Category: theocracy

Mitt, Moochers, and Mormonism

Mary Barker is a professor of political science at Syracuse University’s campus in Madrid, Spain as well as at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas.  She is also a product of Utah’s Mormon culture, a socio-religious world she understands intimately.

In this piece written for Religion Dispatches she explains how Mitt Romney’s Mormonism shaped his “severe conservatism” but why his faith also provides a foundation for a merciful vision of American community.  The two sides of Mormon spirituality help explain why Utah backed the New Deal and voted Democrat up until the 1950s when the civil rights movement and fear of international communism sparked a retreat into the world of John Birch paranoia that is still evident in the rantings of Glenn Beck.

Mitt, Moochers, and Mormonism’s “Other” Legacy

Growing up with Mormon narratives—a two-part memoir and reflection on the good, the very bad, and a dreamed-for future.

By Mary Barker

There are many stories on which a Mormon is raised: narratives of the elect, America and the Constitution, the latter days, and free agency—all of which play a role in Mitt Romney’s “severe” conservatism. The bombshell release of video in which he trumpets his disdain for moochers, and reveals a remarkably casual approach to Middle East politics, all resonate with the Calvinist heritage of Mormon theology, as well as with principal Mormon narratives. But Mormonism also holds the seeds of a decidedly progressive politics—a possible Mormon liberation theology.

Does Romney’s religion matter? It’s a question that has been asked many times this election season. My answer, below, is in two parts, as I journey from End Times theology (the “latter days”) through Mormonism’s radical social and political past.

I.

I grew up at the end of the world. As a Latter-day Saint, I made my debut just before the final curtain. During my youth, rumors circulated about neighbors and boyfriends whose special “patriarchal blessings” prophesied that they would never taste of death. That fairly clearly set the limit on time. The rebellious Sixties just confirmed what the Cold War had already shown us—that we were in a final showdown with evil that would only get worse until the second coming of Jesus which is now. (more…)

The Newsroom’s middle ground politics is no answer

By Alan Bean

HBO’s new Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom has conservative bloggers beside themselves.  In the clip below, fictional news anchor Bill McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, launches into an extended rant in which he compares the Tea Party to the Taliban.  Both groups, McAvoy suggests, trade in “Ideological purity, compromise as weakness, a fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism, denying science, unmoved by facts, undeterred by new information, a hostile fear of progress.”

Here’s the entire clip:

No thanks.  The Tea Party is a mishmash of often contradictory complaints and enthusiasms.  Many, perhaps most, Tea Party folk merely tolerate the brand of fundamentalist obscurantism The Newsroom excoriates.  A lot of Americans enlist in the Tea Party because they are pro-business but anti-Wall Street.  The bailout of the financial “industry” had more to do with growing the Tea Party than religion fanaticism.  In fact, if Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party people were ever able to sit down for a beer they would agree on a lot of things.

I see Sorkin’s screed as an attempt to define a sensible political middle occupied by moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats.  In the middle of McAvoy’s rant, this middle ground is identified as true Republicanism, but the speech has generally been denounced by Republicans and hailed by Democrats.  According to McAvoy, real Republicans believe in “a prohibitive military” and “common sense government”.  They believe there are “social programs enacted in the last half century that work, but there are way too many costing way too much that don’t.”

Moreover, real Republicans believe in free market capitalism, and law and order.

In other words, we’re talking about Reagan Republicans shorn of the small government libertarians and evangelical theocrats . . . in short, the people known today as Democrats.

It is not accidental that most Democrats have no problem with Sorkin-McAvoy’s “real Republicanism” while the real real Republicans hate it.  Reagan style Republicanism is the new political middle; the turf currently defended by politicians like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Politicians to the right and the left of this safe middle ground, Sorkin implies, should be thrown under the bus.  The real Republicans should come over to the blue side and the Tea Party and progressive Democrats can just go to hell.

Yet it is precisely this combination of global military imperialism and unrestricted free market bubble building that has brought our economy to its knees.

Ron Paul libertarians say we can’t afford to be the world’s policeman, and they are dead right.  We currently spend more on our military than all the other children of earth combined.

International corporations get fat shipping American manufacturing jobs to the Third World while feeding off one speculative bubble after another.  The anti-Wall street wing of the Tea Party calls this madness, and they are right. Ross Perot said much the same thing back in the Bill Clinton era and, come to think of it, he was right too.  You really can hear that “giant sucking sound”.

