Christian Right Doubles Down in the Face of Catholic Progress

Despite subsequent backtracking, the Catholic world is abuzz with news that the Synod of Bishops could be taking steps toward a dramatic overhaul in the church’s long-standing doctrine on LGBTQ people, as well as its view on divorced members.

The Roman Catholic Church’s Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops convened last week at the Vatican in Rome. From Oct. 5-19, over 250 participants, including scores of Catholic bishops and clergy, lay people, and some Protestant and Orthodox “fraternal” delegates are meeting to “thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received from the particular Churches in order to respond to the new challenges of the family.”

Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

Early this week—midway through the assembly—the Vatican released an interim document that is unusually conciliatory toward LGBTQ people and nonmarital unions, both of which have long been considered contrary to church doctrine. Though the text definitively states that “unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman,” NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli observes that the report as a whole “is a far cry from official church teachings that homosexuality is ‘intrinsically disordered.’”[1]

In the section of the report entitled, “Welcoming homosexual persons,” it’s acknowledged that “there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.” As Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway points out, “The idea of gay couples offer[ing] anything ‘precious’ in their relationships has never appeared in an official church document before. And the phrase ‘intrinsically disordered,’ so reflexively deployed in the past, is nowhere to be found.”

Some have gone so far as to suggest this is a “revolutionary change.”

Conservative Catholics were quick to react, however, and the Vatican was forced to clarify that the report was a working document, and that while the Church certainly wants to welcome gays and lesbians in the church, the Vatican has no intention of creating “the impression of a positive evaluation” of LGBTQ people or, for that matter, of unmarried couples who live together. Regardless, at the end of the day Pope Francis will have the final word.

Conservative resistance to any potential shift in the Vatican’s approach to the reality of an ever-expanding understanding of what it means to be family began long before today. Preceding the gathering, a group of leading conservative Catholics and Protestants issued a joint appeal to the Synod, expressing their concern over what they perceive to be grave threats to church teachings on marriage and family. Among the signers is megachurch pastor Rick Warren; Alan Sears, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing legal group behind the U.S. Right’s push to redefine the meaning of religious liberty in their favor; Mark Regnerus, sociology professor at University of Texas at Austin and author of deeply controversial and debunked report on same-sex parenting; Patrick Fagan, director the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute; and countless other Christian Right leaders not only from the U.S. and Europe, but also from Australia and parts of South and Central America. Thomas Farr, former president of the right-wing think tank Institute on Religion & Democracy and current head of Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project, was one of the letter’s key organizers.

The letter notes that “marriage and the family are indispensable, both as vehicles of salvation and as bulwarks of human society, and extols upon the Synod to seize this moment as an “opportunity to express timeless truths about marriage” that exemplify “true love, not ‘exclusion’ or ‘prejudice,’ or any of the other charges brought against marriage today.”

Among the many “threats” to marriage, family, and children, the appeal cites cohabitation, divorce, and pornography, urging the church to resist these dangerous trends and stand firm in its commitment to protecting and preserving the “natural family.” Though LGBTQ people are not named explicitly, the letter calls on the Synod to promote legal restrictions that limit marriage to “a conjugal union of one man and one woman.” Additionally, the church is encouraged to create a consortium of attorneys and legislators to support religious freedom in divorce courts, ensuring that judges not be allowed to “ignore or demean the views of a spouse who seeks to save a marriage, keep the children in a religious school, or prevent an abandoning spouse from exposing the children to an unmarried sexual partner.”

Cooperation between Catholics and evangelicals is not a new phenomenon. The 2009 Manhattan Declaration marked a significant departure from historic divisiveness, formalizing the alliance between Roman Catholics and right-wing evangelical Protestants and outlining priorities around three primary areas: abortion, same-sex marriage, and religious liberty. This newest document—notably signed by Robert P. George, creator of the Manhattan Declaration and co-founder of the anti-LGBTQ National Organization for Marriage and the  Witherspoon Institute—is yet another example of these strengthening ties.

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[1] The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church calls for “respect, compassion and sensitivity” toward LGBTQ people while also calling the “inclination” toward homosexuality “objectively disordered,” and a 1986 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called homosexuality a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

Left Behind: The Christian Right’s Continued Culture War Promotion Through Hollywood

“The goal of this movie was to not be preachy,” said Paul Lalonde, writer and producer of the new Left Behind movie released last weekend. “You get too preachy, it turns people off. That’s what’s kept faith-based movies in the church basements and out of the theaters.” But the latest Christian Right film to hit the big screen preaches little else other than a reinforcement of the Right’s culture wars.

left behind

The new film, starring Nicolas Cage, follows the action-packed first few hours following the Rapture, when pre-millennial conservative evangelicals believe good Christians will rise to Heaven in accordance with Biblical prophecy, beginning a period of tribulation on Earth that ends with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Audiences won’t even meet the Antichrist until the sequel, so those unfamiliar with the book series might miss how Left Behind feeds into right-wing conspiracy theories, opposes peace and social justice, and promotes culture wars-ideology.

Lalonde, CEO of Cloud Ten Pictures and producer of the original low-budget Left Behind films, founded another production company, Stoney Lake Entertainment, to do the reboot and focus “on producing big budget faith-themed films for a wider audience.” “I think it can open a lot of doors that would not have otherwise be opened,” Lalonde told Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, which spent extensive time on set during the filming. “People are fascinated by it. People are fascinated by the idea of the rapture.”

“What makes ‘Left Behind’ different is that it is a contemporary story that could actually happen at any moment,” explains Lalonde. “It’s also a historical account in a sense, because it’s based on a true story, it just hasn’t happened yet.” According to the Pew Research Center, 41% of Americans expect that Jesus Christ will return by 2050. Lalonde himself has “no doubt we are living in the end times [before the Rapture] so therefore it could happen tomorrow that the church is going to be called home and caught up in the air and taken to heaven and that’s what this movie’s about.”

Lalonde’s maxim to not be “too preachy” in the pursuit of mainstream appeal sums up the strategy of not only the new Hollywood movie but the entire franchise of Christian Right adult and children’s books, films, graphic novels, and video games. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ fictional imagining of the Rapture graphically portrays the disaster of car and plane crashes, emotions of families torn apart, and heroes fighting against an evil overlord—a winning combination that has sold 65 million books, secured regular top spots on bestseller lists, and landed a cover story in Time magazine in 2002.

But these books intend more than entertainment; interwoven with the high-tech weaponry, romances, and disasters, LaHaye and Jenkins spin a tale intended to thrill believers, push political agendas, and bring the “unsaved” to Christ by giving them a peek at the suffering awaiting nonbelievers.

When he recruited Jenkins to co-author the Left Behind books, LaHaye was already an established Christian Right leader known for supporting creationism and anti-LGBTQ beliefs. He founded or helped to found a series of right-wing organizations, including the Institute for Creation Research, Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, the Council for National Policy, and the Coalition for Traditional Values. He capitalized on his high profile as Left Behind’s author to win over the Christian Right to George W. Bush’s presidential candidacy, and supported education and research on prophecy and pre-tribulation (the period before the Rapture).

Here’s just a brief overview of the series’ political agendas for the blissfully unaware:

The Antichrist rises to power as the secretary-general of the United Nations by promising world peace, expressing and reinforcing right-wing fears of takeover by secular world government and aversion to promoting peace. (“I’ve opposed the United Nations for 50 years,” LaHaye boasts, indicating the storyline was no accident.) According to LaHaye, Jesus does not promise peace, he promises the sword—so any politician promising world peace could be the Antichrist himself. People unacquainted with this belief system sometimes find it difficult to wrap their minds around the idea of being anti-peace, especially since conservative evangelicals typically know better than to voice public criticism in those terms.

Social justice and humanitarian action also fall under the shadow of collaboration with the Antichrist. Religious scholar Glenn Shuck described the Antichrist of the Left Behind series: “His ungodly traits include a silver-tongue, a handsome face, and a devilish charm that he uses to soothe the world during its time of crisis. To unbelievers he seems like a saint or even the Messiah. He works to correct economic inequalities, attempts to end poverty and cure dreaded diseases, and leads the world onto a path of total disarmament.”

In the midst of the battle against the Antichrist, LaHaye and Jenkins work in traditional culture war issues through their array of characters. They slip in an argument about the evils of abortion here, an unpleasant lesbian woman who cannot be saved there. Left Behind: The Kids, a series of 40 short books, provides an opportunity to discuss how the Antichrist’s public schools “persecute” Christian youth for their beliefs, deploying arguments similar to real-world evangelical critiques around issues like school prayer.

Then we have the role of Israel and the Jewish people. The Left Behind narrative, in short: Israel’s preordained role in the Second Coming includes its bloody destruction, while 144,000 Jewish witnesses play their part in publicly converting to Christ. For those interested in how Jews and Israel factor into millennial theology in the present-day Christian Right movement, see Rachel Tabachnick’s 2010 article in The Public Eye magazine, “The New Christian Zionism and the Jews: A Love/Hate Relationship.”

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VVS14 Analysis: Glenn Beck, Mark Levin Try to Quell Christian Right Neo-Confederates

The Christian Right’s annual trade show, Values Voter Summit, is a good place to check the vital signs of the movement that is often—and wrongly—declared dead or dying. And this year’s conference offered a peek into the struggle by Christian Right leaders to tamp down the Neo-Confederate and secessionist ideology growing in, and threatening to break, their ranks.

Right-wing media personality Glenn Beck holds up The Bible and Rules for Radicals at VVS14

Right-wing media personality Glenn Beck holds up The Bible and Rules for Radicals at VVS14

Some critics tend to cast the Christian Right movement as monolithic, when in actuality it has always been at just as fractious and dynamic as it has been powerful and influential. And yet, its considerable successes are sometimes obscured by its leaders’ perennial fear that they may ultimately fail to “restore” their notion of the Christian Nation—and that an evil darkness will fall upon the land. (Yes, much of the public rhetoric at the Values Voter Summit was that prosaic.)

But a deepening shadow of doubt has crept across the Christian Right’s vision of a shining city on a hill since at least 2012 election. Some leaders of the Religious (and non-religious) Right are revealing their loss of faith in American nationhood, and are turning to Neo-Confederate alternatives, including support to secede from the Union (including by some candidates), and a movement to nullify federal laws, regulations and court decisions—all with the full understanding of the political tensions and violence that would likely accompany most of these efforts.

This Neo-Confederatization of elements of the political and Religious Right is such a problem that the State Policy Network of business/libertarian think tanks, (which work in close coalition with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)) issued a PR manual in 2013 which urged members to avoid language that smacks of “extreme views,” advising: “Stay away from words like radical, nullify, or autonomy,” and especially “states’ rights.”

At the Values Voter Summit, we saw a continued effort to hold the fractious Christian Right movement together, and sharp warnings to those who are considering or turning to these Neo-Confederate options. All of which suggests that the leaders may be more worried about their cohesion than meets the eye.

