[disinfo ed.'s note: the following is a chapter from the new Jesse Ventura book, DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government, courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing.]
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their ‘legislature’ should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
– Thomas Jefferson, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists.
Not long after I became governor of Minnesota in 1999, I got in a whole lot of hot water with certain politicians and media types for saying in an interview with Playboy: “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business….The religious right wants to tell people how to live.”
Later I clarified my comments. I said that I don’t have any problem with the vast majority of religious folks, though I now consider myself an agnostic. I don’t believe in a “Supreme Being” that overlooks everything and that we must pay homage to. There are lots of people out there who think they know the truth about God and religion, but does anybody really know for sure? I’m still proud of the fact that I was the only governor who wouldn’t declare National Prayer Day. Why do you need government to tell you to pray? That’s not the government’s job. That’s called separation of church and state! That’s why the founding fathers built freedom of religious belief into the structure of this nation, so that everybody could make up their minds for themselves. Of course, both the political gangs are always wearing their religious beliefs on their sleeves and throwing it down like a gauntlet. I have a big problem with the people who think they have some right to try to impose their beliefs on others.
I hate what the fundamentalist fanatics are doing to our country. It seems as though if everybody doesn’t accept their version of reality, their beliefs are somehow invalidated. Everybody must believe the same things they do. That’s what I find weak and destructive. They seem to me to be a lot like the Muslim fundamentalists they hate so much. They are always trying to tell other people what they should be doing and not doing—especially women. They’re Christianists instead of Islamists, with their own petty jihads and enforced morality.
Since I first talked publicly about this more than a decade ago, we’ve seen Christianism become part of our “body politic” in ways even I hadn’t imagined possible. This caused me to say flat-out on CNN in October 2010: “Religion is the root of all evil.” This has become pretty damned clear since September 11th, with fanatics on both sides envisioning a “holy war” between Christians and Muslims. Does anybody remember John Adams signing the Treaty with Tripoli in 1797 and assuring the Muslim nation that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Students of our colonial history might recall the name of Roger Williams, a Puritan preacher from Massachusetts. When he heard about the British General Court’s plan to force everybody in the colony to take a loyalty pledge to the governor ending with “So help me, God,” Williams hit the roof, publicly declaring how dangerous it was to force people to swear a religious oath. Williams was found guilty of “disseminating new and dangerous opinions” and ordered to head back to England. Instead, he went into the wilderness, bought land from some Native peoples, and set up a new settlement he called Providence. Today, it’s the capital of Rhode Island. “Forced religion stinks in the nostrils of God,” Williams said—and penned a warning about opening up “a gap in the hedge, or wall of separation, between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”
This prefigured Jefferson’s words by 150 years!
No, the precise phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean the idea isn’t there loud-and-clear. Article VI specifically states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment asserts that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” which means no church and no religion could ever be construed as America’s “official faith.” And the Free Exercise Clause states that Congress can’t make any laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
By design of the founders, there is not a single reference to God in the entire Constitution. They didn’t want government interfering with the choices people made about who, what, how, and where they worshipped. Thomas Jefferson once even “took a pair of scissors to the Christian New Testament and cut out every passage that suggested a divine origin and mission for Jesus.”
That’d be blasphemy (if not cause for stoning) to a lot of today’s bible-toting Crusader Rabbits.
Here’s what James Madison wrote in 1785, in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments:
“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?” Government involvement with the church, Madison also wrote, “implies either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truth; or that he may employ religion as an engine of civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second and unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.”
John Leland, a Baptist minister, worked alongside Jefferson and Madison to put an end to the state church in Virginia, and did the same thing in Massachusetts and Connecticut. “Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics,” Leland sermonized in 1791. “Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith; either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods, and let government protect him in so doing.” He was a big admirer of Jefferson’s unwillingness to mix religion with government. “Guard against those men who make a great noise about religion in choosing representatives,” he told his parishioners. “It is electioneering intrigue.”
So I feel like I’m in good company and on pretty solid ground with what I’ve had to say about the situation. In this chapter, I want to delve into how close we are today to becoming a theocracy—defined as “a government ruled by or subject to religious authority,” which several of the Rebloodlican presidential candidates would be only too happy to see happen.
* * *
Among the theo-candidates, first there was Newt Gingrich, who wrote a book called Rediscovering God in America, where he posits that our nation’s greatness is directly related to a divinely-sanctioned American exceptionalism. The Newt has said that, when it comes to judicial rulings, he’d ignore the ones he doesn’t agree with and get rid of courts altogether in some instances, especially when it comes to church-and-state problems.