The “centrist” politics of Sorkin’s Will McAvoy is a creation of the Wall Street gamblers that drove us into a deep recession.  These people feed American militarism, anti-immigrant sentiment and the demons of mass incarceration because they hope to grow fat off the private contracts associated with such ungodly madness.  Over half the military personnel in Afghanistan at the moment are private contractors.  The war on drugs and the war on migrants is fueling a private prison boom of spectacular proportions.

Here’s the sad truth.  You can’t get elected to either the Senate or the US presidency (or survive in much of the academic and religious world) without kissing the ring of Wall Street and what Eisenhower, had he survived into the twenty-first century, would be calling the military-prison-industrial complex.  The folks pulling the puppet strings are the real masters of America.  Unrestrained militarism and capitalism abide genuine democracy.  Sorkin’s “common sense government” exists at the pleasure of men (and a smattering of women) who control the wealth of America while producing little of value.

We get nowhere demonizing the radicals on the conservative and liberal fringes of American society.  These people are confused about a lot of things, but most of them are honest.  Fundamentalists have wandered into an intellectual cul de sac, but American evangelicalism, for all its weird excesses, remains the beating heart of American spirituality.  Casting conservative religionists into the outer darkness isn’t American, it isn’t Christian, and it isn’t wise.  We need these people and, though they scarcely realize it, they need us.

I am not suggesting, as frustrated radicals often do, that there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats or that elections are meaningless.  Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will not pursue the same policy goals if elected.  But whoever comes out on top in November (this year and in the foreseeable future) must convince Wall Street and the military establishment that they are dependable guarantors of the status quo.  So long as this is the case, politicians cannot treat what ails us.

The ungodly history of Smackdown Jesus

By Alan Bean

Fred Clark’s Slacktivist blog is aimed at recovering evangelicals; particularly ex-devotees of the commercially marketed Christianity that hit its stride in the early years of the Reagan revolution.

I always know when Fred links to one of my blog posts, the usual number of hits increases by a factor of five.  Slacktivist posts regularly garner hundreds of comments.  Few mainstream website generate that kind of interest.

There are three reasons for Fred Clark’s success.  First, he writes extremely well.  Second,  his work is carefully researched and edited, he approaches blogging like a full-time job).  Finally, there are a whole lot of recovering evangelicals out there.

Some of these folks remain in the big-tent evangelical camp but are looking for authentic alternatives to a narrow and increasingly irrational tribalism.  Fred Clark also ministers to a large cadre of atheists and secularists who grew up addicted to with-God-on-our-side religion.

When you grow up born again you never really get over it.  A certain subset of the atheist-agnostic community appreciates Fred Clark’s blog even though he remains a committed Christian.  He  has deep insight into a slice of their experience that genuine secularists can never understand.  The Slacktivist is a form of therapy, an opportunity to work through painful memories and thorny issues.

In a recent post, Clark uses a music video from the 1980s to examine the toxic world of “evangelical tribalism”, the “us-against-them” mindset that has characterized commercial Christianity for the past quarter century.  The video features Carman, a smooth-talking white rapper who always reminded me of the post-Vegas Wayne Newton and Petra, a Christian 80s band that transformed the power chords and vocal hooks of early metal music (think softcore  AC/DC) into a highly marketable form of “Christian contemporary” entertainment.

Here’s the video version of “Our Turn Now”

And here’s Clark’s summary of the contents:

The lyrics begin by lamenting the 1962 Supreme Court decision ending state-sponsored establishment prayers in public schools. Carman, rapping like MC Neil Diamond, offers a litany of post-hoc argumentation, blaming everything he considers bad on the court’s ruling. He calls it “religious apartheid.”

“It’s our turn now” proclaims the chorus — a rallying cry for the tribal rule of sectarian religion. And everyone else, everything outside the tribe, is on the side of the “devil.”

I was introduced to Carman by a member of the ecumenical (nominally American Baptist) congregation I pastored in the early 80s.  The young man who played the song for me (assuming I’d be thrilled) was in his early 20s, a highly intelligent high school band teacher.

The basic idea was that Jesus and Satan are starring in a WWF-style Smack Down main event.  Satan (like every good wrestling heel from that era) enters the ring full of strutting, ranting bravado, but after the Savior gives him the thrashing of his life, Satan’s bold baritone devolves into a whining, emasculated falsetto.

Carman ended the song, as I recall, with an oblique reference to the book of Revelation.  Message: our side wins.

