Category: theocracy

Evangelicals have a Perry/Bachmann Problem

A spate of recent columns in the mainstream media have dismissed concerns about Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann’s religion as rhetorical overkill.  Do Rick and Michelle really want to transform these United States into a theocracy controlled by sectarian religionists?  Don’t be silly.

But those who have done actual research on this subject wonder why leading presidential candidates are nurturing intimate relationships with sectarian theocrats if they personally reject the logic of dominionism. Many evangelical Christians are troubled by what they are hearing from the likes of Bachmann and Perry, largely because they don’t want “dominionists” speaking for evangelical Christians.  

Greg Metzger has examined both sides of the debate from a conservative perspective and believes there’s real fire behind all the dominionist smoke.  AGB

Evangelicalism’s Perry/Bachmann Problem

By Greg Metzger

I have been dealing this week with a major frustration: Extremely poor reporting and commentary in major secular media on Governor Perry and Michelle Bachmann has led to a flurry of superficial rejoinders by Christian thinkers who I respect and whose opinions matter. Key examples of the former are Ryan Lizza’s lengthy piece in The New Yorker on Bachmann,Sarah Posner’s post at Slate, and Bill Keller’s article in the New York Times Magazine; key examples of the latter are Lisa Miller and Michael Gerson inThe Washington PostCharlotte Allen in The Los Angeles Times andDouglas Groothius and Scot McKnight at Patheos. Even Ross Douthat, while going further in his acknowledgement of the seriousness of the questions, still misses the core issues. (more…)

Rachel Tabachnick talks dominionism on Fresh Air (and why you should be paying attention)

By Alan Bean

Are Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann part of a movement determined to forcibly Christianize every aspect of American culture?

If so, why does a blog dedicated to ending mass incarceration care one way or the other?

If Rachel Tabachnick is anything to go by, the answer to the first question is ‘yes’.  Tabachnick knows more about the dominionist strain within contemporary evangelicalism than just about anybody and you simply must check out her recent interview with Terry Gross of Fresh Air.)

I am still thinking through my answer to the “so what” question (and will have more to say on the subject as my thinking clarifies); but the rough outline of an answer came to me yesterday when a reporter asked me why Louisiana (unlike Texas and Mississippi) has done nothing to reform its criminal justice system.

The avuncular visage of Burl Cain sprang to mind.  Cain is slowly transforming the Angola prison plantation into a spiritual rehabilitation center.  Inmates (90% of them in for life) are repeatedly invited to get right with Jesus.  Life becomes a whole lot easier if they take the offer.

Then I thought of Ann Richards, the progressive Texas Governor who, during her ill-fated re-election campaign against George W. Bush, told the voters that she wanted to build more prisons so folks with addiction issues could get rehabilitated.

Burl Cain and his Louisiana fan club want to lock up more people every year so earnest evangelists can have a captive audience.

Friends of Justice works in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, three states that are gradually backing away from the punitive consensus that has controlled the American judicial system for more than three decades.  Texas was embarrassed into rethinking mass incarceration through a series of scandals: Tulia (the bizarre drug bust that gave birth to Friends of Justice), Hearne (the American Violet story), the Dallas Sheetrock scandal, the Houston crime lab, the Texas Youth Commission fiasco, an incredible string of DNA exonerations in Dallas County and Governor Perry’s botched attempt to silence the Texas Forensic Science Commission.  Thanks to a series of modest reforms, the Texas prison population has now plateaued in the 160,000 range (it was 40,000 in 1980) and will likely stay there for the foreseeable future.

Mississippi experienced a 3.5% drop in its prison population in a single year by deciding that inmates must only serve 25% of sentences before being eligible for parole (it had been 85%).

The old “lock ’em up” mentality is beginning to soften even in the state that boasts the highest incarceration rate in the free world.  Folks in Louisiana want to lock up as many people as possible out of a misdirected sense of compassion.  After all, isn’t it better to find Jesus in jail than to live an unregenerate life in the free world?  We don’t hate criminals in Louisiana; we just want what’s best for them.

This is precisely the kind of theocratic logic that politicians like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann have embraced.  They want to Christianize the nation (by force if necessary) the way Burl Cain has Christianized the Angola plantation.  And if the liberals presently controlling Hollywood, the recording industry, the public school system, the evening news and the political life of the nation don’t want to be Christianized, that’s just too bad.  Michelle, Sarah, Rick et al are God’s anointed apostles.  At Angola, to oppose Burl Cain is to oppose God; the New Apostolic Reformation wants to extend this kind of thinking to every aspect of our national life.

Do the politicians currently feeding at the trough of radical religion really believe that the eclectic vitality of a diverse nation can be homogenized by the blood of the Lamb?  Maybe not.  But they want to push the political envelope as far in that direction as the public will allow.  In these strange times, it’s smart politics.

If you think I’m overstating the case, please read Ms. Tabachnick’s conversation with Terry Gross.

The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare

August 24, 2011 – TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. (more…)

Should we be afraid of evangelicals?

article imageBy Alan Bean

Lisa Miller is right to be concerned about anti-evangelical bigotry.  Most evangelical Christians, she notes, aren’t “dominionists” and very know anything about the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement with close ties to presidential hopeful Rick Perry.

Even if Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann make it to the White House, they won’t be trying to replace the US Constitution with the Bible or setting up the 10 Commandments in the courthouses of America.  The separation of church and state isn’t going to disappear simply because America elects a president who doesn’t care for the concept.

