in Cannes and will be released in theaters in August.
The hour-long film is a collaboration between well-known right-wing groups. Bannon is executive chairman of Breitbart News; the script was written by a Breitbart editor, Rebecca Mansour. It was produced by Citizens United, the organization whose movie attacking Hillary Clinton was used by conservatives on the Supreme Court to gut regulation of political money in Citizens United the court ruling. Religious Right political operative Ralph Reed attended the premiere, and at a reception following the screening, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., took the opportunity to slam Clinton and praise the work of Citizens United.
The idea for “Torchbearer” came from Robertson’s nephew Zach Dasher, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014. The plan began to gel during conversations at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, at which Robertson was honored with the Andrew Breitbart Award. The film includes a clip from Robertson’s CPAC speech warning about sexually transmitted diseases.
Dasher introduced other pre-movie speakers, calling Citizens United’s David Bossie “Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare” and celebrating that “Breitbart is waging war on liberalism in America.” Bossie said “Torchbearer” is the sixth collaboration between Citizens United and Bannon.
Dasher said he didn’t want to make a “typical cheesy Christian film.” Judging by that standard, you would have to say the movie succeeds. But it is hard to imagine anyone, even people who share Robertson’s evangelical faith and political beliefs, could enjoy the film very far beyond the opening sequences, which intersperse shots of Robertson calmly boating, fishing and hunting with sneering critics calling him bigoted and stupid, clearly meant to set up the narrator as a common-man hero despised by the cultural elites.
The film combines Robertson presenting an evangelical message of salvation through Jesus Christ with a theory about religion’s role in human history and society. Says Robertson, “When you take out God as the anchor of your civilization you open the door to tyranny and instead of human rights you have the will to power of the ruler who makes himself the sole determiner of what is true and just. Might makes right.”
More specifically, it is a warning to Americans that societies not grounded in reverence and fear for the Judeo-Christian God, and His teachings on right and wrong, inevitably descend into depravity and brutality.
Robertson says the Scopes trial on the teaching of evolution, during which H.L. Mencken mocked religious opponents of teaching evolution in schools, was “a watershed event that would slowly unravel the bond that wove the Creator into the very fabric of American life. God would be cast out of the public square, out of education, out of national discourse, out of the popular culture altogether.”
It is hard to describe how disturbing this movie is, on multiple levels.
Firstly, it visually and emotionally assaults the viewer by lingering on gruesome images of violence and death, using reenactments and animation as well as the most graphic historical footage from Auschwitz and more recent images of victims of ISIS and Boko Haram being beaten, shot and burned to death. I would call the movie’s infliction of trauma gratuitous, but it seems a very purposeful act meant to provoke and inflame and generate a rage to war.
Also jarring are the vast leaps through time and the excising of inconvenient truths that would undermine the moviemakers’ message, which seems to be that the history of the last 2015 years is a story of barbarity inflicted on Christians and others by those who have abandoned God or worship the wrong God or gods.
The movie’s timeline starts in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve inviting evil into the world with their disobedience of God. Then we’re in Athens to talk about Aristotle’s belief in a “first cause” and four centuries later the apostle Paul’s trip there; then to Rome for the execution of Peter and Paul, the emperor Nero’s brutal massacres of Christians, and the Roman empire’s continued persecution of Christians over their refusal to adhere to the “civic religion” (dog-whistle alert) of the time, which required treating the emperor as a god.
From there, we hop to the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, conveniently skipping over a millennium-plus of history that includes abundant butchery carried out by people and societies fervent in their religious beliefs, particularly European Christians in wars against heretics and each other and during the conquest of the Americas.
Then it’s a short hop to the American Revolution. Robertson contrasts the American founders’ reverence for God with the atheistic French Revolution and Robespierre’s bloody reign of terror. The movie does not address the American Civil War, in which God-fearing Christians on both sides engaged in bloody combat.
At the turn of the 20th century, Robertson says, “worship of science becomes the new religion.” The film includes a segment on the development of the atomic bomb, “the first weapon of mass destruction.” It features a clip of nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer reciting language from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Robertson responds, “So fallen man, unanchored by God, uses the power of creation to destroy. Mechanized war is upon us.”
It is not entirely clear how this segment fits the movie’s thesis that without the Judeo-Christian God as an anchor, there is no protection for human rights and human dignity. Are the filmmakers suggesting that Franklin Delano Roosevelt — whose public prayers for the D-Day invasion are cited admiringly in the film — was “unanchored by God” and was wrong to back development of the atomic bomb in fierce competition with Nazi scientists?
Speaking of Nazis, the movie devotes significant time to Auschwitz, where Robertson talks at length about the details of the horrific, systematized mass murder that took place there, which he blames in part on philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s claim that God is dead.
To be sure, the Holocaust is a brutal historical reality that should continue to be examined and understood as a warning about the way evil can be fostered and carried out at a national level, something that has been on many people’s minds during this political season. But this movie’s use of the stories and images of the people murdered at Auschwitz feels shamefully exploitative, especially in light of the fact that the film contains not a word about the long history of Christian anti-Semitism. Acknowledging centuries of deadly violence against Jews by Christians and in the name of Christianity would, again, undermine or at least complicate the movie’s central claim, and so it is simply ignored.
The same could be said of the film’s use of the civil rights era in the United States. The movie shows footage of the brutality meted out against those who were peacefully protesting segregation, but portrays this as another example of what happens when societies have rejected God and the weak and powerless are vulnerable to the man “with the biggest stick.”