The message of “Our Turn Now” is much the same.  In professional wrestling, “the face” (or crowd favorite) gets slapped, kicked, gouged and mangled for a good twenty minutes before he shakes off the cobwebs and turns the tables to the appreciative roar of the crowd.  “It’s our turn now.”  Carman’s message never transcended the crass world of wrasslin’ melodrama.

But who, in this us-against-them world, is “us” and who is “them”?  In Our Turn Now, the heels, the bad guys, the spawn of Satan, were the justices of the Supreme Court who tossed God out of the classroom, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, liberal “Christians” (who generally supported the court’s decision), secularists, atheists like Marilyn Murray O’Hair, secularists of every stripe; in short, everyone who is not a card-carrying, washed in the blood evangelical Christian.

As Clark suggests, the mindset was binary, Manichean,  darkness and light .  They took the reins of government and did their worst; well, now it’s our turn now.  Soon evangelical Christians who love Jesus and Carman in equal measure will control Congress and the White House.  Godly laws will be passed.  The glory of Jehovah God will return to the classroom, drugs and sexual promiscuity will be abolished by statute, and national righteousness will be restored.

If you pay careful attention to the Carman video (yes, I know that means having to watch it twice–suck it up, this is important) you will note that although all the primary performers are as white as heavy metal, all kinds of black kids are shaking it to the music, witnessing to white kids, and giving their ultra hip stamp of approval to the ascendancy of Christian America.

In other words, when we talk about “us” we’re not just talking about white people.

Why then, are nine out of ten registered Republicans, by a recent estimate, non-Hispanic whites?

At the 2008 Republican Convention, 92% of the delegates were white while it sometimes appeared that half the folks on stage were people of color. Why are white people so much more excited about Carman’s vision of Christian America than the non-white minority?

Because the “us” celebrated in the video were really the folks who were humiliated by the 1960s–white, primarily southern, evangelicals.

The marketing magic behind Carman was the linking of popular culture (heavy metal rock, professional wrestling, Ramboesque violence) with Southern Baptist piety.  In the 1950s, Elvis was Satan; by 1980 he has joined the choir triumphal.  Young people were free to celebrate the values of the American entertainment machine as long as they were down with a Jesus who palled around with marines, corporate moguls, chamber of commerce presidents and was comfortable in the smoke filled rooms of the Grand Old Party.

Rock and roll, pro wrestling, and romantic violence got a pass because the Right needed a really big army to fight liberalism, particularly the brand of liberalism shaped by the civil rights movement.  In the South and the great American heartland, white evangelicals had grown accustomed to being in control, calling the shots and dictating moral standards.  Suddenly, and quite without warning, white evangelicals were being pilloried as nasty Jim Crow racists determined to deprive the Negroes of their civil and constitutional rights.

Evangelicals still haven’t recovered from the shock.  In the South, evangelicals (with Southern Baptists leading the way) climbed out onto the segregation limb until the civil rights movement, to the surprise of everyone, sawed it off.

The routine popular association of conservative religion and blatant racism was deeply humiliating.  By the mid-1970s it was no longer possible to defend the old Jim Crow system, but white hot racial resentment was creating rich opportunities for a resurgence of some kind.

The key was to rebrand the 1960s.  The big issues weren’t civil rights and Vietnam, the new argument went, it was all about two Supreme Court decisions: driving God out of the schools (1962) and Roe v. Wade (1973).  These two liberal decisions, the argument went, paved the way for violence in the streets, the drug culture, sexual promiscuity, perversion and every other evil imaginable.

But it’s Our Turn Now.

Why have African Americans and Hispanics been reluctant to jump on the bandwagon?  Because it’s too awkward.  The GOP is the unofficial Party of White and the Christian Right, though officially Neapolitan, is vanilla clear through.  Check out the crowd at the next Romney rally and see if you can find any people of color in the crowd.  If you got $5 for every one you couldn’t gain admission to a ticket to a $100 a plate fundraiser.

This didn’t happen overnight.  In 1973, most prominent southern evangelicals were big supporters of the separation of church and state and evangelical views on abortion tracked national opinion.  The big opportunity was raging white resentment, but neither leading evangelicals nor GOP strategists couldn’t admit as much.

Abortion was, and remains, a legitimate moral issue, but a particularly thorny one.  As the current tug-of-war between supporters and detractors of Todd (“shut that thing down”) Akin suggests, banning abortion for rape and incest survivors is about as popular as back alley abortions.  Hence, most Americans are unwilling to go all the way with the pro-life movement.