According to Mitt Romney, since he became a front-runner for the nomination, life begins “at conception” and he’d like to see that enshrined in the Constitution. Consider that his new debate coach is the same dude who taught the Jerry Falwell-funded law students at Liberty University about following God’s law instead of man’s. Maybe that’s why, at the GOP debate in Florida, Romney called the Declaration of Independence a theological document that creates a covenant “between God and man.” After all, Romney—“a seventh-generation direct descendant of one of the [Mormon] faith’s 12 apostles”—was singled out as a Michigan teenager (and son of the then-governor) as having great expectations from the Lord.
A bit more history, if you’ll allow me: The founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith Jr., ran for president back in 1844 “as an independent commander in chief of an ‘army of God’ advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government in favor of a Mormon-ruled theocracy….He had predicted the emergence of ‘the one Mighty and Strong’—a leader who would ‘set in order the house of God.’” Smith didn’t get too far, being murdered by anti-Mormon vigilantes, but what his church called the “White Horse Prophecy” got passed down through the generations—“that the day would come when the U.S. Constitution would ‘hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber’ and the Mormon priesthood would save it.”
That’s the culture Romney came out of, and his fellow students at Brigham Young University are said to have only half jokingly called him the “One Mighty and Strong.”
Today, the Mormon Church is one of the fastest-growing in the world, a multibillion-dollar business empire in which Romney is one of the richest members. He’s been a missionary, a bishop, and a stake president—which is equivalent to being a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Investigative journalist Sally Denton writes:
The seeds of Romney’s unique brand of conservatism, often regarded with intense suspicion by most non-Mormon conservatives, were sown in the secretive, acquisitive, patriarchal, authoritarian religious empire run by “quorums” of men under an umbrella consortium called the General Authorities. A creed unlike any other in the United States, from its inception Mormonism encouraged material prosperity and abundance as a measure of holy worth, and its strict system of tithing 10 percent of individual wealth has made the church one of the world’s richest institutions.
Then there’s Rick Santorum. He comes from a Catholic background, and for at least a decade, his family has been part of a church called St. Catherine of Siena, which strangely he didn’t choose to mention when he published his book in 2005, It Takes a Family, which is essentially his manifesto on personal faith and politics. “The church claims 3,400 parishioners. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife attend Mass there; so have…the head of the National Rifle Association and former FBI Director Louis Freeh.” The church sprung up in 1981 in Great Falls, Virginia, and the Santorums have been sometimes daily attendees. They were allowed to join, even though they live outside of the district.
So who do you think St. Catherine’s has connections to? No less than the Catholic conservative secret order known as Opus Dei. I know this may sound conspiratorial—and who knows, I might yet look into it for my TV show—but a lot of Opus Dei priests are said to hear confession at St. Catherine’s. Unlike many of the church-goers, Santorum has said he’s not a member but only an “admirer” of Opus Dei, but he did journey to Rome in 2002 for the 100th birthday of the group’s founder. That’s where he first tossed out criticism of John F. Kennedy’s “separation of church and state” speech in 1960.
More on that in a moment.
First, let’s flash back to a speech Santorum made in 2008 to Catholic students at Ave Maria University in Florida. He began by saying that we’re not in a political or cultural war, but in a:
Spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on…a good, decent, powerful, influential country—the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age. There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost two hundred years, once America’s preeminence was sown by our founding fathers.
I don’t think Santorum has read Jefferson or Madison’s views on religion anytime lately.
Eventually, he continued, “that great, acidic quality of time corrodes even the strongest foundations.” And Satan had used “those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality” to attack America’s great institutions. Academia had fallen a long time ago, followed by “mainline Protestantism [which] is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity.” (Not Catholicism, of course, that particular exclusive sect of the kind Madison referred to.) Next came “the corruption of culture” and “manners” and “decency.” And now came politics and government.
Save us from our sins, Saint Sanctorum!
By the way, shortly before that speech, in a column Santorum wrote: “Would the potential attraction to Mormonism by simply having a Mormon in the White House threaten traditional Christianity by leading more Americans to a church that some Christians believe misleadingly calls itself Christian, is an active missionary church, and a dangerous cult?”
Hmmm, wonder which candidate he was talking about and who felt threatened?