But rather than deliver the main message themselves, the conference leaders left it to popular, non-evangelical co-belligerents: New York right-wing radio host Mark Levin, who is Jewish, and Mormon right-wing broadcaster Glenn Beck.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, staged a conversation with Levin during a conference plenary which offered some thoughts about how to proceed in the face of Christians being “silenced,” and their religious freedom being “under assault” from so many directions.

Perkins observed (at about 17:30 in the YouTube video) that President Obama has described Islam as a religion of peace, and that the problem we have with Islam is not just far away but right here at home.

“How can we fight an enemy,” Perkins asked, that “transcends not only our international foreign policy but our domestic policy. We are at risk here at home, and we cannot come to the point where we can truly speak the truth because political correctness has basically blinded us to that truth.”

“Well, we need to reject political correctness,” Levin replied on cue. “We need to reject the attempt by the Left to keep us in little boxes, or to move us out to extremes. We are the heart of America,” he declared, jabbing his index finger into the air for emphasis.

“Our belief system is the heart of America. We are the majority of America. And they treat us like we are some minor cult. We are not some minor cult. I don’t need to be lectured by Barack Obama about any damn thing let alone religion or Islam…. I think we need to fight this effort to silence us…. We need to speak out. We need to stand up.”

Levin’s solution is to cast the Religious Right as mainstream America.

At VVS14, right-wing radio host Mark Levin chastises the growing Neo-Confederate movement among the Christian Right

At VVS14, right-wing radio host Mark Levin chastises the growing Neo-Confederate movement among the Christian Right

“You know, I view the political spectrum quite differently,” he explained. “We are in the middle! You’ve got the radical leftists who’ve taken over the Democrat Party [sic]. You have… this Neo-Confederate group out there,” he said, pointing and waving to his right, “that doesn’t really believe in the Constitution and keeps talking about secession and so forth. We are traditional conservatives who embrace the Constitution, who embrace our heritage. This president does not—from his values to his comments to his attacks on my country—does not represent me, period!”

Likewise, Glenn Beck urged the evangelical conference attendees not to succumb to the temptation of “rage” at anti-Christian persecution and the threats to religious freedom in our time. Jesus, he said, was about a “revolution through peace and love” not violence. “Which spirit is leading you,” he wondered. “Which spirit is leading all of us?” You could hear a pin drop in the carpeted room as Beck failed to answer his own rhetorical question.

That the popular Beck was featured to deliver this sermon suggests that conference leadership recognizes they may have led their people over a hate and fear mongering bridge too far. Part of their task now seems to be to bring them back from the Neo-Confederate temptation.

Pointing to the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., Beck said “the Lord would never tell us to do something out of hate, or vengeance, or rage.” He emphasized the need to come together as Americans in the face of the external threat of ISIS, and not to hate one another. Not even LGBTQ people, he said.

Like Levin, Beck sought to position the Christian Right and the conservative movement generally—not as the Right, but as ideologically middle America. He did it in a sly slam on the Tea Party (at about 43:35 in the YouTube video), in which he held up a copy of legendary progressive and civil rights movement organizer Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book, Rules for Radicals—which had been promoted by Tea Party leaders—notably Dick Armey (head of the Koch brothers bankrolled group Freedom Works)—as a manual for anti-establishment disruption.

Beck didn’t mention any of this back story, but stuck to the old Manichean story line. Alinsky had jokingly dedicated the book to Lucifer, giving Beck the opening to read from the book’s dedication, which he said offers a “tip of the hat to the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that at least he won his own Kingdom—Lucifer.” He claimed that “for many in America, this [Rules for Radicals] is their Scripture.”

We have a choice, he declared, between The Bible and Rules for Radicals.

In fairness, Alinsky was obviously being humorous and provocative, and was not really dedicating his book to Satan. But Beck’s target was not Alinsky so much as the colorfully disruptive and often overtly hate-mongering Tea Partiers, many of whom are conservative Christians, with whom VVS leaders seek to contrast themselves as the mainstream of the GOP (if not America itself). They wish to be seen not as the party of mean spiritedness—but as the standard bearers of religious freedom.

Whether they can sufficiently recover to make the center hold, or whether the Christian Right has tea-partied itself into a stupor of permanent neo-Confederate division, remains to be seen.

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The Christian Dominionists Who Benefit from David Tyree’s Fame

Apostle Joseph Mattera introduces David Tyree at press conference at the New York state capitol in 2011.

Apostle Joseph Mattera introduces David Tyree at press conference at the New York state capitol in 2011.

Former New York Giant David Tyree’s personal views on gay marriage have been the topic of much debate since his recent hiring as director of player development for that franchise, but the press has overlooked an even more significant problem.  For the better part of a decade, Tyree has traded on his NFL fame to win unsuspecting donors for some of the country’s leading Christian dominionists, including one of the most aggressive anti-gay activists in America. Thanks to Tyree, Joseph Mattera can be seen in the New York society pages at fundraising galas rubbing shoulders with New York Giants Eli Manning and Tiki Barber, NBA stars, beauty queens, business leaders, and movie stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Hugh Jackman. Many of these figures are, no doubt, unaware that they are helping one of the nation’s most zealous campaigners for biblical law establish a foothold in New York by funding the foundation led by his wife and co-pastor, Joyce Mattera.

The David Tyree Charity Bowl 2012 for Children in the City included NY Giants Tiki Barber and Kenny Phillips.

The David Tyree Charity Bowl 2012 for Children in the City included NY Giants Tiki Barber and Kenny Phillips.

A rising star of the Religious Right, Joseph Mattera was recently named the “convening apostle” of the U.S. by a network of religious leaders by called the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL, formerly the International Coalition of Apostles). These self-appointed, modern-day “apostles and prophets” are part of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement and are on the cutting edge of anti-gay activism in eastern Europe, South America, and Africa. They believe they have a mandate for taking dominion over the “Seven Mountains” or power centers of society and culture. While those society page celebrities at these fundraisers may not know about Mattera’s national and international fame in this role, and at least one major donor I’ve reached most certainly did not, Tyree undoubtedly does. His “spiritual mother” and co-author Kimberly Daniels is also an apostle in the movement, as is Tyree’s business partner, Frank Dupree. I have documented these relationships elsewhere, including the obsession of Tyree’s mentor with praying away the gay, or expelling the (literal) demons she believes cause homosexuality.

Children of the City

According to its website, the mission of Joyce Mattera’s nonprofit organization, Children of the City, is “to reach at-risk inner-city youth and their families.” The group has long used Tyree and its at-risk intervention agenda to attract public exposure and win liberal support for the Matteras. Mattera has written about doing “good works” through Children of the City to gain traction in New York City for their conservative religious campaigns, stating in his book, Kingdom Revolution,

My wife and I have taken this principle to heart and have ministered to tens of thousands of at-risk children since 1981. Then when the time came to lead the fight against same-sex marriage in our city, we had already earned a place of respect because of the service we had freely given to our community.

This approach is common among the “apostles.” For example, Peter Wagner, a pioneer of the NAR and its apostolic networks, wrote about ICA apostle Eddie Long’s success in making his ministry indispensable to Atlanta through faith-based charitable work.

In another book, Walk in Generational Blessings, Joseph Mattera describes the monthly home visits to 1,000 children on Children of the City’s roster “by our fifty volunteers, most of whom attend our local church.” While Children of the City’s programs appear to be faith-based, their marketing and much of their support appears to be secular. In Kingdom Revolution, Mattera boasts of their fundraising success outside their own conservative religious community:

Our programs are 95 percent supported by non-Christian private donors, foundations, or city and state aid. Since 2001, this has totaled millions of dollars and far exceeds our local church’s budget and financial abilities.

Mattera’s apostolic network affiliates include New York City Intercessors, and his wife Joyce is an executive of the NYC Women’s Prayer Summit. These prayer networks have emphasized an international campaign called the 4/14 Window Movement to reach children four through fourteen years old, the age range they believe is most impressionable for indoctrination into their worldview.

Joyce Mattera started Children of the City in the early 1980s and serves as its executive director. The group registered with New York State in 1994 and received federal 501(c)(3) status in 2002. According to its newsletters and promotional material, the board of directors includes mainstream business leaders. However, those names do not appear in the nonprofit’s tax filings. Almost all of the directors listed in Children of the City’s IRS 990 tax forms are pastors and lay leaders of the Resurrection Church, founded by Joseph and Joyce Mattera.

The nonprofit is registered as a religious charity, and one of its early tax forms lists the mission as “teaching children biblical and Godly values.” Subsequent filings and promotional material for the organization have no religious language. The charity is advertised as providing academic mentoring and life skills training for poor urban children and their families.

The Children of the City organization shares space free of charge and phone numbers with the Resurrection Church, as well as with Joseph Matteras’ nonprofits. The contact number for New York summits and rallies for traditional marriage were the same as that given for Children of the City.

Mattera speaks to Ugandans in promotional video for Nations Discipleship Enterprise, led by Apostle Arnold Muwonge.

Mattera speaks to Ugandans in promotional video for Nations Discipleship Enterprise, led by Apostle Arnold Muwonge.

The nonprofit’s newsletters and website include a “Uganda Mission,” described as partnering in Uganda with Arnold Muwonge in support of education of children at his orphanage. There is no reference to the fact that Muwonge is also an ICA apostle who, in addition to housing 100 or so children, leads an apostolic network that claims to include more than 2,500 churches. Muwonge resides and works in England as a “reverse missionary,” bringing the supernatural successes of Uganda to the Western world. Like many others in this network in Uganda, he teaches that HIV/AIDS can be cured through prayer. Muwonge’s bios include references to his training under Apostle John Mulinde, a key player in introducing Peter Wagner’s ICA networks in Uganda and the local apostle who organized Lou Engle’s TheCall Uganda in 2010. That event became a rally for the “Kills the Gays” Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a version of which passed earlier this year before being overturned today on a procedural issue by Uganda’s Supreme Court.

Tyree, Mattera, and NOM

Tyree has also worked directly with Joseph Mattera and the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), providing a popular face for these Religious Right leaders’ activism. One example is the 2011 press conference in opposition to marriage equality organized by Mattera. In the embedded NOM video from the event, Mattera introduces Tyree, stating, “He cared more about marriage and family than his reputation. He’s the first celebrity that I know of, and the first New York athlete to come out against same sex marriage.” Mattera describes the response to a NOM-produced viral video of an interview with Tyree, who is followed at the microphone by NOM’s Maggie Gallagher.

Joseph Mattera coordinated the protests against marriage equality in New York and has written extensively about strategy for a theocratic restructuring of society.  He has spoken at foreign events decrying the “homosexual agenda,” including a 2007 Watchmen on the Walls conference in Latvia with founders Alexey Ledyaev and the notorious Scott Lively.  Lively is the author of The Pink Swastika and currently the defendant in a case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights for his role in inciting the persecution of sexual minorities in Uganda.  Speakers described an agenda for forming government aligned with biblical law in countries around the world, including a strategy presented by Scott Lively for criminalizing any public advocacy of homosexuality.