This is precisely why true believers, as defined by opinion leaders within the Religious Right, can tolerate no compassionate exceptions to pro-life orthodoxy.  Go down that road very far and pretty soon most Democrats will be agreeing with you.  The goal has never been to make abortion safe, legal and rare.  From a culture war perspective, the more abortions the better.  The tragic statistics feed an effective wedge issue.

The goal was to get rank and file evangelicals (mad as hell about being branded as racists but lukewarm on abortion) to stop talking race and start screaming about abortion, abortionists and the horrors of the sexual revolution.

At the same time, the Religious Right launched a campaign to convince southern preachers that the separation of church and state was a liberal abomination.

W.A. Criswell was pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, in its heyday the largest congregation in Protestant America.  In 1960, Criswell used traditional southern support for the separation of church and state  to argue that John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic who was sure to take his marching orders from the Vatican, was unworthy to be president:

It is written in our country’s constitution that church and state must be, in this nation, forever separate and free.  In the very nature of the case, there can be no proper union of church and state.

But in 1980, with the nuptials between Southern Baptists and Reagan’s GOP a done deal, Criswell opined thus:

I believe this notion of the separation of church and state was the figment of some infidel’s imagination.

How do we account for this amazing transformation?  Criswell got the memo.

By 2012 David Barton was arguing that Thomas Jefferson, the father of church-state separation, was an orthodox evangelical who dreamed of Christian theocracy.  Only when a holy host of conservative historians cried foul did Barton’s publisher pull the Jefferson book.  Not surprisingly, Barton’s good buddy Glenn Beck has agreed to publish the Jefferson manuscript.

As the Barton episode demonstrates, it has become painfully difficult for thinking conservatives to stick with the Religious Right or the GOP.  For the moment, few malcontents will leap into the reluctant arms of either the Democrats or liberal Christianity.

When Bill Clinton threw the unions under the bus in the 1990s he knew they would stay loyal.  “Where would they go?” he asked.  The same applies to conservative evangelicals who can’t abide the irrational excesses of their coreligionists.  They will stay with the GOP and the Christian Right because they have nowhere else to go.

The culture war has advanced to the point where the tiny strip of middle ground separating conservatives from liberals has become a barbed wire infested minefield.  The corporate interests that funded Carman and Petra like it that way.  So long as the American  melodrama is conceived as a pay-per-view Smackdown between Christ and Antichrist nobody has the luxury of genuine thought.   As the secular left screams in protest (“You can’t do that!  You can’t believe that!  You can’t say that!”) the easier it becomes for the Christian Right to define itself as a tiny island of godliness in a vast Satanic sea.

The “theology” of a Lubbock Judge puts Texas back in the spotlight

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head talks with Texas Governor Rick Perry earlier this year. Head made comments about President Barack Obama this week that is drawing reaction from both sides. (Stephen Spillman)
County Judge Tom Head greets the Governor

By Alan Bean

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head wasn’t looking for national publicity when he set up an interview with the local Fox affiliate.  Head just wanted to plug a 1.7% tax increase that would fund an expansion of the sheriff’s department and put more money at the disposal of the DA’s office.

But Tom Head is now famous, for the moment at least.  Perhaps the County Judge thought the voters needed a really good reason to open their wallets.  How about this scenario.  There’s a good chance that Barack Obama will get himself elected (God forbid), and if that happens we’re gonna have as an old time insurrection, right here in Lubbock County.  And Obama, he’s not gonna like that so he’s just likely to call in UN troops, an army of foreign occupation, and force his will on the good people of Lubbock County at gunpoint.  And if that happens, I’m gonna stand boldly in front of those UN personnel carriers and say, “You ain’t comin’ in here!

I am paraphrasing.  You can find Mr. Head’s exact words here (and in several thousand other places).  His paranoid screed went viral.

Lubbock attorney Rod Hobson (who helped shut down the ill-famed Tulia drug bust) was so impressed by the judge’s rhetoric that he hung a UN flag outside his office.  “When I saw the story I thought, once again, Lubbock is going to be the laughingstock of the entire nation,” Hobson told a local TV station. “What makes it so sad is he is our elected county judge, who is in charge of a multimillion-dollar budget. That is scary. It’s like the light’s on, but no one is home. … I’d just like to think he’s off his meds.”

A few days ago, Fort Worth columnist Bud Kennedy expressed his relief that Missouri’s Todd Akin was deflecting attention from notorious Texas weirdos.  This morning he admitted that the prurient interest of America has returned to the Lone Star State.  To put things in perspective, Kennedy offers a little background on Mr. Head.

Folks, please understand. In Texas, we don’t choose our county judges or commissioners based on any qualifications besides who’s good at dominoes.

