While Fischer Takes the Blame, RNC Israel Trip Will Be Led By An Even More Influential Christian Nationalist

Much has been made of RNC chairman Reince Priebus and 60 members of the Republican National Committee taking a trip to Israel under the sponsorship of the SPLC-certified hate group American Family Association (AFA). But while AFA has tried to minimalize the controversy by firing Director of Issue Analysis Bryan Fischer (although he’ll continue hosting their radio program), the right-wing operative actually hosting the trip is a less known, but much more significant player.

This duplicity of those on the Right known for loudly declaring their love for Israel in an effort to inoculate their activism from charges of Christian supremacism has become increasingly transparent thanks to the RNC’s trip. Waving Israeli flags at rallies may no longer be enough to camouflage an agenda that attacks the rights of American Jews and those of other faiths

The host of the RNC’s trip, and the man we should be more concerned about, is David Lane, head of the American Renewal Project at the AFA. While Bryan Fischer has received most of the public notoriety for declaring that only Christians should have free exercise of religion and that immigrants should be forced to convert to Christianity, David Lane’s work has successfully flown under the radar—until now.

Christian Right political operative David Lane

Christian Right political operative David Lane

David Lane: Wage War to Restore a Christian America

Lane just finished up his duties organizing The Response in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a religio-political rally headlined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and funded by AFA.  Lane, a self-declared political operative, has mostly stayed out of the limelight for the last decade, while hosting over 10,000 pastors in more than 10 states encouraging pastors to run for office, known as “Pastors’ Policy Briefings” or “Pastors and Pews.”  These briefings are often held over a couple of days in luxury hotels, with all-expenses-paid for pastors and their spouses, and have featured numerous politicians. For example, one event last year in Iowa featured Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) (and his father) and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R), and was also attended by billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks. Another Iowa event on the schedule for this coming March will include Jindal and Cruz.

As noted by PRA Fellow Frederick Clarkson, Lane’s rhetoric has become increasingly militant. An article by Lane later removed from the WorldNetDaily website was titled “Wage War to Restore a Christian America.”

As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the “Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media.

Lane frequently quotes Christian Reconstructionist Peter Leithart’s call for Christian martyrs, and says“Christianity has always been persecuted beginning in Acts 4 and throughout 2000 years of history.” According to Lane, the only exception is in the U.S., where Christians have had religious and civil liberty for about 200 years, but he adds that Christian America is now in ruins, “destroyed by liberal secularists.”  He equates the supposed failure of Christian America to fight back against secularism with the failure of the church of Germany to fight back against the rising Nazi party.

Gene Mills, head of the Tony Perkins-founded Louisiana Family Forum, presents Governor Bobby Jindal with the "Gladiator Award"

Gene Mills, head of the Tony Perkins-founded Louisiana Family Forum, presents Governor Bobby Jindal with the “Gladiator Award”

Events organized by Lane have also featured calls for like-minded Christians to “take back” government and society.  One of the organizers of The Response in LA was Gene Mills, head of the Tony Perkins-founded Louisiana Family Forum.  During his speech, Mills challenged the audience to take back the “seven mountains” from “enemy occupation.” This is a reference to a campaign marketed internationally for like-minded Christians to take control over society by taking dominion over arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion.  Mills presents annual awards each year to politicians who support the organization’s agenda, a number that he says has quadrupled during his tenure.  This past year he awarded the sword for the “Gladiator Award” to Gov. Jindal.

A Christian Nationalist Rewriting of History

AFA’s Bryan Fischer, at the heart of the RNC trip controversy, is known for his virulent homophobia. In Fischer’s version of Nazi history, Adoph Hitler himself was an active homosexual, who recruited other homosexuals.  Therefore, in his version of history, homosexuals were not victims but the villains of the Holocaust.

Lane has taken politicians to Israel, including former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) and Rand Paul, and is credited with helping the latter improve his credentials with evangelicals.  This past November, Lane hosted a group of “political and faith leaders” on a trip to Europe, including former Arkansas Governor and Fox News personality Mike Huckabee, as well as pastors from Iowa and South Carolina. The trip was dubbed “The Journey: A Spiritual Awakening,” and the itinerary included sites related to the lives of Pope John Paul II, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and concluded at the Ronald Reagan Library.