Tyree’s relationship with the Matteras, like his relationship with Kimberly Daniels, predates his famous Super Bowl performance of 2008, but it is Mattera who has soared to international prominence in recent years in the religio-political networks of the NAR. Mattera compares his views on biblical law to those of Rousas Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism, but has voiced opposition to execution of homosexuals in his interpretation of biblical law. He favors a more gradual process that would drive LGBTQ people back into the closet and argues that the process “towards a biblical theocracy in a pluralistic society” is to establish commandments five through ten of the Ten Commandments, and to enable the next generation to legally enforce commandments one through four.

City Action Coalition

The U.S. network of apostles that Mattera now heads is a part of a movement dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) by C. Peter Wagner, the recently retired international convening apostle. Mattera’s rapid ascendance in prominence within the NAR may be the results of his capabilities in organizing and outreach in urban areas, a primary target of the international movement. In addition to his Resurrection Church in Brooklyn, Mattera founded Christ Covenant Coalition, a network of apostles in the New York area, and a religio-political activist arm called City Action Coalition. Protests against marriage equality in 2011 were organized under the auspices of the latter, including one on the steps of city hall in New York City and the press conference at the state capitol. David Tyree was perhaps the most widely recognized public figure on stage at both of these events.

Mattera’s network of like-minded apostles, including Harry Jackson Jr., utilizes similar strategies to those leaked to the press from internal NOM memos in 2012. That strategy was to drive a wedge between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities and African Americans in order to split key sectors of the Democratic Party. However, in urban and heavily Democratic areas, the effort is intentionally nonpartisan or bipartisan, in order to separate African American and Latino pastors and churches from their progressive allies, while leaders retain their Democratic or nonpartisan identies. Some, like Harry Jackson Jr., have described themselves as Democrats while supporting GOP candidates and a reactionary political agenda.

Tyree’s co-author Kimberly Daniels ran, and won, a position on the Jacksonville, Florida, city council as a Democrat in 2011. Daniels had partnered with fellow “prophet” Harry Jackson in spearheading opposition to the federal Hate Crimes bill in 2007, falsely claiming that pastors would be jailed for preaching against homosexuality.

Bullet points for City Action Coalition’s strategic agenda, no longer online, included forming a nonpartisan Christian political movement to inspire 10,000 emerging leaders in politics and culture and to unite the “1.5 million Bible-believing Christians in New York” as a “strong multi-ethnic and cross-denominational voice” for the political arena. The following were listed as major issues: traditional marriage, sanctity of life, religious freedom, formation of charter schools, and support for school vouchers and homeschooling.

Taking Dominion over the Seven Mountains

ICAL apostles Mattera, Os Hillman, and Lance Wallnau spoke at a conference in June 2014 about the Seven Mountains.

ICAL apostles Mattera, Os Hillman, and Lance Wallnau spoke at a conference in June 2014 about the Seven Mountains.

Joseph Mattera travels the world – Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America- to speak about the “steps to biblical dominion” or taking control of the “Seven Mountains.” The latter is a concept used to simplify the teaching of the Christian Dominionist theology by using mountains or gates to represent the seven power centers of society: arts and entertainment; business; education; family, government; media; and religion. In his book, Ruling in the Gates, Mattera writes that the “coming apostolic reformation should result in placing godly leaders in every facet of society with a biblical worldview.”

Mattera’s biblical worldview is not limited to the hot button issues of homosexuality and abortion. Mattera’s response to the shooting at Sandy Hook School was to blame abortion, rather than guns, for the tragedy. He teaches that capitalism is most closely aligned with the bible, and that the bible forbids inheritance and other progressive taxes.

Mattera has spoken around the world about the need for like-minded Christians to out-procreate everyone else, describing this as the “key to dominion.” In 2010, Mattera told an audience in Argentina that dominion won’t happen because of one stadium event, and explained that if the church had more children and their children had more children, “we would have more influence than anybody else, we would have more votes than anybody else, and we would have the most power on earth.”

This is the Religious Right leader that David Tyree has helped to empower in New York, aiding him and his wife in establishing their enterprises in the community, and drawing unsuspecting funders to grace the pages of society magazines in promotion of the Children of the City nonprofit. This past week, Tyree was publicized as having evolved in his views about homosexuality and that he was repentant of his words of three years ago. But perhaps it’s not his personal views, whether they have evolved or not, that matter most. The most recent David Tyree Charity Ball raising funds for Children of the City was held in June, publicized in sports page lauding Tyree’s life choices as guiding his selection of charitable partners. As director of player development for the New York Giants, Tyree will be able to expand his role of leading his unsuspecting teammates and others into the sphere of the theocratic NAR apostles.

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Dominionism Disguised as Aid: Rick Warren’s Expanding Influence in Rwanda

Expanding access to basic healthcare is an important and valuable goal, but what happens when those made responsible for providing the care also hold conservative religious ideologies? What sort of sexual and health education is being taught? How safe do LGBTQ people feel when seeking services? Are gay men able to access the information and resources they need in order to stay healthy? What options are available to women with unwanted pregnancies?

These concerns were amplified in May when megachurch pastor Rick Warren announced that he will return to Africa yet again in August 2015, this time to host an “All-Africa Purpose Driven Church Leadership Training Conference” in Kigali, Rwanda. He is calling for leading African evangelicals from each of the continent’s 54 countries to join him. Warren is also is enlisting 54 American pastors, who will join him in Rwanda, to “adopt” these new “purpose driven” recruits.

Image from saddleback.com

Image from saddleback.com

Rick Warren presents himself as a moderate but is actually a right-wing fundamentalist known for his staunch opposition to LGBTQ equality and women’s reproductive freedom. Sometimes referred to as “America’s pastor,” Warren—who claims Rwanda as his “home” and points to his Rwandan diplomatic passport as proof—is also arguably aspiring to be “Africa’s pastor”: he travels extensively in Africa as part of his dominionist agenda,¹ spreading his dangerous right-wing ideologies wherever he goes. The millionaire pastor has been especially active in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, where he has built close relationships with members of the political, business, and religious elite, including many prominent anti-LGBTQ pastors.

Rwanda, ranked among the world’s poorest countries, has been the focus of much of Warren’s international work since he first visited at the invitation of President Paul Kagame in 2005. Kagame enlisted Warren’s help in making the small African nation the first “purpose driven country” after reading the famous pastor’s bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life.

The book found its way into Kagame’s hands thanks to Joe Ritchie, a Chicago-area businessman, who first partnered with the President in 2003 on economic development efforts in the wake of the 1994 genocide. It was while visiting Ritchie’s Chicago home that Kagame was initially introduced to Warren’s book. The pastor subsequently received a letter from the President stating, “I’m a man of purpose. Can you come help us rebuild our nation?”

Since their first meeting, the two have become close friends and colleagues.

That Kagame has been accused of numerous human rights violations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others seems not to have deterred Warren, who has hosted him multiple times as a guest of honor at Saddleback Church’s main campus in Lake Forest, CA. This isn’t terribly surprising considering Warren’s close ties to Martin Ssempa, an aggressively anti-LGBTQ pastor in Uganda who was responsible for helping to draft and promote the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill.

While Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was ultimately signed into law earlier this year, similar efforts were thwarted in Rwanda in 2009, when penal code revisions that would have criminalized homosexuality were rejected as violations of basic human rights.

In the nine years since his first visit, Warren has returned to Rwanda countless times. He is a member of Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council and has developed an extensive relationship with hundreds of congregations in Rwanda through Saddleback’s PEACE Plan, which is described as “an initiative of Purpose Driven Ministries that brings together all Christian churches in Rwanda with the ultimate purpose of building peace within our community.”²

Specifically, Warren’s PEACE Plan endeavors to tackle what he refers to as the five “Global Giants”:

P – Plant churches and promote reconciliation – to address spiritual emptiness
E – Equip leaders – to address corrupt leadership
A – Assist the poor – to address extreme poverty
C – Care for the sick – to address pandemic diseases and suffering they cause
E – Educate the next generation – to address illiteracy and lack of education

Because the HIV/AIDS crisis is a primary focus of Warren’s work in Africa, one of the major PEACE Plan projects launched in Rwanda is the Rwanda Healthcare Initiative, a “grassroots effort to mobilize volunteers in community health who are proficient in home visits and health promotion, with a focus on the early identification, treatment care and support of people living with HIV through the local church.” Citing a lack of hospitals and clinics in the country, Warren has used the Rwanda Healthcare Initiative to promote the use of churches as distribution centers for medicine and basic healthcare.

Which returns us to the question, what happens when those made responsible for providing healthcare and other social services also hold conservative religious ideologies? What happens when the gatekeepers charged with distributing antiretrovirals also promote reparative therapy? Or when those responsible for teaching young people about safer sex insist that condoms are sinful? And where will women turn when the only people resourced to provide safe abortions refuse to do so?

In addition to these concerns, Rwanda is a signatory to the African Union Maputo Protocol, which obligates African nations to ensure women’s health and reproductive rights (including safe abortions). Given that Warren has advanced an explicitly anti-women agenda in the U.S. (earlier this year, Warren referred to Planned Parenthood as the “McDonalds of abortion” and declared it to be the “#1 baby killing franchise”), it is most likely that Warren aims to pursue a similar anti-SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) agenda in Rwanda, and his close ties to political and religious leadership in the country will assuredly pave the way for increased attacks on women and reproductive freedom.

The connections between religious fundamentalism and international aid were further strengthened when the Rwanda PEACE Plan experienced a leadership transition in April of this year, appointing Apostle Dr. Paul Gitwaza as its new director. Gitwaza—who condemns abortion and describes homosexuality as an abomination—is a member of the International Coalition of Apostles, now known as the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and the primary organizational structure of C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation.

Wagner, who also served as Rick Warren’s dissertation advisor and mentor at Fuller Theological Seminary, writes in his book Dominion! that the PEACE Plan fits into “the 7-M mandate”―the idea that Christians need to take charge of a country by “capturing” the seven “mountains” that represent cultural aspects of society: business, government, family, religion, media, education, and entertainment. This suggests that rather than actually being interested in the empowerment and self-determination of Rwandan people, Warren’s primary interest is controlling the destiny and rights of others.

Warren often explains this multi-pronged approach to development (bringing together business, government, and church) with his “three-legged stool” metaphor. He says that public-private sector partnerships are equivalent to a two-legged stool, which will fall over without a third leg—that of the church. According to Warren, the church is the critical missing link affecting a country’s development.

Unfortunately, Warren’s stool—presented as an instrument of benevolent humanitarianism—is actually more like a soap box for his white savior neocolonial agenda. And as a relatively small country (Rwanda is approximately the size of Maryland) with a population of just over 12 million people (94% of whom are Christian), Rwanda is the perfect test site for this Wagner-inspired, Warren-driven quest for global dominionism.