But the big-stick brutality of Jim Crow and the official violence that enforced it were not being waged by a people who had rejected God. They were carried out by people who declared themselves to be acting in His name. Robertson himself has said that black people were more “godly” and “happy” under Jim Crow.
The movie quotes Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail as an example of religious faith in the service of public righteousness. But it utterly neglects how much slavery and Jim Crow were also justified by religious arguments, and how intensely the civil rights movement was seen by many white Christian leaders in the south as an attack on their faith as well as their culture. The late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., whose son had a prominent speaking role at the RNC, preached that the Supreme Court justices who ruled against segregated schools were not heeding God’s word.
Moving to the present era, Robertson warns against poll-driven morality – a not-too-subtle reference to growing support for LGBT people – and says a “sentimental need to be nice to each other” is not enough to ward off barbarism. Warning that “sentimentalism falls prey to nihilism,” Robertson says of the Hippies, “what started out as free love and flowers in your hair ended up with the Manson murders.” The movie includes footage of abortion activists’ anti-Planned Parenthood “sting” videos as well as American pop stars in sensual performances. “We are crotch-driven animals following our instincts,” he complains. “The sexual experience is now the high summit of our happiness.”
As the movie nears an end, viewers are subjected to graphic images of brutality and genocide being carried out by ISIS and affiliated terrorist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria; Robertson reads from the biblical Book of Revelation.
And then there’s an abrupt shift back into the bayou made famous by Robertson and his family. Robertson wades into the water, where one at a time, people walk out to join him and be baptized. It is strikingly peaceful end to a “war movie.” Even if one is not tempted to join the line of people being baptized by Robertson, the idea of a soothing dip is very appealing after being subjected to “Torchbearer.”
For the past couple of months, Christian-nation advocateDavid Lane and dominionst Doug Stringer have been organizing a day-long prayer rally that will take place in Cleveland this Saturday. Timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention, the event will be the latest in the series of “The Response” rallies organized around Republican politicians. They are modeled after a series of “The Call” events organized by dominionist “apostle” Lou Engle.
Stringer has been on the ground in Cleveland meeting with local clergy to promote Saturday’s event as a nonpolitical opportunity for Christians to come together across racial and denominational lines to pray for America. That was also the message delivered on a pre-Response conference call last week, on which Stringer and other organizers described the event as a time of unity and prayer so that the Christian church can be a source of healing and hope at this “providential time” in our nation.
That’s the bait part of the bait-and-switch nature of these events. The switch comes at the rallies themselves, which, along with prayer and praise music, promote the Religious Right’s political agendas on abortion, LGBT rights and separation of church and state.
As we noted when the Cleveland Response was announced:
Lane and Stringer took the Response to Charlotte, North Carolina, in September 2015. At this “nonpolitical” event, Religious Right rock star David Benham talked about gay rights groups who he said were out to “force” their agenda on the country, portraying a “spiritual battle that is now waging before us in this nation, the home of the brave and the land of the free.” Lane opened the “nonpolitical” North Carolina Response rally with a prayer that talked about the lack of prayer and Bible reading in the public schools, abortion, and “homosexuals praying at the inauguration.” Another speaker prayed for God to “help us be like Kim Davis, obeying the Constitution and defying federal criminals.”
Event sponsor David Lane is an intensely political operative who believes America’s mission is to advance the Christian faith. He has been trying to organize “an army” of conservative pastors to run for office in hopes that each of them will mobilize hundreds of volunteers to help turn out the evangelical vote.
While Lane’s dream of getting Religious Right leaders to coalesce around a single candidate was, to a significant extent, achieved this year with nearly unanimous backing for Ted Cruz, many evangelical voters did not follow the script. Lane is now putting his faith in Trump, who he believes “can be one of the top 4 presidents in American history.”
It was hardly surprising to see Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. on the speakers’ list for the Republican convention. After all, Falwell has compared Trump to Jesus Christ, the biblical King David, Martin Luther King Jr., and his own father, Jerry Falwell Sr. That’s the kind of adoration Trump appreciates.
Falwell’s man-crush on Trump began long before the current campaign. In 2012, he told Newsmax that Trump’s speech at the university’s weekly convocation was “probably the best” in the history of the school. Trump’s message — he told students to be sure to “get even” with anyone who slights them — was seen by some as not particularly Christian, but Falwell defended Trump’s remarks as not at all contrary to the turn-the-other-cheek message of Jesus.
Like Trump, Falwell is not one to worry about ideological consistency. In February, when Trump was embroiled in a war of words with Pope Francis, Falwell rushed to his defense, saying “Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run the country.” This was a hilariously un-self-aware comment from someone presiding over the empire that his father built on the premise that the Bible has clear instructions for people who run the country.
And this year, Falwell is holding nothing back. He invited Trump to speak at Liberty on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, something he said was a purposeful decision, one that generated some student protest. Falwell’s endorsement of Trump came just before the Iowa caucuses, and his effusive introductory remarks were turned into a radio ad by the campaign. And that was in spite of the transparent, cynical charlatanism of Trump’s Bible-waving. The candidate’s actual familiarity with the Bible was revealed by his laughter-provoking reference to “two Corinthians” when his written speech referred to the book of Second Corinthians.
Remarkably, Falwell has made “character” one justification for his endorsement. In March, Falwell recorded a robocall for Trump in which he attacked the candidate favored by most Religious Right leaders, calling Ted Cruz a “master politician” and practitioner of “dirty tricks.” Said Falwell, “Ambition must never be a substitute for character. Please vote for Donald Trump.”