In the orchard of targets for TV joke writers, Texas county officials are low-hanging fruit.

Head, 63, is an administrator with only a psychology degree. He worked first in law enforcement as a Texas Tech University campus officer and city marshal, then as an elected county justice of the peace.

He moved up to county judge in 1999 and led his own mini-rebellion against Obama in 2009, posting literature and cartoons mocking him on a hallway bulletin board before commissioners removed them.

One of the posters showed jail book-in photos of nine arrestees in Obama T-shirts. Seven were African-American.

Asked to explain himself to the Lubbock Avalanche-JournalHead boldly shared his Christian witness:

I cannot divorce my theology and my philosophy from my office.  I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun rights and if you’re gonna vote for me and if you’re not for gun rights, then you probably don’t want me in office.

In other words, this isn’t a story about a single Loony-Tunes (check out his tie in the picture above) judge in West Texas–the voters of Lubbock County like this guy.

But wait a minute here, what possible connection could there be between Mr. Head’s “theology” and his paranoid take on Obama and the United Nations?

The judge is likely referring to Agenda 21, an uncontroversial fluff-document signed by 178 world leaders, including President George H.W. Bush, in 1992.  The idea was to encourage the efficient marshaling of scant natural resources in times of famine and natural disaster.  Or that’s what we originally thought.  Listen to Glenn Beck’s dispassionate take on Agenda 21:

Those pushing … government control on a global level have mastered the art of hiding it in plain sight, and then just dismissing it as a joke.  Once [internationalists] put their fangs into our communities and suck all the blood out of it, we will not be able to survive.

Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center explains the paranoid perspective on Agenda 21 in remarkably restrained language:

Under Agenda 21, these activists argue, the expansive American way of life, in which everyone can aspire to the dream of owning a house with a big yard and two cars in the driveway, will be replaced by one in which increasing numbers are crammed into urbanized “pack ’em and stack ’em” apartment complexes, and forced to use mass transportation and live according to a collectivist ethos. Once the UN’s radical utopia is achieved, gun ownership will be forbidden and the UN will raise an army intent on terrorizing the populace in the name of social order and equality, sustainability and smart growth — all words that anti-Agenda 21 activists believe signal the true intent of the UN’s plan.

The tattered remnants of the John Birch Society are all over this stuff, which would be irrelevant were it not for the fact that Tim LaHaye, author of bestselling “Left Behind” series, is a proud JBS stalwart.  LaHaye and co-author Jerry Jenkins sprinkled Agenda 21 paranoia throughout their end times thrillers.  I distinctly recall sitting in a well-attended Sunday School class in Tulia, Texas (70 miles north of Lubbock) in which Mr. LaHaye’s eschatology was embraced as the gospel truth.

But this isn’t just about West Texas.  Texas is riddled with Anti-UN nuttiness.  Ted Cruz, the man expected to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison as Texas Senator, is mad as hell about the imminent UN destruction of American sovereignty.  In the mind of Ted Cruz, the Antichrist is George Soros, but the general thrust mirror’s the views of Beck. Cruz recently printed this rant on his personal blog:

Agenda 21 attempts to abolish “unsustainable” environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads. It hopes to leave mother earth’s surface unscratched by mankind. Everyone wants clean water and clean air, but Agenda 21 dehumanizes individuals by removing the very thing that has defined Americans since the beginning—our freedom.

Cruz is particularly concerned that the UN plans to abolish the game of golf.

All of which explains how a simple-minded Texas judge could see opposition to a US president and an innocuous (and largely meaningless) UN document as theological issues.  When the saints of God are raptured to heaven and the Antichrist (known as Nicolae Carpathia to Left Behind enthusiasts) comes to power, United Nations troops will spring to his assistance.

How do we explain this craziness?  Or maybe it isn’t crazy.  When the majority of people in a given locale (say, Lubbock, Texas) share a common delusion maybe it’s the unbelievers who are crazy.  Who gets to define normal?

Tom Head’s fears about Barack Obama reflect the deep dread many Americans feel about the future.  Where are we heading?  What is happening to America?  What’s it all about, Alfie?

How else do we explain the Tea Party’s undimmed enthusiasm for free market fundamentalism?  After the financial industry lied and swindled the world to the brink of financial catastrophe, how can anyone believe in the natural goodness of unregulated markets?

Because it’s all we have.  If the free market won’t save us, who will?  If the free market won’t save us, the glory that was America disappears.  It’s Ichabod time!