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[1] Dominionism: The theocratic idea heterosexual Christian men are called by God to exercise dominion over secular society by taking control of political and cultural institutions. This competes in Christianity with the idea of stewardship, which suggests custodial care rather than absolute power.

[2] Warren’s PEACE Plan has since grown, expanding to targeted “Gateway Cities” around the world in order to “live out the Great Commandment and Commission in 12 key cities and all unreached people groups by 2020.”

Anti-Gay Gatekeepers of the NFL: The NY Giants’ David Tyree Controversy

The New York Giants’ hiring of former player David Tyree as the director of player development has resulted in controversy and a statement from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The controversy stems from a 2011 interview with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), in which Tyree said that gay marriage would lead to anarchy and lawlessness.  In another interview, he stated that he would trade his 2008 Super Bowl catch if it would stop marriage equality, and he’s also indicated that he believes in reparative therapy. The Giants’ general manager has defended Tyree, stating that the team did due diligence before hiring him for the job, in which he will mentor young players in their off-the-field life, including business interests.  But it’s Tyree’s own mentors and business associates that will likely lead to more controversy for the NFL team and to further questions about Tyree’s claim this past week that his views have evolved.

Tyree’s mentors, and at least one business partner, are apostles in a network of modern-day, self-declared (or, in their view, God-ordained) “apostles” and “prophets.” An invitation-only list of prominent apostles, the International Coalition of Apostles, has included Tyree’s mentor and co-author, Apostle Kimberly Daniels, and his business partner, Apostle Frank Duprée.  They maximize their impact through loose relational networks in a religio-political movement that has been dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

The apostles and prophets of this network aren’t your garden-variety homophobes; they are on the cutting edge of activism and incitement against gay rights in the U.S., Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Following his miraculous Super Bowl catch, Tyree co-authored an autobiographical book with Daniels, whose son Michael Jennings has also played for several NFL teams, including the Giants. Daniels is also a mentor to other players on the NY Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars and was reportedly invited by the Jaguars to lead a Bible study for the team.

Tyree describes Daniels as his “spiritual mother” and the person who prophesied his role, over the phone, on the evening prior to the Giants’ 2008 Super Bowl win. In the New Apostolic world of modern-day apostles and prophets, one’s spiritual father or mother not only acts as a mentor but also provides spiritual authority and protection.  Tyree’s spiritual mother is nationally known as “the demon buster,” a specialist in expelling what are supposed to be literal demons and in “healing” homosexuals. Tyree claims that he himself has been possessed by a demon that caused him to exhibit symptoms of mental illness and to spend four days in a psychiatric hospital.

Like other NAR apostles and prophets, Daniels and Duprée promote the concept of the “Seven Mountains Mandate,” or the belief that Christians should take “dominion” over the seven power centers of society and government.  The sports industry falls under the categories of the entertainment, media, and business mountains, areas aggressively targeted by NAR leaders. In her book of spiritual warfare prayers, Daniels describes “gatekeepers of the sports industry” as being “strategically set in place for prophetic evangelism throughout the industry.”

The Demon Buster

In her dual role as an apostle and prophetess, Daniels has served on the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders.  This group meets to make prophetic declarations about the future and has included such figures as Harry Jackson Jr., Cindy Jacobs, Sarah Palin’s mentor Mary Glazier, and Lou Engle.  Engle is known for co-founding TheCall events, used in 2008 to promote Proposition Eight in California and as a platform for supporters of the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda in 2010.

HILC_RollCall (1) (1)Kimberly Daniels and Harry Jackson Jr. spearheaded the fight against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2007 by targeting African American churches and pastors with claims that the bill was part of a homosexual “satanic agenda” to muzzle and perhaps even imprison pastors.  Their efforts included full-page newspaper ads (pictured left) in D.C. featuring Jackson and Daniels in the top photos of the left column. Jackson has been described in a report by  Americans United for Separation of Church and State as “point man for the wedge strategy” of “using attacks on gay rights and abortion as a wedge between African American churchgoers and their political allies in the civil rights and progressive communities.”  This strategy was revealed in a NOM document leaked in 2012, describing a plan “to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies.”

Daniels and Jackson were interviewed on a popular evangelical show on Daystar TV, alongside their fellow “comrade in war” Cindy Jacobs, about their opposition to the hate crimes bill. The six-minute video (embedded below) jumps from the interview to short individual clips of Daniels, Jackson, Jacobs, and also Lou Engle and Che Ahn, in a documentation of their homophobic language and false claims that the hate crimes bill would result in the jailing of pastors for preaching against homosexuality from the pulpit. The compilation of clips was produced by Bruce Wilson, now with TWOCARE, when Daniels was running (and won) a city council seat in Jacksonville, Florida in 2011.

The video also includes short excerpts from a sermon in which Daniels embraces slavery as a Christianizing influence and claims that “Jews own everything.” It reveals glimpses of her brand of the prosperity doctrine, or the belief that God rewards those of proper faith with health and wealth.

Although Daniels won her city council seat as a Democrat, she authored an article in Charisma magazine in 2008 calling for black Christians to vote against Barack Obama.  Daniels is featured regularly in Charisma, which provides a forum for her claims that demons can be ingested by eating Halloween candy. Daniels has written numerous books, including one with a foreword by Diana Hagee, wife of controversial televangelist John Hagee, and another filled with prayers for use in repelling and expelling demons in all kinds of situations.

The spiritual warfare prayers in her book Prayers that Bring Change fall under headings such as “Prayer for Hollywood Entertainers” and “Prayer for Professional Athletes.”  The following are a few selected excerpts:

  • “I pray against all forms of perversion, sex, lust, and homosexuality that are sweeping through the Hollywood industry and professional athletics.”
  • “I bind the spirit of lesbianism, whoredom, and strange women and displace it with the anointing of the virtuous woman.  I command the gay men to become straight and the unfaithful brothers to repent and become mighty men of valor.”
  • “I renounce the witchcraft that comes with homosexuality/lesbianism.”
  • “Bless all the men and women who stand before the world as gatekeepers of the sports industry.”
  • “I pray that salvation will be made known to the people of Israel who do not believe the Messiah has come.”
  • “I break the control of all forms of ancient religions, philosophy, astronomy, divination, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, new age, and any other power that these secret organizations draw power and strength from.”

David Tyree also references his close relationship with Apostle Ardell Daniels, Kimberly Daniels husband.  Ardell Daniels is one of founding board members of the Oak Initiative, a religio-political organization fighting against a perceived Marxist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition.  In 2010, the Oak Initiative produced a short video titled “Marxism in America” featuring another board member, retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, who claims in the video that the nation is in the grips of a Marxist takeover.

Apostle Frank Dupree

dupree and tyree (1)As recently as 2013, Transformation Newark magazine featured a double-page advertisement for David Tyree and Frank Duprée’s joint venture marketing health supplements, powders, and drinks for the Northeast region of Impax World products.  The ad, as seen, capitalizes on Tyree’s fame and his book authored with Kimberly Daniels.

Frank Duprée hosts a "solemn assembly" in Newark's City Hall in 2001, keynoted by Apostle John Kelly.  Kelly is now international head of the ICAL and Apostle Joseph Mattera is the U.S. overseer.

Frank Duprée hosts a “solemn assembly” in Newark’s City Hall in 2001, keynoted by Apostle John Kelly. Kelly is now international head of the ICAL and Apostle Joseph Mattera is the U.S. overseer.

Apostle Frank Duprée is also well connected in regional and national networks.  “Bishop Duprée,” as he is also called, is one of the founders of Transformation Newark and the Metro Apostolic Network in New Jersey and New York, with branches in Pakistan and Kenya. The Metro Apostolic Network council includes Apostle Joseph Mattera, recently named U.S. head of the International Coalition of Apostles. (The ICA also recently changed its name to the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders or ICAL.)  The ICAL is forming national networks of apostles in countries around the world.

Gatekeepers in the Sports Industry

Giant’s coach Tom Coughlin has described the position of director of player development, for which Tyree has been hired, as extremely important in football franchises. In Coughlin’s words, the job is to aid players in “their development as young men, the opportunities in the business world and in networking in the city that they happen to be playing in.”  Tyree certainly has access to extensive and very interesting networks in the New York and New Jersey area.  He has repeatedly voiced his willingness to use his access and position to advance his worldview. Now, he can be one of those strategically placed “gatekeepers in the sports industry.”

According to the introduction to his autobiography, Tyree left a letter in each of his teammates’ lockers in September 2007. In the letter, he described himself as called by God to be a spiritual leader to remove the team out from under a “spiritual dark cloud.”  He wrote that God wanted to do great things with the team, but that it required faith in the Lord in order to win the championship.  He issued an invitation to the “First Team Fellowship/Bible Study” at his house.

Tyree continues the introduction by admitting that not many of his teammates took him up on his offer, but he still describes the Giants’ victory as “A Supernatural Bowl” (also the title of a chapter in the book).  The book includes a “Hall of Faith” of NFL players who also believe in a supernatural component to football, and that the faith required to tap into that supernatural power must be shared with their teammates.  A football-style prosperity doctrine is described in detail by Tyree and Daniels in the closing chapters of the book.

In his 2011 interview with NOM, Tyree said that athletes and believers who are in positions to do so should voice their opposition to gay marriage.  He added that believers are doing God an injustice if they don’t “make his heart known to the country.” “It’s not about establishing a theocracy,” Tyree continued. “It’s about what’s right.”

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Rumblings of Theocratic Violence

Some Christian Right activists have lost hope that a Christian Nation can be achieved in the United States through the formal political process—including a high-level GOP operative. They are calling for martyrs and thinking about religious war.

As its long-held dream of a national "return to Christ" seems to fade, the Christian Right is considering violent and secessionist alternatives. Photo courtesy of Chris Wieland.

As its long-held dream of a national “return to Christ” seems to fade, the Christian Right is considering violent and secessionist alternatives. Photo courtesy of Chris Wieland.

“If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years,” wrote Republican campaign strategist David Lane in an essay published on a popular conservative website in 2013, “let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end.” Quoting Winston Churchill from the darkest days of the German bombing of Britain during World War II, Lane added that “upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”1

Such rhetoric is so common on the farther reaches of the Right that it can be easy to dismiss. But something has changed in recent years. Such disturbing claims are appearing more frequently, more prominently, and in ways that suggest that they are expressions of deeply held beliefs more than provocative political hyperbole.2 What’s more, there are powerful indications in the writings of some Christian Right leaders that elements of their movement have lost confidence in the bright political vision of the United States as the once and future Christian nation—and that they are desperately seeking alternatives.