Here are a few of the more recent Santorum statements, in case anybody thinks he’s mellowed over the past four years.
- “The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical….What I’m talking about is onward American soldiers. What we’re talking about are core American values.”
- “The question is—and this is what Barack Obama doesn’t want to answer—is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that person—human life is not a person, then—I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘We’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.’” (That was a bit garbled, Rick, but are black people persons?)
- “You know that statistic that at least I was familiar with from a few years ago—I don’t know if it still holds true but I suspect it may even be worse—that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it. This is not a neutral setting.” (Down with higher ed!)
- Contraception is “not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” (Like Monty Python once said, “Every sperm is sacred.”)
- “When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do, and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine.”
Just which mushroom cloud Rick was on when he said that is unclear, but on his show, Stephen Colbert responded by holding up a banana with a condom wrapped around it…and guillotining it.
So how do Santorum’s views translate into what the man would try to make happen if elected to the highest office in the country? He wants “a blanket ban on abortion,” turning back the clock before 1973. He wants not only a ban on gay marriages, but a return to the anti-sodomy laws, equating consensual gay sex in one’s home to bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery. As for Islam, it’s a religion “stuck in the seventh century.” In short, Santorum would like to see the U.S. become a “faith-based” Christian nation by imposing all the “family values” that he’s decided come straight from God. (Sounds like his own seventh century religion.) He even quotes the Declaration of Independence for back-up, that people “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” So the role of government is just to make sure those divine rights are put in place and protected. I hardly think that’s what Thomas Jefferson intended, who wasn’t even a Christian but a Deist who emphasized morality and didn’t see God being directly involved with humankind.
But Santorum pulls the Constitution out of his hat, too: “This is about a country that believes in God-given rights, and a Constitution that is limited to protect those rights.”
* * *
The founders are likely turning over in their graves at some of the shenanigans over “God-given rights” this year. First there was the big cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, pulling its funding of cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood, because the women’s health group was being investigated by Rebloodlican Congress members for supposedly using federal money toward providing abortions. Planned Parenthood, which gets about $300 million a year from the feds to provide health services and family planning to the poor, has been in the crosshairs of Religious Right politicos for a long time. Led by Congressman Mike Pence, there’s been a drive to de-fund the organization as part of “addressing” the budget deficit.
Anyway, three days after the Komen Foundation outraged women across America by its move, the organization changed its tune and reinstated the funding.
Turned out that a leading Foundation strategist on Planned Parenthood was Ari Fleischer, who used to be George W. Bush’s press secretary and is close friends with Komen’s CEO Nancy Brinker. Fleischer has been an outspoken critic of Planned Parenthood for years, and he ended up getting paid to interview Komen’s candidates for Senior Vice President for Communications.
Komen’s reversal didn’t stop Romney from coming out and saying that not only the Foundation, but the government, should stop giving Planned Parenthood money. “Look, the idea that we’re subsidizing an institution which is providing abortion, in my view, is wrong.” (Evidence, Mitt?) “Planned Parenthood ought to stand on their own two feet and should not get government subsidy. I am a pro-life individual—I was a pro-life governor (served as a pro-life governor)—I’m a pro-life candidate. I simply do not want to participate in anything that takes away the life of an unborn child.” This, like an Obama spokeswoman said, was “the ultimate hypocrisy.” That’s because Romney, who once attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, supported the same birth-control policy that the Obama Administration does, when he was Massachusetts’ governor. Abortion rights are one of his bigger flip-flops.
Komen’s change-of-mind didn’t stop the House from passing a bill to strip all federal funding from Planned Parenthood on February 17, and we’ll see where it goes from there in the future. That same month, things went from bad to worse when the House Oversight Committee’s Chairman, Rep Darrell Issa, prevented a female witness from giving testimony at a hearing that was “examining the Obama administration’s new regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to their employees.” Issa said that the hearing was actually about infringement on “religious liberty,” with the first panel of witnesses consisting only of male religious leaders who opposed the rule. Two Democratic female reps walked out of the room in protest.
Joe Lieberman, who ought to be nominated for the Self-Righteous Hypocrite Award, came down with the Rebloodlicans, tweeting that “Government should not compel religious organizations to provide services to their beliefs.” Sometimes, you have to wonder if the man who Al Gore would have had as his vice-president fell victim to the CIA’s MKULTRA mind control program or its latest iteration. John Hagee, the Texas pastor who heads up Global Evangelism Television, has been a major supporter of hard-line Zionists and once opined that Hitler had been sent by God to get “the Jewish people” to “come back to the land of Israel.” When some of those “Jewish people” took offense, Lieberman said Hagee’s remarks were taken “out of context.” After all, Jumpin’ Jehosophat Joe had spoken at the pastor’s Washington-Israel Summit and compared Hagee to Moses.