Falwell has had little patience with other conservative Christians who have been critical of his embrace of Trump; when some expressed dismay about a picture of Falwell standing with Trump with a framed Playboy magazine cover visible on the wall behind them, he compared them to Pharisees.
Falwell may see parallels between Trump’s business doings and his own empire-building style. Thanks to a decision to push into distance learning — online education that doesn’t require much infrastructure — and thanks to a massive flow of federal student aid, Falwell has built Liberty into the biggest nonprofit private university in the U.S. and the largest Christian college in the world.
While providing a platform for right-wing candidates who trash federal involvement in education, Liberty has taken advantage of Democratic-supported increases in student aid that were part of the much-maligned-by-the-Right 2009 stimulus bill. At the same time, Falwell preaches the small-government gospel that portrays care for the poor as the responsibility of the church, not the government.
Falwell also seems to envision himself as something of a Trumpish flouter of political correctness. In December, after the mass shooting in Bernardino, Falwell told Liberty students:
If some of those people in that community center had had what I've got in my back pocket right now [applause] ... is it illegal to pull it out? I don't know. I've always thought that if more people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill. So, I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. Let's teach 'em a lesson if they ever show up here.
Earlier this year Falwell’s comments about Muslims led several Virginia high school debate teams to boycott the state finals because they were being held at Liberty.
Under Falwell’s leadership, Liberty reflects an institutional commitment to much of the Religious Right’s political agenda. For example:
In 2010 it hosted some of the country’s most well-known anti-gay activists for a conference and symposium on the “homosexual agenda” and its threat to religious freedom.
A few years ago, journalist Sarah Posner reported that Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver taught students that when faced with conflict between “God’s law” and “man’s law,” they should resolve that conflict through “civil disobedience.”
In 2010, AFP profiled a Liberty science class field trip to the Natural History Museum to help them learn to debunk the theory of evolution in favor of the Creationist belief that God created the world in a week about 6,000 years ago.
Falwell has invited climate change denialists as a way to challenge environmentalists who use “pseudo-science to promote political agendas” and help students “who come from public schools where the truth of global warming and the science of global warming is now always known.”
Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson fielded a question from a viewer who asked if church-state separation groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State “ever fight against any other religions” besides Christianity.
Robertson said that such groups exclusively target Christians because “they understand Christianity is where the power is — the power doesn’t exist in Islam, the power doesn’t exist in Baha’i or any of these fringe religions.”
“They fight against Christianity because Christianity touches the souls of people and the devil regards Christianity as a threat, and of course it is a threat because we’re going to overturn him and his kingdom.”
When Johnson noted that many Christians don’t view Gingrich as someone who reflects “the embodiment of a lifetime of proper behavior,” Lane admitted that Gingrich isn’t perfect, but recounted that in 2007 Gingrich had said to James Dobson, “I’ve gotten on my knees and sought God’s forgiveness.” Lane quoted Tim LaHaye calling Gingrich the “best prepared to be president.”
Lane complained that Republican leaders had told voters that if they were given majorities in the House and Senate, they would “storm the gates of hell with a water pistol.” But, he said, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell didn’t do anything with the majorities they were given.
Lane said he has been working his way through the biblical book of Isaiah, and said that has convinced him that “a judgment of God on a nation is the removal of military, political, and religious leaders, on a nation that has left Him, and He leaves the nation with docile, weak leadership. I think that’s where America is at this point.” Lane ticked off a list of Democratic political figures, along with Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor, saying “we’re being ruled by children.”
By nominating Gingrich, Lane said, Trump could show that he’s bringing “adults” to the table. “Newt, when he walks into the room, and I don’t care which room, he’s the smartest guy in the room,” Lane said, urging listeners to contact Trump’s campaign or speak out publicly on Gingrich’s behalf. Asked by Johnson how he would feel about Mike Huckabee as a VP nominee, Lane said Huckabee would be “tremendous.”
Lane portrayed the choice facing voters this fall as “who’s going to do the least damage to America at this point?”
“I don’t have a clue” what Donald Trump is going to do, he said, but Hillary Clinton would “stack the court with progressives,” leading to a loss of religious freedom and the right to bear arms. He warned that “homosexual marriage” and “transgender bathrooms” are just the beginning of what “secularist, liberal judges” would impose on the country under a Clinton administration. It’s important for “evangelical Christians and pro-life Catholic Christians” to engage politically, he said, because “somebody’s values are going to reign supreme.”
As he likes to do, Lane cited the Mayflower Compact to assert that “America was founded by Christians for the advancement of the Christian faith.”
Lane also talked about his project to recruit conservative pastors to run for political office, which had a goal of getting 1,000 pastors to run for office in 2016 in order to generate hundreds of thousands of evangelical volunteers doing voter turnout work. Lane’s efforts have fallen short of that goal; he told Johnson that 200 pastors are running this year and another 200 are committed to running in 2017 and 2018.
Hamner’s enthusiastically unhinged style is apparent from her most recent Sons of Liberty post, in which she slams “Dictator Hussein Soetoro” (her name for President Obama) for campaigning on behalf of “Dictator-in-waiting Hillary Clinton.”
A man who has proven to be a traitor, a criminal, a lawless individual and Godless man is “vouching” for the “trustworthiness and honesty” of another traitor, criminal, lawless individual and Godless woman. How rich! Odd isn’t it that Bill and Hillary Clinton first exposed Hussein Soetoro as not meeting the requirements for holding the office of the president according to the Constitution; yet, this man is backing this crime family to occupy the White House. Hussein Soetoro is not the “forgive and forget” type. His backing of Hillary has only one purpose – to secure a pardon should he be subsequently charged with crimes against the United States once he leaves office.