The 59-year-old Lane, who generally keeps a low media profile, epitomizes the trend. Lane has been a key strategist in the conservative movement and a behind-the-scenes power broker and adviser to GOP presidential candidates for two decades.3 His main vehicle has been “Pastors’ Policy Briefings,” in which conservative Christian clergy and their spouses are provided expenses-paid trips to (usually) closed-door, invitation-only conferences. Speakers at these events included top GOP politicians and office holders, as well as Christian Right ideologues such as David Barton and experts in the mechanics of church-based electoral mobilization. During the 2010 midterm elections, such events were held in six states (Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Iowa). The elections swept unprecedented numbers of Christian conservatives into state legislatures and the Congress, largely under the rubric of the Tea Party, helping catalyze the successful effort to oust three pro-marriage equality justices of the Iowa Supreme Court.4

The Iowa Renewal Project, which hosted a briefing in October 2013, is one of several state-level units of the American Renewal Project—which is, in turn, a political development and mobilization project of the Mississippi-based American Family Association. Its most prominent figures are founder Don Wildmon and the abrasive radio host Bryan Fischer. Lane told the Dallas Morning News that the goal of the event, which featured Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX),5 was the same as the others: “the mobilization of pastors and pews to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture.” Lane said: “We’ve been in 15 states now, largely under the radar, and we’ve had 10,000 pastors plus spouses that we’ve put up overnight and fed three meals. The purpose is to get the pastors—the shepherds in America—to engage the culture through better registration and get out the vote.”6

In one sense, little has changed since the methods that have defined the Christian Right were developed in the latter part of the twentieth century. But the heyday of high-profile, mediagenic leaders like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Phyllis Schlafly—and their national organizations—is long gone. Their legacy is a generation of hands-on political operatives who now sustain a more decentralized Christian Right. No one now qualifies as the “leader” of the Christian Right. Instead, a constellation of smaller, electorally focused organizations has emerged, and others have evolved.

Lane’s method turns on the role of clergy in inspiring, sustaining, and expanding the electoral capacity of Christian conservatives. By Lane’s analysis, about half of eligible evangelical voters are either not registered or do not vote—and he believes pastors are the key to changing this, and thereby to sustaining the Christian Right’s strategic capacity for skillful voter mobilization, and exercising outsized political influence en route to dominant political power and governmental authority.7 As such, Lane epitomizes the long-haul political vision of the Christian Right. He has promoted Mike Huckabee at similar events since his runs for statewide office in Arkansas in the 1990s, and as a presidential candidate in 2008.8 Lane also masterminded the 2011 prayer rally that drew 30,000 people to launch Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s short-lived 2012 campaign for president.

Like many other evangelicals, especially those influenced by the Neocharismatic movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation,9 Lane is counting on a revival—another Great Awakening—to sweep Christians of the right sort into positions of power. This would result in the kind of Christian nation that he and his close ally, the historical revisionist (and accused fabulist) David Barton—whose books and interpretations are influential among conservative evangelicals—believe was intended by the nation’s founders. Barton is well known, for example, for his claim that the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state is a “myth,” as well as the variation that the wall is “one directional,” that is, intended only to protect the church from the state.10 A Bartonesque Christian nationalism is the vision that animates Lane’s work across the election calendar.11

But for all the energy he invests in traditional electoral work, Lane clearly is not convinced that his shining vision of America is likely—or even possible. Hence his doubt-filled essay about “the American experiment with freedom” possibly ending. The piece, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” was published on World Net Daily (WND), a leading and influential news site of the farther secular and religious Right. WND quickly removed the essay in June 2013 after bloggers called attention to it,12 but Lane soon demonstrated that it was not an aberration. He told conservative Iowa radio talk show host Steve Deace the following month that “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa” would be merciful punishment from God for legalized abortion and for “homosexuals praying at the Inauguration [of President Obama’s second term].” Without such divine mercy, Lane suggested, America might “get judgment like Nazi Germany.”13

Lane’s apparent lack of confidence that the Christian Right’s efforts to establish theocratic governance can succeed by using the tools of democracy epitomizes his belief that martyrdom and elections are not mutually exclusive, and that horrific confrontations lie ahead. Indeed, Lane opened his WND essay with a quote from a leading thinker who does not believe that the U.S. can be salvaged via conventional politics: the theologian Peter Leithart, 55, a Christian Reconstructionist (hardline theocrat) who makes even David Barton seem meek and mild by comparison.14 “Throughout Scripture,” Leithart declared in a passage from his 2012 book Between Babel and Beast, “the only power that can overcome the seemingly invincible omnipotence of a Babel or a Beast is the power of martyrdom, the power of the witness to King Jesus to the point of loss and death.”15

“You ask,” Lane wrote in his WND essay, elaborating on Leithart’s theme, “‘What is our goal?’ To wage war to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage with all of our might and strength that God will give us. You ask, ‘What is our aim?’ One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror.”

Lane’s essay is a clarion call for a contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States. And his notion of war is not just a metaphor for politics. He even called for a contemporary “Gideon” and a “Rahab the Harlot” to rise to the occasion. Gideon is the Biblical figure who leads an Israelite army in an ethnic cleansing of the Midianites who were both oppressors and worshiped false gods. The story of Rahab turns on how she sheltered two Israelite spies in preparation for the sacking of the city of Jericho by Joshua’s army, resulting in the massacre of everyone but Rahab and her family. One does not invoke Gideon and Rahab in this way if one is simply calling for religious revival, or seeking to advance a legislative agenda.16

Coming from a top GOP operative, such exhortations to religious war are extraordinary. Lane’s articulation demonstrates an alarming degree of militancy at a high level of American politics. As such, it is a bellwether of an ideological reorganization, or at least reconsideration, now taking place within the Christian Right. It sounds like an expression of the cognitive dissonance experienced by a man whose job is to mobilize political constituencies toward common goals—but who doubts that the enterprise can succeed.

Christian Right leaders and activists have been particularly provoked by the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo courtesy of Southern Reformation.

Christian Right leaders and activists have been particularly provoked by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo courtesy of Southern Reformation.

As a result, at least some of the historic culture warriors of the Christian Right seem to be considering an ostensibly unlikely coalition with the Neo-Confederate movement. The coalition would lead their followers in religious and political directions in which violence is as likely as the outcomes are uncertain. It is an unlikely coalition, not necessarily because the Christian Right and most Neo-Confederates differ much on issues, but because Christian nationalism is so fundamentally at odds with the notion of fracturing the nation due to a loss of hope and faith in the role of the United States in God’s plan.

Witness Against America

The accelerating advance of LGBTQ rights, especially marriage equality, has become a flashpoint for the Christian Right’s revolutionary impulses. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor in 2013, Peter Leithart took to the influential blog of the journal First Things (founded by the late neoconservative Catholic thinker Richard John Neuhaus) to declare that the decision “presents American Christians with a call to martyrdom.”17

In 2013, influential GOP operative David Lane wrote an essay titled “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” a clarion call for a contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States. Lane later told a radio host that car bombs in U.S. cities would be “merciful judgement” from God for the nation’s tolerance of legalized abortion and homosexuality.

Leithart is the former dean of graduate studies at New Saint Andrew’s College, whose founder and eminence grise is Douglas Wilson. (Leithart remains an adjunct fellow at the school, which is based in the university town of Moscow, Idaho.) In 2012, Leithart struck off on his own, founding a small school and related think tank, Trinity House, in Birmingham, AL. It seeks to serve as a center for a new Reformed Protestantism, called Federal Vision, whose leading lights include Neo-Confederate authors Wilson and Steven Wilkins.18

Together, Wilson and Wilkins have probably done more than anyone to construct the theology now animating much of the Neo-Confederate movement. Wilkins was one of the founders of the League of the South, the leading organization of contemporary Neo-Confederatism.19 As scholars Edward Sebesta and Euan Hague have written, the League views the Civil War as a “theological war” that continues in contemporary America. The heart of their argument is that the old Confederacy was an orthodox Christian nation fighting for the future against the heretical and tyrannical Union states.  Sebesta and Hague also report that that New York Times best-selling author Thomas E. Woods, a traditionalist Catholic and a founder of the League, has argued that “struggles against liberalism, big government and the New World Order comprise ‘Christendom’s Last Stand.’”20

Wilson and Wilkins are notorious for a booklet they published that claimed that slavery was not so bad. Nick Gier, a professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Idaho, observes that they made a number of historically inaccurate but ideologically significant claims, notably that, “By the time of the [Civil] War, the leadership of the South was conservative, orthodox, and Christian,” and that the leadership of the North had become “radical and Unitarian.” While the Confederates were righteous, “the abolitionists in the North were ‘wicked’ and ‘driven by a zealous hatred for the Word of God.’”21

In his First Things piece , Leithart avoids calling too directly for Christians to risk their lives (perhaps because of the flap over David Lane’s essay). But his call to martyrdom is clear enough. “In Greek, martyria means ‘witness,’ specifically, witness in a court,” he wrote. “At the very least, the decision challenges American Christians to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics without compromise or apology. But Windsor presents a call to martyrdom in a more specific sense. There will be a cost for speaking the truth, a cost in reputation, opportunity, and funds if not in freedoms. [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia’s reference [in Windsor] to the pagan Roman claim that Christians are ‘enemies of mankind’ was probably not fortuitous.”

“The only America that actually exists,” he continued, “is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.”22

“If America is to be put in its place—put right,” he concluded (in David Lane’s hair-raising invocation of a passage from Leithart’s book Between Babel and Beast), “Christians must risk martyrdom and force Babel to the crux where it has to decide either to acknowledge Jesus an imperator and the church as God’s imperium or to begin drinking holy blood.”23

In Between Babel and Beast, Leithart declared that Christians must respond to the heresy of “Americanism,” by which some conflate the nation with Christianity itself. He called for repenting of Americanism and beginning to cultivate “believers who are martyrs in the original sense of ‘witness’ and in the later sense of men and women ready to follow the Lamb all the way to an imperial cross.”24

Significantly, Leithart has also proposed “the end of Protestantism” in a way that suggests a growing affinity for the kind of Catholicism expressed by George Weigel—a U.S. Catholic culture warrior, neoconservative, signer of the Manhattan Declaration, and fellow First Things blogger. Leithart also proposes the related notion of a “Reformational Catholicism,” which foresees a Rome-based Christian unity.25 He envisions this mutual accommodation as a kind of Christian maturity necessary for Christendom not only to survive but to prevail.

Leithart’s make-or-break vision would either end what he describes as anti-Christian tyranny or, failing that, build a new Christian nation—or nations. He is less concerned with the ups and downs of single issues than with the long-term advance of Christendom. This is consistent with the revolutionary visions of an influential Catholic thinker, Father C. John McCloskey, who believes that regional American strongholds of conservative Christianity may be necessary in light of the culture of religious pluralism and the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state.

Ending the Tyrannical Regime

The accelerating advance of LGBTQ rights, especially marriage equality, has become a flashpoint for the Christian Right’s revolutionary impulses. “The only America that actually exists,” Christian theocrat Peter Leithart has written, “is one in which ‘marriage’ includes same-sex couples and women have a Constitutional right to kill their babies. To be faithful, Christian witness must be witness against America.”