Also on the trip was Floyd Brown, founder of Citizens United and the political operative behind the infamous Willie Horton ad and the ExposeObama website. Brown wrote about the trip in an article titled “Huckabee Declaring Holy War?,” and quotes Huckabee as calling for resistance against tyranny.  But the tyranny they claim to be fighting is that of President Obama’s administration and the “cultural Marxism” that Lane believes is part of a communist plot to indoctrinate Americans.

Stops at Auschwitz and Birkenau were also included, but they were spun by Lane and Huckabee and (as well as in coverage of the trip by conservative media) as a warning to rise up against encroaching threats in America.  An article in the Christian Post about the trip equated the actions of the Nazis with America today, saying, “The comparison to America could not be more blantant. The article quoted Austrian-born Kitty Werthmann, president of the North Dakota chapter of the Eagle Forum, the anti-ERA organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, who gives speeches based on her claimed experiences in Nazi-occupied Austria and portraying Hitler as a leftist who abolished free enterprise and insisted on “equal rights for women”

Inoculating Christian Nationalism with Christian Zionism


Many Christians feel affinity with the Holy Land and the state of Israel, but Christian Zionism refers to activism attempting to hasten the second coming of Jesus, and helping Jews along with the role they are supposed to play in the drama of the end times. In recent decades, leaders embracing Dominion Theology have often rejected Christian Zionism, but some Charismatic Christians have embraced a different form of dominionism that couples aggressive Christian triumphalism with “pro-Israel” activism. In this hybrid narrative, Jews must be converted (particularly in Israel) to bring about Jesus’ kingdom on earth.

Although this brand of Charismatic dominionism is sweeping the globe like wildfire, many Jewish leaders either remain unaware of its agenda, or are hesitant to criticize the religious bigotry of those labelled pro-Israel.  The Israeli flag waving, shofar blowing, and Messianic music are sometimes mistaken as affection, when these are actually expressions of Christian triumphalism and a strategy to build Messianic congregations and communities. (Messianics are Jews who convert to Christianity but retain trappings of Judaism and a Jewish identity.)

This coupling of Christian nationalism with pro-Zionist activism is most visible among the modern-day “apostles” of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), many of whom helped David Lane organize, market, and lead The Response prayer rallies headlined by Rick Perry in 2011 and Bobby Jindal last week.  At both of these events, a designated “prayer for Israel” segment of the program included overt calls for the conversion of Jews.  At the Perry event in 2011, the call was made by Apostle Don Finto and Marty Waldman, rabbi of one of the nation’s largest Messianic congregations.  Finto is known for his role in promoting the “Israel Mandate” directing Christians to support Messianics.

The leader of the afternoon segment of Perry’s 2011 all-day prayer rally was Mike Bickle, head of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, an international youth-oriented ministry that also prioritizes the Israel Mandate.  The Response events were patterned after, and incorporated leaders from, TheCall, a tax-affiliated ministry of IHOP led by Lou Engle. TheCall holds large-venue events around the world that include prayers for conversion of Jews, including TheCall Jerusalem in 2008.

At David Lane’s prayer rally last weekend, the Prayer For Israel speakers included Rosemary Schindler, a distant relative of Oskar Schindler and a prominent speaker among Christian Zionists and Messianics. Last year, Rosemary married Jim Garlow, a pastor who organized support for California’s Proposition 8. Another speaker at Lane’s rally shouted, “We declare as a united body, revival in the land of Israel in the name of Jesus!”  (Garlow also spoke at both Perry and Jindal’s rally.)

This shift in theology has resulted in ugly undertones of religious bigotry among people who claim to love Israel, and a new acceptability in evangelizing Jews.  For example, the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI), led primarily by NAR apostles and Messianics (including Rabbi Marty Waldman), featured Glenn Beck in 2012 at their annual gala and fundraiser. The following year the event featured former President George W. Bush.

The RNC’s trip with Lane will be accompanied by popular Messianic writer Joel Rosenberg, who also calls for the evangelization of Jews and has recently immigrated to Israel.  The Haaretz article also quoted David Lane from a past interview with Glenn Beck saying “Restoring America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establishing a Christian culture is the only way that we get out of where we are.”