How do we explain why a great nation like the United States of America has a crumbling infrastructure and can’t pay its bills when the folks in collectivist dystopias like Canada, Norway and South Korea seem to be faring so much better?

We could blame the fact that we spend more on defense than all the other nations of earth combined.  We could point to our bloated prison system.  We could acknowledge that America is now a wholly owned subsidiary of a consortium of international corporations.

But that doesn’t sit right somehow.

How much better to believe that America has been hijacked by ultra-liberal socialist big-spenders like Barack Obama who give their true loyalty to Allah and/or a One World dictatorship.  That way, we simply turn the reins over to pro-business folks like Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz and an unregulated market will gradually drag us back to prosperity.

Sound good?

If you’re Tom Head, it does.

David Barton’s therapeutic history

This isn’t really about Thomas Jefferson

Faux historian David Barton has written a book about Thomas Jefferson that portrays the deist slave holder as a Christian patriot who espoused enlightened views on slavery and race.  But Barton’s primary aim is to expose a cynical liberal academy that lies to the American people.  This quote from the book’s blurb is typical:

America, in so many ways, has forgotten. Its roots, its purpose, its identity―all have become shrouded behind a veil of political correctness bent on twisting the nation’s founding, and its founders, to fit within a misshapen modern world.

The time has come to remember again.

Evangelical historians Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter learned about David Barton’s book from their students at Grove City College.  What they were hearing sounded strange enough to warrant a careful reading of Barton’s book.  (more…)

Terrifying love: TheCall comes to Detroit

By Alan Bean

 Leave it to TheCall to make love sound alarming, even terrifying.

 there is only one Messiah in Islam, and it’s Jesus.

All the passionate music, jubilation, and spiritual energy cannot hide the meanness of spirit that would perpetrate this kind of fraud.

TheCall hit Detroit last week.  Lou Engle’s format set the template for Rick Perry’s The Response event earlier this year and the message is straight out of the New Apostolic Reformation playbook.

On the surface, it’s all about love, compassion, and reconciliation; but, as the quotations above suggest, the vision behind the carefully choreographed emotion is dark indeed.  Especially if you’re gay . . . or Muslim.

Haroon Moghul, a Sunni Muslim from New England, flew to Detroit to experience TheCall from the inside.  His report, originally published in Religion Dispatches, appears below.

Jesus, Carpet Bomb My Heart: An Undercover Muslim in Detroit

By Haroon Moghul

I’m the one they’re after. I’m “the enemy,” the believer in the “false idol,” “the darkness” Jesus needs to cast out of America, the reason they’re spending all night in Detroit’s Ford Field, sending prayers over Michigan mosques “like sending special forces into Afghanistan.” And there are thousands of them, come because Pastor Lou Engle asked them to.

Founder of TheCall, Engle warns that an Islamic movement is rising in Dearborn, Michigan—“Ground Zero” for America’s spiritual future (and site of a new TLC reality show, All-American Muslim). When I heard the goals for TheCall Detroit—healing America in a time of crisis, accomplishing racial reconciliation, and (here’s where I come in) bringing Jesus to Muslim hearts—I figured a Muslim in the crowd could be a nice twist. (more…)

Dominionism sparks a nasty food fight

Jim Wallis with his conservative friends

A war of words has erupted on the web featuring self-described “secular liberal” Mark Pinsky and progressive evangelical Jim Wallis, on one side, and the consortium of scholars and columnists who write for Talk to Action on the other. 

Pinsky believes that critics of Dominionism and the New Apostolic Reformation have created the false impression that most evangelicals are dangerous theocrats. 

Next, Jim Wallis poured gasoline on the fire by claiming in a HuffPost piece, that “some liberal writers seem hell-bent on portraying religious people as intellectually-flawed right-wing crazies with dangerous plans for the country.”

Are Pinsky and Wallis making legitimate claims, or is something more sinister afoot?

Anyone familiar with the good folks at Talk to Action knows how carefully they distinguish Dominionism and mainstream evangelicalism.  Rachel Tabachnick, the most high-profile critic of the New Apostolic Reformation, grew up Southern Baptist and is well acquainted with the wild diversity within evangelicalism.  She is all about nuance.  She is saying that Dominionism has a long history (see my piece on the evolution and meaning of the movement), that it is a minority movement within evangelicalism that is growing rapidly and, most importantly, gaining the support of prominent politicians like Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry.

Pinsky and Wallis refuse to engage this argument, preferring to publicly cudgel a silly straw man into submission.

How do we explain this unseemly assault on the Talk to Action people? (more…)