But I digress.
Santorum was in a snit on the campaign trail and called Obama “hostile to people of faith, particularly Christians, and specifically Catholics.” He didn’t happen to mention that a lot of Catholic hospitals and universities already offer contraceptive coverage as part of their health insurance. Romney, whose Mormon church explicitly says birth control is okay, got his digs in also, saying Obama is looking to “impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.”
Puh-leeze, but here came Foster Friess—the billionaire mega-donor to Santorum’s Super-PAC—with an answer on MSNBC. “Back in my day, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,” Friess told Andrea Mitchell.
Then along came Rebloodlican Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri, who proposed that any employer could object on moral grounds to deny any employee insurance coverage. In other words, if a boss believed that AIDS is the Good Lord’s punishment for immoral behavior, he could cut off to AIDS victims those very expensive insured benefits. The argument goes that any government “interference” along these lines goes against the First Amendment, right in line with Issa and Lieberman. The Senate rejected Blunt’s plan by only three votes.
What in God’s name are they trying to do to the women of this country? House Rebloodlicans passed one bill that would let hospitals receiving federal funds deny their patients access to abortion procedures, even if these were needed to save a woman’s life! In another bill trying to end taxpayer funding for abortions, they’re looking to redefine rape as “forcible rape” only—excluding statutory rape, or women who’ve been drugged or threatened verbally, from being allowed abortions.
The Virginia legislature passed a bill that would force women to undergo an invasive ultrasound before they could have an abortion, before a citizen outcry forced the governor to think twice about signing it. Altogether, sixty-nine anti-choice measures were voted into law in twenty-five states in 2011, some of these aimed at forcing abortion clinics to close.
A state legislator in North Carolina thinks that doctors who do abortions ought to be publicly hanged, along with rapists and kidnappers. And “fundamentalists in state legislators are trying to get legal personhood status to the unborn ‘from the moment of conception,’ however that would be determined. This would enable birth control, abortion and even in vitro fertilization to be criminalized.”
The president of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, claims that Obama has “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity.” That one is hard to swallow—unless you’re part of the crowd that sees Obama as a Muslim or a non-American citizen—especially considering that, rightly or wrongly, $140 million just from his stimulus bill went to fund faith-based organizations.
The government’s authorizing of federally-funded partnerships with these groups started under George W. Bush a decade ago. For the first time, our taxpayer dollars were going to local churches and other religious organizations to help them expand their social services in local communities. The most recent data published shows that over $2.1 billion in these federal grants were awarded in 2005.
At the time, this caused the watchdog TheocracyWatch organization to say that, under Bush’s administration, “our country is experiencing a major transformation from a secular to a religious government. The President’s faith-based initiative is central to this transformation and raises serious questions about church-state separation.”
Obama, when a candidate for president, first indicated he was going to get rid of Bush’s program. Instead, he left it in place, saying that “as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don’t believe this partnership will endanger that idea.” Why? Because the grant money couldn’t be used “to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them—or against the people you hire—on the basis of their religion.” Also, the federal bucks could only be used on secular programs, not “directly to churches, temples, and mosques.” (Pity the Prez if any of that dough went to the last one, there’d be wailing at the White House wall like you wouldn’t believe.)
Reverend Barry Lynn, who is the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, thought the Bush program “ought to be shut down, not continued.”
He’s “particularly frustrated that President Obama still has done nothing to ban hiring bias by publicly funded religious charities….No American should be denied a government-funded job because he or she holds the ‘wrong’ views about religion.” This was after, in 2010, Obama issued an executive order adding some supposed safeguards to “strengthen the constitutional and legal footing” of the policy.
So what’s going on? Are the Crips on a policy of “appeasement” toward the Blood(y) zealots? Seems to me that this is all political posturing using the guise of morality. By stark contrast, Ron Paul says: “We’re not supposed to nationalize these problems. The founders were very clear that problems like this, if there needs to be legislation of sorts, the state has the right to write the legislation that they so choose. And that solves a lot of our problems.”