Hamner says Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state was “nothing more than an agreement between rival mafia leaders” and calls Obama’s support for her presidential run an “example of the corruption, cronyism, and crooked politics that infests government and the political parties.”
Given half a chance, Clinton would slit the throat of Hussein Soetoro as she smiled in his face while the Dictator-in-chief would stab her in the back, throw her under the bus and blame it on “climate change.”
In other words, this is the biggest ruse and psyop on the American public by two criminal politicians ever in the history of this nation. Hopefully, the voters will see through this charade for what it is. If not, there is no helping those who refuse to see.
Dean, the host of Hamner’s diatribes, is a long-time political ally of former Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and has been an invited speaker at Liberty Counsel’s annual Awakening conference. At the Awakening conference in 2013, he told participants that Supreme Court rulings on church-state issues had opened the door to Satanism, and said there is no justification for Christian parents to send their children to public schools.
Sons of Liberty’s website, which calls Dean a “preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who speaks the uncompromising truth in an apostolic and prophetic style,” notes that he is a graduate of the Institute on the Constitution, the Christian reconstructionist group led by Michael Peroutka, a longtime ally of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. The Institute teaches that, in Peroutka's words, “the function of civil government is to obey God and to enforce God’s law – PERIOD.”
It might seem strange that Christian Right figures would rally around Gingrich, the thrice-married former speaker of the House who abandoned that office nearly two decades ago after an ethics scandal and clear signs that his colleagues were about to drive him from the office. But here’s why: Gingrich has spent the past decade promoting the Christian Right’s revisionist history, beliefs about a divinely inspired American exceptionalism, anti-Obama conspiracy theories and diatribes about the supposed war on Christianity in the U.S.
Newt and Callista have, following in the footsteps of GOP operative David Barton, made a cottage industry out of pushing similar claims. It is certainly no coincidence that an updated third edition of the couple’s 2006 book, “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future,” has just been published.
The preface to the new edition warns that “the secular Left’s effort to drive God out of America’s public square” has “only gotten worse” since the book’s original publication. And in another sign of Gingrich embracing the extreme views of Christian right leaders and their political allies, the book echoes right-wing leaders’ rhetorical attacks on the federal courts, which Mike Huckabee made a central theme of his candidacy:
For two generations we have passively accepted the judiciary’s assault on the values of the overwhelming majority of Americans. It is time to insist on judges who understand that throughout our history – and continuing to this day – Americans believe that their fundamental rights come from God and are therefore unalienable….
…Judicial supremacy...only survives due to the passivity of the executive and legislative branches, which have refused to use their respective powers to correct the Court…
If we are to truly secure our religious liberty in America, the people and their elected representatives will need to reject the theory of judicial supremacy and passivity as a response to Supreme Court rulings that ignore executive and legislative concerns and which seek to institute policy changes that constitutionally rest with Congress.
And just to make it clear, Gingrich believes a president who isn’t afraid to act can lead Congress in nullifying decisions, such as the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, that he disagrees with:
A president who believes that judicial supremacy is a threat to our freedoms will use any appropriate executive branch powers, by itself and acting in coordination with the legislative branch, to check and balance any Supreme Court decision he or she believes to be fundamentally unconstitutional.
But Gingrich has been doing more to win Religious Right loyalty than writing books and giving speeches. In 2008, he started an organization called Renewing American Leadership, which launched a project called Pray and ACT. Among the dominionist figures involved in the effort were Lou Engle and Lance Wallnau, who has been saying for months that Donald Trump is anointed by God.
Renewing American Leadership won fans among anti-gay activists when it poured $150,000 into the successful 2010 campaign to unseat Iowa Supreme Court justices who had ruled in favor of marriage equality in the state. Christian nationalist “historian” and GOP operative David Barton was a founding board member of Renewing American Leadership; anti-gay activist Jim Garlow was brought on as president after he made a national name for himself organizing California churches in favor of California’s Prop 8. Gingrich, Garlow and Barton hosted a conference call for pastors gloating about their 2010 victories. In it, Gingrich said that “taking on the judicial class” and telling judges that “we are not going to tolerate enforced secularization of our country” is “one of the most important things we can engage in.”
Gingrich’s personal re-branding as a conservative Christian culture warrior explains why some of the same Religious Right figures who are backing Trump are pushing Newt for VP.
When Gingrich was campaigning for the 2012 presidential nomination, Jerry Falwell Jr. was among those who rallied to the former speaker’s side when other religious conservatives questioned his appeal to evangelical voters. (Gingrich had given the 2007 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.) Lane was also among those who vouched for Gingrich during that race, as did Wallnau, who “urged adherents to read an eighteen-page treatise Garlow had written outlining the reasons conservative Christians should support Gingrich,” The Nation reported. “Among them: his ‘Churchillian fortitude,’ his ‘understanding of war’ and his talent for taking ‘a verbal chain saw to the hollow trunks of the trees of radical secularism.’”
Gingrich adds that he has studied the founding documents, including the Declaration, and believes they call for “a very bold restructuring of Washington, DC, on a scale that nobody in Washington in either party is prepared to talk about.”
“Newt may be the only living former legislator who can walk in on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, with the working knowledge to orchestrate and drive an agenda for limited government, deregulation of business, lower taxes and return of control to the states,” Mr. Lane said.
“Besides helping pull the wagon to get Trump elected, Newt may be the only adult in the room when it comes to governing with the institutional knowledge and grit to make the hard decisions to save America,” the Los Angeles-based Mr. Lane added.