McCloskey, a 61-year-old priest in the conservative order Opus Dei, is best known for his role in the religious conversions of Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and various other prominent and influential conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, Robert Bork, economist Lawrence Kudlow, financier Lewis Lehrman, and the late journalist Robert Novak.

McCloskey told columnist Terry Mattingly in July 2013 that “the United States is no longer a Christian country.” Because this is so, he explained, traditionalists will need to cluster in states that are more congenial to their views on such matters as abortion, marriage, parents rights, and homeschooling. “No one in this country has ever really suffered for their faith in any meaningful way,” McCloskey said. “Those days are ending, especially in certain states . . . Among Catholics, we may soon find that many are Americans more than they are Catholics.”26

Leithart has called for Christians to "risk martyrdom and force Babel" and either acknowledge Jesus or "begin drinking holy blood." Photo courtesy of Zac Calvert

Leithart has called for Christians to “risk martyrdom and force Babel” and either acknowledge Jesus or “begin drinking holy blood.” Photo courtesy of Zac Calvert

McCloskey predicted in 2001, and again in 2012, that conservative Catholics and evangelicals would need to band together in a civil war of secession. The “secession of the ‘Culture of Life’ states,” he predicted, would emphasize “the fundamental issues of the sanctity of marriage, the rights of parents, and the sacredness of human life,” and that the secession would precipitate “a short and bloody civil war” that would break the country into what he calls “the Regional States of America.”27 He repeated this general view in an essay in January 2014, in which he discussed separating from the “tyrannical regime” in Washington, D.C.28 McCloskey, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Faith and Reason Institute, has not said how he thinks this might happen, but he has said that the civil war may be all over by 2030. (Unsurprisingly, McCloskey has favorably reviewed one of the books of the prominent Catholic Neo-Confederate Thomas E. Woods, a founder of the League of the South.29)

McCloskey, like the rest of the Republican-oriented Christian Right, believes that the current electoral strategy of seeking political control of the Red states might sufficiently reduce the number of abortions without having to overturn Roe. But he avers that while people from those states who seek abortions “retain the option of traveling to the nearest blue state,” there is “much hope in this area for at least regional decreases in abortions.”30

Centuries of political and military conflict between Christian factions are being set aside in favor of strategic alliances that target the culture and constitutional structure of religious pluralism—and the supposedly “tyrannical” federal government. It may be more a matter of how, rather than when, the conversation about secession unfolds.

McCloskey finds encouragement in nullificationist activity in the Red states against what he considers “unjust laws” that protect abortion rights and access. He points to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback,31 who in 2013 signed legislation that defined life as beginning at conception as part of a bill that severely restricts, but doesn’t ban, abortion.32 Brownback has promoted nullification as a strategy of resistance to what is viewed as federal intrusions on state sovereignty regarding, among other things, gun control.33

“The red state/blue state dichotomy could—perhaps sooner than we might think—result in states opting to pull out of the union,” McCloskey wrote in January 2014. He wondered about what secession might mean for a superpower such as the United States, and about how the armed forces might react.“[B]ut ultimately,” he concluded, “the protection of innocent life trumps any tyrannical regime.”34 McCloskey has said he hopes that it will not come to the violence he has predicted, but for more than a decade he has openly said that a conflict with what he calls “the atheistic American Herods” is probably inevitable.35

This kind of thinking is not new within the farther reaches of the religious and political Right. The Christian Right theorist and prolific author Gary North, for example, wrote about the long-term revolutionary implications of what he and others were doing. North objected to the 1994 assassination of a Florida abortion provider and his escort by a fellow Christian Reconstructionist, Paul Hill, who had also authored a manifesto in which he called for Christian militias to rise up against the federal government.36 North argued that the assassination was premature and that the foundation for theocratic Christian revolution had not been properly laid. Nevertheless, North felt that something serious was already underway. “For the first time in over 300 years,” he wrote in 1987, “a growing number of Christians are starting to view themselves as an army on the move.  This army will grow.” He concluded: “We are self-consciously firing the first shot.”37

It is not clear that the Christian Right is any more ready to revolt now than it was in 1994 —a period that was marked by a wave of arsons, bombings, and assassinations against abortion providers, as well as the rise of the militia movement. (Post 9/11, these violent movements were largely neutralized by federal law enforcement.) But as the 2009 Manhattan Declaration and other compacts created between Christian conservatives in recent decades have shown, the religious wars that have pitted Christian factions against one another for millennia, politically and militarily, are being resolved in favor of strategic alliances against the culture and constitutional structure of religious pluralism, and against the allegedly “tyrannical” federal government.38 Thus the Catholic/evangelical conversation may be taking a surprising turn.

It may be more a matter of how, rather than when, the conversation about secession unfolds. Some see restoring the Christian nation (which arguably never was) as a hopeless cause. Others hope that a revival-powered wave of Christian nationalism will propel a profound cultural and political transformation. But if such a transformed America is not to be, a coalition with the avatars of Confederate revivalism will become more appealing, and will be well-aligned with McCloskey’s vision of the secession of conservative states.

Theology of Neo-Confederatism

Those who have long lived at the intersections of the Christian Right and the Neo-Confederate movement will find much in common with the culture warring, secessionist, violent visionary sensibilities of Lane and McCloskey, if variations on the theology of Neo-Confederatism gain further traction. Pastor David Whitney, 56, who leads the small Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, MD (near Washington, D.C.), may epitomize the trend.

Though not widely known, Whitney is a well-connected figure on the Far Right. He is chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South and is a signatory of the “Covenant” of the six-year-old Southern National Congress, which openly seeks an “independent republic.”39 He travels the country as the senior instructor at the Institute on the Constitution, which offers theocratic interpretations of U.S. history, and he is a perennial candidate for political office who has run on the Republican and Constitution Party tickets. In 2014 he ran in a Democratic primary for county council.

Like Lane and McCloskey, Whitney is revealing himself to be increasingly revolutionary.40 He declared on Independence Day 2010, for example, that if government does not conform to God’s law, “the people have a right to secede” from the “wicked regime in Washington, D.C.” and its “despicable and evil tyranny.” He believes that we therefore may eventually have to make the “same difficult decision which our forebears reached on that hot July day in Philadelphia.”41

Whitney has become only more overtly militant since then. In February 2011, he threatened secession in testimony before the Judicial Proceedings Committee of the Maryland State Senate. For example, he claimed that passage of marriage-equality legislation would delegitimize the state government, such that state laws should not be obeyed; that the state courts and executive branch have no authority; that taxes should not be paid; and that “we should from this point forward consider it as our Founders considered King George III.” If the legislation passed, he said, “multitudes” would want to secede from the state.42 While there is no obvious secessionist uprising seeking to fracture Maryland in the wake of the passage of marriage-equality legislation, that issue is hardly Whitney’s only concern—and his seething sensibility has taken a turn to vigilantism.

In a June 2013 sermon, he justified the murder of abortion providers. In discussing a Christian’s duty to defend life, he said that this included the prevention of “the murder of the unborn” and that “we need to understand that there is such a thing as Biblically justifiable homicide.”43 This places him in a distinct lineage of justification for murder that goes back at least to Paul Hill and was specifically rejected as a legal defense by the Florida courts. Hill had advocated the notion of justifiable homicide for more than a year before he decided to take action himself.44

A May 2013 sermon helps to establish the context for Whitney’s notions of extrajudicial killings.  “When you talk to people about God’s law being restored in America,” he declared, “they say, ‘Awww, you’re some ayatollah. Awww, you want a theocracy.’” He explained that, “Well yes, I want obedience to God’s law because that is where liberty comes from. Liberty comes from God’s law.  Tyranny comes when God’s law is rejected by a society as it has been rejected in our day.” He went on to say that any law that “contradicts God’s law… is not law at all.”45

Consistent with his deeply theocratic bent, Whitney wrote in February 2014 that we should “restrict citizenship” to Christians of the right sort: Christians who—whether voting or serving as jurors, government officials, or “in the Militia”—operate according to “God’s Law.”46 In October 2013, he preached that “God’s word is wise in how to structure a human civil government. Because if a human civil government allows a tyrant to control an army, you are going to lose your freedom. It’s only when you, the people, are armed in a militia structure that you can prevent that kind of tyranny from overwhelming the country.”

In a sermon in March 2014, Whitney called for imprecatory prayer against the White House staff (presumably including President Obama), apparently because of the Affordable Care Act. “There are many enemies that we could pray against them that God would do unto them what they are seeking to do unto us,” he told his congregation. “There are those, including those in the White House, through their death panels, who intend to kill us. May God do to them what they intend to do to us.”47

Such Words as These

It could be argued that the so-called culture wars have been long on metaphor and relatively short on violence. That would be fair, even when we consider the violence directed against LGBTQ people and the four decades of arsons, bombings, and assassinations directed at abortion providers since Roe. But the protagonists of the story of the various elements of the Christian Right see themselves as playing a different role than that cast by visionaries of perpetual social progress. There are also clear tensions between those who can live with the social changes taking place in the country, those who can’t, and those who do not see the battle as one of single issues, but one of the survival of Christendom—and whether or not Christians are willing to fight for it.

Taken singly, the views of any of the Christian Right leaders described here would not necessarily signal a trend. But taken together, the commonalities of their views take the edge off of their many differences and reveal distinct, overlapping factions of a dynamic movement towards the ideas of nullification and secession—and the possibility of violence and revolution.

One does not have to believe that secession or revolution of any kind would be successful, or that widespread violence is likely anytime soon, to recognize that the political tensions preceding any major matters of nullification, and moves towards secession by any state, would likely beget violence of many kinds. Which is why ignoring Lane, Leithart, McCloskey, Whitney, and their like—or assuming that they are anything less than deadly serious—could be an error of historic significance.