* * *
Birth control as the new battlefield? Battle terms are what House Speaker John Boehner used when he addressed the National Religious Broadcasters in February 2011, not long after the Rebloodlicans took back the Congress. He was talking with a reporter for Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” program, about the House having just voted to cut off tax funding of family planning and health programs for women. “I met with a lot of religious leaders earlier today to talk about the strategy,” Boehner said, “and I think it’s important that we understand that what we want to do here is win the war, not just win a battle. And there will be an opportunity some time in order to win the big war, and we’re looking for that opportunity.”
Seems like 2012 is what the culture warriors have set their “victory” sights on, and there’s a lot of dough involved. The big groups are lavishly funded, collectively raising more than three-quarters of a billion dollars every year—most of it being tax-exempt. Here’s a list of the most powerful entities on the Christianist Right:
- Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network has an annual budget of almost $300 million. He’s also got Regent University ($80 million), the Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism ($43.8 million), and the American Center for Law and Justice ($13.3 million). It’s basically a media-education-legal empire that includes a daily TV show.
- The empire built by Jerry Falwell includes Liberty University ($395 million), the Jerry Falwell Ministries ($4.2 million), and the Liberty Counsel ($1.3 million). He died in 2007, but left it all to his two sons. They pushed for Mike Huckabee in ’08 and last year hosted “The Awakening” conference featuring Gingrich and Bachmann.
- Focus on the Family ($130 million) was founded by a child psychologist named James Dobson to push “biblical” solutions for various family problems. They’re all over the world, and in the U.S. have a network of thirty-five “family policy councils” that lobby in state capitals.
- Alliance Defense Fund ($30 million) got set up by a coalition of TV and radio preachers in 1993. ADF president Allan Sears believes the bricks in the old church-state wall are being taken down “one by one.” They do a lot of funding for legal groups working toward that end.
- American Family Association ($21 million) was founded by Reverend Donald Wildmon to push for censoring sexy TV shows, and now his son Tim runs the day-to-day affairs. One staffer, Bryan Fischer, calls church-state separation a “myth” invented by Adolf Hitler and has said the First Amendment only protects Christians. They hold regular “pastor policy briefings.”
- Coral Ridge Ministries ($17.2 million), whose late founder D. James Kennedy liked to attack evolution and tout America as a “Christian nation,” is today run by his daughter Jennifer.
- Family Research Council/FRC Action/FRC Action PAC ($14.5 million) is the biggest group based in Washington D.C. Their goal is to merge fundamentalist Christianity with government, and they are active in Tea Party circles. Top honcho Tony Perkins is an ex-state rep from Louisiana with ties to white supremacists. They sponsor a yearly “Values Voter Summit” that brings in congressional and presidential candidates.
- Concerned Women for America ($11.7 million) was formed over thirty years back to counteract the women’s rights movement. It was founded by Tim LaHaye of Rapture-fiction fame and his wife Beverly. They mainly focus on stopping abortion, gay rights, and public “sex-ed” education. Also, they demand less government support for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Planned Parenthood. They’ve got a PAC that spent almost $300,000 endorsing right-wing candidates in 2010.
- Traditional Values Coalition ($9 million), best known for gay-bashing and for bad-mouthing Islam, claims to work closely with 43,000 churches around the country. Reverend Louis P. Sheldon, the founder, was called “Lucky Louie” by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who had some gambling buddies contribute to the TVC in exchange for “Lucky Louie” pushing for more Internet gaming.
- Faith & Freedom Coalition is a new group started up by Ralph Reed, who used to head the Christian Coalition and then became a political consultant. His ties to Jack Abramoff thwarted a possible political career in Georgia. “We have not only the right, but the moral obligation to overthrow the government by force if necessary,” he tells crowds.
You think these guys don’t lobby the gangs in D.C.? A study came out in November 2011, conducted by the Pew Research Center, which found that religious-related advocacy has increased roughly fivefold in only four decades. There were less than forty such lobbying groups in 1970, but there are more than 200 today. They employ upwards of a thousand people in the nation’s capitol and spend at least $300 million a year “on efforts to influence national public policy.” The biggest being the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which in 2008 spent almost $88 million. Next is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, followed by the Family Research Council mentioned above. The outfit with “the most dramatic increase in spending” is the National Organization for Marriage, formed in 2007 to combat those sinister same-sexers.
Under George W. Bush, such:
Political support was rewarded with weakened legal protections against tax dollars being used to fund religious discrimination and proselytizing, changes that have yet to be fully reversed by the Obama administration. A phalanx of conservative Christian legal organizations fights daily to weaken the legal separation of church and state, and to reverse restrictions on overt electoral activity by tax-exempt churches.