It’s not clear what Trump sees in Gingrich, beyond his arrogance, narcissism and appeal to an important part of the Republican Party’s base that Trump is actively courting. But it might just as well be Gingrich’s reputation for cutthroat politics. During his heyday in the 1990s, Gingrich did much to encourage ugliness and bitter partisanship in American politics. A now infamous memo from his political organization GOPAC, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” urged conservatives to smear their opponents with words such as “betray,” “corrupt,” “decay,” “disgrace,” “pathetic,” “radical,” “sick,” “traitors” and many more.
“We have been called here strategically, as a strategic assembly, at a very critical juncture in time,” Bramnick told attendees as they ate their lunches and waited to hear from conservative activists David and Jason Benham. Bramnick said that while we are standing at the precipice, “God is not through with America” and the country is about to be hit by a third Great Awakening.
“We’re not to give up on America,” he said. “We’re not to give up on Florida, and we have an authority in this room to declare God’s will for America, and God’s will for the White House.”
Bramnick cited Cindy Jacobs:
It’s time to awaken! Some trust in chariots, some trust in horsemen, but if there’s ever a day to trust in the Lord our God it is today, and God’s eyes are upon this conference, God’s eyes are upon Florida, God’s eyes are upon Orlando.
In the beginning of this year, Cindy Jacobs had a word for Florida. And the word was, from the state of Florida, in 2016, Florida is going to be in the eyes of the nation in a unique way. We were in the eyes of the nation in West Palm Beach, and it was Florida that determined George W. Bush’s election as we prayed and sought the face of the Lord. It’s going to be Florida, a tipping point state, and the Lord says, you are to take the points these days. I’m going to bring a new unity on the body of Christ. The enemy has unleashed division over the body of Christ, but if we arise today as one man and decree and declare the will of the Lord, God can shift Florida, and from Florida can shift our nation. It’s time to arise and shine, for our light has come.
Really, if we realize the authority that we have, the power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within us. A Daniel with three Hebrew slaves, Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, in the midst of the worst Babylonian captivity, had an authority, how much more 1500 people out of Orlando declare, God is not through with America, America’s greatest days are not over, and God by his Holy Spirit can appoint the president that God has ordained.”
Bramnick returned to Jacobs’ prediction about Florida’s impact in 2016:
Orlando is going to be a city where God is about to visit. Look around, we are here in Orlando, a few days away from the Florida primary, but I am here to tell you, God is on his throne, and he is looking throughout all the earth for those whose eyes are stayed upon him, that we might arise and declare, America shall be restored back to Jesus.
In his closing prayer Bramnick declared the God’s hand-picked candidate will be elected president and usher in a third Great Awakening:
Father, awaken the sleeping the church. Unite us. We come against the diabolic spirit of division in the body of Christ, that spirit that would put us to sleep, spirits of anti-Christ and witchcraft, and we declare out of Orlando, the church of Jesus Christ is arising, not by power, not by might, but by your spirit. And father we declare out of Orlando, shift for Florida, shift for the United States, and the man you have selected to be our next president, shall be elected president of the United States, and shall usher in the Third Great Awakening…
At last weekend’s Awakening conference in Orlando, Team Cruz was the only presidential campaign with a visible presence, hoping to boost support in the 10 days that were remaining before the crucial March 15 primary in Florida. Campaign volunteers staffed a table, selling t-shirts and bumper stickers, but what they were really looking for was pastors who would publicly back Cruz.
Religious Right leaders, including Ted’s father Rafael Cruz, often blame the decline of America on pastors who aren’t preaching aggressively enough. That message was also heard at the Awakening and the Cruz campaign gave pastors in attendance a way to do something about it. The campaign asked pastors to sign a commitment card allowing their names to be used publicly. It also encouraged pastors to host a voter registration drive and regularly address political and cultural issues from the pulpit.
“Your endorsement encourages members of your congregation and your community to vote for Ted Cruz,” said a flyer aimed at pastors. “It inspires courage in other leaders to endorse too, multiplying the influence.”
Among the speakers at “The Awakening” conference, which was held in Orlando on Saturday, was televangelist James Robison. Robison’s main message — literally screamed at Awakening attendees — was that sitting out the election is not an option, even if Donald Trump is the nominee, as he derided those who suggest ways to manipulate the election process to deny Trump the nomination.
Robison mentioned David Green, head of Hobby Lobby and Religious Right folk hero, who recently endorsed Marco Rubio and said that Trump scares him to death. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich all love the Lord, said Robison, and “they would be my choice,” but it is unlikely that any of them will get the nomination.
It doesn’t seem like that may be the person we get. So what are you gonna do, throw your hands up? Are you gonna do what one of the bravest Christians I know in this nation said earlier this week he’s gonna do? ‘If it boils down to that person and the person on the other side, I’m staying home.’ DON’T DO IT! And I will go to David Green’s home and drive him to the poll. He’s a man of God. He’s an incredible example of Christ in a man and a man in Christ. We don’t opt out! We’re His ambassadors in Christ, more than conquerors in Christ, witnesses for Christ.
What happens, said Robison, is up to God, not would-be kingmakers. Robison drew an analogy to the 1980 election, when the Democratic candidate was Jimmy Carter, a Sunday school teacher and a born-again Christian who “truly loved the Lord” but could not provide the principled leadership that the country needed. “God miraculously gave us an actor that had an encounter with God,” said Robison.
Robison said he hopes that Christian leaders who are close to Trump like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Robert Jeffress will lead Trump to a “road to Damascus experience” that would demonstrate God’s power to the world even more effectively than the Religious Right successfully playing kingmaker. For the world to see God transform someone “who so obviously needs changing” would be, he said, like writing another chapter in the biblical book of Acts.