But why, if it is such an esoteric and eccentric philosophy, are Rick and Michelle hitching their wagons to the dominionist star? (more…)

Burl Cain and the Trans-Mississippi God

By Alan Bean

Liliana Segura’s article on Louisiana’s Angola prison provides a guided tour of the punitive consensus that, with states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas leading the way, now controls America.  Consider this:

“Lifers in Louisiana were once eligible for parole in as little as five years. In 1926 the state legislature installed the “10-6 rule”: prisoners sentenced to life were eligible for release after 10 years and six months. This held true until the 1970s, which saw a precipitous decline in parole recommendations and the rise of “tough on crime” reforms that would soon dominate nationwide.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia, which briefly suspended the death penalty, Louisiana abolished parole for a range of violent crimes. “Within less than a decade Louisiana went from turning all lifers loose in ten-and-a-half years or less to keeping virtually all of them in prison for their natural lives,” writes historian Burk Foster. As former head of the Louisiana Department of Corrections C. Paul Phelps once warned, “the State of Louisiana is posturing itself to run probably the largest male old-folks home in the country.”

 Like most journalists who write about Angola, Segura is fascinated, perplexed, and a little creeped-out by warden Burl Cain, a man with a gift for baptizing the brutal.  On the one hand, Angola inmates were much less likely to die a violent death before Mr. Cain assumed the reins.  But America’s most famous warden presides over one of the least forgiving corrections regimes in the world.  His easy willingness to identify American meanness with the immutable will of God is disturbing.  (more…)

A crash course on the New Apostolic Reformation

Last Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry addressed 30,000 unusual worshippers at a Houston rally; a week later, in South Carolina, Perry will announce that he is seeking the nation’s highest office.  The mainstream media has associated some of Governor Perry’s religious buddies with some very strange comments about demons, Democrats, a Sun goddess and the ancient Queen Jezebel; but few realize that this odd assortment of prophets and preachers are part of the New Apostolic Reformation, a unified religious movement driven by a “dominionist” theology.

This isn’t just the latest incarnation of the religious right we’re dealing with, folks.  If you want to know more about the New Apostolic Reformation you couldn’t ask for a better tour guide than Rachel Tabachnick, a speaker, writer and researcher with the wonderful people at Talk2Action.  This introductory essay was first posted five months ago, but Rick Perry’s enthusiastic embrace of the movement described below makes it must reading.  AGB (more…)

Why is Rick Perry dabbling in weird religion?

Perrys Prayer RallyBy Alan Bean

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever, amen.”

Rick Perry used the closing words of the Lord’s Prayer to conclude his own prayer at yesterday’s The Response gathering in Houston.  But after 2,000 years, the venerable old prayer is easily misconstrued.  In the Roman empire, as many first century inscriptions make clear, Caesar was King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  To declare that God, not Caesar, holds the keys to the kingdom was a subversive act.

When you see a would-be Caesar paying metaphysical compliments to God while 30,000 worshippers cheer lustily, there are two possibilities: (a) the Kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, or (b) a politician is using a currently popular version of God-talk to advance his political aspirations.

I’m going with (b). (more…)

Is Rick Perry having second thoughts about The Response?

You may be wondering what happened to The Response, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Christians-only pray-for-America extravaganza.  This article in the Texas Observer should bring you up to date.

One word of caution.  Although the Observer piece gives the impression that The Response has been an unmitigated disaster for Governor Good Hair (as Molly Ivans called him), Mr. Perry’s political fortunes have risen considerably since The Response hit the airwaves.  The folks associated with the event may sound silly to worldly sophisticates like Rachel Maddow, but it sends all the right signals to the conservative wing of the Republican Party.  In other words, the Texas Governor’s stock is rising with the most powerful political and social movement in recent American history.

Meanwhile, Perry has been balancing the political ledger by supporting New York’s support for gay marriage on states’ rights grounds.  AGB

Is Rick Perry Getting Cold Feet Over the Response? 


Forrest Wilder

You’ve gotta wonder if Rick Perry may come to regret “initiating” The
Response, his Christians-only prayer rally. As I documented in a cover
for the Observer, Perry has thrown in with a strange band of
fundamentalists from the bleeding edge of American Christianity. (more…)

Rick Perry’s curious bedfellows

By Alan Bean

I got an email from Justin Elliott earlier this week inquiring about “The Will to Secede”, a post about Rick Perry’s ties to neo-Confederate groups I published a couple of years ago.  The post, which to date has received just under 10,000 hits, highlighted the work of Dallas researcher and neo-confederacy expert, Edward Sebesta who has documented the Texas Governor’s close ties to unabashedly racist groups like the The Sons of Confederate Veterans.


Rick Perry’s Jesus politics

By Alan Bean

A couple of years ago, Rick Perry made headlines by hinting that, if the Obama administration didn’t change its low-down ways, Texans might start thinking about secession.  Now the Texas governor is raising eyebrows nationwide by calling America to a day of prayer and fasting he calls “The Response”.

According to the event’s promotional video, a plethora of plagues has driven the nation to its knees: economic collapse, violence, perversion, division, abuse, natural disaster, terrorism, depression, addiction and fear. (more…)

The slow death of the 14th amendment

Richard Beeman

On May 4, amateur historian David Barton appeared on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show.  Barton’s central argument was that, constitutionally, the first amendment applies to the federal government but not to the states.  Therefore, if individual states and municipalities see fit to make the Bible the sole standard for criminal and civil law, to reinstate chattel slavery or to make Christianity an official and protected religion, the federal government can do nothing about it.

Barton didn’t suggest that non-federal governments should do these things, merely that they can if they want to.

On May 14th, Jon Stewart invited Richard Beeman, an actual constitutional scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, to respond to Barton’s theory. (more…)