* * *
Do you ever think that all these “issues”—like banning abortion, denying gay Americans their civil rights, forcing more religion into public schools—are a distraction from the real problems that the gangs won’t address about our faltering economy and our honest-to-God warmongering overseas? “It could also be simple ignorance,” as columnist William Rivers Pitt has written. “After all, a fair portion of these knuckleheads don’t believe in dinosaurs because they aren’t mentioned in the Bible, don’t believe in science generally, and have come to believe that the best thing for America is to revert to some ‘Leave It To Beaver’ fantasy about gender roles in society.”
Either way, the end result is glossing over the truth about the sorry state we’re in. I’ll say this, I’m glad Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are no longer in contention for the Rebloodlican nomination. They both have strong ties to what’s called Dominionism. This “strain”—and it really is that—is convinced that Christians have a divine right to rule over all earthly institutions. It “derives from a small fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism, founded by a Calvinist theologian named R.J. Rushdoony in the 1960s. Christian Reconstructionism openly advocates replacing American law with the strictures of the Old Testament, replete with the death penalty for homosexuality, abortion, and even apostasy.” (There are seventeen different offenses in all, including blasphemy, witchcraft, worshipping false gods, putting out false doctrine, juvenile delinquency, and adultery.) Rushdoony (rhymes with Rush-Loony) “pioneered the Christian homeschooling movement” and came up with the “revisionist history…that paints the U.S. as a Christian nation founded on biblical principles. He consistently defended Southern slavery and contrasted it with the greater evils of socialism.” TV preachers like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and D. James Kennedy were all influenced by Reconstructionist ideas.
Michelle Bachmann appeared in one of the Truth in Action Ministries documentaries where she said that “government has no right to collect taxes in excess of 10 percent, the amount that believers are called to tithe to the church.” She got her law degree, by the way, from Anal—whoops, of course I mean Oral-Roberts University, which has since been taken over by Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Bachmann often makes reference to Francis Schaeffer, a Dominionist who’s considered “the godfather of the anti-abortion movement.” Her website when she ran for state senate in Minnesota had recommended the book Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee, which—if you can believe it—portrayed the Civil War as the Christian South versus the Godless North.
These days, Truth In Action Ministries is after “dominion…not just equal time…. World conquest.” This harkens back to God telling Adam and Eve in the garden to “have dominion” over every living thing (Genesis 1:26-28). Santorum goes after Obama’s environmental policies for the same reason. He claims Obama’s “phony theology” worldview “elevates the Earth above man.”
(Here we have represented, I’d say, both sides of the Santorum stupidity equation: Santorum’s press secretary, Alice Stewart, called MSNBC to say she misspoke in an interview on Andrea Mitchell Reports and did not mean to accuse President Obama of “radical Islamic policies.” Instead—and the tape shows this—she meant to say, and did repeatedly during the same interview, “radical environmentalist policies.”)
Texas Governor Rick Perry has ties to a different branch of Dominionist ideology called the New Apostolic Reformation, which talks about the “Seven Mountains” of society (family, religion, media, government, education, business, arts and entertainment), “the nerve centers of society that God (or his people) must control.” Perry was seen by many of these Apostolic folks as their ticket to control. A pastor who’s close to him preached about infiltrating “the governmental mountain,” and said Perry was their man. “Some have told Perry that Texas is a ‘prophet state,’ destined, with his leadership, to bring America back to God.” When he held a big prayer rally in Houston in July 2011, eight members of his Response “leadership team” were affiliated with the movement.
And who might be described as one of their mentors? None other than Chuck Colson, the Watergate felon who once said he’d walk over his grandmother to get Richard Nixon elected. He told the Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in 2007 that the purpose of Christians was “to take command and dominion over every aspect of life, whether it’s music, science, law, politics, communities, families….”
No control freak, he. Everybody who thinks Chuck’s seen the light, raise their hands.
There’s a new project called Champion the Vote (CTV), with a goal of registering five million “conservative Christians” who’ll pull the lever or punch the tab in 2012 according to “the Biblical worldview.” It’s an initiative of United in Purpose, a non-profit group that was founded last year by some Silicon Valley venture capitalists. The CEO is a kind of “Colson clone” named Bill Dallas, who did time in San Quentin for embezzlement charges relating to his lucrative real-estate business. After he got out in 1995, Dallas started the Church Communications Network, which today is the biggest satellite-based training ground for churches on the planet. Sounds like he traded one con-game for another….