(Of course, Trump already claims to be a “big-league” Christian).
Robison said the U.S. is experiencing its most critical days since the nation’s founding: “We just lost a Catholic Supreme Court justice that was a gift from God. They need to be replaced by men who have an understanding of truth like him.” But, he said, there has also been good news.
Now, I want you to really listen up, because we’re seeing prayer answered, when you think about this…Do you agree that you heard more candidates running for the highest office in the land talking about the importance of life, standing for life, did they not? Did we not have more true Christians who know Christ personally running for office than you’ve ever seen in your lifetime?
Robison also used his remarks to promote The Stream, an online news site he publishes that is dedicated to “championing freedom, smaller government and human dignity,” and to attacking “the Left” for its views on government:
The ones of what is referred to as the Left, they say, ‘Depend on Pharaoh, depend on Caesar, depend on the government, depend on a source other than God, and Uncle Sam will now be Father God and take care of you.’ That’s what they’re saying. That’s the lie, and it came straight out of the pit of hell. Now you may be a wonderful person in that party, but that belief system is rotten to the core. It’s simply anti-biblical, anti-God, anti-truth and anti-people. It will not work. It will keep us in bondage.
At that “Pastors and Pews” event, to which Brody had “exclusive access,” Cruz told “hundreds of pastors and their wives” that “the men and women in this room have the ability to change the outcome of the South Carolina primary, and in doing that to change the outcome of the presidential election, and in doing that to change the outcome, the direction of this country.” He told the pastors they could bring the country back to “the free market principles, the constitutional liberties, to the Judeo-Christian values that built this nation.”
In an exclusive interview with The Brody File down in South Carolina, GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz says believers in Jesus Christ must stand and vote biblical values rather than letting non-believers selected the leaders of our country.
"For far too long, Christians have been staying home, have been ceding the public square to non-believers and when we look at the state of the country, when our heart weeps at what's happening to the country and we wonder why is it that the federal government is waging war on life, is waging war on marriage, is waging war on religious liberty is it any wonder when 54 million evangelical Christians stayed home in 2012, did not vote?”
Cruz continues: "If we allow our leaders to be selected from non-believers we shouldn't be surprised when our leaders don't share our values. So what I'm working to do more than anything else is energize and empower the grassroots and do everything we can for Christians to stand up and vote biblical values."
As others have noted, Cruz’s assertion about 54 million evangelical voters sitting out the 2012 election is a dubiousclaim. And his assertion that “non-believers” are choosing America’s leaders is a dismissal of the faith of millions of Christians and other people of faith who voted for Barack Obama and who support other progressive candidates.
Brody has praised Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim comments in the past, but in this week’s coverage of the Cruz interview, Brody engages in barely veiled cheerleading for Cruz’s candidacy:
Look folks, evangelicals have an important decision to make. Ted Cruz is speaking their language and has a record that matches his rhetoric. You would think that would be a perfect match for evangelicals and so far, at least in Iowa, they have shown strong support.
Can evangelicals in South Carolina duplicate that effort? We’re going to find out. Cruz's team will need to work overtime because with Donald Trump being such a factor in this presidential race, he’ll need EVEN MORE evangelicals to show up.
It becomes a numbers game. You can easily make the argument that without significant turnout by evangelicals in Iowa, Cruz would have lost the Hawkeye state.
It looks as if America has come to her kairos, her moment in time—to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.
As we begin the New Year, pastors must begin to lay the prayer covering for the spiritual awakening and resurrection of America. We are asking the 100,000 American Renewal Project pastors to begin and lead one-hour, weekly prayer services asking God for mercy for what we, Christians, have allowed in our once Christian nation.
Donald Trump’s call to bar all Muslims from entering the country was widely recognized as an appeal for explicit religious discrimination and generated significant pushback. But many of Trump’s right-wing defenders have turned to an argument that has long bounced around Religious Right circles: that Muslims are not entitled to the religious liberty protections of the First Amendment because Islam is somehow not a religion. A few years ago, for example, retired Lt. Gen Jerry Boykin called Islam “a totalitarian way of life” that “should not be protected under the First Amendment.”
The fact of the matter is, Islam is different. I know this is going to come as a shock to a lot of people, and I mean this sincerely. Islam is not just a religion. It is also a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, it is also a civil government, it is also a form of government. And, so, the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.
Conservative columnist and radio host Andrew McCarthy has similarly defended Trump’s comments, saying that Islam is not merely a religion because it “has ambitions to be more than a religion, that is to say that it is an ideological, sweeping system that does not recognize a division between spiritual life on the one hand and political and civic life on the other.”
“Religious freedom and our liberty is ordered liberty under the Constitution,” Perkins said. “And as Dr. Caron pointed out, and I know this is driving the left crazy, that Islam is not just a religion, Islam is an economic system, it is a judicial system, it is a compressive system which is incompatible with the Constitution. That’s what Dr. Carson said and he happens to be correct.”
More recently, Perkins defended Trump with a dubiously specific statistic, saying that “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion — the rest is a combination of military, judicial, economic and political system.” Televangelist Pat Robertson also said this month that people should not view Islam as a religion but rather a “political system masquerading as a religion.”
Wait a minute. Aren’t these the same people who repeatedly insist that the Bible is the final authority on everything, from laws regulating personal relationships to economic and tax policy, and environmental protection? Anti-marriage-equality activists have insisted that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling was in violation of “God’s law” and therefore “illegitimate.”