Haaretz published an oped I wrote in August, 2011, when Glenn Beck was hosting events in Israel.  Beck had already alienated many American Jews with the promotion of virulently anti-Semitic writers and an attack on George Soros using anti-Semitic memes. His anti-Semitic words caused a protest from 400 rabbis, representing all four branches of Judaism. In the op-ed, I warned that Beck’s embrace by Israeli leaders would be further indication to Americans that support for Israel is linked to an extremist political agenda in the United States—one that threatens to further alienate both Jews and Christians, Democrats and Republicans.  Likewise, Reince Priebus and the RNC’s trip with David Lane risk further alienating not only American Jews, but all Americans who value religious pluralism and the separation of church and state.

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U.S. Conservatives and Russian Anti-Gay Laws – The WCF

Russia WCF.1

Earlier this week, representatives of anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ groups from Russia, Italy, Spain, Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand, France, Serbia, and the United States (including the infamous Scott Lively) convened in Moscow to make plans for the World Congress of Families VIII, which will be held there in September 2014.

As reported by Right Wing Watch in a recent series of articles exploring the slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation (and violence) in Russia over the last several months, the World Congress of Families’ choice of venue is no coincidence. To say that the WCF is the primary force behind this onslaught of legislated homophobia would be far too simplistic of an assessment; however, we would be foolish to ignore the role that it plays.

The WCF was founded in 1997 by Allan Carlson and is a project of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society based in Rockford, Illinois. Though it aims to be an international network of social conservative groups, their Board of Directors is entirely US-based and the vast majority of their support comes from the U.S. Religious Right, including Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, United Families International, the Alliance Defense Fund, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, and Concerned Women for America.

It is, in short, the “who’s who” of right wing power players leading the charge against LGBTQ people in a merciless struggle to eliminate anyone who doesn’t fit into their cookie cutter mold of what Carlson calls “the natural family.” Below is the definition of “natural family” provided on the WCF’s website:

“The natural family is the fundamental social unit, inscribed in human nature, and centered around the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage, for the purposes of:

  • satisfying the longings of the human heart to give and receive love;
  • welcoming and ensuring the full physical and emotional development of children;
  • sharing a home that serves as the center for social, educational, economic, and spiritual life;
  • building strong bonds among the generations to pass on a way of life that has transcendent meaning;
  • extending a hand of compassion to individuals and households whose circumstances fall short of these ideals.”

Interestingly, much of Carlson’s understanding of the family is drawn from the work of Pitirim Sorokin, a Russian-born sociologist, and in fact the very idea for a “world congress of families” began in the mid-1990s when Carlson met with Dr. Ivan Schevchenko, head of the Russia’s right-wing Orthodox Brotherhood of Scientists and Specialists.  Which necessarily provokes the question, “When it comes to the culture wars, who’s exporting and who’s importing?”

It seems that the Cold War-era arms race has reemerged as a present-day pogrom—a race to see who can out-hate the gays first.

Following the passage of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law last month, WCF signed a letter of support for the legislation, ignoring the international outcry that erupted in its wake. Praising Russians as the “Christian saviors of the world,” WCF’s managing director

Larry Jacobs
clearly sees Russia as a model to be replicated. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (another WCF partner) declared that the new law was precisely the kind of “public policy that we’ve been advocating,” lamenting only that he wished it had been even more expansive in its oppressive scope. Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (yet another WCF affiliate) said, “Russians do not want to follow America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth.”

Is it possible that these leaders in anti-LGBTQ activism here in the U.S. might also feel a tad jealous of Russia’s success? And as they drool over the censorship and silencing and cheer the potential destruction of LGBTQ families, what are U.S. leaders learning from their Russian heroes? Besides the obligatory assortment of tacky souvenirs and mementos (for members of their “natural families,” of course), what might the U.S. attendees of next year’s WCF-Moscow event bring home with them?

With Russia as their model, will anti-LGBTQ leaders in Tennessee finally succeed in passing the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that is anticipated to be re-introduced next year? Will we see an increase in attacks on same-sex parenting here in the U.S.? Will U.S. Pride parades become less celebratory and more dangerous?

As we seek to understand the various ways in which U.S. players are contributing to the rising homo-hysteria in Russia, we must also be mindful of what they might be bringing back from their travels abroad. No doubt, some souvenirs will be best left unwrapped.