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1 David Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” World Net Daily, June 6, 2013.
2 This is also different than, but not necessarily mutually exclusive with, “eliminationist” rhetoric as described in David Neiwert, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, (PoliPointPress, 2009).
3 Grace Wyler, “10 Evangelical Powerbrokers Behind Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally To Save America,” Business Insider, Aug. 5, 2011, www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-masterminds-behind-rick-perrys-prayer-rally-to-save-america-2011-8?op=1.
4 Eric Eckholm, “An Iowa Stop in a Broad Effort To Revitalize the Religious Right,” New York Times, Apr. 3, 2011, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9806E5DF1E30F930A35757C0A9679D8B63&pagewanted=1; Grace Wyler, “10 Evangelical Powerbrokers Behind Rick Perry’s Prayer Rally To Save America,” Business Insider, Aug. 5, 2011, www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-masterminds-behind-rick-perrys-prayer-rally-to-save-america-2011-8?op=1.
5 Bruce Wilson, “Ted Cruz Anointed by Pro-Religious War, Antigay Pastors,” Talk to Action, Oct. 11, 2013, www.talk2action.org/story/2013/10/11/173533/73.
6 Wayne Slater, “Ted Cruz headed to Iowa to speak with influential conservative pastors,” Dallas Morning News, June 6, 2013, www.dallasnews.com/news/columnists/wayne-slater/20130606-wayne-slater-ted-cruz-headed-to-iowa-to-speak-with-influential-conservative-pastors.ece; David Brody, “EXCLUSIVE: Evangelical Pastors Ready to Mobilize for 2014 Election, Say ‘America Has Left God,’” The Brody File, CBN, Feb. 25, 2013, http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2013/02/25/exclusive-evangelical-pastors-ready-to-mobilize-for-2014-election-say.aspx.
7 David Brody (guest host for Glenn Beck), interview with David Lane, “David Lane on Glenn Beck Show,” The Blaze, Dec. 3, 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wRBJZF8vKw.
8 Huckabee was also featured at the February 2014 Pastors’ Policy Briefing in North Carolina. See Sarah Posner, “The Revival of the Pastors’ Policy Briefings,” Religion Dispatches, Mar. 1, 2011. www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/4320/the_revival_of_the_pastors’_policy_briefing.
9 Rachel Tabachnick, “Spiritual Warriors with an Antigay Mission: The New Apostolic Reformation,” Public Eye, Mar. 22, 2013, www.politicalresearch.org/2013/03/22/spiritual-warriors-with-an-antigay-mission.
10 Rob Boston, “Sects, Lies and Videotape:  David Barton’s Distorted History,” Church & State (April 1993). For more on Barton and Christian nationalism, see also, Frederick Clarkson, “History is Powerful:  Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters,” Public Eye, Spring 2007, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2007/03/05/history-is-powerfulwhy-the-christian-right-distorts-history-and-why-it-matters/.
11 David Brody, “Revival in America? Time to Get off the Sidelines!” Christian Broadcasting Network, Aug. 1, 2013, www.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2013/July/Time-to-Get-Off-Sidelines-Iowa-Pastors-Say-Yes.
12 Denise Oliver Velez, “Rand Paul’s outreach coordinator declares ‘holy war’ on us,” Daily Kos, June 16, 2013, www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/16/1214807/-Rand-Paul-s-outreach-coordinator-declares-holy-war-on-us.
13 Brian Tashman, “David Lane Predicts Car Bombings in LA, DC and Des Moines over Gay Inauguration Prayers,” Right Wing Watch, July 23, 2013, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/david-lane-predicts-car-bombings-la-dc-and-des-moines-over-gay-inauguration-prayers.
14 Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence,” Public Eye (March/June 1994), www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisrec.html.
15 Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation.”
16 Lane often calls for the rise of Gideons and Rahabs in his published writings, notably in David Lane, “Will a Gideon or the Harlot please stand?” Christian Response Alerts, Oct. 17, 2012, www.christianresponsealerts.com/2012/10/will-a-gideon-or-the-harlot-please-stand.
17 Peter J. Leithart, “A Call to Martyrdom,” First Things, July 2, 2013, www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/07/02/a-call-to-martyrdom.
18 Leithart’s father, Paul Leithart, is a longtime leader of the John Birch Society, including current membership on the National Council.
19 Mark Potok,“Doug Wilson’s Religious Empire Expanding in the Northwest:  A religious empire based in Idaho is part of the far-right theological movement fueling neo-Confederate groups,” Intelligence Report (Spring 2004), www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2004/spring/taliban-on-the-palouse; Nick Gier, “Douglas Wilson, Southern Presbyterians, and Neo-Confederates,” Talk to Action, Jan. 11, 2008, www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/11/191549/134.
20 Edward H. Sebesta and Euan Hague, “The U.S. Civil War as a Theological War: Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South,” Canadian Review of American Studies (2002), 270.
21 Nick Gier, “Douglas Wilson, Southern Presbyterians, and Neo-Confederates,” Talk to Action, Jan. 11, 2008, www.talk2action.org/story/2008/1/11/191549/134.
22 Peter J. Leithart, “A Call to Martyrdom,” First Things, July 2, 2013, www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/07/02/a-call-to-martyrdom.
23 David Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” World Net Daily, June 6, 2013, citing Peter J. Leithart, Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective (Cascade Books, 2012), 152.
24 Lane, “Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation,” citing Leithart, Between Babel and Beast, xiii.
25 Peter J. Leithart, “The End of Protestantism,” First Things, Nov. 8, 2013, www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/11/the-end-of-protestantism. Interestingly, David Lane organized a private dinner for clergy with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) so they could hear his story of conversion from Hinduism to “evangelical Catholicism”:  Tom Hamburger, “Bobby Jindal, raised Hindu, uses Christian conversion to woo GOP base for 2016 run,” Washington Post, May 12, 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bobby-jindal-raised-hindu-uses-christian-conversion-to-woo-gop-base-for-2016-run/2014/05/12/c446fa34-d989-11e3-8009-71de85b9c527_story.html?hpid=z1.
26 Terry Mattingly, “John Paul II and the death of Christian America,” Press-Republican, July 8, 2013, www.pressrepublican.com/0205_columns/x881892943/John-Paul-II-and-the-death-of-Christian-America.
27 C. John McCloskey III, “2030 Revisited,” The Catholic Thing, Mar. 15, 2012, www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2012/2030-revisited.html; Frederick Clarkson, “God is My Co-Belligerent: Avatar Priests, Hijacked Theologians, and Other Figures of Right-Wing Revolt,” Religion Dispatches, July 23, 2012, www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/6207/god_is_my_co_belligerent__avatar_priests__hijacked_theologians__and_other_figures_of_right_wing_revolt/;  For more on McCloskey, see Frank L. Cocozzelli, “The Politics of Schism in the Catholic Church,” Public Eye, Fall 2009, www.publiceye.org/magazine/v24n3/politics-schism-catholic-hurch.html.
28 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Pro-life Movement,” Truth and Charity Forum (2014), www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-pro-life-movement. See also Frank Cocozzelli, “Opus Dei Priest’s Secessionist Roadmap to Theocracy,” Talk to Action, Apr. 1, 2014, www.talk2action.org/story/2014/4/1/142834/8120.
29 C. John McCloskey, “Battle for Marriage Heats Up in California,” National Catholic Register, Sept. 4, 2005, www.ncregister.com/site/article/battle_for_marriage_heats_up_in_california.
30 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Gospel of Life in America,” Truth and Charity Forum, June 12, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-gospel-of-life-in-america.
31 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Gospel of Life in America,” Truth and Charity Forum, June 12, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-gospel-of-life-in-america.
32 Katie McDonough, “Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signs sweeping anti-choice bill into law,” Salon, Apr. 22, 2013, www.salon.com/2013/04/22/kansas_gov_sam_brownback_signs_sweeping_anti_choice_bill_into_law.
33 Rachel Tabachnick and Frank Cocozzelli, “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right,” Public Eye (Fall 2013), www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/nullification-neo-confederates-and-the-revenge-of-the-old-right.
34 C. J. McCloskey, “Hope for the Pro-life Movement,” Truth and Charity Forum, Jan. 13, 2014, www.truthandcharityforum.org/hope-for-the-pro-life-movement.
35 Quote is from C. J. McCloskey, “The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Dr. Nathanson the Prophet,” Truth and Charity Forum, Jan. 14, 2013, www.truthandcharityforum.org/the-40th-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade-and-dr-nathanson-the-prophet. Also see C. J. McCloskey, “2030: Looking Backwards,” CatholiCity (May 2000), www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/2030.html.
36 Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1997), 141-142.
37 Gary North, “What Are Biblical Blueprints?” in Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government (Dominion Press, 1987), 270.
38 Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance,” Public Eye (Summer 2013), www.politicalresearch.org/christian-right-seeks-renewal-in-deepening-catholic-protestant-alliance.
39 “The Southern National Covenant,” Southern National Congress, www.southernnationalcongress.org/Southern_National_Covenant.
40 Frederick Clarkson, “Two Neo-Confederate Leaders Join Republican & Democratic Parties to Run For Office,” Political Research Associates, Feb. 27, 2014, www.politicalresearch.org/2014/02/27/two-neo-confederate-leaders-join-republican-democratic-parties-to-run-for-office.
41 Clarkson, “Two Neo-Confederate Leaders Join Republican & Democratic Parties to Run For Office.” The sermon was taken down after PRA exposed it. However, the relevant audio clip of Whitney’s July 4, 2010, sermon survives: see “David Whitney on the God-given right to secede,” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn3O0-n5chY.
42 David Whitney, “Pastor Whitney testifies before Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee,” American View, Feb. 23, 2011, www.theamericanview.com/pastor-whitney-testifies-before-maryland-senate-judicial-proceedings-committee.
43 Adele M. Stan, “Anti-Choice Proponent of ‘Justifiable Homicide’ Vies for Spot on Democratic Council,” RH Reality Check, Feb. 28, 2014, http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/02/28/anti-choice-proponent-justifiable-homicide-vies-spot-democratic-council. The church has taken down this sermon (and others) since PRA ran the original story, but we have a copy.
44 Clarkson, Eternal Hostility.
45 David Whitney, “The Price of Liberty,” Sermon, May 5, 2013. Retrieved from http://cornerstone.dnsalias.org:8000/Cornerstone/CEFC.htm The link to this sermon is no longer available, but PRA has the excerpt posted on YouTube. See “David Whitney says if it’s not God’s law, it’s ‘pretend law,’” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAV_Deg7Cfw.
46 David Whitney, “Rethinking Citizenship,” Western Journalism Center, Feb. 21, 2014, www.westernjournalism.com/rethinking-citizenship.
47 David Whitney, “The American View Sermon Series – March 16, 2014,” Mar. 16, 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z_HzA20Z6s.

VIDEO: Fred Clarkson Explains the Fight for Religious Freedom

The concerted effort by the Religious Right to redefine Religious Freedom is steadily making its way through the courts and legislators. Political Research Associates’ senior fellow, Fred Clarkson, explains why all Americans (religious and non-religious alike), should be paying attention.

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Fred Religious Freedom Picture

Beyond Lively & Warren: U.S. Conservative Legal Groups Changing African Law to Persecute Sexual Minorities & Women

ACLJ ADF

While the exposure of the direct involvement of U.S. conservative culture warriors like Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren in draconian anti-gay laws in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria has put many in the Religious Right on the defensive, there are many other leaders in the movement to export the U.S. culture wars who have largely remained incognito. As more African nations move to pass anti-gay laws, there is a need to reflect on the role U.S. conservative legal groups have played on the continent.