Government leaders are charged with wielding the Word of God as an instrument of Justice, promoting God’s moral law as the foundation of right and wrong, encouraging those who do well biblically, and executing judgment on those who break the law.
So, a thought for Religious Right leaders: If you are going to argue for stripping Muslims of their First Amendment religious liberty protections based on your interpretation of Islam as an enterprise that is more political and ideological than religious, you may have to trim your own political sails quite a bit. Either that, or quit pretending you are proponents of religious freedom, and admit that you, like Bryan Fischer, believe the First Amendment applies only to Christians, or, like Tony Perkins, that gay-supporting Christians don’t deserve the same legal protections because a “true religious freedom” has to “come forth from religious orthodoxy.” Just don’t try to pretend your definition of “religious freedom” owes anything to Thomas Jefferson or the First Amendment.
The movement’s leaders have been seething for eight years now that they were forced to rally behind Republican presidential candidates they weren’t excited about — John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. After years of angling to prevent that from happening in 2016, “several dozen” Religious Right leaders met in secret in early December and voted to rally around Ted Cruz.
National Review’s Tim Alberta describes the event, which Cruz backers entered with the upper hand. It took five ballots for Cruz's supporters to browbeat backers of Marco Rubio into submission and give Cruz the three-quarters supermajority needed. Those who attended the meeting had vowed to either publicly support the eventual winner of the day’s balloting or to remain silent in the Republican primary. Reports Allen,
The impact was felt immediately on the 2016 campaign. Three prominent participants — direct-mail pioneer and longtime activist Richard Viguerie, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, and The Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats – announced their support of Cruz within 72 hours of the meeting at the Sheraton.
Lane, who matches Cruz’s contempt for “establishment” Republicans, said back in 2013, “We’re going to try to eliminate the stuff that [GOP leaders] do to us every four years, which is picking somebody who has no chance of being viable and they kill us off and we have the McCains and the Romneys left.” Lane had cheered attacks on Romney’s faith and the “false god of Mormonism.”
For the Religious Right, what’s not to like about Cruz? His anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-government bona fides are unquestionable. His father, Rafael Cruz, an unabashed Christian-nation extremist and anti-gay bigot who says that it is God’s plan for his son to be president, makes an effective ambassador for Cruz to the far right.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, a leader of the effort to get the Religious Right to rally around a single candidate, has tried this before, without much success. In 2012, Perkins and other conservative evangelicals had tried to create unity around a single alternative to Romney. Perkins declared after a January 2012 gathering that Rick Santorum had emerged with a “strong consensus.”
In January 2012, after he won that supposed consensus endorsement for Santorum, Perkins dismissed suggestions that the meeting was too late to have an impact, even though it came after Romney had already won Iowa and New Hampshire and was building up a head of steam. Perkins clearly decided not to let that happen again.
Bevin was an outspoken defender of Davis’s refusal to follow a federal court order that her office grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver has no doubts that Bevin’s “absolute” backing of Davis helped put him over the top in the election.
“There is no question that the case of Kim Davis and the issue of religious freedom played a role in the Governor’s lopsided win,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Kentuckians favor traditional values, and they are tired of the political elites represented by former Governor Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway. The voters sided with religious liberty,” said Staver.
“On the night he won the election, Gov. Bevin tweeted that he would bring ‘Christian principles to Frankfort.’ During his campaign and following his election, Gov. Bevin promised he would issue an executive order respecting the religious liberty of Kim Davis and other Kentucky clerks. We look forward to a new day in Kentucky,” concluded Staver.
Liberty Counsel reports that Davis will “attend the inaugural events, including the worship service, a parade, and the public swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps.”
It’s hard to know whether Davis’ invitation and attendance are really a further public embrace by Bevin or more like the “invitation” Liberty Counsel arranged for Davis during Pope Francis’s visit to DC, when she was smuggled into the Vatican embassy for what Liberty Counsel called a private meeting with, and endorsement from, the pontiff — and which Vatican officials characterized as more of a receiving line meet-and-greet.
“Today’s secular driven society seems intent on erasing the rich Christian history and influence in our country,” reports CBN, setting Lane up to make his oft-repeated claim that America was founded by and for Christians. The project began, Lane says, with a trip to a Washington, D.C., bookstore:
"You couldn't find a Christian book with a flashlight. And it hit me again, isn't this awful? A nation founded by people on a religious mission, The Mayflower Compact, for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith, and in the nation's capital and you can't find a book or Jesus anywhere," Lane remarked.
"If the Lord does it, we're going to put Jesus right in the middle of the table in Washington, D.C. He will defend himself," Lane continued.
It’s often said the Lord works in mysterious ways, in this case through the Washington Times, whose management created a "Jesus in the Public Square" section for the newspaper’s website, which includes a daily “5 religion stories worth your time” feature. Brody reports that “biblical economics” is a popular topic.
The section is overseen by Scott Lamb of Reformation Press, whose thinking seems to be clearly in line with dominionists like Lane:
“Jesus in the Public Square at The Washington Times hopes to talk about and dialogue with people to show them that Jesus Christ and his lordship is a universal theme and they should submit to that,” Lamb told CBN News.
Brody says Lane believes the name of the feature “reminds us that all truth is God’s truth. And for America to change course the people need to hear His word in a desperate way.” Says Lane, "God is in the business of resurrection. I believe there's going to be a resurrection of America. Literally."
Among the speakers at the World Congress of Families on Thursday was Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), who declared that too many Christians are being influenced by secular ideology and are clueless that God himself has ordered government to fight same-sex marriage and access to abortion.