Most of the financial support behind United in Purpose is anonymous, but “one of the main backers is technology entrepreneur Ken Eldred, a generous Republican Donor” and a friend and contributor to Reverend Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association. As the L.A. Times reported, Eldred “founded companies such as Ariba Technologies and Immac, [and] has donated $1.1 million to Republican candidates since 2005.” He told the paper that Champion the Vote “did not have a partisan agenda.” Only that the organization’s “core mission” was “to change American culture for the good, with the Bible as our standard of truth….Our goal is to raise up a body of believers and that they elect a Godly leader. We’re about the agenda of the lamb, Jesus Christ.” The Times said the group is using “sophisticated data-mining techniques to compile a database of every unregistered born-again and evangelical Christian and conservative Catholic in the country.”
Theocracy, here we come! Sure is curious that this is the same gang that so happily wants to invade Iran because it’s a theocratic dictatorship. In fact, that sounds like the kind of government they wish they could set up here. Maybe these Christianists are just jealous that the mullahs succeeded before they did. Keep in mind that they’re firmly allied with the ultra-right-wing Orthodox in Israel. We give Israel $3 billion a year, which comes to about $1,000 annually from each one of us, man, woman and child. The Christianists would be thrilled to follow Israel into a war with Iran, and the only politician who will speak out against all of this is Ron Paul…once again.
“The Christian activist right is the largest, best organized and, I believe, the most powerful force in American politics today,” according to Democrip strategist Rob Stein. “No other political group comes even close.”
(Look for Reverend Wright’s name to become a subject of attack ads this fall.)
Keeping a low profile at the moment is the C Street house in Washington, which is affiliated with the Fellowship, sponsor of the yearly National Prayer Breakfast. The townhouse is registered as a church, and it’s where a lot of our Christian lawmakers not only pray, but live. C Street hit the news back in 2009 after it came out that Senator John Ensign and Representative Chip Pickering had extramarital affairs while residing there, and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford had confided in his “Christian friends” in-house about the cross-continent liaison that he’d kept secret from his wife (“hiking the Appalachian trail,” as he called it).
“A formal foundation does exist—a 501©(3) called the International Foundation, which oversees three hundred or so ministries associated with the Fellowship, and has a board of directors that approves a budget for the ministries (in the fifteen-million-dollar range) and the salaries of the parent entities relatively few employees,” according to an article in the New Yorker.
Jeff Sharlet wrote a book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, exposing how C Street’s overseer liked to call itself a “Christian Mafia.” It dates back more than seventy-five years to when a coalition of businessmen opposed to FDR’s New Deal started what became the country’s first fundamentalist lobby. They’d been under-the-radar forever, until Sharlet came along and the sex scandals broke. Some of the Congressmen-under-counsel in recent years include Rebloodlican Senators Chuck Grassley, Jim DeMint, and Lindsey Graham, along with Democrip Senators Mike McIntyre and Mark Pryor. In case you think the Rebloodlicans have a monopoly on this stuff, McIntyre is big on putting the Ten Commandments in public places and Pryor once explained his bipartisan nature by saying, “Jesus didn’t come to take sides. He came to take over.”
And Hillary Clinton, in her memoir Living History, wrote that the Fellowship’s secretive main man for forty-some years, Doug Coe, was “a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship to God.”
An inquiry was launched in 2010 by the Office of Congressional Ethics into how the politicos residing at C Street paid below-market-value rents of about $900-a-month. It soon came out, too, that some of these members had accepted over $100,000 worth of free international travel from the Fellowship Foundation. I’m sure they had their Bibles in tow on their way to Greece and other Mediterranean climates.
* * *
Here was John F. Kennedy, in a speech delivered shortly before he got elected our first Catholic president in 1960:
I believe in an America where the separate of church and state is absolute…that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish…where no religious body shall seek to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials….Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you—until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
That last line sounds a little like prophecy to me. Rick Santorum, when he read the speech, said he “almost threw up.”
I wonder if many people remember that, besides his leadership of the civil rights movement, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was a clergyman who pushed for family planning “at a time when it was illegal in many states for even married couples to buy artificial contraceptives” and also endorsed the Supreme Court’s striking down of mandatory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. “In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom?” King asked.
He also said this: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”
To that, I can only add: Amen.