In September 2009, for example, leaders from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund), and Advocate International—the conservative legal group that claims to “protect religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family”—presented seminars at “Be Transformed: Steering the African Continent to Righteousness, Justice and Peace by Renewing our Minds,” a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sam Casey, ADF’s founder and General Counsel for U.S. Right Wing Advocates International, and Jeffery Ventrella, Senior Vice-President of Strategic of Training at ADF were plenary speakers. Ventrella spoke about “Religious Freedom, the Homosexual Agenda and Advocacy,” capitalizing on the popular attack on LGBTQ people that the secret overarching agenda of the push for equality for sexual minorities is to “recruit” young children.

What makes the involvement of these well-funded American organizations worrisome is their focus on the legal aspect of the persecution and imprisonment of LGBTQ people, and their well-orchestrated collaboration with other foes of LGBTQ justice. The Alliance Defending Freedom’s involvement in Africa immediately follows that of American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ – founded by Pat Robertson), which helped draft the successfully-passed 1996Defense of the Marriage Act (DOMA)—which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “unconstitutional” in June, 2013.

The ACLJ has setup offices around the world, and in Africa operates under the name “East African Center for Law and Justice” in Kenya, and the “Africa Center for Law and Justice” in Zimbabwe. Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s Executive Director, asserted that his organization assists Africans to “uphold pro-life and pro-family values.” ACLJ, he continued, “has partnered with Africans in Zimbabwe and Kenya, and has been doing great work in Africa now for years.” Behind these U.S. conservative groups’ agenda—ACLJ, ADF, and Advocates International—is an attempt to export U.S. culture wars to Africa, falsely claiming that they are authentic and original African values.

Wherever these groups work, their impact is the same: increased persecution of LGBTQ persons and the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Just as European missionaries transformed African culture and values on the premise of religion, these organizations are doing the same. For example, during the 2009 Advocates International conference, Sam Casey, addressed the issue of reproductive health in a speech entitled “Protecting Life: An International Status Report.” Three years later, just after the Rwandan government ratified Article 14 of the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,  in which African governments committed themselves to ensure women’s health and reproductive rights (including safe abortions), Casey traveled to Rwanda to urge Rwandans to “join together to form a nationwide pro-life movement built around the San Jose Articles. … In consultation with Heartbeat International, Human Life International or Life International,” Casey wrote, Rwandans must introduce a “pregnancy resource center” to provide conservative counseling, and pregnancy diagnosis, which would inform “women about the health risks of all their options, including the induced abortions.”

Like the American Center for Law and Justice, the U.S.-based Human Life International operates in Africa. Where no African had yet signed onto the San Jose Articles, these groups aimed to turn Africa into a U.S. conservative-modeled continent by recasting the Maputo Protocol as un-African.

But while they find it easy to win over Africans on homosexuality, generally, African nations tend to be more open to women’s health and reproductive rights. In his Mission Report to Namibia in 2010, Human Life International’s Brian Clowes complained that:

“[M]any Namibians have fallen victim to anti-life thinking, simply because they haven’t heard the other side of the story. They did not comprehend why explicit sex education and contraception are intrinsically evil, and they found it very difficult to understand the scientific evidence and Church teachings on these issues.” [emphasis his]

Both Clowes’ and Casey’s claims are not just insulting to Africa, but imperialistic. Why should U.S. groups export their ideologies to Africa—why should they believe they know better than Africans? Unlike many leaders of the U.S. conservative ideology, most Africans understand that sex education, abortion and contraception save lives. But thanks to the intense pressure of these right-wing actors, the once-rational thinking among African nations is being corrupted in order to deny women of their rights—frequently through legislation such as constitutional amendments (which the American groups help to draft) which define life as beginning at conception. Even in a country like Rwanda, for example, disinformation campaigns from these U.S. organizations has pushed the general public to actually believe that abortion is a crime.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, Advocates International, and the American Center for Law and Justice are three of the leading U.S. conservative legal organizations involved in exporting the U.S. culture wars to Africa. But unlike Americans like Lively, Engle, and Warren who came into the spotlight after giving public speeches to sway the local populaces, these secretive conservative legal organizations have been able to avoid negative press by working directly with lawmakers to draft and impose draconian laws, creating the false impression that they’re coming solely from these countries’ representatives.

Last week, the Ethiopian government cancelled the anti-gay rally and dropped the proposed anti-gay bill, but the LGBTQ community continues to be under surveillance and under attack. At this moment, LGBTQ persons “are very scared even to socialize,” a prominent human rights activist recently told me.

U.S. conservatives claim innocence when it comes to the exportation of homophobia—especially when called to account. But the truth is that intense persecution and violence against LGBTQ people is what follows these “innocent” visits from the American Right.

Updating the Image of Anti-LGBTQ Bigotry

imago dei

The most recent “softer-language” campaign to launch from the Right is the Imago Dei Campaign, organized by a group of Christian Right leaders and Hollywood allies. The group, whose name translates from Latin to “image of God,” is seeking to alter its leaders’ well-established reputation as promoters of anti-LGBTQ bigotry and discriminatory legislation. The Campaign has been well received in the media—which often finds itself prematurely declaring the so-called “culture wars” at an end (or just about). And while the group is proposing some ostensibly welcome changes, there is also much about the Campaign social justice advocates, journalists, and scholars should be skeptical of.

Before we discuss the point for which the Campaign is best known—acknowledging that gay people are made in the image of God—we should note that the Campaign is unequivocal and uncompromising in its attack on reproductive justice and as an exercise in religious supremacism. The intended effect is to drive a wedge between LGBTQ equality supporters and defenders of reproductive justice—factions that have historically sought to make headway together.

The central statement of the Imago Dei Campaign is actually a profoundly anti-abortion declaration: “I recognize that every human being, in and out of the womb, carries the image of God; without exception. Therefore, I will treat everyone with love and respect.” [Emphasis added]

Thus, far from a de-escalation of the culture wars, as some have suggested, this effort is an opportunistic effort to further divide their political and religious opposition.  Many Christians (not to mention people of other and no religious traditions) not only see abortion as a moral decision and consistent with their Christian faith, but that it is no obstacle to seeing others as created in the image of God. But the Imago Dei Campaign, and by extension many in the Christian Right leadership, have sought to gain control of and own the definition of Christianity—projecting an image to the world that all Christians have the same opinion about a woman’s right to choose.

Leader of the Pack

Leading the Campaign is Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). Joining him is Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family; Mat Staver, President of Liberty Counsel (who also sits on the Executive Committee and General Counsel of NHCLC); longtime televangelist James Robison; and Hollywood TV and movie producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (responsible for the popular movie Son of God – a spinoff of the mini-series The Bible, which aired on the History Channel in 2013).

“For the image of God exists in all human beings,” the Campaign declares, “black and white; rich and poor; straight and gay; conservative and liberal; victim and perpetrator; citizen and undocumented; believer and unbeliever.”

Declaring that “every human being” is made in God’s image is certainly a remarkable departure from the type of rhetoric we have heard for so many years from both opponents of marriage equality in the United States, and promoters of anti-LGTBQ sentiment in Africa and Russia. And it is arguably an improvement over previous efforts to reconcile Christian love with the alleged sin of homosexuality in the 1980s, when conservative Christians were urged to “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

“The church of Jesus Christ and the word hatred should not even appear in the same sentence,” Rodriguez said. “What if every single person can recognize the image of God in the other? Wouldn’t that bring down the noise of the hateful rhetoric? Wouldn’t that build a firewall between intolerance and bullying? Wouldn’t that build a firewall against extremism?”

There is no question that words and tone are important, and all people of goodwill hope their efforts will make a difference. But these changes alone only serve to mask an ongoing campaign that is virulent as ever in its effort to combat LGBTQ justice. Indeed, it could actually be a hindrance to the fight for LGBTQ equality by lulling equality supporters into complacency while the Christian Right pursues its broader political and religious objectives.

For example, while this campaign of supposed brotherly love splashes across the media, the Christian Right leadership continues to claim that Christians are being persecuted in America—stirring the stew of bigotry and resentment on the farther right of American religious and political life. “This is not an issue of equality,” Rodriguez said, regarding marriage equality on a radio show in May 2012. “There is an attempt to silence the voice of Christianity, there is an attempt to silence the voice of truth, of righteousness and Biblical justice.” That talking point is followed with legislation that would condone commercial discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds (such bills have appeared in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, and Utah, and several other states).

The Other Shoe Drops

Let’s look at a few other things the Campaign has said—and a few things they have not.

First, let’s note that the Campaign’s leadership did not bother to apologize or ask forgiveness for the culture of personal and political bigotry and discrimination they have promoted for decades as individuals and via the organizations they lead. Nor did they say that they will in any way change or alter their activities or (even more importantly) their policies. The objective of the Campaign seems simply to come across as nicer while they pursue an oppressive political agenda against LGBTQ people.

Jim Daly has told reporters that the Campaign is seeking to avoid framing its message in warlike terms, such as in the “culture war” framing. But Daly’s remarks notwithstanding, there is little indication they are moderating their war of aggression on the civil and human rights of others. Indeed, the Campaign acknowledges that it has not changed its opposition to marriage equality or the idea that homosexuality is a sin. What’s more, the recent initiatives of Citizen Link—the national political arm of Jim Daly’s Focus on the Family—and its state political affiliates demonstrate that the changes in language may be superficial and are intended to distract from or take the edge off of their recent effort to legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination for reasons of “sincerely held religious belief.”

Sarah Posner, writing at Al Jazeera America, noted that Citizen Link affiliates in Arizona, Idaho, and Kansas have been centrally involved in the development and promotion of similar bills. As I reported in The Public Eye magazine last year, these groups are  part of a well-coordinated national network of state “family policy councils” that have promoted anti-LGBTQ legislation and ballot initiatives—particularly against marriage equality and non-discrimination laws—since their formation in 1988. Daly would have us focus on his softer words and tone, turning a blind eye towards the horrific legislation he and his religious and political empire are promoting.

It is also worth noting that Tom Minnery, Executive Director of Citizen Link, is a longtime member of the board of directors of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund). Acting as a Christian Right legal strategy network, the ADF was instrumental in drafting the Arizona legislation seeking to codify anti-LGTBQ discrimination.

In addition, Mat Staver heads the small Christian Right law firm Liberty Counsel, which is representing virulently anti-gay Christian Right activist Scott Lively in Federal District Court in Massachusetts. Lively is accused of committing crimes against humanity for inciting anti-LGBTQ violence in Uganda and for his role in the creation of that country’s recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality law. “This lawsuit against Rev. Scott Lively,” Staver declared in a press release when the suit was filed, “is a gross attempt to use a vague international law to silence, and eventually criminalize, speech by U.S. citizens on homosexuality and moral issues. This suit should cause everyone to be concerned, because it a direct threat against freedom of speech.”

Lively and other evangelicals have engaged in a wide ranging effort, as Eric Ethington has reported here, “to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.” The same could be said of the Imago Dei Campaign by Christian Right leaders—seeking to whitewash their own history of involvement in the spread of damaging, un-Christianlike homophobia, and turning a blind eye to the gross excesses of others, to the point of pretending that they never even existed.