At the World Congress of Families, Tooley decried the embrace of LGBT equality and reproductive choice among “once great” mainline denominations, and warned that the “errors” of mainline Protestantism have spread to evangelical and Catholic communities.
The problems that had originated in America’s mainline Protestant world unfortunately have spread and metastasized throughout American religion, and even once great and strongly orthodox religious institutions in America are now affected by these issues and are compromised on core topics related to marriage and family and the sanctity of all human life.
He blamed the shift on the institutions’ “elites and bureaucracies,” which he said no longer believe in ancient Christian teachings but have “actively joined secularism to advocate deconstruction of marriage and family.” Those ideas have spread to other Christian institutions, he complained, including the “evangelical left” and Christian colleges, whose leaders don’t want to engage on these issues because they believe it would interfere with evangelization.
Tooley complained that there weren’t enough Christian leaders defending Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for six days after she refused to abide by a federal court order to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Tooley predicted that more people will be intimidated into “virtual silence” as the government punishes other marriage resisters, but he hoped the opposite might also be true, and that the accumulating impact of those cases might inspire others to take a more public stand.
Tooley said that organized Christian political social justice advocacy aimed at young people has focused more on admirable but less controversial issues like fighting sex trafficking or carrying out humanitarian work. He complained that too many young Christians see marriage as passé as a public policy issue and religious liberty work as self-serving— and even think that work on abortion is too focused on therapeutic ministry rather than political advocacy to put abortion bans into law.
Tooley connected this to Christians’ lack of understanding that God himself has given the government a divine mandate to oppose marriage equality and abortion.
Indeed, all of the punitive aspects of the civil state, which are central to God’s vocation for government, have become unfashionable or at least uninteresting to much of Christian political witness in America today — except for possibly punishing perpetrators of discrimination against same-sex couples.
Yet historic Christian teaching says the state has a divinely ordained, ongoing permanent duty to uphold marriage, family, and to protect all human life, irrespective of fashion and fad.
There is a pervasive lack of awareness in current Christian discourse, not limited to the very young, about historic Christian understandings about the core responsibilities of government. Instead of providing for public order — jailing criminals and deterring or defeating external aggressors — government is now portrayed in Christian political witness as the all-powerful and maternal provider, who feeds, clothes, heals, educates and reaffirms, callings that Christianity typically had assigned to parents, families, churches, private philanthropy, civil society and therapists.
Even traditional Christians, he complained, often appear clueless about religious responses to these trends, resorting to libertarian arguments against big government “without describing the state’s core mandate assigned by no less than God himself. Addressing this collapse in Christian understanding about God’s purpose for the state is a wonderful, and important, but almost overwhelming challenge for groups like mine, but also all of us in this room and beyond.”
Tooley closed with a prayer for victory in the culture war:
We can hope and pray, in the fullness of Providence, that the Almighty will look back on these days that we’re living through and say to us who have tried to follow him, this was one of our finest hours, in a great social and cultural storm when his truths were most under assault. May he guide us to perseverance and victories ahead for the common good of all people.
It’s not surprising that the World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City would have a particularly Mormon flavor, given that the city is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The conference's opening session on Tuesday morning included a keynote by Mormon Apostle Russell Ballard during which he played a video of children singing a song about Mormon theology and explained how the church’s commitment to “traditional family” is grounded in its religious beliefs about eternal marriage.
WCF registration bags included a copy of the Church’s 1995 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which argues marriage is essential to God’s eternal plan. It also promotes conservative ideas about the complementarity of the sexes, saying, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” The proclamation states,
By divine design fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
What has Beck been pushing on his legions? “Leap,” first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. “Leap” argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs — based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith — that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah’s George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year’s annual fundraiser).
But more interesting than the contents of “The 5,000 Year Leap,” and more revealing for what it says about 912ers and the Glenn Beck Nation, is the book’s author. W. Cleon Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen’s own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of “The 5,000 Year Leap.”
As Beck knows, to focus solely on “The 5,000 Year Leap” is to sell the author short. When he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen had authored more than a dozen books and pamphlets on the Red Menace, New World Order conspiracy, Christian child rearing, and Mormon end-times prophecy. It is a body of work that does much to explain Glenn Beck’s bizarre conspiratorial mash-up of recent months, which decries a new darkness at noon and finds strange symbols carefully coded in the retired lobby art of Rockefeller Center. It also suggests that the modern base of the Republican Party is headed to a very strange place.
Sarah Posner noted Skousen’s connections with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch:
When the elder Skousen died in 2006, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), paid tribute to him on the Senate floor, and even included a poem he wrote about his friend. Hatch detailed how Skousen helped launch his political career, sending a letter to 8,000 "friends," urging them to support Hatch's 1976 Senate candidacy. According to a 1980 account in the New York Times by the inimitable Molly Ivins, Skousen's Freeman Institute was active in several other Republican campaigns as well, including one to unseat Sen. Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who chaired the Church Commission that investigated intelligence abuses in the wake of Watergate.
"From that first campaign," Hatch went on in his tribute on the Senate floor, "to every day I have served in the U.S. Senate--Cleon has been there for me, through highs and lows--buoying me up, giving suggestions, discussing principles and issues, and above all else being a true, supportive friend. I can never overstate what his support has meant to me throughout my years of service." Hatch added that Skousen's writings, including The 5,000 Year Leap, "have been used by foundations, and in forums across America for many years. His writings and words leave an indelible legacy of knowledge and beliefs that have touched many people and will continue to inspire and educate generations to come."